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CSBG Archive

2013 Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #60-51

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57. “A Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion (Batman #1-6) – 175 points (3 first place votes)

The vast majority of voters voted for Batman #1-6, so that’s what I went with here, but if you want to expand this one to Batman #1-11, then that’s fair enough. #7-11 didn’t make it on its own, ya know?

Anyhow, this story is about the revelation that there has been a secret organization controlling Gotham City from behind the scenes called the Court of Owls. They collect and train agents known as “Talons” to do their dirty work. Naturally, they take issue with Bruce Wayne having such an influence upon how Gotham City so they decide to kill off Bruce Wayne. Obviously, Batman takes issue with this and soon finds himself trying to take down the organization.

Greg Capullo is a magnificent action artist and Scott Snyder smartly alternates between the mystery of the Court and all out action sequences where Capullo’s pencils practically explode upon the page. Take, for instance, this sequence where Batman discovers one of the Court’s nests and they try to kill him…

Wow, that is a striking sequence.

This was the re-introduction of Batman into the New 52 and Snyder’s intricate plotting and bold new characters have made it the centerpiece of the Bat-books.

56. “Church and State” by Dave Sim and Gerhard (Cerebus #52-111) – 177 points (6 first place votes)

Cerebus began as a parody of Conan, but by the time Church and State began, the book had moved past that and become a slightly more serious satire of a number of topics, including politics and society.

Church and State, which is by far the longest storyline on the Top 100, further moved Cerebus away from its early days with an elaborate allegorical story about religion, politics and, most of all, morality.

The basic gist of the story is that Cerebus in appointed the Pope of the Eastern Church of Tarim. He lets his power get to his head, loses everything, tries to get it back, gets it back, gets even MORE morally corrupt and ultimately meets, in effect, God.

This is the story where Sim lays out the prophecy that the rest of Cerebus was “ruled” by, which hovered over the next 180 plus issues of the book like a scythe.

That’s the plot of the story, but the beauty of it all is the character development, although development almost suggests an advancement, and that’s really not the case for Cerebus through most of the story – as he completely loses his way, morally.

His actions are at times chilling, and the fact that it they are taken by the “protagonist” of the comic were quite bold by Sim.

The artwork by Sim and Gerhard is strong, but it is the writing that is the key to this great epic storyline.

55. “Gifted” by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men #1-6) – 180 points (3 first place votes)

This was the first major X-Men storyline after Grant Morrison left the X-Men, and Joss Whedon gladly picked up where Morrison left off, using the set-up Morrison left with the book (notably Cyclops and Emma Frost being a couple and Beast dealing with being a cat-like creature).

There were three major pieces from Whedon’s first arc:

1. The X-Men deciding to go back to being traditional superheroes, or at least a certain group of “public” X-Men. To this end, Cyclops re-enlists Kitty Pryde, as she is one of the best X-Men in terms of “putting forward as the face of mutantkind.” Kitty Pryde serves as a sort of POV person for Whedon’s run.

2. A scientist has developed a “cure” for being a mutant. This plot was so popular that they later used it as the basic plot for the third X-Men film.

3. Colossus returned from the dead.

Whedon tied it all together nicely, with a lot of strong character moments, and wrapped it all up in beautiful stunning John Cassaday artwork.

I am particularly partial to how Cassaday handled Colossus’ return from the dead…

Wow.

54. “Winter Soldier” by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Michael Lark and Michael Perkins (Captain America #1-6, 8-9, 11-14) – 182 points (1 first place vote)

In Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker achieved something that pretty much no one thought he could pull off. Heck, his own editor thought he couldn’t pull it off when Brubaker first suggested the idea. But after Brubaker explained it, his editor realized what readers of the title also realized – Brubaker had a really good way to bring Bucky back to life!

In this storyline, Brubaker told a few compelling stories that interacted with each other – the major one, of course, was the revelation that Bucky not only survived the rocket plane explosion that left Cap in frozen status for decades, but Bucky was rescued by Russians who brainwashed him into a deadly assassin, keeping him in cryogenic status for months and years at a time between missions (so no one would be able to identify him – after all, five years later, they’d be looking for a 25 year old man while Bucky was still 20). This is how he gained the name Winter Soldier.

Meanwhile, the Red Skull is about to start his latest plot against Captain America when a new villain steps in a seemingly kills the Skull. This new bad guy, Aleksander Lukin, was the current operative in charge of the Winter Soldier, and he used Bucky to kill Skull and steal the Cosmic Cube.

This led to a number of daring attacks and a tragic assault on the city of Philadelphia.

All the while, Captain America had been feeling out of sorts (after the events of Avengers Disassembled), so he was in a particularly poor frame of mind to discover that his former sidekick is now a pretty deadly assassin.

Brubaker does a really great job balancing the various characters and their personalities in the series, while never flinching on the action, either. Steve Epting busted out his new Crossgen style of art on this series, and it is truly excellent, with some fine fill-in work by Mike Perkins for Epting and Michael Lark does his typical brillaint work on some flashback sequences.

There is a fill-in issue by John Paul Leon that I suppose you could count as part of the storyline, if you so choose. It’s a spotlight on the last day in the life of a character who Winter Soldier murders in an early issue of the story.

This was an excellent opening story by Ed Brubaker, and amazingly enough, he managed to get even better on the title!

Go to the next page for #53-51…

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119 Comments

So many of these stories are just there because they are recent and newbies do not know any better…and that’s just sad.

Yeah, I wondered about the Batman: Court of Owls stuff. I mean, the first TPB is hardly a complete storyline. But then, the rules suggested we were supposed to break up stories by their TPB volumes unless otherwise stated. And I could hardly vote for half a storyline (probably wouldn’t have voted for it anyway, but it was a good story), but I guess alot of people did.

This is turning out to be the worst of these lists to date. The list is halfway over and there’s been so much on it that’s just terrible. Certainly not top 100 of all time.

Snyder is the worst plotter in comics history.

Court of Owls is proof of that. Secret organiszation secretly pulling the strings in Gotham for 200 years! They make their first public move because Snyder is writing them! Duh! Watch: Batman socking a tooth out of Nightwing! Why? So Snyder can reveal that the Court has planted a tracking? in that very same tooth!! How slick is that? Hahah.

Ok, at least he tried (in as much as we all try to be upstanding citizen) . But “Death in the Family” ? Is there even a plot?! Nope.

Hooray, another one of mine got in that I didn’t think would, The Longbow Hunters. I did actually think about nominating one of the later arcs that didn’t have the torture scene (Blood of the Dragon or Hunter’s Moon) but his introduced the fascinating elements and the artwork is just beautiful. The first really beautiful comic I read.

I love Starman but I have not got that far yet in my readings.
I haven’t JLA\Avengers as I assumed it was a stupid money grab. However, I now want to pick it up.
Not a big fan of Snyder’s Batman run (Black Mirror is better) but Court of Owls is not terrible.
Don’t like any of Whedon’s X-Men
I’m never sure how I feel about Winter Soldier as it felt too similar to Under The Red Hood which i read first. Obviously a complete coincidence but it impairs my judgement (in fact Brubaker’s Captain America kept accidentally mirroring Batman for some reason. Really odd).
Sandman is always great although I prefer the earlier art work myself.
Not read Dark Angel but I have read some other arcs and I wasn’t keen.

Not read any Cerberus or Annihilation.

I enjoy James Robinson’s writing. The entire run was awesome. “Grand Guignol” was a fantastic payoff to people like me that had been reading since the beginning. I still re-read the Times Past and Talking With David issues. Then I re-read the entire run. Starman is a very rare combination of great things.

I read and enjoyed JLA/Avengers. It would be nice if all comics publishers would devote some energy to inter-company crossovers. Until then, if you haven’t found The Lost Issues online, check this link out: http://braveandboldlost.blogspot.com/

Some great, great stories here . . . and some real dreck. Always fun to see what other people love.

I liked Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men – and his story arc in Runaways. I think I picked it up for the novelty of it, like Bendis’ run on New Avengers.

I am positively astounded at how different this list is than the list one!

And to all the people hating on this list so far: while I am not defending any of the choices here, I always think it’s important to note that these are the results of 1000 opinions compared to your 1. You may not like what other people like but obviously lots of other people do. Just keep it light!

he aint heavy hes my brother….

“So many of these stories are just there because they are recent and newbies do not know any better…and that’s just sad.”

I find that such a weird sentiment. Aside from the fact it makes any number of assumptions (well two biggies actually), so what if people who haven’t read everything since Stan and Jack are voting, so what if its from a relatively limited number of things read (note my ifs). We’re fans of a medium that’s constantly in fear for its future, is constantly bemoaning an aging mainstream audience. Surely its great if fresh blood votes for fresh stuff. Surely its good if they vote for stuff that we older fans don’t always get on with. At least that means there’s new thoughts, new ideas and more importantly new readers out there and caring enough to join us in our nerdy fun.

That said the lack of Dredd in this vote (I’m of course assuming we’re past the point he’ll appear, I’m such a hypocrite) or anything else from 2000ad is a crime and travesty and I cry FOR SHAME…

See proof that I’m just as an irrational knee jerk fan… (though really the lack of 2000ad is terrible… poor OLD me)

Very different to the last list.

Astonishing X-Men is another comic that I’d describe as entertaining and fun, but not really great or special. Cassaday’s art is certainly exceptional though. Will have to re-read that run soon.

