What graphic novels should I read?
March 12, 2009 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Apparently I'm a fan of graphic novels now, but I don't even know where to start. I love (LOVE!) Preacher; I liked Watchmen. What should I read next?

A friend of mine (mrzarquon) gave me Watchmen to read before the movie came out. Another friend lent me the first book of Preacher. I loved reading them both. In fact, with Preacher, I've never felt as excited reading a book...hardly being able to wait to turn the page! And, while I haven't set foot in a comic book store in over 12 years, I just made the potentially fiscally unwise decision of buying the rest of the series.

But I'm going to finish it soon...and I want to know, being a total neophyte to the graphic novel world, what should I read next?

Thanks for any recommendations!
posted by wonderyak to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Sandman. That would be the natural progression.
posted by bingo at 9:25 PM on March 12, 2009

Garth "Preacher" Ennis' run on the various Punisher series' was pretty fun.

You'd probably enjoy Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Also trawl through AskMe as there are plenty of similar questions with some great answers.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:26 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. I've yet to meet anyone who didn't love it.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 9:27 PM on March 12, 2009

The next step clearly must be to acknowledge that there's more to graphic novels than fantasy and the supernatural (as fun as they are). Check out Pyongyang and Maus, for starters.
posted by whatzit at 9:31 PM on March 12, 2009

I recommend checking out the trade paperbacks of Transmetropolitan, you'll love 'em :D
posted by Jinkeez at 9:33 PM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

From Hell is amazing.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:36 PM on March 12, 2009

Just be careful with Sandman because, no, the artwork doesn't get any less amateur, and a lot of the stuff in the middle of the run is filler and wank.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:37 PM on March 12, 2009

Ennis' run on John Constantine: Hellblazer is awesome. Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets is enjoyable if not great. You'd probably like Alan Moore's Top Ten. And my new favorite is Brian Wood's DMZ.

These are all graphic novels that I have been extremely impressed with, as a casual reader of comics.
posted by Drainage! at 9:40 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Y: The Last Man is a bit of alright. I believe the story's by the writer of 'Lost', if you're into that; I'm not (no indictment on it, just haven't ever watched it) and got enjoyment from it for my neglected inner gender studies major cum spec fic geek.
posted by springbound at 9:42 PM on March 12, 2009

All good ideas so far. I'd add Morrison's Invisibles, and then for three very different directions: Love and Rockets, any Chris Ware and any Kyle Baker, starting with Why I Hate Saturn.
posted by rokusan at 9:49 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Miracleman ... anything else you can find by Alan Moore?
posted by singingfish at 9:53 PM on March 12, 2009

Have people suggested Fable and Y The Last Man to you yet? Because those are to big ones.
posted by Mizu at 9:57 PM on March 12, 2009

Most comic book stores should have a freebie booklet called "After Watchmen" recommending other books you might like (Preacher, Sandman, Y, and Fables are all included). One caveat: the booklet was published by DC and only recommends their stuff (primarily their Vertigo line). Still, it may be a good starting point and has some good descriptions of the various books.

Oh, there's also an After Watchmen site.
posted by leesh at 10:06 PM on March 12, 2009

Now that Brian K. Vaughn's Y: the Last Man is over, you should read the whole thing. If you like it, check out his Ex Machina series, or his run on Runaways (which asks and answers the question, "What do you do when you find out your parents are evil supervillains?"). Seconding Brian Wood's DMZ, and keep an eye out for a trade paperback of his limited-run series Local, which is a raw and affecting look at one peripatetic woman's travels around North America over a decade.

Right now, I'm really loving Jason Aaron's Scalped. It's like The Wire on a reservation. If you'd rather read series that are already ended, consider revisiting Alan Moore via his run on Swamp Thing. I do have a soft spot for The Books of Magic: there's this kid who wears glasses, and he gets the news he's a wizard ... and it's nothing at all like Harry Potter. If you like fantasy but are wary of its potential to get twee, you may enjoy this.

A word of warning about Sandman: Yes, it's good writing. But beware the many spin-offs it's spawned. The only one I thought were at all decent: Mike Carey's Lucifer.
posted by sobell at 10:07 PM on March 12, 2009

Brian K Vaugan's Y: The Last Man and Runaways
Kurt Busiek's Marvels
Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Killing Joke
posted by crossoverman at 10:07 PM on March 12, 2009

Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi is more memoir than novel, but it's amazing.

