web stats

CSBG Archive

The Greatest Garth Ennis Stories Ever Told!

Every day in November 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 Garth Ennis Stories Ever Told!


15. Heartland #1

One of Garth Ennis’ most memorable characters was John Constantine’s one-time love, Kit Ryan. In this acclaimed one-shot by Ennis and Steve Dillon, Kit goes to visit her siblings back in Ireland for a gripping tale of family drama set against the backdrop of the troubles in Northern Island. Here is a spotlight I did on the issue.

14. The Pro

In this original graphic novel with art by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Ennis tells the off-kilter story of a prostitute who gains superpowers. Watching her interact with superheroes as she gets added to the ranks of do-gooders is hilarious.

13. Crossed #0-9

This dark, psychological story (with art by Jacen Burrows) follows a small group of survivors as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic America where people have become infected with some sort of zombie-esque virus that turns them into psychotic sadists. A chilling work, especially the way Ennis develops all the personalities so well before putting them through the paces. And the ending…wow…I don’t think anyone would have expected the ending.

12. Hitman #53-60 “Closing Time”

Ennis (and artists John McCrea and Garry Leach) says goodbye to Tommy Monaghan and Nate the Hatt in this touching send-off to this series.

11. The Boys #1-6 “The Name of the Game”

In the introductory story of Ennis and Darick Robertson’s series about a group of agents who work outside the law to keep superheroes under control, we meet Hughie, a young man who loses his girlfriend to a horrible superhero-related tragedy. He meets the head of the boys, Butcher, and Hughie finds himself pulled into a world he never could have imagined.

10. Preacher #18–26 “Proud Americans”

Set against Tulip and Jesse’s attempts to save Cassidey from the Grail (as Cassidy has told them that he is Jesse), we get both Cassidy’s origin as well as some insight into Jesse’s early days and his father’s life. Steve Dillon did the artwork.

9. Punisher Max #55-60 “Valley Forge, Valley Forge”

Ennis closes out his time on the Punisher with this powerful story about the Punisher being hunted down by the only people he can’t bring himself to fight fully – fellow military men! Mixed in with this story is snippets of a new historical book about the Vietnam War and the Punisher’s involvement in the War. The art was by Goran Parlov.

8. Hitman #34 “Of Thee I Sing”

In this one-off issue, Tommy Monaghan and Superman spend the night talking on a rooftop. Surprisingly, it is the hired assassin Tommy that is able to inspire Superman, who was down in the dumps about failing to save an astronaut’s life earlier that night. Ennis does not often have nice things to say about superheroes, but he certainly gave Superman the royal treatment in this classic issue. John McCrea and Garry Leach did the artwork.

7. Preacher #1-7 “Gone to Texas”

In this rollicking opening storyline, Ennis introduces us to the bizarre cast of characters who make up Preacher – Jesse Custer, the Preacher who ends up with the Word of God, the Saint of Killers, sent by God to kill Jesse, Tulip O’Hare, Jesse’s ex-girlfriend, who is now an assassin, and Cassidy, an Irish vampire. How they are all thrust together is a great little tale.The art is by Steve Dillon.

6. Preacher #59–66 “Alamo”

Ennis and Dillion say goodbye to their Preacher cast with this sweeping epic finale, as pretty much everyone shows up again and we get a final showdown between good, evil and…well…Cassidy.

5. Punisher #1-12 “Welcome Back, Frank”

When Joe Quesada’s Event Comics took over production on a handful of Marvel heroes, it was generally a rousing success, especially their revitalization of Daredevil. One concept that did not work as well, though, was the Punisher becoming an avenging angel for Heaven. So when Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon began their follow-up maxi-series and it was called “Welcome Back, Frank,” they really mean welcome back!!

Story continues below

In the first page, Ennis does away with the angel plot and it is on to good ol’ fashion mobster slaughter!

The big difference between this and older Punisher stories is that Ennis decided to take an approach similar to his Hitman series, where he would mix in a good deal of humor into the stories, as well as a colorful cast of good guys AND bad guys. The result was a very fun book (with striking Dillon and Jimmy Palmiotti artwork) that was also quite bloody. And most importantly, the book made the Punisher a viable property again, and it is likely no coincidence that a new Punisher movie was green-lit soon after Ennis turned the character around.

Ennis would follow this up with a Marvel Knights ongoing, but really, the joke had diminishing returns as time went on – this first maxi-series, though, was extremely tight and fresh (Ennis later changed things up by taking Punisher to Marvel MAX, where Ennis dropped the humor and kept the darkness and it became great again). And for those of you who know about Garth Ennis’ general distaste for superheroes, well, you’ll like to see how he handles Daredevil’s guest appearance early on. Some pretty messed up stuff.

