I need some graphic novel recommendations

I remember there was a thread about this at one point, but not the name. Anyway, I don’t just want a best of comics thread. For my Bday last month, I got Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns (first year), and LoEG (volume one). I enjoyed all three, but especially Watchmen. It really deserves its status as a classic. So I’m looking for more like that one in particular, though I also really enjoyed Dark Knight. LoEG was OK, but not really great, IMO.

So I’ve heard Sandman is good. That’s on my list. What else should I be looking for? Since I hadn’t read these before, it should be obvious that I don’t read these things at all, so the field is wide open. I like action and such, but it was the overall work on the stories and the nice, adult themes that drew me in. That’s what I want.

Sandman is a pretty big series. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend the following:
Ex Machina
Y - The Last Man

Y and Fables especially if you are interested in getting a female significant other to buy in to your new habit.

Also: there’s Planetary, Runaways, The Ultimates, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles, Preacher, Top Ten.

Stuff that comes in single volume: Bone, We3, From Hell, and Pride of Baghdad

Sandman is good, but doesn’t withstand the test of time the way Watchmen does.
Here’s a few things that I think you might like:
Criminal - Both by Brubaker. The first has superheros, the second doesn’t. But they’re both awesome noir books.
Transmetropolitan - Ellis’ sixty issue masterwork. Sort of a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson story. Has it’s ups and downs, but definitely hits some of the same notes that Watchmen did, although in a very different way.
The Losers - Doesn’t get a lot of mention around here, but I thought it was pretty damn good.
Powers - Don’t let the Bendis haters fool you, when he’s good he’s really good.
Alias - another fun book by Bendis. It’s adult themes, but it’s in the MarvelU, so YMMV.

V for Vendetta is an obvious one, Hellblazer and Books of Magic are good too.

I’ll second the recommendations for Planetary, Transmetropolitan and Preacher.

If you can track down a complete set of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, it is an absolute must-own. For my money, it’s the greatest comics novel yet written. It’s the Lord of the Rings of the medium, and I don’t make that comparison lightly.

If you’re a fan of Alan Moore’s control-freak storytelling, and you don’t mind Eddie Campbell’s drawing style, then you must read From Hell.

Epileptic, by David B., is extraordinary, but it’s not about superheroes; its about the author’s relationship to his brother’s epilepsy.

Chester Brown’s Louis Riel is a great story about the Métis resistance leader and his struggle against the Canadian government.

I’m reading Osamu Tezuka’s epic Buddha right now, which really demonstrates a master cartoonist at the top of his form.

Some Jason Lutes guy also has a few.

Can’t go wrong with Berlin - City of Stones.
Castle Waiting is also good.
Queen and Country
The first Whiteout is excellent.
That’s all I can think of off-hand.

I just got Lutes’ Jar of Fools, and the short book Houdini: The Handcuff King from Amazon yesterday. Man, great stuff.
Edit: Speaking of Eddie Campbell, I read his Black Diamond Detective Agency earlier in the year. The plot ain’t bad, a 19th century crime story, but it’s Campbell’s art that made the book for me. Painted, coarse style that completely worked in the context of the story.

Kyle Baker is awesome: Why I Hate Saturn, You Are Here, I Die At Midnight. The latter two are sort of dark screwball comedies.

I liked Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One better than The Dark Knight Returns. It has much the same vibe, and was written back when he knew how to write.

I echo recommendations for the Transmetropolitan and Preacher series. If you like Transmetropolitan, you might also like Ellis’s Fell and Global Frequency – both are deliberately written such that each original issue was a self-contained short story, as well as being part of a larger whole.

When you read Sandman, don’t be put off by the first book. It’s good, but not great; Gaiman was still figuring out the voice of the series. From The Doll’s House onward, it’s pretty awesome.

The Walking Dead (zombies!) and Y:The Last Man(i know it has been mentioned already)

A) If you’re getting into Sandman at this stage, (and buying it, rather than checking it out at the library…they probably do have it), then I must recommend going the Absolute Sandman route. Yes, they’re spendy: $100 per volume MSRP. But they’re gorgeous, properly recolored, with tons of extras and considering that each volume represents ~3 trades worth of the comic and a bit of discount-hunting can drop things down to the more manageable $60-70 range, it’s not really that much of a premium.

