"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
83. “Elektra: Assassin” by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin #1-8) – 127 points (1 first place vote)
A true modern epic, Frank Miller and Sienkiewicz combine for a twisted, sprawling story about a SHIELD agent sent to capture Elektra, who is trying to prevent a mysterious figure known as the “Beast” from getting a figurehead named Ken Wind elected President.
The SHIELD Agent, John Garrett, becomes obsessed with Elektra and he soon learns that getting close to Elektra is dangerous for your health….
Isn’t that a striking sequence? The timing of the panels is perfection. It reminds me a lot of the early sequence of Dark Knight Returns where Bruce Wayne almost dies but decides it is not time yet.
This story was a wonderfully offbeat satire of politics, action films and comic books themselves (the depiction of women, the overabundance of ninjas and violence, etc.). Think of this as Frank Miller trying to give a Garry Trudeau-effect on a superhero adventure. Sienkiewicz is basically the PERFECT artist for such an offbeat approach. This is a marvelous comic book work.
82. “Squadron Supreme” by Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan, John Buscema, John Beatty, Sam De La Rosa, Jackson Guice and Keith Williams (Squadron Supreme #1-12) – 128 points (5 first place votes)
The concept of this series is a simple but powerful one. What if the superheroes of the world just decided to fix the world? It is a concept that many comics (Authority, for one) have addressed in the years since, but at the time, Mark Gruenwald’s story was quite novel. Here, see the Squadron come to their determination of going through with their plan to make the world a Utopia…
The conflict between Superman and Batman…oops, I mean Hyperion and Nighthawk is the centerpiece of this series. The rest of the maxi-series shows how superheroes would go about changing the world while also showing Nighthawk try to come up with a way of stopping his former friends from what he feels is an ultimate betrayal of the concept of free will.
There are detours along the way, of course, including some disturbing plots involving mind control and rape, but in the end it comes down to two former friends coming to an impasse in their beliefs and the bloody after effects of what happens when their conflict comes to a head.
This was truly ahead of its time and it was rightly the proudest Mark Gruenwald ever was of one of his works (even going so far as to have his family and Marvel mix his ashes with the printing of the trade paperback after he died). Bob Hall and Paul Ryan did fine work on the art for the series.
81. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” by Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge #285-296) – 129 points (3 first place votes)
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is the type of comic book project that really should not work as well as it does. Over his decades of writing Uncle Scrooge, Carl Barks threw in little details of Scrooge’s past here and there. Occasionally, the details even conflicted (although that might not be Barks contradicting himself, it could have been another Scrooge writer contradicting a Barks detail). So writer/artist Don Rosa decided to use all those little details about Scrooge and then fashion a 12-part detailed life of Scrooge from boyhood until his first appearance as regular comic book character.
That might sound like something better suited for an essay or a spreadsheet, yet Rosa’s brilliance as a storyteller make the whole endeavor an utter marvel.
Scrooge’s adventures are all pretty much “done in one”s, yet they continue an overarching character development that is quite impressive. Also impressive is all the actual historical details that Rosa peppers in with Scrooge’s travels. It’s strong historical fiction.
Here’s a bit from an early part of the story where young Scrooge is working as a cowboy and has to rescue a stolen bull from some cattle thieves…
Notice the famous historical figure Scrooge has met here? He returns for more adventures in he story arc. Truly. Really.
As you can see, Rosa’s art is a detailed delight. He’s amazing.
It’s no surprise that this story won an Eisner Award!
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