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Top 25 Best Mystery Graphic Novels

Best Mystery Graphic Novels

Graphic novels, or comic books as they were called in the day, are a topic medium these days. The stories are often times swiped from novels, but the dark graphics are perfect for the hard-boiled heroes and noir tales. This is not the place to find Miss Marple, but private eyes abound in graphic novels.

Many of these books are dual genre, meaning that while there may be a large dose of fantasy or science fiction, at the core of the story is a question of whodunit. So sit back and enjoy the 25 best mystery graphic novels.

Like many of the works here, the original source material is not the graphic novel, but another form of fiction. "Murder Mysteries" began as a fantasy short story, which was later collected into a volume of his short works. A decade after its 1992 release, the graphic novel version of the story was released. The plot is fairly simplistic. Set in Los Angeles, which seems more like hell than heaven, Raguel, an angel, is called to solve the murder of another angel in Silver City. Lucifer puts in an appearance, since he has not fallen yet, as do some of the characters of Gaiman's Sandman series as well. 

Why It Made the List

It's Neil Gaiman, for starters, one of the best novelists today. Gaiman has incredible plots. He doesn't mind dipping his toes into genre fiction, and his voice and tone are lyrical. Many of .his tales include angelic beings, including the television show based on one such book, Lucifer featuring Tom Ellis as the devil.  

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religious figures in fiction, Los Angeles settings, plot-driven mysteries

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Criminal was developed as a short series of works. Each features a different lead character, but the characters operate in the same city and with the same cast. The stories are standalone, in that they can be read out of order, and they're not required to be sequential, but the reader does bump up against the same bars, stoolies and police in more than one of the graphic novels. In this first book of the series, the main character, Leo Patterson who typically picks pockets, is caught up in the heist of an armored car. He's pulled deeper into the situation as more details come out about the truck.

Why It Made the List 

Brubaker is a name that appears multiple times on this list. The author is well-known for this series of works along with a few others as well. The books are original and often look at the tropes of the private eye/detective novel while still being a well-plotted mystery in itself. The series won the  Eisner Award for Best New Series after Coward's release.

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ensemble casts, heists

Books in Criminal Series (14)

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This is the second book in the Dresden File series, featuring Chicago-based wizard Harry Dresden. In this book, Harry is forced to deal with teen werewolves, which sounds like a bad 1980s movie. Kim Delaney, the magician from the first book in the series, asks Harry for some help with some spells, but he declines. Later, when Delaney is found dead, likely from a werewolf attack, Dresden is arrested for her murder. Now he has to find out who killed Delaney and what is going on with the werewolves. Now he has to perform the magic to keep a werewolf from shifting and bringing harm to a number of people in Chicago.

Why It Made the List  .

The Dresden Files and wizard Harry Dresden are a great series of magic meets murder. The series appeared on SyFy for a time, but the books have continued. Currently there are 13 books in the series, which seems like the perfect number for a purveyor of magic. The book was converted into an eight-part graphic novel series.

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supernatural elements, wizards, Chicago based settings

Books in The Dresden File... Series (18)

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Parker is one of the iconic characters of mystery fiction. Only given a last name and few personal details, Parker is a character who only seeks revenge on the criminals who have harmed him. He's of no harm to the poor and downtrodden unless they cross him. In the first book in the series, which this graphic novel is based on, Parker is shot and left for dead by his wife after Parker's criminal associates want him dead so they can keep his share of a recent heist. Parker then tries to get his share of the wealth by taking his revenge on the group.

Why It Made the List 

Richard Stark is the pen name for Donald Westlake, the king of the caper novel under his own name. Under the Stark name, he wrote 24 novels abiout the ruthless criminal whose personal code does not allow him to harm another criminal unless they harm him first. Graphic novels weren't the only other medium that Parker spilled over into. Jason Stratham played the role in Parker in 2013. It's worth checking out.

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heists, revenge plots, nameless characters

Books in Parker Graphic N... Series (4)

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The series was based in part on Brubaker's uncle, who wrote some of the most famous noir movies of the 1940s. The character based on the uncle is Charlie Parish, who is a screenwriter who was scarred in WWII. He covers for a blacklisted friend. Charlie drinks too much, passes out and wakes up next to a dead actress. He and his friend decide to look into the murder. They find dark secrets in the actress' past, and the witnesses they find to the crime are silenced by the studio's muscle. The studio wants to replace the actress with a nearly identical double to get the picture, which is stuck in retakes, finished. The chasing of the dollar is a theme throughout the series.

