The 100 Must Read Graphic Novels! (Pt 3)
Man, this has been fun to do…and the response has been great! If there’s any DC titles you’ve been waiting for you may find them here. After the last couple of DC heroes have been listed (some villains will pop up later) we’re going to get stuck in to the Marvel catalogue!
#21 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Entry by G-Funk
When Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy unfolded on our screens many declared it the first ‘real’ version of Batman in cinema. What they mean by that is that it’s the closest to Frank Miller’s version of the character – the dark, mysterious and gritty vigilante that has become the template for Batman since 1986. This remarkable story shed the camp and goofy image of the character in favour of the Dark Knight we know today. An older, retired Bruce Wayne returns as Batman and sends shockwaves through Gotham. An amazing read.
#22 – DC: New Frontier
Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, Cooke tries to bridge the gap between the Golden and Silver Age of DC Comics using a Jack Kirby/Mac Fleischer inspired art style. It included characters ranging from Superman to the Challengers of the Unknown with a strong focus on Green Lantern Hal Jordan as an invading alien force threatens the whole planet. While The Watchmen took a grittier, more cynical look back on the Post-WWII Cold War era, Cooke takes more inoffensive approach using it to flavor a strong adventure than make grander political points.
#23 – Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory
You know the story, a force not to be reckoned with tries to take over the Earth. It is too big for any one hero, so the heroes leading the charge team up and take down the big bad with their combined might. Morrison doesn’t like to do thing the easy way though. He takes 7 C-list DC characters and puts each of them on their own adventure. Each adventure has major influence and consequences on the larger picture, but the heroes never meet. The story takes place over 7 different miniseries and culminates in a special concluding issue where the invading force is a Gothic blue-skinned race of fairies from the future. I have a soft spot for C-listers, especially when the fans give the writer room to fool around, something Morrison didn’t always have when working on Batman.
#24 – Green Arrow: Year One
With the popular Arrow television series doing the rounds this is likely moving off the shelves quicker than usual. Oliver Queen is very much the swashbuckler of the Justice League, and seeing him stripped back down to his roots makes for a good story. Rather than trading witticisms with muggers on the streets of Star City he’s fighting for his survival. Even if you know the story from the show this is the superior telling.
#25 – Batman: Knightfall
There’s a reason why Batman comic readers were giddy about Bane appearing in The Dark Knight Rises. When the villain was introduced in Knightfall he launched an elaborate scheme against the Bat. After bringing down the walls of Arkham Asylum and leaving the inmates to run amok in the city he runs Batman through a gauntlet of foes, leaving him physically and psychologically exhausted, before the iconic confrontation at Wayne Manor.
#26 – All-Star Superman
Grant Morrison had a mission with this new run of Superman: a collection of timeless stories that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of knowledge of the continuity. The collection of awards, critical praise and sales records endorse the success of his goal. This fresh take on the character puts Superman in his reserved seat at the top of Superhero culture. If you only ever read one Superman comic, this is the one.
And now it’s time for…
#27 – Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Perhaps the most surprising comic-book series in recent memory, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye exploded onto the scene in 2012 to phenomenal reviews and utter enjoyment by fans. The series literally couldn’t stay on the shelves as it became pretty difficult to grab a copy of the first handful of issues in this run. Clint Barton is one of my all-time favorite comic characters so to say that this series struck a chord with me is a bit of an understatement. It’s drawn in a gorgeously “throwback” style while exploring the personality of a hero we haven’t really known this way before. It’s oftentimes dialogue-heavy with a focus on character-development and less on high-flying theatrics – though that’s not to say that the action isn’t furious and well balanced. It’s a delightfully engaging read that I couldn’t put down from day one as I found myself more and more in love with the brilliant writing. If you come away wanting to read only one of the newer graphic novels from this article than I urge you to go with Hawkeye, you won’t regret it.
#28 – The Ultimates: Super-Human
Marvel would have been smart to make this a more heavily promoted book to coincide with The Avengers in cinemas. Unlike the main Avengers comic series new readers can enjoy this without knowing the extensive backstory and wide array of characters. Iron Man, Capt. America, Thor, Giant Man, Hulk, Wasp, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and others are introduced like new characters and embark on some truly spectacular city wide battles.
#29 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Chris Claremont’s two issue story published during the early days of the second incarnation of X-Men created ripples through the canon that are still being explored today, and forms the basis for the next feature film. The story takes part on two timelines, beginning with one far in the future. Following the assassination of a senator pushing for mutant registration the US government unleashes a horde of giant, mutant hunting robotic Sentinels to handle matters. The machines take control of the country (in the interest of keeping the peace) and the few remaining heroes struggle to survive underground. Kitty Pride telepathically merges with her younger self to help the modern day X-Men avert the horrible fate.
#30 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy
No one saw the Guardians of the Galaxy coming as the next Marvel movie, but anyone who ever delved into Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett’s cosmic corner of the Marvel universe knew it could hold its own against the most popular choices. Spinning off from “The Annihilation Wave” event and leading into “The Thanos Imperative” event, it featured cosmic war vet Peter Quill returning to his former identity, Star-Lord, and forming a team of heroes of cosmic B-listers to be a little more proactive when it comes to cosmic threats. It served as one of two sturdy backbones (the other being Nova) that connected a collection of mini-series that made up the big cosmic events.
We’ll be back this time next week with entries #31 – #40 in our epic countdown…in the meantime, tell us which of this weeks line up you think is the best!