Graphic novels are increasingly more experimental and meaningful with their definitive self-contained stories of a beginning, a middle, and an ending. They illustrate fantastic, poignant stories with some of the best art. Why shouldn’t a novel like Blankets or A Contract with God be compared to the works of William Shakespeare or Ernest Hemingway? They are awesome and usually poignant to read and shouldn’t be treated like kid’s stuff. I love graphic novels so much, that I will expand this post into a three-parter: the best, the overrated, and my personal favorites. So first up, here’s five graphic novels that are considered the best that blew my f&%king mind. So check them out!
1. Apollo’s Song (1970)
Written by Anime legend, Osamu Tezuka, he explores the themes of life and death as the plot revolves around a young masochistic boy who doesn’t believe in love. He kills animals that show any signs of affection, but after the goddess of love confronts him, he is cursed with an eternity of heartbreak as each of his lives ultimately end in tragedy. I don’t read anything from the Anime genre because of its convoluted themes, but this was too good to pass up. It’s literally an epic tale that journeys into the past and the future as it explores a boy’s relationship with women and the rest of the world. For a novel that’s black and white and 500 pages, it’s a very sad, yet endearing tale.
2. The Ultimates (2001)
Write Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch re-imagines one of the greatest superhero teams for a modern, post-terrorist world. This world is really, really unpredictable. There are many shocks and awes between the global threats and the dark, edgy world troubles in which our heroes face as they protect America from super-human attacks. Classic heroes like Captain America, Giant man, the Wasp, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk are edgier and completely different from their original counterpart (i.e. Thor is still the thunder god, but perceived as a crazy lunatic). This is a “no-holds bar” tale wrought with original ideas and political messages. Best line from Captain America: “You think this letter on my head stands for France? A MUST read!
3. The Killing Joke (1988)
The Killing Joke may be one of the defining tales between the Dark Knight and his greatest enemy, the Joker. Complete with a fully told origin, writer Alan Moore humanizes the scariest man alive with tragedy and provokes sympathy from the readers. With a lasting effect on the DC Universe including the crippled Batgirl, it’s a straightforward tale without any prior knowledge to convoluted continuity. The world is never really black and white, and this graphic novel ask the question “can a man go insane with one bad day?”
4. Marvels (1994)
The origins of the Marvel universe is explored through the eyes of a photographer. Superheroes run amok and this graphic novel deals with the fears and aweness of the regular citizens. The readers witness seminal events of the universe such as the grand fight between the Submariner and the Human Torch, the emergence menace of the mutants, the confrontation of a god-like villain, and the death of an innocent. Alex Ross’ realistic portrayals of Namor, Spiderman, and the X-Men only highlight the greatness of this magnificent tale.
5. The Dark Phoenix Saga (1980)
The highest point in Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s career. One of the original X-men gains god-like abilities and her descent into darkness destroys a planet and her fellow teammates must battle her to the death. It’s the quintessential X-Men story. Every issue builds into a climax and creates a very well-told, well-illustrated, rich story. But the main message for the X-Men success is simple: despite having all their powers, they are subject to the same temptations and succumb to the same sins as us mere mortals.