Comics/Graphic Novels

Riot Roundup: The Best Comics We Read January–June 2022

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Always books. Never boring.

Welcome to another edition of Riot Roundup, where we ask our contributors to share the best comics and graphic novels they read in the last quarter. Some are ongoing series, others standalone favorites. Get ready to add to your pull lists!

Now I know what you’re thinking: hey Book Riot, aren’t your Riot Roundups usually a quarterly affair? Why yes, yes they are. So why is this one a six-month roundup? Because we’re all just doing out best out here and sometimes a ball gets dropped. Enjoy this extra special list of reads for readers of all stripes, and happy reading!

cover image for Cheer Up

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wis

There is a particular type of graphic novel that just shoots a rainbow of delight straight into your heart–think Check, Please; Heartstopper– that I absolutely adore. And Cheer Up is another entry in that “genre”. It has found family, friends to enemies to lovers, opposites attract between an overachiever and an anti-social grump, and two teen girl leads you’ll want to ferociously protect (although one may bite you in the process), befriend, and love. 

—Jamie Canavés

cover of A City Inside by Tillie Walden

A City Inside by Tillie Walden

Such a little book and it hits so hard! Walden’s short graphic novel is just 56 pages long, but in its vivid black-and-white, it tells a story of growing up, of discovering contentment, of a life well-lived, of carving out space for yourself and a life you fit into. There’s so much heart in these illustrations. It’s relatable and hopeful, and filled my heart right up.

—Leah Rachel von Essen

Cover of Flung Out of Space

Flung Out of Space by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer

I read this graphic novel while researching Patricia Highsmith’s obsession with snails, and although it didn’t cover much that I wasn’t already aware of, it covered it in an exciting and vibrant way that I found utterly delightful. From the introduction, it is clear that their intention is to tell a story about a complicated woman; Ellis writes in the author’s note: “The protagonist of this story is not a good person. In fact, Patricia Highsmith was an appalling person.” This context allows the reader to appreciate the story more fully, to understand that it is, well, complicated. The book covers the time before Pat’s first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published, when she was working as a comics writer, hating every minute of it, and trying very hard to stop being a lesbian (also hating every minute of it, except the ones when she went ahead and was a lesbian anyway). The book shows a version of the events that culminated in Pat writing The Price of Salt, or, Carol, and the beautiful illustrations guarantee that I will eventually own this one in hard copy. That said, I was delighted by the ebook I borrowed from my library.

—Annika Barranti Klein

cover of Finding Home: Volume 4 by Hari Conner

Finding Home Volume 4: The Gardener by Hari Conner

I snagged a copy of the stunning conclusion to Hari Conner’s magical, slow-burn queer romance by backing their Kickstarter. Unfortunately for you, the hard copy isn’t available anymore, and you’ll have to wait for the webcomic to finish releasing sometime next year. Happily for you, it is worth the wait. Is it ever worth the wait. Janek is a human chef slowly making his way home after a long time away; Chepi is a fae healer doing research on the road. They meet, begin traveling together, and slowly—so slowly—fall in love. There is nothing I don’t love about this book. It is honest and tender and so, so gentle. The art is pure magic. The characters work their way through so much trauma as they learn to trust each other, and getting to witness that journey is nothing short of miraculous. I can honestly say only one other comic I’ve ever read that matches the depth and beauty of this one: Saga. Finding Home is something special. Don’t wait on it.

–Laura Sackton

Heartstopper Volumes 1-4 by Alice Oseman

Sometimes you just need comfort food! And that’s exactly what I got with Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series, which I devoured over a few days. These sweet books are a celebration of love. It’s impossible not to feel your heart melt as you tear through this love story with great supporting characters and thoughtful queer representation. If you’re feeling down and want to be cheered up, this is the series for you.

 —Sarah S. Davis

the cover of Messy Roots

Messy Roots by Laura Gao

This is a fantastic memoir about growing up as a queer Wuhanese American in Texas. Laura begins her life in Wuhan, surrounded by a large family and especially befriending two cousins close to her age. But at 4, her parents immigrate to Texas, and her life dramatically changes. Laura Americanizes her name at school to fit in better with her Texas classmates. She internalizes Asian stereotypes at her primarily white schools and brings that internalized racism with her to college, where other Asian American students confront her about them. As a result, Laura has an identity crisis concerning both her Wuhanese heritage and her sexuality. It’s a nuanced, vibrant memoir, covering lots of ground in less than 300 pages.

—Margaret Kingsbury

cover of The Real Riley Mayes by Rachel Elliott

The Real Riley Mayes by Rachel Elliott

Riley Mayes isn’t a fan of fifth grade. None of her classmates get her sense of humor, and she’d much rather be drawing than sitting in class. When Riley makes a couple of new friends, she learns how nice it is to be around people who appreciate the weird and wonderful things that make up the real Riley Mayes. I absolutely loved all of the authenticity and heart in this middle grade graphic novel, and I adored seeing a queer kid in Oklahoma explore her identity and unique self. This book is a treat from beginning to end!

—Susie Dumond

cover of Stranger Things and Dungeons and Dragons

Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons by Jody Houser, Jim Zub, Diego Galindo, MSASSYK, Nate Piekos

The fifth graphic novel in the Stranger Things Series, this is a look at the more personal side of Dungeons & Dragons(D&D). Things are never going great in Hawkins. After the events of season three, our Adventuring Party has been through so much with little resources to help them process. Luckily they have D&D. As they play the game together they are able to process their trauma, connect with each other as friends, and be the heroes they know they are. This story is a delightful look at D&D and how it can be a tool for good in addition to just being fun. As a fan of both Stranger things and D&D I fell head over heels in love with this story. It is such a cozy read for nerds everywhere. 

—Mara Franzen

logo for Batman: Way Family Adventures webtoon showing blue text on a black Bat signal

Wayne Family Adventures by StarBite, CRC Payne, Kielamel Sibal, Lan Ma, and C.M. Cameron

Is it sad to say that the new episode of WFA every Wednesday is always one of the highlights of my week? DC partnering with Webtoon to put their characters in front of a new, massive, voracious audience is one of the smartest moves they’ve made this century, but it wouldn’t have worked if the comic they launched with wasn’t superb – and it is. Wayne Family Adventures – which has a wider readership than any three traditionally published Batman comics put together – is the Batman family sitcom we always knew we needed. It perfectly pares each character down to their bare essentials and uses this keen understanding and pitch-perfect character designs to tell exquisitely paced, laugh-out-loud little gems of stories that use Webtoon’s mobile-optimized scrolling format brilliantly. If you always wanted to get into the Batfamily but never knew where to start, DC has finally got you covered.