The 100 Must-Read Graphic Novels! (Pt 1)
So, graphic novels. They’re awesome, and you’ll be pressed to find a geek without a couple of treasured volumes on their shelves, and a healthy wishlist of titles they want. Whether they be stand-alone books or trade paperbacks collecting the monthly story arcs together they share a shelf and we love them. After a huge amount of work from Slam Adams, Jamie, Hedgie, Paul C. and Matt we’ve got a list of the 100 books we think you need to read. This is a list put together by a small group, based on their personal recommendations. We may not have all your favourites, or the ones you’d expect to see, but that’s what makes this a great list. It’s unique, personal and hopefully you’ll find a new favourite.
We’re dividing this up into sections, and the first ten feature some of our pics from the DC universe. Want to see something Marvel or from the indies? Check in this time every week!
Batman: The Long Halloween
Entry written by Paul C.
One of the more influential Batman graphic novels, The Long Halloween is more or less a confined origin story for Harvey Dent’s transition into Two-Face. It’s essentially a sequel to Year One as we follow the earlier stories of Batman’s journey through corruption in Gotham City. The story focuses on a mysterious killer who takes out mobsters on holidays and it’s told through some gorgeously brooding art by Tim Sale. This is an iconic tale that’s not only a must-read for comic-book fans but a must read for fans of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series, as it was a huge inspiration for his work.
Batman: Year One
Entry by G-Funk
There will always be some debate about whether Frank Miller’s Year One or Dark Knight Returns in the definitive Dark Knight story. In the end we must side with the origin story. For many years the ‘birth’ of Batman in Crime Alley has been told and retold but this is the first time a writer took a serious look at how he found his feet. Blending the surreal caped crusader with gritty crime characters makes for a fantastic tale that doesn’t lessen its impact with each read.
Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty
Easily one of the best, and most overlooked, of the Batman line. The Caped Crusader and his team take a back seat and the focus shifts to the overworked members of GCPD’s Major Crimes Unit. Procedural work and office politics bounce off each other as the detectives struggle to remain relevant in the city of the bat, and have their own deadly encounters with the likes of the Joker. If you want your superhero comic to be down to Earth, look no further.
Batman: No Man’s Land
This very long story (printed over five volumes not including ancillary stories) essentially took the Batman cast and relocated them into a savage environment. After the back to back disasters of a viral outbreak and an earthquake Gotham City is declared closed and off limits by the government. Batman goes to ground and those left behind form into gangs for protection, most under the leadership of Batman’s enemies. With the remaining police trying to hold their ground and the gangs in a state of war, Batman returns to reclaim the city. Downright epic. Also features the first print appearance of Harley Quinn.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
There are dozens upon dozens of ‘alternate world’ stories, but this recent iteration from Tom Taylor will give you a perspective you’ve never seen before. The Joker pushes Superman too far and the world suffers the consequences while the Man of Steel creates a new world order. Batman leads the resistance as the most powerful heroes take control of the globe with battles you will never expect to see.
Superman: Red Son
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big Superman fan. I’ve even made the argument that he’s a pointless character in the current superhero climate. But even I get drawn in by this uniquely brilliant Elseworld tale by Mark Millar. Rather than landing in rural USA the capsule ferrying Kal-el to Earth crashes into Soviet Russia. He becomes the champion of the nation, fulfilling a greater role than he ever did in the Western World. The character remains essentially the same but he’s been ingrained with a different ideology. It’s a fascinating take on the character worthy of anyones attention.
Vixen: Return of the Lion
It’s no secret that the majority of superheros are white males but Vixen has always appealed to me as just as strong, interesting, and powerful as any of them. She’s usually a background Justice League member but Vixen: Return of the Lion gives us a unique storyline revolving around Vixen (or Mari Jiwe McCabe) and her struggle with her past and her powers. It includes cameos from some of the most-loved heroes like Batman and takes place in her home in Africa. This is a great graphic novel because it showcases one of the most diverse, kick-ass, and under-appreciated characters in the DC Universe.
Animal Man: Vol. 1
Animal Man (Buddy Baker) is another DC superhero who I feel is criminally underrated. He is gifted with one of the most awesome powers ever put to page and a family that gets deeper treatment than most side characters. Grant Morrison’s foray into this character with Animal Man, Book 1: Animal Man is exceedingly clever and entertaining, giving us a three-dimensional man and his family dealing with the repercussions of his unique life. This graphic novel is truly a mastery of storytelling.
Justice League of America: Tower of Babel
It has been a long running joke that Batman’s only superpower is “prep time,” a hilariously overused deus ex machina that allows for Bats to get himself out of pretty much any given situation because he had already planned just in case. Writer Mark Waid decides to turn that power against him. Having made contingency plan against his JLA teammates just in case they go dark side, Ra’s al Ghul steals the plans to incapacitate the JLA while he uses some sci-fi device to ruin language, which the title is actually derived from. I always found it strange that title was based on Ra’s old-fashioned masterplan rather than the more shocking and interesting element, Batman’s perceived betrayal of the team.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters
In spite of his ongoing popularity the Green Arrow doesn’t have many ‘must-read’ stories that anyone can dive in to. An exception to this is ‘The Longbow Hunters’. Ollie Queen relocates to Seattle and swaps his trick arrows out for more traditional equipment. He comes face to face with the daughter of a dishonored Yakuza agent, seeking revenge on the Americans responsible for her father’s death. Equipped with a traditional Japanese longbow she’s a perfect opponent for Queen. The dark shift in tone, downgrade in equipment and tight storytelling lead to the debut of the first on-going Green Arrow series.
Be back next week for the next ten!