#5. PREACHER VOL 3: PROUD AMERICANS Writer: Garth Ennis Artist: Steve Dillon

An Irish vampire, a hit man and a preacher walk into a bar looking for God…No that isn’t the beginning of a dirty joke; it is the premise of Garth Ennis’ and Steve Dillon’s Preacher. Oh and there are a lot of cuss words thrown in there for the hell of it.
The British are coming and this time it is a good thing. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon were part of what it termed the British Invasion in comics (A period where a significant amount of British creators were brought into and featured in prominent American comic books.) And right out of the gate they create one of the most beloved comic series of all time, Preacher.
Preacher is a crazy ride, and the volume Proud Americans is the craziest of the bunch. The vampire Cassidy gets captured by an ancient order trying to keep the holiest of bloodlines alive, and his friend Jesse Custer empowered with the voice of God is in hot pursuit. But beneath the tale of immortal killers, military villains and bullets, we see some of the greatest characters ever created. We get to see Jesse’s father become a hero in Vietnam, how a vampire from Ireland landed in America and how a Preacher from Texas will take on an army if it means rescuing his friend.
Garth Ennis weaves a dirty tale indeed, but somehow you wish you were a part of it. And I challenge anyone to beat the facial expressions drawn by Steve Dillon. In my book there are very few stories that compare to this tale of friendship, redemption and love.

#4. BATMAN: YEAR ONE Writer: Frank Miller Artist: David Mazzucchelli

Batman is the ultimate detective, an unbeatable fighter and a world class superhero, but that didn’t happen overnight. He makes mistakes, his equipment malfunctions, and he even gets shot at by police. Building the life of Batman from the ground up is a tale that was long overdue and Frank Miller did it with a style unmatched.
We know the origin. Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed and he vowed to own the night as Batman, but how exactly did that happen? Why did he even choose the bat as his symbol? Frank Miller takes this idea of a rookie Batman and shows us what it really takes to be a Dark Knight of Gotham City. In a stroke of genius Miller also shows us the first year of Lieutenant James Gordon in Gotham as well. Told from their point of view we learn about Gotham city as they do. The rampant crime, the corrupt cops we soon see why Gotham needs these two heroes and why they need each other.
Mazzucchelli teamed up with the muted colors of Richmond Lewis make Gotham City as compelling a character as Batman. Even the scripted lettering style gives the journaled thoughts of the characters their own unique personalities. This should be the first story read by any Batman fan.

#3. BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Writer: Frank Miller Artist: Frank Miller

If the first story of Batman is a work of art then it stands to reason that the last story of Batman would be a masterpiece. The final showdown with the Joker, a battle with Superman and the death of Batman, Miller’s Dark Knight has them all and shows why this is the definitive Batman story.
Mutant punks have taken over the city, the government has banned superheros and Batman has retired. it is no surprise that Gotham City, and much of the world has gone to hell. But as always, when the world needs him most the older Dark detective steps in to kick butt and take names. He even gets help from a new Robin named Carrie. But is the world ready for his return? Once he helps the world and takes care of unfinished business with Two-Face and the Joker here is one hero who won’t go away quietly. And the government will pull out all the stops including a certain Kryptonian to put him back in the box. Batman does not disappoint and responds in a way that has all fans cheering as they read.
Miller makes it a joy to see the declining Bruce Wayne back in form. This final act hits all the high points you’d expect from the last story fo the Dark Knight and is considered by some to the best comic book ever.

#2. WATCHMEN Writer: Alan Moore Artist: Dave Gibbons

Every once in awhile a comic book series comes along that is so good it transcends its category. It is elevated from a simple graphic novel to a literary classic. Moore and Gibbons’ Watchemen is that book.
When people talk of Watchmen they often refer to it as one of the greatest books ever written. Notice I didn’t say comic book; I said book. Alan Moore’s story is so fully of irony, allusions, foreshadowing and texture that it would be right at home in any college literature class. The use of time in Dr. Manhattan’s chapter alone could be the basis of a physics thesis paper. In fact there have been entire classes and books devoted to dissecting the layers of this bleak super heroic allegory. Watchmen truly answers the question of what the world would be like if superheroes and vigilantes really existed.
Each Chapter told from the different narrator’s point of view takes us into their world. The styles of each chapter vary so much it’s hard to believe they came from the same writer. It starts with a murder mystery, and ends with possible nuclear holocaust. Dr. Manhattan, The Comedian, and Rorschach are inked into comic book readers’ minds alongside Batman and Superman. Dave Gibbons’ art make these characters come to life in a way never imagined before. The nine panel grid used in his page layouts has almost become a formula for the ideal comic. I take Watchmen out every two years and discover a new layer every time I read it, and you will too.

#1. BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE Writer: Alan Moore Artist: Brian Bolland

Every hero has to have a worthy villain. Othello had Iago, Caesar had Brutus and with a hero like Batman only the Joker will do. However, you have never seen an emotionally charged Joker story like this!
When I first read the Killing Joke, my exposure to the character of the Joker was limited. He was a weird Batman villain I saw in the Adam West show or Batman cartoon. I was shocked how a villain in clown makeup could have such a long history with such a popular character like Batman. In just sixty four pages, I saw just that. In fact after reading it I felt nothing but sorrow and pity for this psychopathic rogue.
The first thing you notice about The Killing Joke is the tone. Brian Bolland puts us in a wold that mirror’s the Joker’s scarred psyche. The people are a little off, the colors disturbing and the smiles are off putting. Then Alan Moore subjects us to a possible origin to the Joker that, well let’s just say I was on the verge of tears. It shows what one bad day can do to a man, and what it takes to make someone lose it.
The following pages show just how alike Batman and Joker are. They both had one bad day that changed their lives forever. While they are as different as night and day, they even share a tragic joke in the end. I remember putting this book down, wiping away my tears and reflecting silently on it for ten minutes. I didn’t know it was possible to make someone feel like this by just reading a comic book and I wanted to have that same impact on others. It inspired me to become a writer.

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