One of the most shocking things about graphic novels, at least to me, is the fact that they’re not extremely popular among teenagers. Among people in general, actually. Movies like the Dark Knight Rises and the Avengers, which both came out this summer, topped the box office for WEEKS. And they led by no small margin, in fact, they annihilated the competition. So it strikes me as odd when a bunch of people go out and see one of those movies, and yet look at a graphic novel in disgust. I mean, sure, I went through a phase where I looked at graphic novels as being “kiddish”. But they’re not. And there are five graphic novels that really opened my eyes to just how wonderful graphic novels really are.
5. The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone By by Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead is, in all honesty, nothing short of a miracle. The fact that the artwork is all in black and white is enough to deter most people. But that art style really fits the tone that Robert Kirkman is gunning for in this graphic novel. And the second reason is that it’s independent of a big comic publisher. But, in the end, it’s success is really no surprise. Kirkman crafts a cast of awesome characters, and creates a mood that is fits the scenario extremely well. As mentioned earlier, Tony Moore’s black and white artwork only serves to extend the mood created by Kirkman’s writing. All of this makes Days Gone By one of the best graphic novels out there. Oh, and did I mention that it has zombies?
4. Maus (1 & 2) by Art Spiegelman
Yes, I know I’m cheating, as, technically, Maus is two graphic novels. Whatever. The fact remains that they are two of the very best graphic novels out there. This is another series where the art is done in black and white, and, much like The Walking Dead, this is used as a tool to emphasize the grim mood of the graphic novel. Chronicling the life of a Polish Jew during the second World War, Maus spins a tale of survival that is like no other. And it does that without the use of a single human. And, if you ever do read it, you will understand why. The symbolism is classic.
3. Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
Anyone who is a fan of The Dark Knight will love the Killing Joke. Alan Moore’s interpretation of Batman is probably either my favorite or extremely close to the top. Because that’s Moore’s specialty: characters and character relations. The Killing Joke goes deep into Batman’s relationship with the Joker, and how one could not be around without the other, as well as just how far Batman can go. The story line of this graphic novel explores how mad the Joker really is, and that is another thing that Alan Moore does well. In addition to the nearly flawless storytelling and awesome characters, The Killing Joke also delivers in the action department, which is never lacking in this book.
2. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
V For Vendetta is easily one of the best graphic novels ever. Alan Moore, with V For Vendetta, creates an alternate world where England lost World War 2 and has, as a result, become a totalitarian police state. One of my favorite things about Alan Moore, as a writer, is that he creates excellent characters. And V is one of those. As are the rest of the characters, such as Evey Hammond, Chancellor Sutler, etc. And the character development in this book is nothing short of amazing. I don’t believe that there is one static character in the entire book. And as the epic story pushes forwards, the characters adapt. Moore portrays this extremely well, and that’s awesome. In addition, V For Vendetta’s world is one that is scarily realistic, and easily comparable to today’s world. For anyone with even a passing interest in police states, this is a must read. And not only for them, but for everyone else as well.
1. Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb
Hush pushes Batman to his limits. Employing villain after villain, this graphic novel truly tests Batman’s physical, and mental, endurance. By creating numerous scenarios, Batman truly is pushed to his limits. He nearly kills the Joker. What this book does really well is explore how Batman’s emotional state, both negative and positive, effects those closest to him. Through nearly flawless writing and storytelling, Jeph Loeb creates a timeless classic that allows Batman to develop as a a character as he is tested at every turn. Do yourself a favor and read this.
So there it is. Anyone who is looking to get into graphic novels, or is merely looking for some new reading material, should check out these five. All of them are craft excellent stories, and are guaranteed to turn anyone on to comics, as they showcase the greatest strengths of graphic novels.