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CSBG Archive

2012 Top 100 Comic Book Runs #85-81

You voted, now here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book creator runs of all-time! We’ll be revealing five runs a day for most of the month. Here is a master list of all of the runs revealed so far.

Here’s the next five runs…

85. Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum’s Legion – 104 points (2 first place votes)

Legion of Superheroes #1-38, with the Bierbaums taking over until #50

When Keith Giffen rejoined Paul Levitz on Legion of Superheroes in 1988, the book was already in a slightly darker place, but it only got darker. Levitz and Giffen really began to stress that the Legionnaires were getting older. However, nothing prepared readers for what they were about to experience when Levitz left the book at the closing of that volume of Legion.

When Legion of Superheroes re-launched with a brand-new #1, Giffen was now the plotter of the comic as well as the artist, and he brought scripters (and long time Legion fans) Tom and Mary Bierbaum and finisher Al Gordon with him. And the book had moved forward five years into the future.

The world of the Legion was now a grim, desolate place, and the days of young men and women in colorful costumes were long gone. Instead, they were now, well, five years older, and no longer in costume – yet they all remained heroes. The story was an extremely ambitious look at a bunch of grizzled characters somehow coming together to reform some semibalance of the Legion they all once cared so much about.

One of the most notable aspects of the comic was how DENSE each issue was. Giffen used the nine-panel grid to great effect, making each issue filled with so much story that it would have easily twice as much stories as most other comics of the time (and that’s not even counting the pages at the back of the issues, which they used to fill in readers on what was going on in the Legion world).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this run to me, personally, was how they dealt with having to come up with a brand-new origin for the Legion (one sans Superboy, who was off-limits), without it really being too confusing.

The comics were dark, but they were also filled with humor and great character work.

One of the fascinating aspects of the story was the way Giffen would use back-up pages like Alan Moore used back-up pages in Watchmen. He would have documents that would elaborate on the stories within the comics. For instance, one of the biggest plots in the comic was the war between Braal (home to Cosmic Boy) and Imsk (home of Shrinking Violet). During the war, Imsk used a weapon on Braal soldiers, killing many of them and incapacitating others. Cosmic Boy (Rokk) survived, but he lost his powers.

In one issue, they show the events (including the revelation that Violet’s lost eye came as a result of Rokk)…

Later, they show dueling historical takes on the event…

Awesome.

Eventually, Giffen introduced apparent clones of the original Legion, still in bright and colorful costumes, and his original plan was for them to revealed to be the ACTUAL Legion, and Giffen’s older Legion would get their own spin-off book. That fell through, and Giffen departed the title.

The Bierbaums stayed on until #50, and tied up a lot of loose threads.

Giffen drew the book at first and was followed by Jason Pearson, who did a wonderful job in his first (and only?) regular penciling assignment for Marvel and DC.

84. Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon’s Top 10 – 105 points (1 first place vote)

Top 10 #1-12, Top 10: The Forty-Niners OGN, Smax #1-5

Alan Moore’s Top 10 is about a world where the police have to police superheroes. However, in the comic’s notable twist, Top 10 is about police officers who ARE superheroes, which is normal enough, as nearly EVERYone in the city of Neopolis has superpowers and costumes, from the cops to the robbers to the civilians.

The artwork was by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, who drew the 12 issues series together (Cannon did layouts and Gene Ha did finishes on the regular series) and then each drew one of the two spin-offs by themselves (Ha handling the Forty-Niners graphic novel, which tells the history of Neopolis and Cannon taking Smax, a spin-off starring one of the cops from Top 10).

Top 10 refers to the 10th Precinct, which is who the book follows, in a riff on Hill Street Blues, only with superheroes.

Moore uses the opportunity of a city filled with superheroes to make many pointed observations about superheroes, mostly comical ones. However, the book is also a character-driven comic, as well, it is just that the characters are absolutely bizarre, so their dramas are, as well. Moore, though, never treats their bizarre dramas as anything but serious problems, which gives the book a truly human feel in an otherwise superhuman environment. Like this domestic dispute between two familiar superheroes from the 1960s…

There was a lot of humor in the series, too. Like this one character has powers where she is basically naked at all times, but she can hide it by manipulating the colors on her skin. When she realizes that the sergeant of the precinct, a talking dog, is color blind, she is outraged. This leads to a fascinating discussion between the two…

Of course, later in that issue, we learn that the Sergeant was lying about being attracted to dogs and just said it to get her off his back. Pretty darn funny. As are the various comic book homages that are scattered throughout the series.

