ComicsFeature

The 11 best graphic novels of 2014

We gather together the most beautifully illustrated and inspiring reads of the year.

Graphic novels are perfect to dip in and out of, but don't be fooled by their easy-to-read format. Often, graphic novels depict complex tales that can be both funny and poignant.

Here we've selected the best graphic novels of 2014 to inspire you – all beautifully illustrated and telling compelling tales...

01. Shoplifter by Michael Cho

This graphic novel will strike a chord with any designer or illustrator who's felt trapped in a job that seems to be going nowhere.

Telling the story of a young woman who's stuck in a rut creatively, Michael Cho's debut graphic novel has garnered rave reviews, and for good reason.

Its story is compelling, the dialogue authentic, its red and black artwork instantly engaging. There are plenty of characters that anyone who works in the creative world will recognise, although that's not always a comfortable sensation... All in all, though, a near-flawless read.

02. Celeste by INJ Culbard

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I. N. J. Culbard brings together a number of genres beautifully in this engaging graphic novel

Award-winning artist INJ Culbard's first original graphic novel is a tale that sweeps from London to LA to Japan, as four characters find themselves called upon to make choices that dramatically change the world around them.

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Culbard's previous work includes a number of collaborations that received critical acclaim but Celeste is the first that he's both written and drawn.

Drawing from pretty much every type of genre fiction you can think of - including sci-fi, horror, fantasy, mystery, magical realism and a touch of romance - this could have been a visual mess. But Culbard draws all the themes together beautifully and the result is an engaging read that's different from anything else on the market.

03. Legends of the Tour by Han Cleijnes

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Jan Cleijne has put his passion for cycle racing cyclist into this inspiring work

If you're currently being inspired by the spirit of the world's biggest cycling event, the Tour de France, then get yourself a copy of Cleijnes' Legends of the Tour.

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This graphic novel provides illustrative snippets of some of the event's biggest moments in an easily-digestible 10 chapters, from Eugene Christophe welding his bicycle back together at the foot of the Pyrenees in 1913 to Tommy Simpson's death on Ventoux, and Bradley Wiggins' and Chris Froome's recent victories.

Beautifully envisioned by Dutch illustrator and amateur racing cyclist Jan Cleijne, this is a must-buy for the keen cyclist.

04. Just So Happens by Fumio Obata

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Just So Happens is a modern tale of two cities

Just So Happens is a story about a young Japanese woman's return to Tokyo from London following the death of her father.

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A powerful story with beautiful drawings, this is one of the most critically-acclaimed graphic novels to be published this year.

It's a triumph for Tokyo-born graphic artist and animator Fumio Obata, who moved to Britain in 1991 to study illustration at Glasgow School of Art before becoming artist in residence at Angouleme in 2008.

A debut of quite and delicate beauty, this is the graphic novel for the thinking creative.

05. Jane, the Fox and me by Fanny Britt

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'Jane the Fox and me' is aimed at younger readers but will appeal to all ages

'Jane, the Fox and me' is the first graphic novel from Quebec playwright, author and translator Fanny Britt.

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With illustrations by award-winning illustrator Isabelle Arsenault, it tells the story of lost teenager Helene who finds her solace in the pages of Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Grey.

Intended for younger readers, it's actually a joy whatever age you are, especially if you have a passion for English classics.

A heart-warming tale that's also graphically beautiful, with its evocative combination of monochrome backgrounds and bursts of bright colour.

06. Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, Bryan Talbot

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Learn about the struggle for women's rights in this inspiring graphic novel

Everyone's heard of Emily Pankhurst but what of the other Suffragettes who fought the campaign to give women the vote? This graphic novel tells the story of the fictional Sally Heathcote and her role in the movement.

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Costa Award winners Mary and Bryan Talbot previously teamed up to create Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, and their latest, with illustration by Kate Charlesworth, is a gripping tale that brings a fresh perspective on the well-known story of the Suffragette movement.

Charlesworth's deftly created scenes convey the often complex political discussions in a way that makes them instantly easy to grasp, while all the time successfully evoking the period feel and the sense of energy around the nascent movement. An inspiring read.

07. Noah by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, Niko Henrichon and Tom Muller

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A 21st century makeover for the ancient Bible story

Canadian artist Niko Henrichon's first major comic book work since he collaborated with Brian K Vaughan on the award-winning Pride of Baghdad, Noah is an original graphic novel on sale from Image Comics.

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Co-written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel, the OGN is based on an early draft of the script for the Russell Crowe feature film Noah.

A 21st century take on an ancient Bible story, this is a beautiful book both inside and out, encompassing a custom typeface and an embossed dark linen cloth cover for the first 300 editions. We recently caught up with Tom Muller to ask him about his role in creating the logo and cover.

08. Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Abel Lanzac

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Ever wondered what really goes on behind the doors of France's bureaucratic system? Us neither, but despite that, this graphic novel is a gripping read - partly because it comes from an authentic place.

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'Abel Lanzac' is a pseudonym for Antonin Baudry, the former technical advisor and director of international cultural affairs for previous French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

His award-winning graphic novel is both a funny and poignant tale of a young civil servant in the midst of the Middle Eastern crisis and the Western World's quest for weapons of mass destruction.

It's all brought to stunning life by the incredible illustrations of Christopher Blain that are reminscent of the classic Tintin books. If you like political dramas like House of Cards and The West Wing, you'll love this.

09. Vincent by Barbara Stok

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Everyone knows the story of how Vincent Van Gogh cut part of his ear off, but what about the rest of his life, and what motivated him as an artist?

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Barbara Stok's graphic biography of the Dutch painter, translated by Laura Watkinson, depicts his tumultuous life as he struggled to cope with mental illness, and delicately conveys his emotionally close relationship with his brother.

A beautifully illustrated novel that shows an artistic icon in a refreshing honest way, with a brightly colourful, simple cartoon style that lets the sad story of his life shine through.

10. Shakelton's Journey by William Grill

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Another historical tale, this graphic novel depicts Ernest Shackleton's famous expedition crossing the Antarctic from one pole to the other.

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A recent graduate from Falmouth University with a number of awards to his name already, William Grill has attracted much praise for his pencil work and is definitely an illustrator to watch.Released to mark 100 years since the great exploration, this is a stirring story and the  illustrations are impeccably researched and informative.

11. The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe by David Camus and Nick Abadzis

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This offbeat graphic novel doesn't fit neatly into any category

Written by award-winning author David Camus and illustrated by well-known graphic novelist Nick Abadzis, this is an imaginative tale of adventure that's just a little bit different from the norm.

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Not least because it features two very famous (albeit fictionalised) leads - Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.

On being gifted cigars by the most famous cigar roller in Cuba, Conchita Marquez, Orson Welles tells the story of Conchita's tumultuous life through a series of colourful daydreams.

This surreal project was a labour of love for Camus and Abadzis - a love story within a love story with unusual fantasy elements.

So what do you think of our selection? Are there any 2014 graphic novels that we've missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Words: Natalie Brandweiner

Natalie Brandweiner has a background in journalism. After writing about social media marketing for two and a half years in her previous role, she decided to practice what she'd preached and joined the wonderful world of social media management for ThirtyThree.

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