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Graphic novel featuring a montage of character lit by the light of his cigarette and hands holding various Tarot cards Image: Bilquis Evely/DC Comics via Polygon

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The 7 graphic novels to knock your cozy socks off this fall

Superhero standbys, classic literature, queer coming of age, and ... Tenacious D?

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You could open almost any list of graphic novels with the phrase “There’s never a better time to read graphic novels right now.” But in 2020, escaping to the worlds of comic books and fiction seems like more of a salve than ever.

Thankfully, this year’s fall releases have plenty of sources of joy and comfort for those who prefer to wait rather than read month-to month. And despite this year’s halts in publishing, the list is lengthy as ever.

These are Polygon’s most anticipated graphic novels for the fall of 2020.


John Constantine: Hellblazer, Vol. 1: Marks of Woe

“Fuck’s that s’posed to mean?” says John Constantine, as a hooded man readies a cricket bat behind his back, in John Constantine: Hellblazer #1, DC Comics (2019). Image: Si Spurrier, Aaron Campbell/DC Comics

Written by Si Spurrier, drawn by Aaron Campbell; available digitally and in stores on Sept. 29th.

John Constantine is a character who has dropped in and out of the comics radar over the past decade, finding new niches in things like Justice League Dark and DCeased along the way. But thanks to award-winning writer Si Spurrier (The Dreaming, Coda), Constantine has been put back on the map as one of the most compelling leading characters in the current DC publishing line-up, with the reboot of his classic Hellblazer series.

Utilizing Aaron Campbell’s affinity for hyper-explosive photo-realistic artwork and Spurrier’s gift of meaningful but disarmingly funny storytelling, this volume is centered around the traditionally untrustworthy Constantine having to take it on the chin and work for a gang lord dealing with some seriously supernatural stuff. While it would normally be just another day at the office for John, things kick up more than expected and serve as a reminder that dealing with devils is never that easy. Using magic and mystery to serve up political metaphors more organically than we’ve been used to in recent years, this collection comes through with good intentions and even greater execution.

The Old Guard, Vol. 2: Force Multiplied

Andromache the Scythian leaps into a pitched and ancient battle, brandishing an axe, in The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #2, Image Comics (2020). Image: Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernandez/Image Comics

Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Leandro Fernandez; available digitally and in stores on September 22nd.

If you’re one of the many people who has recently discovered The Old Guard thanks to the action-packed Netflix adaptation, then there’s almost no doubt that you’ve already got Volume One of the original comic under your belt and are rabid for more. Luckily for you, writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez have a second outing coming for you in just a few short weeks.

Acting as a sequel to both the first volume and the film, readers can catch back up with the ancient force majeure, Andromache “Andy” the Scythian and her band of undying miscreants, as they deal with the baggage of welcoming on their newest immortal teammate, Nile Freeman. Everything starts to catch back up for the team just as Nile begins to come to terms with their new life, and Andy is forced to unearth her feelings about a person she never thought would see the light of say again. No spoilers, but the concept of teamwork is going to hit differently after this. (And in a series about immortal warriors, the term “hit” takes on multiple meanings.)

Shuri: Wakanda Forever

“My brother’s going to love these,” says Shuri, hovering with her new wings, in Shuri #1, Marvel Comics (2018). Image: Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romer/Marvel Comics

Written by Nnedi Okorafor and Vita Ayala, drawn by Leonardo Romero, Paul Davidson, and Rachael Stott; available digitally and in stores on November 11th.

Finally collecting the incomparably fun 2018-2019 series, Okorafor and Ayala’s stories about Shuri — T’Challa’s younger, tech-genius sister — are bound to bring some light back into an otherwise dark period for Black Panther fandom after the recent, tragic death of Chadwick Boseman.

With a line-up of playful and expressive artists bringing a new life to the fan-favorite Wakandan princess, Shuri is in her element when surrounded by her lab and eclectic methods of testing. After T’Challa disappears, it’s up to Shuri to team up with some friends — including Rocket Racoon, Groot, Miles Morales, and the X-Men’s Storm, because why not? — to rescue her brother once more. Sure, it sounds relatively tame when I put it like that, but the story veers off into some otherworldly places that lead to not only an alien threat to Africa, but a trip to the U.S. that is more than a little eye-opening. Not to spoil it for you, but all of this comes down to whether Shuri is ready to take up the Black Panther mantle again, and the outcome is one that is worth the wait for the book’s young adult audience.

Slaughterhouse-Five

Kilgore Trout is drawn upward as if by tractor beam into a military helmet as bombs fall all around him on the cover of Slaughterhouse-Five, Boom Studios (2020). Image: Albert Monteys/Boom Studios

Created by Kurt Vonnegut, written by Ryan North, drawn by Albert Monteys; available in stores September 15th.

In perhaps the most timely, poignant manner possible, Kurt Vonnegut’s seminal classic Slaughterhouse-Five has been adapted into comics for the first time by none other than Ryan North (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) and Spanish artist Albert Monteys (the Eisner award-nominated Universe!). While this may seem like an unlikely match-up of storytelling talents, North harnesses his dry-humored goofiness to translate what is arguably one of the most darkly comedic stories ever told in fiction, hammering things home with delightful cartooning from Monteys.

Touted as one of the most pointed commentaries on the horror and tragedy of sending children to war, Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the foremost anti-war books — written by someone who had lived through horrors in World War II, but decided to couch his experiences in the comforting, entertaining tropes of science fiction. Needless to say, if you’re needing a grim laugh during these trying times, North, Monteys, and Vonnegut are here to deliver.

The Contradictions

Sophie and Zena ride a bike together on the cover of The Contradictions, Drawn and Quarterly (2020). Image: Sophie Yano/Drawn and Quarterly

Written and drawn by Sophie Yanow; available online and in stores September 10th.

For those looking for something more worldly, wholesomely relatable, and queer than the average superhero offering, Canadian indie publisher Drawn and Quarterly brings to the table a coming of age story from Sophie Yanow that speaks to most people’s experience in learning to branch out to new experiences, and finding who you really are on the other side.

Choosing to study abroad in Paris, Sophie’s need to belong leads her to stumble haphazardly into Zena — a student-activist, avid shoplifter, and staunch vegan. Completely enamored with her new friend, Sophie is taken on a whirlwind adventure that pushes her farther out of her comfort zone than she’s ever been, and forces her to look at the contradictions of all the rules she’s been taught throughout her life. Celebrating the imperfect, this book is going to hit hard for anyone trying to figure out where they fit in the world.

Tenacious D: Post-Apocalypto

Kyle and Jack ride their motorcycle and side car, surrounded by weird characters from Post Apocalypto, Fantagraphics (2020). Image: Jack Black/Fantagraphics

Written by Kyle Gass and Jack Black, drawn by Jack Black; available online and in stores September 15th

If you’ve been alive in the past 20 years, then you have arguably heard or seen something created by Tenacious D (the duo of Kyle Gass and Jack Black) and spent an embarrassing amount of time laughing over how ridiculous and talented they are. To back that up even further, the D has created Post Apocalypto the graphic novel (complete with accompanying audio); a followup to the first installment of their YouTube movie.

After the drop of an atomic bomb, Tenacious D are thrown into a world of absolute chaos — they survived thanks to the inside of their retro refrigerator. But with all new evils having spawned into the world, it looks like the only thing that’s going to stop it is some serious adventuring and world-saving from Kyle and Jack. Through hilariously rudimentary artwork from Black and some seriously creative storytelling from Gass, there’s no doubt that Tenacious D is here to rock our socks off once again.

Fangirl

Cath holds her mug and laptop on the cover of Fangirl, Viz Media (2020). Image: Gabi Nam/Viz Media

Adapted by Sam Maggs, drawn by Gabi Nam, based on the novel by Rainbow Rowell; available online and in stores October 13th.

Have you ever been so deep into your fandom that nothing else seemed to matter? Because that’s precisely how shy Cath feels about the Simon Snow fiction series. And having just started as a freshman at college along with her sister Wren, Cath is finding it hard to balance the idea of making new friends and coming out of her shell and enjoying writing her fan fiction. But with a little bit of help, Cath might be able to make it through more than just her first year of college.

Honing in on the message of the positive, supportive aspects of nerd culture and the need for escapism through fiction that Rowell packed into her original novel, Maggs adapts the material perfectly to fit its new format, with Nam’s incredible hyper-detailed artwork brings the story off of the page. Perfect for teens growing into their fandoms and those of us who have grown along with our obsessions, this adaptation of an already relatable story is sure to be a hit for anyone who picks it up.


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