4. Punisher: Born #1-4

This mini-series introduced readers to the idea of the “Monster” inside of Frank Castle’s soul that is given a voice during the Vietnam War, where we see Frank Castle in action. Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer did the artwork.

3. Preacher #8–17 “Until the End of the World”

This trade consists two stories by Ennis and Steve Dillon, but the one that is really getting the support is “All in the Family” (#8-15). In “All in the Family,” we fully examine the background of the hero of Preacher, Jesse Custer (the Preacher of the book’s title). We see the family life he came from, a terrible world where his grandmother and her two goons controlled his family’s life and abused Jesse terribly. Now he is back for revenge, along with his girlfriend, Tulip and his new best friend, Cassidy. Well, Tulip gets her face blown off – so you can imagine how smoothly it all went.

All in the Family shows Ennis at his best – coming up with absolutely twisted stories involving sex and violence, but somehow managing to also make the whole thing filled with so much strong characterization that characters who are killed in this story (and only appear in a couple of issues, really) became fan favorites and even get their own spin-off later on (via flashbacks, of course)!

There is a tremendous scene where Jody (one of the aforementioned goons) has a showdown with Jesse – Jody, as twisted and demented as he is, effectively was Jesse’s father figure growing up, so even as they are fighting to the death, Jody can’t help but be proud of the man Jesse grew up to become. When you mix in a scared God (who is afraid of Jesse, who gained the Word of God early in the series), just when you think things couldn’t get any freakier – well, they do. And it is excellent.

2. Punisher Max #25-30 “The Slavers”

With art by Leandro Fernandez and Scott Hanna, this story is about the Punisher stumbling upon a slave ring, and as Ennis did throughout his MAX series, since Frank Castle is almost devoid of characterization (he’s basically a killing machine), Ennis goes into DEEP characterization on everyone else in the book, including the slaves, the slave ring leader and the son of the slave ring leader (imagine the kind of daddy issues you would have if you ran a slave ring with your dad), plus some cops who look to use the Punisher for PR purposes.

Ennis weaves all of these plots together and does not flinch on showing us the extreme violence and depravity that goes on with forced prostitution, making it so much more cathartic when the Punisher klls all the bad guys, and in some cases, in increasingly poetic manners.

1. Hellblazer #41-46 “Dangerous Habits”

Garth Ennis and Will Simpson combine for what is most likely the most famous Constantine storyline ever – the tale of how Constantine, dying of lung cancer, managed to turn his death into the ultimate con. The film, Constantine, loosely adapted this storyline.

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Great list, but I was expecting much more Hitman entries (Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium, c’mon!).

A shame not to see any of his straight up war stories in the list. There were some fantastic one shots in the War Stories series.

I’m kinda surprised his great Enemy Ace mini isn’t on here. I love that book.

I thought Punisher: The End would have been there. Epic Corben post-apocalyptic artwork. Frank at the end of the world. One of my favorites… his run on the Demon is also sorely ignored in general.

Roy Thomas?

Quite the testament to Ennis that this is a great list, and yet there are still so many good stories missing!

Like a chunk of my list, for example:

1. Preacher Special: One Man’s War
2. Punisher The Cell
3. Punisher Born
4. Hellblazer 50
5. Hellblazer Dangerous Habits
6. Hellblazer Fear and Loathing
7. Hitman Ace of Killers
8. Pride and Joy
9. Preacher Crusaders
10. Preacher War in the Sun

I had to pick the Starr special, One Man’s War, for my top spot, just ’cause it is such a compelling origin for one of the greatest villains in comic book history!

I never saw the voting for this one. Ennis is one of the few writers I could come up with a top 10 list off the top of my head. Goddess definitely would have gotten a vote from me, and possibly some Judge Dredd stuff and his one-shot Star Wars story.

And FYI, it still says greatest Roy Thomas stories before the jump.

Pretty crazy Dangerous Habits is number one as that was his first major American work.

@Whitster: Absolutely, “D-Day Dodgers” is one of my favorite Ennis’ stories.

WTF? Hellblazer?

You guys are superweird. Even Ennis said that he can’t stand his Hellblazer run!

That’s a lot of good comics.

I’m a little surprised that his Punisher had a better showing than Preacher.

I will never understood the “haha even the creator of the work doesn’t like it, that proves its bad!” argument. Just, try and think about what you just said for more then five seconds before posting, in the future. You’ll look less dumb, I promise.

The Beast Of Yucca Flats

December 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

Not so much ‘can’t stand,’ as ‘felt it could’ve been better in spots.’ (frex, he mentioned feeling that Will Simpson’s art would’ve fit better on a sci-fi or an action piece than a gritty horror book like HB; that and he was also apparently smoking pot way too much in those days).

Wow, what a great list! Almost all of my picks are up there, and the ones that are missing I’m not too upset about (I knew they were more personal favorites than crowd-pleasers). I was surprised and overjoyed to see “Crossed” up there (in the top 15 anyway). It was one of my votes, but I thought it was a long shot due to its incredibly disturbing content. I’m also very surprised to see the first “Preacher” arc so far down the list. I figured it was a lock for #1. I love it when you guys surprise me!

The Slavers storyline is a highlight of an incredible run on Punisher. If the last page of that story doesn’t leave you in a scared, slightly nauseated state of mind, there’s something wrong with your brain.

I’m always amazed that Welcome Back Frank can get any votes at all when Punisher MAX exists. It’s just on a whole other level of awesome.

I’m so sad that this is the last list of this Greatest Stories series! I’ve got a nice long luandry list of stuff I’ve never read before to catch up on, but it’s so cool to see all the various characters and creators at the height of their craft. Ennis, for example, is one of the rare lists I’ve read everything from, and aside from Heartland, I loved every title that’s listed here. I guess we’ll all have to go and make more fake twitter accounts so we can hit 6,000 followers and get another Greatest Stories list ;P

Nice to see that Heartland at least got a mention. That’s probably my favorite Ennis/Dillon book. Just a beautiful comic.

“I will never understood”
yes, Jeremy90 you will never understood it, because you are Jeremy90. Less dumb, indeed.

No love for ‘Johann’s Tiger?’ Or ‘Dear Billy’? I was surprised by the absence of Ennis’ war comics, as well.

Shit, Dear Billy was so humanistic and fucking heartbreaking. One of the reasons Ennis is one of the best current mainstream comics writers. I wish I had voted.

This was the only list I felt like I had enough knowledge to vote on. I’m surprised Dangerous Habits won, thought I haven’t read it. It just seems like his later works get a lot more love online. The only thing I disagree with is Born being so high on the list, if only for the scene where Frank essentially murders an innocent officer. Completely out of character with everything that came either before or after.

Good choices, everybody! It’s great when you have a writer who’s done so many good comics that nearly every comment mentions another high-quality story that didn’t make it. I think the lack of war comics stems from the fact that less readers are familiar with them. I haven’t read all of Ennis’s war comics, but the series of one-shots he did for Vertigo, War Stories, was excellent.

I voted for D-Day Dodgers too!
War Stories was a lot of fun. I passed Vol 2 along to my roommate while he was writing a paper for his masters’ degree on carpet bombing. I had just finished “J for Jenny” and my timing couldn’t have been more “small world.”

I love the Boys but I think my favorite storyline has been The Innocents. Ennis’ showing Hughie being a hero (“showing” as in the literary use of the term, “show vs tell”) has been the character’s strongest point.


I agree with Rob, The Innocents is my favourite Boys storyline – it’s great reading a different viewpoint on the supes and seeing the conflict between Butcher and Hughie, at the same time, it’s absolutely hilarious. I think the Butcher mini-series is worthy of a spot too.

Good list though I’m surprised Saint of Killers hasn’t made it!

While I still think that he is the second greatest writer in comics, The Boys was a real dissapointment.
It’s a one trick pony (superheroes are lame) stretched out to 70 issues.

I was surprised to see Dangerous Habits at No.1. I was never a fan of his Hellblazer work, but maybe that was because I loved the preceding Delano stories. I think his Punisher Max series was one of the best runs in comics ever and I like most of his stuff now. He certainly has a set style, but it’s a good style!

I bet ‘Dangerous Habits’ won because it’s the *one* ‘Hellblazer’ story that everybody loves (maybe ‘Son of Man’ too), whereas ‘Preacher’ and ‘Hitman’ and ‘Punisher’ have all sorts of ones to choose (like, for me, ‘Salvation’ is my favorite ‘Preacher’ and ‘Zombie Night at Gotham Aquarium’ would’ve gotten a vote and ‘Barracuda’ would’ve been on my Punisher list). So the votes got split there, whereas everybody votes for the same token ‘Hellblazer’ story. And, of course, they’ve never reprinted his ‘Demon’ run, so there was no chance of that, even though it has some solid stories.

sean – great point. If Ennis had done mostly so-so, forgettable Punisher stories and one classic like Valley Forge, it would have been number 1.

Jimmy, BACK TO BROOKLYN was impossible to find before Amazon and that was a damn shame. Thought it was a great story. And I definitely encourage all on this board to go out and buy it–just hope for better luck that it arrives without a bent cover!

randypan the goatboy

December 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Garth Ennis is a sleazebag. A talented sleazebag but a sleazebag indeed. his work On hellblazer saved that book as far as im concerned. the only reason I could see ennis hating his run on the book was he didnt have the ” drop a crucifix in dog shit” annual. he can write all the depraved crap he wants but his best work is well behind him.


December 3, 2011 at 12:37 am

Where was 303?

That might be single favorite Ennis Story.

That book is AMAZING and no one seems to have noticed.

Rob and Kirk – “The Innocents” was really good, but the second “The Boys” storyline I voted for (besides “Name of the Game”) was “The Self-Preservation Society”. Up until that point, everyone kept talking about how Butcher was so tough, but we didn’t see much to back it up. Finally, he gets a chance to show why he has that reputation. About halfway through his one-man massacre of Payback, you actually start to feel sorry for them. It’s like watching a slasher movie, except the “slasher” is the leader of the team you’ve read forty-something issues of.

And Kirk, totally agreed on “Saint of Killers”. It was my number ten. Sure a lot of Ennis’s stuff is technically better written, but how much more badass can you get than a guy who gains demi-god status by kicking the shit out of the devil himself?

All these great Ennis/Dillon books just makes me wish they’d ever gotten around to doing City Lights.

That Jody and Jesse fight in All in the Family is sooo brutal. The one bit, and the way Dillon depicts it, just makes me cringe with what happens to Jesse (avoiding detail to avoid spoilers).

And it’s been a while since I’ve read my first 2 Preacher trades, but I thought it was Cassidy, not Cassidey. Maybe my memory’s just that bad.

“…I thought it was Cassidy…”

It IS “Cassidy.” No idea why Mr Cronin kept getting it wrong!

Ah, Ennis and Dillon love! And I love it how the top ten is basically PREACHER and PUNISHER alternating places, with smatterings of the other stuff in between. Two of the most solid extended single-author runs ever, I think, right up there with SWAMP THING and THE INVISIBLES. These things really knew what they wanted to do, and they did it amazingly.

No idea why THE PRO is in here, though, and not (what most people here have already said) any of the WAR STORIES or THE SAINT OF KILLERS (even if only for the third issue!) or the Starr special or THE PUNISHER: THE END or the entire SALVATION arc in PREACHER. As wacky and risque as THE PRO is, it doesn’t hold a candle to any of Ennis’s other “minor” stuff, let alone the major ones.

That said, this is a very good list!

“All these great Ennis/Dillon books just makes me wish they’d ever gotten around to doing City Lights.”

Yeah. Any hope/news about them actually doing this in the near future?

@Adam: I asked a pretty reliable source (although I’m not sure if he’d want me to necessarily come out and say that he made any comment one way or another, hence my reticence) about City Lights a few years back, and the face he made and the comment indicated to me that it sounded as if it was dead in the water (if it was ever anything more than Ennis and Dillon boozing up and saying yeh, we should do that!). Such a shame, because it sounded like they’d do their thing, just without any superhero/supernatural trappings. Dillon on a book focused on the goings on/ emotions of regular people? It’d be so sweet!

But if you do like Dillon on superhero stuff, hunt down the Atom Special #1 from…’92, ’93. Written by Tom Peyer, it’s possibly one of THE best superhero one shots ever. Lots of Atom history, but given to you in such a way that everything you NEED to know is right there. SOOOO good.

If there’s ever a Greatest single issue story vote here, that’s probably gonna be my #1.

Tom Fitzpatrick

December 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

I also put down Hellblazer: The Rake at the Gates of Hell

“The Pro”? Seriously? That would probably make my short list of “worst Ennis stories” (and it would be a very short list indeed). I had “The Slavers” as # 1 and I believe “Dangerous Habits” as # 2, but I’m not surprised that the results for those two were reversed (and whoever said that “Habits” is the default Ennis Hellblazer story was spot on, as much as I liked the other Ennis stories I just couldn’t vote for them in place of stuff like “Preacher” and “Heartland”).

Born sucked. I can’t say that emphatically enough

PS – Chris M – wake up. The Pro f***ing rocked

Dude. Amanda Conner art and her chance to add to the humor. You’ve gotta give “The Pro” an edge for that.

@TJCoolGuy–I liked Self Preservation Society (killed me that Darick wasn’t on art, but Carlos still did leagues and miles better than I ever could). The Boys got me off of trade collecting and back into monthlies and trades and Payback were freaking hysterical. Did you know there was a ban of the issue with Stormfront on the cover–the Quietly “homage”/parody–in Germany as the swaistika (sp?) can’t be displayed anywhere public, including a comic cover. I dunno–we knew from the get go we’d get a Butcher mini (which so far has been pretty solid). It was cool to see him in action, and I love the spoof of heroes (because I love the heroes of which those spoofs are based). But something about The Innocents took it home for me.

Probably the wee wee stick.

Ennis is the best war stories writer in the bizz right now. Shame War Stories or Enemy Ace, others didnt make the list.

Great list too much popularity for Preacher and Crossed and Pro is far from Ennis best works.

Nr.2 and nr.1 one the list is the ones i would have voted for best Ennis stories.

You could make a top ten list just from his PUNISHER MAX run alone. Ditto with Preacher.

Better late than never! #1’s the BEST of the BEST!

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives