If you’re looking to switch up what you’re reading, or want a shorter read, checking out a graphic novel or webcomic is a great way to do that — and the best part — many of these can be accessed for free!
- Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
This is more or less the most popular webtoon series on Webtoon at the moment, so you’ve likely heard of it if you like reading webcomics, but it’s so popular only because it’s so good. Lore Olympus is a unique Persephone and Hades retelling wherein Olympus is a modern setting, and the mortal world is a more traditional, ancient Greece.
This Hades and Persephone retelling features office drama, mutual pining, and all kinds of broken promises and rocky relationships. The series does carry some heavier moments (CW for sexual assault), but almost every chapter comes with several laughs and plot twists. The accompanying art is gorgeous and unique, and the colors are always bold and beautiful. If you’re at all a fan of Greek myths you’re sure to love this series — and if Greek mythology isn’t usually your thing — the romance and plot of the series is more than enough on its own to hook readers.
The webcomic is being publishing as a graphic novel, with the first volume releasing this fall, and available for preorder now. Lore Olympus can currently be read for free on the Webtoon app (the three most recently published episodes are free after 21 days).
2. Spy x Family (Volume One) by Tatsuya Endo
This manga is one of the most entertaining and endearing things I’ve read recently; I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re looking for something fun and amusing. Spy x Family follows the misfit Forger family — Loid Forger, father and spy; Yor Forger, mother and assassin; and Anya Forger, mind reader and daughter. The only catch? None of them know each other’s secret occupations — except Anya who mind-reads the secrets from her parents — and they’ll get into some very sticky situations in order to keep their secrets.
In an unexpected mission assignment, agent Twilight (Loid Forger) is tasked with getting close to a school headmaster — which leads to his sudden adoption of Anya and marriage to Yor. Spy shenanigans ensue, the family bond gets stronger, and romantic moments between Loid and Yor pop up unexpectedly. As the series continues, this family will have to grapple with just how fake — or real — their family and feelings are, all while trying to save the world, of course. Spy x Family will have you laughing out loud, and then have you smiling at the most heartwarming moments; it’s a totally ingenious, ridiculous, and entertaining series.
Currently, six volumes are available to read in the U.S, but you can also read the individual chapters for free on the Shonen Jump app. There is a free week-long trial, but the app also comes at a pretty low price of $1.99 a month, with access to everything on the entire app.
3. Displacement by Kiku Hughes
Displacement is a graphic novel about a teenage girl who is pulled back in time to the same internment camp that her grandmother was held in during WWII in the American west. The graphic novel is part-fiction, part-memoir; inspired by the author’s own family history and experiences, and is reminiscent of Kindred.
Throughout the story, Kiku is repeatedly “displaced,” yanked back in time to different moments of her grandmother’s life. The story explores the truth of what Japanese-Americans experienced in interment camps, ideas about generational trauma and memory, and connections to the present-day issues of xenophobia and racism in the U.S (CW for those in the novel + gun violence).
The narrative in Displacement is powerful, moving, and the way the story unfolds is a beautiful and vulnerable look at truths that are hidden and how families are affected by their pasts. The graphic novels digs deep into the power and importance of memory and truth, and draws strong parallels between 1940s internment camps and present-day prisons (“holding facilities”) at the U.S-Mexico border — as well as the acts of resistance and community that are ongoing and crucial to fight those institutions. The art and color scheme of the novel is beautiful and understated, captures the scenery of the West, and delivers the narrative with powerful imagery.
4. Castle Swimmer (Season One) by Wendy Lian Martin
Castle Swimmer is an utterly charming, romantic, and adventure-filled webtoon series that’s definitely a good-choice if you’re looking for a comfort read. (The series is on-going though, so if you read all the way through you may be left hanging — consider this fair warning haha.)
