The Combined Best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2021!
Over the last 5 months there have been many, many websites with “Best of 2021” lists concerning comic books, manga and graphic novels. If you’ve looked at a few, you may have noticed some of the same books on different lists and seen some unique to only that list.
I went through 232 different URLs with “Best Of” Lists regarding comics and combined them into a spreadsheet. There are almost 3,500 different listings of books from these websites. I should note that I’ve included books that were given honorable mentions. In short, if somebody thought it was a good book that you should check out, it’s on here.
This year the #1 book was a tie between 2 books. The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V, Filipe Andrade and Inès Amaro (BOOM! Studios) and Monsters by Barry Windsor-Smith (Fantagraphics) are were both picked 34 times by reviewers.
For those that are unaware, Monsters sprung from a 1984 pitch that Barry Windsor-Smith made to Jim Shooter, then EIC of Marvel Comics that got approved. Before Barry could finish working on the comic a plagiarized version of his story appeared in an issue of Incredible Hulk. The details of this have been covered by Brian Cronin here and here. Barry was justifiably upset about this and did not complete the comic. Barry’s story had a significant impact in the Hulk Comics and was later used in one of the Hulk movies.
Since then Barry has been re-working the story from a Hulk story to something much grander and more in-depth to the issues of child abuse. It’s nice to see the story come out after all these years and get this level of critical acclaim.
I also feel the need to give a shout out to James Tynion IV who had 2 books in the top 5 with The Department of Truth (also on last year’s list) and The Nice House on the Lake. He also by far had the highest number of reviewers (or groups of reviewers) at 83, picking one of his 9 books this year. Chip Zdarsky had more books picked at 12, with 1 book being co-written by Donny Cates. Also doing well was Jeff Lemire with 11 books total with 2 being co-written.
Pivot tables have been created to show which books appeared on the number of lists. Here are the books with 5 mentions or more:
|The Many Deaths of Laila Starr||34||Ram V||Filipe Andrade and Inès Amaro||BOOM! Studios|
|Monsters||34||Barry Windsor-Smith||Barry Windsor-Smith||Fantagraphics|
|The Department of Truth||32||James Tynion IV||Martin Simmonds||Image Comics|
|Nightwing||31||Tom Taylor||Bruno Redondo, Robbi Rodriguez and Adriano Lucas||DC Comics|
|The Nice House on the Lake||27||James Tynion IV||Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Jordie Bellaire||DC Comics|
|The Good Asian||27||Pornsak Pichetshote||Alexandre Tefenkgi, Lee Loughridge and Dave Johnson||Image Comics|
|The Secret to Superhuman Strength||27||Alison Bechdel||Alison Bechdel||Mariner Books|
|The Immortal Hulk||24||Al Ewing||Various||Marvel Comics|
|Far Sector||24||N.K. Jemisin||Jamal Campbell||DC Comics|
|Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts||22||Rebecca Hall||Hugo Martínez||Simon & Schuster|
|Stone Fruit||22||Lee Lai||Lee Lai||Fantagraphics|
|Nubia: Real One||20||L. L. McKinney||Robyn Smith||DC Comics|
|The Girl From The Sea||19||Molly Knox Ostertag||Molly Knox Ostertag and Maarta Laiho||Graphix|
|Run: Book One||19||John Lewis, Andrew Aydin||L. Fury and Nate Powell||Abrams ComicArts|
|Cyclopedia Exotica||19||Aminder Dhaliwal||Aminder Dhaliwal||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Crisis Zone||19||Simon Hanselmann||Simon Hanselmann||Fantagraphics|
|The Legend of Auntie Po||18||Shing Yin Khor||Shing Yin Khor||Kokila|
|Asadora!||18||Naoki Urasawa||Naoki Urasawa||VIZ Media|
|Factory Summers||17||Guy Delisle||Guy Delisle||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Barbalien: Red Planet||17||Jeff Lemire and Tate Brombal||Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire||Dark Horse Books|
|The Waiting||16||Keum Suk Gendry-Kim||Keum Suk Gendry-Kim||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness||16||Kristen Radtke||Kristen Radtke||Pantheon|
|In: A Graphic Novel||16||Will McPhail||Will McPhail||Mariner Books|
|Daredevil||16||Chip Zdarsky||Various||Marvel Comics|
|Tunnels||15||Rutu Modan||Rutu Modan||Drawn and Quarterly|
|The Other History of the DC Universe||14||John Ridley||Giuseppe Camuncoli, Alex Dos Diaz, Andrea Cucchi and Jose Villarrubia||DC Comics|
|Stray Dogs||14||Tony Fleecs||Trish Forstner, Brad Simpson and Tone Rodriguez||Image Comics|
|Himawari House||14||Harmony Becker||Harmony Becker||First Second|
|Black Widow||14||Kelly Thompson||Elena Casagrande and Rafael de Latorre||Marvel Comics|
|Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star||14||Daniel Warren Johnson||Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer||Marvel Comics|
|Reckless: Destroy All Monsters||13||Ed Brubaker||Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips||Image Comics|
|No One Else||13||R. Kikuo Johnson||R. Kikuo Johnson||Fantagraphics|
|Lore Olympus||13||Rachel Smythe||Rachel Smythe||Del Rey|
|Hellions||13||Zeb Wells||Stephen Segovia and Rain Beredo||Marvel Comics|
|Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?||13||Harold Schechter||Eric Powell||Albatross Funnybooks|
|Djeliya: A West African Fantasy Epic||13||Juni Ba||Juni Ba||TKO Studios|
|Barbaric||13||Michael Moreci||Nathan Gooden and Addison Duke||Vault Comics|
|Cheer Up!: Love And Pompoms||13||Crystal Frasier||Val Wise||Oni Press|
|Save it For Later: Promises, Protest and Parenthood||12||Nate Powell||Nate Powell||Abrams ComicArts|
|Heaven No Hell||12||Michael DeForge||Michael DeForge||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Borders||12||Thomas King||Natasha Donovan||Little, Brown Books for Young Readers|
|Thirsty Mermaids||11||Kat Leyh||Kat Leyh||Gallery 13|
|Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons||11||Kelly Sue DeConnick||Phil Jimenez, Hi-Fi, Arif Prianto and Romulo Fajardo Jr.||DC Comics|
|Strange Adventures||11||Tom King||Mitch Gerads and Evan Shaner||DC Comics|
|Catwoman: Lonely City||11||Cliff Chiang||Cliff Chiang||DC Comics|
|The Crossroads at Midnight||10||Abby Howard||Abby Howard||Iron Circus Comics|
|The Silver Coin||10||Various||Michael Walsh, Gavin Fullerton and Toni Marie Griffin||Image Comics|
|TMNT: The Last Ronin||10||Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Tom Waltz||Esau & Isaac Escorza||IDW Publishing|
|The Swamp Thing||10||Ram V||Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer and John McCrea||DC Comics|
|Shadow Life||10||Hiromi Goto||Ann Xu||First Second|
|Made in Korea||10||Jeremy Holt||George Schall||Image Comics|
|Katie the Catsitter||10||Colleen AF Venable||Stephanie Yue||Penguin Random House|
|Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters||10||Laura Samnee and Chris Samnee||Chris Samnee and Matt D. Wilson||Oni Press|
|Fictional Father||10||Joe Ollmann||Joe Ollmann||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Garlic and the Vampire||10||Bree Paulsen||Bree Paulsen||Quill Tree Books|
|Dead Dog’s Bite||10||Tyler Boss||Tyler Boss||Dark Horse Books|
|Die||10||Kieron Gillen||Stephanie Hans||Image Comics|
|Discipline||10||Dash Shaw||Dash Shaw||New York Review Comics|
|Chainsaw Man||10||Tatsuki Fujimoto||Tatsuki Fujimoto||ViZ Media|
|Boys Run the Riot||10||Keito Gaku||Keito Gaku||Kodansha Comics|
|Ultramega||9||James Harren||James Harren and Dave Stewart||Image Comics|
|Trots and Bonnie||9||Shary Flenniken||Shary Flenniken||New York Review Comics|
|The Me You Love in the Dark||9||Skottie Young||Jorge Corona||Image Comics|
|The Black Panther Party||9||David F. Walker||Marcus Kwame Anderson||Ten Speed Press|
