Everyone loves a love story. The romance, the heartbreak, the lovers overcoming the odds to be together, and a gloriously happy ever after. The only thing better than a love story, in fact, is a love story told in rich, romantic colors and dramatic blacks and whites. Graphic novels retell classic romances and begin fresh with boy meets girl. When it comes to professing true love, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson, 2003, Top Shelf Productions (Graphic Novel/ Memoir)
Craig’s parents are conservative Christians who believe that their son’s penchant for art will lead them down the road to hell. Brought up to fear God and to feel guilt over the smallest and most common of boyish sins, Craig is the designated high school outcast. Lucky fellow, he gets to maintain that role at church camp too. But then he meets Raina, beautiful, spiritual, kind, and complicated. The two strike up a relationship, a romance for the ages that has clearly haunted the artist Craig Thompson well into his adult life. Thompson relives his first love in poignant and painful detail accompanied by crisp, clear black-and-white drawings that are wonderfully expressive and dramatic, but never overly sentimental. The clash between what you’re brought up to believe and what you come to believe on your own through your own experiences, is dealt with sensitively, realistically, and with the kind of emotion that every reader can relate to.
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley, 2004, Oni Press (Graphic Novel/ Adventure/ Fantasy)
Scott Pilgrim: Twenty-three years old. Canadian. Drummer in a sucky band. Dating a high school girl (but they don’t even hold hands). Status: Awesome. Scott Pilgrim’s life is pretty damn great—not an expectation in sight. But then a beautiful Amazon.com delivery girl starts rollerblading through Scott’s dreams, and he’s head-over-heels in sweet, awkward, slacker love—especially when the dream girl turns out to be a real girl, Ramona Flowers, who kind of likes Scott too. The catch? Okay, Scott has to break up with the high school girl. And the band finally has a gig. But more important are Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends, whom Scott must fight—and defeat—if he wants to date Ramona. First up is Matthew Patel, attacking at the club where Scott’s band is playing, and it’s a kung-fu showdown of epic proportions. With lots of action, sarcastic hipster humor, and a manga-influenced comic style, the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are witty, charming, and unabashedly silly.
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, 2007, First Second Books (Graphic Novel/ Historical Fantasy)
Lillian (pert and pretty) and Imhotep (dashing and dapper) are in love, and the duo makes quite a splash as they gad about Victorian-era London. Of course, many obstacles stand in their way—Lillian is the daughter of an eminent archeology professor, and Imhotep is a bandage-wrapped mummy from Ancient Egypt. Lillian’s father is unlikely to approve the match (“You are the property of the British Museum. You are dead. Stay out of this!” the Professor cries when he discovers his daughter in Imhotep’s arms). More mummified parental figures, the British police force, and Queen Victoria herself get tangled up in this whimsical comedy. As the sprightly forms of Lillian and Imhotep dart across the pages, readers become enchanted by the pair’s hijinks and adventures. Author and artist Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert are in fine form here—cheeky humor and expressive illustrations combine for a delightfully romantic romp.
Thessaly: Witch for Hire by Bill Willingham and Shawn McManus, 2005, DC Comics (Graphic Novel/ Teen Fantasy)
Thessaly is a witch. A smart, sassy, bookish witch living quietly (or trying to, anyway) in Positano, Italy. But her would-be idyllic existence keeps getting interrupted by various monsters. Thessaly has to yank her nose out of her books and destroy those monsters. It’s exhausting, and it gets really annoying when Thess learns that a lovesick ghost named Fetch (whom Thess first met back in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe) is responsible for sending all those nasty demons her way. Fetch wants to shack up with Thess and run a monster-slaying business together. And Fetch has got some especially ferocious, dangerous, world-ending beasts all lined up for their first case. Thess, to say the least, is not enchanted. But the reader will be—the witty banter between witch and ghost is catchy and the artwork is cartoonish without being cutesy. Top it off with lots of ass-kicking action and tons of ooey-gooey evil creatures, and you’ve got yourself one quirky little romantic comedy.
Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1 by Stephenie Meyer, adapted by Young Kim, 2010, Yen Press (Graphic Novel Adaptation/ Teen Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance)
Bella Swan moves to gloomy Forks, Washington. At school she meets the mysterious, alluring, irresistible Edward Cullen—and of course he has a deep, dark secret (he’s a moody, dreamy, blood-thirsty vampire). Covering roughly the first half of author Stephenie Meyer’s hit teen novel Twilight, this graphic novel adaptation ups the ante on the glamor, the drama, the suspense, and the interspecies paranormal romance. Artist Young Kim’s illustrations are sleek, strong black-and-white drawings with glimmers of red and brown when the blood flows or the fangs bite. Bella and Edward are depicted in anime-style beauty, all big eyes and pouty lips—ideal for gazing across the page at each other, sighing with longing as they yearn to be together. Whether you’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, whether you read the book ten times or saw the movie twenty times, the graphic novel still holds twists and surprises to delight and thrill. Ah, there’s nothing like a good vampire romance.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, adapted by Tony Lee, 2010, Del Rey/ Ballantine Books (Graphic Novel Adaptation/ Horror/ Humor/ Classics)
The illustrations were the one of the key features of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 smash-hit mash-up combining Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice with his own scenes of “ultraviolent zombie mayhem.” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a remarkably clever and downright funny little book; the next step on the road to success, obviously, is a graphic novel adaptation. In elegant black-and-white drawings, Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters attend country dances, decapitate the undead, flirt with distinguished gentleman, and master both the deadly and the feminine arts. Elizabeth spars with Mr. Darcy; Mr. Darcy spars with zombies; the reader is rewarded with lots of guts and gore. And those guts and gore are illustrated in as much loving detail as the 18th century-period frocks and top hats. Elizabeth is clever and lovely, Mr. Darcy is dark and dashing, and the zombies are practically eating their way through panels and pages. All in all, the graphic Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is every bit as much fun as its premise would lead you to believe.