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43. “Return of Barry Allen” by Mark Waid, Greg Larocque and Roy Richardson (Flash Vol. 2 #73-79) – 235 points (5 first place votes)
Wally West is the Flash, the fastest man alive. In this classic Mark Waid tale, Wally’s greatest dream turns into a nightmare as his uncle, Barry Allen, the Flash before Wally, returns to life. Only thing are not what they seem, and soon Wally is forced to collect a group of speedsters to confront Barry, who has returned…different. This storyline introduced Max Mercury to the title and really began the whole “Speed Force” idea that became such a major part of the title. In any event, while Wally gets help from the other speedsters, he soon learns that it ultimately comes down to him and his own fears of replacing his uncle to win the day. Waid planned it this way, to show that the only way for Wally to truly be accepted as a Flash by the fans is for Wally to accept HIMSELF as the Flash.
Greg LaRocque drew this arc, in his swan song on the title, after a long run as penciler.
42. “We3″ by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (We3 #1-3) – 238 points (3 first place votes)
The description of We3 I always like to give to people is “Imagine a trio of high-tech cyber-assassins. And one is a dog, one is a kitty cat and one is a bunny rabbit.”
That’s where We3 begins, only, naturally, things change when the trio (named 1, 2 and 3, respectively) are about to be de-commissioned by the government. Their trainer won’t allow it, and frees the group and then we have basically The Incredible Journey, only with a dog, a cat and a rabbit who have been turned into killing machines.
The group have varying personalities – the dog is the smartest, so he can sort of communicate with humans. The cat is next smartest, so she can only muster up stuff like “Boss stink!” The rabbit just can say when it wants to eat.
But together, they try to find their ephemeral “home.”
It’s a very touching story, and Frank Quitely’s art is simply spectacular – it’s a marvel to behold, really.
The story is only three issues long, but with the emotional punch it packs, you’d think you were following these characters for years, not three short months.
41. “If This Be My Destiny” by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee (Amazing Spider-Man #31-33) – 240 points (8 first place votes)
This storyline is particularly interesting in the fact that, right smack in the midst of it all, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn are introduced!
The story is set as Peter Parker is just beginning college – he hopes to be able to concentrate on his studies, but he soon learns that his Aunt May is deathly ill, likely due to a blood transfusion Peter gave her a number of issues ago (his blood being radioactive and all).
So Peter finds out a way of curing her, but he needs a special serum. Well, the problem is that a criminal known as the Master Planner ALSO wants the serum.
After a tussle, Spider-Man succeeds in securing the serum, but not before being trapped under a pile of heavy machinery in the Master Planner’s underwater base – a base that has cracked, sending water from the river above ever so slowly into the room where Spider-Man is trapped. And if that weren’t enough, the Master Planner’s guards are outside the room should Spider-Man somehow escape!
How Spider-Man gets out of this mess is the thing of comic book legend, and that’s just who the creative team was – Steve Ditko delivers what was basically his swan song on the title (he stuck around for a few more months, but clearly, this was the high water mark of his run – everything else was downhill from here until he left at #39, likely because he knew he was on the way out), and he goes out in style, with some of the most brilliantly designed pages of the Silver Age.
Stan Lee delivers the pathos along with Ditko’s brilliant action sequences.
Peter’s sense of responsibility never had such tangible evidence as this storyline – what he will do to save his Aunt is amazing, or maybe even spectacular!
Just like this storyline.
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