Recommended Graphic Novel Reads for Comic Book Lovers
A Good Story Is Worth Reading... and Rereading
"What comics do you like to read?" A friend of mine asks.
I like a good story that I can read over and over again. And every time I do, I find something new and different about it. You can do that with comics. Pick up a good graphic novel and start anywhere in the book and you'll see it from a new angle.
Many of the graphic novels I read deal with protagonists that we're all familiar with. I'm a huge fan of DC and Marvel (or DC's mature line, Vertigo). On occasion, I'll stray to some of the independents like Image or Darkhorse. But mostly, I'm a Marvel/DC guy. That being said, my home is littered with walls of graphic novels and great stories of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Iron Man, The Hulk, Spider-man and many of the heroes that have become popular over the last few decades.
Because I'm a collector, I've found that it is wiser to buy some of the trade paperbacks of comic issues that I've already bought. If you are going to collect, it's good to read the issue once or twice and then board, bag, and box it for safe keeping. As the trade graphic novels don't have as much collector's value, it allows for multiple reads without the concern of damaging the actual book.
There are exceptions to this rule as my research into some of these titles has found.
Notable exceptions to this (with my personal regrets - as kids don't have the expertise in such matters) have been the original Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee as well as the spin-offs (Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, Bring on the Bad Guys, Bring Back the Bad Guys, and The Superhero Women). If you can find the originals first editions of these (like I had when I was eight years old) and if they are in mint condition (which mine are not), they're worth some cash.
My point is that there are stories that are so good you'll read them over and over again. Here are my top three for this week. (I'm going to make this into a regular thing.)
Captain Britain by Alan Moore
Recently I was reminded of this gem when someone on a Facebook board asked if Alan Moore ever did anything for Marvel. While I could easily remember Watchmen and Swamp Thing, I had a mental fart until someone said, "Captain Britain".
Then it all came flooding back.
I had read and re-read this over and over again. It is quite excellent. I have had a soft spot for Alan Davis's art since I saw it initially in the New Mutants (I think the issue was "Wildways"). In any event, Moore brought so much wonderful insanity to this storyline complete with a chess game between Merlin and his daughter, Roma.
The story starts at the end of Captain Britain's life. He dies on a parallel world against a reality manipulating Mad Jim Jaspers and his Crazy Gang to a robotic horror named Fury. Merlin takes a bit of DNA and restores Brian Braddock to life and new adventures on the correct Earth continue.
During this story, Moore paints a terrible vision of a dystopian Britain that has not been seen since George Orwell decided that he needed to get a bit darker. We can see how Britain had been after the great war and how the legacy of Keep Calm and Carry On continues to play in the culture.
Well, there's that and mutants, death, and canine-cyborgs and paid assassins. Everything a growing boy needs.
In many respects, this is not another The Watchmen. However, I think it is closer to the later issues of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's Black Dossier and Century. Moore makes a great mix of the fantastic and the mundane as wells as the horrors one has to face when fighting old ghosts.
It's a really good read.
Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Brian Bolland
This addition to the Arthurian legend had me by page three. Originally, this was a 12 issue maxi series written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke) released from 1982 to 1985 as one of the first direct market projects.
Camelot 3000 is the story of King Arthur's return to England. Arthur has been asleep and is accidentally awoken in the year 3000 by Tom Prentice, an archeology student. Planet Earth is at war with an alien force from an undiscovered 10th planet within the solar system. In order to fight this enemy Arthur, Tom, and Merlin seek the reincarnations of the Round Table's greatest knights. This story offers many twists and turns as well as the return of two of Arthur's oldest and deadliest enemies.
Should you get your hands on a copy of this, read it for the pure enjoyment of the story.
Every time I pick this trade up, I can't put it down for hours.
Superman: Red Son
Way back in the day, Marvel Comics used to publish a title called "What If..." They were stories told by Uatu the Watcher who not only observed the events in this reality but also was privy to the events of alternate realities. If one event were changed, what would happen?
DC picked up on the idea in their Elseworlds titles. Each of these stories was a graphic novel that took a character and put them in a different place or time. In the case of Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar (The Authority and Wolverine: Old Man Logan), Superman lands in the Soviet Union in the 1950s instead of Kansas.
The arrival of a Kryptonian in communist Russian dooms the United States and brings the Soviet Union to prosperity. As in all Elseworlds stories, many of the characters that we're familiar with change with the altered history as well. Luthor, who is the antagonist is the biggest defender against the man of steel's communist reign. Batman is the leader of the internal Soviet rebellion whose actions spark an underground movement.
Superman: Red Son is a treat for those who wonder whether justice is just a matter of perspective or if the concept of "might making right" is true.
Fantastic Four: Rising Storm
I loved this story for many reasons. Primarily I was hooked by the clean artwork of the late Mike Wieringo (1963-2007), but Fantastic Four: Rising Storm written by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) in itself is such a great representation of what the Fantastic Four is and has become. What the FF have become are professional adventurers and imaginauts. However, far beyond anything else, they are a family.
This began as a four part story and ends with a greater understanding of the character of Galactus. He's more than just a world eater.
This story begins with a transfer of power between Sue Richards (The Invisible Woman) and her brother, Johnny Storm (The Human Torch). What's worse is that Johnny's been drafted into the service of Galactus as his new herald. While both Galactus and Johnny adjust to their roles (and Johnny adjusts to his new increase in a power that he's never used), the rest of the team tries to get him back.
This story is just pure fun.
Listen, I've been reading these books for over forty years. It's one of the few things I think I really know. Ultimately, you're going to make up your own mind on what a good story is and what is not. I don't claim to be the final word in this. And hey, if you have a personal recommendation leave word and if I don't have the novel (doubtful, but anything's possible) I'll try to read it and give some feedback.
However, here's what I can tell you. When I look at my bookshelves and see volume after volume of comic book stories, I don't see pulp. I see so many Saturdays spent in pure entertainment and the development of characters that Hollywood is just beginning to discover.
Those of us in the know, know why the New York Comic Con is the second largest money maker that the city has. Why? Because we love to see other people who get it. We like knowing that we're not alone in our passions and when we can we like to see if what we got from these books is the same with everyone else.
This is going to be the beginning of a series of articles that will, hopefully, introduce you to a world that I've known for decades. It is my hope that you find these books as enjoyable as I do.
What comic book would you pay the most for?
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi