Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Top 5 Comics

I love comic books. I am a comic book nerd, of sorts, and I read all kinds. I would consider myself knowledgeable on the subject. Anyway, I had a brief conversation with Avery about her and a friend of hers making lists of their top five comic books of all time, and decided I was going to make my own. I placed a couple caveats on myself when doing this. First, just to make things easier on myself, I decided to only pick one work per creator. I doubt that I would have chosen differently if I hadn’t, but it definitely made the decision process that much quicker and easier. Second, in keeping with Avery’s definition of the exercise, I only included in my judgment comic books that were actual serialized comic books, not graphic novels, even if they were now observed more as the latter due to their subsequent release as collected works. And finally, I decided that my choices had to be comic books that had completed their runs, so that they could be judged on the whole of their narratives as complete works.

So here they are, in a loose order, my top five comic books of all time, with a little something about them to help recommend them to you. I encourage you to read them all.

1) Preacher by, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
-My favorite comic of all time. I reread it every year or two. I named my cats after two of the main characters. Love it. All at once, it’s a modern day Western, a ridiculous buddy cop adventure, a twisted morality tale, an epic quest for redemption, a touching romance, and one of, if not the best, explorations into the meaning of what America is and what it means to be American in the last thirty to seventy-five years, and easily the best one ever written by an Irishman. It’s the story of an ass-kicking preacher named Jesse Custer, his gun-toting girlfriend Tulip, and Cassidy, a hard-living Irish vampire, on a quest to find a wayward God and take him to task, and all the insane misadventures they get into along the way. It also features one of the greatest villains, Herr Starr, who is a power hungry, mass-murdering psychopath, a righteous warrior for peace on Earth, and the unluckiest motherfucker who ever lived. Love it!

2) Transmetropolitan by, Warren Ellis and Darrick Robertson
-If Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego Raoul Duke lived hundreds of years in the future, he would be Spider Jerusalem, the insane, violent, drug-addled outlaw journalist who is the last voice of truth in a world gone mad with commercialization, corporate ubiquity and misguided personal freedom, and which is under the thumb of a government which secretly has no sense of compassion or social responsibility. A wild romp of a read that walks a tight-rope between wacky comedy and deadly political maneuvering.

3) Y: The Last Man by, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
- A plague has wiped out every human and simian male on the planet except for amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet helper monkey Ampersand. With the help of a hard-core secret agent and a scientist who’s research is somehow connected to the plague, he sets out on a quest to find a cure, his missing girlfriend and a way to keep hope alive in a world teetering on the brink with no hope in sight.

4) Watchmen by, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
-Inescapable on a list such as this, it’s heralded as the pinnacle of comics and the point at which the medium became a place for adult appreciation and an exploration of deeper themes and more mature subject matter. It’s that, definitely, but it’s also a dense and intricate narrative, an attack against Cold War politics from the heart of the conflict, an excellent story of intrigue and personal conflict, and an exploration of both the impact that actual costumed heroes would have in the real world and what the truth of peace, justice and morality really is. And it’s accomplished in only twelve issues, which feel as weighty as one hundred but read with the pace and excitement of three. A must read for everyone.

5) (two-way tie) Sandman by, Neil Gaiman (with various artists) and Lucifer by, Mike Carey (with various artists)
-I couldn’t choose between these two because I love them both and can’t decide honestly which one I prefer, and because they are intrinsically linked. Both these books are connected by the character of Lucifer (the Devil), as a supporting character in Gaiman’s story and as the lead in Carey’s, and both are tightly woven yet sprawling narratives of the interaction between a mystical world with epic mythical characters and their interaction with our own ordinary world and the select individuals from it who get caught up in the action. In Sandman, the story centers on Dream, the immortal physical embodiment of dreaming, and his attempt to discover who he is now and reconcile the wrongs of his past after experiencing a life-experience. Lucifer is a Nietzschean exploration of will against predestination and of the struggle between responsibility and convenience. Both of them are great, and when put together create an even greater whole than the sum of their parts.

That’s my list. Read them, know them, love them.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in this distraction.

–> N.

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