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CSBG Archive

2013 Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #3-1

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2. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin (X-Men #129-137 – 1985 points (62 first place votes)

The last few issues of the Dark Phoenix Saga, where Phoenix actually BECOMES Dark Phoenix, almost overshadow the importance of the issues that lead up to Phoenix turning evil.

To wit, those issues (which actually were a bit of a cause for celebration for the X-Men, as they were finally reunited after being split up for a year or so – real time – as Jean Grey and Professor X thought that the rest of the team had died after a battle with Magneto) introduced the following characters:

Kitty Pryde

Emma Frost


Sebastian Shaw

The Hellfire Club, in general

Think about that – Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost are two of the more memorable additions to the X-Men since Giant Size X-Men #1, and they BOTH debuted in this storyline!

Not to mention the fact that the lead-up contains the fight against the Hellfire Club where Wolverine is thought dead, only to turn up at the end of #132 vowing revenge, in a panel is one of the most iconic panels in Marvel History…

And then Jean Grey snaps and becomes the Dark Phoenix and things get all sorts of crazy.

John Byrne really does a marvelous job on the battle sequences involving Dark Phoenix as the X-Men do their best to take down their friend. They try their best in #135, but she quickly defeats them and flies off into outer space. Her traveling makes her yearn for sustenance, which she gets by entering and imploding a star, soaking in the energy of its destruction. She does not care that the destruction of the star also destroys the planet it orbits. A starship of the Shi’Ar Empire notices, though, and challenges Dark Phoenix.

She destroys the ship easily, but not before it gets off a message to the Shi’Ar Royal Throneworld, where the Empress of the Shi’Ar Empire, Lilandra (Professor X’s current lover) springs into action.

Meanwhile, in #136, Dark Phoenix returns to Earth where her teammates and her love, Cyclops, await her with a device meant to shut down telepaths. She destroys it and once again takes care of her teammates with ease, but Cyclops manages to calm her down by appealing to her still human side. At this point, Professor X attacks, and he and Phoenix have a telepathic battle, where ultimately, due to the aid of whatever vestiges of Jean Grey remain in Dark Phoenix, he manages to shut Dark Phoenix’s powers down.

The X-Men do not have a moment to rest, though, as they’re instantly teleported to a Shi’Ar battleship orbiting Earth, where the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard and Empress Lilandra demand Jean Grey be delivered over to them for punishment for her actions as Dark Phoenix. Professor X utters a Shi’Ar ritual challenge, which Lilandra is duty-bound to accept. Therefore, in #137, the X-Men will fight the mighty Shi’Ar Imperial Guard for the fate of Jean Grey.

The next day, the teams meet on the Moon for their battle. The X-Men are heavily outnumbered and outclassed by the Guard, who are made up of the most powerful heroes of the Shi’Ar Empire. Although the X-Men fight valiantly, they are slowly picked off, one by one, until only Cyclops and Jean remain free. When Cyclops is taken out as well, Jean begins to panic and the limits Professor X placed on her begin to crumble – Dark Phoenix frees herself and wants revenge. The X-Men stand ready to battle Dark Phoenix, but Jean manages to take control long enough to intentionally trip a defense mechanism laser, killing herself so that Dark Phoenix can hurt no one else ever again.

It’s a terribly poignant moment, expressed beautifully by Claremont and Byrne.

What a combination of two great stories all mixed into one saga, while killing off a major character and introducing a bunch of new ones.

1. “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen #1-12) – 2590 points (106 first place votes)

To give you an idea of how much of a game changer Watchmen was, note that the PROOFS for the issues were passed around the DC offices – that’s how much even the other DC employees were enthralled in the story that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were producing. Everyone knew that this comic was special, and now nearly thirty years later, it remains a very special story.

Story continues below

A remarkable aspect of Watchmen is the fact that, past the fairly straightforward plot about an older superhero getting murdered, with his former teammates investigating his murder only to find out that it is all tied to a mysterious conspiracy, there is just so much detail and nuance.

Of course, most importantly, it opens with a Bob Dylan song lyric…

You can examine a single scene and get something new out of the scene practically every time you read it.

And that’s even counting all of the famous scenes that are awesome just on a straightforward reading of the book, like Ozymandias’ famous “I did it 35 minutes ago” line…

or Rorschach’s fight against the police…

or Rorschach’s first meeting with his prison shrink…

Dave Gibbons does not get enough credit for his amazing artwork in this story. There’s a sequence set in the past when the heroes were still all pretty naive (Rorschach was not even using his scary voice as of yet), and Gibbons gives us, ALL IN THE BACKGROUND, a beautiful depiction of Doctor Manhattan flirting with the Silk Spectre, all while his wife is right next to him. As the panels go by, not one doesn’t show some sort of interaction in the background of the panel – all of it is important to their characterizations, but none of it is central to the main story being delivered in those panels – so Gibbons basically was giving us two stories at once. The one Moore is telling with the speech balloons at the “front” of the panel, plus the one Gibbons is telling in the “back” of the panel through body language.

Granted, as great as Gibbons is, Moore DOES work full script, so while I am praising Gibbons, I have to make sure I do give Moore credit for the details, as well.

All in all, there is a reason that this was one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century – it’s a masterpiece of comic book fiction, both in story and art – and decades later, it is STILL influencing comic book writers.

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I’m a fairly big contrarian, but not even I can disparage Watchmen. Its construction is just too tight and meticulous to be anything other than close to perfect. It’s a staggering achievement both as story and as example of the possibilities of the medium. I look forward to contrarians bitching about Watchmen and saying it’s overrated in these comments.

Interesting to speculate what would happen if Miller had produced only one masterpiece during 1986-87 instead of 3… my guess is whichever one of the holy trinity it was would be number 1 (that might have happened anyway if he hadn’t done so much to destroy brand Miller over the past decade).

Anyway, great list as usual! I would love the chance to vote in a best single issue poll though – you’d get some really diverse results.

So it seems I managed to vote for all of the top five, even if I regret the two points I gave to the Dark Phoenix Saga. I still think the Claremont/Byrne run is a high point in superhero comics, but there are better storylines I could have given my vote to for this list. Possibly I’d feel better if I’d voted for something that didn’t make the 100 like Concrete.

As always, thanks to Brian for all the work compiling this.

The best thing I ever heard about Frank Miller’s superhero work is when someone over at Savage Critics, think it was Abhay, said that Frank Miller gained great success from turning Daredevil into a psychotic version of Batman, before moving on to make Batman into a psychotic version of Batman.

This has nothing at all to do with the overall quality of Watchmen, but the Rorschach test does in no way work as depicted on that page. It’s main purpose is to see if the patient percieves movement or not in a permanent set of ink blot pictures which in turn gives indications for certain analyses, and not to test a patient’s associative skills.

Great stories all.

I almost didn’t vote for Dark Phoenix, just thinking maybe aspects wouldn’t hold up objectively, like issues of dialogue or melodrama, and I’m sure for a lot of folks they don’t. But dang, the action is just too great, the art too nice, and the story just means so much to me, I couldn’t not give it its due.

I’ve reread both Born Again and Watchmen in the last couple of years, and I loved both, but I kind of thought Born Again held up better as a gripping story. But who am I kidding, Watchmen is such a complex construction, it’s still quite beautiful and #4 is one of my best single issues of any comic (can’t wait for the “Best Single Issues” poll).

Maybe it’s just that I’m such a Daredevil fan that BA had more emotional oomph for me. Not that it’s flawless, ’cause I’ll still never get how Daredevil could drive Nuke to the Daily Bugle in the finale. “What radar the windshield lets through, the rain cuts to bits”…WHY IS THE WINDSHIELD LETTING THE RADAR THROUGH? By that thinking, DD should have plastered through more than a few closed windows by now. Oh well, still great…

Thank you Brian for the great list. I’ve loved reading Locke & Key and the Master Planner stuff (still getting to “The Final Chapter”…) as influenced by this poll. As usual this website is a boon to comic nuts everywhere.

“Interesting to speculate what would happen if Miller had produced only one masterpiece during 1986-87 instead of 3…”

Blasphemy! Elektra Assassin is also a masterpiece!!! :-)

Glad to see that Watchmen beat out Dark Phoenix.

