"Elfquest" by Wendy and Richard Pini was one of the first graphic novels I ever read. I was already reading X-Men and Wolverine at the time my sister got me to read these. When I started "ElfQuest", there were only 1 through 8 volumes. It may seem foofy on the outside, but ElfQuest has a solid heart... Elves against humans, pure-blood elves against those of "tainted" blood, magic against steel, troll versus elf.... the art is great and the story lives on beyond the original four-then-eight novels. At least read the first two and you'll see what I mean.
"Strangers in Paradise" by Terry Moore. My absolute favourite comic/trade paperback of all time and possibly my most treasured codex of any kind. It's the real-world kicked up a notch. It's about friendship, love, violence, dark pasts, conservative familes and expectations, and anything that's not considered the 'norm' but is really just another part of life. This series has it ALL. If you read any kind of illustrated story, I highly reccomend you at least read the first two volumes of this series and I guarantee you'll love it. It's that good.
"Preacher" by Garth Ennis. This is one twisted set of graphic novels. If it were a movie, I don't know I'd watch it but I checked out (on accident) the second or third volume and just had to read the rest to see what was going on. Doubt I'd ever buy it but it was definetly entertaining. Not for the easily-offended.
"The Books of Magic" by Neil Gaiman & others. Now, I'd read the Sandman series, but I have to say I like the Books of Magic better. Gaiman didn't write all of this series, but was the inspiration for it. It's kind of like Harry Potter on crack - it's eerie how some of the elements are similar; jaded young darkhaired w. glasses boy with shitty family life discovers that he's got ties to the magical world he never knew existed. Similarities end there, for the most part. Since it's magic, anything can happen with characters you'd only see in your dreams or nightmares. Oh, and Death makes quite a few apperances, which doesn't hurt. :D
"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" by Hayao Miazaki. Yeah, it's Manga and I haven't read a ton of it that I really really liked. A lot of the exciting stuff is action crammed into huge panels that you can finish in 15 minutes. Not this. This is epic. It's kind of post-apocalyptic but in a world so far removed from our own, it seems. There is an anime version of this that is just terrible in comparison. Read the books! There are only 4 and if I had the money, I'd own them in a heartbeat. The kind of thing that makes you look at the world and where we're going.