PREVIEWS: "Civil War II," "Punisher" & More Marvel Comics on Sale June 1, 2016
Here are the next five runs!
40. Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III’s Promethea – 220 points (4 first place votes)
Promethea was an extremely interesting comic in the way that it was such a malleable concept that writer Alan Moore himself used the book to tell two dramatically different types of stories, all ably aided by the burgeoning artistic brilliance of artist J.H. Williams III, who went from being a strong artist to being one of the best artists in the entire comic book business.
Promethea was a young girl who was taken by two Gods into “Immateria,” a land of imagination, where she continues to exist as a living story. She can appear on Earth when someone calls to her by writing about her – when someone does so, either they (or their muse) can BECOME Promethea.
That is what happens to student Sophie Bangs, who becomes Promethea, and soon gets caught up in the crazy superhero world and the much larger world of Immateria.
The first book or so of Promethea is heavily influenced by literature, especially as Moore takes us through the Prometheas of the past, including a poet, a cartoonist, a book cover painter and a pair of comic book writers.
Then Moore used Promethea to take the reader on a journey through the Sephiroth of the Qabbalistic Tree of Life, where Moore more or less uses about 15 issues of Promethea to give a series of lectures to the readers about philosophy. Williams really shines during this run, as Moore gives him a whole lot of strange things to draw.
After this storyline ends, we’re treated to an extended storyline about the Apocalypse, which also signaled the end of Moore’s America’s Best Comic book line, so Moore used this storyline to say goodbye not only to the ABC line of comics, but also to the characters within them.
It all culminates in a stunning final issue, which can be read as a 32-page comic book, but can also be read by taking out the pages and arranging them to form two posters (back to back).
It’s a truly brilliant work.
39. Mark Waid’s 1st Flash Run – 228 points (2 first place votes)
Flash #62-129, plus a #0 (#118-129 co-written with Brian Augustyn, and interestingly enough, the book actually changed titles from Flash to The Flash at #101)
Mark Waid burst on the scene with Flash by giving readers “Kid Flash – Year One,” which was a touching tribute to the beginnings of Wally’s career, and a clear note that Waid’s stories were going to be ones that stressed characterization first.
One piece of characterization that Waid picked up from outgoing writer, Bill Loebs, was the relationship between Wally and his friend, Linda Park. Loebs had slowly built up an intriguing friendship between the two, but it was Waid who made the friendship a full-fledged romance, leading to the centerpiece of Waid’s run on Flash – the love between Wally and Linda.
After a storyline with Abra Kadabra (if I picked up a random issue of Waid’s run and asked you, “Who’s the villain?,” you’d have about a 50/50 shot if you said Abra Kadabra), Waid launched probably his most memorable storyline, where he had Barry Allen seemingly return from the dead. Seeing Wally’s reactions to both Barry’s return and the realization that bad things were happening was probably the point where Waid’s Wally West became a true adult. It was a beautiful coming of age storyline, and it also introduced Max Mercury, a cool new character that Waid had come up with, a zen-like fellow (who is ostensibly based on some old Golden Age hero).
Waid’s next big storyline introduced Impulse, the young cousin of Wally from the future, who was raised in virtual reality, so he had, well, an impulse problem. Young Bart Allen became Wally’s sorta sidekick, and soon gained his own spin-off title (bringing Max with him as his guardian).
Perhaps the masterstroke of his run was the development of the “Speed Force,” an almost mystical energy field that gave all speedsters their powers. During a big storyline leading up to #100, Wally was absorbed into the Speed Force, leaving Bart and the other speedsters (Johnny Quick, Max Mercury, the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, and Johnny Quick’s daughter, Jesse) to defend the Flash’s city, along with Linda.
However, Flash manages to pull himself out of the force, all based on the power of his love for Linda.
After that moment, I’ll be frank, the book’s momentum slows a bit for the rest of Waid’s run. There’s a storyline with this guy who can steal the Speed Force from people, and then there’s a story where Wally gets lost in time and replaced by John Fox, the Flash from the future, who is a bit of a jerk. Then there’s a few short storylines before Waid and Augustyn (originally Waid’s editor on the book, and became his co-writer with #118) took a break with #129. They would return in a year’s time for a new run that ended with #159 (#162 for Augustyn), and the marriage of Wally and Linda, but Waid would return to the book with #231 for a short run with Wally, Linda, and their two children (who also had powers).
Waid began the book with incumbent artist, Greg LaRocque, who stayed on the book until the end of the Return of Barry Allen. The late, great Mike Wieringo would take over, and draw the book for about 20 issues or so, helping to create Impulse with Waid. After #100, Waid had a string of young artists work on the book (most of whom would go on to big things after their time on Flash, like Salvador Larroca and Jimmy Cheung), and his first run finished with Paul Ryan supplying the artwork.
38. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men – 229 points (2 first place votes)
Astonishing X-Men #1-current (#24)
With Grant Morrison departing New X-Men, Marvel had some big shoes to fill, luckily, Joss Whedon, popular writer and creator of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (plus Firefly), was a big X-Men fan, so he accepted the task of following Grant Morrison’s run, and Marvel gave him his own title to do so, pairing him with acclaimed artist, John Cassaday.
Whedon’s first task was to introduce the idea that the X-Men felt that they needed to be more public as superheroes, so Cyclops insisted that Kitty Pryde, one of the best public faces of the X-Men, join the main team (made up of Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast and Emma Frost).
Whedon’s first storyline dealt with a “cure” for the mutant gene being developed, and how such a cure would effect mutants all over. This turned out to be some plot involving some bad aliens, and it all tied to the return of…Colossus!!
See, the Russian mutant, long thought dead (or, rather, fairly recently thought dead) was not actually dead, he was caught up in some big alien conspiracy.
Colossus and Kitty had a tearful reunion.
The next storyline involved the Danger Room coming to life and fighting the X-Men. This storyline involved Professor X, as well.
Next, Whedon and Cassaday began a really long storyline that is still going on involving the big alien conspiracy.
Whedon’s sense of humor and his good ear for dialogue makes the book a great place to look for nice character interactions.
Cassaday’s artwork, meanwhile, is good for both character work AND for action scenes, making the book a visual delight.
The finale of Whedon’s run is coming out soon.
37. Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman – 232 points (6 first place votes)
Hitman #1-60, plus a #1,000,000 and an Annual
The old saying goes, when you’re given a bunch of lemons, make lemonade!
Well, fifteen years ago, Garth Ennis and John McCrea were given a bunch of lemons, and they made Hitman.
Hitman was introduced as part of a storyline where the writers of each DC title would introduce a brand-new character in the Annual that year (oddly enough, Marvel did the same thing that same year), all of whom would have the shared origin of being bit by aliens whose bite, if it does not kill you, gives you strange powers. Most of these new characters disappeared faster than you could say Adam-X, the X-Treme, but Hitman, who debuted in the pages of Ennis and McCrea’s The Demon Annual, was the notable exception.
Tommy Monaghan. was just your typical, run of the mill hitmen, until the aliens gave him powers, and now Tommy was a SUPER-POWERED Hitman, with X-ray vision and telepathy.
With his powers, Tommy had a new confidence, and then decided to specialize in killing superpowered targets, the types most other hitmen would never attempt, due to the danger. Despite the bizarre nature of Tommy’s targets, Ennis really downplayed his superpowers, and played up the friendship between Tommy and the people of his Gotham neighborhood, “The Cauldron,” a place so bad that when No Man’s Land happened, no one noticed anything different in the Cauldron!
Most of the action in the series centered around Sean Noonan’s bar, where Tommy and his partner and best friend, Natt, hung out in with other hitmen, such as Ringo Chen and Hacken. Often visiting the bar was the drunk Sixpack, who was a superhero of sorts himself, leading the bizarre Section 8 (this is where Dogwelder came from).
The series was filled with hilariously bizarre storylines, like the one where Tommy and his friends have to take down an aquarium that was filled with zombie animals. However, the series was ALSO filled with dramatic scenes of friendship, particularly between Tommy and Natt.
There is a classic issue where Superman comes across Tommy during a hit (Superman does not realize that is why Tommy is on a rooftop), and the pair chat for the whole issue, and it is a wonderful tribute to superheroes from a writer, Ennis, who is not usually too fond of superheroes.
Ennis and McCrea worked on the book for five years, and they finished it in a wonderfully poetic final issue.
Recently, Ennis and McCrea reunited to tell an “untold tale” of Tommy and the JLA, and it was awesome.
Here is why The Mutt had this run #1…
What makes for a great run? Action, adventure, humor, drama, characterization, consistency and, above all else, fun. You’ll find all that and more in the brilliant run of Garth Ennis and John McCrea on Hitman. A Bloodlines spin-off, no less. High drama, low comedy, tragedy, farce and Kanigher-level craziness all in one comic, and all in just five years. But what else would you expect from a comic that begins with our hero puking on Batman’s boots and ends with one of the most heart-breaking issues of a comic I’ve ever read?
Tommy Monaghan was one of the most fully-realized characters ever captured between the pages of a comic book. His large supporting cast was deeper and richer and more full of life than the likes of Lois
Lane and Alfred ever achieved in their 70 years of trying.