I’m somewhat surprised to see Born Again beat DKR and Year One. I love Born Again to death, but I think the last couple chapters (with Cap and “Nuke”) were relatively weak. On the other hand, Year One and DKR are more consistent all the way through.

Not of particular importance but Watchmen is over 25 years old. I assume the, “…now almost 25 years later…” Is left over copy from a previous write-up.

Watchmen certainly is great, and I don’t argue its position as #1 on this list. But I’ll be enough of a contrarian to say that the “I did it thirty-five minutes ago” bit was a cheat. Moore was switching back and forth between the two locations, obviously relying on the comic-book convention that doing so implied that the two scenes were happening simultaneously. So he built up a false sense of drama and then blew us a raspberry. Not cool. Again, though, great story overall.

Watchmen got twice as many points as Year One. Now that’s a beloved story!

I always thought it showed that whatever the “heroes” do, they will always be a few beats behind Veidt.

“Wolds smartest man” and all that, though as everyone has already noted, not so great with passwords…

I never felt cheated by it.

People really, really love the X-Men, don’t they? I enjoy the Dark Phoenix Saga, but I don’t think it’s the second best storyline of all time.

@AlanWilder: FWIW, Wikipedia doesn’t support your statement that the Rorschach test is only used to check for perceptions of movement in fixed images. It says that the content of the subject’s responses (or “ideation”) is one aspect that is analyzed, along with many others including response time, quality of explanations, and which aspects of the blot the subject focused on.

Same top three as in 2009. Not surprising at all.

I can’t argue with any of them, but Born Again stands out since it’s the only one of the three which I read off the stands as the issues came out each month. Ben Urich’s involvement in the story remains my favorite aspect and holds up today just as it did back in 1986.

Watchmen was easily my number 1 pick. I’ve read it at least a dozen times, and feel like I pick up on something new each time. And i still get excited by the story each time I read it, despite knowing damn well what’s going to happen. It’s such a great book.

I got a trade of the Dark Phoenix Saga back in the late 80s when I was just getting into the X-Men, and despite loving it and being a fan of the X-Men for the next 10 years, it’s never made my top 10. The issue of Wolverine vs the Hellfire Club would make my top 10 single issues, and the story as a whole probably cracks my top 25. I can’t argue with it’s placement, though.

I’ve still never read Born Again. It’s at least partly because I was never much of a Daredevil fan before Waid’s run. I am a big fan of Miller’s work from that period, and the artwork is amazing, so I really need to get myself a copy of that trade one of these days.

Well, what do you know…for the first time ever something is right where I ranked it…DD Born Again. I’m with Dan Ahn…I didn’t have it was high as Dark Knight or even the first DD run…mainly because the ending wasn’t quite as strong, and Kingpin basically gets away with it all. I mean, that’s kind of the point that he’s beyond revenge, but it just wasn’t as epic. It also hurt that everything he did was bungled by editorial creative team management after his short run was over. Still…that I have shown him a man without hope is a man without fear line is maybe the greatest comic book line of all time. (Hmmm…sounds like a really interesting but hard poll to figure out and track….)

I didn’t vote for the X-Men one, because I just didn’t love it as much as my others. But it’s huge, and I don’t quibble with its placement.

And I knew Watchmen would get enough votes, so I didn’t vote it #1…though for impact and innovation it probably is. It has flaws too. The whole pirate thing and other interludes can get dry, and the giant vagina squid is still a giant vagina squid. But it’s a magnificent work.

It seems weird to have a ranking like this and not have The Killing Joke anywhere, but it didn’t qualify by the rules. Just seems like it’s traditionally squeezed in around here somewhere.

Watchmen and Born Again are both fantastic.


It’s sharing votes time right?

My votes were:
1 – The Dark Knight Returns (5)
2 – Batman: Year One (6)
3 – Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina (29)
4 – Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (19)
5 – Watchmen (1)
6 – Daredevil: Born Again (3)
7 – Bulletproof Coffin
8 – Strange Embrace
9 – Swamp Thing 51-53
10 – Elektra Assassin (83)

I know I said in the last batch that I had no idea what could be left but then I thought about it for one second after clicking “Publish” and of course it would be these three. I may have swapped the numbers around as I think Born Again reads better than Watchmen (or at least, I don’t skip Pirate amount of pages or bonus stuff in the back of each issue). I would have made Dark Phoenix Saga number one as well but that’s just me. DPS gave us Kitty Pryde after all, and we can all be thankful for that. Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost as a great villain, and then some space stuff happens after that.

