We asked owners and managers of local comic book stores to recommend their all-time favorite must-reads, and here's what they suggested: "Batman: The Killing Joke" (1988) The Joker tries to turn Commissioner Gordon crazy through a series of devised methods, proving that anyone can have a bad day. "It's dark, even for Batman, but it's absolutely perfect."
- Luis Rivera, manager, Heroes' Haven, 4339 Gunn Highway, Tampa "Kingdom Come" (1996) Superman goes into retirement after The Joker kills Lois Lane, but he returns to stop a destructive new generation of "heroes." "It's really intense. If you're at all a Superman fan, it is an absolute must-read." - Duane Stamper, owner, Comics Club, 714 W. Lumsden Road, Brandon "Fantastic 4: Galactus Trilogy" (1966) Silver Surfer arrives as the herald of Galactus, the giant who declares his intention to consume the entire world. "Unbelievable art by Jack "The King" Kirby, and storytelling by Stan Lee, make this one of the all-time fan favorite origins. Excelsior." - Donald Taylor, owner, Green Shift, 5226 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa "Watchmen" (1987) America is on the brink of nuclear war and an epically dysfunctional team of superheroes have been forced to hang up their tights - until an assassin starts stalking them. "It has an extreme realism, and some of the best writing I've ever read in comics." - Eddie Wendt, manager, Culture and Thrills, 5205 N Florida Ave., Tampa "Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon" (2013) SHIELD recruits Hawkeye to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. "You get to see him in his off time. It's smart, funny, unexpected, a little irreverent and the art is beautiful. They really think about the layout; it's almost diagrammatical." - Chad Rivard, manager, Emerald CityComics, locations in Clearwater and Seminole "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" (1986) A 55-year-old Bruce Wayne leaves retirement to fight crime in a dystopian future version of Gotham CIty. "This is the story that paved the way for Christopher Nolan's Batman." - William Insignares, owner, Demolition Comics in Tampa and Blockbuster Comics in Brandon "Preacher: Gone to Texas" (1996) Reverend Jesse Custer, who has lost his faith and is possessed by a mysterious entity - sets out to find God and make Him answer for His dereliction of duty. "It's a modern day, western gothic horror adventure with everything you could possibly want. It's the first part of the best story of all time." - Scott Rienbeck, owner, Read More Comics, 115 E. Brandon Blvd., Brandon