Sunday, 28 November 2010

The 50 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time: Part 1

Here's a run-down of the 50 graphic novels which I feel are the best examples of how awesome comic books can be.

Trade Paperback
Absolute Edition
50. Batman: The Long Halloween
By Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tackled this maxi-series as a continuation of Frank Miller's "Batman Year One," carrying on the storyline established within regarding the special relationship between Batman, Harvey Dent and James Gordon and escalating it to incorporate a large number of Batman's classic foes. Each issue is essentially a one-shot, though all carry on the ongoing story involving a serial killer who strikes on holidays, as well as the downfall of the Falcone crime family. Many of these elements have been used in Christopher Nolan's Batman films, making this an example of the Hollywood way of doing Batman. They even manage to tie in the origin of a particularly famous Batman foe to the ongoing plot threads involving the mob and police corruption. It's absolutely fantastic to behold.
Available in: Trade Paperback and Absolute Edition

Omnibus Edition
"Sins of the Father" Trade 
49. The Starman Omnibus: Volume 1
By James Robinson and Tony Harris
Featuring creators who have both gone on to do fantastic work on other projects, Starman launched the careers of both writer, James Robinson, and artist, Tony Harris. The combination of modern age sensibilities in a book so heavily steeped in the lore of the Golden Age of DC Comics was shocking to read at the time, and proved to be a compelling series for the duration of it's run. This volume features the first sixteen issues of the series, previously printed in the two trade paperbacks, "Sins of the Father" and "Night and Day." However you decide to buy this series, rest assured it is a marvellous tale to pore over.
Available in: Omnibus Edition

Trade Paperback
Premiere Hardcover
48. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
By Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
There is always something special to come from Frank Miller's work, particularly when he works on the character of Daredevil. This volume serves as a retelling of the character's origin story, but done in the grim and gritty style Miller used to turn the title into a bestseller further into it's publishing lifespan. By having the bulky artwork of John Romita Jr on the book, the story feels like it's expansive and brutal; the fact that, much like "Batman Year One," we don't see Daredevil in costume until the end of the book makes this all the more fascinating a story to read. It's all about character, and Miller knows how to make these characters feel alive and vibrant every single time.
Available in: Trade Paperback and Premiere Hardcover

US Edition
UK Edition
47. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
Having become a sensation since this initial release, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim is, without a doubt, one of the most famous comic book series of recent years, having recently wrapped up in it's sixth and final volume, and being graced with a feature film adaptation that did the book an amazing amount of justice. This volume is where it all began; the life of weedy Scott Pilgrim, the slacker with a heart of gold, begins here, as he embarks on a journey to defeat Ramona Flowers' seven evil exes in order to date her. It's a unique concept, and the video game-like action is wrapped up in teen comedy/drama to make it feel believable until the big, awe-inspiring reveal at the end of volume one.
Available in: US Edition and UK Edition

Trade Paperback
46. Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One
By Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, Dan Day and John Totleben
Alan Moore has redefined a lot of comic books over the years; he's deconstructed the superhero epic, examined terrorism in depth and brought various literary characters to a modern audience. This is his attempt at a horror comic book; a frightening epic that made a name of the horror character nobody really cared about beforehand. It also granted him the opportunity to introduce his own characters, such as the supernatural detective, John Constantine, who has since been graced with his own title and a movie. It's a gallant effort from Moore to make irrelevant characters relevant again, and it works amazingly well.
Available in: Trade Paperback and Hardcover

45. Black Hole
By Charles Burns
This is the ultimate teenage comic book; it looks at the world from a teenage perspective, but that of a teenager going through a horrendous change in their physical appearance thanks to a sexually transmitted disease. It's a horror comic book, and it works brilliantly in Charles Burns' style of both writing and drawing, but it's themes feel real and relevant to the reader. It is one of the most perfectly quintessential comic books of all time; if you don't buy it, at least read it.
Available in: Paperback

44. We3
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Grant Morrison is easily the most influential writer working in comics now thanks to his work on the X-Men and Batman. But this story is radically different from both of those; this is a story about animals striking out against humans, for the simple reason that they just want to be left alone. Morrison's relatively simple script is helped along by some outstanding visuals from Frank Quitely, prior to his explosion as one of the greatest artists working in comics. It's a wonderful, short and sweet package - filled with horrendously brutal violence rendered lovingly by Quitely.
Available in: Paperback

Deluxe Edition
"The First Hundred Days" Trade
43. Ex Machina: Deluxe Edition: Volume One
By Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris
Political books are hard to determine; often because we don't agree with the opinions expressed by the characters within. Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris lacks that problem; it doesn't force it's politics upon us, because the primary character, while a politician has no discernible allegiance - he follows his gut. It's also a nice examination of how a superhero would cope with revealing his identity to the world and deciding to abandon saving people in the less conventional sense. This edition collects the first two volumes of the trade paperback series, "The First Hundred Days" and "Tag."
Available in: Deluxe Edition

Definitive Hardcover
"Who Killed Retro Girl?" Trade
42. Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection: Volume One
By Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
Brian Michael Bendis is the most important man working at Marvel Comics right now, and this comic book is the reason why. Powers is a definitive success story; the tale of two cops investigating crimes in a world where superheroes exist, openly. This hardcover collection contains two stories from the run, the opening "Who Killed Retro Girl?" which introduces us to the world with a brutal murder-mystery and the sexually charged brutality of "Roleplay." It's a perfectly filthy, violent and harsh comic book with a brilliantly cartoony art style that will distract from those not paying attention to the word balloons.
Available in: Definitive Hardcover

Deluxe Edition
"Unmanned" Trade
41. Y: The Last Man: Deluxe Edition: Book One
By Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr
This is, perhaps, the most unique idea in comic books. A virus kills off all the men in the world, leaving behind only females behind; except one man survives, and now finds himself in a world with barbarian women, those trying to invent a cure and various other problems which could completely destroy the fabric of nature as we know it. This first volume deals with the incident, and then moves off into an adventure as our protagonist tries to locate his missing girlfriend who was on holiday in Australia; and so, the adventure begins. The contents have also been printed in trade paperback form as "Unmanned" and "Cycles."
Available in: Deluxe Edition

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