May have to re-read Winter Soldier as well at some stage. Really did not get the hype. It felt like an average TV show to me. I like Bru’s crime stuff though.

The Kindly Ones was pretty close to making my list, but I ended up not picking any Sandman storylines (though it would definitely make my runs list).

Picked up that whole X-Force run in singles on eBay, but haven’t got round to reading it yet.

I very much enjoyed Annihilation, as I love me some cosmic Marvel, and it was handled really well. Regretting selling those comics.

Need to read Starman. JLA/Avengers isn’t a priority, though I’m sure it’s good. I’m not crazy about the way Perez’s art looked in that era (I believe it’s the colouring). Keen to check out Snyder’s Batman, though I’ll start with Black Mirror. Cerberus is pretty far down my to-read list.

Good comment Colin.

been waiting to see where long bow hunter wound up on the list even if one mike still has to after all this time make it known that black canary did not get raped. and it darken green arrow. and jla vs avengers surprised but happy to see it on the list given how as joe quesada stated it not only one of those uncompleted comic epics but a twenty year pissing contest between dc and marvel.

“Grand Guignol” was really great. I borrowed a friend’s copies of Starman to read it. I really ought to pick up the trade paperback one of these days.

“Winter Soldier” was also incredible. Before Ed Brubaker took over Captain America, I honestly though it would be pretty difficult to A) make Bucky Barnes a really interesting character and B) resurrect him in a way that wasn’t incredibly stupid. Brubaker managed to do both. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to imagine the present-day Marvel universe without Bucky in it. And, of course, bonus points for Steve Epting’s stunningly beautiful artwork.

Colin: I think Halo Jones might still have a shot. Zenith, too, although a somehat longer one. Agree that it’s too late for Dredd, though.

Hell yes! Grand Guignol made it. This. Is. Fantastic.

I bought the Long Bow Hunters when it came out. I was really looking forward to it because I was a fan of Mike Grell’s highly acclaimed series Jon Sable. This was Grell’s prestige format series like Miller’s Dark Knight and Moore’s Killing Joke. I can also remember being really disappointed by it. At the time the trend was to finally make books that adults could read without having their intelligence insulted or have to suspend your disbelief. So yeah, Grell made a mature book, though I didn’t find it very intelligent. I haven’t read it in 20 + years but what I remember was that it was gratuitous violence for it’s own sake. There was no real villains that I can recall who we needed to hate in order for the big payoff to happen. I think Grell’s point was that this kind of thing really happens in our cities and he wanted to bring a realism to the book that hadn’t existed before. Though In all that time since I read this, I can’t recall reading about something like this happening in the news. I’m sure it does happen though not where I’m from. So, yeah, I was really disappointed in a creator who I enjoyed and had high hopes for.

Only read Church & State (great) and The Kindly Ones (amazing).
Starman, I read up to #45, so I haven’t read this particular story. Some day I’ll get there.

Some of the storylines in this bunch just don’t seem to be my taste, though i’m tempted to read the green arrow one.

I am just being realistic here. The list is a lot less interesting if the people voting have not read a lot of comics.
We are talking greatest storylines in History there. If you’ve only read around 50 arcs, most of which came out in the past five years, yes, chances are your opinion is going to be less interesting than the opinion of someone who has read a thousand storylines including the classics from the Silver, Bronze and Modern Ages.
That is just a fact. That is why we all come to this particular website to read opinion pieces written by guys like Cronin and Burgas, not to the blog of some kid who started comics with the New 52.

Would be dissapointed if Judge Dredd America is not on the list or the Pit or my personal favourite Gulag

JLA/Avengers was a lot of fun. For my money the best thing done with the Avengers in the last 20 years.

Long Bow Hunters was absolutely excellent. One of the best stories on the list so far.

Astonishing X-Men isn’t my kind of thing, but I could never get into the X-Men anyway. It’s still probably the best post-Claremont version of the team either way.

And the amount of controversy in the comments section over Snyder’s Batman is no surprise. I wonder if that run will still be as hated in 10+ years as it is today?

yeah, i think its a given that nothing from the 60ies or even older will show up here. It takes money and effort to hunt down the gems of the past. (and old stuff just plain doesnt sell as well)

I propose a true connoisseur top 100 for comics that cuts off at the bronze age.

“Court of Owls” only one place below “Church and State” — OH MY GOD, GUYS.

And apparently the majority of people who voted for the former didn’t even realize that Batman #1-6 aren’t even a whole story. But we’ll let that slide, I guess?

OH WAIT, THAT COLLECTION ACTUALLY REPRINTS #1-7, NOT #1-6.

It says a lot about why Snyder and contemporary fandom get along so well together: because everything they do is based upon an inability to remember anything and a total gullibility to be impressed by shock-value.

As someone who’s been reading comics for like 8 years now, I take offense o he idea that voting for Court of Owls means you’re a noob. I loved ha story; it had a cool Lovecraftian vibe for he whole story, and the ending was a solid surprise that also built on DC history (Bruce’s brother is a Morrisonian callout to an old Silver Age story). Also, Capullo drawing this is like if Frank Miller was asked to draw it but also in the style of Batman the Animated Series, with a healthy dose of JR Jr thrown into the mix. I also count 1-11 for the whole story. It’s much more than simple shock value that makes it work, but I guess it’s easier to knock DC since that seems to still be in vogue right now.

Grand Guignol, Church and State, Winter Soldier and The Kindly Ones (IMO the best sandman story) are all great and well deserving.

Gifted was okay.

I couldn’t even make it to the end of the first issue of The Longbow Hunters. There was nothing there to hold my interest.

I haven’t read the rest (still waiting for the TPB of JLA/Avengers).

I think 2000AD & Judge Dredd have a snowballs chance in hell of placing now.

Best case scenario I think only two of my top ten are actually going to place :(

A Top 100 of the 20th Century list would be pretty cool IMO, that would force the voters to only pick stuff which has already stood the test of time somewhat (though there’s never going to be agreement regardless).

Still this list has been pretty cool, I think some of the Indie stuff has done better this time around.

The art is beautiful, but using a Green Arrow in-continuity book to tell that type of story is proof that inmates now run the asylum as far as comics are concerned.

“Now”???

The Longbow Hunters is about 25 years old.

The Longbow Hunters is about 25 years old.

And superhero comics are over 75 years old. It’s still a relatively recent book when taking the big picture into account.

The Crazed Spruce

November 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I haven’t read The Grand Guginol, Longbow Hunters, A Court of Owls (though the first trade is sitting in my ComixOlogy app waiting for me), Church and State, Winter Soldier, The Kindly Ones (though, again, it’s just a matter of getting around to it), or the Dark Angel saga.

I’m kicking myself for forgetting JLA/Avengers. Can’t say for sure it would’ve made my top 25, but it sure would’ve made my short list.

Gifted DID make my short list, but I had a different Astonishing X-Men arc in my top 25.

Annihilation (or, at least, the main mini-series; I never read any of the peripheral stories) was at #24 on my list. Maybe if I’d read the rest of the stories it’d rank higher. Who knows? It was great and all, but it did kinda feel like walking in about halfway through the movie.

The Crazed Spruce

November 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

And, just so y’know….

Church and State rose from 88 to 56
Gifted fell from 45 to 55
Winter Soldier rose from 78 to 54
Annihilation rose from 76 to 53
The Kindly Ones rose from 56 to 52

Grand Guginol,The Longbow Hunters, JLA/Avengers, A Court of Owls, and the Dark Angel saga are all new to the list.

Halfway through and this list is already dramatically different from the last one.

Can I just make something perfectly clear: Who cares if there’s a skew toward the modern and people who are relatively recent? This is not some sort of final statement on what are factually the greatest comic book stories of all time. The fact that this is being done every four years is evidence of this. Public voted lists are to examine a zeitgeist or get a glimpse into what current readers’ tastes are like and what they regard as truly special. Everyone complaining about how certain voters are too inexperienced to vote… guys, it’s comic books, not the presidency. The qualification you need is a love of the material you’re voting on and no one can define that but you yourself. It’s the same clubhouse mindset that Tony Harris had when he ranted about female cosplayers. We’re here to celebrate and examine fandom, new and old, and there’s nothing official or qualified about that. I may hate Mark Millar’s Ultimates (oh boy do I hate Mark Millar’s Ultimates), but I’ve learned that it is never going away.

The Crazed Spruce, I’m really curious and positively encouraged by Starman’s “Grand Guginol” being on this list for the first time. I’m happy people are reading it because it’s comic story telling at it’s best but find it curious that it wasn’t on the last list while making, and so high this time. Was there something that brought people’s attention to it that I’m not aware of?

Chris Thrailkill

November 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I’m glad the Dark Angel Saga got in. In many ways, it’s the quintessentially what comics are all about this day and age without being bogged down by any of the negatives:

1) Big action. The fight scenes in this comic as the X-Force and the AoA X-Men take on Dark Angel and Clan Akkaba, while admittedly bloody, are among the best coreographed and well executed fights in comics. It was kinetic, exciting, took into account characters power levels and team dynamics, and made for one hell of a treat.

2) Characterization: This arc had PHENOMENAL characterization. Everyone from Deadpool to Dark Beast came across as a living, breathing character. They weren’t pastiches of characters we’re supposed to love, but are unrecognizable. Betsy, Angel, EVERYONE felt organic, talked to each other like real characters, and pulled the reader into the story

3) Imaginative art: The Tabula Rasa scenes particularly stand out to me as what good comic art is about. It’s fantastic, exotic, gorgeous, and lush. You can even see some phenomenal art in the pages posted here, such as Father’s World (Where Angel is flying and stopped by Psylocke

4) Organic consequences and character growth: EVERYONE involved in this arc is still feeling the ramifications of the actions that took place here. This story changed the landscape of the X-Men and the Marvel Universe in general without being beholden to a big event, misplaced shock value, and cliffhangers that went nowhere. THIS is a great example of a story with consequences that actually took place in it’s own title.

5) STORY: The premise of Archangel Ascending to Apocalypse’s throne and some of his closest friends being forced to fight against him is a great story to begin with, but this story manages to throw in twists and turns that are not only organic, but are exciting and suspenseful in a way that’s natural. The stakes feel high because they ARE high. The fights feel brutal and emotionally fraught because that’s how the characters involve feel. Any “shock” value is earned due to story beats and character arcs that justify them. It was a thrill a minute, high octane adventure that also managed to weave in a beautifully written tragedy through character interaction and bold writing.

Everyone involved in this story was at the top of their game, and it’s easily my favorite X-Men story of the past decade. If you haven’t read it, I REALLY hope you’ll give it a try

The Longbow Hunters is good, but I think Mike Grell’s best work with the character was in the ongoing. Grell tackled themes of aging and maturity, violence and its effects (including PTSD), and the perils of doing the right thing. He incorporated enough action and intrigue to satisfy genre demands, but the character writing and “ripped from the headlines” approach made the title stand out even in the midst of DC’s best modern period (1986-1992).

Grand Guignol was a good climax to Robinson’s Starman. Why not blow everything up and put Jack Knight & Co. through the wringer before giving them a happy ending?

@ Thomas Morrison, I think we saw less Starman on the last list because Robinson was writing mediocre DC comics at the time. His reputation suffered a bit, and that resulted in less Starman on the list. Maybe we’re far enough away from Cry for Justice that people are okay liking Starman again? Maybe people discovered the series with the publishing of the Omnibus editions?

I liked JLA/ Avengers, Winter Soldier, Dark Angel Saga, & Annihilation, but I’m struggling with saying anything more. They were all entertaining super-hero comics, if not groundbreaking.

The Kindly Ones was a great climax to Sandman. I love how Gaiman brought the whole series to a head, and Hempel & Co. provided excellent visuals. It’s amazing how Hempel’s art was so expressive yet used so few lines.

Just glad that Cerebus made the list at all. I was getting worried!

‘Spruce, was High Society higher than C&S? Does it still have a likely chance?

And who gives a crap if there’s a bunch of new storylines that you yourself don’t like on here? Establish your own website, get a group of people to vote on it, and when the results are pretty much the same, get off your damn high horse. Jeez, it’s a free friggin’ site, and people have different opinions.

I may have to track down the Dark Angel Saga with all the love it gets. It’s an X-story I missed, and it looks like I shouldn’t have.

While it’s fun having Perez drawn the Avengers & JLA at the same time, I didn’t enjoy the book much and I haven’t revisited it like I have with the other on this list I own. Just felt flat to me.

Haven’t read Longbow Hunters in quite a long time (my copy of the trade got snatched somewhere along the line) but it pulled me into Green Arrow and got me reading the series about a character I’d never had much interest in.

I love Robinson’s Starman; it’s really wonderful stuff. This wasn’t one of my favorite stories, however. A little too decompressed for me. But it’s a good capstone for the series and the end with Ted Knight is simply fantastic.

Gifted is good superhero work, but as annoyed as I was when they killed off Colossus the first time, his resurrection didn’t really thrill me either. Just felt like Joss said “I want to use Colossus, so I’m bringing him back. Who cares if he’s dead?” Interesting to go back and see Cyclops & Wolverine written well, as opposed to a couple of characters twisted around to suit a big corporate story. (can you tell I find Professor Wolverine and Neo-Magneto Cyclops as they are today to be a bit absurd?)

The Longbow Hunters was on my list (standing in as a proxy for the ongoing series. I figured no single arc in that run would attract enough votes to make the top 100 but The Longbow Hunters might).

I’m a huge Bat-fan, but I kept longing for The Court of Owls to be over so we could actually get stories about Batman instead of a full year telling me how there is awesome ancient conspiracy that is a 100 steps ahead of everyone and can completely pwn Batman whenever it feels. Ancient conspiracies are dull. I’ve read the whole thing and I still couldn’t tell what the Court of Owls goals actually are.

I’ve never heard of Dark Angel but as I haven’t read any of the X-books in about 20 years, that’s hardly surprising.

@J-Shap: You sum up my feelings towards this list perfectly. Hell, there’ll be plenty of stories further on which I’m not a fan of, but I won’t be shouting out, “YOU FOOLS! YOU HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS TO ME!”; I’ll be saying “Well, good to see other people liked those comics”.

I read the first trade of Winter Soldier and felt a little disappointed, but I think that’s because I’d been expecting to see more of Bucky as the Winter Soldier. I might pick up the Ultimate Collection or whatever it’s called if they’ve got it at my comic book shop.

Great to see Annihilation here. DnA’s run on Nova probably won’t make the list, which is a pity seeing as how amazing it was, but I suppose Annihilation could be said to represent Nova in spirit. Or something like that.

I’m a huge Judge Dredd and 2000ad fan, but even I didn’t have anything on my list from them. I like so much of it, it’s hard for me to narrow down specific story arcs. Plus, being an American, availability has always been an issue. I’ve still never been able to get my hands on Judge Dredd: America, and as far as I can tell there hasn’t been an American printing of any of the Day of Chaos stuff yet either.

Although now I am kicking myself for not including Origins or the Apocalypse War or something Dredd related on my list.

And on the subject of poll results…

… this is not a “greatest ever” list compiled by experts (for that, see the top 100 list done by, IIRC, the Comics Journal), it’s a popularity contest for fans. It’s for fun. I think some of the comics that have shown up suck, and we have plenty more sucky comics to go. We also have plenty more great comics coming up. I don’t think everyone has to be relentlessly positive about everything, but complaining about the people who voted having terrible taste is both insulting and futile. If anything, focus on the comics not the voters. I thought the Court of Owls wasn’t all that good (nice art, though) but I don’t have a problem with anyone voting for it if they genuinely loved the story.

As far as the actual list goes, we’re now halfway through and still none of my picks have shown up. I initially was pretty certain 8 would appear, now I’m down to 5 that I’m fairly certain about.

JLA/Avengers was on my short list. I love the Avengers, and Busiek’s run on the Avengers in particular. Throw in my favorite Avengers artist plus Batman, and that’s pretty much all my favorite comic book stuff in one place. I sprung for the deluxe, slipcased, 2 volume hardcover edition despite already owning the individual issues. All that said, it just missed my list. If this was top 20, or even 15, it would have made it.

Winter SOlider was good, and Court of Owls was pretty good, but both are part of a trend I find very annoying in modern comics where instead of telling new stories with existing characters the creators instead insert new twists and turns into the past of the characters. Neither of these are as bad as something like Identity Crisis in that regard, but I just get tired of how many stories are revealing some “shocking” new element from a beloved characters past! As good as Brubaker is, and as much as I liked his Cap run overall, it got pretty tiring how he just kept going to the same well of introducing a new threat to Cap that for sure had ties to his past (WWII specifically), and more often than not was actually an ally/friend in the past but was now an enemy. I’m not head over heels with Remender’s new Cap series, but at least he’s telling new stories with Cap, not just adding stuff to the old stories.

“The Dark Angel Saga” is a well-written, well-drawn, well-balanced thing of beauty. I’m not an expert of many things compared to some of the great minds I’ve seen on this blog, but I know my X-Men. This is, without a doubt in my mind, the BEST X-universe story so far this century.

I talk a lot more about it here: http://zakt.blogspot.ca/2013/09/review-43-uncanny-x-force-dark-angel.html

The Crazed Spruce

November 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm

@Travis Pelkie: High Society finished four slots higher (with four more voting points) than Church and State did. And since HS seems to be the only Cerebus arc on ComixOlogy right now (and the first chapter’s free!), I’d be surprised if it doesn’t show up later.

I figured that there’d be a bunch of new stories added to the list, but I’m more surprised at how many older ones that didn’t make the cut last time are showing up. I also think it’s gonna be interesting to see which stories end up falling off the charts to make room.

Again, the criticism is not about difference of opinion or tastes. It is about lack of experience and perspective.
And it’s not like it’s important or anything really. It just makes for a list that is less interesting IMO.

I’ve liked everything on this list that I’ve read.

60. STARMAN – “Grand Guignol”: I gripe about DC, but one of the things that they’ve done right is leave Robinson’s STARMAN alone. It is so different in tone than almost anything before, or since, that I am not sure anyone else can write Jack Knight. It was dark, but gentle in a way. That is what made “Grand Guignol” so powerful. It was like having Michael Bay take over the last ten minutes of a Wes Anderson fiim (in a good way).

59. GREEN ARROW – “The Longbow Hunters”: This hasn’t aged overly well, but it was mind-blowing at the time. The use of Black Canary always struck a false note, but it seems worse now that “fridging” has entered the comics lexicon. Still, this really was the culmination of the re-imaging of Green Arrow that started under O’Neil-Adams. It gave Ollie a Modus Operandi that was distinct from Batman. It added some depth beyond yelling “Fat Cats” and making chili (although I love those character traits).

55. ASTONISHING X-MEN – “Gifted”: This was a bit like watching a gifted cover band bang through a greatest hits collection. Still, those hits were good enough that it made for entertaining reading.

54. CAPTAIN AMERICA – “Winter Soldier”: This was, on paper, the worst idea ever. Brubaker and company did an astounding job turning it into one of the very best Captain America stories.

52. SANDMAN – “Kindly Ones”: This seems really low for the second best arc of the greatest long run on any title. All the threads Gaiman had carefully laid over the years paid off in a tragic, inevitable way. Marc Hempel did a great job bringing it all to life.

Alright, thanks for the info, ‘Spruce.

To juxtapose quotes from the last 2 posts (from the ‘Spruce and Darthshap):

“I figured that there’d be a bunch of new stories added to the list, but I’m more surprised at how many older ones that didn’t make the cut last time are showing up.”

“It is about lack of experience and perspective…
It just makes for a list that is less interesting IMO.”

If there are a bunch of older, new to the list stories as well as a bunch of new since the last list stories, how is that NOT a really interesting list?

I haven’t gotten a chance to really look at the lists yet (I probably will this weekend), but what I’ve seen’s been pretty neat to me, and looks like a good mix of old and new. I think we all knew things like Court of Owls and Dark Angel Saga, and the comic Saga, were going to make it on here. By virtue of the way memory works, people remember the first things they loved, and the most recent things they’ve loved (or thought about, or whatever).

And oh, please please please let Identity Crisis fall off the list completely. That’s all I want for Christmas, Santa! ;)

Yes! Uncanny X-force is here! Yes!

Still nothing I voted for. Three things I haven’t read: Church & State, Starman, Uncanny X-Force.

Starman I’m reading now. I’ve read the first couple omnibi and hope to finish the series soon. It is great and so far it seems to be earning the high praise it receives. I look forward to the Grand Guignol story and the rest of the series.

I started Cerebus but got bored while it was still a Conan parody. I have most of the trades and really intend to sit down with it one day soon. Right after Love & Rockets. It’s one of the most glaring omissions of my comic reading.

While I care less about Uncanny X-Force, it’s been praised highly enough that I should read it one day. I may even read it before Cerebus, because it will probably be easier.

Court of Owls is the first (maybe second?) entry I’m pretty lukewarm towards. I liked it, and in fact just the other night read the conclusion of the story in the second trade. But while fun and pretty, I do not see why it should be so highly placed. I also just the other night started reading American Vampire in an attempt to give this Synder guy a fair shake. I again liked but didn’t love it, but, as with Batman, I was intrigued enough to buy book 2. So we will see. I don’t know if Batman has intrigued me enough to buy Book 3.

I fully support the other 6 choices as being awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Snyder’s “Court of Owls”. It’s excellent. Especially after that long dark night of awful stories by Grant Morrison. Batman’s will to survive in the Court’s maze, his underestimation of a hidden enemy, the introduction of an evil that dates back to the Industrial Revolution (at least), it’s a thrilling read.

But for it to be on a list of “Top 100 Comic Book Storylines”? Well, okay, maybe. But so much higher than classics like Denny O’Neil’s original Ra’s stories, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, Knightfall, Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine, Secret Wars, and Scott Pilgrim? That’s a stretch.

I, too, can’t help think that a lot of people are influenced by how fresh in their minds some of these are, just a little.

I’m intrigued by the comment about what is available on comixology. What has recently been available in trade has always impacted lists such as this. It will be interesting to see how votes are correlated with digital availability, and if that correlation grows in the coming years.

“Batman’s will to survive in the [Black Glove's trap], his underestimation of a hidden enemy, the introduction of an evil that dates back to the Industrial Revolution (at least), ”

Oh, I’m sorry, penguintruth, just thought I’d adjust your comment a bit to also describe that “long dark night of awful stories by Grant Morrison”. ;)

On the other hand, pneguintruth, nostalgia can be as blinding as freshness. While I happen to love Secret Wars and Knightfall, there are many who feel quite the opposite, and we differ mainly by what point in our lives we encountered these things.

Maybe Court of Owls is to kids these days what Knightfall was to me what the Ra’as saga was to old folks what I-have-no-idea (maybe the first battle with the Joker) was to even older folks.

I would love to see a top 10 by decade.

60′s through ’10

Maybe that can be Cronin’s 2014 project

Or heck we can just take these results and arrange them by decade. Bam problem solved.

But actually voting, fans won’t have to whittle down their favorites to just 10.

And you can choose which decades to vote in. I don’t have nuch to say about the 60′s or 70′s comics, so i would not vote in those categories.

@Travis

The difference is that the Black Glove storyline was terrible and written poorly by a hack, whereas A Court of Owls was excellent.

Wow, didn’t expect to see Longbow Hunters here! Brings back memories of an era of greatness coming out of DC in the 80s (incidentally, I thought Longbow was middle-of-the-road compared to the other great things coming out at the time, but seeing it here makes me want to look at it again). Now what would really be awesome would be to see some Andy Helfer Shadow show up from out of nowhere.

Otherwise, this chunk of list is 70% 21st century stuff! About half of which I’ve read, and it’s all perfectly fine. I haven’t read Dark Angel, just ’cause I read the first two Uncanny X-Force trades and wasn’t moved to continue. Maybe I should reconsider.

Is Starman fully collected in trades? I’ve been wanting to read that for ages…

I really loved the Dark Angel saga, but I think that Remender’s work went down hill after that on the title. It didn’t end so well.

The Court of Owls, on the other hand, I did not love. Black Mirror was much better, and Snyder’s work on Batman hasn’t wowed me since. I just wish he would go back and finish American Vampire, which is one of my favorite comics of the decade so far (though it’s only been 4 years).

So…. did I miss it, or has Chew not shown up yet? Because Chew is one of the best comics currently being published and it would be a shame if it didn’t make the list.

@penguintruth

The difference is that the Court of Owls storyline was terrible and written poorly by a hack, whereas the Black Glove was excellent.

Fixed that for you

Both the art work of Steve Epting’s Captain America and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men impressed me so much with it’s photo realism that I bought them regularly. I felt that this realism was a new trend in comics that was unprecedented till then (2005?) The only one to achieve such realism before was Alex Ross, and we all know how frequently he came out with new books. And while I can’t complain about this first arch of Brubaker’s Captain America, Joss Whedon’s X-Men was another story. I didn’t read “Gifted”. I picked AXM up with #7, the start of “Dangerous” and while I realize that I could be making gross generalizations about Whedon’s writing, I’m not encouraged to pick up these first 6 issues. My impression of “Danger” was that while it was very exciting to read, Joss used some tricks to make it exciting that didn’t set well with me afterward. He loves sensationalism which is fine but I have found that he sometimes does it at the expense of characterization and believability. I enjoyed reading “Danger” for the most part but when Wolverine is scolding professor X about morality, you know something is askew. And then in the next run when Wolverine is running scared while the Beast is raging, the twisted personalities that Joss implements just goes beyond absurd to disappointing and boring. If it weren’t for Cassaday’s art I would have never kept reading these as long as I did. So while I find Whedon’s writing exciting, the overall effect doesn’t hold up under even the smallest form of scrutiny. So with Joss, expect an exciting ride but leave your critical thinking at the entrance.

@joshschr
@penguintruth

Wow, am I the only one who liked both stories? Sometimes I think people exaggerate ridiculously on his site just to get noticed. Just look in the comments on any Jason Aaron WaXM interview, where people are calling him the worst X-scribe ever because he isn’t writing their favorite pet character; people are way too goddamn nitpicky.

@Thomas Morrison
I could go on for hours about how much I hate Whedon’s Astonishing, but I want to address realism in art – I don’t like it as a trend. If you like it, that’s fine, but the way everyone seems to be skewing towards that style has sucked all of he variety out of the art in comics. Art is becoming homogenized because of it, and that’s just as bad as the Image style homogenizing things in the 90s.

While I do agree with Saul that you certainly can like both stories, and I’ll admit I’m pushing one harder because others are pushing the other one hard, thanks for beating me to it, joshschr.

dhole, Starman is fully collected in the HC omnibuses, and I think they’re releasing the trades of those, but I’m not sure where they’re at with them. But in some form, Starman is fully collected.

I can’t stand the trend of the last 10+ years of the photo-realistic art. It takes me out of the story almost every time. Although I would have never considered Cassaday or Epting as being photo-realistic. I’m thinking more like Salvador Larroca, Greg Land, Hitch’s work on the Ultimates.

I think one reason there’s a skew to the modern is that multi-issue storylines (as opposed to two-parters) happen a lot more. While I can think of some from the Silver Age (Kree-Skrull War, Dr. Strange vs. Dormammu and Mordo), there’s not many. Even less if you go back (Captain Marvel vs. Mr. Mind is the only one that comes swiftly to mind).
I loved JLA/Avengers and I’m delighted to see it. And I agree Brubaker pulled off a resurrection that should have been sucky by the very concept. Court of Owls? I liked it as a Gotham City fellowship, lost all interest when it became a world-wide thing later.
I really hated the handling of Lyta Trevor in Sandman (a strong, formidable heroine reduced to a stooge for cosmic forces) though the story as a whole was good.
On Longbow Hunters, one thing that always annoys me when Ollie or Hawkeye go “realistic” is that they give up any arrow except the real-world pointy kind. It seems like explosive arrows, flash-grenade arrows etc. should be effective weapons too, though I concede that’s not the vibe the authors are going for.

some of the starman omnibuses are oop, and the tpb line seems to be dead (vol, 3 was cancelled, no word on it since).

