Does "Hellboy in Hell" Finale Signal the End of Mike Mignola's Time With the Character?
73. “Kree/Skrull War” by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Sal Buscema and John Buscema (Avengers #89-97) – 144 points (2 first place votes)
The most striking aspect of the Kree/Skrull War is just how many different ideas that writer Roy Thomas manages to fit into this one story. So many different things take place that there is never any time to relax, for as soon as you think Thomas is going one direction – he goes another.
The main gist of the story is that the people of Earth, primarily the Avengers, get caught up in a long-time feud between the Kree and the Skrulls.
This shows up on Earth with the shape-changing Skrulls causing trouble on Earth that is a commentary on McCarthyism (shape-changing does wonders for the whole “anyone could be a commie spy!” attitude of McCarthyism). A Senator (actually a Skrull in disguise) causes an “anti-alien” rally in the public, which is bad news for the superhero Captain Marvel, who happens to be a Kree himself! The whole “Communists among us” angle is even played up on a memorable cover during the storyline – “The only good alien is a dead alien!” – taken directly from anti-communism rhetoric.
This storyline is also a major one in the development of the Vision, particularly his relationship with the Scarlet Witch. Speaking of those “out of nowhere” ideas – early in the story, Thomas and artist Neal Adams do a stellar take-off on the Fantastic Voyage by having Ant-Man shrink down and revive a comatose Vision.
Later on, Vision gets to opine about the foolishness of McCarthyism, and it is at this time that he begins to draw closer to his teammate, the Scarlet Witch, who is both a gypsy AND a mutant, so she knows about prejudice!
Thomas has the story leap from location to location, and eventually throws in a number of far-flung space adventures – it’s really a thrill-a-minute.
The artwork by the Buscema brothers and Neal Adams is about as good as you could have possibly hoped for in an early 1970s Marvel comic! Especially Adams’ thrilling issues.
Really, the ideas that Thomas came up with for the Kree/Skrull War would be re-visited time and time again over the next few decades, all the way through to today, making it a truly landmark storyline!
72. “Knightfall” by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent and a number of inkers (Batman #491-500, Detective Comics #659-666) – 146 points
The basic gist of Knightfall is that this fellow named Bane shows up in Gotham City with basically one goal – “break” Batman.
To achieve this, Bane frees all the inmates of Arkham Asylum to force Batman to capture them all before they can do too much damage.
This results in a frantic series of stories as Batman hunts down all the escapees, allowing writers Moench and Dixon to feature the whole gamut of cool Batman villains.
Meanwhile, the man formerly known as Azrael, Jean-Paul Valley, has been training with Robin to be a hero.
When Batman finally captures all the villains, he is naturally exhausted. Unknown to him, though, this is the time that Bane chooses to strike, and he ultimately deals Batman a tragic blow.
This leads to Jean-Paul Valley taking up the mantle of Batman, giving Bane quite a surprise!
This story was a bit of a social experiment on the part of Batman editor Denny O’Neill. He wanted to show just why Batman was so special, and to do so, he would have a “Batman for the 90s” show up, all the better to contrast with the original (and, of course, hopefully this new character could be spun off into his own book when Batman returned, which is just what happened).
71. “Homelands” by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha (Fables #36-38, 40–41) – 147 points (1 first place vote)
One of the most notable aspects of Fables is just how well Bill Willingham uses the ensemble nature of the book.
Characters can stay in the background for years before suddenly becoming the star of the book.
That was the case with Boy Blue, the longtime background character who worked as a clerk in the Fabletown offices. Boy Blue seemed like a nice guy, but pretty unassuming. Soon before Homelands began, though, we learned that back in the days when the Fables were trying to escape from their Homelands (and the evil forces of the Adversary), Blue was quite a little warrior. He also had a relationship with Red Riding Hood.
Well, when Red Riding Hood showed up back at the March of the Wooden Soldiers and turned out to be a phony, Blue felt that he owed it to the real Red Riding Hood to save her.
So Blue surreptitiously stole a number of valuable and potent weapons, including the Witching Cloak (which allows him to teleport) and the Volpal Blade (from the poem Jabberwocky – it goes ” snicker-snack” as it cuts through pretty much anything). He also takes the wooden corpse of his friend, Pinocchio.
The rest of the arc, Blue cuts a swath through the Homelands in pursuit of the Adversary himself.
In the end, Blue is shocked to learn the TRUE identity of the Adversary!
It’s a thrilling action-packed adventure with striking art from Mark Buckingham, who has helped Willingham so much in making Fables such a consistently entertaining comic from month to month.
This was a game-changing arc, especially with the identity of the Adversary finally being revealed after almost four years of comics!
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