Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Joe's top ten best graphic novels

Collecting an entire story arch in comic books can be tricky on a good day and near impossible on a bad. Shifting for hours through back issues of Batman for that last piece to your collection is literally a needle in a haystack. Luckily, comic book companies happily supply us with graphic novels, complete sets of some of their most popular story arcs in a couple easy volumes, and you can pick them up almost anywhere. It's a great way to keep up with your favorite characters without spending a fortune or valuable time. For those who are interested in starting their collections, here's my top ten pick of best graphic novels of all time.

10. Star Wars Infinities
"What if" stories are hit and miss, especially miss. Infinities is definitely a hit by taking a look at three what if stories from the original Star Wars trilogy. The New Hope story is where you really get your money's worth. The what if is if the Death Star wasn't destroyed. Instead, Luke damages the main gun, so that instead of destroying Yavin 4 it just devastates the Rebel base. Leah and C3-PO are captured, Luke and R2 go to Yoda for training, and Han and Chewbacca go into hiding. Four years later, the gang gets back together when Leah is named as Darth Vader's new apprentice. I won't reveal the rest but needless to say it's just as incredible as the original story.


                                                            9: Runaways volumes 1-3
I know Marvel has plenty of really amazing stories from it's more mainstream titles, but Runaways is just so accessible to new readers it deserves special mention. Six kids find out that their parents are an evil cabal of super villains ruling LA. They run away (clever title) after stealing a small pile of their parents weapons and finding out their own special abilities to do what's right. It's a great coming of age story as well as a really good super hero story. Best part is that the Runaways stories rarely cross over into any of Marvel's other story arcs, so someone who doesn't know their Galactis from their Green Goblin can jump right in and get it.

8: Emperor Joker
So here's a frightening thought: What if Joker was a god-like being? Well that's what happens when Superman's fifth-dimensional friend Mitzelplik is tricked into giving the Joker nearly all his power. Using what he has left, Mitzelpitlik protects Superman from Joker's galaxy-warping spells. It's up to the Man of Steel, the imp and the Specter to save reality before Joker unravels it permanently. It's fun to see the world as interpreted by Joker, like a bald Lois Lane ruling a multi-million dollar empire in Metropolis. I won't say what he does to Batman, but it shows why Joker is one of the greatest villains of all time.

                                                       7: No Man's Land volumes 1-4
This story actually was one of the influences for Dark Knight Rises, as well as Arkham City. After a massive earthquake hits Gotham City, the government decides that due it's record breaking crime rate in every crime known to man, Gotham isn't worth saving, blow the bridges, and exile it from the US. Arkham Asylum is opened up and the villains turn the city into a massive playground. Batman and his allies must then try to maintain order and find a way to protect the innocent people left behind. It's a dark tale that takes the Dark Knight right to his edge, and is the first time that Harley Quinn was introduced into the comic book canon.

6: Star Trek: Countdown
Plenty of movies get comic book adaptations in an attempt to squeeze just a little more money from the film, but few are as truly spectacular as Star Trek: Countdown. The story follows Spock as he tries to save the Romulan Empire from their dangerous sun. Along the way he runs into the Next Generation crew in various new capacities, suck as Picard being an admiral and Data v2.0 captaining the Enterprise. It's a nice farewell to the old universe that blends seamlessly into the latest Star Trek movie, as well as shows what all our favorite characters are up to now.

                                                            5: Justice volumes 1-2
Remember that silly Super Friends cartoon in the 70's? My personal favorite line was Wonder Woman at one point saying "Look, it's the Pacific ocean-and it's on fire!" Justice is the same characters, only with the legendary writing of Alex Ross and Jim Kruger, combined with Ross's incredible art to make it an amazing read. This thing is so good it makes Bizarro a creepy villain. The bad guys unite after they all have a strange dream where nuclear war ends the world and the Justice League is powerless to stop it. United, they incapacitates the league and start herding people onto space ships where they can rule over them, in an attempt to save them. It's dark, thought provoking, and great to look at.

4: Funeral for a Friend
Right after the death of Superman and before DC brought him back, the world grieved for the Man of Steel. Funeral for a Friend follows heroes, villains, and especially Lois Lane in how they live in a world without Superman. The funeral itself even has a guest appearance from President Bill Clinton, as well as a great scene of Batman in Metropolis. In my top ten saddest moments in geekdom post, I said Lois Lane and the Kent's mourning is the second saddest moment in geekdom, and it's in this graphic novel that you can find it. It's a touching moment well worth picking up.

                                                                     3: Kingdom Come
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Alex Ross appeared twice on this list, considering he almost exclusively creates graphic novels, and Kingdom Come is definitely his magnum opus. It's thirty some odd years in the future and the Justice League has gone their separate ways, either protecting their own cities or disappearing entirely. The world is left in the hands of a new generation of heroes with no regard for public safety, justice, or decency. When an accident destroys the entire mid-west, Superman has to reunite the league to try and restore order to a world he no longer knows. Slap in a psuedo-religious aspect to it and you have a great story worth checking out.

 2: Hush volumes 1-2
Batman is a hard character to write for sometimes, since he's a millionare/playboy/detective/ninja/inventor/mentor to underprivileged half-dressed youth. Hush though shows off all the aspects of the Dark Knight as well as showcasing some of his coolest villains. It's not even about a real murder mystery or someone trying to take over the world, it's just a bunch of the Arkham gang messing with Batman with a mysterious puppet master behind it all. It also explores some rarely unexplored aspects of Batman, including his relationships to Catwoman and Superman. If you're a Batman fan, this is a must-have.


                                                              1: Identity Crisis
This comic sparked nearly everything that's happened in the last ten years in DC Comics. Someone is killing those closest to heroes, revealing that he knows their secret identities and is out for blood. The Justice League and allies must race against time before the madman strikes again, all while an incredible conspiracy threatens to destroy the League at it's core. What's really great is that Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are barely in this thing, focusing most of the storytelling through some of the lesser known characters. This comic was also featured in my Top Ten Saddest Moments post, and is guaranteed to make you call your dad by the end of the book. Check out this dark masterpiece as soon as you can.

For those of you wanting to get into comics but don't know where to start, there's ten good places to find something you'll really love and not break the bank doing it.

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