Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
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 Peter Milligan Stories Ever Told!
15. Human Target #1-6 “Strike Zones”
In these issues, the opening of the ongoing Human Target series by Milligan and Javier Pulido, we’re treated to a number of small stories starring Christopher Chance, a man who impersonates people to protect them, but after how many impersonations can your original personality remain intact? Milligan touches on this idea as Chance impersonates a film producer, an accountant who faked his death on 9/11 and a baseball superstar.
14. The Extremist
The Extremist (a name that Brendan McCarthy came up with) shows a woman driven to insanity and murder by the death of her husband. As she slowly descends into becoming the Extremist, she discovers that all is not what it seems, but is it too late – has solving her husband’s murder turned her into exactly what the murderer wants? Ted McKeever drew this dark mini-series.
13. Animal Man #27-32
Few situations are more unsung that following up a legendary run on a comic book title, and that’s what Milligan had to deal with with his six-issue run on Animal Man following up Grant Morrison. And yet, in his issues, Milligan managed to continue in the same spirit of Morrison while providing unique offbeat stories himself. Chas Truog drew the issues.
12. Batman #452-454 “Dark Knight, Dark City”
Speaking of Morrison, the current “Return of Bruce Wayne” storyline in Batman involves the demon Barbathos, who made his debut in this acclaimed three-part story by Milligan and artist Kieron Dwyer that involves Batman versus a possessed-by-a-demon Riddler.
This graphic novel, done with artist Brendan McCarthy, was deemed too controversial to print by Fleetway, so after it went unpublished for a bit, Tundra stepped up and published it. It’s an extremely raw and strangely compelling look at a young deformed skinhead in England during the 1970s. The “lead” of the book, Martin, is repulsive and not because of his deformity (he has seal-like stubs with hands on them rather than arms and hands) but because of his twisted ideology – and yet Milligan and McCarthy make it worth following his misadventures.
10. Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #5-6 “Flowers for Rhino”
Milligan and Duncan Fegredo combined for this two-part story where they basically just put Rhino through a riff on “Flowers for Algernon.” It works really quite well.
9. X-Force #121-129 “Final Chapter”
Working with a variety of artists (although Mike Allred as the “main” artist), Milligan further satirized the very fundamentals of superhero-dom with this final series of stories featuring the members of X-Force before the book relaunched as X-Statix. There’s an especially compelling multi-part story where the three “main” members of the team, the Orphan, the Anarchist and U-Go-Girl, deal with the fact that one of them is “destined” to die. This series of stories also features a brilliant spotlight issue on U-Go-Girl drawn by Darwyn Cooke. Also, where else but in a Peter Milligan comic would the stars of a comic book series get sued by the team that they replaced in the title over the usage of the name “X-Force”? Classic.
8. 2000 AD #500-519 “Bad Company”
Bad Company debuted in the 500th issue of 2000 AD, so it was given a nice spotlight and it worked out nicely, as readers quickly took a liking to the series, which was written by Milligan and drawn by Brett Ewins. It told the story of a company of soldiers fighting a war with an alien race called the Krool on the faraway alien planet, Ararat. We follow young soldier Danny Franks as his own platoon is wiped out so he joins up with Bad Company, a bizarre group of soldiers led by Kano, a Frankenstein’s monster-esque fellow. As the series’ popularity grew, so too did Milligan’s inventiveness with the stories. This is the series that really put Milligan on the map.
7. Shade the Changing Man #45-50 “A Season in Hell”
Chris Bachalo says goodbye to Shade the Changing Man after a long run as artist (although not every issue, of course, heck, he doesn’t even draw every issue this arc) with this sad, odd, tragic, bizarre and enthralling epic that revolves around Shade getting Kathy pregnant, which is problematic for some folks who want the baby dead before it is ever born. Meanwhile, Lenny does not react well to Kathy’s impending motherhood, and things get even ODDER when Lenny’s DAUGHTER shows up! The whole thing wraps up in a devastatingly sad and poignant finale. If Shade had ended here, this would have been one hell of an ending. Milligan is brilliant here.
6. Rogan Gosh
Milligan and Brendan McCarthy spin a wild tale of twisted realities and identities in this one-shot (that originally appeared in Revolver as a serial) that is named after an Indian dish (Rogan Josh), which ties into the general plot of the series, which DOES involve an Indian restaurant, but so much more – including Rudyard Kipling, the Indian death goddess Kali, a futuristic India and lots of sex magic! It’s a wild ride that Milligan and McCarthy take us on, while making us appreciate the very medium of comic books, as this story likely could not be done in any other media.
5. X-Force #116-120 “New Beginnings”
This is the series of stories that introduced the brand-new X-Force, who exist as a parody of both superheroes and celebrity culture. This is your post-reality television superhero team – a group of fame whores and misfits whose deaths are followed the way you would follow a baseball team’s wins and losses. The first issue makes this very clear as the main hero does not exactly make his way through the first story. Mike Allred is brilliant on the art and Milligan makes these heroes compelling AND ridiculous at the same time, which is no easy feat!
4. Shade the Changing Man #1-6 “American Scream”
Sent to Earth to deal with a growing “madness” that threatens Earth and his own home, Rac Shade shows up on Earth by possessing the body of a serial killer who is about to be killed. Using his “Madness-Vest,” which he can use to warp reality, Shade goes on the road along with Kathy George, a young woman whose parents were murdered by the man whose body Shade now resides in. As you can quite imagine, the two are quite the odd couple, as Kathy is dark and death obsessed while Shade is a bit of a naive poet at heart. Together they explore the evil “American Scream” that is infecting the Earth with madness based on American culture. An early example of this is when we learn the OTHER history of the Kennedy assassination. Using the American Scream as a jumping on point, Milligan used the series as an exploration of cultural themes in America and artist Chris Bachalo (working off of designs by Brendan McCarthy) began to show the skills that would eventually make him a comic art superstar.
Working with his Bad Company collaborator, Brett Ewins, Milligan made his DC Comics debut with Skreemer, a tale about the rise and fall of a violent giant of a man named Veto Skreemer who we follow from his early days as an assassin until he is one of the most powerful gangsters in the world, which is especially notable in this post-apocalyptic world where gangsters basically rule the country like kings. However, the days of lawlessness are not going to be here forever, and we see the beginnings of a new society through the counter-story in the volume, the Finnegan family (we follow them through many years). This series was noted for its brutal violence during a time, the late 80s, when such things were not quite as common.
2. Human Target (mini-series)
Milligan almost completely re-imagines the character of Christopher Chance in this mini-series with artwork by the late, great Edvin Biukovic. Chance is doing his standard “impersonating someone who is being threatened” deal, but HE is also threatened, so we discover that his assistant, Tom McPherson, is filling in for Chance himself!! As you might imagine, lines get blurry and things like “one’s own identity” don’t seem as clear cut as they normally are. The artwork is simply amazing. This eventually led to a great ongoing series by Milligan.
Enigma is another brilliant look at the shifting reality of identity, as a young man encounters a fictional superhero in real life, and the encounter begins a change in the man’s life – but IS it a change or is it just awakening something that was always there, hidden in the man’s personality? That is the type of tricky question Enigma deals with, and as the title of the book lets you know – the answer is not a simple one. Duncan Fegredo does a wonderful job on the artwork. Our own Greg Burgas wrote extensively about this series here – check it out!
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!
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