Many of the biggest isekai comics and shows have been Japanese, such as Sword Art Online and The Rising of the Shield Hero. In fact, there have been so many isekai genre pieces that making one seems like the quickest way to get noticed. Even if the result is as rough as design or Seven Senses of the Re’Union.
But despite this boom and the name, Japan didn’t invent the isekai genre. Stories about protagonists falling into new worlds are as old as the hills. But the West have had their fair share of ‘portal fantasy’ tales from alice in wonderland to Wizard of Oz. Yet they do tend to be classic novels. Are there any modern comics that cover the same topic? Well, yes there are. Here are six of the best Western Isekai comics.
6 Robyn Hood
Spinning off from Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tale series of comics, Pat Shand and Allan Otero’s Robyn Hood has been going on through varying lines since 2012. As the name suggests, it’s a retelling of the Robin Hood legend. But with some significant changes. Instead of being based in medieval England, the comic takes place in the mystical land of, um, Myst. Then, its hero got gender flipped into an ordinary woman called Robin Locksley.
She was born within Myst, but was brought up on Earth, living a rough life in New York until she ends up back in the realm of her birth. After a year being hunted down by Myst’s king and his bounty hunters, she gets a chance to return to Earth. But she’s also become a symbol of hope and resistance to Myst’s people. Thus, she decides to stay and fight for them. Robyn’s become one of the Grimm series’ most popular heroes and has crossed over with Zenescope’s takes on Van Helsing, Red Riding Hood, and Captain Hook.
5 Return To Wonderland
Zenescope also did their own take on Alice’s adventures with Raven Gregory’s Return to Wonderland series. It follows Alice Liddle into adulthood, as a mother with all she could want except her sanity. Her time in Wonderland did a number on her mind, giving her an illness that has only progressed over the years. Her daughter de ella Calie also gets the strange feeling that she’s been watched since her youth, and that it’s connected to what’s ailing her mother de ella.
In search for answers, she ends up back in Wonderland. Now she has to survive all its inherent terrors, trials, and tribulations, discover the truth, and get back home with her mind intact. Wonderland variations are almost a genre to themselves, but Zenescope’s comic is one of the stand-out examples.
4 The Backstage
backstage skips the public domain fairy tale basis for something different. It’s about a boy called Jory after he transfers to a private, all-boys school called St Genesius’s. He doesn’t think he’ll fit in with the preppy atmosphere until he joins the Backstagers, the school’s stage crew. Sure, he has to fetch props, pull ropes, and do other dull chores. But then he discovers there’s a door leading to a magic world under the stage that only his fellow crew mates know about.
The series was created by James Tynion IV and Walter Baiamonte. Published by Boom-Box, the comic has a diverse cast of characters, from Aziz the level-headed grown-up in the room, to Hunter the master carpenter who can make anything ‘actor proof’. It’s particularly notable for its LGBTQ+ representation, with bi, pan, gay, non-binary, and trans-male characters, including its queer lead in Jory. So, if anyone’s starving for a gay isekai adventure, The Backstage have them covered.
One common trait in modern isekai tales is the lead character, or characters, getting sucked into a video game. It’s that or getting hit by a truck, but the video game route is usually less painful. So, Jason Brubaker and Rick Rekedal’s shapes should be more familiar territory for isekai fans. In it, Tripp has had the worst birthday of his life thus far. He’s just turned 13, and none of his friends and family are around. His bullies of him were around to give him the bumps though!
Luckily, he gets a gift from his long-lost father, and a visit from the three Shape Sovereigns. It turns out his father got trapped in a video game, and needs his son’s help returning to the real world. On top of that, Tripp must use his gaming skills and the power of the Shapes to stop the evil Blackhat from destroying all reality. Published through Cave Pictures Publishing, the comic is 6 issues’ of psychedelic fun.
The prior comics have been rather light-hearted in one way or another. So, this series by Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan, and Adriano Lucas should satisfy people looking for something more heavy. Published by Skybound Entertainment and Image Comics, birthright follows the grieving Rhodes Family. After their son Mikey went missing before his birthday, the family began to fall apart as the mother fell into grief, and the father got accused of murder. All hope seems lost for Mikey’s older brother Brennan when Mikey suddenly reappears a year later. Except he’s now a grown-up, musclebound warrior.
He reveals he was transported to the realm of Terrenos and was chosen to defend it from the God-King Lore. Mikey succeeded in freeing the land, but Lore sent his agents to Earth, and is now seeking to merge the two realms into one. It offers a twist in that Mikey, Brennan and their dad Aaron have to defend both the real world and the fantasy land, but it also has an unreliable narrator. Someone in the story isn’t telling the whole truth, and the Rhodes family have to figure out just who and what the real enemy is.
1 Butterfly Gate
Butterfly Gate by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose, and released through Improper Books, is unique in that it’s completely silent. Aside from some title cards, the story is told entirely through the pictures. No dialogue, thought balloons, or otherwise. The comic combines fantasy and sci-fi as two siblings enter a new world via the Butterfly Gate. Except, instead of being a place of whimsy, the land is a harsh realm ruled by an empire after its people revolted against the Gods.
The siblings now have to survive or die as they make their way through their new locale. For every quiet moment, there’ll be a sudden, brutal act that shows how far the leads have to go to avoid being part of the body count. The gradually dark tone of the story contrasts with the bright and lovely artwork, but the two blend well to produce a new and engaging take on the isekai genre.
More: The Different Types of Isekai Protagonists