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Credit: Image Comics

5 must-read comics for fantasy fans

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Jan 26, 2019, 2:01 PM EST (Updated)

While it is easy to get lost in a sea of superheroes, there are plenty of other comic genres to explore if Marvel and DC aren’t really your bag. Series such as Fables and Sandman helped expand the fantasy comic genre, but there are plenty of others out there to quench your thirst for complex female protagonists, insane visuals, and storylines that keep you on the edge of your seat.

Fantasy tales have often been the province of white men on horses rescuing maidens, but luckily for us, the status quo is being brilliantly overturned in many series that are running today. Multifaceted heroines abound and the worlds are becoming increasingly diverse. If you’re tired of the same old same old, these five comics could be just what you need.


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Rat Queens - Kurtis Weibe, Roc Upchurch (formerly), and Owen Gieni

This is the most well-known comic on the list, and also the most complicated to recommend. After the first three volumes with Upchurch on as illustrator, he was removed from the project when he was arrested for battery against his wife in 2014. The series went on hiatus, and the returned with Gieni as a new artist and a rebooted story.

All of that to say, Rat Queens is still very much worth your time. In a land rife with magic, monster gangs, and dangerous cults, a group of swaggering bounty hunters kick ass, deal with their emotional scars, and raise hell. Basically, do you wish the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did drugs, had sex, and were actually a bunch of powerful and magical women? Then Rat Queens is for you. Also, Orc Dave is the gentle, brawny bae that we deserve in 2018.


Monstress - Majorie Liu and Sana Takeda

“There is more hunger in the world than love.” If you like your comics lavish, political, and violent, Monstress is an absolute must-read. Blending steampunk, Japanese, Chinese, and Egyptian influences, Monstress tells the tale of Maika, a young girl who literally has a giant monster living inside of her. As she battles with witch-nuns seeking to understand the power that dwells under her skin and an increasingly brutal force of adversaries, Maika’s tale is a perfect canvas on which to paint the struggle that has plagued powerful women since the dawn of time.

Instead of being embraced for her potential, Maika is forced to go on the run from those who fear her power. The world is lush, the character work is compelling, and Monstress continues to be a must for those who wish fantasy wasn’t so damn Euro-centric.


Sleepless - Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Duca

Sleepless is one of the more traditional stories on this list — royal intrigue, courtly love, knights and ladies — but Vaughn and del Duca are building a story that feels fresh at the same time. As Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia navigates her uncle’s court after the death of her father (she is the illegitimate child of the former king, placing her in a position of interest and danger), she and her sleepless knight Cyrenic have to solve the mystery of who wants her dead.

The magic in the world of Sleepless is subtle yet potent (imagine Game of Thrones with people of color), with many looking to manipulate it for their own means. However, the heart of the story is Poppy and Cyrenic’s relationship, a slow burn romance that is sure to hook readers and leave them wanting more. With only a handful of issues out at this time, Sleepless is a powerful story just getting started. Be sure to jump in now so you don’t miss a single longing look or tense joust.


Ladycastle - Delilah Dawson and Ashley Woods

While many of the stories on this list are deadly serious, Ladycastle is a hilarious delight from the very first page. When King Mancastle and all of the other men in the kingdom (except for the bumbling Sir Riddick) are killed by a dragon, the women of the realm are given the chance to throw off their patriarchal shackles and run things how they see fit.

As the former blacksmith and now King Merinor grapples with her new responsibility to lead the new world matriarchy, princesses Aeve and Gwyneff work through their sisterly issues, a familial curse, and the threat of werewolves, harpies, and flaming salamanders. With a hefty dose of humor, sisterhood, and inclusion, Ladycastle is essentially Monty Python And The Holy Grail meets Broad City. Yeah, you're running out to grab your copy now.


By Chance Or Providence - Becky Cloonan and Lee Loughridge

If short stories are your chosen poison, the trilogy of tales in By Chance Or Providence are sure to ensnare your attention. There are no happy endings here, as each tells of a curse. “Wolves,” “The Mire,” and “Demeter” would rather dwell in darkness than leave readers with a warm heart.

As knights betray their lords, parents sacrifice for their children, and forbidden love leads to only heartache, Cloonan and Loughridge masterfully weave a tapestry of all-too-realistic pain. If you prefer your fairy tales more on the Grimm side, By Chance Or Providence will scratch that itch. The volume also has additional pages of conceptual art to continue the worldbuilding and leave you wanting more. It is at this point unknown whether or not there will be a second volume, but here’s hoping that this dream team will enchant us again in the future.

Did we miss any of your favorites on this list? Sound off in the comments to improve everyone's pull list!