Characters setting out on quests are an important part of many literary genres and formats. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, quests have been part of some of our most enduring pieces of literature. These stories often work perfectly as the basis of graphic novels, meaning that there are many quests in comics and graphic novels. This list brings together just a few great examples of quests in comics and graphic novels. Whether you prefer fantasy or nonfiction, there is a quest here for you!
M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder – All Abbie wants to do is make her way to the Potter’s Spine mountain range to scatter her mother’s ashes. As the book opens, Abbie is already on her quest to scatter her mother’s ashes and has been badly injured. She emerges from a sandstorm into a small town where she is given care and meets the locals. Though she wants nothing more than to continue on her journey alone, she finds herself meeting the locals and trying to deal with the fact that she has superpowers but no particular desire to be anyone’s hero. This book collects the first three chapters of Magruder’s webcomic and those who enjoy this volume can catch up with chapter 4 online while they wait for the next print volume. Abbie is a great character that will be relatable to many readers. Magruder does a nice job of making her a well-developed character whose deafness is a part of her but not her only defining quality. The artwork is beautiful and pulls readers into this world from page one. This will definitely appeal to any readers who like to follow characters as they try to achieve personal quests.
Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G. – An evil queen bent on world domination, a father focused on pressuring his son to conform to his desires, and a sister who wants nothing more than to be a knight; all in all, Cucumber is surrounded by people who are determined to force him onto a path towards heroics even though he’d rather just head off to the magical school of his nerdy dreams instead. But, the kingdom won’t save itself, so Cucumber sets off with his sister Almond to find the Dream Sword and stop Queen Cordelia before she can cause any more harm. This cute and colorful comic is just the first in four volumes of the story, but it offers a great introduction to the seven kingdoms of Dreamside and their inhabitants. It is a fun and fluffy read.
The Castoffs: Mage Against the Machine by MK Reed and Brian Smith with art by Molly Ostertag and Wyeth Yates – In a world that was torn apart by the Great Mage Machine War, Charris, Trinh, and Ursa have been asked to work together to deliver a memory potion to a healer. But working together doesn’t necessarily come easily to them, particularly since they all have such different powers. As they begin to realize that there is more at work here than anyone first realized, they will have to overcome their initial distrust and work together to be the heroes that are needed.
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson with art by Andrea Offermann – Based on a classic Arthurian story, this graphic novel follows Sir Yvain as he leaves King Arthur’s court in search of personal glory. Along the way, he undertakes multiple quests and impacts the lives of the people around in, often in ways he never realizes. This telling of the story focuses not only on Yvain but on the consequences of his actions, making it rich with emotion and growth for many of the characters. The artwork in this book is a beautiful play on medieval styles that helps to set the scene and support the action of the story.
Eternal Empire by Sarah Vaughn with art by Jonathan Luna – War has existed between the Eternal Empire and its neighbors for generations. The book opens with the Eternal Empress undergoing a ceremony with a dragon to combine human and dragon power together. What follows is a war that allows her to slowly take control of all the lands around her. As she conquers lands, she forces their people to join the brutal workforce that keeps her army in power. The story follows a man and a woman who are able to escape her clutches. As their own dreams and fate bring them together, they realize that they have a fantastic and unexplained power together that may give them the strength to fight back against the Eternal Empress and her forces.
Tomb Raider: Spore Vol. 1 by Mariko Tamaki with art by Phillip Sevy – Over the last few years, Mariko Tamaki has been quite busy, writing new arcs for She-Hulk, Supergirl, and Lara Croft. In this Tomb Raider series, she continues to show that she can write action packed stories that are great for both long-standing fans of a series and newcomers. The story finds Croft learning of a possible mushroom of immortality while at an archaeology conference and being plunged into a race to find a specimen before a mysterious group tracks it down instead. This new volume will work well for those who are new to the character. It works as a standalone story that introduces much of what has made Croft a classic character, including remote locations, fantastic action sequences, and a powerful female character.
Algeria is Beautiful Like America by Olivia Burton with art by Mahi Grand – If you prefer non-fiction quests, you may be interested in this memoir, which follows Olivia Burton as she visits Algeria on a quest to learn more about the country that she has heard about from her family for her entire life. The story is a reflection on her conflicted feelings about her family’s role in the colonization of Algeria and their subsequent actions during the Algerian War of Independence. Burton effectively mixes personal stories and history together with her own memories of her trip to the country to offer a fascinating glimpse of the country. This book, which doesn’t claim that there are easy answers, will leave readers interested in learning more about Algeria’s history.
These are only a small fraction of the comics out there that feature characters on a quest. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any of your favorites!
– Carli Spina, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson