Graphic novels are sort of the hot but intense and moody cousins of comic books. They majored in philosophy and human behaviour and spend all day moping around while being beautiful and insightful. Sure, that’s not the rule. Some pretty great graphic novels are light-hearted and fun, but the ones we remember the most and stand the test of times are those that hold a crude mirror in front of humanity.

The last decades have been amazing for fans of the moody and smart graphic novel. There have been some amazing masterpieces that should absolutely be considered literature pieces. They are amazing, not only because they have excellent commentary on the state of humankind but because the cross-disciplinary storytelling is beautiful, impressive and full of meaning.

Epileptic

This one is largely known as a European masterpiece. Every self-professed graphic novel fan should have read it by now. It was released in 1996 and tells a painful but imaginative story. David B, the author, has a brother with a rare form of epilepsy, and he chronicles the family’s journey to look for a solution. The story is captivating in its own, but David B’s drawings take it to the next level. If you like deep philosophical and moral conundrums along with melancholic introspection, you’ll love this. David B was not afraid to dig deep into his family’s history and fraught relationships which translate into an honest portrayal in between the fantasies that often take front row during the novel.

A.D. After Death

When A.D. debuted to critical acclaim, it was unsurprising. The novel comes from two MVPs of the comic world, Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Batman), and Jeff Lemire (Extraordinary X-Men). These guys can do no wrong, and it showed in this amazing sci-fi novel. The premise of A.D. is simple: humankind has found a cure for death. But, of course, the results aren’t simple. The story takes a rather existential tone that’s perfectly accompanied by taciturn watercolors and intense prose that questions what we know of love, family, life, and ourselves.

My Favourite Thing is Monsters

The story behind this novel is as interesting as the one in it. My Favourite Thing is Monster is the debut novel of Emil Ferris a freelance illustrator that contracted West Nile Virus at age 40 which effectively paralyzed her body and robbed her of her ability to illustrate. Emil soon started learning creative writing and taught herself to draw again to produce this love letter to outsiders, B-Movies, and campy horror.

It wasn’t easy, though. Apart from having to reteach her body, she was working 16 hours a day to complete the novel. At a rate of a page every two days, it took her 6 years to complete it, and then she had to find a new publisher because the old one could not handle the length of her work. Once she found one, the release was still delayed because the shipping company with all the copies went bankrupt and the Panama government seized the freight for a month.

After that ordeal, what we have is an amazing story of a teenage girl in Chicago that sets out to solve her neighbor’s, a Holocaust survivor, murder. The story often takes a turn for the supernatural and it’s largely autobiographical. Critics have praised it as an amazing work of art.

Watchmen

Can you even talk about modern graphic novels without mentioning Watchmen? We think not. This 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was a game changer. For reference, Watchmen is largely responsible for the archetype of the flawed hero we’ve come to love. Throughout 12 issues, Moore explores, however subtly, different facets of the human behaviour, and presents a world filled with moral dilemmas. The universe in Watchmen is insanely rich and well thought-out even more than what we’ve seen in the movie adaptation, so the comic is definitely worth a read.