Life is short, but the list of comics one can read is long. Longer than any person could ever hope to read in one lifetime even if they forsook eating, drinking and sleeping. So instead of fruitlessly trying to read every comic in existence, why not make sure you at least don't miss out on the cream of the crop. Below are the ten best comic books you should read before you die.
V for Vendetta
Since its debut in 1982, V for Vendetta brought forth to the comic world a story the likes of which had never been seen before. Being a mix of Batman and the novel 1984, V for Vendetta has spawned a motion picture and its signature mask has spawned the cultural movements of Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street. With all that, it's best that comic book readers best check what this is all about.
V for Vendetta is very much an intellectual read, the author Alan Moore never devolves the story into action set pieces. Though the character of V does possess a certain superhero allure. The story of V for Vendetta follows the characters of V and Evey through a dark future in which government control and censorship runs rampant. Evey, saved by V, seeks to unravel his mysterious character while V plots his terrorist plot to expose and bring down the corrupt government.
After a successful and popular appearance in the 1980's comic Swamp Thing, John Constantine was well liked enough to get his own series titled Hellblazer. What makes the character of John Constantine so likeable is that he is an incredibly flawed every man, faced with the strange supernatural weirdness in the world he is in.
The story of Hellblazer follows as such, depicting the battles of the every man John Constantine in a contemporary world, but with a world of magic and supernatural phenomena behind the scenes. So he travels the world to exorcise demons and keep the throngs of evil at bay.
The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke explores the relationship between Batman and his most famous foe—The Joker. The plot of the story is fairly simple and straight forward. The Joker yet again breaks free of Arkham Asylum and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. His aim is to use the Commissioner as bait to lure Batman into a trap at an amusement park.
As the story unfolds, it features The Joker committing terrible acts of horrific violence, something Batman comics had never truly seen before. However, what truly makes The Killing Joke worth a read above all other Batman comics is that is shows the back story behind The Joker, to show how a normal man can become so twisted.
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Y: The Last Man
Some men dream they were the last man on the planet so they could have their pick of the women. Y: The Last Man is about just that. Yorick Brown is the last surviving man on the planet after a mysterious disease killed off the rest of them. Now Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand travel the world to find out the origin of the disease and why it did not affect him.
Rather than being full of harem-esque orgies as people would think, Y: The Last Man is quite the opposite. When there is one man and the human race surviving depends on him, Yorick find that women will have him no matter what the cost. However, Yorick has a girlfriend and he is desperate to find her.
Fables takes the popular folklore characters that everyone grew up with—Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio—and shoves them into the modern world. They live in secret in a community called Fabletown somewhere in Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Some of the stories deal with the action and adventure of these characters—often with opposing ideals—clashing with each other. However, Fables often takes a step back from the action to give a unique view of these fairy tale creatures dealing with the politics and troubles of living within a modern world.
One of the interesting tidbits about The Invisibles is possibly the inspiration for the story. To this day, in all seriousness, author Grant Morrison claims the narrative was inspired after he was abducted by aliens at Kathmandu.
The story itself is about a cell of The Invisible College, a secret organization that is fighting against a race of alien gods who are looking to stop the evolution of humanity by enslaving it. The cell consists of a ragtag group of freedom fighters, who doesn't possess any particular powers except for sheer badassness. However, they travel all around the world and sometimes through time to prevent these aliens from gaining ground.
The Punisher MAX
Other Punisher comics have the hero toned down so as to more appeal to kids, similar to Batman but without all the spandex. However, The Punisher MAX ditches all the family friendly violence for hardcore realistic situations (and artwork). It places Frank Castle in a realistic world where superheroes don't exist so all the evil there is left to fight is sex traffickers and drug dealers. Now watch Frank Castle stab and shoot his way through criminals as the violence of it all emotional cripples him. Essentially it takes a series that once was a superhero series and changes it to a hardcore crime novel, something that could only happen in The Punisher.
Preacher is a comic series that makes all good Christian families cringe. It is, however, the most fun sacrilegious romp you will ever partake in, maybe.
The story follows preacher Jesse Custer who holds a parish in a small Texas town. However, one day he gets possessed by a creature known as Genesis and slaughters his entire parish. Genesis was created from the unholy union between angel and demon, who upon its birth, caused God to flee from heaven.
Custer now possesses powers that could rival God's own, so he sets out on a journey to find God. He is joined by his ex-girlfriend who is an assassin and a drunken Irish vampire. Together they face a cast of twisted and horrifying characters in a world that is full of sin.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead started small, but with a premise that anyone could get behind—surviving in a zombie apocalyptic world. As it gained popularity it spawned the hit television show of the same name on AMC and opened up the world of comics to a whole new generation.
The story follows Rick Grimes, a sheriff who was shot in the line of duty. When he wakes from his coma, he finds nary a person alive and the world overrun by zombies. With his wife and child gone, he sets out on a journey to find them, along the way, he discovers that it is not the zombies who are the biggest threat, but the living.
Whereas the other comics on this list are in no particular "need to read" order, Maus is on top of the comic bucket list. It is something that comic fans and non-comic fans can enjoy immensely. It is not overly violent and the story is one that can hook any person, it has even been used into the classroom as an aid in teaching history and literature.
The story of Maus follows the tale of author Art Spiegelman's father, who was a Polish Jew in the concentration camps during World War II. Aside from the true life tale, Maus gained fame by portraying characters as animals—Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, Non-Jewish Poles as pigs, ect. These animals were not picked by happenstance, but each was carefully considered to add depth to the story. This careful alliteration makes Maus a comic that you can read multiple times and still notice something new each time.
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