|Red Room: The Unsocial Network||9||Ed Piskor||Ed Piskor||Fantagraphics|
|Red Rock Baby Candy||9||Shira Spector||Shira Spector||Fantagraphics|
|Reckless||9||Ed Brubaker||Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips||Image Comics|
|Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow||9||Tom King||Bilquis Evely and Mattheus Lopes||DC Comics|
|Something is Killing the Children||9||James Tynion IV||Werther Dell’Edra and Miquel Muerto||BOOM! Studios|
|Robin||9||Joshua Williamson||Various||DC Comics|
|Spy x Family||9||Tatsuya Endo||Tatsuya Endo||VIZ Media|
|My Begging Chart||9||Keiler Roberts||Keiler Roberts||Drawn and Quarterly|
|I Never Promised You A Rose Garden||9||Mannie Murphy||Mannie Murphy||Fantagraphics|
|Mazebook||9||Jeff Lemire||Jeff Lemire||Dark Horse Books|
|Once & Future||9||Kieron Gillen||Tamra Bonvillain, Dan Mora||BOOM! Studios|
|Allergic||9||Megan Wagner Lloyd||Michelle Mee Nutter||Graphix|
|Reckless: Friend of the Devil||8||Ed Brubaker||Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips||Image Comics|
|Radiant Black||8||Kyle Higgins||Marcelo Costa, Eduardo Ferigato and David Lafuente||Image Comics|
|Nocterra||8||Scott Snyder||Tony S. Daniels and Tomeu Morey||Image Comics|
|It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980||8||Various||Various||New York Review Comics|
|Human Target||8||Tom King||Greg Smallwood||DC Comics|
|Ballad for Sophie||8||Filipe Melo||Juan Cavia||Top Shelf Productions|
|The Dreaming: Waking Hours||7||G. Willow Wilson||Nick Robles, Mat Lopes and Javier Rodriguez||DC Comics|
|The Golden Hour||7||Niki Smith||Niki Smith||Little, Brown Books for Young Readers|
|Tono Monogatari||7||Shigeru Mizuki||Shigeru Mizuki||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Superman and the Authority||7||Grant Morrison||Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire||DC Comics|
|Pawcasso||7||Remy Lai||Remy Lai||Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks|
|That Texas Blood||7||Chris Condon||Jacob Phillips||Image Comics|
|Rorschach||7||Tom King||Jorge Fornés and Dave Stewart||DC Comics|
|Strange Academy||7||Skottie Young||Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado||Marvel Comics|
|Night Bus||7||Zuo Ma||Zuo Ma||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Moon Knight||7||Jed Mackay||Alessandro Cappuccio and Rachelle Rosenberg||Marvel Comics|
|Iron Man||7||Christopher Cantwell||CAFU and Juann Cabal||Marvel Comics|
|Living with Viola||7||Rosena Fung||Rosena Fung||Annick Press|
|November Vol. IV||7||Matt Fraction||Elsa Charretier||Image Comics|
|Eternals||7||Kieron Gillen||Esad Ribic||Marvel Comics|
|Home Sick Pilots||7||Dan Watters||Caspar Wijngaard||Image Comics|
|COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology||7||Various||Various||Graphic Mundi|
|Chartwell Manor||7||Glenn Head||Glenn Head||Fantagraphics|
|After the Rain||7||Nnedi Okorafor and John Jennings||David Brame||Harry N. Abrams|
|Artie and the Wolf Moon||7||Olivia Stephens||Olivia Stephens||Graphic Universe ™|
|Tidesong||6||Wendy Xu||Wendy Xu||Quill Tree Books|
|The Flash||6||Jeremy Adams||Fernando Pasarin||DC Comics|
|The Blue Flame||6||Christopher Cantwell||Adam Gorham||Vault Comics|
|Superman: Son Of Kal-El||6||Tom Taylor||John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb and Hi-Fi||DC Comics|
|Static: Season One||6||Vita Ayala||ChrisCross and Nikolas Draper-Ivey||DC Comics|
|Robin and Batman||6||Jeff Lemire||Dustin Nguyen||DC Comics|
|Snow Angels||6||Jeff Lemire||Jock||Comixology Originals|
|Squad||6||Maggie Tokuda-Hall||Lisa Sterle||Greenwillow Books|
|Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy||6||Jeff Lemire||Tonči Zonjić||Dark Horse Books|
|The City of Belgium||6||Brecht Evens||Brecht Evens||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Sensor||6||Junji Ito||Junji Ito||VIZ Media|
