Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (Vol. 1)
The truth is, I'd be hard pressed to not like a comic that begins with the protagonist hijacking the lunchtime music at his junior high to play T.Rex's 20th Century Boys:
"I wanted something to change, something...For the first time, rock music shook the halls of No. 4 Junior High," the protagonist says. "Nothing changed at all..."
Written by the master, Naoki Urasawa, the creator of "Monster" and "Pluto" among others, 20th Century Boys has won a ton of awards. Licensed by Viz, the manga is somewhere around #17 in the US. After reading the first volume, I just keep thinking 1) How do I get Naoki Urasawa to marry me? and 2) How can I afford to get my hands on the entire run? Because, this is a comic I do want to own. And, you'll want to own it, too.
Oddly enough, I'm reminded a bit of The Watchmen when I read this. There's no similarity, just a feeling, a kind of sadness that comes with being alive. 20th Century Boys is a science fiction mystery based around a group of kids who were school friends in 1969. They had a secret hangout and a symbol that signified their need to become heroes, to rise up and protect what's worth protecting. They're little boys, and they believe and feel with that naive childlike passion -- Then they grow up and become obscure, mediocre salary men, science teachers and convenience story clerks.
Kenji, the main protagonist always wanted to be a rock 'n' roll musician, but he doesn't have the luck or drive or ambition. He ends up running a convenience store and raising the child his sister has abandoned. When a mysterious disappearance occurs and a childhood buddy, Donkey, inexplicably kills himself, Kenji begins to notice a pattern. The symbol he and his friends created as kids keeps showing up, and he realizes there is something more going on than mere coincidence.
What I like about this manga is the depiction of the boys as children, a nostalgic, without being sappy, exploration of their memories. I like the contrast between their childhoods and their adult lives, the slightly bittersweet, but "this is how life is" motion of the work that feels very real. Even if it didn't evolve into a mystery or have any speculative elements, 20th Century Boys would make a great "slice of life" story. However, it's got more teeth than that.
There's something strange happening, a cult coming to power, allusions to giant robots, people meeting untimely fates, and I want to keep reading. So, I will.