There are items in the media that everyone should read/see/listen experience in their lifetime. Listening to U2's Joshua Tree, reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, watching Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, or read Art Spiegelman's Maus. These items, are, in my opinion, essential to opening ones mind to a richer life and experiences. If you want to drill down in one particular category, go ahead, be my guest. Not everyone enjoys music or films or even (heaven forbid) graphic novels. If someone liked Maus and they wanted to read more, the next graphic novel I would suggest you pick up the classic and highly influential X-Men story God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Eric Anderson.
The graphic novel is a stand alone in the X-Men universe and really doesn't have anything that happens before it or after it that you need to know going into reading it. The story follows the beginning of a genocide of mutants, lead by fanatical religious leader William Stryker. Stryker is leading a fanatical group of people who kill without sympathy anyone, man, woman and child, for being a mutant. After we see a brutal killing in the opening panels, Magneto, leader of a mutant resistance group in the regular comic series, decides it is best to join forces with his nemesis, Charles Xavier and his X-Men, in order to stop this burgeoning holocaust. After Stryker kidnaps the two of the X-Men and Xavier, the rest of the team follows Magneto to stop this bandwagon's momentum in its tracks by any means necessary.
Many people will probably recognize this story line and characters from the movie X2. This story has been admitted favorite of Director Bryan Singer who directed the first two X-men films. This story is a classic tale of one group trying to enforce its will on another group of people and the consequences of that action. Really to read this story, you can easily substitute any real group of people the role of the mutants in this graphic novel and see similarities in their struggles. In fact, Magnetos driving force for being who he is and what he stands for is the Nazi atrocities the holocaust, and this new holocaust, is something that Magneto will not stand by and let happen again.
The graphic novel by itself is powerful without the lighting rod story by Chris Claremont. The art in this graphic are some of the most surprising of a graphic novel containing popular characters in a while. The one series of images that could easily shake anyone is the pictures of Xavier being crucified on the roof of one of the World Trade Center towers by his own students, or the murder of and lynching of two young black children who are supposedly mutants.
As I mentioned before, this graphic novel is the basis of X2, which is easily one of the top comic book and/or action movie in the past 8 years. The story telling is tight and well done and it only borrows loosely from the Claremont story. Singer, an openly gay director in Hollywood, has succeeded in the mutant saga by associating their persecution with the ones done by the homosexual community here in America. To anyone who knows about the X-Men and their trials and tribulations, know that mutants are heavily persecuted and targets in the Marvel Universe. Their trials extended to near extinction on several occasions and massacres on truly unprecedented scales, are all set up by the story in God Loves, Man Kills.
This graphic novel is not only a read, but a 100% buy and to treasure it often. Once you read this graphic, you will never look at comics the same way again.