How to Read…Graphic Novels


“Comic book” or “graphic novel” – which term do you use? For most, a graphic novel is the issues of a comic book story arc collected together in one book (also referred to as a trade); although sometimes it is the original format in which the story was printed. And, for some, the term “graphic novel” is a way to legitimize the medium as a literary form, while others simply accept a comic book for what it is.

No matter what term you choose, the all-time heavy weight champ of comic books/graphic novels is still Watchmen by Alan Moore.

But every comic book fan has their favorite author, character or story. Some people are into the work of Frank Miller because they like his gritty violence. Some like Warren Ellis because of his brilliant storytelling and unabashed pessimism. Keeping Watchmen in mind as the standard bearer, here are a few other titles more than worth checking out if you appreciate both comic books and graphic novels.

Warren Ellis, Planetary (Volumes 1-3)
4 Stars out of 5
Think of The X-Files if Mulder and Scully had superpowers and the whole story was on crack. The brilliance of this story is the use of pre-existing characters in a fashion similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. There are appearances by Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne and a group of villains surprisingly similar to the Fantastic Four.

Frank Miller, Ronin
4 Stars out of 5
Before Sin City or 300, there was Ronin. Originally published as six issues and now as one volume, Miller chronicles the story of an ancient ronin reincarnated in a futuristic New York similar to Blade Runner. While Miller’s traditional style shines through, Ronin demonstrates a strong influence from both manga and Asian samurai cinema.

Dave Sim, Cerebus (Multiple Volumes)
4 Stars out of 5
What began as a parody of Conan the Barbarian and Howard the Duck quickly became a piece of comic history. A strange mix of “swords and sorcery” with politics, the Cerebus series came to an end in 2004 with issue 300, after first being published in 1977. Every issue was written by Sim, an accomplishment no one has matched.

Will Eisner, The Spirit (Multiple Volumes)
4.5 Stars out of 5
While many see the current film adaptation as mediocre, even more see The Spirit comics as the most influential series of all time. Created in 1940, the stories of The Spirit follow the title character as he protects his city as a vigilante. The style of each story varies greatly, from mystery and horror to crime and romance.

Related Topics
Share This
More Stories