5 Best Trades of the Last Century

Posted: December 6, 2014 in Comic book reviews

These are the books I’d call the classics. The Comic Books that if people haven’t read, I don’t really think they’ve read comic books. These are the comics I’d call Cannon.

1. The Watchmen – This book is so good I just call it a book. I’ve bought four or five copies of the book, because when I loan it out, I don’t really care if I get it back. I want to share it. The story is so perfect it denies duplication. It’s influence is unquestionable, but not particularly recognizable. It’s like the story didn’t just influence who stories were written, but what they were. This comic book changes lives the way a novel does. Characters are presented to you in such a real, but detached way, that you don’t necessarily connect to them, so much as you remember them like a character from your childhood people told you about to teach you a lesson. It holds up now a lifetime later. It’s great art.

2. Kingdom Come – Is the comic book that first made me confident comic books were important. It’s the first one I held in my hands and Knew I was holding something no one could dismiss or not understand. It’s a great big story that’s sad and complicated and incredibly poignant. It’s also visually stunning. It’s the most beautiful artwork I’ve seen in comic books to this day. Characters die, it’s self contained, it’s stunning; this comic has so many things going for it and literally nothing I don’t love. The fact that it smuggled Rorschach into a scene is mindblowing.

3. The Dark Knight Returns – There is a reason this book is everybody’s favorite. The art’s jarring and the outlook’s grim. It’s a really fun illustration of what comics can do. Reagan being a villain, the fight with Superman, the pudgy underwhelming over-performing Joker is all amazing. The Frank Miller art is distinctive and works with this story. It is unlikable, and so surface level flawed that it redefines how you look at the pictures. It seals the images in your eye and stays with you. It’s great work.

4. Squadron Supreme – An open analogue to the Justice League, this comic explores the real world implications of superpowers in one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read. It feels dated, but allows for an intimate link to the silver age comics it mimics. It’s original characters are terribly charming, and take root in your memories and rememberings of early comics.

5. Hellboy: The Chained Coffin & Others – The third trade in the Hellboy saga, This comic book follows a shift in comics from flashy to inspired. This collection (perhaps even more vol.2) creates a world that does not insult the readers intelligence, but neither does it try to explain away the magic of a comic book world. It’s art style shifts away from the ripped super sleek heroes of mainstream books to the blocky and imperfect beauty of a big hard world. Hellboy’s use of established folklore and traditions reasserts the authors position as “creator of a universe,” instead of “servant to the masses,” that occurs with writers using more established characters in more established books.

  1. Alex Price says:

    I think your choices are sound but are obviously from your perspective. Hard to argue most, but I find it impossible to exclude Y: The Last Man from this list.

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