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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…
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…