Locke and Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodrieguez. It sounds like kid-lit … three siblings move into an old house with mysterious keys that allow them to do all sorts of crazy things. At its heart, though, it’s about a family trying to put the broken pieces of their lives together after tragedy. Plus it moves … this is my standard for page-turners in comics.

Bone, by Jeff Smith. The only all-ages comic on this list. Fone Bone and his two cousins take a wrong turn out of Boneville and find themselves in a magic forest with beautiful maidens, huge rat creatures and a sword-wielding, marathon-running grandma. It sounds silly, but the story goes on for seven volumes, getting more intriguing with every chapter.

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It made Time magazine’s top 100 books of the 20th century. It showed me for the first time what comics are really capable of. The story has plenty of superheroics, but they come across more as cries for help in a world presided over by a big blue god who just can’t seem to care. What does one do then? Every frame shows the answer, as characters engage in any behavior possible to create meaning where there is none.

Planetary, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. It starts out with paranormal investigators, but it takes a while to realize the creators are also putting their own spin on international pop culture. Godzilla, Japanese ghost stories, even American comics get their turn. But it’s all treated with a straight face, making for riveting, meaningful, even spooky storytelling. The issue where they discover the remains of the 19th century astronauts comes to mind.

Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. We know these characters. Thanks to the movies they’re household names. But Joss Whedon does what he does best:take pop culture icons and treat them like they’re real people, not stock characters. And his twisty narratives are still a joy to read.

The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman and various. This series from the ‘90s was a late discovery for me, and I’m not even through them. And yet, it shows why Neil Gaiman is considered one of the top storytellers today, in any medium. In his creations the bizarre and the mundane collide and weave together into something you can’t take your eyes off of.