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77. “Love and Death” by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Shawn McManus and Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing 28-34 & Annual #2) – 137 points (3 first place votes)
Love and Death is the storyline responsible for Swamp Thing officially moving from a regular Comics Code Approved comic to a “Mature Readers” comic, only in the case of Swamp Thing, it was termed “Sophisticated Suspense” to deter youngsters from reading it.
Alan Moore had already made quite a name for himself on just the first eight issues of his run, but this storyline, which involved Abby Cable’s evil uncle Anton Arcane taking over the body of her husband before killing her (and officially ending her husband’s life) – well, it took the book in a whole different direction of darkness.
After Swamp Thing defeated Anton (killing him once again), he decides to go to Hell to rescue Abby’s soul.
Nowadays, with the proliferation of pretty much every DC Universe character, it is hard to imagine how fresh someone like Moore using Deadman, The Demon and the Phantom Stranger was, but it was – and that’s on top of the fact that he used them all extremely well. Moore’s use of the Demon (who he had used a couple of issues earlier) was extremely influential on later writers of the character, and Deadman, heck, he had not even been USED in YEARS before Moore featured him here.
The storyline concludes with Abby’s return and the famous “sex issue,” where Abby and Swamp Thing make love by Abby eating a tuber created from Swamp Thing’s body and then sort of hallucinates their sexual encounter…
Stephen Bissette and John Totleben are almost shocking at the level of excellence they reach on this storyline – from the darkness of the early story (Bissette’s zombies are gruesome) to the tender euphoria of their love-making (like a kaleidoscope has exploded), they master it all.
76. “The Death of Superman” by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson and Roger Stern (writers), Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, Jon Bogdanove and Jackson Guice (pencilers) and Brett Breeding, Doug Hazlewood, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier and Rich Burchett (inkers) (Superman #74-75, Adventures of Superman #497, Superman: Man of Steel #18-19, Action Comics #684, Justice League America #69) – 139 points (2 first place votes)
In an idea borrowed from writer Louise Simonson’s husband, Walter and the issues leading up to the introduction of Surtur in Thor, we kept seeing the sound effect “Doom doom doom” appear at the back of the four Superman titles in the weeks leading up to the reveal in Man of Steel #18 of a monstrous creature pounding away at its captivity and the “doom” noise was it punching its way free.
It then went on a rampage throughout the United States, headed towards Metropolis through sheer happenstance.
The Justice League showed up to stop it, and the creature went through them easily (it was Leaguer Booster Gold who named the creature “Doomsday”).
Eventually, it came down to Superman, who tried to keep the creature from Metropolis, but eventually ended up battling the creature all the way TO Metropolis.
Eventually, in one last blow for each combatant – the two killed each other.
This was certainly one of the more dramatic comic books of all-time. I mean, Superman DIED, for crying out loud!
75. “Ultimates 2? by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary (Ultimates 2 #1-13) – 140 points (2 first place votes)
In this story, we see the downfall of the Ultimates as they become SO effective as a tool of the United States government that other nations begin to formulate a counter to them, and when their plan springs into action, the Ultimates cannot even trust each other as the whole operation collapses around them and as the United States of America is stolen right out from underneath their noses! And is Loki involved or is he not? And which member of the Ultimates is a traitor? All these questions answered and more in this 13-part saga that culminated with a stunning series of dramatic battles in the final few issues!
Here is one of the great sequences where the Ultimates begin to rebel against the occupation of America…
74. “Confession” by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Will Blyberg (Kurt Busiek’s Astro City #4-9) – 141 points (1 first place vote)
Confession was a major departure for Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Up until this point, the book was mostly high quality stories on the lighter side of superheroes – not “the lighter side” like humorous, but in the sense that they were more traditional superheroes – the Supermans and the Fantastic Fours of the world. The bright kind of heroes.
In Confession, Busiek and artist Brent Anderson turn their eye to the dark side of Astro City- the dark alleys and the people who inhabit the night.
It is here that we meet Brian Kinney, a young man who longs to be a superhero. Before too long, he is the sidekick to the Batman analogue, The Confessor, and Kinney is Altar Boy.
Throughout the rest of the arc, we see Brian grow as a hero but also see that there is something seriously messed up with The Confessor’s origin story – what it is is the major twist of the story.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot else going on, as there is, with a superhero registration act debate and heroes seemingly acting as villains, this is a packed storyline, but one that, like all of Busiek’s Astro City stories, is based on the complex personalities of the characters involved.
Go to the next page for #73-71…
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