#21 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
When Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy unfolded on our screens many declared it the first ‘real’ version of Batman in cinema. What they mean by that is that it’s the closest to Frank Miller’s version of the character – the dark, mysterious and gritty vigilante that has become the template for Batman since 1986. This remarkable story shed the camp and goofy image of the character in favour of the Dark Knight we know today. An older, retired Bruce Wayne returns as Batman and sends shockwaves through Gotham. An amazing read.
#25 – Batman: Knightfall
There’s a reason why Batman comic readers were giddy about Bane appearing in The Dark Knight Rises. When the villain was introduced in Knightfall he launched an elaborate scheme against the Bat. After bringing down the walls of Arkham Asylum and leaving the inmates to run amok in the city he runs Batman through a gauntlet of foes, leaving him physically and psychologically exhausted, before the iconic confrontation at Wayne Manor.
#27 – Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Perhaps the most surprising comic-book series in recent memory, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye exploded onto the scene in 2012 to phenomenal reviews and utter enjoyment by fans. The series literally couldn’t stay on the shelves as it became pretty difficult to grab a copy of the first handful of issues in this run. Clint Barton is one of my all-time favorite comic characters so to say that this series struck a chord with me is a bit of an understatement. It’s drawn in a gorgeously “throwback” style while exploring the personality of a hero we haven’t really known this way before. It’s oftentimes dialogue-heavy with a focus on character-development and less on high-flying theatrics – though that’s not to say that the action isn’t furious and well balanced. It’s a delightfully engaging read that I couldn’t put down from day one as I found myself more and more in love with the brilliant writing. If you come away wanting to read only one of the newer graphic novels from this article than I urge you to go with Hawkeye, you won’t regret it.
#28 – The Ultimates: Super-Human
Marvel would have been smart to make this a more heavily promoted book to coincide with The Avengers in cinemas. Unlike the main Avengers comic series new readers can enjoy this without knowing the extensive backstory and wide array of characters. Iron Man, Capt. America, Thor, Giant Man, Hulk, Wasp, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and others are introduced like new characters and embark on some truly spectacular city wide battles.
#29 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Chris Claremont’s two issue story published during the early days of the second incarnation of X-Men created ripples through the canon that are still being explored today, and forms the basis for the next feature film. The story takes part on two timelines, beginning with one far in the future. Following the assassination of a senator pushing for mutant registration the US government unleashes a horde of giant, mutant hunting robotic Sentinels to handle matters. The machines take control of the country (in the interest of keeping the peace) and the few remaining heroes struggle to survive underground. Kitty Pride telepathically merges with her younger self to help the modern day X-Men avert the horrible fate.
5 more at the source
Before anyone freaks out about The Killing Joke not showing up yet, there's a whole separate upcoming section for villain-centric stories.