I’m curious to wonder how many times has THE WATCHMEN been in the top 5 spot (or #1 spot) since the Top 100 Comic Book Storylines began.

Has it always been in the same spot or had it varied.

Maybe Mr. B.C. could do a comparison blog of the past years and see what’s the same or different?

Born Again might have been my #1 if they cut out all the Nuke/Captain America stuff. Because up until then its pretty much fantastic. The ending is note-perfect, at any rate.

I love Born Again and I’m happy to see it so high. The first couple of issues are brilliant, the picture where DD is standing with the flames in the background is probably one of my fave comic book pictures ever.

But there’s one thing about the story which I’ve always had some issues with, which relates to this bit:

>Miller, Mazzucchelli and Lewis depict the Avengers in such a way that evokes how Alan Moore, Stephen
>Bissette and John Totleben handled the Justice League in the pages of Swamp Thing – and it’s the way
>you’d almost expect superheroes to be depicted in the “real” world.

I’ve gathered that this scene is often regarded as strongly depicting how those heroes should come across to the general common man, but to me, this distantiated superhuman vision of the main heroes in the universe would be way more fitting with DC heroes than with Marvel – on both meta-level and story level. On meta-level: to many readers, the whole appeal of Marvel heroes is that they’re all flawed to some degree, and/or relatable. This Avengers’ depiction shows something else entirely, something not fitting with the way the ‘big three’ usually register with the reader. Then you might argue that this is meant to reflect the way people on the Marvel streets see those guys, but I feel that the general population of the Marvel universe is more likely to be quite critical about heroes, not being afraid of them, neither worshipping them. That is the impression I normally get from Marvel’s ‘common man’ depictions.

Additionally, I found it a bit of a shame that Captain America joins in for the last part of the story and that things are tied to his backstory, I would have preferred it if it had been kept a standalone Daredevil tale (which, I suppose, would have made it a more suitable book for new readers as well).

interesting did not expect watchman to wind up number one was thinking the results would be dark phoenix saga or either the spiderman story the boy who collected spider man.and figured born again would be in the top three.

The Crazed Spruce

November 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I haven’t read Born Again, but I did download it last week. Hope to get around to reading it soon.

I’ve only read the final issue of The Phoenix Saga, but it was just so powerful, I couldn’t help but include it in my list, at #7. I downloaded it, though, so I might wind up ranking it higher next time ’round.

I’ve long since considered Watchmen to be one of the best stories ever written, but it can seem a bit dated. Between that and a conscious decision not to nominate self-contained mini-series, it didn’t make my top 10, but I did have it at #13 on my overall list.

The Crazed Spruce

November 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm

@chad: The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man was a single issue (and not even a full issue), so it wasn’t eligible. Now, if this was a poll of single-issue stories, that’d be different….

Damn fantastic coloring on watchmen too

Damn you 16-year old goth girls, you strike once Moore!

Hard to argue with this. Such great stories. So influential. The top six (minus “All-Star Superman”) on this list basically invented modern graphic fiction.

Regarding the amount of detail in “Watchmen”: I 100% agree, of course, and one of my favorite examples is right there in the same pages as the Laurie/Manhattan flirting. Poor Nelson is just so well-meaning, and so dedicated to what he’s trying to do, that you can’t help feeling sorry for him. This is despite how completely out-of-touch he is, which is directly referenced when he lists “promiscuity” among his concerns. If you look at his visual aids, there are a few other very telling entries, most notably “anti-war” protesters (could never make out that last word, but that’s obviously the gist of it) and especially “black unrest”.

As far as “Born Again” and it’s final chapters, I can see how some people would find them weaker, but I personally have always loved Nuke as a villain. I remember reading one of my brother’s old single issues from that storyline when I was a kid, and thinking “What are those things he keeps asking for?” I deduced, in my naivete, that they were little make-up sticks for the “paint” on his face.

