The 5 Most Essential Graphic Novels

[ 1 ] March 23, 2011 |

With movies like Iron Man and The Dark Knight (not to mention up-and-comers like Thor and Captain America), making serious bank at the box office, comics are now more mainstream than ever. However, they’re still most enjoyable in their purest form – the graphic novel.

For those seeking graphic novel recommendations, check out these 5 picks for the best of the best. And if you see a title that piques your interest, nab it with our free Amazon.com coupons.

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Well, duh. It might be a cliche choice, but it’s hard to deny the quality and influence of Alan Moore’s seminal work. Before this 1986 classic, superhero comics were flat and two-dimensional, with none of the layered characters or visual motifs brought to life by artist Dave Gibbons. If you’re at all interested in superheroes, you owe it to yourself to give this one a read.

Ex Machina vol 1. by Brian K. Vaughn


Throw in elements of cyberpunk, post-9/11 political drama and good old fashioned heroics and you get this deeply immersive tale from former Marvel writer Brian K. Vaughn. It follows a fictional New York mayor who, it turns out, has superpowers that go beyond being able to lead a city. It’s a sophisticated, well-told story for readers who want more depth to their heroes.

Marvels by Kurt Busiek


Kurt Busiek’s nostalgic four-issue series is notable for examining key moments in Marvel history from the perspective of a normal, everyday human character. The photorealistic drawings (courtesy of Alex Ross) are vivid and astounding; they’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished reading.

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames


Want a break from heroics? Not all graphic novels are about men who wear capes. Take The Alcoholic, a funny but bleak look at the life of author Jonathan Ames. Since it deals with addiction, recovery and death, it’s not exactly a fun read, but there’s appeal in its black humor and honesty. Check it out if you want something a little offbeat.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley


There’s definitely no capes, spandex or macho posturing in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s hyper 6-volume opus about a twentysomething Canadian slacker. Hearts are broken, videogames are played and self-righteous vegans are fought to the death. It perfectly captures the ADD-attitude of Generation Y.

Bonus: Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon


This one’s for the hardcore fans. Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon lends his distinctive writing voice to Marvel’s most popular super-team, and the results are amazing. I wasn’t well-versed in X-Men lore when I read this, but Astonishing­ still managed to hook me with its well-crafted storylines, fascinating characters and witty one-liners (“Jean Grey is a sacred cow. At least we agree on half of that.”).  If nothing else, it will teach you to appreciate just how awesome Kitty Pryde is.

Have any graphic novel recommendations of your own? Tell us!

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  1. There’s certainly a lot to learn about this subject. I like all the points you made.

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