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Underappreciated Gems

These books, while not all of them EXCELLENT (though many of them are), just don't get enough (or in some cases any) attention.  Some on the list, like Moonshadow, do have a certain prestige, but nowhere near enough as they are always lumped in with other titles from the same time period that are better known and cause these other overlooked gems to get largely pushed to the side and regarded as "also-rans".
Other things on the list were perhaps merely regarded as basic superhero material and weren't given the chance to show a broader audience that there was much more going on.
All in all, these are titles (whole volumes and individual creators's runs within long-running volumes) that I really wish had earned a wider audience.  For gosh sake, some of them have never even been collected in trade!

List items

  • J.M. DeMatteis' magnum opus DOES have a certain amount of prestige, having been collected in one of the higher quality non-"Absolute" books on the graphic novel shelf, but it is still a largely unknown book. Surely it suffers from having originally been released in the same time period as Watchmen, Maus and Dark Knight Returns. Moonshadow is in very good company alongside those titles as all are phenomenal works, but honestly, Moonshadow is my favorite and it often gets pushed to the side as an "also-ran" of those other better known and better received books that hog all the credit from saving the industry from the brink of destruction. Moonshadow is still one of the most beautifully done comics I've ever read and after about 4 readings, it still has a strong emotional hold on me.

  • Greg Rucka's run on Elektra was surprisingly good. He took the character into interesting territory as she attempted to become a pacifist, and her trainer and friend during the story, Drake, was a captivating character. Also, much of the run featured early art from future superstar Carlo Pagulayan.

    Perhaps the title didn't get much notice because so many were turned off by the widely seen as distasteful cover art of the exploitative Greg Horn.

  • Marvel's late 90's "Strange Tales" line of books was a sad misfire. The line was launched with 2 titles, this and Paul Jenkins' "Werewolf by Night", with a 3rd that would never see the light of day, "Satana" which was allegedly to have been produced by Warren Ellis. The line launched without the approval of the comics code authority, which ruffled plenty of feathers at the time although neither book that actually saw publication in the line pushed the mature reader boundaries very far at all. And the code stamp was put on the books with Man-Thing's 3rd issue. Man-Thing was canceled in 8 issues and Werewolf in 6; both titles in mid-story. A "Strange Tales" anthology was launched collecting both books under one cover, set to run for 4 issues, allowing both titles to finish their stories. 4 issues of work were completed but only 2 were ever released; so 13 years later both stories remain incomplete. It's a terrible pity as J.M. DeMatteis' Man-Thing was an incredibly dense read. Beautifully illustrated by Liam Sharpe, the title delved deep into the human psyche and had florid narrative the likes of stuffy, well regarded literature. This series had something truly special. Stuck in perpetual cliffhanger, I still fondly remember it over 10 years later and it is still one of my fondest fanboy dreams for Marvel to eventually release the full work, with unpublished ending, in a trade one day.

  • Future superstar Greg Pak (Planet Hulk) cut his teeth at Marvel on this bomb of a title that was solicited as a new ongoing and due to horrific sales was downgraded to a 4-issue mini. It's a terrible pity, as the title had a drastically new take on the concept of Adam Warlock and it was very well done. The characters were believable, the message strong without being overly preachy and it made solid use of the character of Warlock, who usually comes off as too aloof to be captivating. Finely illustrated by future Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, I'd have very much liked to have had this creative team get to try the waters with this concept just a bit longer.

  • It took 18 years for the best work by writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Hellblazer) and artist Ted McKeever (Metropol) to be reprinted in any way, shape or form. Milligan, a true innovator of the comics medium, still suffers from having much of his formative material from Vertigo in the mid 90's being long out of print. This is a shocking, startling and oddly beautiful story, and I'm thrilled that Vertigo finally had the sense to re-release it (at a bargain price as part of the "Vertigo Resurrected" line to boot!). If you find a copy, BUY IT.