There was a sequel to the series published in 2005, but Moore was not involved.

83. Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub – 106 points (5 first place votes)

Lone Wolf & Cub Vols. 1-28

Lone Wolf & Cub (or as it was originally known in Japan, Kozure ÅŒkami) is a straightforward tale.

Ogami Itto’s wife and most of his family was murdered by the Yagyu clan so, along with his young son (the only survivor), Daigoro, he must gain his revenge upon the Yagyu clan, and its evil leader, Yagyu Retsudo. And along the way, hilarity ensues.

So with such a straightforward tale, for it to be so acclaimed, you know that the story and the art must be great, and it really is.

The late, great Goseki Kojima’s artwork was an inspiration to many artists, with Frank Miller probably being the most notable (and think about it, if you inspired Frank Miller’s style, think of all the artists who were then inspired by Miller…), and his depictions of the stark reality of violence is stunning.

Kazuo Koike’s story is quite impressive, especially the way he shows how evil the circle of violence between the two clans is, leading to the memorable conclusion to the series (which lasted six years, between 1970 and 1976).

82. Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano’s Daredevil – 107 points (2 first place votes)

Daredevil (Vol. 2) #82-119, Daredevil #500 (Lark penciled all but five of the issues and Gaudiano inked all but three of them – and that’s counting the fact that Lark inked himself on the very first issue)

The great Daredevil stories are often remembered by how they begin, as Frank Miller made clear with both the beginning of his acclaimed run as writer/artist on the series as well as the legendary first issue of “Born Again.” Brian Michael Bendis followed suit with his first issue and here, Ed Brubaker matches both fellows with the first issue of his run, where Brubaker had the unenviable task of not only following Bendis’ acclaimed run on the title, but opening his run with Matt Murdock in prison after the end of Bendis’ run.

Check out wonderfully Brubaker captures the inherent drama of Matt not being able to help his friend while in prison…

What an opening.

Brubaker and artists Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano handled the powerful opening arc of the series well, as Murdock has to make his way through prison life while forces are conspiring to make sure that he does not live long enough to actually stand trial for his “crimes” as Daredevil.

Once that story is over, Brubaker spends a nice chunk of time settling the situation that Bendis left Daredevil in through a “Daredevil on the run” arc, but he does so in a way that does not feel like simply rote “okay, everything is back to normal” fashion.

Once things are back to some semi-balance of normality, Brubaker then puts Murdock through the paces in some dark storylines that push Daredevil practically to the edge of sanity.

This run heavily evokes the feel of a number of 1970s cult classics, with a noir flourish. Lark and Gaudiano bring the book an “old school” feel while being amazingly technically proficient artists. They tell a story extremely well.

A notable addition to Daredevil’s supporting cast during this run was Marvel’s little known private investigator character, Dakota North. Brubaker does wonders with her as a character, making her a vital part of the book. The relationship between North and Murdock help drive a great deal of the plots in the series.

Brubaker also introduced a new female Bullseye character (Lady Bullseye, natch). What should not be left unheralded is the work of the cover artists on this series. Tommy Lee Edwards got things off to a great starting with some stunning covers and then a new addition to Marvel, Marko Djurdjevic, set the world on storm with his epic painted covers. Daredevil had some of the best covers going for years between the two men.

81. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal – 108 points

Criminal #1-10, Criminal Volume 2 #1-7, Criminal – The Sinners #1-5, Criminal – The Last of the Innocent #1-4

Criminal is interesting in that its current format of a series of mini-series was really what the series was all about even before it officially went to the current format. That is, each story arc was, in effect, its own little mini-series. It all takes place in the same shared continuity, though, just each arc spotlights a different criminal.

As to the plot of Criminal, it is exactly what its title says it is – a book about criminals. Brubaker and Phillips excel at producing high quality crime stories and Criminal is a perfect outlet for such stories.

The first arc, Coward, was about a crook who was one of the best in the business, mostly because he always knew when to run. Here is the amazing opening scene introducing him to the audience…

Of course, the story deals with said “coward” being forced into a situation that he COULDN’T run away from. That really describes a lot of the stories in Criminal, compelling characters being forced into tough situations where they must react a certain way to survive (or not) and the end result can often be heartbreaking but it is always compelling.

And the artwork, wow…Sean Phillips is just a master of noir. He can create a perfect scene like few artists working in comics today. And his character work is outstanding.

The most recent Criminal arc was one of the series’ most acclaimed, as Brubaker and Phillips created characters based on classic Archie characters (although, really, just the archetypes of the characters, who have been around in media before they were Archie characters) and then put them through the wringer, exploring the idea of how powerful of a drug nostalgia can be while showing that “the good ol’ days” were rarely as good as you remember them, and you can’t force your way back to such an ideal. Phillips rocked with his stylized flashbacks of the characters (in a not quite Dan DeCarlo style, but clearly evoking an innocent worldview, even as they make it clear that these characters were NEVER “innocent”).

33 Comments

Man i really loved Top 10, i almost went blind searching every panel for those hidden easter eggs. What a shame Moore’s so bitter towards the industry these days.

joe the poor speller

October 13, 2012 at 6:23 am

I thought that the Brubaker and Lark’s Daredevil would have ranked higher. I don’t remember if I voted for it, as I haven’t read it all yet, but I think it is as good as Bendis’ run.

Didn’t expect Brubaker’s Daredevil.

Anything by Giffen is always cool. Did his Legion run make the list last time?

The other three are pretty much the usual suspects. And ranked right around where I would have expected them to be.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 13, 2012 at 7:37 am

I first read LONE WOLF & CUB at First Comics, and picked it up again at Dark Horse.

Not sure if this manga’s the longest manga series ever written (this one has nearly 8500 pages). But it boggles the mind that it took 6 years to do this series!

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is soon concluding its run at 19 years, and not sure of the page content, but it should be pretty damn close.

Hey – two runs I voted for – Daredevil and Criminal – and both written by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think Daredevil would be in the top 100, but I also think it is as good as Bendis’, also great, run, and holds up better than Bendis’ on the second read.

Glad to see Criminal here. I think it is the best of the Brubaker/Phillps work, so am interested to see how Sleeper/Incognito do. I suspect Sleeper will rank, but not Incognito.

Criminal was an ongoing series I didn’t mind voting for because there isn’t going to be an ending that impacts my enjoyment of the series as a whole. I was surprised to see Chew yesterday as it is planned for a finite run and is almost a mystery. How the ending plays out will affect how I perceive the early issues.

Still no runs I voted for here yet, but Top 10 would’ve sat at #12 if this had gone further. I also greatly enjoy the Giffen Legion. One of the greatest moments in comics history is when Giffen just destroys Earth. Fantastic.

Was not expecting Brubakers Daredevil.

So far none have appeared from my top ten. My top 7 I know will make it, but I’m hoping Perez’s WW and O’Neil/Adams Batman make it also.

I was wondering why on Earth a “grim-and-gritty” Legion would be popular, but then I went, “oh yeah, the ’80s.”

Not surprised to see the “Five Years Later” Legion show up. Really need to give that a read someday.

It might be sacrilegious to say so, but Top 10 is possibly my favorite Moore work of all time.

I remember Briubaker’s Daredevil being pretty good, though like most modern comics, I haven’t had a chance to go back and re-read it.

The Crazed Spruce

October 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

The only ones from this post that I read a significant portion of were the “Five Years Later” Legion (which was a bit dark for my tastes, but still had its moments) and Top 10 (which I only read the first story arc, and I kinda regret leaving off of my short list). None of the others were available where I live, so they flew below my radar.

The Crazed Spruce

October 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

That “Lone Wolf and Cub” scene looks awesome, though. :)

Giffen’s legion is The prime example that entry points aren’t (or maybe didn’t used to be, back when comics were more affordable) needed to attract new readers. i had only been seriously collecting for a couple of years when it came out, i had heard of the legion but never read anything about them, so i picked up this series. TOTAL CONFUSION!! i didn’t have clue one as to what the hell was going on, couldn’t keep the names straight, it was insane. BUT, the story and art were so entertaining i was compelled to get legion back issues to fill in the giant holes in my knowledge. the legion has been one of my favorite series ever since

I don’t understand the appeal of Ed Brubaker at all. Bendis and Maleev, for all the former’s flaws, brought a unique voice to Daredevil and created stories that were designed to constantly keep the reader off balance without giving in to despair. Brubaker just turned it into another workaday gritty crime-ish comic.

Criminal’s better, largely because of Sean Phillips, but still isn’t really my thing.

I really need to read Giffen’s legion, and Top Ten is a notable hole in my working through Moore’s body of work. Lone Wolf & Cub I’ve read some of.

@ Michael P:

The 5YL Legion was popular because it was good! i have read the Legion since the Great Darkness Saga and i loved the 5YL up until they blew up the Earth. It was dark & gritty, but there were great reasons in the actual story for that. i also loved Giffen’s artwork as it was dense & sometimes hard to understand [as were all the allusions that became clearer as the series went along]. This was a thinking person’s comic book and was a very different Legion. Some hated it, but Giffen being a huge talent, i think that i worked well, until the Clones dragged down the momentum & Giffen left.

Criminal was my number one. For my money, it is the best comic being regularly released and is good enough to keep me reading monthly comics. It ranked just ahead of Gaman’s Sandman (or the last on-going to bear that distinction), because it is clearly the work of a collaboration between a particular writer and a particular artist. Both are essential to every issue.

Nothing else from my list has shown up, but the 5YL is unquestionably great run. It is an easy run to admire and a tough one to love. Those comics are incredibly dense and relentlessly dark. The contrast between the Kennedy-era optimism that spawned the Legion with the Reagan-era dystopia of the TMK run was just brutal. It is amazing that this hasn’t been collected into one of those oversized omnibus deals.

I loved that first Brubaker Daredevil arc set in the prison. So much so, that I was hoping it went for longer! :) – Something about Prison dramas that I cant get enough of!!! (Azzarello on Hellblazer was another favorite).

Top Ten is phenomenal

Twice in this post, you write “semi-balance” (not a real word) when you mean “semblance”
Sorry to seem nit-picky, but things like that tend to really bug me and unfortunately made it hard for me to enjoy reading your otherwise fine post.

The five years later Legion is awesome.

I love the Legion, and I’ve recently been picking up whatever copies of any of the series I can get. I think I have most of this 5YL run now, actually.

Top 10 was really good, but I’ve only got the first 7 issues. I’ve read Smax too, actually. There was that sequel you mention (by…some writer and Jerry Ordway), but there was also the more recent “season 2″ (I think) by Ha and Cannon, and supposedly there’s a sequel to that in the can that DC isn’t releasing for some reason.

Lone Wolf and Cub is neat from what I’ve seen. Good thing you included a urination scene, as that’s apparently a “thing” in there.

I have a chunk of the Bru/Lark DD, and it seems ok. The Bendis run must be up there still, along with Miller, and I think I saw already that Waid’s run is there. So is DD the character with the most runs on this list, I wonder?

I have an issue of Criminal but haven’t read that yet. These aren’t the Bru books that I voted for :)

This time around, I’m familiar with 4 out of 5. In some cases, very familiar. (I once bought a copy of the first manga volume (in English) of Lone Wolf & Cub . . . and failed to fall in love with it.)

“Criminal” is the only one I’ve never glanced at. What I have seen of Brubaker’s work doesn’t thrill me the way it seems to do for many other people, but I can understand why someone might want to vote for some of his runs.

At this point, however, none of my runs have been mentioned among the Top 100. :(

Ed (A Different One)

October 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

A nice fistfull of comics here.