Maus is kind of nonfiction, too, isn't it? Based on the author's father's experience in WWII, and the reverberations in his family afterward?
posted by Sublimity at 10:13 PM on March 12, 2009

Seconding a number of others already listed here:

Y: The Last Man
Ex Machina
Maus (very different from all the above - non-fiction Holocaust memoir)

I had also gotten recommendations for Kingdom Come but found it awful.
posted by DavidNYC at 10:14 PM on March 12, 2009

In the sandman vein, "Death - the High Cost of Living" nth sandman of course. Preacher is an amazing story though. Sandman is a little bit of a different beast, it's not as cohesive. But there is some really good story telling in that series.
posted by bigmusic at 10:17 PM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I loved Preacher & Watchmen, so I'm probably a good candidate for other recommendations, so here are my favorite books:

Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan (wiki). This series blew my mind, it's this utterly bizarre dystopian future in the very best Warren Ellis fashion with amazingly detailed art.

Mike Carey's Lucifer (wiki). This is one of my absolute favorite series. If you have any interest in or history with Catholic angels & demons mythology, this is the perfect series for you. Lucifer retired from Heaven to run a nightclub called Lux in LA. The story is long (11 volumes of trade paperbacks), richly detailed and has a tightly woven plot with a billion twists. The character of Lucifer is actually a spin-off from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, but you don't have to have read Sandman to follow the plot of Lucifer. Also, the art is gorgeous.

Frank Miller's Batman: the Dark Knight Returns (wiki). This is the only book I've ever really enjoyed of Miller's, and even though I'm not huge on Superhero comics, this isn't really one of them. It's Batman, but also darker and more like something Alan Moore would have produced.

J Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars (wiki). This is a super hero book without actually being about any of the traditional super heroes. It's all about how society would react to super powered people, and how they would (or would not) react to society, too. It's by the same guy who wrote Babylon 5, and the movie Changeling, and it's one of the best books out there.
posted by nerdcore at 10:22 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ennis' run on John Constantine: Hellblazer is awesome.

Actually the whole series is pretty good. Warren Ellis has some excellent stories and Richard Corben does some great work on a few of these as well.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:27 PM on March 12, 2009

Some of my favorites for a quick answer: From Hell, Bone, Watchmen, WE3, The Invisibles, the Grant Morrison issues of Doom Patrol, The Walking Dead, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Maus, Elektra: Assassin, Powers, Promethea, Strangehaven, Bratpack, Planetary, Sandman, Kabuki, Stray Toasters, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Dark Knight Returns, From Inside.
posted by Iosephus at 10:29 PM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I think that, as a budding comics reader, you're at the perfect point to read Understanding Comics. Everyone I've known who has read it has come away excited to read a bunch of comics or to make some of their own!
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:53 PM on March 12, 2009

Thirding Transmetropolitan. It's an excellent exercise in worldbuilding, with memorable characters and a darkly funny political tone. I really enjoyed it, and I'm not usually a big fan of comics or graphic novels.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:01 PM on March 12, 2009

Nthing Transmetropolitan and Planetary. And because Planetery is Warren Ellis being consistently more serious and sombre than he was in Transmet, I also have to recommend Nextwave, because it doesn't know how to spell 'sombre'.

Would also recommend the No Man's Land arc from Batman, which I think can be obtained in TBP. Not being a huge Batman fan, I found that although it assumed some background knowledge of characters that I'd not been exposed to versions of over the years through the TV show and the movies, but this wasn't anything that the 'kipedia wasn't able to help me with.
posted by MarchHare at 11:40 PM on March 12, 2009

Wow, there are some pretty important titles missing in this thread.

Will Eisner's New York and Contract With God (seriously? nobody mentioned this?!)



Buddha (I will forgive you for not knowing this one)

Golgo 13, Detective Conan, Devilman, Emma, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

And, seconding Persepolis.
posted by shii at 12:34 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Warren Ellis has other stuff I like, in addition to the already mentione stuff. Doktor Sleepless is good. Fell is awesome. Global Frequency was good enough to make it into a tv pilot. I've heard Red was good.

A non Warren Ellis series (at least I don't recall him being attached) I've enjoyed is Sleeper.

There is also Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, which I thought was excellent. The movie sorta sucked though.
posted by gryftir at 12:37 AM on March 13, 2009

Seconding J Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars, which is his best work in comic books by far.
posted by crossoverman at 1:02 AM on March 13, 2009

Grant Morrisson - All Star Superman
I've never really read Superman but this short 12 issue series was really well written and drawn. A throwback to the golden and silver ages of comics.

Joe Sacco - Gorazde
Joe Sacco - Palestine
Joe Sacco's comics report the conflicts in Palestine and Bosnia from his perspective. I think that the stuff he does is invaluable. You don't know what comics are capable of until you read his books.

Alan Moore - From Hell
Very entertaining.

Hayao Miyizaki - Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind
This is an epic comic. Read it if Miyizaki's earnestness doesn't turn you off.

If you liked Ennis' Preacher then you'll probably enjoy his take on the Hellblazer series. Start with Dangerous Habits to get a feel for the main character, John Constantine. Later Ennis teams up with Steve Dillion and you can see in Hellblazer some groundwork for Preacher.
posted by quosimosaur at 1:26 AM on March 13, 2009

sorry that's actually Safe Area Gorazde
posted by quosimosaur at 2:07 AM on March 13, 2009

I'm really suprised no one has recommended Kirkman's The Walking Dead yet. Also, if you enjoyed Preacher's mix of ultra violence and good writing, give the Luna Brothers' The Sword a try. Both of these titles are still ongoing but have trades available.

Also nthing Transmetropolitan, anything else by Alan Moore, and anything by Brian K Vaughn.
posted by jzed at 3:25 AM on March 13, 2009

Grant Morrisson's Doom Patrol (six books) is all kinds of awesome. I also can't shut up about Craig Thompson's "Blankets" and just about anything published by First Second Books (their stuff is often really arty and painterly).

To add a dissenting voice: I'd avoid Y: The Last Man until you've run out of other things to read. It's very long, has a helluva buildup then delivers an ending that is utterly underwhelming. It's an ending that makes you feel like you've just wasted a great deal of time.
posted by jbickers at 3:53 AM on March 13, 2009

Carla Speed McNeil's Finder Amazing, amazing, amazing sci-fi fantasy adventure

She also drew one volume of Greg Rucka's Queen & Country (as did many of the other artists mentioned here) which is a remarkable run of spy stories. His Whiteout books are pretty cool, too, the story of murder and intrigue at a research base in Antarctica (and there's a slight crossover between them and Queen & Country.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:45 AM on March 13, 2009

There's been a shocking lack of Brian Michael Bendis stuff recommended here! I'd go with Powers next, or possibly Torso. He's probably my second favourite comic writer.

I'd also concur with recommendations for From Hell and Rising Stars. And while I've only read the first couple of Y: The Last Man, I really do want to get round to finishing that off, for it was good.
posted by opsin at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2009

I thought that I didn't like graphic novels until a class I took last summer, "Technologies of Representation, Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Visual Media: Contemporary Transnational Comics and Animation". Here's our reading list from the syllabus:

• Aaron, Jason and R.M. Guerra. Scalped Vol.1: Indian Country.

• Abel, Jessica. La Perdida.

• Johnson, Mat and Warren Pleece. Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery.

• Kannagi, Satoru and Hotaru Odagiri. Only the Ring Finger Knows.

• Kiely, Molly. Diary of a Dominatrix.

• McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

• Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis.

• Schrag, Ariel. Potential.

• Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

• Vaughan, Brian K. and Pia Guerra. Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned

• Vaughan, Briak K., Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa. Runaways Vol. 1.

• Winick, Judd. Pedro and Me.

I see that a lot of these are dupes from above posts, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the readings.
posted by goHermGO at 5:35 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Graphic nonfiction:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
The Bloody Benders and other tales of mayhem by Rick Geary
posted by lukemeister at 6:01 AM on March 13, 2009

If you like the cover art of the Sandman graphic novels, you should check out the Arkham Asylum issue of Batman, one of my faves. Dave McKean of Sandman fame illustrated it.
posted by jacquilinala at 6:05 AM on March 13, 2009

Pick up Garth Ennis' Hitman.


/shakes fist angrily at DC
posted by Hugh2d2 at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2009

Volume 1 (the first four trade paperbacks) of The Authority are really fun. They're written by Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, who share a lot of sensibilities with Alan Moore and Garth Ennis.
posted by mkultra at 7:16 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: Well, if you like things that skew a little...strange, I'd suggest the Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way (yes, he's the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, no the graphic novel is nothing like their music). It's about superheroes, sort of.

The PopCandy blogger wrote up a comprehensive graphic novels primer, it's got some good recs: http://blogs.usatoday.com/popcandy/2009/03/youre-done-with.html
posted by egg86 at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2009

Death Note!
posted by Hildegarde at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: If the amount of suggestions looks a bit financially overwhelming be advised that libraries are stocking more and more graphic novels and that pretty much every comic ever made is available for download somewhere (which in the case of long out of print titles such as Miracleman is a genuine service to humanity on the part of the scanners). Now some recommendations (including doubles of what others have said to reinforce their recommendations).

