The 100 Must Read Graphic Novels! (Part 8)
Is there such a thing as to many graphic novels? No, so long as the shelves hold out. We do find that most people think mostly of superheroes when hitting up their local comic shop, but as we’ve seen there are plenty of fantastic true stories and genre busters available. It’s time to continue that trend, with some rather haunting stories up for your enjoyment this week.
#71 – Changing Ways
Recommendation by G-Funk
Oh Perth…you truly are in the middle of nowhere. Bordered by expanses of desert and water, and described as a cultural wasteland. What do we have to offer the world of comics? Well, there’s homegrown legends Gestalt Publishing and their awesome team of comic creators. Changing Ways is the brainchild of writer/artist Justin Randall and it is phenomenal. Beginning in a small town the people begin noticing strange happenings, most noticeable being red marks on the skin followed by strange powers. It’s haunting, intriguing and anchored by some wonderfully relatable characters. We won’t tell you much more, except that you have to read it. Need further convincing? Look at the art. Fantastic.
#72 – Akira
Akira is the seminal work of Katsuhiro Otomo – one of sequential storytellings most revered figures. Otomo crafts the world of Neo-Tokyo with detail and grandeur, from the pulsing upper rungs of the city to the slums where protagonists Kaneda and Tetsuo live out their days as members of a bike gang. When Tetsuo comes into contact with a small child his life is changed forever, as is the fate of Neo-Toyko as the being known as Akira begins to seek out Tetsuo and his growing power. While similar to the anime, the graphic novel series explores the narrative in much greater depth and really shouldn’t be missed.
#73 – Criminal Macabre
Nothing like a good story about a substance abusing, sad sack supernatural investigator like Cal MacDonald. He’s one of my favorite archetypes. He’d fit in real well with Supernatural’s Winchester brothers. He’s a reluctant champion mostly because no one else is up to the task. He’s one part Bogart, one part John Constantine. He fills us in that years of inbreeding have made monsters easily killed with bullets, but when he has to start using the old myths again (like silver for werewolves), he uncovers a bigger conspiracy for monster superiority. The 30 Days of Night duo of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith team back up. Their individual styles really blend nicely, even if Templesmith’s art is more abstract than it needs to be.
#74 – Fables: Legends in Exile
Fables is a truly wonderful and original series. In a world saturated with superheroes, Fables brings us the story of fairytale characters stuck in our world and fighting for their homeland. Each character is based on what you think you know from the storybooks but with an added twist and the stories are all complex, intriguing, and exciting. Fables is so popular that it inspired multiple spin-offs; all with storylines that tie into the big picture. Once you start reading with Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile, you will most definitely be hooked.
#75 – Preacher: Gone to Texas
It’s a fair assessment to say that Preacher is not for everyone. Within the 200 pages of the first volume, Gone To Texas, the series included sacrilege, an angel and demon doing the nasty, God abandoning heaven, enough blood and gore to satisfy a good Tarantino flick, an unstoppable killing machine, vampires, severed penises, masochistic gay sex and a boy with a face that looks like an arse. And all of it wrapped in a wonderful blanket of sex, booze and pitch-black humour. And yet, that’s why it works, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon tackle their own work head on, covering important issues other people would fear to touch like the importance of God, morality, good VS evil, redemption, but doing it in such a way to entertain the reader with its sex and violence. It’s a truly f*cked up world Preacher Jesse Custer lives in but one that drags you in eyeballs first, given you both a deeply thematic and interesting story but sticking with its grind-house styling so as never to become – ironically enough – preachy. It’s an epic tale filled with unique and brilliant character and if you’re one for dark, semi-offensive humour then go for it.
#76 – The Crow
The Alex Proyas directed, Brandon Lee starring film adaptation has ensured that this title will be kept on a pedestal by the goth subculture for years to come. While it is a fine adaptation it doesn’t quite capture the raw emotion behind the comic. The Crow was a process of grieving for author James O’Barr, whose girlfriend was killed by a drunk driver. His deep emotional state is splashed on the page, giving meaning to the supernatural tale of vengeance that few other books can capture. The dream sequences alone will make your heart ache for the man.
#77 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Seen the film? Sorry about that. Now go and read the comics. In anything anything they showcase the depth of Alan Moore’s madness. Rather than just a team-up of literary characters this is a world where every single facet of pop-culture is real. A wardrobe somewhere leads the way to Narnia and you might see two incarnations of the Doctor walking down the road together. It begins with the Invisible Man and Captain Nemo battling Moriaty, but follow it through to the end and they wind up fighting a demonic Harry Potter. No, really.
#78 – Saga
Saga is my new obsession. It is an amazing sci-fi/fantasy epic from the mind that you Y: the Last Man, Brian K. Vaughn. It stars Alanna, a member of a winged race from a scientifically advanced planet, and Marko,a member of a horned race of magic users from a different planet. Their races are at war, but somehow they still fell in love. Their love is forbidden though, so they had to go on the run. What makes this series stand out from the many other space operas that come out is just how accessible it is. The characters don’t talk with generic British affectations you might see in a Shakespeare play or a Star Wars prequel. They have the same kind of potty mouths you might find in contemporary noir. And the narration! It’s so brilliant. It is filled in by their unborned daughter, Hazel, who speaks of her parents with equal parts casually rebellious disdain and wide-eyed eternal love. She nevers uses 10 words where 3 will do. It’s a refreshing way to do these kinds of story that is more reminiscent of Firefly than Star Wars.
#79 – I Kill Giants
I Kill Giants is the surreal tale of a girl who lives two lives. To most she is an outsider, a nerd obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons fantasy. In reality she is the sole protector of mankind, a warrior who slays the giants that encroach on human reality. This is how she sees the world. In truth this is the heartwrenching story of a young girl dealing with grief and loss in the only way she knows how. A must read.
#80 – ABC Warriors: Khronicles of Khaos
It’s hard to find a 2000AD graphic novel with enough universal appeal to make the list. Judgement Day, Finn and others were considered, but to represent that long running magazine we have the ABC Warriors, a team of AI robots designed for work or combat but now working as mercenaries. In this epic story they’ve taken the path of worshipping Khaos, and seek to collect seven sacrifices to their new deity. It’s a bloody, gruesome affair presented in amazing artwork and featuring a dry British wit.