1)Dark Knight Returns. by Frank Miller. "How many people did I let die by letting you live?" This was not your dad's batman. Frank Miller showed the howling madness at the core of the Batman concept and how utterly sane it might seem against our real world. It literally changed the genre of superheroes forever.
2)Watchmen by Alan Moore. "I am not in here with you. Youare in here with me!" The myth of the superhero comes open in this book Fetishes, dirty secrets and psychotic violent tendancies fill the hideouts of this series. Alan Moores use of multiple stroy telling angles including "in charicter" novel chapters and very dark storyline told from many perspectives. I enjoyed reading this. It was began to express what comics could be to me.
3) Sandman by Niel Gaiman. "And i am far more terrible than you my sister"This is THE work of modern myth fiction as far as I am concern. He intergrates seemlessly urban myth with ancient roman tales to superheroes. His gods are compellingly complex and believable.
4) Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon "I am a good and loving god, Tulip...BUT DONT PUSH IT!" Wow this is an amazing story. God is a bad guy, the saint of killers walks, and the hero is a preacher with his girlfriend and his pal, the Irish vampire. I could describe the plot but I shouldn't it is brutal and harsh but briliant
5) Astrocity by Kurt Busiek "It felt like somthing was begining and there was no where in the world I would rather to have been than astro city." I love the tale of the ordinary man in the extraordinary world. Astro City brings us to the world filled with superheroes of everytype and stripe. A place where they still believe in heroes. Yopu get to see their world from their view to be sure, but also from the view of the ordinary folks in their world. Incredibly well writen.
6) Kingdom Come by Mark Waid & Alex Ross "According to the wrod of god, the meek would someday enherit the earth. Someday. But God never accounted for the mighty." I have onocassion called this the ultimate superhero story. it is the end of the story of the DC comics world. (yes i know they have a whole chronology afterwards, I mean metaphorically) It is the end of the superhero road.
7) Titans:The Judas contract by Wolfman and Perez no convenient quotes. I remember reading this years ago and loving every single issue. It was betrayal and heartbreak and almost the end of the heroes. it amoung other things took a villain who had been chiefly 2-dimensional and made him so much more. And then there is Tara. The perfect judas. I loved this little story line and I am in fact actively looking for a copie of the collected issues.
8) Wolverine(1st miniseries) Chris Clairmont and Frank Miller " I am the best at what I do." This is where I began to love the charicter of Wolverine. Not the mindless killing machine he is sometimes shown as in this he is a Ronin in modern day japan. It has ninja's Yakuza and samuria and a love story that is elegant and old. Alot of Sauls thinking did in fact come from this charicter.
9)Scout by Tim Truman " I have sung the arrow of power song" An apache warrior as the heroe who talks to a rodent and hunts the monsters who disgusiethemselves as the people who rape our land and our spirit. It is a a distopic future of conspiracies and a declining power in the US. Blues, christ, gandalf, clint eastwood, stevie ray Vaugn all live here. just read and enjoy this shamanic tale of a future that never was but i suppose could be.
10) Xmen:God loves, Man kills by Cris Clairmont. No good quote. This was the whole point of the xmen storyline to me. What is prejudice? Where does it come from? This is where we get William Striker from, not a black ops friend of wolverines, but a preacher preaching racial purity. this is a haunting story which I love coming back to.
there are oother honorable mentions of course, Promothea is excellent. I enjoyed Powers. I have a soft place in my heart for New Warriors and Starman(Will Payton version) as I read them from begining to end. Batman year one should be on the list I guess as well, it is so thuroughly well writen. So many others. i loved comics since I first learned to read. they certainly shaped how i think about story telling and heroes.