Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
97. “Unmanned” by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr. (Y The Last Man #1-6) – 105 points (2 first place votes)
Unmanned is the first storyline in the Y the Last Man universe.
The conceit of the book is that one day, 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999% of all the men (and male mammals) on Earth died off. All except one (well, as far as anyone can tell), Yorick Brown, and his male monkey, Ampersand.
When the calamity hit, Yorick was talking to his girlfriend, Beth, who was on vacation in Australia. Yorick was in the midst of proposing her to when everyone died, so now he makes it his life’s mission to get to Australia to be with her again.
Of course, things are not that simple, what with him being the only man left on Earth and all. He travels to Washington D.C. where his mother is a member of Congress and she assigns a government agent to work as a bodyguard for Yorick. The two of them (Yorick and Agent 355) are tasked to find Dr. Ashley Mann, a geneticist who may be the only hope at using Yorick to fashion a cure for the plague. However, an Israeli operative ALSO wants Yorick, so the Israelis trash Mann’s Boston laboratory, Yorick, 355 and Mann have to head off to Mann’s back-up lab in San Francisco.
And so begins an epic journey through a world where their are no longer any men. How will society work with just women?
That’s the point of this series, and this first arc introduces us to the concept quite nicely. Pia Guerra’s character-driven artwork really helps Vaughan get across the emotional roller coaster these characters are on in this brave new world.
Here’s an example of how the death of all the men have affected society when Yorick encounters a young woman (who he mistakes for a man at first because she’s wearing a gas mask, just like him – which is what he uses to disguise himself)…
And we see Yorick’s hot-headed nature when he sees the Amazons…
Yorick’s impetuousness drove a whole lot of adventures as the series went along.
96. “The Love Bunglers” by Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets: New Stories #3-4) – 108 points (3 first place votes)
It’s fascinating. We as comic book readers are used to long-running relationships. Hell, Superman and Lois Lane went back and forth for over fifty years before they got married! But we’re typically used to relationships that do not actually go by in real time. That is what makes the relationship at the core of Jaime Hernandez’s brilliant “The Love Bunglers” so remarkable. In the aforementioned “Death of Speedy” storyline, Speedy Ortiz was the bad boy that Maggie wanted even though Speedy’s friend Ray seemed to be the better fit for her. Now, thirty or so years later, Ray and Maggie have a second chance at love. If, of course, they don’t bungle it. The name of the storyline, though, IS “The Love Bunglers,” so you might have some idea at how it goes. Hernandez has done such wonderful work with Maggie over the years that we know her as well as we know any longtime friend or family member. We know how she works. We know her quirks. We know her best qualities. We know her worst qualities. And all of them are at play when she gets involved with Ray again, with both now middle-aged. Hernandez’s skills are readily apparent in the control he maintains over their interactions, both with the dialogue and also his incredible skills with characterization. It’s stunning, really, to see how good he was with these characters thirty years ago and yet he is even BETTER now!
Check out this date. Try not to be affected by these interactions…
Hernandez uses flashbacks to gives depth to the modern day interactions, as we the reader know exactly how the past is affecting the present but no one else in the present knows what we do. It is pretty heartbreaking and powerful stuff. But, like all stories involving Maggie, the power of love is always present. Man, Maggie is such an awesome character.
It is heartening to know that the modern masters like Jaime Hernandez can still put out gems like “The Love Bunglers” decades into their career.
95. “The Death of Jean DeWolff” by Peter David and Rich Buckler (plus many inkers) (The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #107-110) – 109 points
The Death of Jean DeWolff is a powerful examination of the problems you often get when you try to strictly apply morality to the world of superhero comics.
The story opens with the murder of Captain Jean DeWolff, a background supporting cast member of the Spider-Man books (very background).
It turns out that she was murdered by a mysterious new villain called the Sin-Eater.
Throughout the story, through the murderous efforts of the Sin-Eater, Spider-Man and a guest-starring Daredevil continue to find themselves put into situations where they are unsure of themselves. Twice Daredevil is forced to choose between giving up his secret identity and doing something to possibly help stop the Sin-Eater, and both times he chooses to preserve his ID.
Spider-Man, meanwhile, is even MORE upset about the situation when he learns that DeWolff had a heavy unrequited crush on him.
By the time the pair catch the Sin-Eater, Spider-Man is willing to kill him, and Daredevil has to stop him…
Few writers challenge ideas like this as strongly as Peter David does in this story. Plus, this is one of the best Spider-Man/Daredevil team-ups of all-time. Rich Buckler does the art with a variety of inkers (Brett Breeding, probably most prominently). Very good stuff.
This was Peter David’s first comic book storyline and wow, what a great introduction of Peter David to the comics world!
94. “Blood of Palomar” by Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets #21-26) – 110 points (4 first place votes)
We’ve already featured Jaime Hernandez’s most prominent Love and Rockets works and now we take a look at his brother, Gilbert.
Gilbert’s most significant work was examining the lives of the inhabitants of Palomar, a fictional South American country where crazy things happen.
This storyline, originally published under the name “Human Diastrophism,” follows the people of Palomar as a serial killer strikes the town.
While the serial killer aspect of the story might be the most notable aspect from the outside of the story, within the comic it exists more as a plot device to push the character development that the Hernandez brothers are so well known for.
There IS a mystery, but it is solved (for the reader) fairly early – instead, the main part of the story is seeing all the many (MANY) characters interact with each other as they all grow, some for the better and some for…well, I wouldn’t say “for the better.”
Gilbert’s most notable Palomar character, Luba, has an important storyline as she begins to re-think her life as she grows older…
and decides that she wants to change the way she relates to her children as they grow older. But deciding how to do so is no easy task…
Heck, Luba is not even sure about her own place in the world…
This is such a detailed, multi-layered storyline – it’s very dense, but accessible, and Hernandez’ art should get a lot of that credit, as he knows how to simply draw the reader in with seemingly simplistic designs.
Things get even MORE complicated in later Palomar stories, so if you wish to catch on before things get even denser, this is the story to seek out!
Go to the next page for #93-91…
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