Captain Ameria: The Winter Soldier only just missed out on my list. Great story. Hope Court of Owls isn’t going to be the Batman title representing Scott Snyder. Batman: The Black Mirror is easily his best Batman story. American Vampire Vol 1-3 is much better than Court of Owls as well.

Captain Ameria: The Winter Soldier only just missed out on my list. Great story. Hope Court of Owls isn’t going to be the Batman title representing Scott Snyder. Batman: The Black Mirror is easily his best Batman story. American Vampire Vol 1-3 is much better than Court of Owls as well. Nothing from my list has come up yet.

@dread
Yeah. The worst part is that this happened right before Volume 3 came out, the hardcover for which is really expensive and hard to find. The others are easy to find and fairly inexpensive at least right now. I am afraid the other volumes will end up going the way of Vol 3 in an year or two.

Really wanted to participate in this one but saw the post pretty late and couldn’t string together a top 10 in time. I think the list so far has been a decent mix of the old and the new even though there are a few stories on it which I absolutely hate (I’ll never understand what people find in Ultimates beyond the few cool action sequences).

I like some of what I’ve read from this selection but only Winter Soldier would possibly have made my list. The disliked the art by Epting on that one when I first read the trade but it grew on me quickly enough. The story itself is well written even though I am not too fond of the ending and it seemd like a bit of a cop out after the great work Brubaker had done before it. Still, a great storyline nonetheless.

Interesting entires today. Like others, I’m really intrigued by all of the new entries that aren’t exactly new, like Longbow Hunters and Grand Guignol. It’s difficult to say what might account for their appearing now and not four years ago. But in a lot of the cases, particularly with Wolverine and Squadron Supreme, I’m happy the list changed for their inclusion, as they definitely deserve to be here.

I’ve read 6 of these 10. I haven’t gotten to Cerebus, JLA/Avengers, or Grand Guignol yet, they I do own all of them. With Starman I originally stopped reading just before Grand Guignol started. I have all the omnibi now, so I really need to go back to that series from the beginning. Then Annihilation is something that I’ve just never had much interest in, but maybe I’ll give it a whirl someday.

As for what I have read, this batch is a bit of a mixed bag. Nothing that I even thought about voting for, but Winter Solider is probably my favorite. I’m in the minority that thinks this was the best story of Brubaker’s Cap, as the Death saga felt a little too overwrought and unnecessarily complicated to me. But I really admired the way Winter Soldier used flashbacks to inform it’s present story (as opposed to merely info dump), similar to Alan Moore’s Supreme run. And how Brubaker worked Bucky back in might be the best “bringing a long-dead character back” example that comics have seen. The only other example I can think of that I really liked from a story point of view (as opposed to just being happy the character was back) was Oliver Queen in Kevin Smith’s run.

I do like Whedon’s X-Men quite a bit, but I also agree that it’s a little overrated. I think the character work in that run is generally great, but I didn’t love some of the plotting. Longbow Hunters is a story that I like, but that I’m also a little immune to the criticisms because I read it so many years later. Either way, it’s another story where I think the character work is great, but the plot leaves me a little cold. Kindley Ones is mostly very good, but the pacing was a bit off and I don’t really think Hempel’s cartoony art worked for that series. But the final issue of the story (Sandman #69) has my favorite moment of that whole series–probably one of my ten favorite comic moments ever–when Death tells Morpheus that he could have just quit, and Morpheus says that he couldn’t have, and then there’s that long pause as Death sort of looks at her brother and really knows him for the first time, and then she says “No. You couldn’t, could you?”

Court of Owls and Dark Angel Saga are definitely benefitting a bit from their recentness. I think they’re both good stories, but they’re WAY too overblown in quality. I think with both books, they go overboard with how excited they are to play in continuity and sort of make their lasting mark on the mythos. Opena and Capullo both do some great work on the art, but Dark Angel Saga really suffered from the art shifts, IMO. And I think Court of Owls got worse as it went along; I really loved the first few issues, but thought the middle parts became way too decompressed and ridiculous, and the final issues with the reveal of the Wayne brother just felt like the shock value was more important to Snyder than the logic behind the story. But a big part of the disappointment with the story in my eyes was that after all of the Morrison stuff and the grand hugeness of the Bat-stories and mythos for the last several years, I thought the Snyder/Capullo Batman would be a bit back to basics, but that definitely wasn’t the case. In general, I’m starting to be very frustrated with every big two story attempting to be EPIC(!!!), and these two are both guilty of that to a near extreme. It’s probably no coincidence that my favorite Marvel books at the moment (Hawkeye, Wolverine & the X-Men, Young Avengers, FF, Daredevil, Deadpool) are the ones that aren’t usually trying to do anything epic or “world-changing,” but instead just concentrate on telling good stories with their characters.

But other than Dark Angel Saga and Court of Owls, this batch of ten stories really isn’t that recent. 2 of them are over 20 years old, 2 of them are over 10 years old, one of them is exactly 10 years old, one is 9 years old, and 2 are 7 years old. And really, 7 years in the comic industry (where everything gets reinvented and retconned every 2-3 years) is a pretty good amount of time ago. As a previous commenter pointed out, it’s almost difficult to remember at this point Bucky NOT being back as the Winter Soldier. And the Winter Soldier storyline was interrupted in its middle by House of M… doesn’t that seem like forever ago?

In general, I’m not really bothered by the aspects of this list that end up as popularity contests. One thing that I find consistently fascinating with the polls on this blog is that the voters are usually a really interesting mix between very well read fans with good taste and newer fans that haven’t read much beyond the popular stuff. And those two distinctly different voting bodies end up creating interesting portraits of “the cannon.” But I do think it would be really great sometime with one of these polls to add in a certain age requirement (like the story had to have ended five years ago or more, for example) and see how that changes the results. It might dissuade newer readers from voting at all, which in turn would really bump up the chances and point totals for Indie stuff like Wood & Kelly’s Local or Bronze Age stuff like Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle. Just a thought.

I’d just like to say that as someone who spends a goodly amount of time reading and missing letter columns in comics, The Crazed Spruce’s username makes me very happy.

@Mike Loughlin

Just checked The Comics Journal’s list.

It’s pretty awful.
Watchmen at #91?
No Dark Knight Returns?
No Sandman

P-lease.

that Comics Journal List is pretty much OK with me.

“Watchmen” has a weak plot and is way too melodramatic for its own good. (its a rather ho-hum murder mystery with a ludicrous ending) I would find “Sandman” good – only im not a goth girl and 16 years old…(geez talk about purple kitsch prose) Allright, I agree on “DKR” – it should be in the last 10 or so.

So in terms of Superhero stuff, yes i too agree – Fantastic Four from the 60ies, Captain Marvel from the 40ies, and so on…its all by a mile better than the modern output.

It’s simply amazing how prescient Fantagraphics is — what are the odds that they would have published so many of the comics that later made the top 100 list that they made? ;)

It’s like if the Boston Globe made a list of the 100 greatest baseball players of all time, and surprise, it’s mostly Red Sox.

mostly? youre not very good in math are you?

It depends on age and taste. I would never read Cerebus or Court of Owls but there it is on this list. Nothing to get excited about but maybe some other persons pick is worth looking into.

In looking at the list, it appears, by my count, that 16 of the top 25 of the TCJ list have been published by Fantagraphics in some form.

Which is “most” of the top 25

I see further down (which I hadn’t seen at first) that there are less Fanta books, but I stand by my analogy.

@mckracken

Are you serious? even if you don’t like Watchmen and Sandman, which is ok, how can you ignore the huge impact they had on comics industry?
Also – The Watchmen is the only graphic novel to enter Time’s list of 100 great novels of the 20th century – but it’s only good enough to be #91 on that list?
A Sandman issue is the only one to receive The World Fantasy Award award, and it won 26 eisner awards but it’s not good enough for this list?

Allow me to reiterate: P-lease.

yeah, sure Pelkie, POGO, PEANUTS, NEMO in Slumberland and like a dozen true classics, are only here on this list just so Fantagraphics can sell more reprints? LOL, sir.

Amir this list is not about impact – it lists the best comics ever.
And time warner is DC comics – so of course they had to list their most popular work.

Starman kept me interested in comics at a time when there was little incentive for me to stick around. James Robinson was my favorite writer at one point. I have most of the original trades and the entire Omnibus collection.

I could see where Mike Grell was going with The Longbow Hunters, basically kicking it up a notch beyond Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ take on Ollie, but the character never worked for me as an urban vigilante. I tried a couple of issues of the ongoing but I just couldn’t get into it. That said, Grell’s artwork is beautiful. I just wish he had stuck with the classic designs of Ollie and Dinah depicted in those first three pages.

Picked up an issue of Cerebus once. Not an easy book to follow like that. To understand Cerebus, you have to understand how Dave Sim’s mind works. So your mileage might vary, but I can see how Church and State is considered a classic.

