Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Here are the next five storylines on the countdown, as voted on by you, the readers!! Here is the master list of all storylines featured so far.
84 (tie). “Top 10 Season 1″ by Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon (Top 10 #1-12) – 112 points (1 first place vote)
Another of Moore’s “high concept” comics, Top 10 was about a police precinct (the tenth, natch) in a city where everybody was a superhero – the cops, the crooks and the civilians (even the cats and mice had powers!).
Once you get past the main concept, the book was almost exactly like a comic book form of the television series Hill Street Blues, where each issue would work like an episode of the show. The show tended to dwell upon the cops themselves and less the procedural aspect of the situation, and that is exactly the same with Top 10 (Daniel Travanti, the actor who did such a marvelous job as the Captain of the Hill Street Precinct, described the show as “A character drama where every character happened to work for the police in some form or capacity”).
Alan Moore developed a large cast of interesting characters and then threw them together into an engaging mix of characters.
Meanwhile, layout artist Zander Cannon and and penciler and inker Gene Ha were right there with Moore – just as much part of the book as, say, Kevin O’Neill was part of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or JH Williams was part of Promethea. This was a true collaboration. Cannon, particularly, would add little in-jokes in the panels (Moore, too, would have little in-jokes frequently in the script, but Cannon would add even more).
Once you’ve accepted the series as “Hill Street Blues but everyone is a superhero,” then you can see how Moore deftly works in a lot of the same topics that Hill Street hit on, like racism, only he does so with the racism being against, say, robots. Kid sidekicks are used…well…you might not want to know how kid sidekicks are used.
In any event, it’s a really strong first “season” (see the TV influence even there?), and it is a shame that Moore never did more, but at least Cannon and Ha later did some follow-up work with the characters!
84 (tie). “High Society” by Dave Sim (Cerebus #26–50) – 112 points (5 first place votes)
A previous story in Cerebus (“Mind Games”) was the real demarcation between “Cerebus: silly satire book” and “Cerebus: more serious satire book,” but High Society was the most prominent storyline in establishing Cerebus as a more serious satire.
In this volume, our aardvark protagonist (for lack of a better descriptor for him) gets caught up in, well, high society. He is chosen to be a representative of the city-state of Palnu in the large city-state of Iest (where the comic would be set for the next six years or so). Much of the humor in the storyline is derived from Cerebus’ seeming obliviousness to the standard tropes of high society. In a lot of ways, it is similar to the great Jerzy Kosi?ski screenplay, Being There, only Cerebus is certainly not an innocent – he just views things in a more mercenary fashion than most, and fails to play political games.
He is latched on to by Astoria, the ex of Lord Julius (the head of Palnu), and she uses Cerebus’ charisma as her own, and uses him to further her agenda, and in the process, makes him a popular political figure. As Cerebus’ political ambitions broaden, the book takes an almost frantic nature as Sim makes the book much like an election story – you really begin to care if Cerebus’ campaign will work.
At the same time, though, there are plenty of wacky gags, too (Sim couldn’t divest himself of the early Cerebus stories TOO much, I suppose), including this roach who is manipulated into becoming Moon Roach, a parody of Moon Knight.
When the dust is settled, Cerebus is a changed aardvark, and he is quite ready for the next storyline, Church and State.
Honestly, while there would be some confusion at the start, I think I would probably recommend beginning reading Cerebus with this volume and skipping Volume 1. The book improved THAT much with this story.
83. “Immortal Iron Fist” by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Travel Foreman and Various Artists (Immortal Iron Fist #1-16, Civil War: Choosing Sides, Annual #1, Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death, and The Origin of Danny Rand) – 115 points (1 first place vote)
This is the first time that I’m invoking the “in the interest of fairness” rule. A bunch of people voted for either the first Immortal Iron Fist trade or for the second Immortal Iron Fist trade (plus a few people tried voting for the whole run). Taken separately, neither of them managed to make the list, which seemed to be a bit unfair, because if I told a voter for the second trade that if they changed their vote to the first trade, the first trade would make it, they almost certainly would, right? In addition, the rules SAY that you can just pick 12 consecutive issues (providing the share a main plotline) and that would count as “a storyline,” so in instances where two consecutive storylines would fail to make the list on their own, but WOULD make it if I combined the two, then I will combine the two (this only counts if the two storylines are clearly part of a continuous story – to wit, I think “Superhuman” and “Homeland Security” are two distinct Ultimates stories, but Brubaker and Fraction’s Iron Fist trades are very closely tied together).
In THIS instance, since I was already going to put the first two trades together, I knew that left only a couple of issues of their run remaining AND that there happened to be an Absolute collection of their run with those couple of issues, so I just threw in the other issues, too. If you want to pretend that this storyline does not count the various one-shots, etc, feel free. The main gist of this story is the first two trades. The last trade is one-shot stuff, only included because it was in the Omnibus of Brubaker and Fraction’s run.
That’s a lot of minutia to start the write-up with, but I figure it’s worth it seeing as how the next two storylines came out the same way.
ANYhow, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction put together a marvelous revision on the history of Danny Rand, Iron Fist, when he learns that a predecessor Iron Fist, Orson Randall, is still alive! Randall delivers to Danny the Book of the Iron Fist, which tells the history of all previous Iron Fists. It is to help Danny in the coming conflict.
Danny is quickly caught up in a plot involving the terrorist organization, Hydra, and the evil Crane Mother (an ancient enemy of K’un L’un, the mystical city where Danny gained the power of Iron Fist). There are six other mystical cities, and Danny and his allies must protect the cities from a sinister plot concocted by the Crane Mother and Xao, the Hydra representative.
Brubaker and Fraction created a story here that is an absolute blast, with lots of high-flying action, but a good deal of interesting characterization work, as well. The former Iron Fist (who quit after the trauma of World War I), Orson Randall, was a brilliant new character (and a great exampel of how to make revisionist history work for you as a comic book writer), as were the other Immortal Weapons, the representatives of each of the other mystical cities.
Sprinkled throughout the run were stories of past Iron Fists from the Book (as well as tales of Orson Randall’s earlier days). These allowed the writers to tell vastly different styles of stories, as Randall, in particular, worked well for pulp fiction stories.
David Aja was the main artist throughout the series, and his depictions of action were extremely dynamic. Travel Foreman was the main fill-in artist, and he was just as dynamic, although I must say that Aja also is a brilliant designer, which helped define the various characters beautifully. Aja is a large part of the greatness that is Immortal Iron Fist.
There are other artists who worked on the various one-shots, but Aja and Foreman are the main artists for the series.
Fraction, by the way, wrote one of the best “send-off” issues you could imagine in his last issue of the series before the next creative team took over the title.
82. “Hardcore/King of Hell’s Kitchen” by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (Daredevil #46-50, 56-60) – 118 points (1 first place vote)
Again, if I did not combine consecutive Bendis Daredevil stories, NO Bendis Daredevil stories would make the list, and that seemed like a real shame. The highest vote-getter, upon vote-combining, was Hardcore and King of Hell’s Kitchen, so that’s who makes the list (Hardcore, by the way, was the highest single vote-getter among all the Bendis trades).
In Hardcore, Matt Murdock, who just had to deal with the trouble of being “outed” as Daredevil, is suddenly besieged by bad guys at the behest of Wilson Fisk, who is attempting to make a move to return as the Kingpin of New York.
Typhoid Mary and Bullseye, his secret identity problems plus the fact that he had just begun dating a very nice woman (named Milla) all combined to make Matt extremely distracted, which was the Kingpin’s plan, naturally.
So finally, enough was enough, and Matt took the fight right to Kingpin and, in a remarkable shock to everyone present, Matt savagely beat down Fisk and then tore off his (Daredevil’s) mask and announced that he, Daredevil, was the NEW Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen!
After a break of a few issues for an Echo story, the “Matt as Kingpin” story continues in the King of Hell’s Kitchen, as a year has passed and Matt and Milla have secretly wed. Murdock has basically cleaned up Hell’s Kitchen through a combination of sheer brute force and also the investing of money he made on a large court victory early in Bendis’ run. Things are looking up in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Democratic Party is even looking into having Matt Murdock run for Mayor of New York City!
However, there is a serious problem brewing – Matt’s friends and fellow heroes do not like the idea of Matt becoming, you know, the Kingpin, so they try to take sense into him.
Meanwhile, the Yakuza are trying to work their way into taking control of New York City.
So Matt has to battle the Yakuza AND his friends (the first one physically the second one emotionally), and Bendis introduces what I found to be a really brilliant idea – which is that perhaps ALL of Matt’s behavior stemmed from him suffering a nervous breakdown at the death of Karen Page fifty issues earlier!
By the end of the story, Matt is about as back to normal as you can get for a superhero, and he and his friends make up, but Milla is none too pleased with the idea that her relationship with Matt might have been fostered by a psychotic break on his part!
Alex Maleev’s art is as awesome as ever (there are special guest artists from Daredevil’s past in the issue where he beats up Fisk – as that was the 50th issue of this volume of Daredevil, but otherwise, Maleev handles all the artwork).
81. “Faith in Monsters/Caged Angels” by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato (Thunderbolts #110-121) – 120 points (1 first place vote)
This is another one of those “combined votes for the two trades, especially since they combine for 12 issues anyways” deals.
Probably the most interesting aspect of Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato’s run on Thunderbolts is that, in a story that is basically all about villains, Ellis manages to find a way to nicely highlight heroism. In fact, mixed with all the awfulness of the villains of the book the heroic characters almost shine EXTRA in comparison!
The story of this book is that Norman Osborn is put in charge of the Thunderbolts, a group of former villains trying to become heroes. The group is tasked with hunting down heroes who refuse to register with the Superhuman Registration Act.
Along with the former members of the team, which include former villains Songbird, Moonstone, Radioactive Man and Swordsman, Osborn added Venom and Bullseye (although Bullseye does not work with the team publicly, seeing as how he is, you know, a notorious assassin), as well as Penance, the former hero Speedball who is dealing with some serious guilt issues over being in a battle with villains that resulted in a large chunk of Stamford, CT being blown up.
Moonstone is put in charge of the team and finds herself slipping back to a more villainous role, as does Swordsman, who is only sticking around because Osborn promises to clone his dead twin sister. So Songbird and Radioactive Man often find themselves being forced to be the conscience of their new group.
Osborn, himself, is dealing with the difficult of acting sane after years of being, well, not so sane.
Ellis also plays with the notion that the public can be tricked into believing anything you tell them, as this group of supervillains, led by the Green Goblin, for crying out loud, are embraced far more vigorously by the public than, say, the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, due to a large public relations push by the government. Heck, kids are playing with Venom toys!!
Ellis does a really great job with the obscure heroes that the Thunderbolts are tasked to take in. Jack Flagg, for instance, was never as cool as he is when shown in this series. American Eagle, similarly, gets a great revamp by Ellis. It is no surprise that both characters, who had been in character limbo for many years, were quickly snatched up by other writers for their books (Abnett and Lanning put Jack Flagg on the Guardians of the Galaxy while Greg Pak just had Eagle guest-star in War Machine).
The run was cut a bit short with Ellis departing the book and the central concept of the book more or less being transported to Dark Avengers, with Osborn going one step further and just dressing up villains as superheroes, co-opting their names and costumes. Mike Deodato (who did strong work on this series, some of his best artwork I’ve ever seen from him) went along with the concept to Dark Avengers.
But it all started here!
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