Comics Features

Kevin Harkins’ Top 10 Comics

Written by Kevin Harkins

If you are a reader of this website I think it is safe to assume that you are a fan of comic books. For the first in a series of my personal top tens I’m going to be looking at my favourite comic books and graphic novels. These are the comics that have touched me emotionally and shaped me as a person. I will be focusing on graphic novels and runs on comics done by a specific writer and/or artist and talk about why I love them and why they mattered to me.  Now keep in mind this is my own opinion, if you disagree with it that is fine but tell me why you disagree. If you just say why didn’t you include this chances are it is something I really liked but not enough to put on my top ten. With that in mind, on to the list.

10. Batman: The Long Halloween

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This year-long miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is one of the definitive Batman stories. It details a year-long mystery of a serial killer known as the Holiday Killer, because he or she kills on the holidays, while also telling the definitive Two-Face origin story. I have always loved the detective aspect of Batman and love seeing him trying to figure out a mystery and who is causing chaos in his city. 

Against the backdrop of this we get what is the best version of Harvey Dent’s story as we get a chance to see the tragedy of his life and how one of Batman’s greatest adversaries was once one of his greatest allies. There is also a fascinating discussion about how Batman himself maybe the cause of all the trouble in the city since there were no super villains like Joker and Penguin until after he showed up. Could the city’s savior also be the reason for its distress? It is a fascinating idea and obviously one Christopher Nolan took to heart with his trilogy.

9. Ultimate Spider-Man

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I am a huge Spider-Man fan. He is my favourite Marvel character and he is the character I relate to the most. I too am the nerdy guy who has a hard time with work and women and has a strong sense of responsibility so watching Peter deal with his issues at balancing his life and dealing with his personal problems has always resonated with me. I’ve always preferred high school age Spider-Man and think this is the best version of the character. I loved how Bendis took these characters and updated them to the modern age but still maintains what made them so great. It is the perfect combination of super hero action and high school drama that I want in my Spidey and it is the version of Spider-Man I go to the most when I read comics.

8. Superman: Red Son

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I’m a sucker for Elseworlds titles and anything that shows an alternate version of events whether it be a famous character or history and Red Son is one of my favourites. It tells a “what if” story about Superman being raised in the Soviet Union instead of Midwest America. It is an interesting take on the Man of Steel and also includes interesting versions of Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, and especially Batman who is depicted as an anti-Soviet insurgent in this tale. It also allows to show a Superman who goes mad with power and begins to think that only he is the right person to run things.

Unlike the video game Injustice however it comes from a place of thinking he can do the right thing instead of pain and vengeance. It is a fascinating take on the original superhero and shows how nurture is just as important as nature.

7. Kick-Ass 3background-1

I’m a big fan of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.‘s Kick-Ass series, and I think the third miniseries is the best of the bunch. It was hard for me to pick between this and the original miniseries but in the end I went with this one as I enjoy Dave finding happiness and growing up showing how one can mature and grow up but can still be inspired and be a fan of what they loved as a kid. I also really enjoy the subplot involving Hit-Girl in jail and how she pretty much runs the place. It is also fun to see her mother support her in her vigilante role and tell her to keep up the good fight against the criminals. To me this was a perfect ending to the series as a whole that wrapped up everything nicely while also staying true to the spirit of the series.

6. Superiorsuperior-header

Yet another Millar book. As you can probably tell Millar is one of my favourite writers, not just of comic books but of any medium period and I think Superior is his best work. I already wrote an article about why Superior needs to be a movie that can be read here so I’ll just be brief and say that I love how Millar shows us that there is a place for a character like the Christopher Reeve version of Superman in our world and it doesn’t hurt to have a character like that to inspire us. Sometimes we get so caught up in the dark and gritty side of comics we forget that there is a place for a boy scout with a heart of gold in our modern world.

5. Kingdom ComeKingdomCome1

Another amazing Elseworld tale, this one tells of a future where the Justice League has given up their roles since the public supports newer, more violent heroes but are forced back into action when there is an incident with the new heroes that irradiates the American Midwest killing millions and destroying a good portion of the food supply. 

What makes the story so interesting is how Superman tries to force his morals on the newer superheroes, even locking them up, without realising you can not force your views on someone and his reaction makes others see him as a dictator. Of course another highlight is Alex Ross‘s breathtaking artwork. I have always been a fan of his work and I think this is some of his best work especially at the end when Superman fights Captain Marvel while Wonder Woman and Batman’s respective teams of heroes square off against each other. I think this is one of the best superhero stories ever told and I use this as an example of one of my essential Justice League tales.

4. Scott Pilgrim

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Have you ever read something that felt like it was made especially for you and it perfectly encapsulated your life and you could see a large portion of yourself and your friends in it. That was me when I read Scott Pilgrim. Never before had I read something that to me perfectly captured what it was like for me at that age with my friends and life. It also was fun that in 2010 when the last book and movie came out I was 22 which was Scott’s age in the first couple books and the movie.

Even if Scott Pilgrim didn’t speak to me on such a personal level I still would have loved it as it is one of the funniest and most quotable books I have ever read and one of the best cast of characters ever. What makes them such great characters is that all of them, even Scott and Ramona, are very real people and flawed individuals. There is no fairy tale romance aspect to this story but that is part of what makes it so interesting and real despite the craziness that is inherent to the story.

3. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men

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This is in my opinion the best X-Men run ever done by a single writer and artist on a book. Now I know that may be blasphemous to those who love the Claremont run in the 70s and 80s and while I do love it and some classic stories came out of it, but for me personally Astonishing spoke more and the 24 issue run + one giant size special really feels like one long story from a writer and artist where Claremont was writing for almost 20 years and did many stories. I also love many aspects of what this story did, from going back to basics with the costumes and being super heroes to bringing back Kitty Pryde one of my favorite characters. I am also one who hates the trend of bringing back characters from the dead, but the way they brought back Colossus was so well done even I thought it was awesome and loved it. To me this is the X-Men story and the one I always recommend to new readers who want to get into Marvel’s group of mutants.

2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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What is there to be said that hasn’t been said about this story already. The best Batman story ever, Frank Miller‘s epic tale was a revelation when it came out. A tale that brought the dark back to Dark Knight, it re-imagined one of the most popular heroes of all time and showed people he could be more than the colourful, corny joke that came from the ’66 show and comics of that age. It also has some wonderful political commentary on the times, poking fun at Reagan and the mass hysteria at violence and the mass media. 

One of my favourite scenes is when a deranged individual shoots up a porno theatre because of his own mental illness but the news automatically blames it on Batman, it reminds me of how for a while after every mass shooting violent video games would be blamed only for it to come out the perpetrator didn’t play those games. Still relevant after all these years this remains one of the gold standards when it comes to Batman stories.

1. Watchmen

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OK I admit this is a pretty obvious one to pick for number one, but I genuinely love this comic so much.  The way Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons create a world that is such a great reflection on how the world would be if superheroes did exist in the 1930s and 1940s and what kind of person would become a superhero, it makes one really think about and question what it means to be a hero and why people do not do it for real. The characters are some of the most three dimensional characters ever created and I for one love how there are no easy answers at the end. Some hate the ambiguous ending but I think it is amazing and fitting for the story. It is also a jam-packed book and every time I read it I feel like there is some new detail or connection that I did not see before that I notice. That is what keeps me coming back to this story over and over, the questions and the discovery of something new whenever I go back to it.

So there it is my personal top ten graphic novels/runs. I hope you have found it interesting and I hope I did not give anyone real reason to be upset. Like I said before feel free to disagree, everyone has their own opinion, but explain to me why you do not agree and what your own list be. I look forward to reading your reactions.

Do you have any top 10s you’d like to share with us? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

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Kevin Harkins

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