Winter Soldier. I never cared for Bucky or having him brought to life, but I have to admit that Brubaker pulled it off nicely. I only wish that it hadn’t been at the expense of that other sidekick character.

Gifted was okay. Whedon and Cassaday did fine by me, although mostly because they brought back Colossus, to be brutally honest.

Haven’t read Annihilation. Love the Richard Rider Nova getting some respect, though.

I don’t think I’ll ever read Sandman. I don’t believe I belong in its target audience.

JLA/Avengers would have seemed a lot cooler had it come out when I was 10 or 11. The characters and costume designs had also changed too much for me to care about it as an adult. I hated “Gypsy Wanda” with a passion.

Haven’t read Dark Angel. Looks like a great story but a bit reminiscent of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Still, I’m curious about it.

As for anything New 52, I’m not even going there. Agreed with Mike above that DC’s modern glory years were roughly 1986 through 1992, although Starman is a notable exception.

The ‘Best Runs’ countdown was a LOT better. I just wish it would expand to include minis.

@Saul

Sorry, I was being partly facetious. Snyder’s run on Batman has done nothing for me. I don’t really mean to say Court of Owls was terrible and no one should enjoy it. I feel bad criticizing it because in his favor, he did try to create a new threat. The problem I have is that he created this big bad elaborate network that’s been there forever and has been intimately involved in his entire life, but we’ve never seen any evidence of them before. I can’t enjoy it for what it is. Morrison’s run did something similar, but built on what had come before. It’s a shame because Capulo’s been very solid on the art and has made the run more consistent, but I’m just not interested in seeing the story he’s illustrating.

mckraken, what makes a comic the best comics ever? Also, how is 16 of 25 not “most” of the top 25?

Clutch, what do you think Sandman’s target audience is? I hear all these people say it’s for emo goth types and I don’t understand it. I’m a middle aged white semi-professional male. I don’t sit in a dark room listening to the Cure all day. Your comment is one of the less critical dismissals of Sandman, but it still makes me wonder how people perceive it.

What would be interesting is to see a top 100 by industry professionals. What do the people who write/draw/edit comics think belongs in the top 100 all-time? I’m sure there would be some significant differences and some odd choices. Ideally a quote from a pro on each of the 100 would be included (ie: why they felt this was one of the best ever).

Regarding the Golden Age of DC Comics, I would open it a bit further than 1986-’92. Alan Moore was basically gone by ’86 and the Wolfman-Perez run on TEEN TITANS was effectively over as was Levitz-Giffen LoSH. There is no DC Golden Age without those creators and/or runs. On the other end, Gaiman’s SANDMAN ran until ’96 and Robison’s STARMAN didn’t start until ’94. Those were the titles that really paid off what had been going on during the Golden Era.

The end is easier to spot than the beginning. I love the Morrison-Porter JLA, but it really did signal the end of creators being able to work in their own little niche of DCU and produce semi-personal superhero comics. Morrison’s Justice League line-up was only the iconic Big 7 for a fairly short period because of what going on in other titles (blue Superman, Hippolyta as WW). So, that first arc in 1997 was the end.

The beginning was probably Alan Moore arriving on Swamp Thing. It was the first time that a great creator really came in and made a semi-obscure characters his own. That also encompasses the bulk of Wolfman-Perez and “The Great Darkness Saga”.

I’d say DC 1982-97 was a peak that you could stand next to the high Marvel period in the sixties and early 70s.

“Grand Guignol” was my number one. It was a perfect culmination of years of storytelling that had built to that point, seeded back in the very first issue. I immediately had to go back and read the entire series again to pick out all the bits I hadn’t noticed the first time through. Very nice to see it make the list this time; surely it helps that the series is back in print now(well, kinda, since at least volume 3 is now out of print again). “Starman” is one of a handful of series that I find time to re-read every year. Comics just don’t get any better than this.

I have yet to read “Cerebus,” “Annihiliation,” and most of “Uncanny X-force.” “Cerebus” is one of those series I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to, and “Annihiliation” is on my “to-read” list, but I’ll be surprised if I get to it before the year is out. I recently started reading that run of UXF, and the “Dark Angel Saga” happens to be the next story arc in my reading.

The rest of these are all worthy choices. None of them made my shortlist, but I expected to see them on this list at some point.

Darthshap said:
“So many of these stories are just there because they are recent and newbies do not know any better…and that’s just sad.”

I could say the reverse about The Korvac Saga and The Kree-Skrull War – that they are only there because the oldies are blinded by nostalgia and can’t recognize that, while those stories may have done something different back in the day, they just aren’t very good… and that’s just sad.

And I don’t like the Dark Angel Saga at all, I was driven by one of these lists to seek it out and purchase and read it previously and Sweet Baby RAY, it is awful. It hunkers on my trade shelves, much like Korvac and Kree and Celestial Madonna, waiting for me to pick it up every few years to see if it is good, if I missed something, only to go back to the shelves and wait for me to hope again.

In brief, this list should be 10 items long, and it should include only the things I picked. Except for the part where I forgot about JLA/Avengers. That can be here, too.

I could say the reverse about The Korvac Saga and The Kree-Skrull War – that they are only there because the oldies are blinded by nostalgia and can’t recognize that, while those stories may have done something different back in the day, they just aren’t very good… and that’s just sad.

thanks a lot buddy, someone had to say it

JLA/Avengers is, for me, the end of the traditional versions of both teams. Let’s face it: it’s all been downhill from there.

I would complain about the newer stuff showing up, but I came to realize a long time ago that I’m out of step with the comics community.

While I might not agree with the specific examples, Gary makes a great point. For every new story that’s on the list because it was voted for by people with only recent reading experience, there’s an old story on the list that’s voted for based on nostalgia, and not necessarily quality. I know I’m guilty of the latter. But to me that’s what makes lists like this so interesting.

@Dean Hacker,

I put DC’s Golden Age at ’86 because a) Watchmen, Dark Knight, & Year One; b) that’s when the bulk of the line started to improve. The Moore Swamp Things, Levitz & Giffen LSH, Wolfman & Perez TT, Atari Force, and precious few other titles were head and shoulders above the rest of DC’s output.

From ’86 on, you had: Giffen/ DeMatteis JLI, Suicide Squad, Green Arrow, The Question, Sandman, Hellblazer, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Hawkworld, Wasteland, those Byrne Superman comics people liked, Helfer/ Baker Shadow, the advent of Pirhana Press, 3 beloved (or at least be-liked) Flash runs, Green Lantern: Mosaic, etc.

I ended it in ’92 because Giffen & DeMatteis wound down JLI, Suicide Squad was ending, Grell moved on from GA, and we were months away from Vertigo being its own thing, Death of Supes, Knightfall, & Zero Hour. DC put out some great comics post-’92 (in particular Starman, Spectre, & JLA) but I tend to look at those as anomolies.

But why quibble? Your ’82-’97 DC Golden Age works, too. I can’t argue that there weren’t a good amount of quality books in the timeline you offer that mine disallows.

Korvac’s a funny example for me. I voted for it last time they did this poll, but I left it off this time. I still love it for how it made me feel back in the day, but I decided to swap it out for something that I also love that maybe holds up a bit better objectively.

I still don’t think Korvac’s bad, but certainly see how its old-school vibe…dated dialogue, wordy exposition, etc….would turn folks off. But I’d take it over Bendis Avengers any day (that final Korvac battle alone is more fun than any trade from BB’s run…)

As far as I can tell, the first half of this list is breaking down, era-wise as:

19 stories post-2000
13 from the 90s
13 from the 80s
5 from the 70s

so it looks like modern storytelling is getting out the vote on this one.

I could say the reverse about The Korvac Saga and The Kree-Skrull War – that they are only there because the oldies are blinded by nostalgia and can’t recognize that, while those stories may have done something different back in the day, they just aren’t very good… and that’s just sad.

That’s an excellent point.

Winter Soldier is better than Court of Owls, but I don’t really like either.

Both Snyder’s Batman and Whedon’s X-Men suffer from the same problem: they were trying to follow up Grant Morrison stories with a “back-to-basics” approach (and a really good artist) and wound up looking really unimpressive. That said, Whedon did better than Snyder after all, and I like a lot of his characterization.

Whedon’s X-Men becomes a /lot/ more laughable if you get a bit more pretentious and try to fit it into the otherness/queer theory metaphor that Morrison and particularly Milligan were pushing to new heights on the X-Books.

Morrison’s first issue: “I never understood why you had us dress like superheroes in the first place, professor.” “The professor thought people would trust mutants more if we looked like something they UNDERSTOOD.” “That’s right, Scott. But I’ve been working on BETTER ways to encourage people to trust mutants.”

And everyone starts wearing black leather.

Whedon’s first issue: “We’re a team. We’re a superhero team. …No one chases the Avengers and Fantastic Four with torches. /And quite frankly, all the black leather is making everybody nervous./” On Kitty Pryde: “It’s important that people see people like you. You’re friendly and non-threatening.”

Cue superhero costumes. Whedon’s “back-to-basics approach” also sent Morrison’s radical-queer X-Men back thirty years to an assimilationist framework.

Sorry for nerding out on this, but it’s /fairly/ important, especially with the X-Men movies pushing that aspect of the franchise so hard.

I can’t believe the number of people who /refuse to read/ Sandman due to the old “sixteen-year-old Goth girl” line. Trust me when I say that all of you have read and enjoyed /lots and lots/ of comics since Sandman that pretty much boil down to failed attempts to recreate how damn good Sandman was. And Kindly Ones is rad in particular.

Whedon’s X-Men becomes a /lot/ more laughable if you get a bit more pretentious and try to fit it into the otherness/queer theory metaphor that Morrison and particularly Milligan were pushing to new heights on the X-Books.

I disagree. I don’t think Whedon’s stuff becomes more laughable if you try to fit it into the otherness/queer theory metaphor. It’s an age-old struggle, and it’s a valid argument on both sides. Many groups have had an ages-old debate on whether or not seperatism versus assimilation is the answer, and both sides have made compelling arguments. Morrison felt they should stand apart from the superhero community and claims they are not really superheroes (which honestly, is ridiculous. They’re superheroes and always have been). Whedon’s take is that the key to mutant advancement is to show that they’re not that different. Again, another valid strategy taken by disenfranchised groups that we see echoed in real life all the time.

You have the old school gays who called straight people breeders and defined gayness as an oppositional stance against heterosexual, stereotypical middle-class morality. They didn’t want middle-class values, a house in the suburbs, kids, a suit and tie, or a white picket fence. Think Al Pacino’s Crusin. In the ensuing years there are a growing number of modern gay people who don’t want to pursue an opositional look or identity and want to emphasize that gays are just the same as everyone else, just with same gender sex preferences.The move is to make gayness seem as innocuous and “normal” and nonthreatening as possible, so that straight people can feel comfortable around it. Now it’s gay people in sweater vests and behaving like suburban soccer moms a la Modern Family or cute and cuddly and oddly desexualized like in WIll and Grace. Gays have gone from slamming marriage and kids as breeder activities to embracing and chasing these formerly breeder values.

My favorite coffehouse in my neighborhood is gay-owned and staffed, and I chat with the staff daily. One of the employees was talking to me about the gay movement and complaining that the middle class white yuppie materialist monogamous gay couple has somehow become the modern face of the queer movement and how that annoys queers like her who have no desire to live a gay carbon-copy version of the cookie-cutter American Dream lifestyle. Her complaints were that with all the other pressing gay issues out there like gay teen bullying, runaways, and suicides, there is a certain class of gay people who instead are more concerned with being able to take out wedding announcements and sign up for registries.

These aren’t my beliefs, mind you, but I point them out to say there are a myriad of ways one can explore gay rights without saying the only valid way is to put the X-Men in black leather and have them take an oppositional stance to mainstream superhero society. I’d also argue that there’s a case to be made that a conformist, assimilationist X-Men team that Whedon advocates may actually be more in line with the modern mainstream face of the gay movement than the black leather biker thing, even though that may not be your preference to how you’d like the queer angle explored.

Sorry for nerding out on this, but it’s /fairly/ important, especially with the X-Men movies pushing that aspect of the franchise so hard.

The movies were great for what they were, especially given the time they came out and how bad they could have been, but they also got a lot wrong and made a lot of mistakes, especially reducing the X-Men to being little more than Wolverine’s supporting cast and leaving them largely unexplored. They were just well-done Wolverine solo movies that were slightly ashamed of their superhero roots. I don’t believe the fact that the movies pushed something automatically makes the idea good.

@Gary, dread, T. –

I know you younger fans have trouble dealing with the old school style of dialogue and narrations, the thought bubbles, the over explaining of things, etc., and those criticisms are not without merit. The one thing that has definitely improved in comics over the decades is that they definitely “read easier”, for lack of a better description.

But those of us who were reading comics when those stories came out have the advantage (if you want to call it that) of having been acclimated to that old school style and don’t have as much trouble slogging through the literary mess that was comics for so long.

So it’s not that we’re “nostalgic”, it’s that our mindset towards the medium is better attuned to that old school style so we’re able to be more objective about the meat and bones of those stories. Dated storytelling methods are another matter entirely…

Time is and always has been the ultimate test for the comics medium. There are countless stories that were popular during their time that are all but forgotten today (I know I certainly wasted a ton of allowance money on some of them myself). It’s not random chance that makes one popular story retain its fans over time while another falls into obscurity. Those particular books really were fundamentally solid superhero tales, and even if their paint has peeled and their walls have crumbled to dust their foundations are still sturdy as ever.

@Elpie — Morrison’s X-Men was never anything more than cotton candy. Whedon “got” the team better than any writer aside from Claremont. People don’t want to read something that is clearly being written from atop the writer’s high horse, they just want decent stories (it saddens me that the industry has come to that point where this is no longer taken for granted) and Morrison never managed that. It was hands down the most hollow work of his career. His JLA did everything that his X-Men did right only 20x better and without all the self-indulgence and moral posturing.

And “the old “sixteen-year-old Goth girl” line” is a valid criticism of Sandman. That’s clearly who it was written for and for the most part who it appealed to. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s just not for everybody.

So many of these stories are just there because they are recent and newbies do not know any better…and that’s just sad.

Oh wait, did somebody already say that?

yeah, the ‘only true comic fan is an old as f*ck comic fan’ brigade

The “16 year-old goth girl” thing is stupidly reductive. Sure, Sandman appealed to a big portion of that demographic. It also appealed to many other types of readers. It was a bold, unique series that was experimental and ambitious. Plenty of us guys who never once wore black eyeliner or wrote poetry thought it was excellent.

Yeah, the goth girl claim is just ignorant. Sandman’s core readership and target audience was–shocker of shockers–preexisting comic book fans who were excited to see DC trying new things. (It came out at a time of great innovation and experimentation at DC, which was also a time that Marvel seemed pretty stagnant.) The fact that Sandman ALSO attracted a huge additional audience of people who weren’t traditionally comic book readers–which, yes, included goth girls–was a measure of its crossover appeal. And a lot of those people remained interested in comics, just not necessarily the same comics that people who cut their teeth on 1990s X-books were into.

Sandman has sold a lot of copies over the years. There just aren’t enough goth 16 year old girls in the world to account for all the sales.

Good to see JLA / Avengers, The Court of Owls, Gifted, Winter Soldier, Annihilation, The Kindly Ones and Dark Angel Saga. Remember not vote for any of them but they are great stories.

@dread — yeah, the ‘only true comic fan is an old as f*ck comic fan’ brigade

What are you 12?

@Jazzbo — Sandman has sold a lot of copies over the years.

No it hasn’t. Vertigo was created to retain older readers who would have otherwise left for the indies, and consequently was not held to the same (or any really) sales standards. None of the titles (including Sandman, the label’s biggest “hit”) published on the imprint were successful in terms of what a major publisher expects on return on investment. But they didn’t need to be because making money was not their purpose.

” Whedon “got” the team better than any writer aside from Claremont.”

Umm, No! Whendon walked all over what the X-Men were showing Wolverine as a 6 year old girl, Professor X as a nasty, self indulgent slaver, and the Beast as a… a beast! For me seeing Wolverine chew out Professor was a real low point in X-Men history for me. Professor X is the foil, the person that everyone tries to live up to. When he becomes a villain than it takes away the whole meaning of the team.

Glad to see Annihilation. In and of itself it’s a great story, but what it kicked off was spectacular. The DnA Marvel Cosmic stuff is just spectacular. It’s all kinds of wild and weird and cool at the same time. It’s no shock Hickman is currently mining the hell out of it for his Avengers run.

I haven’t read Whedon’s X-Men run, so maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that writers have been turning Professor X into the villain for decades now. Aren’t there at least a half a dozen stories out there that ret-con in some sort of sinister or unsavory method to how Professor X went about things? I stopped reading the X books back when Onslaught hit, but even then I thought there were plenty of stories that pretty much made Professor X the villain. Maybe I;m misremembering.

Two of these I haven’t read, breaking my perfect streak. I was 96 out of a hundred last time – Here’s hoping i do better this time.

Maybe one and a half. Was that Angel thing in two trades? I might have read half of it, but I don’t remember anything about it except that it was a new trade from the library and smelled new.

And I’m not reading any more Starman, until I finish reading every other comic ever published. As an experiment in “everything that could possibly annoy MarkAndrew about comics in one comic” Starman was pretty brillaint, I’ll give it that.

Saying Sandman was only written for goth girls is like saying Catcher in the Rye was only written for conspiracy theorists. Just because a work resonated with a particular niche audience certainly doesn’t mean it was created for that audience, and in both cases, the writers likely had no idea their work would even reach or be adopted by that audience. When Neil Gaiman started writing Sandman, he was a no-name that had written about ten comics in his life. While I’m sure he had hopes, he had no real reason to believe Sandman would “make it” and escape cancelation, let alone that it would find a mass audience outside of the traditional comic industry. Remember, Sandman was one of the first comics (THE first?) to ever be read by non-comic readers, so the notion that it was trying for that from the get-go is completely ludicrous. You can’t plan for crossover success if you didn’t even realize crossover success in that medium was a possibility, and at the time, no one really did. Gaiman was simply trying to write a great series that would appeal to intelligent readers who were looking for something a bit less traditional. If you want to blame someone for trying to rope in the goth audience, blame Mike Dringenberg, who designed the look of Death. Now, that’s certainly not to say that Dringenberg did this with any ulterior motives of what audience he was trying to resonate with, I’m just saying that he’s a more rational person to blame if you hate Sandman because goths liked it.