Garth Ennis - The Punisher (both the Marvel Knights and Max versions. Too very different beasts but both quite satisfying)
Alan Moore - Miracleman, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Promethea, Wildcats
Neil Gaiman - The Sandman
Ed Brubaker - Sleeper, Captain America
Joe Casey - Wildcats v2 and 3.0
Warren Ellis - The Authority, Planetary, Crecy
Darwyn Cooke - The New Frontier
Robert Kirkman - The Walking Dead, Invincible, The Irredeemable Ant-Man
Brian K Vaughn - Y The Last Man
Mark Millar - Red Son, The Authority, Ultimates v1 and 2
Brian Bendis - Daredevil
Grant Morrison - We3, All-Star Superman, JLA: Earth Two, Animal Man, The Invisibles
Jeff Smith - Bone
Mike Mignola - Hellboy
Dave Sim - Cerebus
David Mazzucchelli - Paul Auster's City of Glass
Frank Miller - The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Year One
The Luna Brothers - Girls, The Sword, Ultra
Kurt Busiek - Marvels, Astro City
Mark Waid - Kingdom Come
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:22 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

41 posts in, I can't believe it took a.p.i.a.s. to mention The Invisibles. Big second on the Invisibles. Changed my life.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2009

I'll post again on the Invisibles just cuz it's that good. Grant Morrison can be incoherent but when you're a heavy smoking 18 year old with an interest in occult fiction you just can't go wrong with the Invisibles! Soooo good!
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:00 AM on March 13, 2009

If you are interested in something set in feudal Japan, you could try Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.
posted by demiurge at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

A bit of a quieter, different mood, but I loved Fun Home and It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken recently.
posted by mippy at 10:48 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: I highly recommend that you take Pop Candy's comics crash course. Many of the titles in this thread are recommended, but she also gives some explanation for her choices.

Part One: The Essentials
Part Two: Family Friendly Fare
Part Three: Must See Series
Part Four: Personal Favorites
posted by bove at 11:46 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

You got into comics via Preacher?? Oh man...what an introduction. I wish I could go back and read Preacher again for the first time. Poor Herr Star :)

There is a lot of gold recommended in here. I'll chuck a few more on the pile.

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley is a great little manga-pisstake series that is silly, action packed and surprisingly heartfelt and intelligent. If you're into video games then you'll love it.

I've just started reading The Walking Dead and it has me hooked. Zombie survival story. Very brutal and human. If you liked Preacher you'll get a kick out of this one.

and my all-time favourite GNThe Filth by Grant Morrison. Read a bit of Morrisson before you dive into this one (maybe start with the Invisibles, which I heartily endorse as well) and get used to his style. Morrison is on a different plane from all of us and can be hard to follow but once he clicks with you, it's awesome. The Filth is dense and difficult at times (I've read it five times now and I still don't know whats going on.) but it's jam packed with good ideas.

Good luck man! A wonderful universe awaits you!

posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:21 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

OH! How could I forget!

Ben Templesmith's Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse Definitely in the Preacher neighbourhood. Paranormal investigator that happens to be a worm that reanimates corpses. V.funny
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:23 PM on March 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone, for the thoughtful responses! This is truly wonderful.

Based on the comments, my own research and taste, the ones that particularly stand out are:

The Walking Dead
The Sword
From Hell
Ex Machina
Rising Stars
The Invisibles

I'm also very appreciative of the non-comic links, such as for PopCandy and Understanding Comics.

And, I'm sure it goes without saying, keep 'em coming! This is extremely fascinating...hopefully useful for others as well.

Thanks again!
posted by wonderyak at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a big topic.

Pay attention to the authors of what you like and dislike; occasionally a great author will print something that's crap, but all in all, they stay pretty consistent.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Warren Ellis' WE3 and The Authority, Grant Morrison's Invisibles all come to mind.

Hell, if you liked Preacher, The Boys comes to mind.
posted by talldean at 6:59 AM on March 15, 2009

I'm late to the party. But I have two suggestions. Neither of them have yet appeared in this thread. It is probably because they aren't talky "graphic novels" full of Important Themes Demonstrating the Maturity of the Medium.


They're just really, really good comic books. That have been gathered in trade paperback format for your convenience. Filled with robots and zombies and delightful comic-book stuff.

The Goon


Atomic Robo

You should read them.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:23 PM on April 3, 2009

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