Years later, when I realized that Nuke was a drug-addicted psychopath with a flag tattooed on his face, who was gulping down amphetamines and sedatives, I was surprised to say the least.

Goth girls are big fans of Dr. Manhattan. Everyone knows that.
Yes, resoundingly to one and two. Not a big Miller fan, but not bothered it’s in the three-spot either.

The Crazed Spruce

November 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

And hey, in case you were wondering….

New Additions:
Love Bunglers (96), The Man of Steel (91), Half a Life (85), Scott Pilgrim (84), Elektra: Assassin (83), Squadron Supreme (82), Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (80), Saga vol. 1 (78), The Anatomy Lesson (69), Tower of Babel (65), Wolverine mini-series (63), Safeword (62), Grand Guginol (60), The Longbow Hunters (59), JLA/Avengers (58), A Court of Owls (57), The Dark Angel Saga (51), Ultron Unlimited (47), Blackest Night (44), The Black Mirror (39), Runaways vol. 1 (28)

Dropped From The List:
Who Killed Retro Girl?; Crawling From the Wreckage; Punisher: The Slavers; Welcome Back, Frank; Weapon X; March of the Wooden Soldiers; Daredevil: Hardcore/King of Hell’s Kitchen; Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters/CagedAnimals; Spider-Man: Coming Home; Starman: Sins of the Father; The Authority; No Man’s Land; Year of the Bastard/The New Scum; House of M; Planet Hulk; Reign of the Supermen; Whys and Wherefores; The Death ofCaptain America; Seven Soldiers of Victory; Mutant Massacre; Green Lantern:Rebirth

Biggest Gains (not counting debuts):
Planetary (up 49), The Elektra Saga (up 46), The Death of Iron Fist (up 43), The Great Cow Race (up 33), Batman RIP (up 27)

Biggest Drops (without dropping off of the list):
Secret Wars (down 48), Ultimates 2 (down 47), The Death of Jean DeWolff (down 42), Ultimates: Super-Human (down 40), Rock of Ages (down 39)

I started reading super hero comics in 1985 (thank you Secret Wars II) and have only read Watchmen out of these three, and I only read it about 2002.

I did read most of Born Again back when it came out because my neighbor had just started buying Daredevil with issue 222. As 10 and 11 year olds we found Born Again to be quite shocking and a bit upsetting. Also, like TJCoolguy, there was some thought that Nuke was touching up his make up…

Someday I will buy the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus so I can read all those great Claremont stories.

Not of particular importance but Watchmen is over 25 years old. I assume the, “…now almost 25 years later…” Is left over copy from a previous write-up.

Thanks, I changed another bit but missed that one.

Wow, no love for Scalped? Not even top 100 worthy? Wtf

Mazzucchelli has a very Bernard Kriegstein look going on in Born Again that I never quite put my finger on before–stark but gorgeous, incredible storytelling chops!

The earlier Mazz issues of Daredevil are very well done, but are pretty pedestrian superhero stories. Brian is right about Miller’s script bringing out new highs in Mazz’s work. I don’t think Miller is credited wih layouts at all, but is anybody familiar with him offering any insights or goals about the look of the book with Mazzucchelli? Given Miller’s visual mind and previous work with Klaus Jansen that really emphasized the collaborative nature of comics storytelling, I would be surprised if there weren’t some fairly in-depth discussions before and during the work. Anybody heard about the process behind Born Again?

I have always been struck by how flawless the first chapters of both Born Again and DKR are. The rest of the stories are anything but disappointing, but there’s something about the way they start that impresses me in a manner the rest of the books don’t. They both have satisfying story structures within the larger narratives, while really masterfully setting up what’s to come.

I can’t believe that “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” didn’t make the Top 100.

Thanks Brian! Great list and write-ups!

For 2017, I would like you to consider the possibility of allowing single-issue stories and graphic novels. It would be nice to see how:
Amazing Fantasy #15
Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
Giant-Size X-Men #1
Death of Captain Marvel
Astro City: Nearness of You
Sandman: Midsummer Night’s Dream
Superman Peace on Earth
Fun Home

do against the stories here.

