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CSBG Archive

2012 Top 100 Comic Book Runs #17-15

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

Here’s the next three runs…

17. Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man – 501 points (6 first place votes)

Ultimate Spider-Man #1-133 (plus a #1/2 issue), Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1-15, Ultimate Spider-Man #150-160

While it seems like such an obvious idea now, when Ultimate Spider-Man came out, very few people gave it a chance, thinking it was just another revamp of Spider-Man for kids, which had been tried before, and flopped. So it was with some great surprise that Ultimate Spider-Man not only became a hit, but it was the highest selling Spider-Man title for quite awhile (until JMS took over Amazing Spider-Man, I believe).

The key to the book was writer Brian Michael Bendis’ ability to depict the humanity of both Peter Parker and the characters around him, in this Spider-Man reboot that started over from scratch, and left Peter a perennial teenager.

One of the earliest major changes was the way that Bendis stretched out the origin of Spider-Man. By giving us more scenes with Uncle Ben, his death is that much more tragic.

Another major change in the comic was Mary Jane Watson. In the original series, it was almost three years before Mary Jane showed up – here, she not only shows up right away, but she is completely different from the MJ from the 60s, as this MJ is almost as brainy as Peter. In a landmark early issue of the series, Bendis has Peter reveal his identity to Mary Jane in an issue that is made up of pretty much just the two teens talking to each other in Peter’s room…

Throughout the series, Bendis introduces new versions of classic Spider-Man villains, as well as different versions of supporting characters, like Ben Urich, J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May. The Kingpin is a major villain, as is Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin.

Aiding Bendis during his initial run was Mark Bagley, who already had had a substantial tenure as the artist on Amazing Spider-Man, so Bagley was only going to do the first story arc, almost as a favor – instead, he ended up doing 110 issues!! Not only did he do 110 issues, but that was with the book releasing about 18 issues a year, as opposed to the standard 12. The consistency that Bagley gave the title was also a great boon to the title.

A few years into the run, Bendis shook up the title by adding Kitty Pryde to the cast as Peter’s new girlfriend (as Peter feels his life is too dangerous for a normal girl like Mary Jane), which was a brilliant move by Bendis.

After Bagley left the title, Stuart Immonen drew the title until it ended with #133. At this point, the series relaunched as Ultimate Comics Spider-Man with artist David LaFuente. This new series was almost more of a team book, as Spider-Man’s teen friends (including superheroes Human Torch, Iceman and Kitty Pryde and his two best friends, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson) became just as important to the title as Peter Parker himself.

Eventually, Bagley returned to the title as Bendis brought the life of Peter Parker to a close with the tragic ending to the series, the Death of Spider-Man.

Bendis is now doing a new Ultimate Spider-Man series starring a brand-new Spider-Man named Miles Morales.

16. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil – 514 points (7 first place votes)

Daredevil #26-50, 56-81 (Maleev did not draw #38-40)

What is most remarkable to me about the run that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev did on Daredevil is how tightly plotted the fifty or so issue story was by Bendis. A lot of his works seem to be a little open-ended, but his run on Daredevil was quite focused. Of course, as good as the story was, the artwork by Alex Maleev was possibly even better, as Maleev made the perfect marriage between the artwork of Frank Milller that made Daredevil such a major work and the more noir elements that Bendis wanted to use with the book, as Daredevil under Bendis was very much a crime comic.

In his first storyline, Bendis dealt with an upstart gangster trying to take over the Kingpin’s racket.

This led to a violent encounter with the Kingpin’s estranged wife, Vanessa, as well as Daredevil’s secret identity being revealed. This was a major plot point throughout Bendis’ run, as he showed how Matt Murdock dealt with everyone knowing that he was Daredevil.

During this time, Bendis introduced Milla Donovan, a blind woman who eventually became Matt’s wife.

Another major storyline was when the Owl attempted to take over the Kingpin’s (now vacant) racket, but the Kingpin returns to try to take it himself – this leads to Matt making a dramatic decision about who exactly will run his neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell’s Kitchen was a character itself during Bendis’ run, and Maleev depicted it beautifully.

After a time, Bendis made a revelation about Daredevil’s mental state that was mind-blowing, and really tied together the entire run, just in time for one final storyline that would set things up for the next run of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark.

It’s one of Bendis’ finest comic works.

15. Chris Claremont’s Solo X-Men – 533 points (14 first place votes)

Uncanny X-Men #165-279 plus a bunch of Annuals

For the first 70 or so issues of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, the book had only two artists, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne, and following up Byrne’s run was sidestepped by bringing back the artist who had PRECEDED Byrne, Cockrum. So when a new artist was needed, for a book that was slowly becoming one of Marvel’s biggest sellers (although not yet AT that point), it was a good gig, but a scary one.

So in stepped Paul Smith, and by the time he left, just ten issues after he joined, Uncanny X-Men was definitively Marvel’s biggest superhero comic book.

Smith’s biggest strength was probably his biggest weakness, as well, which was his great attention to detail. His books were filled with such detail that every emotion on every character was just bursting off the page. So you can understand how doing each issue like that, just throwing his whole self into the production, would take its toll on him.

And lucky for Smith, Claremont wrote a number of brilliant scripts during this run that took advantage of Smith’s penchant for characterization, most specifically the storyline of Wolverine’s marriage, which is PROBABLY the most acclaimed story Claremont wrote for Uncanny X-Men outside of the Byrne run. Such an amazing story, filled with rich character moments as well as Smith’s beautiful art, which Claremont, to his credit, used to great effect (there are a number of practically mute scenes during the storyline).

The main gist of the story is that while in Japan for his marriage, most of the X-Men are taken out via poison. Only Wolverine and the newly reformed Rogue (who had just joined the X-Men after fighting them as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) remained to stop the Silver Samurai and Viper. Rogue ends up changing Wolverine’s attitude about her big time…

Such a classic sequence. Paul Smith was amazing.

As was the case for the X-Men juggernaut of the 80s, whoever an artist replaced was seen as impossible. Replace Byrne and Cockrum with Paul Smith? Impossible!

And yet when it came time for Smith to leave the book, it was “Replace Paul Smith? Impossible!”

So that was the task for John Romita, Jr., the young budding superstar that was coming off a popular run on another one of Marvel’s major titles, Amazing Spider-Man.

Matched with inker Dan Green, Romita produced artwork that was a bit grittier than previous X-artists, and it matched writer Chris Claremont’s slightly darker stories of the mid-80s.

This was the run where Kitty calls the guy the N-word, where Professor X is almost beaten to death, where Magneto ends up taking over the team, where Wolverine stabs Rachel in the chest to keep her from killing – it was not the funnest of times for the X-Men, and Romita left the book just as one of their darkest periods period came up, the Mutant Massacre.

By the time Romita left, it was once again “Replace John Romita Jr.? Impossible!”

When Marc Silvestri took over as regular artist on Uncanny X-Men, the X-Books were, well, “the X-Books,” which was not the case for when Byrne and Smith (and when JRjr took over, there was just one other X-title) took over. This was not just a comic book, this was a FRANCHISE, and Silvestri, not yet 30 years old, was being given a chance to draw the main book of the franchise.

Its interesting, I always thought of this time period as the Silvestri/Leonardi run of Uncanny X-Men, as they had a deal where artist Rich Leonardi would draw the issues Silvestri didn’t, so as to give Silvestri a break. HOWEVER, while Silvestri did not draw a lot of issues in a row, he was quite clearly THE penciler during this time period, drawing the vast majority of the issues during his tenure on the book from #218-261.

Silvestri used a different style back then then the one he would develop working for Image in the early 90s. On Uncanny, his art was a great deal more experimental, it seemed almost reminiscent of the work David Mazzucchelli was doing on Daredevil around the same time.

This was the time when the Fall of Mutants occurred, and the world thought that the X-Men were dead, but instead, they went and lived in Australia for awhile. Then Inferno happened, and then the X-Men broke up and there was a long storyline where the group slowly got back together. By this time, Silvestri had left the book to begin a popular run on Wolverine with Larry Hama.

Replacing Silvestri was a vibrant new artist who soon became one of the biggest superstars in all of comic books, Jim Lee. Claremont was clearly revitalized by the dynamic artwork by the young Lee, and the two soon took the X-Men to great new heights. The X-Men reformed and new addition Gambit took a major role in the series, as did the now Asian Psylocke and Wolverine’s new sidekick, Jubilee.

For the first time since Cockrum, Claremont had an artist that he could actually plot the book with, as Lee was filled with new ideas for the series. As it turned out, though, his ideas and Claremont’s ended up clashing and since Lee was perhaps one of the most famous creators in ALL of comics by the early 1990s, X-Men editor Bob Harras ended up deciding to give Uncanny to Jim Lee. First, though, Claremont was given the chance to launch a second ongoing X-Men title (with Lee artwork). The initial three-issue storyline was the end of Claremont’s first run on X-Men and also served as one of the more memorable Magneto stories of the 1990s.

Claremont also did a very memorable graphic novel during the 1980s called God Loves, Man Kills, drawn by Brent Anderson. It was probably the most powerful examination of anti-mutant prejudice that comics ever had.

Chris Claremont left behind a tremendous legacy when he was replaced as the writer on Uncanny X-Men, turning a bi-monthly series into the most popular franchise in comic books.

32 Comments

Bendis/Bagley on USM — I’ve read all that run, I think, thanks to the library, and a good portion of Immonen’s run (which was what he got put on after Nextwave, right?). Good stuff, but I don’t think I would have liked it in singles — it seems to be made for the trade.

Haven’t read any Bendis DD yet. When I flipped through an issue one time and saw the same image used two pages in a row, it soured me on the book. However, now I think I’d probably like it.

Claremont XMen — cool stuff, I’ve read bits and pieces. I read a Wizard interview with Paul Smith, I think before Leave it to Chance, where he talked about not appreciating the opportunity he’d been given on XMen and how he basically didn’t take advantage of it at the time. I think he didn’t do much between XMen and the Golden Age, right?

If possible, it’d be cool to see other artists from that Claremont run. I’m especially intrigued by your description of Silvestri’s art.

Total dick move on Marvel’s part, though, to oust Claremont for Jim Lee and not even give Claremont a farewell text page. Then haha, cuz Lee left for Image not long after. I guess long run, though, it’s paid off for Harras, huh?

The Claremont/Smith run on X-Men would have been on my list had I known to vote (next time!) and was one of the major points of entrance for me into comic books. Smith was always been among my favorite artists and it’s a shame his output was so limited. Along with Golden Age, he had a run on Dr. Strange with Roger Stern after Smith left X-Men, a number of great fill in issues on Nexus, a five or six issue run on X-Factor, a Kitty Pryde mini series and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. An immensely talented artist with a crisp, almost art deco style that influenced artists like Mike Weiringo. After Smith left X-Men I found Romita’s grittier style jarring and I didn’t apprececiate his abilities until many years later (I would argue he was not well served by Green’s inks, either).

Jim Lee was a writer… BWAH-HAH-HA!

I remember when ultimate Spiderman first come out and couldn’t bring myself to get it because of the art, and looking at your example, it still looks terrible!

Bendis’ USM: What? Huh? People actually voted for this?

Bendis’ Daredevil: I actually assumed this wasn’t going to make the list because I expected Brubaker’s run to place higher and when we saw that first I assumed that meant Bendis’ run didn’t make it. Interesting to see it place so high.

Post-Cockrum Claremont X-Men: I though this was going to be top 10 for sure or even top 5. HUGE surprise seeing it so low.

That Ultimate Spider-man art makes me gag. And having someone rewrite Spider-man’s history seems like sacrilege. Bendis will do anything for a buck — even shoe-horn Wolverine and Spider-man into the Avengers.

But I did enjoy his run on Daredevil. And I’m glad it made the list, because it shows that not everything Bendis writes is brown diaper-smear.

Ultimate Spider-Man: I bought every issue of the Bagley run, most of the Immonen issues, and the first 12 of the Lafuente run. I dropped the series several times, only to pick it up again a few months later and get the back issues I’d missed. I think Ult. Spider-Man have readers perfect examples of Bendis’s strengths and weaknesses; the dialogue had good flow and characterization usually worked, but there was some weak plotting, obvious padding, and and the occasional overdose of Bendis-speak. Overall, Bendis & Co. got me invested in the Ultimate versions of most of the characters and their world. Bagley will never be a favorite, but I thought he did a fine job on this series.

Bendis & Maleev Daredevil: I bought every issue. Along with Alias, DD is my favorite of Bendis’s Marvel work. Maleev’s gritty, photo-reference & computer-background art created the perfect atmosphere for Bendis’s stories. Outing Daredevil had been done before, but Bendis’s commitment to the idea gave the series a fresh hook that fueled a number of great scenes. The stories from issues 56-75 were less successful than the early issues. Every storyline started strongly but finished with a weak climax. I’m glad Bendis & Maleev stuck the landing, however, with “The Murdock Papers.”

Claremont “solo” X-Men: I understand grouping the 1982-1991 issues together, but I’d consider Smith’s run and Lee’s run separately. I know Lee did a lot of the plotting, and Smith’s issues have a markedly different pacing and focus than what came after. The art styles of JR Jr., Leonardi, & Silvestri are distinct from each other, but Claremont’s scripts are more obviously the dominating
force of each of their runs.

But that’s just me.