Ennis could switch from brutal realism to bat-shite insanity from issue to issue, yet nothing ever felt forced or out of place. This was in large part due to McCrea’s brilliant art; realistic enough to bring tears to your eyes and cartoonish enough to make you laugh out loud.
We got stories about the mob, the SAS, the IRA, African dictators, spousal abuse, war, sacrifice, honor, loyalty and heroism. We also got stories about dinosaurs, vampires, demons and zombie penguins. In the midst of all that, we got possibly the best Superman story ever written. And we got Dogwelder.
It was everything that makes comics great, all in one package. In my opinion, the greatest comic book ever.
36. Alan Moore’s Marvelman/Miracleman – 234 points (3 first place votes)
Warrior #1-21, Miracleman #7-16 (#1-6 reprinted the Warrior stories)
Marvelman was invented in the 1950s when Fawcett quit making Captain Marvel stories, leaving L. Miller & Son, who reprinted the Marvel Family titles in England, without a star character. Mick Anglo whipped up a new character (without being TOO new, if you know what I mean), and Marvelman continued in the place of Captain Marvel until the comic was canceled in the early 60s.
Two decades later, in the pages of Quality International’s anthology, the Warrior, Alan Moore and Garry Leach brought Marvelman back, only with a postmodern edge. Reporter Michael Moran keeps having crazy dreams about superpowers, until he says the magic word, “Kimota!” and is transformed into Marvelman!
It is soon revealed that the Marvelman stories of the past were part of a government experiment with fusing alien technology with humans, to create superhumans, and the government filled the heads of Marvelman, Young Marvelman, Marvelwoman and Kid Marvelman with memories of superpowered adventures, and then tried to kill them when their experiments were over. The nuke meant to kill them all only killed Young Marvelman. Marvelman just became Michael Moran, and forgot about it all, until his memory returned.
Kid Marvelman, meanwhile, had gone mad with power, and was now a sociopathic killer. Marvelman fights him, and gets him to say HIS magic word, turning back to a young boy named Johnny Bates. Bates is placed into a group home.
The rest of the Warrior run detailed the history of how Miracleman formed, as well as learning that Moran’s girlfriend, Liz, was pregnant. During the Warrior run, Alan Davis also drew a great deal of the stories.
After legal problems from Marvel over the name “Marvelman,” Quality sold their rights to Eclipse Comics, who changed the name of the title to Miracleman, and started a new title, first reprinting the Warrior stories (which were done in black and white originally) and then starting new stories, this time with different artists, such as Chuck Beckum (Chuck Austen), Rick Veitch and most notably Moore’s former Swamp Thing inker, John Totleben, who drew perhaps the most famous Miracleman storyline, where young Johnny Bates is sexually assaulted during his stay in the group home, forcing him to turn into Kid Marvelman again, who has now just totally snapped, leading to an amazingly graphic single-handed destruction of London – it’s waaaaaaaaaay beyond the pale.
Moore left the book to Neil Gaiman after this storyline, with Moore’s last issue being #16. Gaiman wrote the book until Eclipse went out of business after #24.
Here is why Rene picked it #1…
“Alan Moore has always been my favorite comic book writer, and Miracleman has always been my favorite work of his. It seems like in his later, more famous works, such as Watchmen and From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that Moore’s powerful intelect always holds his subject matter at a certain distance. These later works seem carefully crafted, obsessively planned even. But Miracleman is different. It’s more organic, more visceral, and much more emotional as a result.
It has a very simple initial concept: Mike Moran is the middle-aged everyman that discovers he is a godlike superhuman. Moore takes this concept to its inevitable conclusion, examining how Moran’s superhuman status affects his life, his marriage, and eventually the entire world. One of the more interesting ideas in the series is that Mike Moran’s search for the origin of his powers takes us into increasingly harrowing, grander situations.
First Miracleman’s meeting and battle with Johnny Bates, another superhuman with similar powers, but completely corrupted by his abilities; then his encounter with Dr. Gargunza, the creepy, complex, South American genius that may be responsible for his powers; and finally the Qys, a bizarre alien species whose technology may have been used to make Miracleman what he is. Each of these encounters is an arc, each of them written majestically. Best of all, Miracleman’s ending, unlike other works by Moore, really is as good as the beginning.
Finally, Miracleman also is noteworthy in that it contains most of the themes that would be found in other Moore’s works. The deconstruction of the superhero (Watchmen), the human woman married to a god (Swamp Thing), the political commentary on utopian societies (V for Vendetta), the metafiction of comics inside comics (Promethea), even the lighter, retro-modern approach to superheroes (Tom Strong, Supreme) can be found in Miracleman’s pages. I can’t recommend this book enough.”
That’s it for today!!
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