Graphic novels aren't usually the first thing people think of when they are looking for a great story about the trials and triumphs of romance. Most people still think of graphic novels and comic books as ways to tell superhero stories, and not much else. Thankfully, there are almost as many different types of stories told through graphic novels as there are types of fans who enjoy reading them. To help you celebrate Valentine's Day this year, here are just a few that tell stories of love, longing, and romance.
Written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire (Descender, All-New Hawkeye), Trillium tells the story of an impossible romance. Two lovers are separated by vast amounts of time and space, and still manage to fall madly in love. Their need to be together might end the universe, or save it. It's a sci-fi tale that really tells the story of two people, trying to escape loneliness. Lemire has said that his aim was to tell "a really small, really human love story, but set against a big cosmic backdrop". It's safe to say that he definitely succeeded.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For, Are You My Mother?), Fun Home tells the story about her father's sudden death and her family's reaction. It also depicts her own attempts at figuring out her sexuality, by retelling stories of her early dates and later all consuming loves. "Tragicomic" is a perfect description for Fun Home; it will make you laugh just as often as it will make you cry.
Saga is a comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) featuring art by the absolutely amazing Fiona Staples (Archie, Northlanders). The ongoing comic series is also available in trade paperback, and tells the story of a young star-crossed couple who wound up having a baby and living on the run. As Alana and Marko try to figure out marriage and parenthood, they are perused across worlds by her people and his, both sides hellbent on destroying them.
You might remember the incredibly fun and popular movie Scott Pilgram vs. The Word, telling the story of 20something Scott Pilgram, his love for devliery girl Romana Flowers and his battle with her evil exes. The story actually began as a comic book, with Scott Pilgram, Vol 1: Scott Pilgram's Precious Little Life. Bryan Lee O'Malley (Lost at Sea, Seconds) wrote and illustrated the series, which has been called a "delightful hybrid comics love story" and saw its third volume hailed as one of the best comic books of the year by Publishers Weekly.
Sex Criminals is a wonderfully inventive series, that tells the story of Suzie and Jon, a couple who find out that when they have sex, they can stop time. Suzie also works for the local library, that is facing closure due to lack of funding. Of course Suzie and Jon use their combined powers for good, and of course hilarity and drama ensue. Written by Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, ODY-C) and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky (Howard the Duck, Rumble Royale), this series is one of the funniest yet heartfelt currently available.
Alex + Ada
Alex + Ada is a futuristic sci-fi story from Jonathan Luna (Star Bright and the Looking Glass)and Sarah Vaughn (Sparkshooter) that examines the true nature of humanity. The story begins with Alex being dumped by his fiance and given a sophisticated robot named Ada. Ada cannot think for herself, and Alex is dissatisfied with her lack of free will and independent thought and wants to make her sentient. His society has banned robot sentience, due to a tragic accident in which a number of humans lost their lives. The ongoing series tells the story of Alex's struggle with Ada, and the outcome of his ultimate decision.
Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo
Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo started out as a web comic by Grace Buchele Mineta and grew into a graphic novel series from there. The comic is semi-autobiographical, and tells the story of Grace, a Texan, who met and fell in love with Ryosuke, a Japanese businessman. The two moved to Tokyo, and the comic tells of their adventures. Grace is sweet, adorable, and relatable, both as a young woman in love and someone who finds herself in a foreign country. There's also an imaginary rabbit named Marvin, because this book is truly perfect.
Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero
This is the second volume of the Hopeless Savages series, written by Jen Van Meter (Black Lightning: Year One, The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage) with art by Christine Norrie. Hopeless Savages tells the story of a family, the Hopeless-Savage family, who aren't exactly your normal, average family. Ground Zero is the second volume, and explores the beginning of a relationship between the main protagonist and her boyfriend. It also sees her older brother reuniting with his boyfriend.
Blue Is The Warmest Color
Julie Maroh's Blue Is The Warmest Color will do more than just tug at your heart strings, it will practically break them, but with a story so moving and featuring characters so realistic you won't mind. The novel follows Emma and Clémentine throughout their lives, beginning when Clémentine meets the elusive Emma. Emma is no manic pixie dream girl, and the story develops some amazing characters who will stay with you long after you finish the book.
Fresh Romance isn't exactly a graphic novel, but it's too perfect not to include. Created by Janelle Asselin (who was once an editor at DC Comics and is the Senior Editor at ComicsAlliance), Fresh Romance is a comic magazine, put out monthly, that features more modern love stories. These range in topic and cover everything from queer love stories to tragic break ups to the pain of moving on. Each issue also includes relationship advice and a look at the in-progress art.
BONUS: The Secret Loves of Geek Girls
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is an anthology containing comics and prose on love, sex, and dating while being immersed in geek culture. The collection contains stories and comics by some of the best names in geek, including Sam Maggs, Marguerite Bennett, Fionna Adams and Jen Vaughn, and Margaret Atwood and compiled and edited by Hope Nicholson. It's a fantastic collection that has a story for almost every romantic taste. Everyone has their own story that affected them the most in this work; with me it was Bennett's. Pick up the collection and let us know which one it was for you.