Why It Made the List 

While Brubaker was concerned if a noir series would sell, the series turned out to be his best-selling series. The twelve issues have been collected into paperback and hardback collections.  Its second printing was started a day after its initial publication.

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noir, WWII, authors as characters

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The story is set in Chicago in the late 1960s, the time of the Chicago 7 and the turbulent protests around the time of the Democratic National Convention. The story is told from the viewpoint of a young girl, much like Emil at that age, who decides to solve the murder of her neighbor, who is a Holocaust survivor. The two-book series unfolds as a number of stories of the neighbors and family are told and are shown to be connected to the victim, the crime and the narrator. The key to the mystery lies in the past and the narrator must look at the neighbor's time under the Nazis to solve the crime.

Why It Made the List 

Ferris turned to writing after a career in the arts after she was bitten by a mosquito and contracted West Nile virus. The disease left her paralyzed in three limbs, and her career as an artist was finished. The design and completion of the two book series of this title helped her during her recovery. The artwork reflects Ferris' career as an artist and has been hailed as some of the best artwork for a graphic novel series ever.

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historicals, Chicago as a setting, Holocaust victims

Books in My Favorite Thin... Series (2)

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This series of graphic novels is set just after the second Gulf War and deals with politic intrigue and world events. Chris is in Baghdad, training the new police force replacing Saddam's guards. When one of the recruits is murdered, Chris has to work with Nassir, who is one of the last remaining policemen in the war-torn city. He also gets involved with the very pollical operative Sofia, whose motives are unclear. All three of them are working at cross-purposes, but seemingly wanting the same results. As the series of twelve books progresses, the murderer of the soldier is discovered and the trio must take on the head of an insurgency group that doesn't want a new country made in the image of democracy.

Why It Made the List 

The series mixes a crime drama with the background of a country in turmoil, following the American invasion of the country and its previous rule by dictators. King is a former CIA agent, so the details he provides on the underside of Baghdad are realistic and startling.

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Middle East crime, military as heroes, CIA

Books in The Sheriff of B... Series (4)

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It's not surprising that the reboot of the Holmes series with the BBC and set in current day London should become a graphic novel. The new series takes the Canon and gives them a modern day twist. The Study in Scarlet becomes the Study in Pink. Watson is a blogger, though in an irony of continuing warfare, he's still a casualty of Afghanistan. The stories show a strong interest in the originals, and the show is a fan favorite. The graphic novel cover the first case from Season 1 of the television show that introduces the thoroughly modern Sherlock and his world.

Why It Made the List 

Benedict Cumberbatch, in a word. The actor who plays Sherlock does it so well that it's hard to believe that others have played him. His long face and thoughtful manner show the Holmes readers have come to know over the years. The rest of the cast is superb including Gatiss as Mycroft, and the graphic novel contains all of the elements that make the show so popular.

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Sherlock Holmes, books updated to contemporary times.

Books in Sherlock Series (3)

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This is the first graphic novel in the series featuring a professional assassin named Marv. He's just met and bedded a beautiful prostitute, but when he wakes up, the girl is dead without a mark on her body. The MO is something that he would have used. Now upset that he's lost a chance at happiness and is being framed, Marv has to learn who set him up and who really murdered Goldie, the prostitute. Unbeknownst to him, there's a serial killer on the loose in Sin City, who targets prostitutes and then dines on their dead flesh. Marv's trail leads to the Catholic church and a wealthy family in Sin City who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Why It Made the List 

A number of stories in the series were combined to make a 2003 movie entitled Sin City, which featured Mickey Rourke as Marv. Miller is well-known for his work on the Daredevil series of superhero books as well as the The Dark Knight Returns and 300, which was also made into a film.  

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noir, professional assassins as the anti-hero

Books in Sin City Series (9)

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Two events are about to collide. The government has readied a plan to rid the US of all crime by use a signal to stop all crime. People would become uninterested in committing any illegal offenses. They decide to implement their plan by distracting the population by implementing an entirely digital currency system. All payments would now be made digitally. Graham Brick is a small-time grifter who is always looking for a quick score. The digital system seems ideal to him. He could just steal one of the machines and live off the digital transactions for an early retirement from crime. However, he soon hears about the plan to stop all crime. If he's going to get rich, quick is the only way for him to do it. Of course, it wouldn't be a heist unless there were wrong-turns and problems galore.

