Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

More of Josh’s Favorite Graphic Novels!

Yesterday I wrote about several examples of my favorite graphic novels.  Today I’d like to share a few more that represent longer works:

Bone — Three cousins stumble into a mysterious valley filled with wonderful and dangerous creatures.  What begins as a whimsical, fun-filled fantasy romp gradually grows into an epic, Lord of the Rings type of adventure filled with action, death, greed, and a beautiful story of unrequited love.  The Lord of the Rings comparison does Bone a disservice, actually, as Bone is a brilliantly unique work unlike anything else I have ever read.  At times hilariously funny and at times deeply intense, Bone is a truly wonderful tale that (unlike many of the other graphic novels I have listed) is perfectly suitable for all ages.  It’s available in nine collections.  Start off with volumes I & II, Out From Boneville and The Great Cow Race, and I guarantee you won’t look back.

Cerebus — If you read 300 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man (heck, if you read 50 or 100 issues!) you would probably be struck by the cyclical nature of the story-telling.  The characters don’t really change, villains return again and again… you might enjoy the stories, but it’s not remotely a chronicle of what could really happen in one person’s life (even someone bitten by a radioactive spider!).  With his comic Cerebus, writer/illustrator Dave Sim set out to do something entirely different.  What began life in the late 70’s as a parody of Conan the Barbarian became something entirely different when Sim decided to create the ultimate 300 issue “limited-series.”  His comic would chronicle the life and adventures of one character, Cerebus (an aardvark living in a medieval world of humans).  It would be told at a realistic pace (with stories unfolding slowly and action only occurring every 30 or more issues, as opposed to having complete adventures every month), and it would end with Cerebus’ death.  (And in 2004, when Cerebus #300 was finally published, that’s exactly what happened.)  Although some have said, only half-jokingly, that Dave Sim went insane over the almost 30-years of working on his epic (and having read the bizarre and erratic final volumes I’m not sure I disagree), for much of its run it was truly magnificent.  Skip the first collection and start with the phone-book sized volume II, High Society, and volumes III & IV, the two-part Church and State.  These are extraordinary works, sophisticated commentaries on the nature of politics and religion that are also terrifically fun adventure stories filled with an extraordinarily rich cast of characters, and set in a fully realized fantasy world that has been fleshed out by Sim (and collaborator Gerhard) to an amazing degree.  Like Bone, this is truly a unique work — there has never been anything like it, and I don’t know that there ever will be again.

100 Bullets — The mysterious Agent Graves visits average people to give them an attache case containing incontrovertible proof that they have been grievously wronged by someone, along with a gun and 100 completely untraceable bullets.  With the assurance that no law enforcement agency on the globe will hold you in any way accountable for any actions you take with that gun and those bullets, what would you do?  It’s such a simple, gripping hook, and at first this hard-boiled crime series tells a series of stories in which Graves visits different people and we see the wildly varying ways in which they react to what they are given.  But as the series proceeds, a much larger story of secret societies and powerful, warring families comes to light, and the seemingly unconnected events that we have witnessed begin to come together in astounding ways.  Brian Azzarello’s mastery of dialogue and character combined with Eduardo Risso’s beautifully detailed, unique art creates a dizzying world of moral ambiguity filled with one wonderfully distinct character after another.  The final volume comes out this summer, and I can’t wait!  You should start with volume I: First Shot, Last Call, and prepare to have your mind blown.

Akira — The lives of Tetsuo and Kaneda, two tough, biker friends living in Neo-Tokyo (a metropolis built after Tokyo was annihilated in World War III) change forever when strange, powerful abilities begin to awaken in Tetsuo.  Suddenly Tetsuo becomes the target of a variety of groups and government agencies eager to control his power, and the mystery of the force that destroyed Tokyo gradually is revealed: the little boy known as Akira.  Katsuhiro Otomo’s sprawling story is an intense, action-packed epic.  Its exploration of a dystopian future in which technology might have outpaced humanity is reminiscent of Blade Runner, while the fierce, violent action, rendered in Otomo’s stunningly hyper-detailed art, gives the story a unique flavor all its own.  Dark Horse Comics has collected the saga in six enormous volumes.  Start at the beginning with volume I and then start screaming Tetsuo at the top of your lungs!  (That’s a reference to the extraordinary animated film of Akira, which although it was released back in the 1980’s remains the unbeaten masterpiece of animation, in my opinion.)

 

If you’ve ever wanted to understand why people like me are so in love with comic books, just try any one of the masterpieces that I have described over these past two days.  I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Click here for part III of this article, in which I describe some of my favorite Superhero graphic novels.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone