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CSBG Archive

2012 Top 100 Comic Book Runs #25-21

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…

25. Garth Ennis’ Punisher – 380 points (5 first place votes)

The Punisher #1-12, The Punisher #1-6, 13-37, Punisher MAX #1-60 plus Punisher: Born #1-4 and a bunch of one-shots

As famous as the Punisher is, do note that when Garth Ennis took over the character, Marvel was not even PUBLISHING a Punisher comic, and the last revival attempt involved the Punisher working as an Avenging Angel for Heaven fighting against demons with supernatural weapons.

So Garth Ennis was taking on a bit of a challenge when he and fellow Preacher creator, Steve Dillon, took on the character in 2000 with an initial 12-issue mini-series, “Welcome Back, Frank,” which quickly dispensed of the Angel approach, instead bringing a dark sense of humor to the comic. The result was a sales success, and Ennis and Dillon (and later a series of other artists, including Ennis’ fellow Hitman creator, John McCrea) continued the humorous approach on a Punisher ongoing series, with diminishing results, until the series ended after 37 issues. Then Ennis’ greatest work with the character began, with the creation of Punisher MAX, a serious look at the character, which (since it is a MAX title, or otherwise, an R-Rated comic) included a great deal of graphic violence and graphic language, but also a great deal of stunning character work (with new supporting characters added to the cast), engaging storylines, and a rich connected story that really reads like one big sixty issue story.

It is a fascinating, and powerful work.

The artwork for the series has been by a few different artists, but mostly Leandro Fernandez and Goran Parlov.

Here’s a sample from perhaps the most acclaimed of Ennis’ Punisher MAX stories, the Slavers, where the Punisher stumbles 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 slave who brings everything to the Punisher’s attention, the social worker who tried desperately to use the system to help this girl to no avail, 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 freakin’ slave ring with your psychotic DAD), plus some cops who look to use the Punisher for PR purposes. A dramatic scene in the story is when the young woman who started everything, Viorica, explains how it all went down.

WARNING! NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!

Gripping stuff.

As you might imagine, the Punisher kills all of the bad guys in violent (sometimes poetic) ways. However, like a broken mirror taped back together, Viorica is never the same, which Ennis and artist Leandro Fernandez make a point of in the end of the sad, dark tale.

Most everyone vote for “Garth Ennis’ Punisher,” but it is worth noting that a few people specified Punisher MAX, as it is a much darker, more serious book than the wacky initial Ennis Punisher series. I lumped them all in together, though, for the sake of economy.

24. John Byrne’s Fantastic Four – 381 points (4 first place votes)

Fantastic Four #232-293

A lot of creators have a certain idea in mind when they take over the Fantastic Four, but John Byrne, hot off of his stint co-plotting Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont, was one of the few who actually carried out his plan in the comic itself.

Byrne intended to treat his run in a similar manner to what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did on their original run – take the Fantastic Four to far off new worlds, introduce bizarre new characters, while still re-using the really notable ones like Doctor Doom and Galactus (and yes, Diablo, too), and that’s exactly what Byrne did.

Soon after Byrne took over the book, he was tasked with coming up with a 20th anniversary story, and he came up with a beautiful one with the Fantastic Four trapped in a world by Doctor Doom where they did not have powers. It was quite a touching story.

Then Byrne launched into his first major storyline with the title, a major tale involving Galactus and the Avengers. Byrne introduced many different new alien races during his tenure with the book, but probably his most notable achievements were with the characters he already had, as Byrne did a great deal of character development during his run, specifically the evolution of Sue from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman, having Sue become pregnant but miscarry, having Thing leave the team (to be replaced by the She-Hulk) and having Johnny Storm become involved with the Thing’s erstwhile girlfriend, Alicia Masters. Doctor Doom, who is practically the fifth member of the book, also saw a number of interesting character work via Byrne, especially the story where the Fantastic Four did not even appear!

Art-wise, Byrne did a lot of experimenting, with one notable example being the issue where the comic is read horizontally instead of vertically. This “widescreen” approach was used by Marvel a few more times after Byrne.

In the story, the Fantastic Four visit the Negative Zone where Mister Fantastic is quickly incapacitated and the rest of the team is convinced to attack some sort of supernatural city…

Sadly, Byrne’s tenure on the book was cut short, but he still ended with a strong five-year run on the title.

23. Grant Morrison’s Animal Man – 393 points (6 first place votes)

Animal Man #1-26

When Grant Morrison started on Animal Man, the character was such a minor hero that even Morrison’s intriguing take on the character was only approved for a four-issue mini-series. However, once the series came out, the response was so positive that it was quickly turned into an ongoing series, which Morrison would work on for 26 issues, with artwork by Chas Truog and Tom Grummett (in some of his earliest comic book work!).

The two most remembered aspects of Morrison’s run were his work with environmentalism (which Animal Man, who gains his powers by a connection to animals, was obviously a big proponent of) and metafiction.

The former led to the classic issue where Animal Man is about to kill a guy who was mass-murdering animals, until a dolphin saves him, explaining that dolphins don’t believe in revenge. During these early issues, Morrison also had Animal Man encounter a number of other animal-themed heroes, such as Vixen, B’wana Beast and Dolphin.

The latter led to the concluding arc, which involved characters in limbo, the acknowledgement that DC’s Crisis had actually happened and that there used to be a different continuity, and even an introduction between Animal Man and Morrison himself, who discussed the problems Morrison had given Animal Man during the series.

Probably the backbone of the series, though, was Animal Man’s status as an “Everyman” figure. Buddy Baker had a wife and two children, and he was a lot more normal than other superheroes (which is presumably why Morrison tried to downplay Animal Man becoming a member of Justice League Europe).

By the time Morrison was finished, he took a hero who was so forgettable that he was even in a group CALLED the Forgotten Heroes, and made him a stalwart member of the DC Universe.

22. Ed Brubaker’s Captain America – 445 points (8 first place votes)

Captain America #1-50, Captain America: Reborn #1-6, Captain America #600-619, Captain America #1-19

Ed Brubaker began his run on Captain America with quite an opening issue – killing off the Red Skull! Of course, the move was a bit of a feint on Brubaker’s part, but it was still a notable beginning to his title.

The most notable aspect of Brubaker’s run was not a death, but instead, a rebirth – as Brubaker brought back Captain America’s World War II partner, James “Bucky” Barnes, who apparently had been rescued by the Russians, then brainwashed into becoming an assassin for them, who would be kept in cryogenic status between missions, so in the sixty years since they found him, he’s only aged less than ten years (earning him the name the Winter Soldier). Finally, Bucky comes into contact with Steve Rogers, Captain America, and this begins a mission of Rogers to bring Bucky back to the side of the good guys (it also involves the Cosmic Cube, which Bucky stole from Red Skull in the first issue).

After a few other action stories, mostly dealing with the secret plan of the Red Skull (remember what I mentioned about the feint?), Steve is seemingly murdered by his own estranged girlfriend, Sharon Carter, Agent of SHIELD.

Brubaker then crafted a story where Bucky slowly came to terms with not only Steve’s death but Steve’s wish that Bucky become the new Captain America. Even after Steve returns “from the dead,” Steve lets Bucky continue to be Captain America.

Circumstances eventually force Bucky to give up the identity and return to the Winter Soldier moniker. Steve took up the name again and starred in a number of adventures in a new volume by Brubaker that just came to a close this very week, ending a remarkably distinguished more than seven year run on the character.

There are probably three particularly notable aspects of Brubaker’s run:

1. The artwork. The initial series was drawn mostly by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins, who both brought an interesting, realistic style that they both seemed to have adopted while working with Jackson Guice at CrossGen. Guice himself took over the book for a time. Even fill-in artists like Luke Ross and Mitch Breitweiser used a similar style on the title (Frank D’Armata’s colors surely worked as a unifying factor on the title). Bryan Hitch drew Reborn, the series where Steve Rogers returns “From the dead.” In the most recent volume, the art style changed up a bit as Steve McNiven, Alan Davis, Patrick Zircher and Scot Eaton gave the book a more traditional superhero feel to the title.

2. Brubaker’s return to a more realistic, more violent comic – one of the retcons he established was that the reason Bucky was around was because he was secretly trained as a Black Ops soldier, and he would often go on secret commando missions for the US Government that Captain America had no ideas about. Brubaker compared the violence in his run to Steranko’s Captain America, and the book does seem to evoke those great early Steranko stories.

3. Brubaker picked out the most notable characters (in his view) from the past of Captain America, and used them ALL, so you didn’t just get Captain America (or the new Captain America), but you get Sharon Carter, Red Skull, Crossbones, Sin, Doctor Faustus, Falcon and Nick Fury. It was filled to the brim with great, engaging characters.

21. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men – 463 points (8 first place votes)

Astonishing X-Men #1-24, Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1

With Grant Morrison departing New X-Men, Marvel had some big shoes to fill, luckily, Joss Whedon, popular writer and creator of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (plus Firefly), was a big X-Men fan, so he accepted the task of following Grant Morrison’s run, and Marvel gave him his own title to do so, pairing him with acclaimed artist, John Cassaday.

Whedon’s first task was to introduce the idea that the X-Men felt that they needed to be more public as superheroes, so Cyclops insisted that Kitty Pryde, one of the best public faces of the X-Men, join the main team (made up of Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast and Emma Frost).

Whedon’s first storyline dealt with a “cure” for the mutant gene being developed, and how such a cure would effect mutants all over. This turned out to be some plot involving some bad aliens, and it all tied to the return of…Colossus!!

See, the Russian mutant, long thought dead (or, rather, fairly recently thought dead) was not actually dead, he was caught up in some big alien conspiracy. Colossus and Kitty had a tearful reunion.

The next storyline involved the Danger Room coming to life and fighting the X-Men. This storyline involved Professor X, as well.

Next, Whedon and Cassaday began a really long storyline that involved the big alien conspiracy.

Whedon’s sense of humor and his good ear for dialogue made the book a great place to look for nice character interactions. Cassaday’s artwork, meanwhile, was good for both character work AND for action scenes, making the book a visual delight.

48 Comments

Another great batch of stuff. I bailed on Ennis’ MAX stuff about halfway through his run, just because it was so unrelenting grim, but it was always well done (and I still enjoy the twisted, dark humor of “Welcome Back Frank”).

Can’t really argue with Byrne’s FF. Great stuff.

Still haven’t read Animal Man, but of all the “classic” Morrison stuff I haven’t read, it’s probably the one at the top of that to-read list.

Part of me wonders how Brubaker’s Cap will hold up down the road, but another part of me is certain it’ll be fine. It’s so rare to have such a definitive run on a classic character occur this late in a character’s history, but I really think that’s what Brubaker’s Cap is. The fantastic (and remarkably consistent) art also helps.

As a huge X-Men fan, I enjoyed Whedon’s Astonishing more than I think a lot of huge X-Men fans did, but then, I’m also a big fan of his TV work. I don’t think I’d ever include it in a list of my 10 favorite runs (maybe not even my 10 favorite X-Men runs), but it was good fun. Definitely reads better as a collection than issue-by-issue, when you had to deal with all the delays/decompression.

I haven’t read much of Ennis’s Punisher just because, aside from Preacher, I just don’t like Ennis that much, nor The Punisher for that matter, but what I’ve read of it has been pretty good.

The other stuff listed here is great. I’m not much of an X-Men fan, but I liked Whedon’s run. I haven’t been following Bru’s current Cap series quite as rapty as I did the last one, but I’ve really enjoyed his work on the title in general.

Did Whedon’s run actually go up since last time? Weird. Maybe it got a bit more goodwill since the X-Men franchise isn’t quite as much of a clusterfuck as it was a few years ago. Or maybe it got a boost since the big X-Men fans no longer had to dedicate multiple spots on their list to Claremont. Either way, it remains a good, but not a great, little run.

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Morrison’s “Animal Man.” I have some familiarity with each of the other 4 (including a full run of Byrne’s FF run), but I never even toyed with the idea of voting for any of them!

joe the poor speller

October 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Ennis’ Punisher (MAX especially) is excellent stuff. Brubaker’s Cap is overstretched, but up until Reborn, it is gold. Astonishing, alongside New X-Men, got me in X-Men. Love both. Read one or two issues of Animal Man. It’s ok.

joe the poor speller

October 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

On the downside, no Gruenwald’s or DeMatteis’ Cap. That sucks.

Thought FF would score way higher, but it looks like a lot of the classic 80s stuff is not as much on people’s minds this go-round.

I was starting to think Astonishing wouldn’t make it, I thought it was fun coming out but didn’t hugely resonate on the re-reads.

Was considering voting for Animal Man, I really liked that run.

Will read all that Punisher run someday, what I’ve sampled is very good.

Still only sitting at four of my runs; thought 9 of my 10 would make it, but we’ll see.

Here’s what’s shocking to me – these are some of the runs that WON’T make the list:
Shade the Changing Man
Priest’s Black Panther
Carey’s Lucifer
Ellis’ Stormwatch
Ennis’ Hellblazer
Grell’s Green Arrow
Johns’ Flash

Just no way given some of the stuff that’s left that we KNOW is waiting up ahead (Shocker – A couple of Stan Lee runs, couple Morrisons, a Giffen, a Wolfman, an Ennis, a Moore, a Miller, a Gaiman, a Robinson, a couple Bendis runs, a Vaughn – maybe an Ellis). A could probably name 17 or 18 of the final 20.

All five of these runs were gems. Of the bunch, I have to rate Byrne’s take on Fantastic Four as being the greatest, by far. It was like he was channeling Kirby and Lee, yet developing their ideas into full fruition. This was one of the finest runs of super-hero comics ever published.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

So that what Grant Morrison with hair looks like! ;-)

Man, I’m still only at 3 total. A lot more of my list isn’t going to make the top 100 than I thought.

Overall I’m not much of a Morrison fan, but Animal Man is not only my favorite work by him, it comes pretty close to making my top runs. If this were top 20 it would probably make it, along with Ennis’ Punisher. I’ve enjoyed most of Brubaker’s Cap, but I’m kind of glad it’s ending. It started getting a bit tired, considering every single enemy was either an enemy from Cap’s distant past, a former ally of Cap’s, or both. The first few times it happened it was interesting. By the time D-Man is revealed as a villain it had gotten old.

I love Brubaker’s Captain America. Glad to see it make the list. Good stuff as the list continues; I’ve read almost all of this except for parts of the Punisher run.

Byrne’s Fantastic Four was one of my picks. Looks like it fell a few places this time. Still a cool run either way.

Ennis’ Punisher almost made my list, which is interesting because I don’t usually like Ennis or the Punisher, but the two of them seem practically made for each other. Ennis really seems to “get” what the character is all about.

I just love Byrne. I have never read his FF run. Thanks for the tip.

Ennis’s Punisher 2012: #25, 380 points
Ennis’s Punisher 2008: #24, 389 points
Down 1 place, -9 points

Byrne’s Fantastic Four 2012: #24, 381 points
Byrne’s Fantastic Four 2008: #16, 508 points
Down 8 places, -127 points

Morrison’s Animal Man 2012: #23, 393 points
Morrison’s Animal Man 2008: #21, 430 points
Down 2 places, -37 points

Brubaker’s Captain America 2012: #22, 445 points
Brubaker’s Captain America 2008: #17, 504 points
Down 5 places, -59 points

Whedon/Cassaday Astonishing X-Men 2012: #21, 463 points
Whedon/Cassaday Astonishing X-Men 2008: #38, 229 points
Up 17 places, +234 points

Time has been inordinately kind to Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men, which climbs 17 places and gains 234 points in the voting. Going by publication dates, it seems that the run would’ve been complete or close to complete at the time of the 2008 voting. I have to wonder if the big surge of support here is coming from new readers discovering the run in trade, as it seems fairly easy to find. Of course, the new rules regarding X-Men runs might also be affecting things here.

The only major points drop in this run of the Top 100 is for Byrne’s Fantastic Four, which drops 8 places and loses 127 points. While older, complete runs do tend to slide down the list, this drop is a little large to be one I’d attribute to age alone. Perhaps the issues have gone out of print, or perhaps Byrne’s status as a “controversial” industry figure has begun overshadowing his original work to some degree.

Brubaker’s Captain America run actually loses points and standing from 2008, even though his run only recently wrapped up. This is, again, counter to the overall trends with ongoing material in the 2012 list. Commenting on a similar trend with Fables’ numbers brought out commenters who said recent material in the series wasn’t well-regarded. I’ve read similar things about the tail end of Brubaker’s Cap run, so I wonder if something similar might be in play. (I haven’t read any recent Brubaker Cap yet, so I really have no opinion on the matter.)

Morrison’s Animal Man and Ennis’s Punisher essentially hold steady from their 2008 positions. Animal Man slides down a couple notches and loses 37 points, while Punisher slides down only 1 place and loses a mere 9 points. These are definitely enduring comic book runs that have eked out a very steady place in the current readership’s consciousness. It’s particularly interesting when you compare them to other works by the same authors that have lost points in the 2012 voting.

I’m sorry but Astonishing X-Men doesn’t belong on this list. It’s the most overrated X-Men run of all time, seriously, Chuck Austen was better. I’m not saying this didn’t have its good moments, just that people tend to give this run so much love because ZOMG JOSS WHEDON!! John Cassaday was freaking brilliant and there were some wonderful character moments.

However…. The first arc was a mediocre rehash of an already played out trope with a VERY boring villain that used the most contrived of all resurrections in all of comics to bring back a character that Whedon loved from when he was a kid (not the best reason to bring a character back, but not his biggest sin).

The second arc, Dangerous, was all kinds of awful and started the “Remember how Xavier used to be a nice guy? Well, guess what, even though this is comics, everyone in the real world has a bajillion skeletons in their closet, so Xavier is secretly the biggest douchebag in the universe” trend (and this is the most egregious example of such).

The third is actually not bad at all, but does make the mistake of continuing the “Fuck what Grant Morrison did” meta he had going by completely ignoring Ernst (which makes me think he never read any of Morrison’s X-Men other than E Is For Extinction.” Still, the strongest arc so far.

And the fourth is more boring Breakworld shit that got rid of Kitty Pryde for way too long (a character I was glad to see him bring back to relevancy when his run started and then decided to say “Fuck it” with). And like all the previous arcs, it’s padded as all fuck.

I get it, he wanted to do a loveletter to the early 80s Claremont stuff he loved as a kid, but it’s only a little better than Identity Crisis is as a love letter (which, also, really REALLY sucks). This is a run that is like a 7/10 AT BEST, and a lot of that is because of Cassady. Look, I’m not judging you for liking this (I’m a Liefeld fan, I’m the biggest proponent of the phrase “Live and let live”), but most people I know who love this run so much haven’t read any other X-Men run, or if they have, it was Claremont’s first five years or so, and they can’t get over his dialogue being outdated and purple. If you liked Astonishing, good for you, but boy are you in for a treat if you ever get to read the Outback Era (the best of all X-Men periods, as any hardcore X-Zombie can tell you lol).

If Whedon is on this list, than Austen should be too (a guy who I’ve never understood why he got all the hate he did, considering his actual writing I’d say is a smidge better than Whedon’s and he actually uses characters we hadn’t seen done to death by this point), and if Austen belongs on this list, then goddamnit, why can’t Scott Lobdell’s UXM or Generation X get any love?! Plus, there’s all the new, better shit like Aaron’s, Gillen’s, or Wood’s runs, and they couldn’t make the list?!

Brian, help me here, how did this run make it so high? Is it literally the ZOMG JOSS WHEDON factor? I… just don’t understand….

William O'Brien

October 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Brubaker’s Cap dropped off after Steve came back, though the Baron Zemo and Trial of Bucky stuff was good. The relaunch with Steve was very mediocre. Winter Soldier has been about as good as Cap at its best. If the run was classified as “Ed Brubaker’s work with Bucky Barnes”, I might have voted for it.

Really surprised to see Whedon’s X-Men this high. That writing is very inconsistent after the first arc.

19 of the remaining 20 are pretty easy to guess, just going off 2008′s list and adding a couple of major modern runs.

Byrne’s FF was on my list. I loved everything about it except for that issue where he split up the pages and had one story running at the top of the page and another running at the bottom. I found that more distracting than innovative.

the real slim anonymous

October 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm

@ Anonymous Nah. Its a great run. Deal with it, punk.

Punisher – I don’t how I can call myself a Garth Ennis fan and yet I still haven’t read this.

FF – In the list of great FF runs, I can’t help but feel that this one is a little overrated. Not that it didn’t have great moments, because it did. There are brilliant concepts and stories in this run. But, as per usual with John Byrne, there are some freakin’ atrocities in the mix too. Thing leaving the team, Reed’s bizarre reasoning about Galactus, and I’m pretty sure Byrne wrote that whole “Sue turns into a dominatrix and Reed snaps her out of it by slapping her.” story. Uggghhh…

Animal Man – This is really the run that I hold all “meta” works in regard too. While there are really many good parts to this run, I’m going to address the inevitable: meeting Grant Morrison. It shouldn’t work because it’s the writer directly talking to the reader; telling, not showing. But the reason it works from a dramatic standpoint is because of the effect on the main character. For the whole series, the reader relates to Buddy as a real person in a fictional world. His world works differently from ours and is full of wild and crazy madness. Just like any good character, we relate to him and feel empathy for him despite the fact that he doesn’t exist. But what Grant does in the final issue, is make Buddy truly exist. By having him realize what he really is, a fictional character in OUR REAL WORLD, Buddy is suddenly relatable for exactly what he is. He exists in the book, the same way he exists to us. That layer of distance is gone, and a greater emotional intimacy is created. Boom!

Captain America – One of mine! Eight years of awesome and I’m still wondering how he pulled it off. Forget the fact that I didn’t care about Cap before this run, but bringing Bucky back to life and killing Steve! There are so many points where the run should have become horrendous, and yet it just got even better. I salute you Brubaker. Although I’d swap out the new Captain America series for the current Winter Soldier one. It’s more of a direct continuation.

Astonishing X-Men – For everyone who claims not to “get” this run, or likes to whine about how people only love it cause it’s Joss Whedon, let me just lay it out for you: Whedon took every character and made them into somebody’s favorite no matter who disliked them beforehand. Emma Frost became legit. Colossus was back and not written like a Russian stereotype. Kitty Pryde graduated from quirky teen sidekick to global savior. Cyclops actually became more of a badass than Wolverine (though Marvel has done everything in their power to reverse that). And, of course, sometimes it’s just better to put Wolverine in the background. It paid off on all of the hype from Morrison’s X-Men after Chuck Austen had run into into the ground, and it was like the Ultimates except, you know, smart. And emotional. And really, really funny. Yeah the storylines weren’t particularly original and it suffers from some awful decompression, but sometimes you really don’t need huge status quo altering events or a million wild sci-fi ideas. All you need to do is look back at the story and say, “It made me care. A lot.”

I voted specifically for Punisher MAX, and I object to their being listed together. Sure they’re both runs by Garth Ennis about a character called the Punisher, MAX is a fundamentally different beast from the MK version, with a unique variation on the character and setting. It’s like, I don’t know, the difference between the Catholic Jesus and the Protestant one (I’m sure that comparison won’t offend anybody); you wouldn’t want to get those confused. Brian asked back in the beginning, “Do we really want to take up two spots on the Top 100 with Garth Ennis Punisher runs?” and I think, no, we just needed the one.