Wow, no love for Scalped? Not even top 100 worthy? Wtf

That’s the point of the Top 100 Comic Book Runs list, to commerorate those comic book runs where no one could precisely pin down one story in particular that they wanted to spotlight. That’s pretty clearly what happened to Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil run, Ellis and Robertson’s Tramsmetropolitan run and Ennis’ Punisher run.

Ah, Born Again. Personally, I think that’s the greatest Marvel story ever told, but it probably suffers in comparison to the other ’86 – ’87 works because it’s not fully self-contained. The other two up here are also masterpieces, though.

For the record, in case one person cares, my votes:
1. Master Planner Saga by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Amazing Spider-Man #31-33)
2. Grasscutter by Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo (1996) #13-22)
3. Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
4. The Final Threat by Jim Starlin and Joe Rubinstein (Avengers annual 7, Marvel 2-in-1 annual 2)
5. Earth Stories by Scott McCloud (Zot! #28-36)
6. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
7. Uncle Sam by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross
8. Metamorphosis Odyssey by Jim Starlin (from Epic Illustrated #1-9)
9. Mordo/Dormammu Saga by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, et al. (from Strange Tales #130-146)
10. Skreemer by Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins, and Steve Dillon

@ T.,

The Abhay line is good, but I don’t think it applies to Born Again. Matt Murdock is pushed over the edge, but he comes back. To me, that’s the main theme of the story. Matt, Ben Urich, and Karen lose themselves but find their way again by embracing a higher cause.

@ Dan Felty,

Good call on the Kreigstein influence in Mazzuchelli’s art. Some of the faces, especially, remind me of “Master Race.”

I love the hell out of Born Again. It may be the best super-hero story ever made that eschews meta-fiction entirely. The art’s beautiful. Miller let the characters grow. The scene in which Matt forgives Karen is moving. Yeah, the Nuke scenes feel tacked on but at least they are well-executed. The dialogue and captions have a nice rhythm to them. I’ve reread Born Again more than any other comic.

Most of my choices made it, except for Incredible Hulk 372-377, Thor 337-342, and the Suicide Squad issues in which Deadshot has to stop Rick Flagg from killing a senator.

Thanks for putting the countdown together, Brian!

Absolutely no surprises here whatsoever.

SUGGESTION: How about a Favorite ISSUES of All Time poll for next year? It’d be really cool if the poll allowed for single issues that were part of larger story arcs, and not just “done in one” stories.

Also, what does everyone think were the biggest omissions to the list this time out? Captain Marvel and the Monster Society of Evil (Golden Age version) REALLY deserved inclusion.

In the one issue of Born Again that I randomly owned as a kid, I though Nuke was putting on make-up or facepaint, too. How strange. Was there something in the art that made it look like he was rubbing it on his face? Or were we all just naive in the same fashion?

I still think Watchmen is overrated. It’s a pretty good story, but not amazingly great (although parts of it are). I always got the impression that while Veidt’s plan is certainly horrible and extreme, that we were meant to accept the necessity of some sort of drastic action, and that his prediction of certain nuclear destruction within a few years is to be accepted uncritically. But accurately predicting such chaotic effects from social and political trends just doesn’t work. It’s acceptable if you look at it as part of his megalomania– after all, as long as he believes in his own predictive abilities, then he’d certainly act on them– but I really get the impression Moore wanted the predictions accepted as fact, and the intended moral ambiguity of the story depends on this.
And besides, the squid plan is just kind of silly.

It’s still a pretty good story, especially the parts with NIght Owl and Silk Spectre, but it’s not the great masterpiece is always considered to be.

I also agree with so many others that the ending of Born Again, with Nuke, is very weak and clashes with the rest of the story. But the first part is so good that it still deserves ranking highly on the list.

Nuke’ s drugs do look a little like crayons. I thought it was face paint for a second when I first read Born Again, even though I was old enough to realise what they really were.

If there’s a Best Single Issue Poll, I hope it allows single issues that are in the middle of “storylines”, ’cause that’s where all my favourite single issues are, they just happen to work great as stand-alone stories. Watchmen #4 is a chapter in a story, but it tells a beautiful done-in-one origin story (and is entirely from Dr. Manhattan’s omniscient time-aware perspective, unlike the rest of the series).

