Graphic Novels are varied in subject, style and excellence. This is the second part in what will probably turn out to be a long series of posts, but I'm not going to try and tell you every Graphic Novel you should read, these are suggestions meant to cover as many different many styles and visit some recognised greats and some less famous beauties.
So, without further waffle....
GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT - A long time ago a company called D.C decided to take some of their famous, beloved characters, and tell stories about them not set in their standard universe. They decided these stories would be stand alone events and they called this series 'Elseworlds.' The Elseworlds series had some great ideas and the greatest in my opinion was the near perfect 'Gotham By Gaslight.'
Gotham By Gaslight set Batman back to the late nineteenth century, where he decided to police the violent streets of Gotham City following the death of his parents. Young Bruce Wayne has studied under some of the greatest minds of that Victorian age but what chance does he have when the world's most famous serial killer comes to Gotham? It's Batman vs Jack The Ripper.
The streets and docks of Gotham are incredibly realised through the art and the stories so tight you don't look at paper, you're eyes rift across sheets of diamond.
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI13 - Paul Cornell is an awesome Comic book writer, as so many of the modern guys he's also a writer of books and television. His work on a little known British television show called Doctor Who is brilliant and right here Cornell does something truly memorable. He gets the British Isles into the Marvel Universe, injecting importance, interest and takes Captain Britain, portrayed as a stereotypical drunk in the past, and gives him a make over.
MI13 is a whole new ballgame! Led by Captain Britain the British Isles fight off a Skrull invasion while swelling the ranks of the heroes attached to Britain. It's an odd group at first glance but if you take Captain Britain, The Black Knight (ex Avenger), Blade, Fazia Hussain, Spitfire, Pete Wisdom and some great supporting characters and you get a slice of Marvel you don't normally get to see; something outside of North America.
It's a criminally short run, only three graphic novels, but it's so worth your time.
THE AUTHORITY: RELENTLESS - Not one who wants their heroes to be following the comic book code to the letter? This could be for you. An unlikely team form to protect the Earth from threats of a truly terrifying nature. The action is violent, the content is mature, the dialogue is enthralling, filthy, sweary, irreverent and the story very wide in scope. If you want to see your heroes crush their enemies, smoke and swear, fuck and fight, then The Authority is for you. It's written by Warren Ellis (Brilliant) and you can tell; it's funny, touching, on the taste edge and damn it, if you like your characters different, original and gay, then pick it up!
X-MEN: THE MUTANT MASSACRE - Legendary comic book writer Chris Claremont wrote an incredible run on the X-men that started before the Phoenix burst onto the scene, saw many of the all time favourite X-Men and women make their first appearance, and he saw this team of mutants become a staggeringly powerful force in the market.
He built a family of X-Men that stayed together for many years and a support cast that fans came to love. Here we see Claremont guide a storyline that would sweep away some of the most famous and loved of those characters and show the world wasn't just afraid of mutants, there were forces moving to wipe them out.
Deep in the tunnels under New York City Mutants had made a home for themselves in their thousands, living deep beneath the city they called themselves The Morlocks and came to be entangled in the X-men's lives. But there came a day when a group of powered assassins entered the tunnels with the sole goal of killing every single Morlock.
There was blood, tears and it marked the end of an era as the more innocent of the X-Men were put to the sword.
V FOR VENDETTA - Alan Moore's brilliant story that saw itself lifted to the heights of the silver screen. I won't bang on, but it is a fabulous work and deserves to be read again and again and again.
THE PHOENIX SAGA - Chris Claremont brings Jean Grey ultimate power, a power that threatens to be too much over time, but when she is manipulated by the Hellfire Club her control slips and the X-Men are pulled into a spiral of destruction that will tear them apart and seal the fate, and death of an Original team member.
Yes, it's a classic. You like the X-Men, head here and enjoy.
MAUS - The telling of the holocaust casting the Jews as mice and the Nazi's as Cats. Incredibly powerful and heartbreaking as the uniforms are real, the events are real, the horror is real. Brilliant and moving.
PLANET HULK - Grek Pak changes the Hulk forever as Bruce Banner is tricked into helping Nick Fury with a problem off planet, only to be told by video link that he has been deemed to be too dangerous to stay on Earth he is exiled by his fellow heroes Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Blackbolt, Stephen Strange and Professor Xavier.
His pod is fired through a warp gate and sent to a place where he can find peace, on a planet deep in space, sadly his pod lands somewhere not very peaceful, a world torn by war and cruelty and The Hulk must fight for his life...
KINGDOM COME - Artistically stunning take on the future of the D.C universe, where all the characters are there, and many new ones. Basically the old heroes become tired, they stop their quests for justice and retire, but their replacements are not heroic and dashing, they are violent and dangerous powerhouses.
Someone has to step in to stop the madness and when the old guard do, war with powers bursts forth. Well worth ya eyeballs. It's incredibly beautiful.
BAD COMPANY: KRULL WORLD - 2000AD was something I grew up with and I loved the tangle of stories and strips that flowed through the comic. You had Dredd and Rogue Trooper, Slaine and The A.B.C Warriors, and the list goes on and on. I read this storyline from start to finish, and loved it, do when these stories were collected into Graphic Novel form I couldn't resist!
There are plenty of other Graphic Novels that first appeared in 2000AD that are now available including collections of Judge Dredd that start from the first stories and move through chronologically. Which is utterly brilliant!
I've been asked where I get my Graphic Novels? Where can we pick this stuff up?! Right, here's some advice for you; go to the library and check there first because you really may not know if the art, writing or style of story is really your cup of tea. If you can't do that then that's fine, you can hit a Waterstones, they have an excellent selection normally and will stock many of the famous titles and the ones adapted to film as well. You can go to Amazon and get used copies that are normally good quality too.
I would also suggest second hand book shops. There are plenty that turn up in house clearances or are being shifted out when the kids move on or are being flogged in there because the old owner feels they are way to grown up now to read comics.
E-bay and other second hand online sites are good of course and I would have thought car boot sales too. My point would be that, yes, you could go and get yourself an incredibly new graphic novel, but you could also increase your collection cheaply knowing that the thing you are holding was loved by someone else. It has a history already and you are just carrying on that legacy by being the next person to be entertained by them.That and the money you save can go to buying yet more Graphic Novels. :-)
That's your lot for this instalment, but next time we see Dalek Killers and Frank Miller's Sin City explode onto the list!