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Graphic grid featuring the covers of seven different comic books and graphic novels Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

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Our 11 most anticipated graphic novels of the fall

From DC and Marvel’s superheroics to off-beat nonfiction, there’s a reason for every comic fan to get pumped

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It’s that time of year again where we wait for some cooler weather to roll in and hunker down with a brand new stack of comics. Continuing to act as a soothing balm for everything that ails us, this fall’s new releases offer more than their fair share of unexpected delights for those prepared to get cozy and read everything straight through ‘til the end.

From webcomics-turned-print-editions and beloved caped crusaders getting a whole new outlook, to historical smut and heart-wrenching personal narratives, this generous fall line-up is guaranteed to keep expectant readers on their toes.

These are Polygon’s most anticipated graphic novels for fall 2021!

Smut Peddler Presents: Sordid Past

A woman carrying a flintlock pistol and two roguishly dressed men undress each other in a field with an age of sail ship on the horizon on the cover of Smut Peddler Presents: Sordid Past (2021). Image: Yuko Ota/Iron Circus Comics

Written and drawn by Anderjak, Lucy Bellwood, Dapperpunch, Erica Henderson, et al, edited by Andrea Purcell; available Sep. 7

If there’s one thing that people look for when fall rolls around, it’s ways to keep cozy, or maybe even heat up — and Iron Circus Comics has no problem providing a bit of steam when it comes to their erotically-charged fall anthology. Featuring some of the most beloved names in both mainstream comics and indie publishing houses such as Eisner-winner Erica Henderson (Dracula, Motherf*cker!), sea-faring adventure cartoonist Lucy Bellwood (Baggywrinkles), E.K. Weaver, and many others, this collection of stories offers sex-positive, consent-driven erotica with an anchor in historical research and the delightful smut of human history.

So whether your thing is taking a horny-on-main trip down memory lane to the 1990s, diving into the depths of ancient Egypt, or exploring the playful side of the otherwise prudish Victorian era, Sordid Past is ready to heat up your fall reading somewhere in-between the realm of porn and history. What’s not to look forward to?

The logo for Shortbox Comics Fest. Image: Shortbox

ShortBox Fair

Various Creators; runs Oct. 1-31

Founded in Yorkshire, England in 2016 by journalist and editor Zainab Akhtar, independent publisher ShortBox has become one of the places to go for readers looking for meticulously curated and wholly enjoyable comics. With real life conventions in short supply this year due to the pandemic — creating a sink hole for some of the best and boldest of the indie comics scene in the process — ShortBox is here to offer not just one collection to sate your comic collector needs, but an entire month of creator-owned digital comics available exclusively on the ShortBox GumRoad page.

ShortBox Comics Fair will run from Oct. 1-31, and is slated to feature 48 artists, all of whom have created comics exclusive to the ShortBox Comics Fair. Running the gamut between mainstream creators such as David LaFuente (Harley Quinn Annual) and Victoria Ying (Diana, Princess of Amazons) to indie superstars and online creators like Molly Mendoza, Mochipanko, and Sophia Foster-Dimino, there will certainly be no shortage of varying art styles, storytelling, and incredible talent.

A bloodied soldier walks out of a pitched battle and towards the reader — he looks like a bearded and long-haired Keanu Reeves — on the cover of BRZRKR Vol. 1 (2021). Image: Ron Garney/Boom Studios


Written by Matt Kindt and Keanu Reeves, drawn by Ron Garney; available Oct. 5th

Half man, half god, and compelled to violence at the cost of his own well-being, a man known only as Berzerker wanders the world in search of refuge. The only way he finds it, however, is working for the U.S. Government, agreeing to fight the battles that are just too gruesome for the average soldier. For his efforts, Berzerker is promised the key to unlock the truth behind his blood-soaked curse, and potentially the way to finally end it.

With decades of acting chops (and some iconic roles, to boot) under his belt, Keanu Reeves touts his comic book writing debut alongside co-writer and New York Times bestseller Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT) in this collection of the hit series’ first four issues. With the pacing of an action film, an engaging script, some John Wick flair, and gratuitous amounts of gore, this is a collection that action fans will want to speed through in one go.

A woman wears a sign around her neck on the cover of The Waiting (2021). Image: Keum Suk Gendry-Kim/Drawn & Quarterly

The Waiting

Written and drawn by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong; available Oct. 19

Drawn and Quarterly’s always superb fall line-up includes this follow-up story of a family wrought with anguish during the height of the Korean War; yet another heart-wrenching, visceral tale from Gendry-Kim.

Based on the once-secret experiences of her mother, Gendry-Kim deftly illustrates the (fictional) story of Gwija, a girl married off young in hopes of saving her from invading Japanese forces, whose life spent building a beautiful family and navigating unrest in the wake of war leaves her in old age wondering about the connections lost and the husband and son she had been separated from for nearly 70 years.

A story of colonization and political unrest whose ripples echo through so many portions of today’s history, this graphic novel followup to Gendry-Kim’s Grass is guaranteed to give readers as much perspective from her storytelling as it does awe with her staggeringly affective inks and unpredictable layouts.

Enigma: The Definitive Edition

A masked man spreads his voluminous cloak, the inside of which is decorated with figures and scenes on the cover of Enigma: The Definitive Edition (2021). Image: Duncan Fegredo/Dark Horse Comics

Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Duncan Fegredo; available Oct. 20

Presented with breathtaking new cover art by original series artist Duncan Fegredo, Enigma returns to grace the shelves once again after nearly 30 years! A visceral tale of self discovery and sexuality set against the backdrop of superheroes, villains, and a meta-understanding of comics storytelling, Michael Smith’s ordinary life is turned upside down when the characters from his favorite childhood comic begin to come to life. As he sets out on a personal mission with Enigma’s creator to uncover the meaning behind their disturbing and unsettling appearances in reality, Michael’s quest becomes a step out of the closet and into a world of something bigger than himself.

Brimming with an intimacy and self-awareness seldom seen in modern comics, this collection brings an unbroken version of Milligan’s lyrical scripting and the calculated chaos of Fegredo’s early ink-work that will have readers kicking up their feet and daydreaming of the halcyon days of Vertigo’s beautiful weirdness.

Lore Olympus Vol 1.

Persephone rides a black horse through a pink field, Hades hangs suspended above her on the cover of Lore Olympus Vol. 1. Image: Rachel Smythe

Written and drawn by Rachel Smythe; available Nov. 2

If you’ve spent any time on the comics internet over the past ten years, there’s a chance that you’ve read some of Smythe’s Lore Olympus in some form or another. Through animation-influenced cartooning and color work that can only be described as full-tilt bisexual lighting, this volume — previously serialized as a digital comic on Webtoon — collects the first installment of the romantic and deeply perceptive retelling of one of Greek mythology’s most famous stories.

The Goddess of Spring, Persephone, has been raised in the mortal realm. After promising to train as a sacred virgin, however, she’s granted access to the glamorous world of the Gods on Olympus. A night of partying with her roommate Artemis reveals that life only gets more complicated from there, as she finds a spark with Hades, God of the Underworld, and is forced to navigate the relationships, personal power, and politics of living among the Gods. Smythe’s unmatched storytelling is packed with gossip, a contemporary stylishness, and the beautiful answers to “What if Greek gods were hot millennials?” Actually holding it in your hands, will be an astonishing treat.

Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground

A policewoman in riot gear, her helmet reflecting a crowd of protestors carrying signs on the cover of Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground (2021). Image: John Higgins/2000 AD

Written by Michael Carroll, drawn by John Higgins; available Nov. 9

It’s a well-established fact that Judge Dredd is the law. What makes new spin-off Dreadnoughts different is that it takes a look back in time and asks the question, “Just how did America end up a fascistic police state in the first place?”

Set in 2035, the story — which originally ran in Britain’s Judge Dredd Megazine — is part police procedural, part political horror story, and entirely timely. As the United States struggles to deal with a police force with massively expanded powers, one of the new guard of Judges begins an investigation into a child kidnapped from a commune that really doesn’t want the authorities looking into what they’ve been up to. Carroll keeps readers on their toes by reminding them that, even the most well-meaning ultimate authority will cause more problems than they solve. It’s a rare cop story that’s well aware of just how dangerous the police can be, and why unlimited power is a bad idea in anyone’s hands, even the self-proclaimed “good guys.”

