CBR's Guide to Free Comic Book Day 2016
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!!
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!
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