Anyway, I had dismissed the post-Smith era of X-Men as being dull angst punctuated by a handful of Barry Windsor-Smith issues & Art Adams Annuals. Reading Jason Powell’s issue-by-issue analysis of every Claremont issue changed my mind. I bought Essential X-Men 5-8 and ended up liking them more than I thought I would. I’ll never be a big JR Jr. fan, but his art did get better as he went along. Leonardi drew the heck out of the Genosha arc. Silvestri’s early work was quite solid. Claremont had a tendency towards bleakness, but some of the stories were enjoyable; I was surprised by how much I liked the Mutant Massacre, for example.

The Paul Smith, BWS, and Alan Davis issues were highlights of the ’80s. God Loves, Man Kills was one of Claremont’s strongest stories. The Asgardian Adventure is a classic, probably the most fun story Claremont was ever involved with. Jim Lee brought cohesion and an increase in action to the title. Claremont’s Magneto arc is excellent, and issues 274-275 are truly powerful. The writing tics, overuse of uninteresting characters (Rachel Summers and Nimrod being the worst), lack of humor, and dropped plot lines are all there, but I can see how the characterization and melodrama kept readers hooked throughout the era.

So happy to see X-Men sink so many spots. The art of the title was, for me, the only redeeming quality of the book. I never enjoyed Claremont’s dialogue; it was maybe a step above Resident Evil 1 (the PlayStation game). I mean, so stilted and melodramatic! I’ll grant that Claremont was a master of ideas, but he had all the subtlety of a sperm whale in a roach motel.

Daredevil was a fantastic title with Maleev on board. The man was born to draw that title, and Bendis gave him some great material to play with. I miss those good ol’ days when Bendis didn’t control the entire Marvel Universe and focused his efforts on one really solid title.

Ultimate Spider-Man, on the other hand, is truly the Ultimate Spider-Man. When I think of Peter Parker, this is where my mind goes. And mostly, it’s Bagley’s consistently long run that made this so wonderful. That Spidey suit he drew, with such fluid motions, really defined that acrobatic agility that makes Spidey such a pleasure to look at. Not to mention that the tale was so organic; you could read every issue in order from 1 through 160 and it would feel like it was one flowing story rather than various chapters. In fact, Ult. Spidey puts me at 6 out of 10.

14 to go…. I predict a Grant Morrison deluge is still to come.

fred the cluster

October 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

any specific reason the posts keep appearing days aftter the post date? or that just happens here?

I think they’re all just being posted a little behind schedule, and backdated so that appear to have been posted on the day they were originally scheduled for.

I voted for post-Cockrum Claremont X-Men, for the Paul Smith era most of all, but Claremont’s contributions throughout the whole period shouldn’t go unrecognized. I see all the criticisms (over the top melodramatic dialog, constant restating of each character’s power, insanely convoluted character relationships, subplots spanning years and often never resolved) but the X-Men franchise has always struck me as one where, to those strange or maybe masochistic enough to fully embrace it, those flaws almost become selling points, or like some ironic badge of honor. Except it sort of transcends irony once it sucks you in. I guess in a lot of ways being a big X-Men fan is sort of like being in a relationship with some “he’s a rebel” archetype; sure they’re kind of shallow and never treat you very nicely, but no one else is bad enough to hang with them, and you get the motorcycle and the leather jacket. (wherein motorcycles and leather jackets symbolize, I guess, lots of X-Men comics. Just go with it…)

Claremont’s X-Men comics with Smith, Lee, and Leonardi are some of my favorites of all time :D

Wonderful stuff.

Awesome recap of the run, Brian!!

I thought the very idea of USM was a farce…until I read the books. People really need to get over their apprehensions (if they still exist!) because the writing, pacing and plotting are amazing. Bendis had the opportunity to make Spider-Man feel fresh but keeping the core principles of the character — and it worked. Yeah, Bagley’s art is less than perfect, but everything else is pretty great.

The trades can be found for a song, and it’s worth your $10 investment to pick up the first couple.

I gave a #1 ranking to Bendis/Maleev’s Daredevil. I’ve read the Omnibuses multiple times because they are amazing comics; although less comics than episodic television. Yes, brooding Matt Murdock is a cliche, but Bendis did it so well. You really felt like Murdock was constantly on the brink of disaster, both as Daredevil and as himself. And all of the characters felt (and looked) so real. That he was able to work on USM and DD at the same time is pretty incredible, given how different in form and tone they were.

The post-Cockrum X-Men was my #2. Byrne and Cockrum get most of the acclaim, but I felt that their stuff was just extremely good superhero stuff. He did some deeper stuff like the slightly overrated Dark Pheonix Saga and the criminally underrated Proteus Saga, but overall there was more stress put on “Saving the world” than “that hates and fears them”. After they left was when he started to stress the thematic aspects of living as a mutant. He introduced the Morlocks, showed anti-mutant hate crimes, and did one of the best anti-Apartheid stories I’ve ever read with Genosha. This refocusing also included his redemption of Magneto, recast as a tragic figure made a man of hatred by a cruel world.

VERY surprised to see Claremont’s X-men this low. To me, it’s leaps and bounds better than his work with Cockrum and Byrne. Claremont was maturing as a writer, mostly dialed back on the purple prose and constant narrations to describe what we’re clearing seeing on the page, and he took more chances with the X-men series , going in more interesting directions. The Silvestri/Outback era for me is the whole highlight of Claremont’s X-men years, with the Genosha 4-parter standing as his greatest story.

I really like all three runs, especially the Daredevil one (even if the pacing was sometimes awkward). It’s just a shame that Bendis’s good writing in USM is brought down by Bagley’s sloppy figurework. Immonen was a major step up.

USM is definitely Bendis’s best superhero work by far, with the possible exception of his “Daredevil” run, of which I have read very little. His work on the various Avengers books leaves me cold, but I’ve enjoyed USM from day one; he’s gone a decade with few misfires. It’s a very solid body of work. His DD run is one of those that I’ve been meaning to get around to seemingly forever.
I haven’t read all of the Claremont X-Men run– the X-books in general really start to annoy me when I get up to the late ’80s issues– but the first few years of it are pretty good. Not on my radar when I was making my top ten list, but good, solid comics all the same. He took a group of also-rans and really made them something special, taking them to a whole new level.

I keep meaning to return to the first trades of USM, which I haven’t read since my late teens, but I never seem to get around to it. Ah but it’s probably for the best. My awareness of the Bendis playbook would poison a second read.

Daredevil I’ve read more recently, and in the main, I’ll say it works. All the little tics and half-assing are still there, from the very beginning (the first issue ends with an utter thud of a cliffhanger), and the bloom has come off the rose for Maleev’s heavily photo-referenced style, but in large Daredevil remains a weird and occasionally beautiful comic. For at least the first couple of years, Bendis really did seem to have plans for all the characters, and the massive shocks to the status quo were complemented by the decompressed style, which allowed the reader to fully appreciate the toll the changes were taking on Matt’s life.

For a number of reasons, I don’t think Bendis will ever be able to produce a comic on the level of Daredevil again, but there’s no doubt that this run will clear theTop 50 when CSBG hosts the seventh edition of the poll 20 years from now. Bendis will always have that, at least.

USM – Another of my picks made it. I’m going to say something horrible, so brace yourselves because it’s just my opinion: Ultimate Peter Parker, all eleven years of him, is a better character than mainstream Peter Parker. And I’ll say this for two reasons. One is that Ultimate Pete only had one writer through his entire history. For those complaining about an overdose Bendis-speak, it certainly was there, and honestly the Black Cat story has some of the worst “witty banter” outside of Jeph Loeb’s Ultimates, but it never brought down the title because of it’s consistency. It never felt out of character for Peter to talk like that, because that’s how he always acted. The second reason is more a criticism of the mainstream Spider-Man. I love mainstream Spider-Man, but there’s something that’s always bugged me about his ongoing title, and why I never read it. Even when the stories are good, writers always seem to forget that Peter Parker is an adult. Yes, it’s in his nature to be self-deprecating and impulsive, but a lot of the time Peter acts like he’s still in high school, even though he’s pushing thirty. He whines constantly, never seems to realize easy solutions to his problems, rarely thinks about the impact his actions have on others, and judges every situation at face value. Ultimate Peter does this too, but he’s got the obvious excuse: he’s a teenager. When he does do stupid stuff, it makes sense because he’s still growing and learning to become a real hero. Yes it definitely had problems (Peter and MJ broke up way too often, and many of his villains were less interesting in the Ultimate line, save for Green Goblin and Venom), and reading it in trades has probably spared me the pain of decompression, but to offer, what I feel is the definitive take on Spider-Man 40 years after the fact, is nothing short of amazing (or spectacular). And yes, I love Miles Morales.

Daredevil – I’m just starting this one now. I never liked Daredevil because he always felt like too much of a pity case, but ever since Mark Waid’s run began I’ve developed a new interest. Just finished the first arc and I’m pretty hooked, although I’m still getting used to the art.

X-Men – I’ve mentioned that I’m not an X-Men fan, and this is probably the reason. It actually wasn’t Claremont’s purple prose or his soap opera style character work, it was the endless convolution he brought to everything. A lot of his ideas were great, but he really needed to scale them back into a more streamlined story, as opposed to his many ongoing dangling plot threads to be resolved in a million spin-offs. I’ll concede that I haven’t read all of it, but I just don’t have much of interest. Sorry.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Ugh. I’ve never understood the appeal of that book. I mean, let’s re-tell all the classic Spider-Man stories, except that this time the art will be hideous (I mean, MJ looks like some kind of horrific hyena-monster is those panels above) and we’ll take six issues to tell stories that Lee/Ditko did better in 15 pages. Just a huge ripoff as far as I can tell.

