Thursday 9 January 2020

25 Comics and Graphic Novels to keep your kids reading comics - Part 2: Tween, Teen and YA Recommendations

Following on from Part One of our huge round-up of cool comics for kids, we're concentrating on the older end of our two part article, this time with a huge selection of comics and graphic novels to entertain your tweens, teens and young adult readers. Keeping kids reading as they mosey on through their teenage years is super-tough. There are so many more distractions and other things that they want to focus their spare time and attention on, and with national figures suggesting that kids in general - particularly teens - have far less free time away from school / study duties than ever before, it's sometimes difficult to keep 'em interested and engaged with reading for pleasure.

This article represented a tougher challenge anyway, not just because of the vast difference in experience and maturity between the ages of 11 and 19 (and beyond), but also because quite often the comics and graphic novels featured here are definitely not something you'd be happy for a Tween to read, but may be slightly less grumpy to let your 15 year olds loose on.

So bear with, bear with! Please don't berate me on Twitter if you don't agree with the categorisation of anything that appears in this list, it's merely a guide, a radar boost, and a roundup of stuff we (well, mostly I) have enjoyed from the last decade of catching up with comics.

There are so many, many more I could've included but I've tried to make this a fairly eclectic (read: bonkers) list comprising new stuff and classics in equal meaure.

Note that if I think a particular title contains excessive violence, sexual content or swearing, I'll do my best to flag this next to the title of the comic / graphic novel in question, but read this article with the assumption that you need a fairly thick skin and a level of maturity to read any of these.

Enough yakking! Let's kick off then with our selection of 25 awesome comics and graphic novels with some for Tweens, Teens and YA (with a rough guideline age recommendation of 11 up, and some titles flagged for mature content - is that enough advisories? Hope so!).

1) Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro (Kodansha Comics) (Violence, Nudity, Swearing)

Yukito Kishiro's timeless cyberpunk classic definitely deserves a mention in this roundup, purely because it's a technically dazzling slice of cybernetic science fiction that barely pauses for breath. With the original volumes now reprinted and presented in classy hardcover editions, there's never been a better time to discover the story of android Alita, rescued from the scrap pile by Dr Ido and restored to her former glory as a death-dealing protagonist of the Panzer Kunst fighting style.

The main story arc shift gears effortlessly from almost pinocchio-like 'fish-out-of-water' stuff as Ido and Alita form a strong bond, through to uber-violent confrontations with insane warrior androids who want to watch the world burn, and in particular would very much like to see the lofty sky city of Zalem (which hovers, sentinel like, above the scrap-heap world Alita finds herself in) come tumbling down.

Kishiro's artwork is stupendous, with the tightest ink work, fantastic designs and thoroughly absorbing characters that are trademarks of the series. Though there's about three different story arcs and a series based on Mars too, the classics begin with the above Volume one as a good starting point. (bonus: these often crop up on ComiXology fairly cheap, and if you read them digitally you might not completely mess your brain up trying to decode classic manga "right to left, bottom to top" strip formats you'll find in these).

2) Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet (Drawn and Quarterly) (Infant mortality, Violence, grisly bits)

Definitely do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the cover of this book, it's definitely NOT the sort of thing you want to share with your little ones, in fact I've not even let my 11 year old daughter anywhere near it yet so definitely bear this in mind before jumping in.

"Beautiful Darkness" by Vehlmann and Kerascoet seems to offer up a cutesy-pie fairytale world at first glimpse, before that world comes crashing down amidst the story's chosen backdrop - the dead body of a little girl lost in the woods, and her gradual decomposition as the main story progresses.

At first reading you'd be mistaken in thinking that the book deals with a fairly vapid fairytale, a young beautiful maiden named Aurora vies for the attention of a vainglorious prince, eventually shunned by this complete dolt (who does get his comeuppance in a rather grisly way).

The story descends into a "Lord of the Flies-like" struggle for survival as the cute characters soon realise that their resources (and in most cases, their intelligence) are limited, and the seemingly innocuous woodland creatures they share a home with are nothing less than base, bloodthirsty animals acting on their own survival instincts.

Aurora's transformation from whimsical girly-girl to outright revenge-seeker during this story is never anything less than compelling, and the finale is both cheered for and horrific in equal measure. I guarantee you'll never have seen anything like this before, it's a work of warped genius.