Why It Made the List 

USA Today called it an unflinching dose of pulp noir seediness. The author is currently writing The Punisher series, so he's unlikely to come back to this universe, but we can always hope. Definitely worth looking this book up.

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heist, dystopian societies, grifters

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This 13-book series takes place early in the Batman story when Gordon was still a lieutenant and Harvey Dent had not yet become Two-Face. In this series, the city of Gotham is plagued by a killer named Holiday, who seems to kill only once a month on whatever holiday falls in that month. It isn't the work of Calendar Man, but in the vein of Hannibal Lecter, Calendar Man knows who is behind the killings and drops subtle hints about the murderer to Batman. The series has cameos by a number of the villains of that universe and Catwoman plays a part in helping Batman with these crimes.

Why It Made the List 

This series has been praised by one and all. The series is recognized as one of the inspirations for the Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan, especially the Halloween storyline. There has been talking of a movie and a TV series based on these graphic novels. They are definitely worth finding if you like Batman or crime.

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police procedurals, serial killers

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Each of the nine issues in this series is self-contained, introducing and solving a crime between the pages, though the characters are the same for the most part between books. Richard Fell is a detective who is demoted to Snowtown, the worst possible place for the police to be. The first book is entitled "Feral" and the city is often called that, wild without any hope of being tamed. The entire police force consists of Fell and three-and-a-half detectives (don't ask.) They are nowhere near enough of them to fight the darkness in that town. The detective meets a young woman who gets him drunk and brands Fell with the city logo. That's about how the town is run.

Why It Made the List 

It's on this list because everyone is waiting for its return. The series was slowed by a computer failure early on, and while the author indicated that another installment is completed, the publisher wants two to three storylines done before they would move forward. It's been nine years since the last installment, but fans are still hoping for a return of Richard Fell.

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Police procedurals, dystopian cities, dark fiction

Books in Fell Series (11)

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The series is well-known and people have praised Latour as the illustrator. Set in the Old South, the series looks at life in these here United States and life where football is king. There's a BBQ place in Craw County, Alabama as well. Earl Tubbs is the anti-hero of the book, which deals with his return to clean up his father's estate. The elder Mr. Tubbs was the sheriff who ruled with an iron hand. Some people appreciated harsh justice, while others felt oppressed by it. The town is now ruled by Coach Boss, and Tubbs is forced to investigate a crime when a man is murdered. The series doesn't pull its punches and each book ends with a twist.

Why It Made the List 

The series has been praised by many who liken it to Walking Tall and other works where an outsider has to come to town to clean up the graft and crime. Tubbs is another man in that vein, and he has a lot to clean up before Craw County can be considered clean again. Aaron called it the Dukes of Hazard meets the Coen Brothers.

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Southern mysteries, racist antagonists, towns owned by one man

Books in Southern Bastard... Series (8)

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This series takes place in the DC universe and features a number of familiar favorites. The overriding question of the series is who killed Elongated Man's wife, Sue Dibny. She's found covered in burns at a time when the superhero is out on a stakeout. Doctor Light is the prime suspect as he was once mindwiped so that he would forget that he had sexually assaulted Sue. Light has hired Deathstroke for muscle and during a fight with members of the Justice League, Light regains his memory. The thought of being mindwipe enrages him and he vows revenges. Attempts on the lives of many of the significant others of Justice League members begin, and the team naturally assumes that Light is behind the crimes, but are they correct in their assumption?

Why It Made the List 

This was a seven-issue series from a master of suspense in the mystery world. Brad Meltzer has a long history of New York Times bestsellers, so the change to graphic novels was unexpected but welcome. The series received high marks from critics and fans.

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The DC Universe, graphic novels written by mystery writers

Books in Identity Crisis Series (7)

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Some of the graphic novels in this list are not for those under 18. The Chill is one of those books. New York City has a serial killer, a person whose lust for blood and mutilation seems to be getting worse with each kill. The NYPD have called in the FBI for help on this one. The witness descriptions of the killer don't match their suspect, and the only guy who seems to have a clue is an alcoholic cop. This story has a significant amount of supernatural, which makes it different from Starr's other works, but he manages his supernatural creatures just fine.