Castle Swimmer follows Kappa and Siren, two teenagers whose lives are both shaped by prophecy. Kappa is “the Beacon,” and is tasked with helping different groups of sea creatures across the vast ocean fulfill their prophecies, at the cost of his own freedom and free-will. Meanwhile, Prince Siren is supposed to be his people’s savior by fulfilling their prophecy and saving them from the curse that’s haunted them for decades; unfortunately, in order to fulfill the prophecy, he is supposed to kill Kappa, the very same person he’s begun to develop feelings for…
The series is entertaining and features a wide cast of quirky and endearing characters that are all sure to capture your heart. The art style is so cute, and the under-the-sea, magical setting and premise create really cool imagery and exciting sea creatures and funky plot points. The first season is completed, and is free to access on the Webtoon app. The second season is currently ongoing, and is due to come off hiatus this Spring.
5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
This Paris-set, cute and romantic graphic novel features Prince Sebastian and his incredibly talented friend, Frances. Sebastian’s best-kept secret is that while his parents are busy searching for a bride for him, he spends his nights wearing the gorgeous dresses Frances makes for him and wrapping Paris under his spell as the Lady Crystallia. Meanwhile, Frances loves her work, and struggles to figure out how she can achieve her dream of being a great and famous dressmaker without spilling Sebastian’s secret.
The Prince and the Dressmaker is a tooth-achingly sweet story of friendship, young love, family, and what it takes to pursue our passions and embrace our identities and selves. The vaguely historical-Paris is great setting backdrop and the art is colorful and fun; and Frances really does create the most fabulous and beautiful dresses. The Prince and the Dressmaker is a fairy-tale story with the whimsical feeling of Disney for readers of any age to enjoy — and it’s definitely a good read to put a smile on your face.
6. Jujutsu Kaisen (Volume One) by Gege Akutami
To be honest, Jujutsu Kaisen could not be more of a shift from The Prince and the Dressmaker, but this series is arguably just as enjoyable — just in an entirely different way. Jujutsu Kaisen is an action-packed supernatural manga that follows Itadori Yuji, a teenager who accidentally becomes the host for a powerful curse, Sukuna, and joins a secret organization of Jujutsu sorcerers.
Itadori soon makes friends with fellow first-year sorcerers Megumi and Nobara, and they become a bad-ass, curse-fighting trio. The series is also an ongoing anime, with the first season having just come to an end. The character dynamics and relationships are both funny and endearing, and the magic system at play is exciting and entertaining. The manga/anime is on the graphic side, so if gruesomeness is out of your comfort zone I’d stay away, but if you’re in for some great fight scenes and cool demon dogs I’d definitely recommend.
I haven’t caught up with the manga past the anime — but what I have read/watched has been entertaining, tear-jerking, and has definitely got me hooked. (I have been warned that the upcoming volumes of the manga will cause me much more pain so I will drop that in here). Multiple volumes are available in the U.S, but just like Spy x Family, all of the currently published chapters can be individually read for free on the Shonen Jump app (with the free trial).
This last section is a bit different, because these are different graphic novels that I haven’t had the chance to read yet myself — but these are the three I’m most excited to read next so I wanted to share them, too!
7. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Mooncakes follows the story of Nova Huang, who has an above-average level of knowledge about magic for most teenage witches, and works at her grandmothers’ bookshop while helping investigate supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
Unexpectedly, one night Nova follows reports of a white wolf into the woods and stumbles across her childhood crush battling demons in the woods. Nova’s crush, Tam, turns to her for help, and their romance rekindles in the midst of a story about witchcraft and magic, family ties, and dark forces afoot.
8. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Mattias Ripa
Persepolis is Satrapi’s memoir of her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In black and white comic strips, Satrapi narrates the story of her childhood from age six to fourteen.
Persepolis is described as “intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original.” Satrapi’s story is about both growing up, and a look into the human cost of war and political repression — and how we survive and live on in the face of such struggles.
9. Laura Dean keeps Breaking up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
This graphic novel follows the story of Freddy, and her relationship with Laura Dean. Laura Dean is everything Freddy should want — cute, popular, and funny — but she’s also kind of thoughtless, and mean, and keeps breaking up with her.
Freddy seeks advice from a local mystic and an advice columnist, and has to face her relationship, fix and find friendships, and navigate the perils of being a teenager in love. The graphic novels promises to be a story about young love, and how to handle our relationships and get what we truly need from the people in our lives.