B) If you like it, also read Lucifer, which is sort of a spinoff and also very good (though not quite up to the same standard. But it’s a high, high standard.).

C) Don’t do the one-volume edition of Bone. It’s a tempting value until you realize that it’s so enormous that it’s hard to read and the materials are flimsy. My copy’s spine is already coming apart. Besides, now the single volumes can be had in full color.

D) Be warned that From Hell contains large digressions on things like magical theory that apparently fascinate Moore but bored me stiff.

Other recommendations: Box Office Poison, Beg the Question - funny stories about assemblies of losers and their lives. Nothing profound, but enjoyable. The Red Star: huge, lavishly artistic comics about a fantasy reimagining of the USSR. Epic scope, neat ideas, gorgeous visuals. And there’s also a pretty decent PS2 beatemup/shmup based (loosely) on the comics. Rising Stars and Supreme Power: two different takes on a “superheroes in the real world” theme by J. Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 fame. The former is all him, the latter is apparently a revamp of a seventies title called Squadron Supreme from Marvel.

Supreme Power is great reading, but Straczynski literally walked away from it in the middle of a fight scene between the Superman analogue and his nemesis. Avoid it if never-to-be-resolved cliffhangers bother you.

Since they haven’t been mentioned, I’ll put up DMZ and Ex Machina

DMZ is the story of a reporter in New York in a near-future where the US is going through a civil war and Manhattan is caught in the middle. No super heros but some very good stories.

Ex Machina is the story of a New York city engineer who is in an accident with some kind of alien device and gets the power to talk to machines. He tries his hand at crime fighting the way it’s done in the comic books of his youth but this isn’t a super hero story per se. The story starts with him winning the NY mayor election.

Nice spoiler!

I’ve been reading the book, and I have to say that the quality drops rapidly after volume two. It’s not bad, it’s just not electrifying.
I’m up through five now, and I’m hoping that it picks up going forward.

That’s a spoiler? How? While Ex Machina likes to fill in details in the story with flashbacks what I wrote is pretty much laid out in the first issue or two.

The revelation of EDITED is a pretty major surprise moment for the book. It even comes with a full page “shocker” reveal.

I would have been bummed if someone had ruined that for me.

You know, it would be easier to edit it if you hadn’t quoted me on it.

That said, my apologies. Been too long since I read the first issue. I’ve just been taking it for granted the past couple of years.

We can all work together on this.

Kalle: Yeah, the Ex Machina stuff is a spoiler, it would be a kindness to future generations if you could go back and edit the original post.

Planetary: There are three graphic novels out now, with a fourth (I guess) to follow once issue 27 makes it into the world (the main series wraps with 26, but 27 ties up some loose ends, apparently. This is probably my favorite series of the new century - most of the issues are self contained, and Ellis riffs on all the major genres of the 20th century, from pulp two fisted adventures through major motion picture blockbusters. I found it completely absorbing and new.

Hellboy: If you haven’t read these, start with the first two, “Seed of Destruction” and “Wake The Devil” - if you love Mignola’s mix of art, Cthulhu and old legends, then get the rest. I was much less impressed with the BPRD spin offs, which are generally other people’s art and stories, with some direction from Mignola.

Berlin: Much more realistic than the above, but with gorgeous art, and a compelling cast. Sort of sad, but wonderful as well.

Fables and Hellboy are the best books in production today.

My favorite of the Hellboy trade paperbacks is The Chained Coffin and Others; it doesn’t do anything to advance the continuity of the main series, but then I’ve always thought the overall continuity was Hellboy’s weakest part. The shorter stories are the strongest.

And if you go for Fables, I’d recommend starting with Animal Farm. The first story arc is a detective story/murder mystery featuring the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White, which gives plenty of set-up, but doesn’t sell the series IMO. It’s not until the second book that the concept really starts to pay off.