Obviously, there are more than 5 great Marvel graphic novels, but here’s a small selection of the very finest. The quintet I’ve chosen are all accessible to anyone, really, and don’t require a PhD in Marvel chronology to appreciate.
Kurt Busiek’s take on the Marvel Universe’s New York through the eyes of Daily Bugle photographer Phil Sheldon isn’t quite like anything else. The premise is simple: what would it be like to live a normal life in the Marvel world? Beautifully painted by Alex Ross, Buseik’s narrative spans several decades of comic history, as Sheldon manages to shoot the biggest events in Marvel comics, from the arrival of Galactus to the death of Gwen Stacy.
When Paul Jenkins took on Jack Kirby’s family of metahumans, they were hardly the hottest comic property going. But alongside artist Jae Lee, Jenkins crafted a complex tale that acts as a primer to the Inhumans, while touching upon such subjects as genetic diversity and adolescence metamorphosis. And Magnus the Mad, Black Bolt’s insane brother, has to be one of the most brilliant villains in a very long time.
The Sentry TPB
Nowadays the Sentry, or Bob as we’ve come to know him, is the Marvel Universe’s equivalent of Superman, a deus ex machina who numerous writers have exploited as an easy way to end a difficult conflict. This trade paperback collects the miniseries that introduced the character to the MU, as wasted loser Bob Reynolds suddenly recovers memories of fighting alongside the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and many more, as beloved hero the Sentry. But why does nobody else but Reed Richards remember the Sentry? Written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jae Lee.
Old Man Logan
Wanted/Kick-Ass writer Mark Millar and Civil War artist Steve McNiven teamed up once more for this futuristic take on that X-bloke known as Wolverine. 50 years from now, the heroes have fallen and Logan is forced to come out of hiding and once again take down the scum, accompanied by a blind Hawkeye. Unlike much of Millar’s recent work, Old Man Logan has a real British feel to it, and evokes some of the finest 2000AD stories, and McNiven’s work is incredible.
Ok, not a graphic novel as such, but an entire series collected in over a dozen (and counting) trade paperbacks. Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker take blind attorney Matt Murdock down an increasingly dark and tortured path. Unlike many Marvel superheroes, Daredevil actually evolves, and his relationship with Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk is one of the most multifaceted in comic book history.
At time of writing collected in the following volumes (and growing!), as well as several larger hardbacks:
Daredevil: Guardian Devil
Daredevil: Parts of a Hole
Daredevil: Wake Up
Daredevil: Out Daredevil
Daredevil: Echo – Vision Quest
Daredevil: King of Hell’s Kitchen
Daredevil: The Widow
Daredevil: The Golden Age
Daredevil: The Murdock Papers
Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out, volumes 1 & 2
Daredevil: Hell to Pay, volumes 1 & 2
Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual
Daredevil: Lady Bullseye Daredevil: Return of the King