The Best Comic Book TPBs
Of the literally thousands of comic books I've read over the years, there are a handful of really great ones that are fortunately available in Trade Paperback (TPB) collections.  Here are my picks for the greatest of the lot.



Classics

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Widely regarded as one the most influential comic books of all time, I personally think this is the single greatest piece of literature in this genre and one I recommend to absolutely anyone interested in comics at all.  It is absolutely required reading for any comics fan... even though it turns the conventions of superhero stories on their ear!

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Anyone who knows comic books knows that, along with the Watchmen (above), this noir miniseries ushered comic book writing into the modern era.  It is a work of art unto itself, and the story is intense.

Painted comics by Alex Ross

Earth X by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross
This volume completely blew me away.  Never mind the fantastic paintings by Ross, this collection was one of the best I have ever read in comicdom.  I'll restrain myself from giving away too many details, but the story takes place roughly twenty years or so in the future of the Marvel Universe we have come to know... then sets about dismantling it and resolving some of the most cosmic mysteries that have been running for the last 35 years.

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Another epic worthy of Ross' lavish treatment.  This is the ultimate counterpoint to the Marvels series (below).

Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
A beautiful retelling of the early history of the Marvel Universe in a very novel style, both visually and thematically.

Superheroes

Fantastic Four Visionaries by John Byrne
One of the first comic books I ever bought was during John Byrne's run as the writer and artist on the FF series.  I went on to collect the complete run of his work issue by issue before this TPB was published many years later.  The stories in here are just perfect.  They capture what is great about comic books by telling good stories and telling them well.  His artwork (inked by Terry Austin) is the best compromise of styles anywhere.

The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim, George Perez, and Josef Rubinstein
Marvel has tried a lot of "cosmic" epics, but this was one that actually succeeded at delivering a big story without falling short.  I love giant cross-overs when the premise makes you buy into the action.  This one works.

Spider-Girl by Tom Defalco and Pat Olliffe
Like Earth X (above), this series explored a possible future in which Peter Parker and Mary Jane's teenage daughter follows her father's heroics.  It is a really enjoyable exploration of the futures of a lot of your favorite characters while re-visiting some fun parallels from Peter's high school years.

Top 10 vol. 1 and Top 10 vol. 2 by Alan Moore and Gene Ha
What would happen if Hill Street Blues was set in a world where everyone is a superhero or robot or god?  Alan Moore gives us a great soap opera of interwoven tales about this strange universe.  This was one of my favorite series I've read in the last year.

Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars by Jim Shooter 
Honestly, this is a classic.  In addition to the much-remarked upon origin of Spider-man's black costume (later to become Venom), this series is a must-read for the all-time best cross-over event between the primary heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe.


X-Men TPBs

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
If you've never read this, you have missed out on a central piece of comic book history.  This is one of the most exciting tales in the entire run of the X-Men, and obviously that's saying a lot.  You absolutely must check this one out.

Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller
Why hasn't this been adapted into a movie?  You'll see some surprising (or maybe not) parallels to Tarantino's Kill Bill when Wolverine goes to Japan and is surrounded by armies of ninja warriors.  "They have me right where I want them," he thinks to himself.  Snikt, indeed!

Origin by Bill Jemas and Paul Jenkins
At last we get the origin of Wolverine.  I never would have thought it was possible to tell this story very well, and I really thought I would just be disappointed by the end result.  To my surprise, I was completely wrong about it.  This is an amazing work.

Alternative comics

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
If you've only seen the movie, you haven't seen anything yet.  This masterpiece runs over 2,000 pages, so you better believe it when I say "the book is better."  This is an incredibly rich and detailed story, so much more so than the 90 minute movie that only scratches the surface and shows off some of Otomo's artwork.  Get the books and read the rest of the story.
Akira, vol. 1 Akira, vol. 2 Akira, vol. 3 Akira, vol. 4 Akira, vol. 5 Akira, vol. 6


Clive Barker's Hellraiser: Collected Best, Vol. 1 by various writers and artists
The original Hellraiser movies took on a life of their own and surpassed the movies when these comics were produced.  This TPB collects the most original and intense of the comic book series.  A lot of the stories are fully painted works of art and feature many interesting variations on the original Hellraiser theme.  The movie sequels would do well to turn to these for inspiration.

Moonshadow by J.M. DeMatteis and painted by John J Muth 
This series was good enough to have actually been published not once, but twice before being re-issued as this TPB.  Originally, Marvel published the series through its once-great Epic line.  Several years later, DC reprinted the entire series.  I can't think of any other work that has had that kind of exposure.  And deservedly!

Ronin by Frank Miller
Here's another candidate for a film, and one loaded with CGI at that!  This is a great original story delivered when Frank Miller was undoubtedly at his peak.  The art is highly original as well, and looks virtually nothing like anything Miller did up until The Dark Knight Returns (above).  It's a somewhat obscure but worthwhile read.

Stray Toasters by Bill Sienkiewicz (story, art, and hardware)
This is perhaps my all-time favorite series.  Bill Sienkiewicz has been famous for inserting abstraction into the conventional comic book realm, but this series pushes things a lot farther than that.  Again, I don't want to give away any details, but this story is wild, and the artwork ranges across styles you have absolutely never seen in anywhere else, comics or otherwise.

Independents

Cerebus by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Who would have thought that this series would have turned out to be an epic?  From its humble beginnings as a one-trick Conan the Barbarian parody, Dave Sim (and Gerhard by Book 3) gradually transformed Cerebus from an all-too-conventional comic book into something approximating a series of novels.  There are multiple layers of humor and drama, and the almost every description of the series contains the word "literate" at some point.  I highly recommend this independent work.
Cerebus
(Book 1)
High Society
(Book 2)
Church & State I
(Book 3)
Church & State II
(Book 4)
Jaka's Story
(Book 5)
Melmoth
(Book 6)
Flight
(Book 7)
Women
(Book 8)
Reads
(Book 9)
Minds
(Book 10)
Guys
(Book 11)
Rick's Story
(Book 12)


Flaming Carrot by Bob Burden
Although Bob is probably better known to the general population as the creator of the Mystery Men comic book on which the movie was based, Flaming Carrot was certainly his finest hour.  Typical descriptions of the series include "avant garde" and "absurdist," but things were always delivered in a hilarious way that surprised rather than confused readers.  The whole series maintained this level of quality and is worth collecting in these TPBs.

Flaming Carrot:
Man of Mystery

Flaming Carrot:
Fortune Favors the Bold

Flaming Carrot:
Flaming Carrot's Greatest Hits




Copyright Professor Ale[X].

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