Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine
A near-perfect marriage of sci-fi, social commentary, and old-school prison exploitation flicks, this Image comic follows the inmates of the titular all-female prison planet. With a sharp edge and a dark sense of humor, this comic takes on the patriarchy, gender roles and more, all in a kick-ass package.
Spider-man: Miles Morales Vol. 1
One of the most venerable superheroes in the game got a massive shot in the arm when Miles Morales was introduced. With an African-American and Cuban background, Miles made a splash when he took on the mantle of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, not only introducing some much-needed diversity into the Marvel Universe but bringing back the high-school-centric storylines that were high-points for many Spider-fans.
Ms. Marvel, Volume 1
One of the most interesting new characters in the Marvel Universe, Kamala Khan is a superhero for the modern age. The first Muslim character to star in a Marvel comic book, Kamala not only has to deal with the pressures of being a high school student, she also has to contend with new superpowers. All this leads to some of the most thoughtful, well, drawn character development that comics has seen in years. Plus, there's great super-hero action, and that's always good.
March (Trilogy Slipcase Set)
Without a doubt, the most important book on this list, this true tale of civil rights pioneer John Lewis is unsurprisingly an emotional and monumental work. The first graphic novel to win the National Book Award, this is the place where you'll find real-life super-heroics.
Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1 - Not My Captain America
When original Captain America Steve Rogers was knocked out of commission after reverting back to his original age (yes, it’s very comic book-y, but bear with me), he turned to his longtime ally Sam Wilson aka The Falcon to take up his shield. Assuming the role of Captain America, the Sam Wilson era of the comics not only gave us killer action and espionage, but tackled all sorts of real-life issues like racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, freedom of information, and more.
Cyborg Vol. 1
Yes, I know, the Justice League movie was…not great. You wouldn’t know it based on the film alone, but one of the more interesting characters is Cyborg. Despite having one of the most uncreative names in comic book history, Cyborg's star has risen in recent years. This is one of the standout runs, penned by David Walker, known for his work on the Shaft comic book series.
Saga Volume 1
This ongoing series, from prolific writer Brian K. Vaughn, is set in the outer reaches of a galaxy far far away (no, not THAT galaxy). Epic and emotional, this story of a family navigating an interstellar civil war boasts a refreshingly diverse cast of characters and a completely addictive narrative.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1
Of course, no list would be complete without National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed run on Marvel’s Black Panther comic. Coates introduced a political element to the comic that saw the King of Wakanda struggle to maintain peace in his kingdom, turning the book into an instant best-seller. This volume is the perfect primer if you still haven’t seen the Panther’s big screen debut.