Today comic books are arguably the single most influential force in the pop culture ecosystem, not only responsible for inspiring the biggest movies of all time but also for influencing everything from games on Casumo.com to books, plays and many other works of art.
In spite of this all-encompassing power they hold, there is no denying that the quality of comic books can vary considerably. Some are unadulterated masterpieces, others are merely mediocre and plenty are purely repugnant.
With such a wide spectrum to consider, it is a good idea to know which you should be eager to read and which are essential to avoid, so here is a brief run-through of comic book franchises both amazing and awful alike.
The Best – From Hell
While author Alan Moore’s work in the world of comics is littered with gems that focus on traditional suit-wearing superheroes, arguably his finest hour is of a very different type and tone altogether. Forget everything you know about From Hell based on its sub-par cinematic adaptation; the original comic is a tour de force of historical storytelling, gory set-pieces and compelling characters.
Journey into the dark heart of 19th century London, a city where Jack the Ripper stalks the streets and victims are piling up, as efforts to catch this ruthless killer intensify and the authorities are baffled by the intertwining events surrounding the murders. With artwork by Eddie Campbell, From Hell is a glorious piece of work.
The Worst – The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Although Frank Miller may have enjoyed critical success with much of his comic book output, he has also produced some less than perfect efforts in his time, and The Dark Knight Strikes Again is definitely something of a low point.
While critics praised some elements, the overriding feeling is that this was a massive missed opportunity and one which felt thoroughly old-fashioned for its treatment of the source material, failing to do anything to modernise Batman. Coupled with artwork that could diplomatically be called a little rough around the edges, this is a story that left most fans feeling disappointed.
The Best – Hellboy
Another comic book series that has had a slightly strained experience in its transition to the silver screen, Hellboy is still a brilliant series to delve into, with its earliest incarnations proving to be especially engaging because of their ingenuity and uniqueness.
While the hard-boiled hero is now something of an overdone concept, there is so much personality and panache to Hellboy that it is hard to feel like it is anything other than entertaining.
The Worst – Youngblood
Looking back, the 1990s was a strange time for pop culture. There were some incredibly successful trends and tropes to emerge which are still seen with fondness to this day. There were also more than a few creations that have fallen by the wayside, and for good reason.
Youngblood falls into the latter camp, with its attempts at being edgy and cool really not ageing very well at all in the decades since it was originally published. The fact that attempts to revive this franchise more recently have been met with mixed responses at best is a sign of just how far things have moved on.
The Best – The Walking Dead
Before it became a hit TV show, The Walking Dead was king of the contemporary comic books scene, earning accolades for both its writing and its artwork.
It may feature a whole host of zombies, but like the best examples of this genre it manages to tell stores that are compellingly human, tinged with drama and grief but also featuring moments of levity and humour to balance out the darkness.
The Worst – Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose
While the best comic books of all time tend to use compelling stories and gorgeous artwork to draw in readers, some use nothing but titillation and gratuitous acts to earn their keep.
Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose uses the second strategy and is often cited as being a poor example of what this medium can be used to achieve. While it obviously has an audience, its critical credibility is virtually non-existent.