When you see the words “comic book,” the first thing that probably pops into mind is superheroes. But comics, like books, TV, and movies, are a medium that can tell any kind of story–including urban fantasy.
Below are graphic novels full of magic, mystery, and strong female characters that should appeal to readers of urban fantasy books. Whether you’re in the mood for dark and gritty or cozy and cute, there’s a book here for you.
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Written by Sam Humphries, illustrated by Jen Bartel
Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy – she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
First things first: the art in this book is gorgeous. 😍
Set in a neon, dreamlike Los Angeles, Blackbird follows Nina’s quest to uncover the secret world of Paragons, people who can use magic. Her search becomes all the more urgent when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister.
The world-building is fascinating, and the art really helps bring to life the secret, magical locations within the city that normal people can’t see. The magic system is pretty unique too.
Nina is a complicated character full of very understandable anger. Her pursuit of magic is tied with her need to know the truth about a mysterious event in her past and is made more complicated by her toxic family. I love how determined she is to keep searching for answers throughout everything that happens.
She also has a talking cat sidekick, which is always a plus.
One warning before you dive in. Blackbird: Volume 1 is set up like a first in series. There’s a conclusion at the end (not a cliffhanger), but it doesn’t resolve everything and there’s obviously more to the story. But there’s not any information about when Volume 2 is coming out, so be aware of that before you start reading.
Written by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu
“If Mooncakes were a spell, it would be a housewarming charm that settles with care into the softest parts of a home and makes the houseplants grow. I wish I could live inside this book.” — New York Times bestselling author Casey McQuiston
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft. Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town. One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home. Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
If you’re in the mood for a cozy book full of witchcraft and autumn vibes, you need to read Mooncakes yesterday. Nova and Tam are adorable, awesome characters individually and even sweeter when they’re together. There’s an excellent supporting cast in Nova’s friends and family and some despicable villains whose identities I won’t spoil.
The magic in this book is just lovely, helped by the charming art.
And there’s a nice thread of mystery leading to the final showdown with the bad guys.
Mooncakes is a complete, standalone story, and reading it is like sinking into an enchanting, cozy world surrounded by witchy friends.
Written by Caitlin Kittredge, illustrated by Roberta Ingranata
Gunned down and left for dead on a New York rooftop, Alex Underwood’s life should have ended there–but instead, at the moment of death, she became host to the Witchblade, a mystical artifact that grants the woman wielding it extraordinary powers. But the power comes with a heavy cost, and Alex finds herself thrust into the center of an unseen battle raging on the snowy streets of NYC. Demons are real and walking among humans, and every one of them is intent on taking out the Witchblade’s newest host before she becomes too strong to kill. But the artifact chose Alex for a reason, and she’s not going down without a fight.
It’s no surprise that Witchblade is a perfect graphic novel for fans of urban fantasy since its writer is prolific urban fantasy author Caitlin Kittredge.
Witchblade feels very much like a classic urban fantasy novel brought to life in comic form. NYC serves as a dark, noir-like setting full of demons and other supernatural threats that prey on the human population. The story is dark and violent much of the time, though not without touches of humor. Alex is still figuring out how her powers work and if she even wants the Witchblade, and she has a great supporting cast and a sexy mentor/protector with a mysterious past. (You know urban fantasy likes supernatural dudes with mysterious pasts.)
There are three volumes in this series, and there really should be more.
Written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Sami Kivelä
While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite.
In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy.
Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed (Star Wars: Canto Bight, Black Bolt) and artist Sami Kivelä (Beautiful Canvas) present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.
Abbott is sometimes described as a supernatural crime drama, but I think it fits nicely in the urban fantasy category as well. Honestly, the supernatural mystery plot, while good, isn’t as engaging as the conflict Elena faces as the only Black reporter at a major Detroit newspaper trying to cover stories of police brutality and other issues that upset the white status quo.
She faces a lot of racism and sexism (content warning), but she doesn’t let that stop her any more than she lets herself get scared off by supernatural monster attacks.
She does need a break when it all gets to be too much, though.
Overall, this is a great graphic novel and an excellent read for those who like fantasy stories that aren’t afraid to address real-world issues head-on.
Written by Ian Boothby, illustrated by Gisèle Lagacé
Did you sign a deal with the devil? Has a loved one been dragged to Hell? Then Kate and Cate Harrow should be the first ones you call for timely soul removal at a reasonable rate. This collection is perfect for fans of case-solving procedurals like Veronica Mars, Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and the CW’s Supernatural, and introduces readers to the Harrows, who have to deal with the end of the world, fallen angels, demon worshipping ex-boyfriends, and their Mother.
Demons, exorcisms, and the apocalypse have never been so cartoonishly fun as in this graphic novel. The book description compares it to shows like Jessica Jones and Supernatural, and while the content might be superficially similar, the tone couldn’t be more different.
Exorsisters is quirky and hilarious, but it never lets the jokes undercut the heart of the story. The book shines when focusing on the relationship between the two sisters and their complicated history with their mother. It does address some dark themes, but… Things never get too dark.
If you like the lighter side of urban fantasy, then you’ll definitely want to check this book out.
What’s your favorite urban fantasy comic book series? Have you read any of the graphic novels above? Share your thoughts in the comments!