10. 726 points - Preacher (Ennis) - 37 first place votes
#1 - #66 plus a couple of ones shots and a mini
Thirty-seven people thought this was the best book ever written, and it was on my list as well. Great fucking book.
I get it. I get why some people dislike this book. It's violent, it has tons of toilet humor, it's shocking for the sake of being shocking, it's amoral for the sake of being amoral, it's filled with stuff like a guy that fucks meat and hillbilly rapists and the inbred descendant of Jesus Christ that the Catholic church has been hiding and breeding for centuries. I get that. But that's not what the book is about. That's all the surface trappings.
The book is actually a tender love story. It's as moving and honest and full of emotion as the relationship at the heart of Y: The Last Man (in which the main character, Yorick, actually has the same lighter as Jesse from Preacher) or any other book you want to bring up. And much like the book one spot before this, Starman, this book is about loyalty, family, friends, the choice to do good or evil, and doing what's right instead of what's easy.
The main character of Preacher, a preacher named Jesse Custer, starts the book off by getting really drunk and getting really irritated by his congregation. Then the church explodes. See, a demon and an angel fell in love and had a child, a being so powerful it scared God into leaving Heaven. The being is known as Genesis, and it lands within Jesse, killing everyone around him. It also gives him all the memories and knowledge that Genesis had (although that comes slowly over time) and the Word of God, the ability to make anyone do anything by simply telling them to do it. This includes making a guy count every single grain of sand on a beach or just making people forget who you are or pretty much anything else he desires to do. Jesse then runs into his former girlfriend, Tulip O'Hare, who is trying to make a living as an assassin (though she has yet to actually kill anyone) and a hard drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy (well, not really, but his real name is a plot point later on). The three of them end up looking for God, to hold him accountable for leaving his post.
This, of course, leads to some complicated and interesting situations. The biggest threats over the course of the book come from three sources. One is the crazy religious family that Jesse comes from. Led by his insane grandmother, they are a bunch of hillbillies that Jesse's mother escaped from to meet his father, though the two of them eventually end up forced to live with the family. John Custer, Jesse's dad, is killed trying to leave the family home, while Jesse's mother is apparently killed later on (though she's eventually shown alive and Jesse reunites with her later in the series). The family spends much of the series hunting down Jesse to bring him back into the fold. The second big threat comes from a secret religious group called The Grail, and specifically from Herr Starr, a man who eventually stages a coup and takes over as leader of the group. The Grail has protected the lineage of the bloodline of Christ for centuries and has secretly controlled the world for just as long, working from the shadows with hardly anyone outside of their group even knowing of their existence. Over the course of the series Starr goes from a logical, if amoral, guy looking to better the world to an obsessed madman seeking nothing more than simple revenge. The final major threat is the Saint of Killers, an unstoppable killing machine sent after Jesse by the angels that were tasked with stopping Genesis from escaping in the first place. The Saint is an old cowboy, who upon his death shot Satan in the face and returned to get vengeance on those that wronged him and his family. He then became God's new spirit of Vengeance more or less and the patron saint of all killers.
Over the course of the series many wild things happen, but the focus is on the core group and their relationships. Some of the best issues of the whole series focus on John Custer and his time in Vietnam. The relationship between Cass, Jesse, and Tulip carries the majority of the book to its best moments. The ideas of responsibility and honor and loyalty are all over this book. I get why people can't get past the other stuff, but this is one of the best books ever written.
9. 768 points - Daredevil (Frank Miller) - 38 first place votes
#158 - #167 (artist)
#161 - #191 and #226 - #233 (writer)
Plus various minis, a couple single issues, and whatnot
Thirty-eight people thought this was the best book ever written. Hard to disagree.
Starting in 1979 as the artist, Frank Miller redefined how to write Daredevil, turning the tone into more of a noir and less of a straight up superhero book, just about every writer since then has tried to copy his style and his desire to pile as much shit upon the character as possible to see how far you can push him before he breaks. Bendis, Smith, Nocenti, Hine, Bru, and just about everyone else (except Kesel) that has had a run on this book since then and has started a run of amazing writers doing some amazing work on this title since then. Truly a defining run on a character, not unlike Lee's Spider-Man, Claremont's X-Men, Simonson's Thor, Wolfman/Perez NTT, and PAD's Hulk.
Royal had this to say about the book:
Frank Miller came onto Daredevil as a penciller. People forget that when they refer to "Miller's Daredevil." They may not even remember who the writer was (it was Roger McKenzie, by the way), or the fact that Daredevil was still a pretty generic, happy-go-lucky guy. When Miller did take over the writing chores, he took the book in a more cinematic, crime-story influenced direction where he amped up the violence and intensity. His most famous contribution to the Daredevil mythos is of course, the love interest/antagonist Elektra who went on to become another great Marvel character in her own right.
As he said, Elektra became a huge part of this run. Miller retold elements of how Daredevil became a hero, bringing in characters like Elektra, a former girlfriend turned assassin, and Stick, the man that trained Matt in the ways of a ninja and taught him to control his powers. He also took the Spider-Man villain, the Kingpin, and made him into the main enemy of Daredevil. The Kingpin hires Elektra while Bullseye is in jail, so he escapes and kills her to prove he's a better assassin, this leads to Daredevil throwing Bullseye off a roof and starts a long line of Matt's love interests and friends that Bullseye would kill.
Changing the focus of the book from battles with super villains to battles with organized crime and ninjas is something that has mostly stuck with the character for the last 30ish years. The Gang War storyline saw Spider-Man and the Punisher play some big roles. After leaving the book for a while, Miller returned for one last storyline, often considered his masterpiece, Born Again.
Karen Page, who had left the book years before to try to make it as an actress in Hollywood, returned as a heroin addict and sold Matt's secret ID in order to get drug money. That kicks off a series of events that was worse than anything else Matt had dealt with to this point, as the Kingpin goes through systematically destroying Matt's life, taking his home, his job, his friends, and driving him to a nervous breakdown. Eventually Matt regains his composure just in time to battle the super soldier known as Nuke. While their battle rages, many innocents are killed by the psychotic Nuke. After finally subduing the villain, Matt uses a gun to take out the helicopter that was providing support fire, killing the pilot. This leads to a team up with Captain America who helps him take down Nuke after he escapes, and eventually leads to the Kingpin being exposed for his actions and having his reputation ruined. Meanwhile, Daredevil and a newly clean Karen Page actually end this story together and happy.
Overall it's a run of great importance, filled with great stories, amazing art by various artists, and has a greater impact on the title character than just about any non-creator owned book of the last 30 years. The series has appeared on numerous best of all time lists, won many awards, and has received tons of praise from both fans and critics. A well deserved spot on the list, and if anything maybe a few spots too low.
8. 782 points - Invincible (Kirkman) - 42 first place votes
#1 - current, plus various minis and one shots
Forty-two people think this is the best book ever written. I've only read the first HC collection, and while it's good, I can't believe it belongs this high or that it's better than The Walking Dead, which to me is Kirkman's masterpiece and worthy of a spot this high. Still, the book has many dedicated fans and has received tons of praise and awards over the years.
Invincible is writer Robert Kirkman's take on superheroes, without the restrictions of being in the Marvel or DC universes, and without the need to limit what he does to the character. As a result many important characters have died or turned into villains, Kirkman has been free to do whatever kinds of stories he wanted, and the violence has been brutal and graphic.
The series follows the adventures of a young man named Mark Grayson as he's finishing up high school. His father is Omni-Man, the greatest hero on the planet and a Superman analog. Then someone kills their version of the JLA. And it's revealed that it was Omni-Man. See, unlike Superman, Omni-Man was there to initiate a takeover of the world by his alien race. He then asks Mark to join him. Mark basically tells him to screw off, and then they battle, with Mark getting a massive beating and nearly dying, though at the last moment instead of killing him, Omni-Man let's Mark live and leaves the planet.
Mark ends up in a coma for a few weeks, but eventually recovers. He's since gone on to try and make up for what his father was doing, prevent his father's alien race from taking over the world, developed relationships with other teen heroes, dealt with the negative impact of all of this on his personal life, and has tried to become a better hero and understand his powers. In much the same way a book like Spider-Man by Lee has shown a hero grow into his powers and develop a fully formed universe around him, Kirkman has tried to do the same for a modern audience with Invincible. In fact, there was even a special crossover with Marvel that Kirkman wrote that saw the two heroes team up.
So while this book may be a little high, it's something that might be looked at as belonging here 20 years from now. It's not better than Daredevil though.
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