  • Yes, this title sold well and received critical acclaim. Lots of titles do. I honestly think Jason Aaron's Wolverine (this and continuing into his relaunched Wolverine title) is THE Wolverine run for the ages. Heck; I get excited for new issues of Aaron's Wolverine like for pretty much no other book on the stands. Aaron's Wolverine is one of the best things Marvel has been publishing the last few years and I hate it. I've always been all about underdogs and b-listers. I don't WANT to care about Wolverine. And Jason Aaron has made it one of my favorite books on the stands. God DAMN him.

  • Right up there with Dark Knight Returns for Frank Miller's best work, his 80's era sci-fi tinted stuff still stands out as the best work of his career; even above Sin City. I'm aware that Ronin has enough prestige to have warranted an "Absolute" edition, but at the same time I nonetheless feel that it's a work people don't think of right away when they think of Frank Miller. And they SHOULD.

  • I adored the entire run of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's "Incredible Hercules", but this particular arc put the biggest smile on my face. On one level it's a great fan-service story where you get to see Thor and Hercules making fools of themselves and each other, but on a whole other level it's a very intelligent book that continues the run's footing in intellectual storytelling that craftily weaves superheroics in with mythology textbook lore. It's a wonder this title got to run as long as it did and the entire run has a place of honor on my shelf... but if I had to pick out one particular volume of it as a favorite, this is it.

  • Joe Casey is rock and roll. Occasionally he hits one out of the park and gets to keep doing what he's doing for a considerable length of time with unwavering acclaim, such as with Godland, but more often than not, Casey's passion projects have been ignored and haven't been given much of a chance to find an audience. The Intimates ran for 12 issues, and each issue was jam packed with so much material (at normal comic page count) that it took twice as long to read each one. This was a fantastically well constructed series and is still my favorite Joe Casey work. I love Avengers Academy for similarly themed comics, but at the same time The Intimates puts Avengers Academy to shame.

  • Preacher and Punisher get all the credit for Ennis. I know this book has a die-hard fan base, but apparently it's just not enough of one to have ever gotten the entire run of the book put out in trade. This is a travesty. Tommy Monaghan is one of the greatest characters there has ever been in mainstream comics and his entire 5 year run being out of print at this time is a crime. Overall the book was just a tad hit and miss. I mean, Preacher and most of Punisher ARE better overall, but Hitman had its individual moments that stand out as some of Ennis' strongest work.

  • When people think great human interest graphic novel storytelling, they shouldn't just be thinking of "Love and Rockets" and "Strangers in Paradise".

  • Jason should gobble up Eisner awards left and right.

  • Ted McKeever has a certain die-hard cult following. Enough of one for Image to have lovingly collected three of his more sizable and important works in gorgeous hardcover editions. Plastic Forks, unfortunately, was not given this treatment, and has never been reprinted since its initial release in 1990. And it is absolutely McKeever's best work (as both writer and artist).

  • While not Grant Morrison's greatest work, this brisk miniseries was still a very interesting one, and something completely different and even risky for Morrison to have attempted as, by being as lighthearted as it was, it was a major departure from Morrison's typical themes. From around the same time period as "We3" and "Seaguy", this vertigo mini received little of the same attention and has not been kept in print.

  • Even though this title was abruptly canceled, making writer Peter Milligan have to wrap up the story in a rushed and somewhat nonsensical way, I still think this series is some of his strongest work and am still so very curious about what might have been. Like most of Milligan's vertigo work from the mid 90's, it has never been reprinted.

  • Warren Ellis' critically acclaimed 10 issue run on Hellstorm: Prince of Lies is still some very strong work from him, and especially strong work from artistic collaborator Leonardo Manco. One stand-alone issue from this run remains one of my all-time favorite single-issue stories. Despite the critical acclaim this title received at the time (that couldn't save it from cancellation), PLUS Warren Ellis' superstar status, Marvel has never reprinted any of it in trade.