Why It Made the List 

Jason Starr is one of the top noir authors today. His works are incredibly dark. He's currently writing for Polis Book. Plus this isn't Starr's first go-around with graphic novels. He's written for DC including Doc Savage and for Marvel with his Punisher books. This was the third entry in Vertigo's crime series of graphic novels. The book won the Anthony Award in 2011 for best graphic novel. Definitely worth checking out.

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graphic novels written by mystery writers, noir, serial killers, New York City as a setting

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Unlike most of the Gotham center books, Gotham Central focus on the daily operations of the police force, a police procedural series set in Batman's city. The TV show Gotham uses a similar concept, though it shows Jim Gordon prior to the introduction of Batman. This series struggled with crime in Gotham without Batman, and in many cases, the characters in this series went on to be parts of other storylines in the Batman universe. The story was long-running in terms of many of the graphic novel series and was a major part of the Batman story.

Why It Made the List 

The editors decided to wait a year for Lark to pencil the series, and the wait gave the two authors time to plan on the series. The time spent in plotting out the series shows in its execution. The series ran for 40 installments before all three contributors dropped out. The series was never a best-seller, but consistently had good sales and critical acclaim. The series won the Eisner Award for best serialized story.

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police procedurals, Batman, Gotham

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This is the only true crime graphic novel in the bunch. Bendis worked for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the major newspaper in that area. The editor gave Bendis all the files on the Cleveland Torso Murders, as they were called. A series of headless corpses, missing both arms and legs. The lack of fingerprints and dental records made identifying the victims, nearly impossible.  The 1930s was the time before law enforcement knew how to profile serial killers, and given the early state of forensics during the Depression-era, the killer was never caught. Eliot Ness, of the Untouchables fame, worked in Cleveland at the time, and he worked on this case to a small degree. Of course, with such a famous character involved, the writer gave Ness a bigger part to play. Bendis even adds a possible solution to the murders.

Why It Made the List 

Bendis had access to all the records, so the case is meticulously research and developed. The author takes on social issues, using the profiling techniques of today to look back at the case. This series of murders is grisly, fascinating, and rarely discussed in terms of true crime cases.

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True crime, Ohio as the setting, historical crime.

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Private eye Sam Kimimura is on the case. He is following a girl for a client. The setting is a rural town in Oregon during the 1970s. Of course, the girl is out to ditch him and he has to find out why she goes to a town that doesn't want to be known. This book, a well-written detective novel, started life as a web-series, so there are plenty of cliffhangers and twists that will keep the reader guessing. Kimimura is often named as one of the classic private eyes and has been compared to Lew Archer.

Why It Made the List 

The series ran for one year as a web series, being updated with the latest part of the adventure every week. The storyline and the characters built a following that included some of the writers and artists on the list, including Greg Rucka, who praised the detective profusely.  Comics Alliance proclaimed Terrebonne to be one of the 8 Best Noir Comics ever written. 

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Noir, web series, historicals

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Dex Parios is a female private investigator with a gambling problem. The series starts with someone trying to kill Dex, and the flashbacks give the reader the backstory of how the detective got where she was at that point. Each of the series covered a single case, and Rucka, who is a fan and scholar of the private eye genre, created a fantastic character in Parios. In the first series, the client is a part of the casino organization that own Dex's debts. She'll clear the debt if the private investigator can find her missing granddaughter and return her to the client. Of course, the case is never as easy as it seems and Dex finds herself fighting for her life.

Why It Made the List 

The first series ran four issues, the second ran five, and the third series is ongoing. The novels have some carry-over characters from Rucka's own novels, which makes it fun to see them again. The first issue sold out in a week, which gives you an idea of the series popularity.

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women private eyes, stalkers

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It's a far cry many of the other books on this list, but this series has five dogs and a cat (with another cat added later) as the detectives and heroes. The town of Burden Hill has a problem. Underneath its bland faade is a wealth of paranormal activity, and most of these unearthly happenings want bad things for the town. It's up to the Beasts, who along with the "Wise Dogs," a group of elders who have taken an oath to protect the town. Dorkin said that the idea for the series came from wanting to do a haunted house book, but without the tropes of that particular clich. So he opted for a haunted doghouse, which led to the cast and the series.

