Graphic novels offer the chance to discover memorable stories in a comic format and since starting The Comic Vault I’ve come across so many. A graphic novel that combines a good story with emotive characters leaves a lasting impression, so I’ve decided to list my top 10 graphic novels of all time.
10. Batman: Death Of The Family
Starting off the list is Batman: Death Of The Family, written by Scott Snyder. The graphic novel features one of the most twisted versions of The Joker, with him having cut off his face and wearing it like a mask. Joker returns to Gotham to target the entire Bat Family, intending to show Batman that he’s stronger alone.
Death Of The Family works so well because it focuses on the symbiotic relationship between The Dark Knight and The Clown Prince of Crime. Joker is presented as Batman’s loyal court jester, wanting to give himself in service to his ‘Bat King.’ Snyder’s Joker is made even creepier by the stunning art of Greg Capullo.
9. Chew: Taster’s Choice
At number 9, Chew: Taster’s Choice brings a potent combination of dark humour and originality. It follows the adventures of Tony Chu, an FDA agent who solves crimes by getting psychic impressions from anything he eats. This puts Chu in a number of hilarious and horrible situations. John Layman has done an incredible job of creating a world of colourful characters and the first volume of Chew introduced me to one of the best independent comic stories of all time.
8. Batman: The Black Mirror
Scott Snyder has proven time and again to be one of the greatest Batman writers, with The Black Mirror being one of his best arcs. The graphic novel focuses on Dick Grayson as Batman investigating a conspiracy in Gotham. What makes the story so compelling is the introduction of Commissioner Gordon’s psychotic son, James Jr. He acts as a dark foil to Dick Grayson, mirroring the relationship that Bruce Wayne has to The Joker.
The originality of the story is one of its greatest strengths, as Snyder adds new lore to the Batman universe.
7. Magneto: Reversals
Magneto is one of my favourite characters and easily one of the most fascinating characters in the history of comics. His tragic background as a Holocaust survivor is explored in this graphic novel as he comes face to face with the Red Skull and a concentration camp for mutants. Cullen Bunn infuses the Master of Magnetism with a righteous fury that permeates every page.
There’s a lot of violence within the graphic novel that should be expected from a Magneto story. The art has a gritty, noir feeling that matches the brutality on display. Fans of Magneto should definitely read this graphic novel for a definitive character study.
6. Dark Wolverine: The Prince
I’m going to mention The Prince because of the writing ability of Marjorie Liu. The story follows Wolverine’s son, Daken, who joins Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers to create a legacy for himself. This was the story that turned Daken into one of my favourite characters and established him as a master manipulator. Until this point, he’d been considered a pale imitation of his father, but Liu was able to redefine him.
5. House Of M
House Of M was one of those rare crossover events that felt like it had lasting consequences that are still felt in the Marvel Universe. It focuses on Magneto and his family, with the Scarlet Witch eventually having a mental breakdown and wiping out a large portion of the mutant population.
What makes the graphic novel so good is the treatment of its characters. There’s a lot of superheroes and villains jostling for attention, but each of them are given their moment to shine.
4. Preacher: Volume 1
For those who’ve never heard of the series, Preacher is about a holy man who acquires The Word of God, giving him the ability to make anyone do what he wants. Written by Garth Ennis, Preacher: Volume 1 is one of the most fucked up stories I’ve ever read. From the violent art to the over the top characters, I was drawn in. What makes Preacher so memorable is how it focuses on the corrupting influence of religion.
There’s also a heavy western theme, as seen from the Saint of Killers, an immortal cowboy who serves as one of the antagonists. If you’re looking for a new world to be hooked on, then Preacher will give you what you need.
Written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, this graphic novel is significant because it completely redefined Wolverine’s character. It created the connection between Wolverine and Japan that has come to be a staple for many stories. Wolverine finds himself in the Land of the Rising Sun to reconnect with his old love Mariko Yashida, only to find out that she’s been married off by her father.
The graphic novel deals with themes of honour, manhood and acceptance. After reading Wolverine, I developed a greater appreciation for Japan.
2. The Dark Angel Saga
My second favourite graphic novel is The Dark Angel Saga, which was part of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run. The story centres on Warren Worthington’s struggle to overcome Archangel and his ascension into the new Apocalypse. Remender devotes a lot of attention to the relationship between Angel and Psylocke, increasing the emotional weight of the story.
The rest of X-Force are treated with complexity, from Deadpool’s desire to protect a child, to Fantomex’s sarcastic attitude. The heart-rending nature of The Dark Angel Saga makes it the most emotional X-Men story of the last decade in my opinion.
- Batman: Under The Red Hood
The top place is taken by Batman: Under The Red Hood for how invested I am in the story and characters. I’ve rambled about how Jason Todd is my favourite character plenty of times, and this graphic novel reintroduced him in as major way. As Red Hood, Jason starts a war with Batman in order to show his way of dealing with crime is better. Throw in a tense confrontation with Joker and you have a graphic novel that needs to be read.
Judd Winick’s characterisation of Red Hood is incredible because he presents a damaged young man who is still hurting over his death.