21. Astro City: Life in the Big City
by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
Published by Wildstorm
While more a collection of vignettes or short stories than a single, unified graphic novel (though one could make the same arguments against some of Eisner's "graphic novels as well) this collection made many readers who had left super hero comics or who were burnt out on them realize all over again why they could be enjoyable and relevant. Instead of taking a "real world" approach to setting and technology (a la The Dark Knight flicks), Busiek took a more "real world" emotional tact instead, creating characters with genuine, believable motivation and pains.
The result is one of the most amazing collection of super hero stories in comics.
And let's be fair... One could argue that it's a single novel about a location, not a core human character, in much the same way that the mosaic Wild Card books are "novels."