Good writing plays an important role in the success of a comic, but without its art, a comic would be just a book. Art in comics features a wide variety of styles, from cartoonish depictions to realistic paintings. When the art matches the style of the book perfectly, it can be absolute magic.
Fantasy comics are prime territory for epic art. Fantasy worlds and creatures created by fantasy writers and artists lend themselves incredibly well to particularly dynamic art styles. Instead of being constrained by real-world physics or realistic representations of the world, artists can let their imaginations run wild and the results are spectacular.
10/10 Fables brings fairy tales to life
Fables, written by Bill Willingham, is one of the oldest fantasy titles still published today. Many fans thought the series ended with its “Farewell” storyline in 2015, however, the title was revived in 2022. Delivering its first new issue in seven years, Fables‘ the art was more beautiful than ever.
More Fables the volumes feature artwork by Mark Buckingham, whose style gracefully complements the story’s fairytale landscape. Whether the panels feature beautiful princesses or dark, menacing witches and wolves, each is meticulously rendered and easily recognizable. Buckingham’s largest panels are particularly impressive, creating the series’ various settings.
9/10 Sandman was as varied and unpredictable as a dream
A saga concerning the machinations of “The Endless” – personifications of concepts such as Dream or Destiny – is probably Neil Gaiman’s best-known comic book. The series undoubtedly attracted even more fans after the first season of the Sand seller TV show on Netflix.
More Sand seller the volumes feature different artists, creating a distinct look and feel for each storyline. Some, like “The Kindly Ones”, mostly drawn by Mark Hempel, used a very stylized approach. Others, like “The Wake”, mostly drawn by Michael Zulli, had a more realistic and sketchy quality. All issues feature Dave McKean’s cover art, which sets the tone perfectly for the series.
8/10 DIE was the perfect comic for TTRPG fans
Written by Kieron Gillen, DIE follows the adventures of a group of friends who have been drawn into the world of tabletop role-playing game they played together. Bridging the genres of horror and fantasy, the books have won numerous awards and, in a fitting twist, are now being adapted into a tabletop role-playing game themselves.
DIE features breathtaking artwork by French artist Stephanie Hans, whose paintings take an average of one day per page to complete. Hans’ use of color and his lush style of painting create a captivating and sometimes terrifying world in which readers can immerse themselves.
7/10 Twig took readers on an epic adventure
Writer Skottie Young has been open about the fact that the Image Comics limited series Twig is heavily influenced by 1980s fantasy stories such as Labyrinth and The dark crystal. This 5-issue series follows the adventures of the titular fuzzy blue Twig, as he begins his first day on the job as a Placeling, a role that takes him all over the diverse landscapes of the fantasy world he lives in.
The art featured in Twig, drawn by Kyle Strahm and colored by Jean-François Beaulieu, is a dream to watch. Strahm creates a dazzling array of fantastical creatures and landscapes, which are enhanced by the rich and bold colors of Beaulieu.
6/10 Monster creates a beautiful but terrifying world
If there was a prize for the most beautiful art in a comic book, Freak would definitely be in the running. This is hardly a surprise given the Hugo, Eisner and other awards the books have received. Written by Marjorie Liu, Freak takes place in a matriarchal world where magic and monsters are part of everyday life and are often used for gruesome and terrifying purposes.
Freak‘dark aspects have drawn parallels with the Ring of Elden video game. Japanese artist Sana Takeda, who previously collaborated with Liu on the Marvel series X-23makes the world attractive inside Freak‘pages. Takeda’s rich and detailed art brings the fantasy world to life in a truly vibrant way, which only makes the gruesome elements of the story all the more terrifying.
5/10 The Magic Books Showcased the DC Universe in a New Way
books of magic began life as a four-issue miniseries written by Neil Gaiman for DC Comics. In the series, a 12-year-old boy was given a tour by the magical elements of the DC Universe in order to decide if he wanted to become the world’s greatest magician.
Each number of books of magic featured a different artist, with fully painted pages by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Ves and Paul Johnson. The result was visually stunning, as well as a great introduction to the magical side of DC Comics. The miniseries proved so popular that it returned as a continuing title several years later.
4/10 Coda made the apocalypse beautiful
Coda, from Boom! Studios, follows the reluctant adventures of a former bard named Hum who tries to save his wife’s soul with the help of a gruff mutant unicorn. Written by Simon Spurrier, the books feature a fantasy world where new magic has disappeared, and any remaining magic has become incredibly rare and valuable.
Coda is drawn by Matias Bergara, with colors by Michael Doig, and the art is spectacular. Story settings are rendered in such detail and colors are so vibrant that readers can spend hours enjoying each panel. These aspects really shine during action sequences or large stage shots that truly immerse the reader in this fantasy world.
3/10 The non-player ended way too soon
When the first issue of Image Comics’ non-player was published in 2011, readers were delighted. Written and drawn by Nate Simpson, the series featured a near future world where Dana, a tamale delivery girl who lived at home with her mother, became deeply involved in an online role-playing game.
Simpson has created an incredible world, with an impressive amount of detail. Art of this caliber took time, and this series was a side project for Simpson (drawn from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays, depending on the artist). Four years passed between the first and second issue, and seven years later there is sadly no sign of a third.
2/10 Prometheus brings a goddess to New York
by Alan Moore Prometheus follows Sophie, a journalism student in New York, who ends up being a vessel for an ancient entity known as Prometheus. Over the course of the story, Sophie delves into family mysteries, encounters evil creatures such as demons, and eventually flees from the FBI.
Prometheus has received criticism for some of the philosophical views it portrays, however, the art of JH Williams III is beautiful and diverse. The series’ covers all reference other comics or artists, adding to its eclectic style. Williams’ art particularly shines in her large-scale panels, which are truly a visual feast.
1/10 Saga lives up to its name
Saga is one of Image Comics’ most popular titles, and for good reason. This sprawling tale defies genres, with aspects of fantasy, sci-fi, political intrigue, and more. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing keeps readers constantly guessing what’s to come next, with a dizzying array of settings and characters he’s not afraid to kill.
Vaughn’s writing matches Fiona Staples’ art perfectly. The ideal medium for Saga‘s, Staples’ digital paintings bring the eclectic cast and sets to life. Staples uses brush and color to create visuals that seem deceptively simple, but have incredible depth. Saga is without a doubt one of the most amazing comics going on today.
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