The Dreaming: Waking Hours

Denizens of the Dreaming watch over mirror, beside which stands William Shakespeare, greeting the reader on the cover of The Dreaming: Waking Hours (2021). Image: Nick Robles/DC Comics

Written by G. Willow Wilson, drawn by Nick Robles; available Nov. 16

As hype for The Sandman begins to ramp back up after 30 years collecting dust on shelves, this volume acts as both a continuation of Gaiman’s seminal 1990s series as well as the recently completed Sandman: The Dreaming. While old fans will delight in the appearance of many beloved characters, the story offers original concepts and characters, and contemporary twist on those familiar faces.

New mom and Shakespeare scholar Lindy is struggling to find a balance in order to finish her thesis, and in her restless sleep she meets Ruin — a young nightmare created by the king of Dreams. Accidentally delivered into the Waking World, it turns out that Ruin has the potential to amount to far more than his name might suggest — but what could possibly create more of a mess than a nightmare falling in love with a human? Complimented artist Nick Robles’ fine attention to detail and elegant line work, G. Willow Wilson’s tale is full of heart, intrigue, and surprises, surpassing the magical weaving of story that has come to define the Sandman universe.

Immortal Hulk Vol 10: Of Hell and Death

The Hulk, and allies leap towards the reader, with a massive green mushroom cloud behind them. Image: Alex Ross/Marvel Comics

Written by Al Ewing, drawn by Joe Bennett; available Nov. 30

Since i began in the unburned year of 2018, The Immortal Hulk has kept readers from all backgrounds and tastes entirely hooked. Ewing’s gift for going full-ham on angles readers never expect, paired with Bennett’s kinetic artwork, have created one of the most fully-formed and unique Hulk comics since the character’s Silver Age origins.

Now as the series comes to its end, readers can finally experience the smashing finale of Ewing’s Hulk saga in one massive collection, as the series reaches the fulcrum of humanity’s fight against the Hulk and the various gamma monsters that were once believed to have been controlled and subdued. As radioactive brutes swarm the center of New York City, however, a showdown with a skeptical group of Avengers awaits, with the heroes ready to take on the fight, but this is an entirely different kind of Hulk. For a story that has swung from horror nightmare to anti-capitalist narrative and back again, there’s no telling what’s in store for Marvel’s jade giant.

Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping Into the Light

Nightwing smirks — the blue winged shape on his costume is the silhouettes of skyscrapers — on the cover of Nightwing Vol 1: Leaping into the Light (2021). Image: Bruno Redondo/DC Comics

Written by Tom Taylor, drawn by Bruno Redondo; available Dec. 14

Poor Dick Grayson hasn’t had an easy few years. After more than a decade of rumors that he would soon be killed off in one event comic or another, he was shot in the head during Tom King’s Batman run and left an amnesiac. He renamed himself “Ric” and watched as other characters took on the Nightwing mantle and ran around with the Batcrew. Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s arrival on the hero’s title promised a return to basics, but actually offers something much better: A superhero comic that’s fun, optimistic, and wants to do something more than just hitting people a bunch.

It’s not just that fans get to see a Nightwing who’s remembered how to smile, nor that he’s gained a supporting cast that includes Batgirl herself, Barbara Gordon, and a cute pup sidekick who might be named Haley and might be named Bitewing. Where Taylor and Redondo succeed is delivering a hero that’s as kind as he is agile, and who wants to make the world a better place in large ways as well as small. Dick Grayson will never be Bruce Wayne, but this volume will convince you why that’s a good thing.

Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection

A mummified corpse on the cover of Deserter (2021). Image: Junji Ito/Viz Signature

Written and drawn by Junji Ito; available Dec. 21

Would it truly be spooky season if we didn’t have a new and entirely unsettling story from the master of horror manga? This December sees Viz Media release yet another volume of spine-chilling stories from famed horror mangaka Junji Ito, this time featuring several of the long-time creators’ earliest works. A pair of unrelated girls look identical, but aren’t twins; a boy’s nightmare threatens to infest the nature world; and a family of resentful survivors hide a World War II soldier who has deserted the army, trapping him in a mental prison with the belief that the war has continued well after it’s true end.

Featuring Ito’s signature artistic style of clean lines and discomforting expressions, the collection showcases nearly a dozen of Ito’s pre-fame works. This brand new edition helps to truly cement the notion that, despite having a career nearly four decades long, Ito is a creator whose work has been impeccably chilling since it’s very earliest days.