Bendis’s Daredevil is obviously a lot better, what with Maleev’s great moody art, but it’s still decompressed all to hell. If I remember correctly, the ‘Nuff Said issue is literally just DD running across town for twenty pages, and for a Bendis comic that’s some prime storytelling.

I read all of Claremont’s X-Men in the Essentials a year ago and was surprised how well it works out. Claremont’s style doesn’t lend itself well to the trade, what with the occasional walls of text and re-re-explanations, but I bet it read great when it was coming out once or twice a month, and the art was all good until Lee showed up.

Three great runs. USM should be a little lower, Claremont’s X-men without Byrne sounds about right, Bendis’ Daredevil should be even higher, IMO.

I dismissed Ultimate Spidey as a money-grabbing reboot when it first came out, but I’ve been getting the trades from my library over the past year and it’s been really great. I don’t think I would have liked the decompressed style if I’d bought it month to month, but as trades it’s very enjoyable and Peter Parker’s essence is very true to form, yet feeling fresh in this new incarnation.

Bendis’s Daredevil is something I liked at first (the Underboss trade hooked me) but got worse as it went on. Reading it month to month the decompressed style was very annoying, and it really felt like nothing happened. I quickly dropped it, but recently read the last few trades (again courtesy of the library) and am glad I didn’t pay money for them.

I should have voted for Claremont’s X-Men run, since it was my favorite comic for years and years, but I confined my vote to Claremont/Byrne. I actually loved all the Cockrum, Byrne, and Smith stuff but my interest kind of left right after the mutant massacre stuff. But that’s still a great bunch of comics and Claremont deserves a ton of credit for making the series so great.

Two more of my votes, with USM my #5 and Claremont’s post-Cockrum/Byrne stuff my #2.

For those that don’t get the appeal of USM, my guess is that you didn’t read far enough into it. The first several trades, while very good, are mostly just rehashes and retellings of Lee/Ditko/Romita stuff. It’s all well done, but I can definitely see why it wouldn’t grab people. To me, USM really hit its peak after several years, when Bendis more or less abandoned the idea of keeping the Stan Lee trajectory, and really started to do his own thing. Starting probably around the time Kitty Pryde joined the cast, then following with the additions of Human Torch, Iceman, and others into the main cast, it basically involved into the best teen super-hero book ever, with a great dynamic of characters and status quos. While I like Bagley, and I certainly respect his tenure on the title, I do think the book hit a higher level after he left (although that may just be coincidence, as Bendis added to the cast in Immonen’s first arc). The second half of the run is when it really became something totally distinct and wonderful, and I reread the last 5 hardovers (volumes 8-12, or 15-24 in softcover) quite regularly. And the scenes set in high school, like when Kitty and Peter had to take care of the fake baby for home ec and the doll got lit on fire during a battle (“He killed our baby!” Kitty shouted to the teacher), are generally outstanding. I also loved the last issue before the death storyline, where Jameson talked to Peter about his future and about knowing he was Spidey. Great stuff like that, which could never be featured in a mainline Spidey title because the major tropes of the character have to be preserved, are part of what makes USM so fantastic. It’s a shame the Death story happened when it did, because I thought the title was enjoying its greatest period. I haven’t read any of the Miles Morales stuff yet, but I’m looking forward to checking it out soon.

I haven’t read Bendis DD yet, but I just finished tracking down the hardcovers on eBay, so I’ll get to it soon. In general, I think Bendis is a great writer when he’s forced to handle the ramifications of his stories himself, within the confines of his own self-contained series (USM, DD, Alias, Powers), and I think Bendis is a poor writer when the ramifications of his stories affect the larger fabric of several titles (Avengers, House of M, Secret Invasion, AvX). In other words, when he’s playing with his own toys, he’s great, but when he’s telling other’s how to play with their toys, he’s not.

And as for Claremont’s X-Men, it’s the run that got me into comics, made me love comics, made me see the possibilities of comics, and continues to amaze me at the way Claremont created his stories. While I love the Byrne stuff, I think Claremont hit his peak as a writer starting with the Paul Smith era, and continuing on to through Mutant Massacre before things got a little watered down (though still consistently very good). It’s worth noting that not only were there the 120ish issues of the main series, but also all the tie-ins were consistently some of the best comics on the stands–the Annuals, God Loves Man Kills, X-Men/Alpha Flight, the first Wolverine mini-series, the stuff in Marvel Fanfare, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine, crossover minis with the Avengers and FF, and much more. And not only were there the main artists (Smith, Romita Jr, Silvestri, Lee), but there were also several special issue collaborations with Art Adams, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Alan Davis, that were generally outstanding.

If I were to take a stab at Claremont’s ten greatest stories as a comic book writer, I think at least half, and maybe as many as 7, are part of this run. Obviously the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past are up there, and I’d also put Demon Bear in the top ten. But the others are all here: God Loves Man Kills, the Asgardian Wars, LifeDeath, From the Ashes, the Wolverine mini-series, Kulan Gath, the Wolverine flashback with Captain America & Black Widow, the first X-babies story, the original Brood saga, Magneto vs. Zaladane in the Savage Land… so many classic stories.

And I think that other than Alan Moore, nobody was better than Claremont at catering his stories to the strengths of his artists. The way he wrote has wildly different depending on whether he was working with Art Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, Paul Smith, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Lee, etc.

I think one of the best ways to look at how good Claremont was during this era is to compare his work to Marv Wolfman’s work on the Titans. Both Claremont’s Uncanny work and Wolfman’s Titans work initially began as co-plotted runs with arguably the two best super-hero artists in the business. When Byrne left Uncanny and Perez left the Titans, they left those titles near the peak of the industry, and the writers stayed on, each continuing for more than 100 issues without their original collaborator. But while Wolfman’s Titans continued to diminish in quality and popularity, with spinoff titles getting cancelled and eventually the main book following suit, Claremont’s work on Uncanny kept getting better, more popular, more experimental, and the spinoffs kept coming, and kept selling, and by the time Claremont was unceremoniously fired, the X-franchise was going at 6 titles a month, and they were all best sellers. And it’s this run that did that.

Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man 2012: #17, 501 points
Bendis/Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man 2008: #26, 364 points
Up 9 places, +137 points

I’ve decided to compare these entries, but it’s worth noting how they’re different. Mark Bagley left Ultimate Spider-Man in late 2007, so shortly before the 2008 voting began. The 2012 entry essentially includes everything Bendis wrote about the “Ultimate” version of Peter Parker, including issues drawn by Stuart Immonen and David Lafuente, and Bagley’s return to the book. It does not include any of the material Bendis is currently writing about the Miles Morales character. Anyway, the material climbing upward is basically in line with the trend for ongoing material that returns in 2012.

Bendis/Maleev Daredevil 2012: #16, 514 points
Bendis/Maleev Daredevil 2008: #20, 480 points
Up 4 places, +34 points

Bendis’s run of Daredevil manages to climb a little bit, which is impressive for a long-complete run in this part of the Top 100. I believe all of this material is pretty widely available in trade, or at least was at one point in time.

Newcomer (sort of): Chris Claremont’s X-Men, #15, 533 points
2008′s #15: Walt Simonson’s Thor, 514 points

Comparable 2008 runs:
Claremont/Silvestri X-Men, #71, 133 points
Claremont/Smith X-Men, #71, 133 points
Claremont/JRJR X-Men, #90, 106 points

This “new” run is really the result of a rules change. It aggregates the issues previously covered by three different runs in the 2008 Top 100, as listed above, and focuses on writer Chris Claremont as the run’s dominant creator. It also folds in the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee era of X-Men, which I believe didn’t make the 2008 Top 100, and an assortment of fill-ins, annuals, and specials. As a result of aggregating so many runs that were voted upon separately in 2008, it’s simply not possible to meaningfully compare the 2012 numbers to what went on in the last Top 100.

Read large chunks of each Bendis run in this installment, and all of the Claremont X-Men issues mentioned here.

Never even considered voting for any Bendis run I’ve ever seen in my life. And on the Claremont solo run as it’s defined here, I feel the quality of the storytelling was too uneven over the years for me to call the entire thing — over 100 issues — “one of my top favorites.”

The Bendis USM run was great… but it still didn’t make my list.

Now the Bendis USM MILES run, THAT made my list (at #2).

Love Ultimate Spider-Man (at least the first volume; haven’t read the others yet). For a good long while there, it was hands down the best Spider-Man book.

Bendis’ Daredevil is also good stuff. I really need to go back and re-read it and see how it holds up.

Claremont’s X-Men is hands down my favorite comic book run. Specifically, the JRjr portion of the run, which I’ve read and re-read dozens of times, but I absolutely adore Smith’s run as well (which I’ll be finishing coverage of on my blog this week, oddly enough), and love the original Genosha story with Silvestri (which, like Mike Loughlin, I gained a greater appreciation of thanks to Jason Powell’s Claremont analysis blog). The post-”Inferno” “Dissolution and Rebirth” era is my least favorite of Claremont’s X-Men work, but the Lee stuff afer that is just tons of fun.

Bottom line: Claremont’s X-Men are pretty much my first comics’ love, and while his work with Cockrum and especially Byrne was groundbreaking and acclaimed and important (and wildly entertaining), I’ve always preferred the Smith and JRjr runs. Those are the X-Men to me.

The Claremont/Byrne X-Men run makes my top 2, but the post-Byrne Claremont stuff is not even in my top 10, though it did have its moments (The Brood, Wolverine’s almost wedding, #200, and of course God Loves, Man Kills) but it was far too hit or miss for me, and I did’t car for much of the art, especially JRJ.

God, do I love the Outback Era lol

Seriously, while I liked the Claremont/Byrne run a lot, I think Claremont only got better after he left, plus he got a couple of artists, like Smith and Silvestri, that I’d rank a bit higher than Byrne in my list of favorite X-artists (although the top two spots are reserved for Mad! and Portacio, in that order; don’t think I’ll ever see them on this or any future iterations of this list lol).

But yeah, I look at everything from Mutant Massacre up through the Wolverine’s defeat at the hands of the Reavers as one epic saga, and man is it glorious…

I know someone brought up the first brood story (freaking amazing arc, btw), but I think the best Brood story will always be, in my mind, the second. Silvestri was firing on all cylinders, the plot was exciting and moved briskly for what I think was a three issue arc (still kinda long for those days), and he even worked in the anti-Stryker, which makes the whole thing feel like a little bit of a sequel to God Loves, Man Kills.

Ed (A Different One)

October 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm

That 10 issue run with Paul Smith is what got me into the X-Men to begin with (whereas most people in my age range came in with the Byrne or Cockrum run(s)). There was a minimalist grace to Smith’s artwork that either meshed well with Claremont or to which Claremont adapted his writing style in a truly impressive fashion. There’s 2-3 more pages of the Wolverine/Silver Samurai fight that preceded the excerpt above that is true comics poetry IMO. A staggeringly beautiful silent ballet of violent grace. Inasmuch as it’s making me wax poetic, I’d best move on . . .

Bendis’s USM I loved the first time through but it didn’t hold up well for me on successive re-reads. Light, cotton-candy fare. But it was a step in the right direction for Marvel coming off of a time period when it just seemed like they couldn’t do anything right. While it is laudable (though I wouldn’t have ranked it this high), it did have the unfortunate effect of launching Bendis into a position where had a bit too much influence on the direction of the Marvel Universe as a whole. Bendis is a writer who really shines when playing to his strengths, but he’s no world builder nor does he have what I would characterize as a “grand creative vision”. I think Marvel was so grateful for the success he gave them coming off of a lean time period that they tossed him the keys to way too many cars, some of which he probably shouldn’t have been driving to begin with (see anything Avengers-related). Unfortunately, that leads to a lot of Bendis-bashing when he’s a talented and engaging writer when he’s allowed to stay in his element.

I voted for Ultimate Spider-Man (Peter version) #9 making 4/10 from my ballot. Nice choice by Brian Cronin for the Ultimate Spider-Man issue scans, Ultimate Spider-Man #13 is one of my favourite single comic issues.

Well, here’s what I think is the best work Bendis has done…along with his most overrated. I find it funny that the very first post points out that he’s not sure how it would read month to month. Because this really was the beginning of the decompression era, where every story was conveniently stretched to trade paperback sized stories. An origin Stan Lee did better in less than a full issue takes like 6. Still, he best work to date, especially after he got done trying to recreate all the early issues of Amazing, only worse, and took it in directions the original didn’t go. The Kitty Pryde stuff was excellent. In a lot of ways she’d have been the perfect girlfriend for Peter…if they weren’t so far apart in the 616.

And most of the Daredevil was borderline bad. And it became obvious with the portion reprinted above- he is so bad at characterization and understanding who characters are, and molding them into whatever he needs them to be for his story. The idea that the Kingpin, even blinded, would be taken out by a bunch of common thugs (which they were…he wasn’t creating some great new rival…just a guy who ended up being a crier) with switchblades just takes you out of the scene, and the whole story. A guy who can go toe to toe with superpowered Spiderman, or fight multiple martial arts experts at once. But they get the jump on him. Riiiggghttt. Then as brought up later, you take decompression to the all time high, where Matt’s lunch could take 3 issues. Maybe it’d have been better if he was writing a novel. But they were asking us to buy it month to month. That Brubaker came on after him and immediately improved the comics says it all.

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