3) Tamsin and the Deep / Dark by Neill Cameron and Kate Brown (Phoenix / David Fickling Books) 

No warnings on this one, so it's pretty safe for your tweens / pre-teens, though does deal with a goodly dose of dark celtic magic. There is swearing in here, but it's dealt with in an extremely clever way - and bear in mind that this strip did go out originally in kids comic "The Phoenix" so I'll stick with my 'no real warnings here' thing.

"Tamsin and the Deep" and "Tamsin and the Dark" both chronicle young Tamsin's fairly ordinary life, annoying older brother, and daydreamy existence in a fairly boring and ordinary Cornish village. But all that is set to change as Tamsin discovers that legendary monsters are real, and she may be the only person on the planet powerful enough to live up to the legacy of Arthur and Merlin, and keep the world safe from dark forces intent on crushing the barrier between our world and theirs.

It's sublime stuff, perfectly observed and pitched to feel contemporary, but dipping into celtic legend and magic enough to keep you guessing and on the back foot as Tamsin's character evolves, and she begins to realise that her role as The Last Pellar isn't something to be undertaken lightly.

Dark, gripping and utterly fan-flipping-tastic stuff.

4) 2000AD (Rebellion Publishing, various artists and authors, plenty of violence and swearing (if you know what "Drokk" means)

As a surly kid, I remember buying the very first issue of 2000AD way back on the 26th Feb 1977, mostly because my usual comic of the time (Krazy Comic - remember that?) wasn't in stock at our local newsagents and I had 10p burning a hole in my pocket. The first issue - complete with plastic space spinner - was absolutely stunning and ended up with me being totally hooked for the next 13 years. Not really sure what happened in the 90s but rediscovering this comic as a grown-up, and reacquainting myself with the likes of Judge Dredd and all the other fantastic strips that feature in the modern 2000AD has been a real trip over the last year and a bit.

Jumping back in, I'm thrilled to see that the comic is every bit as classy, relevant and downright reeking of quality as it always has been (and those Kingsley boys know a thing or two about preserving the legacy of awesome Brit comics, acquiring a ton of amazing IPs such as Misty, Scream and others).

But here you'll find a hectic mix of fantasy and sci fi, horror and downright surrealism to match anything you might have imagined or heard about this hugely influential comic. Still awesome, still packed with thrill power, and still absolutely essential.

5)  "My Favourite Thing is Monsters" by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)

It just took one look at the cover of this book to make me leap in and buy it, rendered in the most amazing biro-art style I've ever seen - and paying homage to the sort of "Monster of the Week" B-movies that Universal Studios used to churn out.

It's actually the story of 10 year old Karen Reyes whose truly monstrous appearance belies a curiosity and intelligence way beyond her years.

When a tenant in her building dies under mysterious circumstances, Karen decides to play detective and investigate, and soon uncovers that Anka (the deceased classy lady she once befriended) had a horrific and trouble past, set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany.

Karen finds out more about Anka through tapes she recorded while alive, and soon the plot becomes even more complicated as Karen's own brother is seemingly not quite as innocent as he appears - nor is Anka's husband.

Come for those amazing visuals and exquisite details - there's nothing else quite like this out there in comics - and stay for a thoroughly absorbing and multi-layered plot that dances between allegory and growing pains as Karen becomes more aware of her world, and the darkness that tinges it at every step. We're currently on the edge of our seats waiting for Volume 2 (which is hopefully arriving in September this year) but can fully see why these take Emil so long to complete, they're gorgeous stories.

6) Spider-Man: Spiderverse by Christos Gage, Dan Slott, Olivier Coipel, Michael Costa (Mild Violence and icky bits)

Arguably one of the most groundbreaking titles to hit Spidey-dom, and part of the inspiration for the stupendous Oscar-winning "Into the Spider-Verse" movie, this whopping great big collected volume gathers together the silken threads of multiple Spider-Man characters and story arcs into one delicious multi-hued edition.

Someone's hunting Spider-Men and Spider-Women (and for that matter, Spider-Pigs!) across different parallel realities, and the spiderfolk that are left have gathered together to try and stop the nefarious Inheritors - super powerful beings that see the Spiders as nothing but a tasty snack.

There's a huge collection of creatives who contributed to this series, yet it's a fantastically coherent piece of work. Though the movie went off on its own path of dealing with the idea of multiple Marvel universes all inhabited by different versions of well-known heroes, this book does more to solidify that idea into something completely unmissable and essential for any would-be comic collector.

7) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley (DC Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)

I have a real love-hate relationship with Frank Miller's stuff but there's no denying that "The Dark Knight Returns" rode the wave of comic coolness when it dropped like a bomb back in 1986. Back then I was still completely obsessed with 2000AD, and Batman comics were in a huge slump. This graphic novel changed everything though, not only making Batman darker and grittier than he'd ever been before, but showing even more of his frailties and flaws, his more human (and fallible) side, something comics always seemed to steer well away from with well-established superhero types.

Of course this graphic novel opened the floodgates for decades of 'gritty, dark' comics, with virtually every comic creative taking a long hard look at their own characters to see where they could perform the same trick.

Subsequent Miller outings with the Bat haven't quite lit the fire as brilliantly as this did, and it was obviously hugely influential on the later darker tone of Christopher Nolan's movie treatments of Batman. Don't shiv, pick it up!

8) Paper Girls by Bryan K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson (Image Comics) (Violence, Swearing)

Sure, Netflix's "Stranger Things" might have made 80s retro 'cool' again, but this comic goes one step further, hopping across different timelines to weave a fantastic story of four 12 year old  papergirls drawn into a cataclysmic fight for survival.

Erin, Mackenzie, KJ and Tiffany set out on their paper route in Stony Stream as usual - but as Halloween draws to a close, the world changes around them - and they realise that the shady characters mooching around the neighbourhood aren't just bored teens in costume.

When they discover a strange machine in a basement, the real trouble begins - and soon the four girls are forced to dig into their own inner strength just to stay alive, and examine the true meaning of friendship as they often end up shoulder to shoulder, facing off against a world - and enemies - both familiar and unfamiliar.

The storyline timehops effortlessly, even going back to the very origins of paperboys and girls as the four try to make sense of the messed-up machinations of a nefarious set of foes who keep dicking with time.

There are so many brilliant moments in this comic series, ranging from the all-too-familiar feelings around your last days of childhood, and the horror of finding out what sort of adult you'll grow up to be (yeah, I think I'd be pretty horrified if I'd seen my future self at the tender age of 12) make this one of the most original and dazzling titles I've seen in the last decade. Completely unmissable and essential stuff.

9) Crowded by Chris Sebela, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt (Image Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing, Zero-Hour Gig Economies)

Without a doubt, my favourite comic of 2019, now taking a bit of a break before it picks up again this year - but giving you ten solid volumes of near-futuristic craziness that you definitely need to get in on before they turn it into a movie (Rebel Wilson is attached as creative / star for a movie treatment, make of that what you will!)

Charlie Ellison is an ordinary everyday lowlife, flitting from app-driven job to app-driven job in a world framed as 'ten minutes into the future' but increasingly looking, sounding and feeling very much like our own.

Some might describe Charlie as annoying, but annoying enough to become the subject of a REAPR campaign? REAPR is an app-driven crowd-funded assassination scheme, and Charlie finds herself hunted by just about everyone on the planet.

In desperation she turns to Vita, the lowest-rated bodyguard on the DFend app - and the two strike up an unlikely alliance as Charlie's bounty begins to hit six figures. Will the duo survive and perhaps find a quiet moment for more than just a strained friendship?

Crowded is a work of genius, in fact it's one of those comics that uses such an effective core idea that you'll wonder why no one thought of it sooner. Charlie is funny, annoying, sexy and vulnerable all at the same time while Vita is focused and super-smooth, deadly and skilled - but like all teflon-coated bad-asses she has a heart of gold tucked under that stylish yellow biker jacket. You'll not find a cooler comic series to get into on the ground floor so grab up those first 10 volumes and see what the fuss is about!

10) Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr and Cameron Stuart (Image Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing, Drug Use)

Did you spend way too much of your misspent youth playing Road Rash on the Sega Megadrive? Ever wondered what it'd be like if someone based a comic around motorcycle combat, sexy badasses and a strange drug that heightens the senses and reaction times?

Motor Crush (like most of Image Comics' catalogue) is just effortlessly cool. Domino Swift is the lead character, by day she's a competitor on the superfast world motorcycle racing league. By night she can't resist the lure of illegal street races, often fuelled by an addictive drug known as Crush.

Domino's past catches up with her as she begins to find fame in her legit day job, and her night-time illegal activities have greater implications for her home, her friends and her surrogate family.

Frenetically paced and brilliantly sexy (mostly thanks to Babs Tarr's incredible characters and drool-worthy sense of fashion), the series has gone from strength to strength and shows no sign of slowing down for stop signals.

11) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image comics) (You name it, it's in here and I'm warning you about it. Violence, alien ballsacks, TV headed robots boning, the list is endless)

Honestly, I will quit with the Image Comics love-in but had to squeeze this one in, simply because there has never been anything quite like it in comics, and I doubt there ever will be.

"Saga" is the sort of science fiction that flatly refuses to be pigeonholed, but in essence uses a theme that feels instantly familiar. Two warring worlds, a pointless conflict, and a bond between two lonely soldiers on either side that turns into something truly epoch-making.

It's extremely difficult to sum this comic up, suffice to say that it's sexy, deviant-baiting, grossly disturbing and heartwarming all at one and the same time as main characters Marko and Alana fall in love and become parents while being relentlessly pursued across the galaxy by deadly foes.

The only frame of reference I could possibly compare "Saga" to is a mix between a grown-up version of Farscape (that wonky old sci-fi show) and Lexx (in fact the earliest episodes of Lexx are very close in tone and feel to Saga at times, I wonder if they were an influence on Brian K. Vaughan when he was creating this).

Fiona Staples seems to be able to literally illustrate any scene (I mean once you've seen a sexy arachnic assassin making sweet love to a chunky bald lance wielding homicidal maniac you've pretty much only seen the tip of the iceberg of the sort of stuff you'll find in this comic series). Though taking a break, we're promised it'll be back sometime later this year. Don't expect a decent movie treatment though, I doubt hollywood would be capable of making anything this cool stand up on screen.

12) Hark, A Vagrant! and Step Aside, Pops! by Kate Beaton (Jonathan Cape) (Swearing, Sex references)

 No one should be allowed to be as funny as Kate Beaton, it's not really good for the nation's health to laugh until you sincerely feel like you've hurt something inside.

So imagine Horrible Histories if it was written by a Canadian girl who swears like a docker, and treats literary characters with the lack of respect they so richly deserve. Kate effortlessly flits between comic strips about historic characters, pop culture, and derpy teens with ease, producing strips that are probably not safe to read in polite company, if that polite company is alarmed by loud guffaws and laugh-crying.

No subject is sacred as Kate lays waste to Superman & Lois Lane, Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, Napoleon, Lord Byron and countless others. Worth picking up both "Hark! A Vagrant!" and "Step Aside, Pops!" just for the utterly sublime book cover stuff that comes later on in each.

Not difficult to see how she adapts so well to writing for kids (See "King Baby" and "The Princess and the Pony" - both of which are utterly awesome picture books) with such a brilliant and subversive observational eye for gut-busting humour!

13) The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanac by Nicholas Gurewitch(Violence, Sex, Swearing)

I can't remember how I found the web comic version of The Perry Bible Fellowship but dipping into the weird collection of irreverent one-shot panels and strips tickles the darker corners of my humour for sure.

There have been a couple of collected editions printed, encompassing most of the strips but this whopping great big almanac tenth anniversary edition is arriving on the 20th of January so it seems like a good opportunity to mention it here.

Imagine Gary Larson's sweetly innocent (by comparison) Far Side gone bad, left at the back of the fridge, or hanging out with the wrong crowd at the Mall and you'll get a flavour of the sort of humour you'll find in here.

Gurewitch is the sort of person you feel slightly guilty for finding funny when in polite company, but will read later on while laughing your tailbone off. Like Kate Beaton's strips, Gurewitch spares nothing, no-one, with his steely wit and gaze. "Today is my birthday" is one example of his genius, with a happy-go-lucky character leaping out of bed to celebrate their birthday while death in the second panel silently moves one more bead along an abacus. Dark, subversive and wickedly funny.

14) Porcelain by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose (Improper Books) (Violence, Swearing). 

I'm not sure if there's such a genre as "Bone China Punk" but this book could've been invented purely to coin that phrase. "Porcelain" by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose is a superb darkly gothic and highly original tale of a young orphan who is taken under the protective wing of an alchemical genius with a dark secret - the power to bring porcelain figures and animals to life.

"Child" enjoys her amazing life at first, wanting for nothing, but when the dark secrets of his alchemical process for imbuing life to the lifeless is revealed, he must pay the ultimate price.

This first volume ushers in a series where we follow Child's life as she grows up and (mild spoilers) assumes the porcelain maker's mantle, and becomes a rebellious force, resisting the army's attempts to procure a porcelain army to send into battle.

Brilliantly written with art to die for, it deserves a huge amount more attention than it gets, and is worthy of inclusion in our hot list.

15) Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image Comics) (Violence, Nudity)

Another amazing comic series, collected into glorious volumes and completely unmissable, "Monstress" by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda takes place in an alternate post-industrialised world where magic is more prevalent than machine.

A young girl discovers that she possesses a psychic link to a dark and violent monster, and finds herself drawn to doing its bidding amidst the backdrop of a world shattered by war.

Witches and magic are frowned upon, even outlawed, but the girl and her miscreant band of followers embark on an epic quest to discover the true nature of her powers, and perhaps her own origins.

With a touch of The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth about it at times, yet completely and utterly original, this is one of the most beautifully illustrated comics you'll ever see with Takeda's artwork nothing short of luxurious, worthy of framing and sticking in any art gallery you care to mention. It twists and turns plot-wise like a curved dagger, but spares time for moments of heartfelt sensitivity. Just eye-poppingly amazing stuff!

16) The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse Comics) (Violence, Swearing)

Another comic that's spawned a hit Netflix show, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's "The Umbrella Academy" is far more fantastical, surreal and essential in its original comic form.

Kicking off with a colossal battle involving an animated Eiffel Tower, seemingly brought to life to wreak havoc on Paris, the tale chronicles the fate of seven orphans all born on the same day at the same time across the world, all but one seemingly imbued with a mystical power of their own.

The orphans are collected together by a seemingly benevolent benefactor, Sir Reginald Hargreaves, to become a superpowered force for good.

Klaus, Allison, Vanya, Diego, Luther, Ben, and Number Five are trained to work together as an elite team of superheroes and assassins, but each child has their own flaws - which come to light as the graphic novel digs its treads into the snow and starts to gain traction.

The seventh child, Vanya, is told throughout her early life that though she was born on the same day as the other kids, she has no special powers at all. Something that later on in the graphic novel leads to her discovering quite the opposite (trying not to spoil things too much but Sir Reginald turns out to be a terrible, terrible liar and an absolutely appalling father figure). 

Inventive, gripping, sometimes funny but always thoroughly original, it's blisteringly brilliant whether you're familiar with the TV treatment or not, and new volumes are well under way. 

17) Conspiracy of Ravens by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Sally Jane Thompson (Dark Horse Comics)

 No warnings on this one so it's super-fine for your 11 plus kids, in fact it's good for a range of ages but the darker spookier themes present make it worthy of inclusion in this half of our roundup. 

"Conspiracy of Ravens" by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Sally Jane Thompson begins with a tragic death, a mysterious inheritance of a strange house, and one girl's realisation that she's destined for a life far less than ordinary - as the holder of a mysterious amulet that invokes magical powers at her behest. 

Soon young Anne also discovers that other girls have been drawn to spooky Ravenhall, and that dark forces are making plans to usurp Anne and her compatriots, to steal their powers and plunge the world into eternal darkness. 

This has all the spooky hallmarks of a brilliant mystery novel that fools you into thinking it's almost Enid Blyton-esque until it drops you into a darkly delicious, gothic and beautifully rendered graphic novel. Very much hoping to see more of in 2020. 

18) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics) (Violence, Nudity, Drug Use, Sex, Swearing)

Just like "The Dark Knight Returns", Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' absolutely essential "Watchmen" is something I've personally lost count of buying several times (note to anyone reading this, NEVER lend your copies of your most treasured graphic novels to folk who never return them promptly!)

If any one title in the last four decades could be called groundbreaking it's this, coming along at a time when comic superheroes were stale two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, mere shadows of their former selves - and the comics industry was in danger of collapsing in on itself. Trust Alan Moore to come along and reinvent superheroes into something virtually unrecognisable at the time. Flawed, fragile, egotistical, maniacal, downright dangerous - far from the visions of Superman, Batman and others at the time. 

"Watchmen" is now considered a classic of course, and still piques readers interests decades on from its original 1986 release (1986 was definitely a hell of a year for comics, no?) as new generations of fans discover the original graphic novel, its countless offshoots and the brilliantly well-received TV treatment. Here though is the original peerless version, not even sure you could legitimately call yourself a comic fan if you haven't owned this, or at least read it. 