Never heard about this particular incarnation of the Legion. This was, unfortunately, the time period when the general movement toward “grim and gritty” was sweeping comics (thanks alot Frank Miller) and it got to be a little too much. But I tend to like Giffen. Don’t know if I’ll seek these out but if I ever come across a trade or some back issues they may be worth a look.

And speaking of “grim & gritty”, has any modern super-hero character been more fully immersed in the “noir” than Daredevil (and on several distinct runs as well). I think that what Waid is doing with the character now was not only brilliant, but quite frankly necessary at this point. Even though I loved most of the DD comics published during those runs, I’ve read so much “down & out” Daredevil that I cannot imagine a more boring “here we go again” direction in comics than another dark DD comic (not to take away from Bru’s run here – it deserves the accolades). Enough is enough already though.

Now Criminal is where you go when you want the good, classic noir stuff. Brubillips is one of those creative teams I tell my LCS to put on my pull list, sight unseen, whenever anything new comes out.

And count me in with those who think that Top Ten is some of Moore’s best work (it certainly ranks with his most enjoyable anyway). I’ve read about half of those issues, out-of-sequence, just based on haphazardly finding them in back issue bins here and there and have loved every second of reading it. Not many series I could read in such a haphazard, non-sequential way and still love the shit out of it.

Top Ten deserves to be in the Top Ten of this poll. :)

I didn’t vote, but Lone Wolf and Cub is in my top 5, no doubt.

The story isn’t really straight forward, the creators take a look at many aspects of Japanese society, life, and death, as they weave many different things into this ultimate revenge tale.

Also, it has the best ending to any comic, ever.

Legion – I have no interest in LOSH. Sorry. I just don’t.

Top 10 – I think I’ll get hunted down and killed if I say I liked Powers better than this. So, I’ll concede that it’s pretty good to. Just not GREAT.

Lone Wolf & Cub – I have the first twelve on my shelf. Only the read the first. But spent collective hours looking at the other eleven.

Daredevil – I’m in the middle of Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev’s run right now, so I’ll get there soon enough. I really like Ed Brubaker

Criminal – Especially for that.

Wow, after a busy weekend, I have some catching up to do on this list.

Great picks today. Top Ten and Criminal are both books that I love, but didn’t vote for because I imposed a “one run per writer” rule on my list, and opted for Swamp Thing and Sleeper instead.

But I think Top Ten is one of Moore’s true classics, and long over due for a nice hardcover treatment from DC. Other than Watchmen, you’ll never find a more densely packed 12 issues than Top Ten. It’s almost like The Wire in terms of how many important characters there are and how much is going on, even if the themes don’t overlap much. And Criminal is great too, a little like a more realistic Sin City written by someone who isn’t insane.

I haven’t read Brubaker’s Daredevil yet, I actually just finished hunting down the Bendis DD hardcovers on eBay, so when I finish those, I’ll get to the Brubaker issues.

I’ve never gotten around to Giffen’s dark Legion either, though I have read his first run with Levitz. It’s surprising that DC has never collected one iota of this. Hopefully they will at some point, as I don’t feel like hunting down the individual issues.

And Lone Wolf & Cub is something I keep meaning to get from the library. Someday.

Giffen/Bierbaums Legion 2012: #85, 104 points
Giffen/Bierbaums Legion 2008: #44, 208 points
Down 41 places, -104 points

Moore/Ha/Cannon’s Top 10 2012: #84, 105 points
Moore’s Top 10 2008: #68, 141 points
Down 16 places, -36 points

Koike/Kojima Lone Wolf & Cub 2012: #83, 106 points
Koike/Kojima Lone Wolf & Cub 2008: #95, 100 points
Up 12 places, +6 points

Newcomer: Brubaker/Lark/Gaudiano’s Daredevil, #82, 107 points
2008′s #82: No entry. Instead, two runs tied for the #81 slot. The two runs are Milligan/Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix and Brubaker/Phillips Sleeper, with 113 points.

Brubaker/Phillips Sleeper 2012: #81, 108 points
Brubaker/Phillips Sleeper 2008: #81, 113 points
No change, -5 points

Lone Wolf & Cub has always had plenty of admirers in the American comic book scene, and it’s pretty logical that number has only increased since the 2008 voting. Lone Wolf & Cub climbs the list and also gains points, probably owing to its sterling reputation.

Brubaker/Phillips’s Sleeper holds steady, losing a small number of points and staying at the exact same point in the top 100. This is fairly impressive given how many of 2008′s darlings are no-shows or sliding down the list this year. It would probably be fair to say that Sleeper’s already a minor classic, and likely to become a major one in future years.

Top 10, like many of the Moore properties present in the 2008 vote, slides down the list this year. Top 10 appears not to be collected in trade, which probably doesn’t help things. Moore’s also been the subject of fan backlash in recent years, perhaps turning new readers off of his work.

The big loser for this entry in the Top 100 is the Giffen/Bierbaums Legion, which plummets 33 places down the charts and loses half its points. This is a case where I think poor treatment of the property by DC in recent years is probably depressing interest in the vintage Legion books. Back in 2008, Legion was a much higher-profile property, complete with a recent cartoon series.

Brubaker’s Daredevil run was still being published during the 2008 polling, and its reputation seems to have grown in the years since. This probably fueled in part by Brubaker becoming an increasingly high-profile writer, and it’s probably no coincidence that Sleeper and his Daredevil are side-by-side here.

Criminal, not Sleeper.

You’re right, my eyes must’ve fixated on the covers. I think everything I wrote about Sleeper would generally apply to Criminal, fortunately.

Lynxara — Top 10 was collected in trade, but they may be out of print. 2 volumes for the first “season”, the 49ers was an OGN, and Smax is definitely in trade (as that’s how I read it). Again, they may be out of print, and DC obviously doesn’t care as apparently Ha and Cannon have a new mini of the book done (or written, maybe), Ha’s a DC exclusive, and nothing. Guess it won’t make that Before Watchmen money, so who cares?

I know Sleeper was discussed in error, but that has been traded since, as well as an upcoming omni. So it’s on people’s minds.

And the converse is true here again, I think. The 5YL Legion is NOT in trade, so it loses ground here.

If it was just one or 2 books like this, I wouldn’t fuss, but it looks like a trend, based on your stats — traded works gained or held steady, un-traded lost ground.

I think the Top 10 trades may be out of print, I’ve read a lot of complaints about people not being able to find the series recently. Rooting out general trends like runs doing better as a result of getting trades is why I decided to crunch the numbers, so I don’t mind the “fuss.” More information is good, and I’m no sort of expert on what’s collected and what isn’t.

I’m not convinced that being out-of-print would produce such huge drops as 5YL Legion and Suicide Squad by itself. It’s clearly a factor, but there’s other out-of-print books that are holding onto their points a lot better. I feel like the huge drops probably are the result of several trends converging, some more obvious than others. I admit I’m not at all sure what might be at play in Suicide Squad’s case, though.

That Legion run dropped 41 places.. not my favourite period of the legion
Too confusing (5 years later and the post Mon_El retcon), and the dark future never really seemed to fit with the legion …and bringing in clones of your heroes (as anything other than short-lived enemies) is a bad idea (ask Spiderman).
Some good ideas and I loved “Tenzil for the Defence” (A must for “I love ya but you’re strange”)
But, over-all I prefer the Levitz runs (with or without Giffen)

I have much love for the 5YL Legion, which was actually my real introduction to the LSH, which had seemed incomprehensible and confusing and a bit lame before. I felt like with this one I was on the same page of confusion with everyone else, and the backups (various McCauleyCom pages, entries from Brainac 5, etc.) were really cool. I love trying to figure out whom everyone was and why they had gone the way they had.

I started out hating Giffen’s 9-panel grid work and great to love it, making his replacement on pencils by Brandon Peterson & Jason Pearson hard to adjust to. The first year or so was brilliant and then it got a little ragged, with great stories interspersed with more average work. The “Batch SW6″ stuff worked great in the liberation of earth from the Dominators (you gotta love how the Subs became so effective) and a bit of an albatross later.

Giffen did humor exceptionally well in this run, especially with Tenzil, but also managed to have other characters be funny and make it work even in more serious stories. (“No ultra-strength, Jo! No ultra-strength!!”)

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