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The Greatest Ed Brubaker Stories Ever Told!

Every day in May we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Ed Brubaker Stories Ever Told!


I’ll give you the top five stories that DIDN’T make the Top Ten…

15. Criminal “The Dead and the Dying”

Three stand-alone stories combine to give you a rich picture of a crime family in the 1970s. The astonishing Sean Phillips provides the artwork.

14. The Man Who Laughs

The awesome Doug Mahnke teams up with Brubaker for a modern re-telling of the Joker’s first appearance.

13. The Immortal Iron Fist “The Last Iron Fist Story”

Iron Fist discovers that he was not the first Iron Fist, as he meets the PREVIOUS Iron Fist and gets caught up in a world of hijinx. Matt Fraction co-writes and David Aja (and friends) draws.

12. Gotham Central “Unresolved”

11. Gotham Central “Soft Targets”

“Unresolved” is written by Brubaker with art by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano, “Soft Targets” is co-written by Brubaker and Greg Rucka with art by Michael Lark alone.

These two are weird ones – both storylines (the first involving a sniper and the Joker and the second involving the Mad Hatter and poisoned coffee) were collected into a single trade, Unresolved Targets. So should they be combined as a story? They are not sequential stories and the VAST majority of voters voted for them as separate stories, so I think it’s proper to keep them here as two stories. If we put them together and took out any double-voting (which would be a major pain for me), my guess is that that a combined “Unresolved Targets” story would end up about 7th overall.

If we DID combine them, then the 16th story would move into the top 15. I’m not going to combine them, but I’ll let you have a peek at what WOULD have moved up…

On to the Top Ten!!

10. The Immortal Iron Fist “The Seven Capitol Cities of Heaven”

The hijinx I mentioned earlier get even crazier, as the other “Cities of Heaven” that we have never seen get involved as a madman (and Hydra) try to destroy the heavenly cities. Iron Fist and the “Immortal Weapons” of each city must team-up to prevent a great tragedy – but can these warriors set aside their differences in time?

Again, Matt Fraction co-writes and David Aja (and friends) does the art.

9. Criminal “Bad Night”

A former counterfeiter who everyone presumes killed his wife gets caught up in, well, a “bad night” as he is extorted into involving himself in a criminal scheme that spirals out of control, as criminal schemes are wont to do. The sensational Sean Phillips delivers the artwork.

8. Incognito

Brubaker and Sean Phillips team up for a tale of a former super villain who has been in witness protection for years without his powers – a member of the faceless masses. When his habitual drug use results in the return of his powers, he becomes a hero, just so that he can feel SOMEthing. His return to the world of superdom is not well received by the supervillain organization he put under, though…

7. Criminal “Coward”

The first Criminal arc, we meet a man who is the best crime planner in the country, specifically because he is a “coward.” He won’t pull off any crime that isn’t perfectly safe. Well, what happens when such a man is put into a position where he HAS to play it unsafe?

Find out in this taut crime thriller featuring artwork by the spectacular Sean Phillips.

6. Daredevil “Inside and Out/The Devil in Cell Block D” (the story was originally called the latter, but when it was collected it was called the former)

When Brubaker took over Daredevil from Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Murdock was on his way to prison. That’s certainly an interesting way to begin your run on a title, and Brubaker managed to make the most out of it with a brilliant story set inside a prison DESIGNED to be a powder keg (as all of Daredevil’s greatest enemies are put together in one prison). Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano shine on the artwork.

Story continues below

5. Criminal “Lawless”

Lawless introduces us to Tracy Lawless, a former soldier just out of military prison who returns to the States to learn that his brother has been killed. Lawless enters the criminal world to find his brother’s killer but ends up finding a whole lot more. The amazing Sean Phillips accompanies Brubaker on art for the series.

4. Captain America “Winter Soldier”

This is Ed Brubaker’s first major story as the writer of Captain America, and it introduces a dynamic new villain, Aleksander Lukin as well as, of course, revealing that Captain America’s partner Bucky did not die, but was instead saved by the Russians, who brainwashed him and have been using him as an assassin for roughly 60 years (cryogenically freezing him between uses, hence the “Winter Soldier” name). Can Cap save the soul of his former friend?

Steve Epting and Mike Perkins draw the story.

3. Sleeper Season 2

The second “season” of Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, takes all the developments over the first season and basically turns the dial up to 11.

We get to see what lengths a man will go to to have a CHANCE at a “happy ending.”

2. Captain America “The Death of Captain America”

The Death of Captain America tells the story of, well, the Death of Captain America, specifically Steve Rogers, as we go from the death of Steve to the point where his former sidekick, Bucky Barnes, becomes the NEW Captain America. It’s a long, epic tale that also involves the Red Skull trying to take over the United States through political shenanigans. The art is mostly by the great Steve Epting, Mike Perkins and Butch Guice, plus an assist from Rob De La Torre and Luke Ross.

1. Sleeper Season 1

The great duo of Brubaker and Sean Phillips first got together during this series, where a government operative finds himself in deep cover, so deep that no one knows he IS undercover, as a super villain.

So how long can you act like a super villain before you BECOME one? This series examines that question.

That’s the list! I’m sure there is a lot of agreement and disagreement with the list out there! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

And please vote for the lists that are still up for grabs here!


I think the only thing I can seriously disagree with on this list is the placement of the Captain America stories. Out of Brubaker’s Cap run, those can arguably be considered the best yet, it seems odd that they are above Coward and Lawless.

i totally expected to not agree with this… but it’s spot on!!!

“Today’s list is the Greatest Steve Englehart Stories Ever Told!”

Oh really?

I would put both Sleeper seasons in the Top 2. Without hyperbole I would call the entire series the best comics I’ve ever read. But it’s understandable that the Death of Captain America would be right up there.

No stories from Catwoman are even in the top 15? Very surprising to me.

Philip Ayres

May 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

Winter Soldier beats Death of Cap for my money.

I knew it wouldn’t place, but by far my #1 has always been Scene of the Crime.

I think I had most of the above on my list, excepting Incognito, which while good was never on a par with a lot of his other stuff. But the best thing about Brubaker is, were I to redo my list tomorrow, it could easily be in a completely different order. Especially the excellent Criminal series.

I never pulled together a list, but Sleeper seasons 1 & 2 were going to be my 1 & 2. Glad to see others agree! Also impressive that a basically creator-owned series featuring original characters beat out the much more widely read Cap and daredevil series.

No Lowlife?

Damn…without a doubt, my favorite Brubaker story ever told is the “Relentless” arc from Catwoman. The whole Black Mask/Maggie story, and then the follow-up afterwards with Selina’s fling with Slam — gorgeous art, and truly some of the most emotional content ever done in a superhero-ish book. Shouldda voted, I guess!

I wish I’d voted on this. Not as much as I wish I had voted in the 2000 election, but close. Scene of the Crime was where I had fallen in love with Brubaker’s writing and declared I would loyally buy everything he writes from there forward. I would have also liked to have seen The Fall or An Accidental Death ranked, but hey, it’s not like there’s anything bad on here. I would have definitely liked to have seen the arc from Catwoman featuring the showdown with Black Mask – the arc Cameron Stewart drew. That stuff was bad ass. The final issue from that is one of my favorite comics of all time, period.

Mike Loughlin

May 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Of the stories I’ve read, all those are great. I have to read the Criminal comics I haven’t gotten to yet.

The Fall, with terrific art by Jason Lutes, was my favorite Brubaker story that didn’t make the list. It’s a twisted tale of suburban drama, not too fast-paced, but absorbing.

Man, i miss Gotham Central so much…

It says a lot about a writer when his great, ongoing epic only gets two spots on the list.

The Fall was actually my #1 choice so it’s a shame not to see it here.

Also, Immortal Iron Fist? Really? I thought that was about the worst thing Brubaker ever had a hand in.


May 8, 2010 at 6:55 am

I shouldn’t complain because I never got a round to vote, but something from Deadenders should definitively have made the top ten. And Catwoman have at least broken the top 15.

But I am elated Sleeper ranked so high. I like getting in trouble with my fellow comic-readers by arguing that Sleeper is a better deconstruction of the superhero mythos and trappings than Watchmen was.

very happy sleeper ranked so high.

mostly agree with the list, though i agree with a previous poster that i thought the immortal iron fist was pretty awful.

i haven’t read any of brubaker’s batman, x-men, or catwoman, and was going to use this list to tell me where to start on those series, but… alas…

is that work not well regarded? are people surprised none of that made it? any opinions on what is the best out of those?

Mike Loughlin

May 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

@third man,

Brubaker’s Batman was inconsistent, but good enough. Worth a look, althugh not on the level of any of the material on this list. I read the first 3 Catwoman trades, and liked them quite a bit, jiust not more than Sleeper, Criminal, Cap, etc. Still, they are worth reading. I dropped his X-Men after the mediocre Deadly Genesis and interminable Shi’Ar story. Don’t bother with those unless you reeeeeally like rthe X-Men. I don’t recall reading that the stories improved trememndously after that.

I thought Immortal Iron Fist was very entertaining, but it seemed more Fraction than Brubaker to me.

Even though I knew it was futile, I voted for Catwoman: Wild Ride anyways. I’m a sucker for road trip stories, and that one was great.

How is nothing from Catwoman nowhere on this list?

Stealthwise just reminded me that I still need to pick up the last issue of that Wild Ride arc. I won Brubaker’s run sans that issue on ebay years ago and loved it. Need to get around to reading Deadenders, too.

And Scene of the Crime. And the Fall. And anything he did before Sleeper, really. That was the book that made him (and Phillips) favorites of mine.


May 8, 2010 at 6:54 pm

‘Iron Fist’ is a great run but hasn’t Brubaker done interviews stating it was mostly Fraction who wrote it?

No Books of Doom? Really?

Sorry but this list is a joke if none of his Catwoman work isn’t in the top 10 at least. The first arc with Darwyn Cooke, or the Relentless story arc featuring Black Mask alone are way better than any of his Iron First or Incognito work.

Captain America- “Winter Soldier:
What about his CATWOMAN?

Wow, I can’t believe how much support there is for Bru’s Catwoman run. I’ve read some of it, and it was good, but I didn’t think it was great. I’m not going to say those people are wrong, i dig that each person has their own preference and vibe to ride with a writer’s work, I’m just shocked is all.

Sometimes it feels like people just want to be the one to point out a creator’s odd/indie work first and try to collect the kudos that they are slightly off the mainstream. Catwoman, Deadenders, A Complete Lowlife. Scene of the Crime. I’ve read them all, and enjoyed them all, but just because they don’t appear in my 10 doesn’t mean they are no longer good. Scene of the Crime is an exceptional tale, but you have to understand that not everyone else dug it. You can’t call the list a joke just because the majority didn’t vote with your boutique tastes. Nobody has complained about the absence of Bru’s X-Men run, which is funny, and only one call for Books of Doom.

Brian, to really get people riled up you should tell us which book got theleast votes, ha.

‘Iron Fist’ is a great run but hasn’t Brubaker done interviews stating it was mostly Fraction who wrote it

That would make sense. I didn’t enjoy Immortal Iron Fist at all and I’ve never enjoyed Matt Fraction’s work.

As for Catwoman, I enjoyed the book and I wish they’d collect the rest of his run in TPBs, but it’s no-where near Brubaker’s top ten for me. It’s no-where near Gotham Central and even that didn’t make my top ten.

Bru really made Catwoman a more fully realized character IMO. Really loved his run and am very surprised none of that made the Top 10.

Haven’t read Iron Fist but have heard great things about it and am going to pick it up.

It’s been years and years, but I remember really liking Scene of the Crime. Very glad to see others remember it as well.

Scene of the Crime
The Fall
A Complete Lowlife
His first Catwoman/Slam Bradley story with Darwyn Cooke
Deadenders, Stealing the Sun

Not that everything on the list isn’t also awesome, but… Scene of the Crime!!!

Teach me not to vote, I guess.

I’m not gonna argue with anything on this list. I gotta say though, and I know most don’t agree with me on this, but I loved Brubakers Rise and Fall of the Shiar Empire in Uncanny. It was one of my favourite story lines in the X-Men in the last five years. One of the most underrated stories this decade in my opinion. It put the Shiar back on the map and made them relevant in the Marvel U again.

Sleeper is very well deserving of its #1 spot. Anyone who says otherwise is a Marvel zombie who thinks Brubaker never wrote anything before he arrived at Marvel. Uncanny X-Men? Books of Doom? Please…

Deadenders. Entire series. Shame it was cut short.

Brubaker’s Catwoman was a very highly regarded run at the time, by fans and critics alike. The only reasons I can think of for it not making the list is that it hasn’t been collected, for the most part, and that it was a pretty under-the-radar book at the time, coming at a transitional period for both DC (the early DiDio-era) and the Batman line, and prior to Brubaker achieving the A-list star status that came with his move to Marvel.

I am new to Brubaker – I was reading a lot of Wolverine stuff and wanted something noir and non-superhero stuff. I was in Forbidden Planet Edinburgh and at the store guy’s suggestion picked up Criminal Coward, Fatale book1, and The Fade Out book1 recently.
I enjoyed them all but would rank Criminal first, Fade to Black then Fatale.
I am now looking into all his work (which is why I’m on this article) and have Lawless on the way in the post. Bidding on Sleeper season one, and watching several others.
I’m not that interested in the superhero stuff. I’ve been watching X-Files from the start and so looking at stories of noir, crime and detective.

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