|Let’s Talk About It||6||Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan||Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan||Random House Graphic|
|Infinitum: An Afrofuturist Tale||6||Tim Fielder||Tim Fielder||Amistad|
|Kaiju No. 8||6||Naoya Matsumoto||Naoya Matsumoto||ViZ Media|
|Ice Cream Man||6||W. Maxwell Prince||Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran||Image Comics|
|My Love Mix-Up!||6||Wataru Hinekure||Aruko||VIZ Media|
|I Am Not Starfire||6||Mariko Tamaki||Yoshi Yoshitani||DC Comics|
|Jukebox||6||Nidhi Chanani||Nidhi Chanani||First Second|
|Fire Power||6||Robert Kirkman||Chris Samnee||Image Comics|
|Geiger||6||Geoff Johns||Gary Frank and Brad Anderson||Image Comics|
|Graveneye||6||Sloane Leong||Anna Bowles||TKO Studios|
|Guardians of the Galaxy||6||Al Ewing||Juann Cabal, Marcio Takara and Juan Frigeri||Marvel Comics|
|Batman: Wayne Family Adventures||6||CRC Payne||StarBite, Maria Li and Lan Ma||Webtoon – https://www.webtoons.com/en/slice-of-life/batman-wayne-family-adventures/list?title_no=3180&page=1|
|Batman: Urban Legends||6||Various||Various||DC Comics|
|Bubble||6||Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan||Tony Cliff and Natalie Riess||First Second|
|Blue Period||6||Tsubasa Yamaguchi||Tsubasa Yamaguchi||Kodansha Comics|
|Friday||6||Ed Brubaker||Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente||Image Comics|
|The Parakeet||5||Espé||Espé||Graphic Mundi|
|Wonder Girl||5||Joelle Jones||Adriana Melo and Jordie Bellaire||DC Comics|
|When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers||5||Ken Krimstein||Ken Krimstein||Bloomsbury Publishing|
|The Joker||5||James Tynion IV||Guillem March||DC Comics|
|The Hazards of Love||5||Stan Stanley||Stan Stanley||Oni Press|
|X-Men||5||Jonathan Hickman and Gerry Dugan||Various||Marvel Comics|
|What’s the Furthest Place From Here?||5||Matthew Rosenberg||Tyler Boss||Image Comics|
|The Wrong Earth||5||Tom Peyer and Paul Constant||Jamal Igle, Juan Castro, Frank Cammuso, Gary Erskine and Tom Feister||AHOY Comics|
|Witch Hat Atelier||5||Kamome Shirahama||Kamome Shirahama||Kodansha Comics|
|The Mystery Of The Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel||5||Ryan North||Derek Charm and Wes Abbot||DC Comics|
|Tiny Tales: Shell Quest||5||Steph Waldo||Steph Waldo||HarperAlley|
|Turtle in Paradise||5||Jennifer L. Holm||Savanna Ganucheau||Random House Graphic|
|The Strange Death of Alex Raymond||5||Dave Sim and Carson Grubaugh||Dave Sim and Carson Grubaugh||Living the Line|
|Stillwater||5||Chip Zdarsky||Ramón Pérez||Image Comics|
|Scout’s Honor||5||David Pepose||Luca Casalanguida and Matt Milla||Aftershock Comics|
|Runaways||5||Rainbow Rowell||Natacha Bustos and Andres Genolet||Marvel Comics|
|Poison Ivy: Thorns||5||Kody Keplinger||Sara Kipin, Jeremy Lawson and Steve Wands||DC Comics|
|Parenthesis||5||Élodie Durand||Élodie Durand||Top Shelf Productions|
|Red Flowers||5||Yoshiharu Tsuge||Yoshiharu Tsuge||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Rebecca & Lucie in the Case of the Missing Neighbor||5||Pascal Girard||Pascal Girard||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Sir Edward Grey: Acheron||5||Mike Mignola||Mike Mignola||Dark Horse Books|
|Salt Magic||5||Hope Larson||Rebecca Mock||Margaret Ferguson Books|
|Renegade Rule||5||Ben Kahn, Rachel Silverstein||Sam Beck||Dark Horse Books|
|The Amazing Spider-Man||5||Various||Various||Marvel Comics|
|Karmen||5||Guillem March||Guillem March||Image Comics|
|I Walk with Monsters||5||Paul Cornell||Sally Cantirino and Dearbhla Kelly||Vault Comics|
|Look Back||5||Tatsuki Fujimoto||Tatsuki Fujimoto||VIZ Media|
|No One Returns from the Enchanted Forest||5||Robin Robinson||Robin Robinson||First Second|
|Inferno||5||Jonathan Hickman||Valerio Schiti, Stefano Caselli and R. B. Silva||Marvel Comics|
|Monstress||5||Marjorie Liu||Sana Takeda||Image Comics|