19) On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)

Tillie Walden  is one of the most important talents working in modern comics - and effortlessly demonstrates why she was one of the youngest ever Eisner Award nominees with this sprawling science fiction space epic that - for someone so young - could almost be a piece of career defining work (but we're pleased to say that we predict Tillie is only just getting into her stride!)

"On a Sunbeam" at first feels like one of those comics you're going to need to read through a dozen or so times before you're going to understand its layers and nuances.

Yet the themes it explores are familiar, heart-wrenching, joyful, sad and relatable all at the same time, covering a lot of ground - and in a comic with 544 pages, plenty of space to go into great depth in the way the story unfolds.

This is the story of a young girl named Mia, and her chronicle begins as she embarks as a crew member of the Spacecraft Aktis. Its mission: to repair ancient buildings in monuments tucked into the dark cloak of space. Mia's attention wanders, and her memory constantly floats back to a time when she was a pupil at a space-going boarding school (and if "Space-going boarding school" isn't the phrase that hooks you into buying this, there's really no hope for you) and her closeness and eventual love and infatuation with a fellow pupil.

Tillie's gift isn't just that she produces some of the most incredible artwork you'll ever see in comics, but also that she can effortlessly describe the human condition, and in particular matters of the heart, with such razor-sharp surgical clarity that her stories become breathtaking snapshots of what it feels like growing up and beginning to work out who you really are. Essential for teens, absolutely essential. 

20) "The Unstoppable Wasp" Volume 1 by by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Again no warnings on this one so it's definitely suitable for your pre-teens. We all know that Marvel has done an amazing job over the past couple of decades producing comics featuring mighty female characters who don't just rely on their superpowers or their strength to get along. 

In fact it seems almost impossible to imagine something as good as "The Unstoppable Wasp" by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier needing any excuse to justify its existence. It's just brilliant stuff, chronicling the life of Nadia Van Dyne - Hank (Ant-Man) Pym's daughter with his first wife. 

Nadia falls under the protection of Hope Van Dyne and realises her ambition to become The Unstoppable Wasp, utilising her Red Room training and whip-smart science nous to good effect. 

 The series eases you in gently as Nadia comes to terms with a new life in the U.S of A, determined to fit in but also equally determined to gather together like-minded superheroes and scientific geniuses for her own crew of crime-fighting super-spying awesome ladies.

Not without its own problems, the series has now been cancelled - twice - it still stands alone as the perfect example of Marvel not just gender-swapping popular characters, but bringing a whole new raft of coolness to long-established story arcs, and stand-up heroes that feel more human, more fleshed out and more realistic than ever before. 

21) The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Hodder)

No warnings here either, but absolutely worthy of inclusion in our list, though some might argue against its inclusion. Is it really a graphic novel? Of course it flipping is! Shaun Tan's "The Arrival" is a modern classic, still as vital, important and brilliant as it was when it was first released 14 years ago. 

Shaun brings his incredibly inventive and surreal artwork to bear in a tale of fleeing a country torn apart by dark forces, of the struggle to find a new place to settle, and the culture shock of adapting to a new country's customs and day-to-day life. 

We've often championed the cause of wordless books on the blog and The Arrival manages to convey this very human story completely silently, without dialogue, but with huge impact. 

We've read this again and again (C in fact used to snuggle up on my lap and gaze at the illustrations long before she could actually decode or 'read' what was going on). One of those books that you absolutely have to have a copy of on your shelves. 

22) Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (Marvel) (Violence, Drug Use)

I'll freely admit that I've never really been a fan of Marvel's X-Men comics, but have always had a ton of respect for the way modern authors and illustrators have treated Wolverine as a character, taking him from a ridiculous Lycra-clad death machine towards something more frail, world-beaten and emotional - particularly in the "Old Man Logan" story arcs. 

Here, Logan is living a simple but poor life as a farmer, scraping out a living in an irradiated desert, some years after a league of supervillains finally got smart, ganged up, and took out the world's leading superheroes one by one. 

In this hellscape the locale is controlled by The Hulk Gang, gamma-irradiated super-strong offspring of the original Bruce Banner, now completely psychotic and insane and a long way from the Hulk you may know and love from the movies. 