Sandman is, first and foremost, a story about stories. And it finished at #1 on the runs poll both times this blog has conducted it, so unless you’re assuming that all of us commenters are actually goth girls, that argument doesn’t hold. If you don’t like Sandman, that’s cool. If you think it’s pretentious, that’s fine. But don’t try to reduce it to something it’s not simply because it didn’t resonate with you.

And regarding the whole recent vs. nostalgic argument, it’s true both ways. Voting for the last thing you read isn’t very different than voting for the first comics you ever read are kind of the same, because as someone else pointed out, that’s how memory works. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption will always be two of my favorite movies because they’re the two movies I saw when I was 14 and they blew my mind about what movies could be and made me fall in love with the medium. When people love an art form, they’ll always be most partial to the specific works that created that love in the first place. But there’s a reason that Kree/Skrull War and Starlin’s Warlock show up here while the vast majority of popular/resonant Bronze Age stories do not, and that’s because those are the works that were more than simply popular. Yes, their story-telling may seem dated now, but that doesn’t somehow make the works less influential or less important. Each step forward is worthy of praise, regardless of how many subsequent steps forward there have been. Hendrix didn’t make Chuck Berry sound any less great, just as Chuck Berry didn’t diminish the works of Les Paul or Robert Johnson. There were leaps forward, to be certain, but great art doesn’t create itself out of the void; it comes from learning from the past and the attempt of creators to continue pushing things forward. You may not enjoy reading the Kree/Skrull War, and that’s fine. I struggled with it the first time I read it, and I can barely even get through Lee/Kirby FF stuff. But Jesus, just because I can’t read the first Galactus story and enjoy it the same way I might have enjoyed it in 1966, that doesn’t mean it just gets dismissed!

And @mckracken-

I’m really struggling to understand why you even read this blog. You don’t seem to like anything that gets posted on these lists and you apparently think every other commenter has terrible taste. Why even waste your time here? Is showing up once or twice a day to remind us all that we’re wrong about everything really that gratifying to you? Do you even like comics? What ten storylines did you vote for? Please, empower all of us with your taste from the Gods so that we may repent our heathen ways.

Starman has been a series I always wanted to try. Did not know that Paul Smith did some work for it. Might have to try this story first.

Longbow Hunters, it doesn’t quite get so real than this storyline for Green Arrow.

How funny, I have been reading JLAvengers for a couple days now. Such a great presentation of both teams. Busiek and Perez brought it hard. So glad this exists.

Church and State is the only Cerebus I have read. Probably took me weeks to read every word of it.

Glad Gifted is this low on the list. Must mean that Danger is not on the list, but maybe the better story, Torn, is higher.

I really need to read Dark Angel Saga, especially with how Remender keeps going back to it.

Joining in on the Sandman is not just for 16-year-old Goths side: I was in my thirties when it came out, not even remotely goth (or female) and I liked it. Really disliked lots of specific things in it, but I never thought it was because he was targeting some other demographic. Still don’t.

No it hasn’t. Vertigo was created to retain older readers who would have otherwise left for the indies, and consequently was not held to the same (or any really) sales standards. None of the titles (including Sandman, the label’s biggest “hit”) published on the imprint were successful in terms of what a major publisher expects on return on investment. But they didn’t need to be because making money was not their purpose.

The Sandman individual comic books might not have been huge sellers, but the collections sell much, much, much, much, much better than nearly every other North America comic book collection that exists (it outsells most manga, as well, but I don’t know all of those numbers). Basically the only things that sell better than Sandman trades are Watchmen, a few Batman collections, Bone, Walking Dead and…that’s pretty much it. It has made a shit ton of money for DC over the years. Much more than they’ve made selling pretty much any other print superhero comics. Superhero comics, of course, make them much more money from licensing and films. But strictly print sales, Sandman sells TONS.

Anonymous – My gateway drug was Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men. So the charge that I don’t like Korvac Saga because of its verbosity? That’s not going to stick. I hate that thing on merits ALL its own.

As to the bones of a story, it’s like a romantic comedy. Every romantic comedy is the same plot with some different coats of paint thrown on it. Some make those coats well, some don’t. I HATE Celestial Madonna because it has three issues straight of NOTHING BUT EXPOSITION. I LOVE Avengers Forever. Which has two OVERSIZED issues straight of NOTHING BUT EXPOSITION. They’re even telling the same stories, and while Avengers Forever 8 (The Secret History of the Avengers) is not my favorite comic ever, 9 (Break: Reflections of the Conqueror) is way up there for me. The Korvac Saga tells what sounds like a compelling story – hearing about it over and over in the comics compelled me to seek out this tale that had so much love for it – but it does not do so well. And I think that because it blew people’s minds at the time, it got this “classic” status that it just rides on to this day. Same thing with the Kree-Skrull War.

And thank you, Third Man, for bringing up “The Coming of Galactus”, because when it shows up on this list (I’m guessing in the 30s), I won’t be having this discussion about it. “The Coming of Galactus” is a compelling story told well. It’s got dialogue and captions out the wazoo, but I LIKE to read it, because it entertains.

Jazzbo, thank you for getting my point and rearticulating it well. That was indeed the purpose of my concluding sentence that this list should only include my choices.

Not that I want to jump on the hate bandwagon, but I read The Coming of Galactus last year and I don’t think I ever read through a worse written load of complete drivel in my life!

It makes The Korvak Saga look like an award-winning piece of groundbreaking literature by comparison!

I wanted to stay out of this particular argument, but to me personally The Coming of Galactus represents everything you are saying 100 times better than either of those Avengers stories you’ve been criticising.

At the end of the day that’s just my opinion though, nothing more, nothing less.

Third Man, as usual, makes lots of good points (and he referenced what I said about how memory works, so obviously he am smart). I would wager that DKR, Watchmen, and Maus were the first comics “non-comics readers” looked at (in the era of thinking of “comics readers” vs “non” — prior to that, it was “pretty much everyone under the age of 13″ read comics), but Sandman was probably the first “non-event” (if you will) comic that people read. A Doll’s House was rushed into trade at virtually the same time that #16 was being worked on, so obviously by that point there was enough buzz on it to warrant that treatment (and iirc, Clive Barker does the intro, so BIG NAME HORROR guy anoints it the new big thing).

And the funny thing about the look of Death to rope in the goths, to me, is that unless I’m mistaken, her look is taken from a stripper Dringenberg knew….

But yeah, Sandman is basically a way for DC to print $$$$, and while more teen kids find goth every year, it’s not enough to warrant what DC does with the series. Not only have all the trades been kept in print since they’ve come out, but I believe all of them were out in HC as well (with some of the early ones reprinted in HC so that people could get the whole thing in that format). In ’97, they started reprinting the series in singles, and that lasted almost 3 years (Essential Vertigo Sandman reprint 1-28 and the Special, I think), and they even went back and re-inked that issue 16 that was rushed into production back in the day. They’ve recolored it for the Absolute Editions, 4 volumes thereof. They’ve used that recoloring for all the new versions of the trades. They’re reprinting the book in B&W for the Annotated version. They’re doing the Omnibus version in 2 volumes, I think. And that’s just the main series — there’s been the Death series, both in Absolute and deluxe HC, the Dream Hunters illustrated novella, later adapted to comics, the Endless Nights book, and now Overture, all by Gaiman, as well as the various Sandman Presents comics, the Dreaming series that lasted about as long as Sandman, and the Jill Thompson books, as well as the upcoming Dead Boy Detectives series.

And also, DC’s tried very, very hard not to piss off Gaiman a la Alan Moore, so that Gaiman comes back and does more Sandman stuff that they can keep selling in bookstores.

If the federal government went to copies of Sandman as currency, the economy might be in better shape ;)

Church and State was my number one choice (and third from my top 10 to make the list – I’m expecting one more to make it). I felt at this part of the series Dave Sim had pretty much mastered the medium combining words and images to achieve effects which very few other creators could rival – including the sense of tension through the desperate mountain climbing race despite no real indication of why it was so important for Cerebus to win…

Court of Owls is probably one of the best 10 Batman storylines of the last 2 or 3 years but there have been many far greater Batman stories before then.

I so wanted Longbow Hunters on the list, but couldn’t squeeze it in.

Annihilation surprises me. Not in a good or bad way. Just a surprising one.

Cap wasn’t my favorite Cap story, so I couldn’t add it, but the difference between this story and the Red Hood one is that this one was actually good. Lost in all this about Bucky is the great way he used the Red Skull.

I wonder how many people who loved that X-Force run complain about Claremont…because there are some good concepts in there, but man are they wordy stories.

And I have to agree with the Batman thing that I hate any story where they’ve been controlling everything behind the scenes…forever! Because just NOW is Batman a threat. Or there was no reason when Ra’s Al Ghul might be destroying the city, or any other reason till now, and everything Batman has ever done is only because they let it. Breaks the suspension of disbelief for the world.

[...] 2013 Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #60-51 | Comics Should Be … NOTE: All of these storyline posts will be image intensive, so I'll be spreading them over multiple pages. 60. “Grand Guignol” by James . plain doesnt sell as well). I propose a true connoisseur top 100 for comics that cuts off at the bronze age. I loved ha story; it had a cool Lovecraftian vibe for he whole story, and the ending was a solid surprise that also built on DC history (Bruce's brother is a Morrisonian callout to an old Silver Age story). Also, Capullo drawing this  [...]

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