The best comics of 2023 so far

The comic medium is a beautiful, interconnected ecosystem, and we’re doing our best to show it off in Polygon’s best comics of the year. From self-published works and foreign imports to the hit series from Marvel and DC, if one thing is clear in 2023, comic book culture inspires all cultures. But who cares if it’s movies, TV shows and games five years from now?

Here in 2023, these are amazing books.

Comics were considered eligible if they were graphic novels first published in 2023 or series that were first collected, or released their final collection, in 2023. Everything on this list is available in paperback or in collected form for your eager hands — no worries for commercial servers.

Darlin’ and his other names (Part 1: Marta)

A bloodied figure with curly hair stands ominously in a field of tree stumps on the cover of Darlin' and Her Other Names.

Picture: Olivia Stephens

by Olivia Stephens

The first episode of Olivia Stephens’ self-published werewolf-western-horror-romance comic book is one of the most striking things I’ve read all year. Brought to life in black and white, Stephens creates a haunting yet hopeful story of two strangers who meet in the aftermath of violence and come together to seek the revenge they both so desperately desire.

It’s the kind of comic that, despite its 88 pages, will immediately leave you wanting more. It’s moving, moving, beautifully rendered and uniquely atmospheric. Stephens has already shown his talent with the charming graphic novel artie and the wolf moonbut while it was a charming book for young readers, Darling is unabashedly for adults, with emotional weight, deep thematic resonance, and brutal violence that will leave you thinking long after you finish reading. —Rosie Knight

Shubeik Lubeik

Along with a drawing of a dense cityskape with a geometric border, reaching for a glowing bottle, sealed with a cork and labeled with paper, on the cover of Shubeik Lubeik.

Image: Deena Mohamed/Penguin Random House

by Deena Mohammad

Whenever Egypt appears in Western art, it is usually flattened and caricatured under Western gaze. But what happens when you reverse the perspective? Deena Mohamed’s brilliant saga – a work by an Egyptian creator originally serialized for Egyptian audiences in Arabic – does just that. Her seminal comic is finally available in English, with Mohamed herself translating it, and with pages that read right-to-left like any familiar manga, reflecting her origin.

Set in modern-day Cairo, the book takes the reader into an alternate history where humanity can wish for its dreams to come true – for a price. Following several characters from varying class backgrounds, Mohamed explores how a world shaped by Western colonialism and capitalist impulses systematizes even impossible powers like wishes and dreams – and what that does to the Egyptian people living in such a society. Deploying slick material, infographic pages, graphics, and transitions between color and black and white, this bold sci-fi/fantasy piece reads like no other comic this year or any year.

There are talking donkeys, deadly dragons, clever world building, and best of all: heartbreaking characters that stick with you. —Ritesh Babu

Make a power bomb!

A shirtless professional wrestler leaps over a wild-haired female wrestler, as a huge crowd excitedly watches the cover of Do a Powerbomb!

Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Image Comics

By Daniel Warren Johnson

The story of Do a Powerbomb is that Daniel Warren Johnson first got into professional wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s his love letter to the form.

The story inside Do a Powerbomb is that a necromancer offers a place in his supernatural wrestling tournament to a young wrestler from our world, where wrestling is a performance. If she wins, he will bring his late mother back to life, but to do so she must team up with the masked wrestler who accidentally killed her in a fateful match. Twist! This masked wrestler is his father. Twist! They must fight God! Like, the Judeo-Christian God!

The joy of Do a Powerbomb it’s that there isn’t a centimeter that is shameful or sheepish: all is sincerity, all camp, all heart and all spectacle. The glory is the way Johnson brings a Renaissance painter’s eye to his action. It can blow a split second across the page to keep the tension and beauty of it forever, and most of the time it does. —Susana Polo

Virgin’s Blood

A brightly colored but monochrome image of a man smoking a cigarette on the cover of Blood of the Virgin.

Image: Sammy Harkam/Random Penguin House

by Sammy Harkham

Seymour, if we’re being honest, is a bit of a schlub. The protagonist of cartoonist Sammy Harkham Virgin’s Blood lives in 1970s Los Angeles, where he does solitary film editing of the worst kind of grindhouse film. He dreams of being a screenwriter, but it’s crummy: his magnum opus is called “Blood of the Virgin,” and his artistically devoid production runs throughout Harkham’s comic strip. Seymour doesn’t have as much to offer as he’d like, and he lacks the means to hide it from his parasitic boss, his wife Ida, and even himself.

All of this is likely to Virgin’s Blood sounds like the kind of navel-gazing comic about narcissistic men that’s reliably found on high-profile playlists, but it doesn’t come close to what Harkham is doing here. Because alongside it all, Seymour is an Iraqi Jewish immigrant and the child of Holocaust victims, trying to situate himself in a culture he can never fully relate to.

Then as boogie nights (a film with which this comic shares a general similarity), Harkham’s work uses a small lens to illuminate sprawling themes: the history of Iraqi Jews; survivor’s guilt; Hollywood exploitation; the burning desire we all have to belong somewhere. Virgin’s Blood could be a masterpiece. —Zach Rabiroff

History of Wonder Woman: The Amazons

Hippolytus, blood-faced, holds a sword and a baby, surrounded by images of Amazons and Greek goddesses on the cover of Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons.

Image: Phil Jimenez/DC Comics

By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Jimenez, Gene Ha, Nicola Scott, et al.

History of Wonder Woman was among the very first titles announced by DC when it revealed the scope and theme of its new Black Label imprint – a place for the biggest names DC could attract to create canon optional stories at high production value. Five years later, the first collected edition of History of Wonder Woman: The Amazons is quite simply the most breathtaking illustration work from the two major comic houses in years.

Phil Jimenez filled every inch of the 62-page debut issue with extremely detailed renderings of highly sought-after character designs from across the Greek pantheon and 30 original characters. It was an act that seemed impossible to follow, until Gene Ha returned with a number full of hidden goddesses. Nicola Scott completed the trilogy with some of the best layout and character work in comics today.

And I haven’t even mentioned Kelly Sue DeConnick’s expert prose, or her heartbreaking story of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, as the Amazons tell it themselves. A primitive cry in finely crafted gold. —SP

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