Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The 50 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time: The Top 10

Absolute Edition
Trade Paperback
10. Absolute V for Vendetta
By Alan Moore and David Lloyd
The epic tale of political genocide, rebellion and freedom of expression in a Fascist England is one that has been captured perfectly in this graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Every page is meticulously detailed in it's approach to anarchy, prejudice and comprehension of justice. It is, arguably, Moore's most poignant piece of writing, and is easily the best work of David Lloyd's career. Dark, witty and strangely realistic.
Available in: Absolute Edition and Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
9. Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Confession
By Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
How do you update the characters of Batman and Robin and make them frighteningly realistic and culturally relevant at the same time? Turn Batman into a psychotic religious fanatic named the Confessor and make Robin into his sidekick, Altar Boy. The harshest of the Astro City stories, this tale features the outlawing of superheroes, an alien invasion and vampires; which is more than most superhero books can boast. It also manages to maintain and, in many places, surpass the charm and originality of the previous volumes. This is the best piece of the Astro City story.
Available in: Trade Paperback

"All Around the World
and Other Stories"
Absolute Edition
8. Absolute Planetary: Book One
By Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
For the last decade, the intricate and engaging tale of the Planetary team has been explored through the baffling genius of Warren Ellis and the wonderful artwork of John Cassaday. Every chapter is a self-contained micro-story with a beginning, a middle and an end; but every single one feeds into the larger spectrum of the series and builds on the mysteries established in the opening issue. It's an exceptional piece of work and, now completed, can be fully appreciated by everyone. The contents of this volume have also been released in trade paperback form as "All Over the World and Other Stories" and "The Fourth Man."
Available in: Absolute Edition

Absolute Edition
"The Dark Knight Returns"
7. Absolute Dark Knight
By Frank Miller
Probably the most famous Batman story ever published, "The Dark Knight Returns" defined the hero for a generation, offering a dark and violent alternative to the previously camp and fun-loving caped crusader. The original graphic novel was an exceptional piece, charting Batman's return to crimefighting and his eventual confrontations with Two-Face, the Joker and, finally, Superman. The sequel, however, failed to capture the magic, but still offered quirky Frank Miller ideas within the world of the original; it was, at it's heart, a disappointment, though. Here, they're both collected together; and together, they're one hell of a good story. The contents of this volume have also been released in trade paperback form as "The Dark Knight Returns" and "The Dark Knight Strikes Again."
Available in: Absolute Edition

"Volume One" Trade
Absolute Edition
6. Absolute All-Star Superman
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
A combination of quirky, out-there storytelling and mind-blowing, immensely detailed artwork gives us the greatest Superman story of all time; a 12-issue opus recounting the final days of Superman following a plot by Lex Luthor to poison him. It's very much a Silver Age dedication; a look at the greatness of the 1950s and 1960s, with numerous call-backs and funny one-liners aimed at the strangeness of the past. It's Frank Quitely's artwork more than Grant Morrison's story that's the real draw here, though; the script is fantastic, but the pencils capture the sheer scale of Superman's problem and his desperation at ensuring the world will be protected in his absence. It's truly a wonderful piece of work. The contents of this volume have also been released in two untitled trade paperback releases.
Available in: Absolute Edition

Trade Paperback
5. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth: Anniversary Edition
By Grant Morrison and Dave McKean
How amazing would Batman be if his title was written as a consistently frightening horror comic book? Well, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean tested that theory with this graphic novel featuring monstrous versions of the Batman rogues gallery and the Dark Knight himself slipping deeper and deeper into a mental breakdown. It's a tough read, with some increasingly unsettling visuals and a story that becomes more and more steeped in mental illness and psychology as it progresses, but the whole thing is wonderfully rewarding and an insanely powerful experience to endure.
Available in: Trade Paperback and Hardcover

Deluxe Hardcover
Trade Paperback
4. Marvels
By Kurk Busiek and Alex Ross
Drawing in an audience to a comic book universe can be an exceptionally hard task, particularly when the majority of comic books are mired in years of continuity. This mini-series by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross attempted to change that; it retold early events of the Marvel Universe from the point of view of human beings on the street. It's a drastic, and yet, wonderful style of storytelling; the focus of the series is Phil Sheldon, a photographer, who sees the ever-evolving world of superheroes through his camera lense. It's fascinating stuff, particularly the final issue involving Phil's relationship with Gwen Stacy, unknowing girlfriend of Spider-Man, and her untimely murder.
Available in: Deluxe Hardcover and Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Absolute Edition
3. Watchmen: The Absolute Edition
By Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The greatest graphic novel of all time, as proclaimed by everyone in the universe. In actual fact, this is merely one of the greatest graphic novels; a perfect deconstruction of both superheroes as people, as well as the comic book medium as an art style and creative outlet. Everything that can be done with a comic book is done within this series. It was a stunning and unique piece of writing at the time and there has been nothing quite like it since. It's an absolutely fantastic tale of love, redemption and betrayal and every page deserves to be read over again.
Available in: Absolute Edition, Hardcover and Trade Paperback

"Days Gone Bye" Trade
Compendium Edition
2. The Walking Dead: Compendium Edition: Volume One
By Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore
This is the best comic book being published right now; the perfect tale of survival and humanity in a world where both are integral to everyday life. It's a zombie story, but one that goes further than every zombie movie and doesn't cap itself off with a cliffhanger ending or a cheesy resolution. This story is ongoing; it never ends. It's a story about people, trying to survive and making the most of a bad situation. It's gory, but it has a lot of heart to it. You can go entire issues without laying eyes on a single zombie. The book likes to lull you into a false sense of security before completely shattering your perceptions of reality. It's wonderfully crafted. And besides that it's frightening how the truly scary moments in the book are as a result of the humans' actions rather than the zombies' bloodlust. This volume contains content released in trade paperback form as: "Days Gone Bye," "Miles Behind Us," "Safety Behind Bars," "The Heart's Desire," "The Best Defense," "This Sorrowful Life," "The Calm Before" and "Made to Suffer."
Available in: Compendium Edition

Deluxe Edition
Trade Paperback
1. Batman: Year One: Deluxe Edition
By Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli
This is the best graphic novel of all time; a chilling portrait of people in a city bereft of hope. It recounts the first year in Bruce Wayne's career as Batman, and it does a stunning job. The dual focus is on Bruce himself and James Gordon, a Chicago cop who's just moved to Gotham City. By the time you reach the conclusion, both men's stories are intricately tied together into the biggest Batman epic ever. The Dark Knight himself doesn't appear much, the story instead focusing more on the Bruce Wayne aspect of his existence, as he develops himself into a crime fighter; but when Batman does make an appearance, it's violent, harsh and powerful. This is the perfect graphic novel.
Available in: Deluxe Edition and Trade Paperback

The 50 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time: Part 4

Absolute Edtion
20. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume One: The Absolute Edition
By Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
Forget for a moment that this wonderful piece of work was brutally gang-raped by Hollywood and turned into one of the worst films ever made; this is the original story, as it should have been. The tale of various fictional characters coming together to fight evil is a uniquely fascinating one, and as ever Alan Moore pens it with absolute bravado. Kevin O'Neill's artwork throughout is immaculately detailed and perfectly captures Moore's intricate script. Every twist and turn is glorious.
Available in: Absolute Edition and Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback Edition
19. Sin City: Book One: The Hard Goodbye
By Frank Miller
As an rule, Frank Miller books are usually visually stunning; "300," for example is an epic experiment in fight sequencing. This book is arguably his independent masterpiece; the one book that will define him for years to come. It's a violent piece, a revenge story. It's full of nasty people doing nasty things to nastier people for nasty reasons. It's a modern day noir; an example of how black-and-white artwork can be visually stunning and carry an enormous sense of scale. The ending is poetic and unjust, but it's perfect for the story; everything that happens in this book carries a price with it, but the tale is worth that price.
Available in: Trade Paperback

Library Edition
"Seed of Destruction" Trade
18. Hellboy: Library Edition: Volume One
By Mike Mignola and John Byrne
The legacy of Hellboy is far reaching within the world of comic books; the first great independent comic book success story. The tale of a demon fighting to defend humanity from the forces of darkness is a genius one; and Mike Mignola's art is wonderfully gothic in it's presentation of this world. Both stories in this collection deals with the similar events to the film adaptation: the battle between Hellboy and a group of Nazis trying to raise a force of evil. It's a great concept on paper, and in motion, too. The contents of this volume have also been released in trade paperback as "Seed of Destruction" and "Wake the Devil."
Available in: Library Edition

Trade Paperback
17. Transmetropolitan: Volume One: Back on the Street
By Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
Warren Ellis is a psychotic genius when it comes to constructing new and exciting premises for comic books and, indeed, fiction in general. This, his take on journalism in a futuristic wasteland is an absolute treat; making the press the heroes of the piece in a world where their actions force the government's hand in violent, unyielding ways. It helps that Darick Robertson's art in this book is the best of his entire career. That, and that it features the character, Spider Jerusalem - one of, if not the, greatest protagonists of all time; he's a world-hating, sadistic genius, forced to interact with the one thing he hates more than anything else in the world: People.
Available in: Trade Paperback

Deluxe Edition
Prestige Edition
16. Batman: The Killing Joke: 20TH Anniversary Deluxe Edition
By Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
The Joker is easily the most fascinating character in comic books; he's a lunatic with a mean streak, but everything he does, he does to quell boredom and his own sadistic brand of humour. This book is the perfect example of just how psychotic the character is; it's also one of the biggest advances in Batman continuity. It features the brutal crippling of Barbara Gordon, Batgirl. It's a shocking, violent and engaging glimpse into the mind of a monster; and, you might just come out of it feeling sorry for him. Even after all the horrible things he does within.
Available in: Deluxe Editionand Prestige Edition

Trade Paperback
"And Here My Troubles Began" Trade
15. The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale
By Art Spiegelman
It's strange to consider that the most brutally honest and powerful tale of life in Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War Two comes from a graphic novel featuring mice in place of Jews. But, this legendary retelling of the horrors of Nazi Death Camps is one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time, and for good reason. Art Spiegelman's cartoonized retelling of his father's time in the camp is one of the most harrowing, mind blowing stories ever told. It will bring tears to your eyes; and that's just the first read-through.  The contents of this volume have also been released as "My Father Bleeds History" and "And Here My Troubles Began."
Available in: Trade Paperback

Premiere Hardcover
Trade Paperback
14. Daredevil: Born Again
By Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli
If you've ever read the colossal tale that is "Batman: Year One," you owe it to yourself to pick up this volume of the Daredevil collections. By the same creative team as the Batman origin, this story arc stripped down Daredevil as a character and then rebuilt him into the character from more recent years; it was a controversial and wonderfully meticulous piece of character study. The superhero himself doesn't actually appear until the latter end of the book, which is by far the weakest section, where the book transcends beyond it's own grounded sense of reality. But this is the ultimate Daredevil story, regardless; a perfect mix of realistic crime drama and intense action violence.
Available in: Premiere Hardcover and Trade Paperback

UK Edition
US Edition
13. From Hell
By Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
The tale of Jack the Ripper is not just restricted to the United Kingdom; it's a sinister, dark blotch on British history that generates interest around the globe. The most compelling part? Nobody knows who the killer really was, which means that writers are given the chance to interpret the evidence as they so wish. Alan Moore penned this gargantuan yarn about the Ripper, beautifully rendered by Eddie Campbell. It's a tale of murder, mystery and betrayal; the ultimate cover-up. And every moment is absolutely fascinating to pore over; but, beware, it is genuinely frightening.
Available in: UK Edition and US Edition