Why It Made the List 

The series has been nominated for and/or won 11 awards. One of the first episodes was in a book with Hellboy, which significantly helped sales. The series has continued through 2016. It's one of the few animal-based mystery series around and the graphics are great.

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award-winning series, supernatural, talking animals

Books in Beasts of Burden Series (4)

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The Ushers are a nice suburban family, though the last name should provide a hint as to what is going to happen. The Fall of the House of Usher was a story written by Edgar Allan Poe, the father of the modern mystery, and this family is going to fall. The family seems to have unearthed some sort of curse, and the members of the family begin to die one-by-one. No one goes quietly in their sleep. The deaths are violent and unexpected and frequent. The duty of solving this matter falls on Sam, the adopted son, who is reminded frequently that he's adopted. Since he's not of the bloodline, he shouldn't have to worry about being a victim of the killer. There's a hint of supernatural in the book, but the killings are all flesh-and-blood.

Why It Made the List 

Denise Mina is one of the top Scottish crime novelists around. She's written a number of mystery novels as well as a series of Hellblazer stories in graphic novels. This was another Vertigo Crime graphic novels that came out and Mina's first standalone graphic novel. The book received high marks from critics and fans.

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Poe references, Scottish authors, best-selling authors

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[ Ghosted, Volume 1: Haunted Heist BY Williamson, Joshua ( Author ) ] { Paperback } 2013

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This series takes place higher than any other on the list. An orbiting space station serves as an energy platform, 22,000 miles above the face of the earth. People live on the space station, and of course with a half a million people, there will be crime. The oldest policeman on the force is Klem Ristovych, and she is partnered with the new transfer, Ralph Dietrich. Klem is suspicious of the new guy, because he volunteered for the transfer, and Klem thinks that anyone who wants to do this job must have ulterior motives. On Ralph's first day, a body falls at his feet, literally and the pair of them have to wade through politics, adultery, and secrets to find the killer. The series evokes a 1950s feel to it by some of the plot points, but the space station aspects are well-done and intriguing.  

Why It Made the List 

The series is typical for police procedural, but the focus is on the crime elements. Despite the out of this world setting, world-building and science fiction take a backseat to the mystery foundation in this series.

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science fiction, outer space, dystopian societies

Books in The Fuse Series (31)

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Tubbs and Crocket get more than just a makeover. The series keeps the pair of undercover cops who work on cases of drugs, murder and sexual crimes, but the in the graphic novels, the series is opened up to allow for supernatural and science fiction elements as well. The novels might not appeal to those who want to return to the pastel colors and quiet music of the original series. This is not just a rip-off of an existing vehicle. The series has been moved to 2015 from the mid-1990s, and while the premise of Tubbs and Crocket remains the same, the results are darker and grittier than they were then. Some of the trademark details are still intact, like the suits, but don't expect the 48 minute wrap-up of the case with everyone happy. This series is infused with hard-boiled elements.  

Why It Made the List 

The first issue is definitely where to start with this series. The opening issue introduces several new cases for the pair, including zombies, the missing daughter of the lieutenant, a drug lord voodoo priest and more. The various threads are worked out in later issues, so don't feel overwhelmed here.

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TV show tie-ins, remixes of 1990s shows, Miami-based settings

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Jiran Ha is the first female detective in the Korean police force. She's partnered up with a man from the Hard Crime Unit. Ha has to be twice as tough as the men to prove herself, and she gets plenty of opportunities to do so. Her first cases include a sexual stalker who sets his sights on Ha, and locating a friend's son. The stalker tries to attack Ha, but she arrests him but of course, things are never easy and he's released due to a connection with a high-ranking politician. Now that the stalker feels protected, he decides to step up his tracking of Ha with plans for her. The artwork here is great, matching the course feel of the stories.

Why It Made the List 

Hyun-Se is one of the preeminent cartoonists in South Korea; he served as the president, and later chairman, of the Korea Cartoonist Association an organization he's worked with for years. He also teaches comics at the college level, which beats calculus any day. His works have influenced a generation of up-and-coming graphic novelists.

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Korean characters, police procedurals, stalkers

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