|Monster Friends||5||Kaeti Vandorn||Kaeti Vandorn||Random House Graphic|
|Mamo||5||Sas Milledge||Sas Milledge||BOOM! Studios|
|I Breathed A Body||5||Zac Thompson||Andy MacDonald||Aftershock Comics|
|Dark Knights of Steel||5||Tom Taylor||Yasmine Putri||DC Comics|
|Detective Comics||5||Mariko Tamaki||Dan Mora, Viktor Bogdanovic, Daniel Henriques and Jordie Bellaire||DC Comics|
|Haha||5||W. Maxwell Prince||Various||Image Comics|
|Crude: A Memoir||5||Pablo Fajardo, Sophie Tardy-Joubert||Damien Roudeau||Graphic Mundi|
|Fist of the North Star||5||Buronson||Tetsuo Hara||ViZ Media|
|A Sign Of Affection||5||Suu Morishita||Suu Morishita||Kodansha Comics|
|Celestia||5||Manuel Fior||Manuel Fior||Fantagraphics|
|Bad Sister||5||Charise Mericle Harper||Rory Lucey||First Second|
The full spreadsheet with pivot tables for books, writers, artists, publishers and more is available here.
This year DC Comics was the most popular publisher with 105 different titles.
Marvel was 2nd place with 88 different titles.
Image was 3rd with 67 different titles.
Dark Horse was close behind with 60 different titles.
VIZ Media was 5th with 51 different titles.
59 Self-Published books made the list too.
The two most popular web comics were Batman: Wayne Family Adventures by CRC Payne, StarBite, Maria Li and Lan Ma (5 picks) and The Gift of Time by Lauren Weinstein (4 picks).
Where a reviewer/writer wrote ‘best of’ lists for multiple websites, I’ve cross referenced their lists and removed books that were named twice. I did not think it would be fair if those writers could tip the popularity scale by naming the same book(s) over and over again on multiple websites. Sadly, there was an increase of websites publishing lists with no credit to who (or whom) created the list. In those cases I marked them as n/a but the practice of not crediting writers is a shameful one.
If a writer wrote for multiple sites, but one of those sites picks was a group effort, I did not remove books that are listed twice.
I generally did not include lists that were a mixed of prose books and graphic novels unless there were a significant number of graphic novels on the list, or they had a list of GNs only and put a GN on a otherwise list of prose books. I did find there were more lists like that this year, which was one of the reasons it took me this long to finish this. Many YA prose books have Graphic Novel looking covers and I need to examine previews to determine if it’s comics or not. If this continues to be the trend I may need to just focus on GN/Comics only lists.
I did not use lists where the website was not in English and the books appeared to be translated versions.
With inkers and colourists I often, but not always included them within the Artist section. Where there were multiple (usually more than 5) involved in a book, or in the title’s run over the course of the year, various was used instead of listing them all. In some cases I combined those involved even if they worked on the title for different issues.
For simplicity sake, if a list named a specific comic book issue or specific volume of a graphic novel, I removed those specifics and just listed the series title, with rare exceptions. The same goes with issue #s. My apologies to the reviewers of those books.
Some reviewers included books that were published in 2020 or earlier. Normally the amount of times these books were mentioned isn’t significant, but I am seeing more and more books pop up that were comics series last year and came up again this year as a collected edition.
Most of the lists were general ‘best/favourite books’ of 2021, but I also included lists dedicated to young readers, manga, LGBTQ+, etc… What type list is noted on column B in the spreadsheet.
A small number of lists also had rankings and those are included in Column C.
This list of websites this list is compiled from: