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CSBG Archive

The Greatest Mark Waid 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 Mark Waid Stories Ever Told!


15. Ruse #1-12

Waid wrote the first nine issues of Ruse (plus plots for the next three issues), a clever series with wonderful artwork by Butch Guice and Mike Perkins about the brilliant detective Simon Archard and his assistant, Emma Bishop, who hides a secret. The series is set on a planet that is basically just like Victorian England, so imagine the comic is just set during Victorian England. There were a bunch of one-off mysteries mixed in with an overall plot involving the search for the mysterious Enigmatic Prism.

14. Flash #108-111, Impulse #10-11 “Dead Heat”

In this crossover with the Flash spin-off, Impulse (both titles were written by Waid at the time), a villain named Savitar is trying to take control of the Speed Force for himself – almost all of Wally’s speedster allies have their speed stolen, leaving it to Wally to take down Savitar – but Savitar is more prepared than Wally ever could imagine, leading to a speedster making the ultimate sacrifice to save the rest. Oscar Jimenez and Humberto Ramos drew the story (Jimenez the Flash issues, Ramos the Impulse ones).

13. Fantastic Four #60 “Inside Out”

Waid and the late, great Mike Wieringo began their acclaimed Fantastic Four run with this special one-off nine-cent issue that gave us the hidden (and heartfelt) origin of exactly why Reed Richards chose to call himself “Mister Fantastic.”

12. JLA #18-19 “The Strange Case of Dr. Julian September”

In this acclaimed two-issue fill-in for Grant Morrison (which made it painfully obvious that Waid should be the successor to Morrison should Morrison ever leave the book, so it was great that that actually DID happen), Waid and the book’s regular artist, Howard Porter, tell the story of the extremely unlucky Julian September, who ends up discovering a way to change his luck, but not without causing massive and destructive ripples in reality. Can the JLA stop him (yes, but that’s not the point, of course)?

11. Superman: Birthright

Probably the easiest story on this whole list to describe! In this 12-part maxi-series, Waid and Leinil Francis Yu update Superman’s origin and beginnings to his career for the first time in nearly twenty years!

10. Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 5) #1-13

Waid and Barry Kitson did the second total reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes (known colloquially as the “three-boot”) with this series that saw the Legion as being more of a youth movement than anything else, a group meant to awaken a complacent galaxy and force people to actually make a change. In this thirteen-issue epic storyline (with some fill-in artists along the way, I should note), we are introduced to the Legion (through a series of strong character-based pieces) and then drawn into a battle for the basic freedom of the galaxy against a fellow, Lemnos, who ALSO wants to bring change to the universe, just not, to borrow a phrase, “change you can believe in.”

9. Irredeemable

I could list a specific group of issues, like #1-12, but I dunno, it seems like most folks are just voting for the series as a whole, and since it really tells one long story, I suppose I’ll leave it at just the title for now. In any event, Irredeemable, by Waid and Peter Krause (plus other artist helping out here and there), tells the story of a superhero, the Plutonian, who is basically the Superman on his world and what would happen if he just snapped and became the worst villain that the world has ever known. The death and destruction is practically inconceivable, and as the series goes on, we not only follow the Plutonian (as well as get some insights into his past) but also the remaining heroes as they desperately try to think of ways to stop him.

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8. Captain America #445-448 “Operation: Rebirth”

After a cool opening issue of their run where they get people used to the idea of a world without Captain America, Waid and Ron Garney come out blazing in #445 with the RETURN of Captain America! Brought back from the dead by his oldest enemy, the Red Skull, Cap is quickly thrown into an epic battle against no other than Adolf Hitler himself! Forced to team up with the Skull, Cap is shocked to learn that there is a third member of their adventure trio – Sharon Carter! You mean Agent 13, who’s DEAD? Yep, that’s the one! So this bizarre threesome take on Hitler and the Cosmic Cube in an action-packed drama that feels very much like a forebear to the terrific Ed Brubaker Captain America work of the last few years.

7. Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #67-70 then back to the old numbering for #500

This storyline by Waid and Mike Wieringo opens with pretty much what the name of the story is – an unthinkable act of horror by Doctor Doom that makes it clear that this time around he is going to be going after the Fantastic Four in ways you could not even imagine (or, I suppose, “think”). It comes down to Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, having to try to master something he ALSO cannot really even “think” about – magic!

6. Flash #0, 95-100 “Terminal Velocity”

Terminal Velocity revolves around Wally West getting a glimpse of the future (after a spotlight issue, #0, where Wally travels through his own timeline, including visiting himself when he was a kid – brilliant issue) and then doing all sorts of Machiavellian things in a gambit to avoid that future. We are led to believe that he saw himself be killed, but in reality, he saw his girlfriend, Linda Park, killed. So he vowed to do anything he could to save her, even if it meant manipulating his fellow speedsters Impulse and Jesse Quick to do so. In the end, Wally is sucked into the Speed Force – but can his love for Linda bring him back? Ask Taylor Dayne – she will let you know if that is possible. A variety of artists worked with Waid on this storyline, from Mike Wieringo in #0, Salvador Larroca for the next four issues, then a split issue between Salvador Larroca and Carlos Pacheco and finally the last issue, the double-sized #100, with art by Salvador Larroca, Carlos Pacheco AND Oscar Jimenez.

5. JLA: Year One

Waid and Barry Kitson delivered this impressive year-long mini-series examining the origins of the Justice League. The phrase “love letter to the Silver Age” is used a lot, but this project is at least a legitimate usage of the phrase, as Waid and Kitson definitely embrace the oddity and coolness of DC’s Silver Age, while also examining the personalities of the various founders of the Justice League a lot deeper than ever was possible during the actual Silver Age.

4. Empire

Another Waid and Kitson project! In this creator-owned series, they explore a world where villainy HAS won. It’s over. Done. So what happens next? Once you’ve reached the top, the BEST you can do is maintain your position, and that’s a position that the villainous Golgoth finds himself constantly challenged for from within his own camp – perhaps even from his own daughter!

3. JLA #43-36 “Tower of Babel”

We’ve long heard tell that, if he were properly motivated, Batman could take down pretty much any hero (like if they went crazy, etc). Well, in this storyline, Ra’s Al Ghul uses Batman’s secret contingencies for each hero to take down the Justice League. Even if the League can manage to survive the plans Batman had for them, can they possibly forgive him for it? Howard Porter and Steve Scott drew this arc, which was Waid’s first arc as the regular JLA writer.

2. Flash #73-79 “The Return of Barry Allen”

Wally’s greatest dream turned into a nightmare as his uncle, Barry Allen, the Flash before Wally, returns to life. Only thing are not what they seem, and soon Wally is forced to collect a group of speedsters to confront Barry, who has returned…different. This storyline introduced Max Mercury to the title and really began the whole “Speed Force” idea that became such a major part of the title. In any event, while Wally gets help from the other speedsters, he soon learns that it ultimately comes down to him and his own fears of replacing his uncle to win the day. Greg LaRocque drew this arc, in his swan song on the title, after a long run as penciler.

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1. Kingdom Come

Waid and Alex Ross put together this epic mini-series which showed a world where “grim and gritty” heroes have proliferated to the point where they are not even really heroes anymore. A great tragedy that was a result of one of the fights involving these heroes brings Superman out of retirement in an attempt to bring heroism back. But can Superman’s heroic idealism win out when the methods used involve throwing dissenters into a gulag? A gulag that seems to be a big super-powered powder keg? Lex Luthor, meanwhile, has his own plans to take advantage of the situation and what role will Batman take in all of this? The Spectre brings a mild-mannered minister to witness all of it.

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 list that is still up for grabs here!

As a special treat, after the last list goes up on Monday, on Tuesday I’ll share Mark Waid’s personal vote for what HE thinks are his top ten stories (from before 2005, as he feels he doesn’t have enough distance from his more recent stuff to judge them yet)! Yay! Thanks, Mark! What a treat!


Tom Fitzpatrick

May 31, 2010 at 10:31 am

i’m shocked that EMPIRE wasn’t # 2, or # 1, really shocked.

Once again, in no particular order . . .

KINGDOM COME (I know, more about Alex Ross, but it’s the best story of the 1990s, IMHO)

IMPULSE #3: “How To Win Friends And Influence People” (aka the one where Bart Allen inadvertently picks fights with an entire school)

IMPULSE #9: “Running In The Family” (aka the one with Max disappearing and Bart meeting his time refugee cousin Jenni for the first time)

IMPULSE #16: “Running From The Past” (aka the one where Max reflects on one of his greatest mistakes, and Bart lets his secret slip)

IMPULSE #19: “A Game Of Spew” (aka the one with Bart’s dream, which takes place along one minute in actual time)

IMPULSE #23-26 (the story where Bart reunites with his mother, goes to the 31th century, and returns to the 20th; also Humberto Ramos’s final issue with #25)

FLASH #74-79 (“The Return Of Barry Allen”)

FLASH #95-100 (“Terminal Velocity”)

IMPULSE #13: “Water Rat” (aka the one where Bart plays guardian angel to boost a fat kid’s reputation)

IMPULSE #17: “Quicker Than The Eye” (aka the team-up with Zatanna that goes horribly, hilariously wrong)

I did read Ruse and Irredeemable in TPB form, and I bought “Dead Heat” and JLA: Year One when they came out, but I didn’t think “Dead Heat” rated, and I forgot about JLA: Year One altogether. Ditto for Fantastic Four #60, which had a clever finish. I guess I wanted Bart to get some much-needed support. Oh, well.

I don’t like Kingdom Come. There, I said it. Well, it’s alright, but not #1 material. That nine-cent issue of Fantastic Four is absolutely brilliant, though. This list tells me I need to read more Waid. Gotta track down Ruse.

I am interested to see the man’s own picks.

I’m also shocked Empire isn’t higher. It really is a great series. I hope that Waid and Kitson get together for some more issues.

Why not, Bill? Remember, if not for Kingdom Come, Jonah Weiland doesn’t open up message boards for the book. CBR is the house that KIngdom Come built.

I dunno, Empire is #4, which is pretty high (#2-4 all finished very close to each other).

I’ve tried Waid’s Flash up to 77.

Pretty eh.

Then you missed out, mckracken, because #79 is awesome.

As for Kingdom Come, I just… didn’t find it interesting? And I’m not a Ross fan at all, so… Then again, I only read it last year for the first time. It was probably more exciting when it was new.

My list (in order):

1. The Return of Barry Allen
2. Empire 0-6
3. JLA Year 1
4. Tower of Babel
5. Kingdom Come
6. Dual Identities/ID storyline (JLA 50-54)
7. Julian September story (JLA 18-19)
8. Impulse #3
9. Born to Run (Flash)
10. Unthinkable

So I batted 70%, more or less. I agree with Bill that Kingdom Come is a very good story, but I think he’s done better. Haven’t read Irredeemable or Ruse, so I may have to check those out. Personal story that I love that I didn’t think would make it this time was the ID story from JLA; personally like it because we get to see why Plastic Man belongs in the JLA and there were some nice moments with the secret identities struggling to be normal.

Mike Loughlin

May 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

I put the Impulse/ XS team-up story at number 1 (I wasn’t sure of the issues – I think #12 was the conclusion). It was the crowning achievement of the series for me, as funny and triumphant as it was sad. It didn’t make it, but most of the other stories on my list showed up here. I also voted for Impulse #3, and Man Without a Country arc from Captain America. It was just as good as Operation: Rebirth.

I’m shocked that Waid’s lukewarm JLA storylines placed so high in the list.

The rest of the list is awesome.

Here’s my list

1. Terminal Velocity : Flash (vol.2) 0 + 95-101

“Flashing Back” is by far my favorite comic-book of all-time, Terminal Velocity is Waid at his finest : all leads to the romance between Linda and Wally with great characterisations of Jesse Quick, Max Mercury and Impulse.

2. Inside Out : Fantastic Four (vol.3) 60

Debuting the best comic-book run of the 00’s : a reminder of what these characters are and why they are so great.

3. JLA : Year One 1-12

Great mini-series (with Brian Augustyn). Solid artwork by Kitson who brings alive all the teamates with some moving moments (when the Black Canary learn about her mom’s affair).

4. Disassembled/Rising Storm : Fantastic Four 517-524

The wild ride that closes Waid and Wieringo’s run of the FF. Priceless moments with Johnny as Galactus’ Herald.

5. Flexibility : The Kingdom : Offspring

Gorgeous artwork by Frank Quitely, touching introspection.

6. The Lords of Luck : The Brave and the Bold 1-6

Perez + Waid + Batman + Legion of Super-Heroes = “super-hero porn” at its finest.

7. Operation rebirth : Captain America 444-448

1st and best arc of his two-part run : and as usual great characterisation of the vilain, Red Skull.

8. Platonic : Amazing Spider-Man 583

Best episode of Spider-Man since the Master Planner Saga.

9. Unthinkable Fantastic Four (vol.1+3) 67-70 + 500

It starts with a romance and it ends in hell : the FF go to the darkest corners of their souls without losing the tremendous action and sense of wonder of their adventures.

10. Divided we fall : JLA 50-54

Great analysis of the Magnificient Seven of the Justice League : and a defining moment for Plastic Man that stays true to Jack Cole’s creation.

Waid is my favorite writer but like Bill, I’m not that impressed by Kingdom Come : I think that Ross’art and Waid’s writing don’t mix. Maybe it’s due to creative differencies : Waid’s witty dialogue and intelligent reinterpretation don’t work with Ross heavy-handed nostalgia.

But I can’t recommend enough The Kingdom : Offspring one-shot, one of the most touching tale I’ve read.

I’ll have to try Empire, it sounds really cool. I would like to read his Captain America too.
Irredeemable is really good. Kingdom Come sounds better in the summary than what I remember of the book.
Mark Waid is really good, I am looking forward to his list.

Can’t wait to see Waid’s picks.

Oh, and Irredeemable sounds great.

I haven’t read a lot of Waid, mostly just recent Spider-Man stuff. I do like most of what I’ve read, but I still don’t have a clear opinion of him.
I do wish more people (were there any?) had voted for Strange. I loved Strange.

really upset impulse #3 didn’t make it, that was one of my favorite single issues of the 90’s. and just in general, the waid/ramos run on impulse was one of superherodom’s alltime greatest marriages of art with story/character.

also, no love for ka-zar? i haven’t read it since it came out, but i at least remember liking it.

wow great list…. I got 2 underrated stories that I loved also from Waid:

The Cobalt Blue tinged Ultra-Flash event Chain Lightning. It probably ret-conned out now but to see the future timelines of the Flash Legacy was awesome

..and along with Ka-Zar, I loved Waid’s brief X-Men run…which incidentally now can be viewed as the forerunner to his JLA’s Tower of Babel story

For me Mark Waid’s greatest claim to fame is his unlimited knowledge of Legion and Silver Age facts. Every convention someone ALWAYS tries to stump him…I haven’t see it done yet….

Seems like a solid list. Glad to see JLA: Year One ranked so highly, as I always thought it was underrated.

i was a big fan of the first arc on ka-zar. before thanos turned up.

can someone tell me the reason why reed called himself mr fantastic? drawing a blank.

Fantastic list, and I’m really loving this ongoing series. Brian, just a small request– would it be possible to add in the publication dates of the issues/runs, if not for this entry maybe for future ones? I can’t remember if past entries did this or not, but I really enjoy seeing where different titles, characters and runs fall in a creator’s career.


May 31, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Tower of Babel is the book I lend to people who aren’t familiar with the JLA.

And they’re hooked, every time.

JLA: Year One is one of my favorite superhero comics ever. It regularly finds its way into the bathroom, since I can re-read it any time, from whatever page I open to, for as long or as little time as I have.

What? Too much information?

No surprises for the top four, I think. it would have been exactly my list.

I think Waid’s first run on Legionnaires with Sprouse was better than “Threeboot”, even though I hated the reboot itself.

Great to see the Legion and Year One represented. Surprised that Heaven’s Ladder, his one shot with Hitch and real introduction to his JLA run, wasn’t on the list, as well as 52, actually.
Too much great Waid goodness and I wish his DC stuff had been respected longer before Didio and company decided it wasn’t canon and washed over it with Johns’ fan writing. thanks for it all, Mark!

I like Kingdom Come ok, but knew it would top the list without my help :)

I’ve read most of these. Another very strong list. Must check out Ruse and Empire….

My votes went to:

#1 The Return of Barry Allen – One of the most extended periods of “can’t hardly stand to wait to see what happens NEXT issue!!!” across many months I’ve ever experienced, as well as a great story when read straight through.

#2 Captain America (1998) #2 “To Serve and Protect” (the one where he rescues the sinking sub) – There’s a silent panel on the last page with a kick like a mule which I’ll never forget – and all credit to Waid for the story leading up to that moment, which is what makes that panel so powerful.

#3 The Skrull/Hydra arc in the first year of the 1998 (Heroes Return) Cap – More “can’t wait to see what happens NEXT issue!!!!” glory

#4 Fantastic Four (1998) #67 “Under Her Skin” (the prologue to “Unthinkable”) – One of the best-constructed issues ever seen, that demands immediate rereading as soon as the shock from the ending recedes enough to let you pick the comic back up.

#5 “Tower of Babel”, JLA – Lots of great thinking went into this, and the final issue was heart-warming. The “Secret identity” story that followed immediately after was just as good.

#6 Captain America: Operation Rebirth – Reading this was like being on a rollercoaster falling off a cliff going through exploding fireworks! (and disembarking safely). Man Without a Country was excellent as well!

#7 JLA: Year One – Great fun; whether or not one liked the retcons, the storytelling swept you along.

#8 Irredeemable – Scary

#9 “Chain Lightning”, Flash – Epic

#10 Flash/Green Lantern: Faster Friends – Skilfully gains resonance from decades of stories, full of “these things must have happened, why have we never seen them before?” moments that make perfect sense.

Empire sounds a bit similiar to Wanted,is it?

“Faster Friends”? I thought Waid and Marz made it too weak, even if it did break up the rivalry between Wally and Kyle. Come to think of it, that might have actually happened in the miniseries preceding the Morrison run on JLA, and wasn’t Waid behind that? Anyway, I just figure “Faster Friends” might be overrated after a Spanish edition popped up early on Lost?

Ninjazilla . . . not really. The baddies from Wanted owned the world covertly. Gogoltha (is that his name?) literally conquered his Earth.

Yeah, but Empire came first, and is a whole lot better than Wanted.

Loved Mark Waid’s run on Flash and Captain America, in fact it was him and Ron Garney that made me a fan of Cap.

Aargh no, NOT Flash/Green Lantern: Faster Friends; I meant Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold!!! With Barry and Hal. My mistake

No major surprises here for me.

My votes:
1 – The Kingdom: Offspring #1
2 – JLA: Tower of Babel (3)
3 – JLA: Divided We Fall
4 – Kingdom Come (2)
5 – Empire (4)
6 – Legion of Superheroes v1: Teenage Revolution(10 – for 11-3)
7 – LOSH v2: Death of a Dream(10 – for 11-3)
8 – Fantastic Four: Unthinkable (7)
9 – Fantastic FOur: Authoritive Action
10 – Birthright (11)

Sorry, NOT Flash/Green Lantern: Faster Friends; I meant Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold – the six issue mini on Barry and Hal. I misremembered the name. Whoops!

What I find really interesting about this list is its diversity. Several of the other “creator” lists in this best-of series seem like “best of this creator’s work on one or two different series.” But Waid’s got entries on this list from FIVE different publishers, which is pretty impressive.

Its a very nice topic, I love to read such topics

I’m surprised Tower of Babel placed so high… or at all, really.

The fill-in issue right in the middle which fails to establish important plot points that Waid comes back and treats as though they actually happened just kills me every time. I’ll be reading along, enjoying it, and then be yanked out of the story by characters referring to things that were never said and events that didn’t take place.

Just obviously terrible communication at work that destroys my ability to enjoy the story. I’m sure there’s a story behind it or something that I’m not aware of… but I don’t think it really matters either.

Honestly, I think the “Unscheduled Stop” arc w/ Marcos Martin in Spider-Man is the strongest superhero story I’ve ever read from Waid. Sad to see it didn’t make the list.

And I’da put RUSE at # 1, overall.

I loved Tower of Babel, until I picked up JLA: Year One. Babel’s major plot point is a total rehash of one of the twists in Year One. Waid used the exact same twist on two stories about the same team published just two years apart …

Kingdom Come is amazing, though. I voted for it #1 in the storyline contest here, and I got it signed by Waid and Ross at C2E2.

My favorite Waid story: Also at C2E2, I was able to help Waid by providing a mini screwdriver to open up his toy sonic screwdriver to replace the batteries, and got a signed copy of Irredeemable Special #1 for my effort. He signed it to “Josh (Technical Advisor)”, so it’s on the wall of my cubicle as proof of my tech skills…

no “Captain America loses his shield” issue? WHA? i forget the number on that one but it’s classic!!!

oh yeah it looks like Bill K said it… it’s Cap (vol ???) #2.

Waid is second only to Kurt Busiek to me as a writer. Waid has written all my favorite characters and tells the kinds of stories that i want to read. Lots of heart, smarts, and great moments. Loved his Flash, Captain America, JLA, etc.

The one thing that i didn’t like as much is EMPIRE. It is so dark [Waid sez that heroism flat out doesn’t exist there], while in Irredeemable there is hope/heroism. That’s why i didn’t vote Empire, tho’ it’s very good, it just isn’t for me.

It’s gonna be cool to see Mark’s picks. Personally, I really liked Return of Barry Allen and am hearing good things about Irredeemable, so I’ll look into that. Surprised not to see Flash & GL: The Brave and the Bold here though. I really love that series!

Travis Pelkie

June 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Wow, Mark Waid is good. I knew it, but just seeing this list confirms it.

But like Bill Reed, I don’t rank Kingdom Come as highly as most everyone else.

Forgot about that FF 9 cent issue, too. Damn, that was good.

And his Flash is why I love Wally West.

Birthright is one my favourite Superman stories of all-time, and I’m shocked to see it fell as far down as 11.


“Father, mother. I made it.” is one of the greatest moments I’ve read in a superhero comic.

Great stuff but I can’t believe JLA: HEAVEN’S LADDER doesn’t make either list!

[…] One more! Several Flash storylines appear in CSBG’s Greatest Mark Waid Stories Ever Told list: Dead Heat, Terminal Velocity and The Return of Barry […]

I’m really bummed that “Born to Run” didn’t place – in my opinion, the best Waid run on Flash was his first.

[…] up on the reader-chosen Greatest Mark Waid Stories Ever Told, Comics Should Be Good got Mark Waid to pick his own list of favorite stories from his work. A lot […]

Other than #1 and the Flash stuff, I really don’t agree much with this list but his body of work is so huge I would guess the more popular stories would win out.

Surprised that Incorruptible is not read more. I realize it isn’t published by the “Big Two” but it is an interesting idea and thought it was worthy of Mark Waid fans. Now, that being said, I have not read as much of his work as I would have like being fairly new to comics.

[…] up: For a more definitive list based on the views of hundreds of comic fans, go here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this.  December 16, 2012 […]

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