We at Martial Rose Library feel that graphic novels are a rather under-appreciated art form, often all being lumped together as if they’re all the same genre, tell the same stories and feature the same characters. Well, that’s not the case at all so together we decided our Staff Picks of our large and varied graphic novel collection here at the library. We hope to inspire some of you to pop in and grab one of these fantastic, inspiring, spooky, heart-wrenching, fun or downright tense books off of our shelves.
‘Superman: For The Man Who Has Everything’ by Alan Moore
As Batman, Wonder Woman and Robin arrive to meet up with Superman in the Fortress of Solitude, they find that he has been placed in a trance-like state by the other worldly supervillain Mogul. In this state, Superman is fed an ultra-realistic dream in which Krypton was never destroyed and he is married with a loving family. The story is one of Moore’s best, mixing great action set-pieces with heart wrenching emotion as Superman must come to terms that the life he believed to be his own is simply a manifestation from a world he barely remembers. Special mention must go to Moore’s character dialogue, particularly the interactions between Kal-El and his sons. Without spoiling too much, it can bring a tear to the eye of even the mightiest Kryptonian.
This story can be found in the collection Superman: The Man of Tomorrow in section 741.5/MOO
Fun fact: The Robin is this story is Jason Todd, who Bat-fans will know as the Robin who will later don the Red Hood persona and star in his own spin-off comic Red Hood & the Outlaws.
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus is an iconic book that was one of the pioneering graphic novels. However, it was surprisingly turned down from many publishers including Penguin and when it was finally published it was a struggle find a suitable place on the book shelf “…do you put it near Garfield, or what?”.
This book is a deeply personal and moving account of the WWII holocaust where animal metaphors are used to portray different religions and nationalities. Art Spiegelman not only covers his father’s time living as a Jew during WWII but also shows the impact of these events had on the relationship he has with his Father. This book covers a wide range of themes including guilt, memory, racism as well as openly discussing the presentation methods of the book.
You can read this one at 741.5/SPI
Fun Fact: Spiegelman got his big break in a publication called Funny Animals with a three page strip also titled Maus.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth by Grant Morrison
Trouble is brewing in Arkham Asylum and the inmates are out of their cells. This time, though, they don’t want to escape to cause havoc in Gotham City. Instead, they want Batman to come to them. Written by Grant Morrison, who would later go on to write his own Batman Epic, this graphic novel explores the psyche behind Batman and his relationship with his enemies. The result is a very dark, very disturbing story made even more horrifying by the beautifully unnerving artwork by Dave McKean, which is a mixture of paintings, photographs and drawings. Definitely worth a read but not for the light-hearted.
This story can be found in 741.5/MOR
Fun Fact: This book was adapted into the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum video game which later spawned the Arkham video game series.
Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1: Power and Responsibility by Brian Michael Bendis
This retelling of Peter Parker’s becoming of Spider-Man was an attempt to reintroduce the character for the next generation of superhero fans, with the original being bogged down by a history of clones, deaths and resurrections. It’s result is an emotionally charged, brilliantly executed coming of age story which not only reinvents Peter as a modern day socially awkward kid but also makes for a great standalone read for those looking to get into the world of Marvel. The book is so celebrated, it is the basis for every single Spider-Man film series so far.
You can read this one at 741.5/SPI.
Fun Fact: The school fight scene in this book was directly adapted in The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans.
MW by Osamu Tezuka
This is a story the less you know, the more you’ll enjoy so I’ll keep this review short. This book kept me gripped. It’s character-driven, flawlessly paced and will leave you wanting more. That’s all I can say for now! Just read!
You can see what all the fuss is about over in 741.5/TEZ
Fun fact: Yes, you read that right! This is the same Osamu Tezuka who gave us Astro-Boy!
The Watchmen by Alan Moore
Set in an alternative history where super-heroes not only exist but are outlawed, save for a handful who work for the government, The Watchmen opens with the murder of The Comedian, a former super-hero, now turned government agent. One of his former associates, Rorschach sets about investigating his death, whilst warning his former comrades, and uncovers a conspiracy plot which will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the world.
Alan Moore’s The Watchmen is an epic story which turns the idea of the super-hero on its head, placing them in a very recognisable reality, whilst reflecting on the political climate of the 1980s. In this reality super-heroes directly affect historical events such as the outcome of the Vietnam War and the fact that, due to the Watergate scandal not transpiring Nixon is still president in 1985. Not only is the story of The Watchmen a profound and thought-provoking one, the form of the comic as written by Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons is inventive using non-linear storylines and parallel comic panels to creative effect. It is such a landmark in comic book writing that it was the only comic book to feature on Time Magazine’s 100 All Time novels.
Why not pick this one up at 741.5/MOO
Fun Fact: Moore was originally going to use several characters acquired from the Charlton Comics for his super-heroes such as Captain Atom (Dr Manhattan), Blue Beetle (Nite Owl), and the Question (Rorschach).