Comics/Graphic Novels

9 Amazing Graphic Novels from AAPI Artists and Writers

Chris M. Arnone

Senior Contributor

The son of a librarian, Chris M. Arnone's love of books was as inevitable as gravity. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. His novel, The Hermes Protocol, was published by Castle Bridge Media in 2023 and the next book in that series is due out in winter 2024. His work can also be found in Adelaide Literary Magazine and FEED Lit Mag. You can find him writing more books, poetry, and acting in Kansas City. You can also follow him on social media (Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, website).

Image Comics

THE GOOD ASIAN: 1936 DELUXE EDITION HARDCOVER follows Edison Hark—a haunted, self-loathing Chinese-American detective on the trail of a killer in 1936 San Francisco—in a noir mystery exploring the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban: the Chinese, as they’re besieged by rampant murders, abusive police, and a world that seemingly never changes. Collects the Eisner and Harvey Award winning hit in one complete volume alongside special bonus content. On sale Tuesday, June 6 at your favorite book retailer.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is nearly at a close, and I would feel remiss to not mention the incredible contributions of AAPI people in comics. From webcomics to the Big Two publishers and everywhere in between, AAPI creators are writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering amazing stories. Recently, DC Comics even promoted the legendary Jim Lee, who is Korean American, from Publisher and CCO to President.

Back when I started reading comics in the early ’90s, Jim Lee was the bar by which all other artists were measured. He wasn’t the only influential AAPI creator back then. Filipino American artist Whilce Portacio was one of the founders of Image Comics. Jim Lee was there, too. He was everywhere.

Today, your local comic book store is stuff with great glossies from AAPI creators. Seriously. This list was only difficult in narrowing down to a reasonable and wide-ranging list. For AAPI Heritage Month, both Marvel and DC have a slew of special covers of comics featuring AAPI creators.

Whether you’re digging into superhero stories from Marvel and DC, science fiction or fantasy tales from smaller publishers, or off-the-wall comics from the darkest nooks and crannies of comicdom, AAPI writers and artists are there. They might be working on your favorite comics, and you didn’t even know it. Here are nine (technically 11) of the most amazing comics from AAPI artists and writers.

cover of Alex + Ada

Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn

Jonathan Luna is a Filipino American comic creator, and this is my favorite of his works. Alex is having a tough time. His fiancee dumped him, and he doesn’t have much else going on. So his grandmother buys him an android companion named Ada. Slowly, Ada grows self-aware as the politics of the world become more and more dangerous for Ada — and the relationship between Alex and Ada becomes more and more tumultuous.

Cover of Batman: Hush

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, Scott Williams

I really cannot say enough about Jim Lee. After incredible careers with Marvel and Image, he landed at DC and has been there ever since. He doesn’t do interior artwork often anymore, and this was one of his absolute best. Seemingly every member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery acting up, and a mysterious man clad in bandages is at the center of it. And he knows far too much about Batman.

Cover of Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

These two graphic novels are historical fiction focused on the Boxer Revolution of 1898. Gene Luen Yang is Chinese American, bringing his heritage and a big dose of fabulism to this incredible story. These two stories are companions, telling the same events from two different points of view.

Cover of Descender

Descender and Ascender by Dustin Nguyen, Jeff Lemire

Here’s another double recommendation, since Ascender is the sequel to Descender. Dustin Nguyen is the Vietnamese American artist behind both of these great sci-fi stories. In this android story, TIM-21 is hiding and running from the myriad of bounty hunters searching for illegal robotics. Can TIM-21 and its companions survive?

Cover of Made in Korea

Made in Korea by Jeremy Holt, George Schall, Adam Wollet

Jeremy Holt is a nonbinary Korean American who weaves some very personal experiences into this graphic novel about a young Korean American girl living in America. She’s socially awkward but brilliant, and those things make blending in hard enough. When she discovers she’s not entirely human, everything gets even harder.

monstress cover

Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

I recommend this comic to everyone because it has everything: great characters, gorgeous art, a fascinating setting, and a plot that won’t quit. Oh, and it’s made by an incredible AAPI creator, Marjorie Liu (Chinese American), and Japanese creator Sana Takeda. In a matriarchal fantasy setting, Maika is a teen girl linked to a horrific monster. She’s caught in the middle of a giant war between the Arcanics and Federation, belonging to neither and bringing the ire of both.

Cover of Prism Stalker

Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is the writer and artist of this cool story, and she’s of Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American, and European descent. This sci-fi tale focuses on Vep, a refugee and indentured servant forced to help settle a new and mysterious planet. But what awaits her there, and the power that it gives her, might be more than she can handle.

cover of Star Wars Doctor Aphra 2020

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Alyssa Wong, Valentina Remenar

Alyssa Wong has written a lot of stuff, from short stories to novels to video games and yes, even comic books. I particularly dig her run on Doctor Aphra, the morally questionable archeologist who — at least at first — works for Darth Vader. Aphra is a breakout character in the Star Wars universe, and Alyssa Wong is part of why.

Cover of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Erica Henderson, Ryan North

Squirrel Girl shouldn’t work as a character. The entire idea is ridiculous, and yet she’s become super popular thanks, in part, to AAPI artist Erica Henderson. In this cheeky launch of her own series, Squirrel Girl and her goofy crew take on classic Marvel villains like Kraven, Whiplash, and Galactus. Yep. That Galactus. This book is a ride, y’all.

And that’s just the tip of the incredible iceberg of AAPI-created comics. I didn’t even touch on graphic memoirs or webcomics. What are your favorite comics from AAPI artists and writers?