Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
We’re going to three runs an entry for the next nine, before revealing the top six a day at a time next week (with #1 and #2 obviously sharing the last day), so enjoy the next three runs in the countdown of the top runs on ongoing comic book series, as voted on by about 700 Comics Should Be Good readers.
15. Walt Simonson’s Thor – 514 points (5 first place votes)
The Mighty Thor #337-355, 357-382 (writer/artist for #337-354, 357-367, 380)
There’s not much cooler of a way to introduce yourself to a title then to break the old logo of the book in your first issue and debut a new logo the next one. And that’s just one of the dramatic things Walt Simonson did with his first issue of Thor, a book that was not selling particularly well, so Simonson had a great deal of freedom to TRY these dramatic things. The other dramatic event in the first issue of Simonson’s Thor was just WHO it was that was wielding Thor’s hammer on the cover – some weird looking creature!
Beta Ray Bill, the noble alien who was found to be worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, was an attempt to shock readers, and to give his book a try, as Simonson spent the next thirty issues or so both writing and drawing an eventful time in the world of Thor, as Simonson used his extensive knowledge of Norse mythology as the foundation for his stories, which were a bit more serious and true to Norse culture than previous writers.
Simonson’s stories were mostly plot-driven, but he gave a number of interesting character moments along the way, as well, and of course he delivered that fantastic, stylized dynamic artwork that he is so well known for using.
There was a major story with a fight between Odin and Surtur that took advantage of Simonson’s ability to draw really outstanding fight scenes, but perhaps the most notable storyline during his run was when a number of souls of living Earth people are trapped in the land of Hel. Thor, Balder and a few other people lead a rescue mission to save them, and the evil toady of the Enchantress, Skurge the Executioner, asks to be allowed to help, too. At the end, when they are about to be overrun at a bridge by the hordes of Hel right before becoming free, Thor vows that he will stay behind and hold off the hordes himself while the humans escape. Skurge knocks Thor out, and while everyone thinks he is being a traitor, he is instead opting to take Thor’s place.
And none of the bad guys cross the bridge.
It’s an amazing sequence of events, beautifully written and drawn by Simonson.
Soon after, Simonson concluded his run as an artist with an amusing story involving Thor being turned into a frog.
Then Sal Buscema joined the book as the artist, and Simonson continued a long story he had in which Thor is slowly beaten and scarred by battles, to the point where he is forced to grow a beard to cover his scars and wear a special suit of armor to maintain his strength. During this time, Thor takes on a new secret identity (Don Blake had been eliminated as Thor’s alter ego) of basically Thor wearing a pair of glasses, as a nod to Superman/Clark Kent.
The next few issues have a LOT of crossovers with various other books Simonson was involved with at the time, mostly X-Factor, and finally, his run concludes with a tremendously ambitious storyline including the Destroyer and the Midgard serpent. A classic finale to a classic run.
Oh, I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing lettering John Workman did on this series. Amazing stuff.
14. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol – 524 points (12 first place votes)
Doom Patrol #19-63 (plus Doom Force #1, I suppose)
Arnold Drake created the Doom Patrol to be the world’s strangest superheroes, but by the time Grant Morrison took over the book, the second generation of the Doom Patrol were more of a half-hearted attempt at duplicating the success of the All-New, All-Different X-Men. Morrison decided to embrace the concept of the world’s strangest superheroes, and he gave the world a title that was strange, all right, but strange coming from the mind of Grant Morrison.
Outgoing writer Paul Kupperberg was kind enough to remove most of the members of the team for Morrison, as Morrison was really only interested, amongst the main cast members of the book, in Niles Caulder and Cliff Steele (although Josh Clay, a member of Kupperberg’s team, also stuck around, as the team doctor – Morrison would use him as the lone voice of sanity among all these bizarre goings-on, but sadly, as you might imagine, the one sane guy doesn’t stand much of a chance in a book like this). That said, Morrison DID bring back a minor character from early in Kupperberg’s run, the powerful girl with “imaginary” friends and a face like an ape, Doroty Spinner. New team members were Crazy Jane, who had different powers for each one of her split personalities and Danny the Street, who was, well, a street.
Morrison used the group to explore various secret groups, all with an idea for making the book as bizarre as possible. The great thing about it was that Morrison slowly made the book weirder and weirder as he went along, so the first issues are fairly normal, but if you compare his early issues to the end of his run – it’s like night and day.
Morrison used all sorts of different ways of telling stories, as well as doing a number of parodies, most notable of all, the Charles Atlas take-off, Flex Mentallo (who would later gain his own spin-off mini-series by Morrison and Frank Quitely). Some of the bizarre characters included the evil Scissormen, the Brotherhood of Dada, and one of Dorothy’s scariest creations, the Candlemaker.
Towards the end of his run, Morrison spun the book around on its head, with a member of the group revealing a dark secret. By the time he left, he did not leave really much for incoming writer Rachel Pollack to do – the book really ought to have just ended with Morrison’s last issue, the book by the point of his departure was so indubitably his, and he took most of the coolest characters with him as he departed.
13. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y the Last Man – 547 points (6 first place votes)
Y the Last Man #1-60, Pia Guerra drew #1-15, 18-20, 24-30, 36-39, 43-46, 49-52, 55-60
By the time Brian K. Vaughan began Y the Last Man, he had already had a previous series for Vertigo, Swamp Thing, which told the story of the daughter of Swamp Thing. So while folks respected his talents, I don’t think anyone was expecting Vaughan to launch the next big Vertigo title, but that’s exactly what he did, along with book co-creator and artist, Pia Guerra.
The concept of the book was simple – one day, all the men on Earth die. All the men, that is, except young amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his monkey, Ampersand. They’re the only two men alive on the entire planet, and, as you might imagine, hilarity ensues.
Seriously, though, Yorick (who is freaking out because he JUST proposed to his girlfriend, Beth, over the phone when the plague hit, and she’s all the way in Australia!!) is tasked to first travel to find Dr. Allison Mann, a geneticist who needs to study Yorick to discover what happened and if they could reverse it. Along with Yorick on his journey is Al, the project observer, who appears in the form of a hologram, that only Dr. Mann can see and hear.
It may have been this government agent, Agent 355, who serves as Yorick’s bodyguard. Once they find Dr. Mann, the four (counting Ambersand) travel the country and the world in their mission to save the planet from dying out.
Along the way, they (and we, the reader) find out how the world has been coping with the loss of all the world’s men. It’s fascinating and touching stuff.
The big villains of the piece are the Daughters of the Amazon, psychos who think that this is a big sign from the Goddess that the Y chromosome has been expunged from Earth and Alter Tse’elon, the head of an Israeli commando team who is crazed with the desire to hunt Yorick down.
One of the ongoing plots of the series was, of course, Yorick’s quest for his girlfriend, Beth (and the confusion that arises when he meets another intriguing woman named Beth).
Pia Guerra’s artwork was clean and perfect for the character-based stories Vaughan developed for the series. As you can see, she needed some assistance often, and Goran Sudzuka was her co-penciler (trading off on arcs) for the last forty or so issues of the title.
The title finally ended a couple of months ago. The final tradepaperback will be out soon.
That’s it for today! Three more tomorrow!
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