I started reading comics and graphic novels at a very young age. When I was seven years old, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had just come out and I was all for it. Knowing this, an uncle gifted me a stack of superhero novels to read.
They weren’t even from the same series, just random ones he thought I might like. It didn’t matter though—I was already hooked.
Some of you might have similar stories. And like me, as you grew, your tastes might have also evolved. I’ve grown past the heroics of superheroes and settled into darker stories that aim to chill and thrill.
Best Thriller Graphic Novels
Graphic novels aren’t only for children, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Many are specifically for adults, tackling mature subjects without softening the blows.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to some of the best graphic novels that’ll keep you at the edge of your seat.
Side note: I’ve decided not to include Watchmen and V for Vendetta. While they’re definitely top-tier thriller graphic novels, they’re also two of the most recognizable graphic novels out there. The list below consists of lesser-known, but still excellent works.
1. Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Private investigator John Blacksad is the epitome of the hardboiled detective: cynical and up to his feline ears with mysterious cases.
The first volume sees him investigating the murder of a former client and lover. His snooping puts him in danger as he realizes he must face off against one of the most powerful figures in the city.
2. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
The mysterious Agent Graves is everyone’s go-to man when it’s time to get even. He picks out ordinary citizens and provides them with the means to exact revenge: a gun, 100 untraceable bullets, and full immunity for their future crimes, including murder.
3. X-Men: Noir by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero
Jean Grey is dead and no one knows who killed her: was it her boyfriend Scott Summers, or the hot-headed Logan?
Meanwhile, Professor Xavier is currently locked up. He wonders what his group of supers, whom he raised to be criminals, are up to right now. And how will they outrun the men bent on recruiting or killing them?
4. Death Follows by Cullen Bunn and A.C. Zamudio
Birdie and her family live together on a failing farm. Her father’s worsening rheumatism makes it necessary to hire a farmhand. But the one they hired is unsettling, always leering at Birdie and her younger sister. Worse, everywhere he goes, the dead stirs restlessly.
5. Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal
Things are finally looking up for Brian: he’s married to a supportive wife, has a baby on the way, and controls the voices inside his head with medication. But on his father’s deathbed, Brian learns of the inheritance awaiting him—the legacy of a serial killer.
6. Kill Or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Depressed grad student Dylan jumps off a tall building and mysteriously survives. Turns out, a demon saved his life and now he’s got to murder people to keep living. Innocents are out of the question so he targets the bad guys instead.
7. Postal by Bryan Hill and Matt Hawkins
Eden, Wyoming is a town where criminals secretly live together in peace. Everyone must follow the rules to avoid outside attention, and whoever disobeys is severely punished.
Now one of the town’s founders is back for revenge. Mark, the mayor’s son and town postman, finds himself at the center of the conflict. Who will he support: his father, exiled due to his excessive methods, or his mother, whose failing leadership threatens the whole town?
8. Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman
Conrad Paulson lives a double life as the master thief Redmond. All he wants is to retire and try to win back his ex-wife.
Unfortunately, his adult son is trying to follow in his footsteps and he’s terrible at the game. Now he’s in trouble only his father can fix — trouble that sees Conrad on the run from both sides of the law.
9. Dept. H by Matt and Sharlene Kindt
A murder sends Mia into the depths of the sea, where a secret research station is located. But this is more than a job as the victim is her father, possibly the smartest man on Earth.
What she finds is a paranoid crew, strange sea creatures, and an impending flood. Can she uncover all the secrets she needs to find her father’s killer before disaster strikes?
10. Incognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece
Zane Pinchback is a reporter for a black newspaper. He’s light-skinned enough to pass as white and uses it to investigate lynchings.
He travels to Mississippi to investigate his brother’s arrest for the brutal murder of a local white woman. With a lynch mob already forming, Zane must quickly find out the truth to save his brother, and possibly, himself.
Reading Thriller Graphic Novels
Graphic novels are a potent combination of the arts of writing and drawing. You can appreciate the illustrations as much as you appreciate the plot.
Thriller graphic novels, in particular, carry the same fear and tingling suspense we’ve come to love from the genre. I think their advantage over other media is how much more concrete their stories become by combining two art forms.
Their visual content cements their narratives more firmly into the mind. It’s easier for people to imagine what’s happening, and less text means they’re easier to consume.
Cole is a blog writer and aspiring novelist. He has a degree in Communications and is an advocate of media and information literacy and responsible media practices. Aside from his interest in technology, crafts, and food, he’s also your typical science fiction and fantasy junkie, spending most of his free time reading through an ever-growing to-be-read list. It’s either that or procrastinating over actually writing his book. Wish him luck!