After the grisly murder of his family, Logan's vow of peace is shattered, and he swears vengeance against Banner, the Hulk Gang, and an eventual restoration of "goodie" superheroes by messing around with time travel, aided by the only other survivor, an aged Hawkeye. 

There's something intriguing and addictive about reading comics where normally invulnerable super heroes are knocked on their asses, and forced to drag their way back to glory. Though James Mangold's "Logan" movie touched on the notion of an aged Wolverine coming to the end of his regenerative powers, this comic does a far better job of giving Logan one last shot at glory before he finally kicks the Adamantium-plated bucket. 

23) The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Dynamite Comics) (Violence, Sex, Drug Use, Dog Poo)

As fascinating as fallen heroes can be in comics, antiheroes are even more captivating - particularly when you're never quite sure who the good guys and the bad guys actually are. 

"The Boys" by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson almost re-poses the question "Who Watches the Watchmen" and answers it with "A bunch of semi-psychotic near-invulnerable black-clad boot boys. 

Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman and The Female are the 5 'boys' in question, sworn to make the world's cape-wearing lycra-clad superheroes toe a fine line. When Hughie's girlfriend is killed in an unfortunate accident involving being squished against a wall by an egotistical super, he joins "The Boys" and begins to unravel a complex conspiracy that threatens to undermine the fine balance between world peace and all-out super-powered war. 

Dark as the bitterest cup of coffee, shot through with a gallows humour that will make you feel utterly wretchedly guilty with every snicker and giggle, it's an action-packed fine-tuned look at superheroism from an entirely different and unexpected angle. 

24) "Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 1" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse Comics) (Violence, Sex, Nudity, frequent head chopping and disembowelment)

Long before most of the comics in our roundup - or in fact long before most of the comic creators in our roundup were even born, the Japanese Manga "Lone Wolf and Cub" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima was quietly doing groundbreaking things while most of us were still scudding around the floor in our terry nappies. 

Created in 1970 and running for six years, spawning multiple movie treatments and inspiring many directors, authors and illustrators, this action packed samurai tale of a father and his toddler erupts across many volumes, filled with tales of justice, vengeance and ultra-violence. 

I've always been attracted to comics that keep things simple art-wise, with black and white ink work and creative panel layouts, and it seems amazing to think that these were doing all this stuff so long ago, and yet when you read them again now, they seem completely modern, exciting and fresh. I was a latecomer to these, owning an imported softcover untranslated version in my teens before rediscovering them as gorgeous hard-bound editions some years later (still retaining the classic Manga "right to left, bottom to top" layouts). Picking them up again digitally, they're every bit as brutally impressive as they were when I first saw them as Ogami Itto and his tiddly toddler bring their own form of brutal justice to a Japan that feels at times more like the wild west, but never less than scintillating and fascinating. 

25) Gwenpool by Hastings, Gurihiru, Beyruth and Bonvillain (Marvel Comics) (Mild Comic Violence)

Fourth-wall-breaking stuff is all fancy, trendy and cool now that Deadpool (and Miranda) popularised it, but it's never been done more stylishly than in "Gwenpool". Don't be fooled by the pink candy-coloured no-pants-wearing superhero girl, she doesn't actually have any super-powers to speak of, other than a deep geeky knowledge of the Marvel Comics Universe - which she accidentally finds herself flung headlong into for real. 

Thinking on her feet young Gwendolyn "Gwen" Poole swiftly realises where she is, and indeed what she is, and sets about trading her terrible combat skills and not-so-street-smarts to the highest bidder, a maniacal head in a jet-boosted chair going by the name of M.O.D.O.K (yeah, that annoying twerp!)

After accidentally offing M.O.D.O.K's top assassin, Gwen finds herself in his gainful employment, and that's just the start of many, many brilliant tongue-in-cheek dust-ups with characters from the greater MCU. 

Though I let my tweenager loose on these, there are moments where Gwenpool relies heavily on cartoonish violence to make these awesome comics suitable for an audience younger than 11. That said, the constant stream of tongue-in-cheek Marvel references and in-jokes make it sparkle and fizz, and it's quite something to see a comic actually managing to one-up Deadpool in the 'funny uber-violent fourth-wall-breaking / comic-panel-shattering' stakes. 

And that's it for our second roundup. We hope you find some new reading inspiration amongst these excellent titles and we're always open to new suggestions to dig into, so hit us up on Twitter @readitdaddy with any you think we missed!