Okay first up I have to vent how annoyed I am that I actually recorded a twenty six minute video for this post but har har, I've not managed to get it exported and uploaded in time due to the program I used to edit it being pretty shitty. So now that I've vented about wasting so much of my time - let's get into the important stuff: the graphic novels!
You've probably noticed by now that I bloody love a good graphic novel or hundred. If you've been reading NB for a while, you will have seen me mention one or two graphic novels in my book review posts but I figured I do a post that's exclusively dedicated to them and also tell you some of my favourites which are a mix of old and new comics that I've read or I'm in the process of reading. So I guess really I need to start by telling you guys why I think graphic novels are so great and why everyone should read them. I've always enjoyed comics. When I was younger I used to love what I would label as "proper comics" so things like X-Men, Batman, Green Lantern - you know the drill. As I got older though I discovered graphic novels and realised they were more my jam. Graphic novels are exactly what the seem to be; they're novels with pictures. I love reading them because they always cover such varied and sometimes tough topics in such a great way and make the whole story (whatever that story may be) visually stimulating which always adds to a good story.
So, what are my go-to graphic novels then? Well like I said, I've kind of moved away from the traditional superhero type comics and now read a wide range of stories/genres but they mostly follow my general book interests anyway. There's often an element of crime running throughout many of the novels I like and they will often have a heavy fairytale, sci-fi, or horror vibe (or sometimes, that all mixed together in one big ol' delectable mess). Rather than just prattle on about why I read them, I figured this post would benefit from an insight into some of my favourites. Some of these comics are things I have read for years, some are completed and finished series, some are only first volumes but have already made a huge impact on me. So here we go!
Fables by Bill Willingham
Okay it just wouldn't be right if I didn't mention my absolute favourite of them all first. Fables is one of the first and the best graphic novel series I've ever read. Willingham has such a gift with his storytelling, the artwork both inside and outside the novel is beautiful and fits the genre of story and I cannot recommend the series enough. No matter what you're into, Fables is a great place to start because it has so many different aspects going on I'd be really surprised if anyone said they didn't rate it. The series follows a whole host of fairytale characters (the likes you'll all be familiar with from Brothers' Grimm, Disney, nursery rhymes etc.) living in New York City after having to leave the fairytale/mythological world they all lived in. They live along side us humans - the mundane or "mundys" because you know, we're not magical folk - and just follows various characters lives in this situation and what is also going on back in their fairytale realm. It sounds very Once Upon a Time but add in a little bit of the TV show Grimm and you've kind of got it - it can be quite a dark comic with a lot of more adult content going on so don't let my very brief description fool you. If you've heard of or played The Wolf Among Us game by Telltale Games, that whole game is based on many of the main characters from this series so if you enjoyed that you will *love* this. This series is still ongoing and I myself am not up to date with it, so if you're looking for something to really sink your teeth into and get lost in, this is the best one for that. You can buy the hardback first volume, here.
Preacher by Garth Ennis
So whilst we're talking about ultimate favourites, I need to talk about Preacher. Recently made into a great TV series which Seth Rogen is involved with behind the scenes, Preacher is very different to Fables but it's also one of the best things I've ever read. Garth Ennis has such a knack for writing very over the top, dramatic characters and plots yet makes them completely relatable and enjoyable to read. He unfortunately passed away a few months ago and I was genuinely gutted when I found out. Preacher is a story about yep, you guessed it, a Preacher (a very stereotyped small-town Texan preacher to be exact) who begins to lose his faith in God a little whilst also developing the power of "the word" - an ability to command people to do things. Whilst in the possession of this new power, preacher Jesse Custer goes rampaging around America pissed off that the world has so much bad happening in it. He has a criminal girlfriend at his side and an Irish vampire best pal along for the ride too (I know that sounds bat-shit insane but Cassidy is one of the best characters in anything ever). The story is so gripping and absolutely hilarious at times. The TV show isn't exactly the same as the comics so please don't watch it and think you know what the story is about, but I would highly recommend both - especially the graphic novel obviously. You can pick up book one of nine here.
Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales
One of the best things about graphic novels is without a doubt the mix of artwork with a great story. Appealing artwork is something I look for in any graphic novel I read and I have genuinely put down or picked up certain comics just based on the art style. Blacksad is one that I definitely picked up because of the gorgeous artwork and I've never looked back. I won't go into too much detail here as I've already talked about this in detail in a previous book club post but I just had to give it a quick mention again here. The watercolour style artwork in this Spanish comic is just beautiful to look at and this is one of the few graphic novels that has made me really study each panel of the comic before turning each page. The story centres around Blacksad a black cat/panther private investigator and yes, all of the characters are animals but living very human/relatable lives. This story somehow manages to cover things like infidelity, the KKK, and domestic violence in such a serious and insightful way whilst also having characters who are dogs, owls, aligators, you name it. I can't wait to read more once it's been translated to English. You can pick up a hardback of the first book here.
Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan
This graphic novel has been rumoured to be made into a movie starring Shia LeBouf for what must be several long years now and I'm still disappointed it hasn't happened yet. This series has won multiple awards and is a fantastic read again, no matter what kind of genre you are into. Whereas a lot of my choices tend to have a crime thriller element to them, Y: The Last Man is totally different is more of a post-apocalyptic almost Mad Max style of story. It follows Yorick Brown - the last surviving man on earth - who somehow manages to survive a global plague that kills off every male mammal with the Y chromosome. He and his pet monkey Ampersand go off searching the world to try and work out why on earth he managed to survive and what that means for humankind. The story is so fantastically written and the art style is gorgeous to look at too. The comic has an almost feminist vibe to it as the women step it up because all of the men have gone and this naturally leads to some hilarious and gripping developments in the story. If you want a comic that makes you feel like you're watching a really great movie or TV series, this is it. Pick it up here.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The last graphic novel I'm going to mention in detail probably won't be a surprise to those of you who regularly read graphic novels/comics because of course what sort of reader would I be if I didn't mention Gaiman's classic Sandman series? Although Fables is my recommendation for everyone, I'd also highly recommend Sandman even though it's not my favourite. If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman as an author anyway, you should totally branch out and read his graphic novel because boy oh boy, is it good. I won't lie, Sandman isn't the smoothest sailing graphic novels series to read - like a lot of readers I find the first volumes kind of just okay and definitely not reflective of Gaiman's sensational writing ability - but I guess that's to be expected when someone is stepping out of their comfort zone! I'm not going to even attempt to explain the story because it would take an essay so for a more detailed breakdown of it, head to Wikipedia, but the story basically follows a variety of characters (namely Dream/Morpheus) and mixes up mythology, horror, fantasy, and history in a really interesting, uniquely Gaiman way. Sandman is one of the "classic" comics alongside stuff like Watchmen and Maus and is something non-comic readers will often know about. So if you want something that's seen as a classic and something that you can absolutely get lost in, Sandman is great just be wary of the first few volumes - they're not the best of Gaiman's writing! (You can by the first volume here.
Now I could go on and on in detail about hundreds of more graphic novels, but I don't want to bombard you all with too many recommendations so I've purposefully highlighted two of my top favourites and then two others that I think are well worth a read no matter what your personal tastes are. I can't leave it just there though so here's some other brilliant graphic novels and comics that I've read, fell in love with, and that I'm currently reading and loving (in no particular order but with a little bit of info on the genre of each):
- Injection by Warren Ellis (horror, paranormal, sci-fi, crime, thriller - it's got it all! Full review here)
- Manifest Destiny by Chris Dingess (1800s American Frontier but with monsters!)
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (a "classic" in my eyes. Y'all know the story!)
- Wytches by Scott Snyder (straight up horror which will give you the willies - Read the full review here)
- Maus by Art Spiegelman (another "classic" narrating what it was like to be a Jew during the Holocaust)
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (now a movie, this quite feminist story talks about daily life in Iran and the contrasting lives women live in public and in private)
- Descender by Jeff Lemire (a good one for Mass Effect fans. Sci fi, Stars Wars political style adventure - read my full review here!)
- Saga by Brian K Vaughan (an almost Romeo and Juliet style story but with actual love and lots of fantasy/mytholgoy/sci fi elements)
- Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa (sci fi and futuristic but with a whole lot of pink and girliness. One of the first graphic novels I read and still a firm fave)
- Fairest by Bill Willingham (Fables spin off focusing more on the princesses stories)
So before you all fall asleep, I think I'll rap up this lengthy post here! At the moment I'm reading Low by Rick Remender and have my eye on 5 or 20 more to work my way through. Hopefully you might be thinking "these graphic novels sound like a good shout" and I've given you some decent recommendations to get stuck into. Reading will always be a joy and calming pastime for me but graphic novels just always step it up that little bit further and allow me to get fully submerged in another reality. Happy reading!