Trade Paperback
12. Kurk Busiek's Astro City: Life in the Big City
By Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
"Astro City" stands alone as the single greatest series of the last twenty years. Every issue was the sparkling gem the month it was published, and the first mini-series, collected here, was easily the best way to introduce the world to the concept of a world of superhero where the only rule is that writer Kurk Busiek makes the rules. The first issue is easily the best single issue ever written, focusing on a Superman like hero; then you sttle into the tales about a faux-Fantastic Four, a vigilante dressed as a Jack-in-the-Box, and an awkward date between two heroes. It's absolute genius, and simply good comics.
Available in: Trade Paperback

Absolute Edition
11. Absolute Kingdom Come
Trade Paperback
By Mark Waid and Alex Ross
The future of the DC Universe was set in stone over a decade ago, and this wonderful graphic novel is the tale of the legacy of the DC superheroes. Superman is an outcast, living on the moon; Batman is disabled; Wonder Woman is bitter; the Flash can't slow down; and a new breed of superhero has taken control - a more violent, efficient one. This is the tale of the redemption of the DC Universe, but also of the redemption of Superman as a character, and nothing has come close to capturing the magical combination of Mark Waid's writing and Alex Ross' beautifully rendered paintings. Nothing.
Available in: Absolute Edition and Trade Paperback

The 50 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time: Part 3

Trade Paperback
30. Hellblazer: Original Sins
By Jamie Delano, John Ridgway and Alfredo Alcala
The tale of John Constantine is one that extends all the way back to Alan Moore's legendary run on horror book, the Saga of Swamp Thing. By the time Constantine was granted his own series, the character had gained a respectable following among comic book fans, and the first storyline of his solo series was an example of just how fantastic a book about a supernatural detective could be. Violence, horror and comedy all lie within as each loosely collected tale continues and astounds in this first volume.
Available in: Trade Paperback

Hardcover Edition
29. 300
By Frank Miller
There are some comic book writers and artists who just have a knack for conveying a cinematic visual style to their books. Frank Miller is probably the most engaging and powerful of these writer/artists, with many of his images sticking in the mind for years, and developing a sense of the books they appeared in; Elektra's murder in "Daredevil," the black-and-white noir style of "Sin City" and the showdown between Superman and Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns" all stand as compelling moments in comic book history. It's this book, though; a staggering tale of war that stands as his most engaging piece of cinematic artwork; a constant slew of double-page spreads, featuring graphic violence and immaculate detail, this is a passionate piece of truly marvellous work.
Available in: Hardcover

US Edition
UK Edition
28. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
The most memorable moments in the entire Scott Pilgrim series all occur in the penultimate volume of the epic tale of a superhero slacker. It's a volume entirely dedicated to the emotional growth of Scott and Ramona's relationship, and character development as a whole. The action takes a back-seat for the majority of the volume, meaning that we get to understand Scott as a character; there's also some truly heartbreaking moments and one hell of a fantastic cliffhanger at the end. This is, easily, the best and most unexpected volume of the Scott Pilgrim series; "The Empire Strikes Back," as it were.
Available in: US Edition and UK Edition

Premiere Hardcover
"The Death of Gwen Stacy" Trade
27. Amazing Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys
By Stan Lee, John Romita, Gerry Conway and Gil Kane
Two of the most controversial game-changing moments in the history of Spider-Man occurred as the character entered his second decade of existence. Firstly, Stan Lee killed off Captain Stacy, the father of Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend, Gwen. Then, a few years later, Gerry Conway decided the time was right to have a final showdown between Spider-Man and his arch-nemesis, the Green Goblin; and so, Gwen was killed off, as the catalyst to this. This death had such an impact on that character that it has never been reversed; Gwen is one of Spider-Man's ultimate failures - the woman he loved died because of his actions. It's chilling stuff, particularly when you consider this series was being written for children at the time. The stories have also been reprinted in separate volumes, "The Death of Captain Stacy" and "The Death of Gwen Stacy," respectively.
Available in: Premiere Hardcover

