17. 'A Contract With God,' Will Eisner
The book that more or less introduced the term graphic novel, Eisner's story cycle follows a host of Jewish characters trying to negotiate life in a Bronx tenement. The writer-artist was already something of a legend for his work on the era-defining strip The Spirit in the Forties and Fifties, all but inventing much of adventure comics visual grammar. But Eisner considered this collected quartet of tales his masterwork, a sepia-toned literary fiction in the tradition of Bernard Malamud and I.J. Singer.