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The Best New Sci-Fi Graphic Novels

Explore a thousand new worlds within the pages of the best new sci-fi graphic novels.

By Sarah QuinnPublished 8 years ago 5 min read

Picture books aren’t just for kids. In fact, when it comes to the best sci-fi graphic novels, they usually aren’t for kids at all (here be mature themes, like crazy alien sex and buckets of violence). Immerse yourself in tantalizingly rendered stories of robots, aliens, human beings, and creatures that lie somewhere in between. From struggling underwater colonies waiting for an inevitable supernova to the madcap adventures of all-American scientific geniuses, you’ll find the story that’s right for you - one that's harder and harder to tear yourself away from.


From the phenomenal Jeff Lemire comes Descender, a monthly space opera comic book series so compelling that it was optioned by Hollywood before anyone even got their hands on the first issue. TIM-21, a robot child created as a “brother” to a human boy, is our protagonist; other robots, Driller the Killer (a lovable bumbling blue-collar bot) and tiny dog-bot Bandit, are joined by Doctor Quan, the father of robotics, and Captain Tesla. Lemire plunges the reader into a frightening future where “Harvesters,” planet-sized destroyers, prove to be epic supervillains inside a suspenseful and thrilling plot that Lemire paces flawlessly. The art, done in pencil and watercolor by Dustin Nguyen, attracts the eye to every detail - even if you were illiterate it would still be worth your while to gaze at each picture. It’s going to go on for at least 24 issues, but a recent interview with its creators revealed that this may double. If you’re considering subscribing, don’t hesitate - this Pinnochio-in-space tale will keep you intrigued for many issues to come.


In Rick Remender’s pre-apocalyptic world of the future, the sun is close to becoming a red giant that will eventually destroy the Earth. One family stands out among the many who have been forced to live in colonies deep underwater - the Caines, led by the hunter Johl and his wife Stel, a scientist. While probes fruitlessly search the galaxy for other habitable planets, Stel is the only one holding on to hope, looking for any signal that the silent probes have finally found something - anything. Only two colonies remain, desperately struggling to survive amidst attacks from scavenging pirates and terrifying sea monsters, and Stel’s optimism seems foolish to everyone else but her. This mirrors some of the author’s own struggles with pessimism, and for some Low will seem little more than his personal therapy worked out in comic book form. But for others, Stel’s persistent positivity amidst the toxic air and collapsing government will inspire. It’s certainly not all flowers and sunshine for the last remnants of the human race (definitely for a mature audience), and that suffering is seamlessly portrayed in pictures as well as text by Greg Tocchini, Remender’s collaborator on Last Days of American Crime. It’s like an impressionistic ancient Rome, but on a foreign planet - and underwater - filled with what were once wonders of science, but are now faltering. The technology is a match for the race, most of whom numb their remaining days with sex and drugs - but not Stel, who stands alone, a powerful heroine who just won’t give up.


I basically created this list JUST so I could include Saga. My librarian friend (what, you don't have one? fix that) recommended it, and I fell hard from the first page. It’s epic. It’s emotional. And beyond the jargony language everyone wants to describe their graphic novel with, I have rarely loved a character so much as I love Alana (that's her holding the baby up there). She’s a gorgeous winged alien lady, she’s a tender, protective mother, and she is a total badass. I’m not kidding. Anyone threatens the people she loves and they better have already said their last words because she will mess. them. up. This is a story about families, but it’s not a sitcom - the families of Saga are striving for political power or running from the law in a richly peopled, subversive, sexy world gorgeously illustrated by Fiona Staples. You could stare at every page for days if you weren’t foaming-at-the-mouth eager to get on what’s happening next in Brian K. Vaughn’s cuttingly sharp story. Ok, ok, one quote (from Alana, of course): “Forgive me if I don't take relationship advice from a dead teenager missing her vagina.” If this sounds like I’m leading you up to something that’s Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, and Game of Thrones tossed into a blender with ram horns and fairy wings...well, yes, that’s what I’m doing. You’ll thank me. Promise. (Especially when you meet The Stalk, a topless humanoid spider-lady and her ex-boyfriend bounty hunter The Will, who boasts a snarky cat sidekick that can tell when you’re lying.)


Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are just two regular American Joes - oh, and also genius scientists, aka Chrononauts (yeah, you wish you'd thought of that sweet name) about to set off on the first time-travel experiment the world has ever known. Enter miscalculations and mishaps that lead to a wild adventure that takes them from one era to another. The Roaring Twenties! Ancient Rome! The 80s music scene! Of course, our heroes screw up the time stream, meet the most evil villains of history, and get to check out the coolest shows ever. This is some straight-up fun in a perfect team effort from Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy that requires you to check your snooty hats at the door (this isn’t Gravity’s Rainbow, and how truly grateful I am). Enjoy the throw-back style, the 80s inside jokes, and a real heart to the story. If comics have left you wanting more in the past, this is the one that won’t let you down.


Do you love space? Do you love when things get weird in space? Have you always wanted to know what it would be like if Conan the Barbarian took psychedelic drugs and then wrote a graphic novel? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then Prophet may just be your jam. Vast spacescapes and bizarre aliens abound in a dreamlike world where John Prophet, awaking from cryosleep, must climb the towers of Thauili Van in an effort to restore the Earth Empire to its former glory. You will probably have no idea what is happening at this point - and you will probably still have no idea what is happening at the end of the first volume. But you get to explore the strange inner workings of Brandon Graham’s exceedingly creative mind, and it is pretty addictive if ugly and gorgeous juxtaposed in space-land don’t bother you. It can be disorienting at times, but fearless space explorers won’t be deterred.

book reviewfuturelistliteraturescience fiction

About the Creator

Sarah Quinn

I'm a writer in love with India, Stars Wars, fantasy, travel, and Thai curries. My childhood heroes were Luke Skywalker and Joan of Arc. I muse on superheroes, sci-fi, feminism, and more.

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    Sarah QuinnWritten by Sarah Quinn

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