They say the measure of a man is not how he lives his life, but how he leaves it. Maybe that’s why this list consists entirely of ‘last days’ and ‘last stands.’ Five graphic novels. All published by DC Comics. All but one of them in 1986. All send offs. Finales. The Ends. These are The Five Most Important Graphic Novels in My Collection. Welcome to my High Five…
5. Crisis On Infinite Earths (Marv Wolfman / George Perez)
This was the magnum opus of my childhood comic collection. Before I, and the rest of the world, dipped our toes into the stone-cold, murky waters of Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s 1986 comics, superheroes were bright and cosmic and flashy. Their worlds had no shades of grey. You were right and in the Justice League, or wrong and in Arkham Asylum. Nobody died. That all changed in this mega-epic. As the title may have given away, this was a tale of an infinite amount of parallel universes (meaning multiple Supermen, Flashes, Green Lanterns, Lex Luthors, etc.), referred to in DC Comics as the Multiverse, being destroyed by…something. By the end of this series, one universe remained, with many, major deaths along the way, all illustrated in a never-before-or-since level of painstaking detail by George Perez. This series was so huge that all comics published by DC since it wrapped have been referred to as Post-Crisis. The list may get better, but it don’t get bigger than this.
4. All Star Superman (Grant Morrison / Frank Quitely)
Not only does A.S.S. have the best abbreviation in comics (next to All Star Batman And Robin…break it down, Ian. We’ll wait…), it matches the spectacle of The Death and Return of Superman, the eye candy of Kingdom Come, and the pathos of Alan Moore’s Superman stories (Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow? / For The Man Who Has Everything). The common thread amongst all of the contenders here is that they are all different versions of The End for our Man of Steel. This one outdoes all but the Moore entries, and, in my opinion, matches them. As we’re not a soccer match, R2AK will be handing out no ties. I had to pick a winner, so I found a loophole that you’ll understand one paragraph from now, and here we are. If you want a more precise explanation as to what makes this the Superman story to beat, I wrote a whole article about it, when I named it my Book of The Decade. Reco’nize, sucker-fools!
3. DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore (Various Artists)
And, here’s the loophole. This anthology of Alan Moore’s DC superhero work, including the aforementioned For The Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?, the so-called “Last Superman Story,” does not hit a false note. True, the majority of it falls just short of great, but none of it is bad. So how does it make the list? Well, just based on the Superman inclusions, it would’ve made the cut, though maybe at a lower ranking. What leapfrogs it up to the third slot is only the greatest Joker story ever put to page, Batman: The Killing Joke. The Joker’s masterpiece of a master plan to drive Commissioner Gordon insane using midgets, a carnival, creepy nudity and a single bullet is…well, it’s f*$@ing insane. Even now, knowing what’s to come, I get chills when that door opens. (If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go read it. There is no third option.) The beautifully depraved illustrations by Brian Bolland are impossible to look away from. Like a car crash. John Higgins’ acid trip colouring is bat-s@*% crazy. And Joker’s joke that closes the story out…just, wow. Trust me. This one’ll kill ya. Feel free to borrow my copy, Ian.
2. The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller)
What can I even say? It takes all of the most important characters in Batman’s world, breaks them down to their most basic, and throws them into a near-apocalyptic near-future, and gives them all an ending, while harkening back to their beginnings in poignant ways. It’s dark as s@*% and cool as f*%@. It’s read best if you try to hear Clint Eastwood delivering Batman’s dialogue, as he makes his last stand in his greatest story. And it shaped comics, and my taste in them, for the next quarter-century, right up to the present day, along with my next, and final, pick…
1. Watchmen (Alan Moore / Dave Gibbons)
“Alan Moore? Again?!” Sho’you right! Some people feel it’s over-hyped or too obvious for lists like these. Others feel they’ve seen everything done here done in other graphic novels. The deconstruction of super-heroes. “Grim ‘n gritty.” Some people are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information densely, yet elegantly, layered throughout this Reagan-era, Cold War tale of superheroes in their twilight in a world on the brink of nuclear war. They have some valid points. It is probably the most multi-layered graphic novel you’ll ever have suck you in, both in text and art. I suppose finding something new every time you re-read it isn’t necessarily for everyone. They have seen this elsewhere. That’s because everyone who’s put out a comic book since September 1986 has begged, borrowed or stolen from this. Those that haven’t, and go the exact opposite way, are still being influenced by Moore and Gibbon’s masterpiece into rebelling against it. It’s obvious for lists like this for a reason. It’s obviously still the single best product comic books have ever produced.
Put these five on your shelf. Put your five in the Comments.
Put one in the air…
NEXT ISSUE: WILL THE DEVIL TAKE DIGGLE’S DARE? PLUS: NINJAS!
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