The world might be looking a little brighter with vaccines on the rise and truth in power once again, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all need a little fantasy. Magic and monsters. Swords and sorceresses. Ancients pasts and far-flung futures. For your own escapism needs, here are the 10 of the best fantasy comics you can safely snag from your local comic book store.
Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä
Abbott is an urban fantasy that blends magical forces like The Dresden Files with the rough, hardboiled edge you’d expect from any Walter Mosley novel. Elena Abbott is investigating some horrific crimes — crimes perpetuated by occult enemies that killed her husband. And she’s determined to destroy them all.
Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Recently turned into a great Netflix series, Locke & Key is one of my all-time favorites. Not only is it a well-imagined tale of an old house with magical keys, but it’s a powerful family drama. After the patriarch of the Locke family dies, his family movies into a creepy old house, where they not only deal with magical keys and evil forces, but with the grief and trauma of loss.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
This book is gorgeous. I’m going to say it again: GORGEOUS. I’ve read lots of comics, almost-drooled over many pages, but Monstress might beat them all in sheer beauty. Set in a fictional 1900s Asia, this is a steampunk story fill with powerful monsters and magical matriarchs and a teenage girl just trying to survive a war.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Noelle Stevenson is practically a rock star at this point. She was part of the original creative team of Lumberjanes, and she’s the showrunner for Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Before all that, while she was still in college, she wrote and drew Nimona originally as a webcomic. It’s the story of a shapeshifting girl who teams up with a kingdom’s supervillain, though exactly who the heroes and villains are in this story are up for debate.
Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong
Some may call Prism Stalker science fiction. I contend, however, that like Doctor Who or Star Wars, this is a fantasy story. If the science seems like magic, let’s just admit it’s magic. Vep has escaped a life of indentured servitude to arrive on a newly discovered planet. Once there, she also discovers she has a strange connection to the planet that imbues her with strange powers.
Red Sonja by Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, and Jack Jadson
“Oh, another hetero dude including Red Sonja on a list.” Yes, I hear you. The costume is ridiculous. It does NOT qualify as armor. But I’m directing you to Gail Simone’s run with the redheaded warrior. Red Sonja goes toe-to-toe with the Queen of Plagues in an epic, violent tale that brings new depth and prestige to the long-running characters.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
How is this not a prestige streaming series yet? Seriously? Vaughan and Staples’s brilliant space romp is like Romeo and Juliet, but instead of melodramatic teenagers, the lovers on opposite sides of a war have a child, a hybrid of their two races. The parents are fighting to save their child and survive, tossed in with some of the most memorable characters a single series could possibly pack in. And it has Lying Cat!
Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Many Great Artists
You can’t make a “best fantasy comics” list and not include Sandman, right? Before he was the international bestselling novelist, Neil Gaiman spent a decade on Sandman, telling the tale of Dream of the Endless and revolutionizing the comic book industry. Oh, and it’s about to be a Netflix series.
And One That’s Not Even Out Yet
Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell and Gone by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
I’ve gushed about Locke & Key. I’ve told you things you already know about the seminal Sandman. So of course I’m excited for the mind-bending crossover. Only issue #0 is out so far, with issue #1 due out later this month. Mary Locke is trying to save her brother’s soul with a special key, but she’ll have to go to Neil Gaiman’s version of Hell and The Corinthian to get him.
It’s funny to think about “fantasy” in terms of comic books. To me, they’ve always been fantasy, a form of wish-fulfillment. Who didn’t pretend they could climb walls like Spider-Man, fly like Superman, or read minds like Professor X? Then when I found the fantasy genre in my local comic book shop, I was hooked. These are my best fantasy comics. What are some of yours?