Omnivore Edition
"Taster's Choice" Trade
26. Chew: The Omnivore Edition: Volume One
By John Layman and Rob Guillory
The best independent comic book of the last five years, "Chew," presented a unique concept to it's readers, as well as a radical art style that fit perfectly with the tongue-in-cheek tone of the book. There's mystery, intrigue, violence and brutal amounts of gore to be found within; but most importantly, there's a unique sense of heart and a wonderful blend of ridiculousness and comedy. The contents of this volume have also been released as "Taster's Choice" and "International Flavor."
Available in: Omnivore Edition

Definitive Edition
"Operation: Broken Ground" Trade
25. Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition: Volume One
By Greg Rucka, Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt and Leondro Fernandez
"Queen and Country" is easily the most engaging comic book of the early 2000s; it tells an incredibly intricate tale of espionage and violence, steeping in the politics of the British government. It's a spy story in a realistic world, where nobody is James Bond, and anybody can die at any moment. Each storyline features a new, unique artist, whose interpretations of the characters are always different but never less than fantastic. The book perfectly balances the world of violence with the world of politics, making for a series that never feels rushed or unoriginal. This is the work of Greg Rucka's career. The contents of this volume have also been released as "Operation: Broken Ground," "Operation: Morning Star" and "Operation: Crystal Ball."
Available in: Paperback

Omnibus Edition
"Gifted" Trade
24. Astonishing X-Men Omnibus
By Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
The creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Joss Whedon has a reputation of penning scripts with strong female characters; so it makes perfect sense for him to work on the X-Men and make Kitty Pryde the lead. It's essentially a season of Buffy featuring mutants; there's drama, action, shocks and enough fan-pleasing moments to keep hardcore fans happy, while not alienating the newcomers. The entire run by Whedon features the brilliant art of John Cassaday, who brings life and tension to the world of the X-Men. The contents of this volume have also been released as "Gifted," "Dangerous," "Torn" and "Unstoppable."
Available in: Omnibus Edition

Hardcover Edtion
"The Outfit" Hardcover
23. Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter
By Darwyn Cooke
The novels of Richard Stark are some of the most electrifying pieces of fiction ever produced; tales of the notorious criminal, Parker, and his violent escapades captivated over the course of forty years, and it is cartoonist, Darwyn Cooke, who has finally found a way to translate Stark's novels into the medium of graphic novels. A wonderfully layered, gritty and yet, strangely humorous tale, this first volume in an expected series features Cooke's unique animated style and some of the most visually stunning grey tone violence ever printed. The follow-up, "The Outfit," has also been published.
Available in: Hardcover

Hardcover Edition
"Until the End of the World" Trade
22. Preacher: Book One
By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
One of the most controversial and critically acclaimed graphic series of all time, "Preacher" propelled Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon to stardom within the comic book community. Their tale of a cynical Preacher who is merged with a mysterious new Deity and decides to confront God over his inability to control the world was heralded as a classic even before it's run was complete. This first volume charts the start of the Preacher's journey, as he comes into contact with an ex-girlfriend with a dark secret and a wisecracking Irish vampire, and also features a look into the dark world in which he was raised. The second half of the book is, arguably, the greatest single volume of any series ever published. The contents of this book have also been published in trade paperback form as "Gone to Texas" and "Until the End of the World."
Available in: Hardcover

Deluxe Edition
"New World Order" Trade
21. JLA: Deluxe Edition: Volume One
By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell
This series is the reason I love comic books. The JLA was one of those series that got a lot of people back into comics again after a long spell away; this comic defined the latter half of the 1990s for many comic book readers. And it was one of the first things I read when I got into comic books in the early 2000s, and even then, I knew most of it already; it's that ingrained in the fabric of comic books. The first half of the book, and the stronger of the two stories within, tells of an alien invasion disguised as a peace offering, which cripples the JLA, all except Batman, who methodically destroys the oppressors and reunites the team to save the day. The second half mires itself in the continuity of the time, but it is still fun and unique. This is one of the greatest runs on a comic book ever published, and should be experienced by everyone. The contents of this volume have also been published in trade paperback form as "New World Order" and "American Dreams."
Available in: Deluxe Edition