Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
47. “Ultron Unlimited” by Kurt Busiek, George Perez and Al Vey (Avengers #19-22) – 218 points (1 first place vote)
The concept of the storyline (written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by George Perez and Al Vey) is that Ultron IX has decided that he does not want to simply wipe out humans from Earth – he wants to repopulate the world with his own people: robots. He begins this attempt in horrific fashion as he enters the small European country of Slorenia and proceeds to slaughter the entire human population in three hours. He sends a message to the horrified public watching at home – do not come into this county or suffer the same fate.
Meanwhile, he has also kidnapped the Avengers that he considers “family” and intends to use their brainwaves to base his new world population of robots on, much like the way he earlier based his intended robot bride Jocasta on Wasp’s brainwaves, the android Vision on the brainwaves of Wonder Man and the robot Alkhema on the brainwaves of Mockingbird.
It is during this story that we learn for the first time something that probably should have been evident to readers earlier (it’s somewhat surprising it took decades until Busiek came up the concept), which is that Ultron’s mind was based on the brainwaves of his creator, Hank Pym, who happens to be among the Avengers kidnapped by Ultron.
The Avengers ultimately decide to invade Slorenia, resulting in many interesting battles within the country as the small band of heroes seem to be overmatched by Ultron’s apparently unending supply of robot drones (hence the “Unlimited” part of the story’s title). During the course of this war, the Avengers have to face off against all the earlier Ultrons, each of whom was enough to fight them to a standstill in previous years.
Ultron is quite confident that his minions are more than enough to defeat the Avengers. That same confidence leads to one of the coolest dramatic entrances ever (and winner of a Wizard Award that year for Best Moment) when the Avengers burst into Ultron’s lair, looking quite ragged, with Thor speaking for the entire team when he declares “Ultron, we would have words with thee!”
46. “Infinity Gauntlet” by Jim Starlin, George Perez, Ron Lim, Joe Rubinstein and a couple of other inkers (Infinity Gauntlet #1-6) – 223 points (1 first place vote)
The mad god Thanos devoted his entire life (and since he has been resurrected a few times, his entire after-life) to pleasing the love of his life – Death. When Death decides she needs a champion once again, she brings Thanos back to life. In an attempt to please her, Thanos goes on a quest for the Infinity Gems; the powerful items that seem to power the various Elders of the Universe.
After finally collecting all of the gems through various methods, Thanos brings them together to form the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove that, when worn, gives the user complete power over the universe. What Thanos does with the Gauntlet is the subject of the 1991 Marvel mini-series, “Infinity Gauntlet” by writer Jim Starlin and artists George Perez (issues #1-3) and Ron Lim (issues #4-6).
His first act, seen in the first issue, to impress Death is to kill half of the universe, which he does with a snap of the fingers. The remaining half of the universe, naturally, is not happy about this and sets about to try to stop Thanos. They are aided by a similarly resurrected Adam Warlock, who was Thanos’ main nemesis back when they were both first alive.
Warlock helps organize an excursion of as many superheroes as they can gather (Doctor Doom, too) to attack Thanos at his fortress. Thanos, meanwhile, in another attempt to impress Death (as suggested to him by that wily devil, Mephisto) has used the Gauntlet to make himself fallible, so that the superhero army attacking him actually has a theoretical chance at defeating him.
The heroes leave in issue #3, and it is in #4 that the battle takes place. Thanos mows through the heroes like he’s a hot knife and they’re all sticks of butter. Cyclops is suffocated, Iron Man has his head torn off, Thor is turned to glass – it is not pretty. Finally, only Captain America remains, and in an impressive act of defiance, stands up to Thanos one on one. As Thanos gets ready to smite Cap, Warlock’s real plan springs into action. The Silver Surfer swoops in at light speed to snatch the gauntlet away from Thanos. The whole attack was just a diversion so that Surfer could steal the gauntlet.
Only the Surfer misses.
You’ll have to read the rest of the series to see what happens next, but suffice it to say that Starlin did a heck of a job on this crossover.
45. “Identity Crisis” by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales and Michael Bair (Identity Crisis #1-7) – 230 points (2 first place votes)
Identity Crisis is a murder mystery, where the victim is the wife of a superhero, Elongated Man.
Sue Dibny, like her hero husband Ralph, was a public figure, so when she was murdered, it threw the whole superhero community into a frenzy – are THEIR loved ones at risk, too?
Before Sue dies, we get a touching tribute to their life together…
The death of Sue also caused a group of Justice Leaguers to reflect back on the last time they caught a super-villain messing with a loved one (Sue, actually) – they wiped his memory clean. So they figured that this villain might have remembered it, and since Sue’s death possibly could have been caused by someone with this villain’s powers, he became the most wanted villain on the planet.
Soon other loved ones of heroes are attacked (and some killed) and the mystery ratchets up, all the while contrasting with the loss of trust between some of the heroes when they learn what these Leaguers did in the past (not to mention a major battle when the fugitive villain hires Deathstroke the Terminator to protect him).
When the murderer is revealed – it is a shock to the system, to say the least.
Rags Morales and Michael Bair do a wonderful job with the facial expressions in this series, which is important because writer Brad Meltzer includes a good deal of emotional scenes.
This series has been one of the most influential series of the past 10 years for DC Comics, as a great many comics spun out of this one.
44. “Blackest Night” by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert and Joe Prado (Blackest Night #1-8) – 234 points (3 first place votes)
In a lot of ways, Blackest Night is about the very artifices that make up comic book continuity, namely the false idea that comic book characters ever really die. In this storyline, a mysterious being shows up with Black Lantern Rings that can re-animate dead people.
Eventually, this approach even goes to those characters who were FORMERLY dead, as in this striking sequence in the fifth issue of the story…
Ultimately, though, this story is about the emotional spectrum, as Geoff Johns had slowly been building up a colored emotional spectrum in the pages of Green Lantern, from the rage of the Red Lanterns to the love of the Purple Lanterns. All of the colors of the emotional spectrum are going to be needed to take on Nekron and the mighty force of death.
This is a grand, sweeping epic storyline with bold and dramatic storytelling by Ivan Reis. This storyline also paid off years worth of Green Lantern stories in a way that both resolved the original stories but also set the stage for a lot more stories (most notably the follow-up maxi-series Brightest Day).
Go to the next page for #43-41…
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