Ranked and Screened - Our Top 5 Superhero Graphic Novels

Posted on 26 June 2015 by Brian Fox

What kind of design collective would we be if we didn't stay up to date on all things print related? That includes graphic novels! While there are some really awesome trends going on in the comic publishing world (currently reading Lumberjanes and loving it!) today is reserved for our list of favorite superhero graphic novels only. We'll get to all of our favorite horror, romance, coming-of-age, etc. graphic novels some other time. So with that, let's kick it off!


   #5 -  Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

Grant Morrison helmed the Batman stories throughout the late 2000s, but in this 1989 graphic novel we see a way different spin on the caped crusader. With art by Dave McKean of Sandman fame (and all around creepy dude) we see a Batman who is, for once, very much not in control of his environment. With all of Arkham on the loose, Batman must traverse the mad house, confronted by his lingering doubt that perhaps, he too, is just another lunatic.

Breakout panel: The stark difference between Batman and the Joker.  

  #4 - Daredevil: Born Again

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that when writer, Frank Miller is good he’s really good. When Daredevil’s secret identity is sold to the highest bidder—the notorious Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk—his entire world comes crashing down around him. Stripped of all his assets, wracked with paranoia and depression, Matt Murdoch seems to have lost all hope—making him all the more dangerous, as the Kingpin quickly figures out that “a man without hope is a man without fear.” David Mazzucchelli (Asteriosis Ployp) is the artist on board here, bringing out the humanity in every character’s facial expression and playing on the use of symmetry. This is the quintessential Daredevil story for most, reinforcing Matt Murdoch’s iron will and cementing Wilson Fisk as a truly irredeemable villain.

Breakout panel: Daredevil donning the suit for the first time in the graphic novel. At this point, about twenty pages have gone by before we even see the uniform—this story is more a showcase of Matt Murdoch, the human.

  #3 - Marvel 1602

Neil Gaiman is the writer responsible for Sandman, Coraline, American Gods, and even a few Doctor Who episodes. This is his re-imagining of a more or less historically accurate Elizabethan era Europe, populated with its own version of modern day Marvel superheroes. Here we follow the exploits of Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh, Carlos Javier and his Witchbreed—just to name a few. Plot twists and foreshadowing abound! This book keeps you guessing until the very end. Legacy artist, Andy Kubert is tasked with making sense of these time displaced heroes in this world that never was.

Breakout panel: No matter what time period, the X-Men are always uncanny!


  #2 - Kingdom Come

Emotionally charged and packed full of metaphor, this 1996 series written by Mark Waid tells the story of a future without heroes. When citizens turn their backs on the aging Justice League in favor of the new generation of unrestrained, super-powered vigilantes, what we get is definitely not truth justice, and the American way. Will the gods of yesterday come out of exile to save the planet once more or has time finally run its course? Alex Ross composes the artwork in vibrant gouache style for the closest glimpse we’ve ever seen of what the DC comics’ pantheon would look like in real life. This is the one you tell your friend who "doesn’t like comics" to read.

Breakout panel: The meeting of two different ideologies—why can’t they just get along?



  #1 - All -Star Superman

The Big Blue Boy Scout catches a lot of flak for being too powerful—on the verge of boring. For a character that can pretty much solve any problem by laser beaming it from outer space, you need a good writer to come up with a challenge that a god himself has difficulty with. That’s where Grant Morrison comes in, basing this story off of the Twelve Labours of Hercules and even incorporating some of the most downright “what-were-they-thinking?” moments of the Silver Age of comics, he tells the most honest, transcendent Superman story of all time. Scottish artist, Frank Quitely gives us perfectly detailed characters who blur the lines of real-world realism and the fantastical. Realizing that the strongest being on the planet wouldn’t constantly pose and puff out his chest, Quitely is the first person to give us the relaxed “dad bod” superman we see on the front cover.


Breakout panel: No caption needed. Just straight up hate.

 Aaaaand that's it. Those are our picks. How do they stack up to yours? Leave a comment to let us know, yeah? Maybe we'll make your suggestion next on our reading list. If you're as big into comics and print as we are go ahead and subscribe to our feed and like/follow us on Facebook/Twitter

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