I have some problems with Animal Man, especially with the hamfistedness of the animal rights themes, and how dull all the issues about that are. It’s the weakest of his mainstream works, except for Batman. It’s okay. I enjoy Whedon’s X-Men immensely, but I’m astonished (heh) that it’s so high, or that it’s on the list at all. Byrne’s FF has some problems later on, but it’s a good time. Never read much of Brubaker’s Cap; I wish that Englehart’s was this popular.

I think Brubaker’s Captain America won’t be this high the next time this list comes around. That last year was really bad. Horrible way to go out.

Ennis’s Punisher: Like Turd Burglar, I don’t care about the Punisher & run hot & cold on Ennis’s work, but thought the Max stuff was excellent. Brutal, but very well done.

Byrne’s FF: I rank the Trial of Galactus and issues 236 & 258 as the best post-Kirby FF.

Morrison’s Animal Man: I enjoyed Buddy’s Everyman-ness, and was relieved when Morrison reversed a plot line in his last issue (trying to avoid spoilers). The tripiness veered between cool and annoying, but this run got under my skin in a good way.

Brubaker’s Cap: I really liked this run, then lost interest after Reborn. I don’t think the quality went down, but I moved on. The first few years were great, though.

Astonishing X-Men: Not a favorite, but I don’t dislike it. If they didn’t do the Danger arc, and if the comics weren’t so decompressed, I might have liked them more.

So the top 20 this year will be the top 20 from 2008′s poll, minus que ones that already shown up (Byrne’s FF, PAD’s Hulk, Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Brubaker’s Cap), plus Morrison’s Batman, Johns’ Green Lantern and Bendis’ USM… The last spot I don’t know for sure… Maybe Fraction’s Iron Man… Or Pak’s Hulk… Personally, I would really like to see Johns’ Flash in there.

Punisher MAX is tight. Great plotting, dialogue, action and characterization and gets better every time I read it.

Pretty good batch of comics; I’m familiar with most of these. I wasn’t crazy about Ennis’s early “Punisher” run, and I bailed on it, but I did enjoy his run on the Max series. I must admit that I have never read any of Bynre’s FF; it remains one of the few classic runs I haven’t at least sampled.
“Animal Man” was one of the four Morrison runs jockeying for position on my list. I limited myself to two Morrison runs, and I don’t remember if this one made the cut or not. Either way, it’s one of my all-time favorites. I can read it again and again and never tire of it.
Brubaker’s “Captain America” is pretty good for the most part, but it was not even on my radar when I was making my top ten list.
I read the first ASXM trade a few years back, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t “wow” me, and I’ve never felt compelled to read any more of it. I know it’s highly-regarded, but I’m a little surprised to see it in the top 25.

I read through Astonishing X-Men over a weekend last year. Considering how much hype it had for years, I thought it was severely overrated as far as the stories go, the whole Colossus Breakworld thing is just so freakin’ lame, but Whedon did some extraordinary character work in there that made it worth reading.

Byrne’s FF is overall one of the best runs of anything ever and was on my shortlist, but I disqualified it because he did do some really bad/stupid stuff sometimes, like PUTTING HIMSELF as a character in the Trial of Galactus story!

Brubaker Cap I plan on getting to soon. At least until the part where Cap comes back from the not-really-dead-time-travel thing.

More Grant Morrison wanking on CBR. Huge shocker. Everything Dennis O’Neil, Paul Dini, or John Byrne have ever done are better than Morrison’s overrated beat poetry.

Garth Ennis on PUNISHER: I am not a fan of the whole concept of the Punisher, but Punisher MAX is well worth reading. That is about the highest praise that I can imagine.

John Byrne on FANTASTIC FOUR: This is such an easy run to love. Nothing especially shocking happens, but Byrne manages to keep throwing new stuff at you so quickly that the plot never slows down. He absolutely maximized his dual roles as artist and writer in a really playful way. For my Byrne is an absolute master and this was the peak of his powers (along with his Superman reboot that immediately followed).

Grant Morrison on ANIMAL MAN: Is not a run that aged especially well for me. The whole dead family member(s) schtick has been extremely overdone in the years since this first appeared. That makes the central plot twist feel more manipulative now than it did at the time. Metafiction is also an idea whose time has passed a bit. Still, it earns major points for turning a very minor superhero into a compelling protagonist, giving him a rich supporting cast and a unique modus operandi. Folks talk about building up characters all the time, but rarely actually execute. Morrison managed it in the first four issues of ANIMAL MAN.

Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: I am not as big a fan of Brubaker’s corporate work as I am of his creator owned stuff. His voice is kind of an awkward fit within the Marvel Universe for me. Still, this is very good work. Brubaker managed to distill Captain America’s greatest hits really effectively and then create an interesting plot that threaded it together. It is a shame that he didn’t have one creative partner to credit, because the art is huge part of why it works. Epting, Perkins and Guice manage to evoke Sternanko while making the world more realistic looking. It is not an easy trick and they pulled it off flawlessly.

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s ASTONISHING X-MEN: This yet another title that I have very mixed feelings about. Cassaday is one of my favorite artists working and the book looks amazing. I love the X-Men and have a nostalgic connection to the period Whedon is calling back. I also enjoy the snappy patter of a Whedon script. That said, the title kind of left me flat.

It is a narrative with a lot of surface charm, but very little to really say. There is nothing wrong with that exactly, but the people involved have done much better work in other places.

I wonder how alone I’m with the hatred of Morrison’s run on Animal Man. Mainly because of the ending that pretty much null & voided most of Grant’s run.
Meh @ Astonishing X-Men.

Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run is the second book of mine to make it today, the third overall. I had it as my #7. Highlight of what I’ve read is Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Looking at my ballot, I think only three of my remaining seven comic book runs will make it for sure.

I’ve always wondered why, out of Morrison’s early DC comics, Animal Man always seems to get rated higher than Doom Patrol. It’s true that it has a great breaking-the-fourth-wall gimmick that’s handled expertly, and the idea of an animal rights superhero is intriguing (though that concept is dropped almost completely once the meta plot starts running), but the main characters in it are just so bland! Besides the animal rights activism, Buddy Baker has no other defining characteristics, and even though it’s often pointed out that Animal Man is a rare superhero for having a family and a normal life, his wife and kid have no other role in the story than “Buddy Baker’s wife and kid”. They’re only there to motivate Buddy, they have no real personalities beyond that. Compared to Animal Man, Doom Patrol characters like Crazy Jane, Robotman, Rebis, or Dorothy are much more complex and memorable.

Not really a fan of Ennis, Dillon or Byrne.

Definately still want to check out Morrison’s Animal Man.

I like what I’ve read of Brubakers Captain America. But thats only approximately the first 20 issues, as I have yet to find the ‘death’ arc for cheap.

Whedon’s X-Men was good I guess – didn’t really think it warranted being this high, but I guess thats what a ‘name’ will do. The first issue with Kitty returning was probably the standout. I can’t really remember much else from it – apart from some subpar new villians.

To everyone complaining about Whedon’s AXM run: I hate it when people dismisses something because it’s “over-rated”. All that means is, a lot of people like it and you disagree. I’m going to be captain obvious here, and point out that it is this high on the list because people enjoyed it and voted for it.

Also, I don’t see how having a “name” writer invalidates the run’s position on this list. That’s not proper criticism.

@Anonymous – LOL.

Another one for me: Animal Man

5 left… and I think 4 of them will appear.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 26, 2012 at 6:10 am

@ Anonymous: Remember, the people voted. All Mr. B.C. did was count the vote. This list is the result. Nothing more to understand, but the will of the people. ;-
)

@Joe the Poor Speller

Gruenwald’s Cap run was what got me into Cap. It was high on my personal list (#2, IIRC). So it indeed is sad that it probably won’t be in the final 100. Love Brubaker’s run, but I agree with Mike Loughlin above – I lost interest after Reborn.

Over-rated = “how dare all those people like it!”

PUNISHER belongs in the top 10

Astonishing X-Men is even higher than last time. That’s a shock.

Another good batch.

Punisher- I read Welcome Back Frank when it first came out, and despite being a huge Preacher fan (#8 on my list), I wasn’t impressed enough to get any more, and I’ve never checked out the Max stuff. I probably should, although these sample pages look pretty bleak. 60 issues of that doesn’t exactly seem like a good time. But, I usually respect quality over enjoyment, so I’ll give it a look one of these days.

FF- A great run, just damn good 80s superhero comics, and one of several runs (with Simonson Thor, Claremont X-Men, Miller DD, DeMatteis Cap, Stern Avengers, Stern Spidey, Layton Iron Man, etc.) that symbolize what was so great about the Shooter era: great creative teams handling great characters, and mostly given the freedom to take the stories where they wanted. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping Marvel Now will sort of take us back to this, but I’m dubious.

Animal Man- My #7, and my second vote to show up after Hellboy (7 more or still coming, Sleeper won’t be). I used to love Grant Morrison, but I mostly think he sort of lost it after JLA, with a few exceptions. He just seems to have bought into his hype too much, and he writes as though his ideas will blow people away so much that effective storytelling methods don’t actually matter. But Animal Man is still a run I can go back to all the time and think it’s great fun, as well as remarkably innovative. I’d say #26 is in a toss-up with DD #191 as the greatest run-ending issue ever published. I still love everything about that conversation, and the honesty of “I killed your family because it made for good drama, now they’re back to life because it makes for a good ending” remains refreshing even 20+ years later. I hope DC puts this in hardcover one of these days.

Captain America- I really liked this run when it started, and I thought the opening salvo of Out of Time/WInter Soldier/Red Menace was the best stretch of Cap stories I’d read since the first Waid/Garney run. But I thought the whole Death saga was only okay, and things got boring enough with Reborn that I stopped reading shortly after. But the first two years on the title were great.

Astonishing X-Men- I like it a lot, but don’t love it. But It’s not a surprise that it ranks so high. In addition to having ended since ’08, and being the best recent X-Men run (but soon to be replaced by Wolverine & the X-Men, which will rank high in 4 years), it also has the post-Avengers boost in Whedon’s profile and fandom going for it. So it makes a lot of sense that it would have risen so high in the rankings. But I also think the series has a lot of great moments, such as Kitty telling Emma that she is her definition of evil.

And now that we’re in the top 20, I just want to say how depressing it is that Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is going to rank this high.

And I’m also really curious what’s still coming, because I think only 19 runs are sure things (17 still to come from the ’08 list, Morrison Batman, and Claremont’s post-Byrne Uncanny conglomeration). What’s the 20th? Howard the Duck, up 20+ spots from ’08? Nexus, up 30+ spots? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, up 40+ spots? Powers, up 50+ spots? None of those really seem likely. Something else that didn’t make the list in ’08, like Fraction’s Iron Man, or Casanova? Godland? The Boys? I hope to God it’s not the Johns/Lee Justice League, but I’m kind of afraid it might be.

I’ve never read Animal Man but those panels are amazing! Simply for the fact that I live in Glasgow and they are walking and talking along the forth and clyde canal – near lock 27. I run and cycle past there almost every day. That has made my week.

Ennis’ run on Punisher is currently listed as “The Punisher #1-12, The Punisher #1-37…”

The second one should say “The Punisher #1-6, 13-37″. Ennis has nothing whatosever to do with issues #7-12 of that volume.

Yay for Animal Man!!! That’s my #2 vote (and on some days I’d give it #1).

I’m not saying people didn’t vote for AXM, but when you look at the run itself, it’s like a 7/10, and 7/10s don’t belong on this list considering there have been a lot of brilliant comic runs. I wasn’t criticizing Brian, I was asking for his opinion, because, as I’ve stated before numerous times, I respect his opinion. The guy is like the grand sage of comics, plus he puts a lot of effort into making CSBG such an awesome site.

@ the “real slim anonymous”
Oh, I’m wrong because… I’m wrong? Deal with it? yeah, thanks for the insightful commentary. Seriously, when even the people who admit to liking this run a lot point out it has quite a few flaws, maybe we should be questioning how it made this list.

Ed (A Different One)

October 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Byrne’s FF run is an all-time favorite of mine. For those comics readers that kind of fall into my age range, it seems like this was the definitive FF run (with all due respect to Lee/Kirby), much in the same way that Stern/JRjr’s ASM run was our “definitive” Spidey run.

Animal Man did a lot of real refreshing things (especially for the time) and G’Mozz made Buddy Baker one of the all-time great “Everyman Heroes” IMO. No small feat for a character that was so obscure and not on anyone’s radar for so long. That being said, it wasn’t w/o flaws, and the criticisms’ are valid (the ham-fisted manner it dealt with animal rights, hunting, etc. rivals only Ayn Rand in the “portraying the antagonists as ugly idiots so my ideas about what’s right just shine, shine, shine” category. But, you know, the things that were done right with that series far outweigh its flaws, IMO.

I’ve always kind of hated the Punisher, so it’s going to be hard for me to ever sit down and read Ennis’s work with the character with an open mind. I love most of Ennis’s other work though, so I’m sure it’s good stuff. I just never got what was so compelling about the Punisher as a character though (which is fine – not all characters are everyone’s cup of tea).

And count Whedon’s work on AXM as one of those runs that start out strong-to-brilliant and just go off the rails as time goes on. Maybe not as dramatically as JMS on ASM, but that sure was the direction it was headed in. Before that though, was a wonderful love letter to what we all loved about the X-Men back in the halcyon days of Claremont’s creative peak.

I’ve only read an issue of Ennis’s Punisher, and I’m not sure which #1 — the second volume listed here, I guess. Lotta Preacher-esque “shock value” stuff to it.

Byrne’s FF — read a bit of it. It’s pretty good.

GMozz Animal Man — I just got almost all of this run for a buck an issue. Haven’t read it yet, but have heard so much about it over the years.

Check out that one thing he says — “That’s the trouble with my stories — they always seem to build up to something that never happens”. Isn’t that an insightful critique of GMozz runs? I mean, I love the guy’s stuff, but there is definitely a lot of buildup with little pay off at times. Perhaps WE3 is so damn good because it’s so short.

Bru on Cap — was my #7. Thinking about it now, I’m not completely sure I’d still keep it there. It’s a great run up until the end of the “Death” storyline in 42, and after that there are good parts, certainly, but it lost some steam. However, bringing Bucky back and making it work is quite an accomplishment.

Astonishing XMen is pretty good, from the first trade I’ve read. Certainly has its flaws, but it’s worthy.

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