Though not officially a part of our Christmas Wrap Up, there are so many great graphic novels that just one top 10 list didn’t seem sufficient. Here’s a list by our comic contributor Shane, who does some excellent work bringing you reviews. Enjoy!
10- Watchmen – One Christmas I decided to treat myself and I bought the collections of two of the comics that are responsible for changing the landscape of comics forever in the 80s, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and my number 10 entry, ‘Watchmen’. While I loved DKR, It was Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s unique take on ‘real- world’ superheroes and the deconstruction of the genre that really made it one of my favorite graphic novels. If you’ve never read it or your only exposure to Watchmen was the movie, any self-respecting nerd owes it to himself or herself to own this.
9- Blankets – One of the only independent graphic novels I’ve read and adored. I think the main reason for this was at the time I picked it up I was starting to get involved in my first meaningful relationship and I could really identify with the main character. Written and drawn by Craig Thompson, it is a autobiographical story of his and his brother’s ordeal of sexual harassment as children, living with a devout Christian family and meeting his first love. It is a superb book that people can lose themselves in.
8- Batman: Court of Owls Vol 1- The first collection of the new 52 Batman book, expertly written by Scott Snyder and superbly drawn by Greg Capullo. Hands down for me thee best book to come out the DC reboot. Snyder has the Batman face-off against an enemy he has never faced before, steeped in Gotham lore and has readers believing that he may not come out on top. It’s fascinating to watch Batman struggle against impossible odds and re-evaluate his knowledge of his home city. Volume is only available now but the second volume has been solicited and will be out soon.
7- The Escapists – Writer Brian K Vaughan’s stunning tale of friendship and love inspired by Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel ‘The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’. After his father’s death, Max Roth finds that his father was an avid fan of obscure pulp hero, the Escapist. Using his inheritance he buys the rights to the character and sets out with his two friends to create new comic stories using the character but events start to spiral out of his control. A really fulfilling graphic novel that is sure to warm anyone’s hearts this holiday season.
6- Astonishing x-men- Available in omnibus format or as 4 softcovers, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s initial run on Astonishing x-men is well…astonishing! Anyone familiar with Whedon’s work in TV and film such as Buffy the vampire slayer and The Avengers movie will know to expect thrilling plot-lines, crackling dialogue and plot-twists galore all stunningly rendered by artist John Cassaday who was an absolute tour de force on the book, one of the high points for Marvel’s merry mutants and comic readers.
5- The Ultimates – Again, available in omnibus format or four softcovers. This was Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s ‘Ultimate’ take on the Avengers. Stripping away years of continuity and offering a fresh, modern and edgier version of Marvel’s premier super-team. The stories and art are fantastic and there is no denying the impact this comic had on the medium as many of the elements here made it into Marvel’s array of films in recent times. Brilliant stuff.
4- DC New Frontier – nowadays you have great artists, great writers and great collaborators but only one GREAT writer/artist springs to mind for me and that’s Darwyn Cooke. He is a master of his craft and for me; none of his work showcases it more than DC New Frontier. This was Cooke’s love letter to the DC’s silver age and the emergence of characters like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, a master graphic storyteller on a masterful graphic novel. Get it.
3- Pride Of Baghdad – Written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Niko Henrichon, this original graphic novel tells a story based on true events about a pride of lions that escaped Baghdad zoo after the initial bombings by American forces in the Iraq war 2003. It is told from the POV of the four lions and shows them trying to survive in a war-zone while trying to make sense of their newfound freedom. As the lions ‘talk’ in the book it is of course, fictionalised, but the story takes the best elements from those Disney movies like Bambi, Lion king etc and adds an adult spin on events which solidifies it as one my all-time faves.
2- The Killing Joke – Written by comics legend Alan Moore and beautifully drawn by Brian Bolland, this is my favorite Batman story ever. For me the reason being, this book explores in-depth the relationship between Batman and the Joker and how it affects those around them with tragic results. We also get to see the most cemented origin story for the Joker, which explores what exactly happened to make him how he is. Again the best part of it is how the characters of Batman and Joker play off against each-other, the dialogue between the two and seeing one of the most fascinating relationships in any medium be explored. Fantastic!
1- Identity Crisis – My absolute favorite comic book story that I’ve read in my life so far. Written by New York Times bestseller Brad Meltzer and drawn by Rags Morales it is essentially a murder mystery set in the DCU. When a close ally of the JLA is murdered, the heroes rally to find the killer and what follows is a superb tale of the relationships in the DCU between heroes, villains and their families and friends. Everyone loves a good mystery and this one is a doozy! Writer Brad Meltzer guides us on this ride through the DC universe revealing secrets galore with expert pacing and jaw-dropping reveals that make us re-evaluate the entire history of DC’s characters. Artist Rags Morales compliments it with art that creates some of the most iconic imagery to come from a comic in my eyes. Identity Crisis for me is a stunning piece of work that made its mark on comics and me and that makes it worthy of my number 1 spot.