Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #75-71
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.
(NOTE: As usual, I’ll put the results up here to keep us on time, then fill in the details later)
75. “Planetary” by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (Planetary #1-12) – 132 points (3 first place votes)
Planetary is about a group of (this is what is on the cover of the first issue) “archaeologists of the impossible.”
Essentially, Planetary explores unexplained phenomena and, if there is any practical use to mankind out of said phenomena, they extract it.
The Planetary team consists of the super-strong Jakita Wagner, the “plugged-in” Drummer and the century-old Elijah Snow. The team is funded by the mysterious “Fourth Man.”
The first “season” of Planetary ends with the discovery of WHO the Fourth Man is.
Each issue of Planetary explores the concept of “what if all popular culture characters existed, in some form or another, in the Wildstorm Universe?”
So each issue, Ellis and Cassaday examine a different notable pop culture figure, almost always with analogues for the characters who are not yet in the public domain (Doc Brass, for instance, instead of Doc Savage – John Carter instead of John Constantine, etc.).
As the series goes by, we learn that there is a group out there with an entirely different focus than the Planetary folks – this group wants all of the “super-science” of the world to themselves – they don’t want the rest of the world to have any access to these wonders.
That, and the identity of the Fourth Man, are the key points of plot development over the first 12 issues of Planetary.
Cassaday, for his part, draws in a slightly different style for practically every issue, so as to perfectly meet the needs of the pop culture character being referenced in that issue. It’s quite brilliant work on his part.
And it’s a pretty darn brilliant series period, on Ellis’ part.
74. “Sleeper Season 1″ by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Sleeper #1-12) – 133 points (4 first place votes)
Holden Carver is a super-villain working for the major bad guy, Tao (from Alan Moore’s run on WildC.A.T.S.).
Tao is the smartest person in the world, and can drive you mad just by calmly talking to you (he did so to a member of Stormwatch back in Moore’s WildC.A.T.S. run).
However, he does not know something very important about Holden – Holden is actually an undercover operative for the government!
The only problem is, in the prologue mini-series that led into Sleeper, Holden’s handler, John Lynch, the ONLY person in the world who knew of Carver’s undercover mission, was shot and is now in a coma.
So that’s the gist of Sleeper Season 1, by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips – what do you do when the only person who knows you’re not REALLY a criminal can’t tell anyone that you’re not REALLY a criminal? And how long can you act as a criminal before you actually ARE a criminal?
Besides this great philosophical question, the series contains a good deal of humor, really. Brubaker and Phillips clearly have a blast coming up with off-beat supervillains and their powers. Carver falls hard for one of his fellow villains, Miss Misery, a woman who, while she loves Carver, knows that she literally CANNOT be happy, because she is actually powered by, well, misery. The happier she is, the weaker she is – the meaner and viler she is, the stronger she is.
Phillips “noir” artwork is perfect for the book, as it is perfect for MOST of the books Phillips draws – that’s how good he is.
The series has a couple of game-changers that pop up at the end of the first “season” that make Season 2 extremely unpredictable – the only thing predictable about this series is that every issue was going to be good.
73. “A Game of You” by Neil Gaiman, Colleen Doran, Shawn McManus, Bryan Talbot and many inkers (Sandman #32-37) – 139 points (2 first place votes)
One of the most intriguing aspects of “A Game of You” is the way that Neil Gaiman was able to form a whole story arc just based around a seemingly minor character from an earlier storyline.
In “A Doll’s House,” Barbie was one of the inhabitants of a boarding house who got caught up in the dream vortex of Rose Walker.
Now, months later, Barbie (who once dreamed of being a princess in a fairy tale land) no longer dreams.
She lives in an apartment building with a few different folks, including a lesbian couple, Hazel and Foxglove, and Barbie’s best friend, Wanda, who was born a man.
However, circumstances reveal that Barbie’s dream land (which she no longer dreams of) is in trouble, and she is needed to stop the evil Cuckoo from destroying all the people of “The Land.” She does so, but unbenown to her, the Cuckoo has agents on Earth, as well!
Luckily, another denizen of the apartment building is the witch, Thessaly (who became a major player in the Sandman mythos). Thessaly helps stop an attack on Barbie, and then goes into “The Land” herself, along with Hazel and Foxglove, to help Barbie (in The Land, she’s Princess Barbie).
And then, of course, Morpheus is drawn into the situation.
It’s an engaging tale by Gaiman made up of interesting, well-formed characters (Wanda is one of the best depictions of a transgendered character in all of comics) on a fantastical journey.
The art has some issues, though, do to more than one artist being rushed in their work.
71 (tie). “The Magus Saga” by Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom and Steve Leialoha (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11) – 140 points (3 first place votes)
When 1975 rolled around, Jim Starlin had already made a name for himself for his striking revamp of the floundering Captain Marvel title, mostly through bringing in a villain Starlin had invented a little while earlier on an Iron Man fill-in, Thanos.
The Darkseid-riff became a very formidable foe for Captain Marvel, and the book gained a great deal of critical acclaim. Starlin had just left the book after finishing up the “Thanos Saga” in the title.
He was not done, however, with cosmic stories. Taking the same approach he had used with Captain Marvel (take over a minor character and then do whatever he wanted with it), Starlin began using the little used Adam Warlock in the lead story in Strange Tales.
When this work was later reprinted in 1992 (after already being reprinted in the 12980s), it was hyped as “Before the Infinity Gauntlet, there was Warlock!” and really, that’s what this was – beginning in Strange Tales #178 and staying in that book for a few issues before going over to Warlock’s own title (which had gone belly-up a few years earlier, but was not continued with #9 for Starlin’s story), Starlin introduced many of the same characters and ideas that he would later re-visit in the Infinity Gauntley.
Pip the Troll and Gamora (“The most dangerous woman in the universe”) both made their debuts here, as compatriots of Adam Warlock as he tried to stop the Universal Church of Truth. This tyrannical religious institution was led by the Magus, who turned out to be the evil future self of Adam Warlock himself!
Eventually, Thanos came into the picture, as well, giving him probably his most prominent storyline at the time, as we get to see the somewhat anti-hero nature of Thanos that Starlin liked working with.
The whole thing wrapped up nicely with a clever idea by Starlin and a bold sacrifice by Warlock that would later be re-visited when Starlin drew his cosmic stories to a close in 1977 (of course, he would then bring them all back in the early 1990s for Infinity Guantlet).
Starlin’s Magus storyline in Warlock was highly acclaimed at the time – Starlin was trying stuff and making allegories about religion and politics that you just didn’t see in superhero comics of the 1970s, and the stories hold up well still today (although I’d like to see the stories collected in something other than a Masterworks edition – they can call it Annihilation Classic: Magus Saga, if they want!).
71 (tie). “Coming Home” by J.M. Straczynski, John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna (Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #30-35) – 126 points (3 first place votes) – 140 points (6 first place votes)
“Coming Home” is the first story arc by writer J.M. Straczynski, who would pretty much define the character of Spider-Man for the next five plus years.
In this first story, Straczynski introduces two major plot elements that would persist throughout his run on the title (three if you count Peter becoming a school science teacher).
The first of them is the notion that perhaps it was not the radiation that made the spider who bit Peter give him powers, but perhaps the spider ITSELF had powers, and that Peter Parker is following in the long line of totemic spider spirits. Initially, Straczynski kept this idea vague, in that perhaps it WAS true or perhaps it was not, but later issues made it more explicit.
The second was Aunt May discovering Peter’s secret identity.
Between those two moments, though, was the introduction of Morlun, a live-sucking vampire who seeks out Peter to drain him of his life force. Morlun is one of the most formidable foes Spider-Man has ever faced, especially because while Spider-Man is no stranger to the idea of running away to regroup for a later battle, Morlun knows how to take advantage of Peter’s deep sense of responsibility to prevent him from running away – just put innocents in danger and Spider-Man will be forced to spring into action!
John Romita Jr. does a marvelous job on this story arc, especially the battle sequences, as Spider-Man suffers brutal blow after brutal blow.
Eventually, Peter devises some way out of the situation (he IS the hero of the book!), but JMS sure does not make it easy for him!
This was a strong opening to JMS’ long association with the character.