On a slightly different track to the norm – if this site has a norm – is this – my quick guide to the 5 comic books (and we’re not talking the Beano and Dandy here, folks) you should read to familiarise yourself with the medium.
OK, first things first, they’re not technically known as comic books – the collected editions of full stories are called either Graphic Novels or Trade Paperbacks. Already, I’m imparting info that could make you seem like less of a newcomer when you go to pick these books up from your local comic emporium, and just possibly save you from a 15 minute lecture in some cases.
As is the norm, I’ll do this in reverse order.
5. Preacher: Gone To Texas
Hey, in reality it could be any of the Preacher books, they’re all incredibly good in their own right; but you really should start here and work your way through in order. Preacher is no ordinary book – it follows the Reverend Jesse Custer on his quest to find God. Why? Well because he’s been given “The Word” – if he says it, you do it.
Along the way, he encounters a failed hit-woman, who becomes his better half, an Irish Vampire, the military wing of the Church, and the Saint of Killers amongst others. Oh, and he dies, but comes back to life. As you can tell, it ain’t the normal story, and it’s littered with curse words, nudity, violence and several possibly blasphemous set pieces, which is one of the reasons it’s great.
4. Sin City: The Hard Goodbye
If you’ve seen the Sin City movie, then you’ll know all about this, as the movie was practically scene for scene lifted from the comic. With just a few scenes cut for time-keeping, the comic does have a lot to recommend it though.
For a start, it’s Frank Miller doing what Frank Miller does best – striking black and white art, stylish crime stories and over the top characters. Again, any one of the Sin City ‘yarns’ as Miller calls them is recommended, but this is the starting point, and it focuses on Sin City’s greatest export – Marv.
3. Batman: Year One
Add Frank Miller to one of comic’s greatest creations, and you’re onto solid gold. Make that story a re-telling of the origin of Batman, and for my money, it’s the best Batman story ever. You’ll recognise set-pieces in the story from the Batman Begins movie, and that’s no bad thing, because Miller does Batman the way Batman should be.
Frank Miller also did what many regard as THE greatest Batman story in Batman: Dark Knight Returns – also worth a read, but in my eyes (and it’s my column, so NYER!) not as good as this tale.
Yep, it’s here. All the comic geeks now breath a sigh of relief as Watchmen makes the list. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t, as it’s quite simply one of the greatest stories ever told, in any medium.
Created by Allan Moore, he behind V for Vendetta, From Hell and countless other exemplary books, it’s one of the defining pieces in comic history – there’s no ‘name’ characters here, and the plot is slow burning – but I guarantee – there is nothing else like it.
But this… for me, this is the Holy Grail of comics. Good as Watchmen, is, for my money – this is better. Created by Brian Michael Bendis, it’s the true story of a serial killer in Cleveland in the 1930s – the case was never solved, but Bendis weaves a story out of the facts that were known and comes up with a killer. Oh yes, and Eliot Ness is involved – because after Al Capone, Eliot Ness was sent to Cleveland to sort this mess out.
Why is this book so special? Well, it’s unusual. The art is astounding, and not your usual comic-style art – a lot of the designs are photo-realistic, and the sections inspired by how the killer is thinking are completely out of the blue. If you want to see inspirational story telling and truly ground breaking work, not to mention a killer story, check this book out.