Similarly, Daredevil #181 is the climax of a multi-issue storyline, but is absolutely my favourite done-in-one story, told entirely from Bullseye’s perspective, with a definite beginning, middle, and end.

Not that Brian needs to rush into the next poll. Feel free to rest for a week or two…

I think Born Again reads better than Watchmen (or at least, I don’t skip Pirate amount of pages or bonus stuff in the back of each issue).

There have been times when I went through Watchmen and read only the Pirate pages. And the bonus stuff is great! Do the trades have the bonus material? I’ve always just read my handy dandy Watchmen #1 to #12 and have never bought the trade.

As far as Watchmen flaws go, what struck me most when I reread it years after it came out was how what was once my favourite issue as a teenager (issue #6) became one of the hardest to believe when I revisited it. It now just seems too silly that this highly respected, specialized psychiatrist never seems to consider that Rorschach might be telling him what he wants to hear. Or that someone with supposedly that much experience would be so floored by the reveal of the dogs, etc. As horrible as it is (certainly to the average reader), you’d think this guy would have heard it all. Instead, the guy gets his world turned upside down in four days. It doesn’t really feel earned.

Still worth reading for Rorschach’s origin, and the cafeteria scene, of course.

All three of these are great stories, although none of them made my list. Watchmen would have, but I left it off simply because it was sure to get the #1 spot anyway, and leaving it off opened up a much-need slot on my list. My list was:
1. Grand Guignol (Starman #61-75)
2. Batman: Year One
3. All-Star Superman
4. Sandman: Brief Lives
5. DC: The New Frontier
6. The Golden Age
7. the original Ra’s al Ghul saga
8. Batman: Blades (Legends of the Dark Knight #32-34)
9. Batman: Strange Apparitions
10. Final Crisis

I’m disappointed, but not too surprised, that The Golden Age, Blades, and Strange Apparitions didn’t make it. It’s pretty funny that I strictly limited myself to only two Grant Morrison stories to avoid my top ten being dominated by Morrison stuff, but I wound up with three James Robinson stories without even realizing it.

The Crazed Spruce

November 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm

@Hoosier: The hardcover collection I got through the book club in the 90’s did, at least.

Drunken Fist, was Strange Apparitions said to be eligible? I always thought of it as more of a run of stories with connected subplots.

If it was eligible then it should have placed, or at least replaced another Batman story…

I’ve read all of these. As matter of fact, I read all of these when they were new, month by month, issue by issue, picking them up at the grocery store or the comic book shop.

Watchmen is always my Number One pick. When it was first coming out, I would read each issue, then start at Number One and read up to the present. After I bought each issue, I would usually go to my friend’s house and there were sometimes two or three more guys hanging out and everybody would wait their turn to read Watchmen. (Dark Knight Returns overlapped with Watchmen, so that got passed around as well. I never bought DKR because I just read it at my friend’s house. We would sit around and read Watchmen and watch movies like Outland and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And sometimes All My Children.)

I have a favorite single issue from Watchmen, but it’s not #4. It’s #2. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read #2. (One of the things I love about the movie is how much of #2 they use.) I’ve read Watchmen over and over through the years but the only issue I pull out to read by itself is #2.

Does it hold up? Heck, yeah!

The Dark Phoenix Saga is awesome as well, but for me, it just doesn’t hold up quite as well as Watchmen. I sure loved it when it was new! John Byrne may be a crappy writer who turned out to be the biggest egotistical ass in all of comics, but he rocked when he was drawing The X-Men! I think I prefer that storyline from #111 to #120 or #125 or however long it went on, but not by much. The X-Men was never better than it was from #94 to #143.

I wasn’t that big a fan of “Born Again.” I didn’t read Daredevil very long after “Born Again” (I’d been reading DD since #126) and I was kind of getting less interested in comics as a whole. I remember Nuke and I remember Kingpin wanting to destroy Daredevil and I remember Karen Page being treated like dirt. It was just a bit much. At the time, I thought Miller was going overboard.

When I started reading CSBG a few years ago, I saw the previous Top 100 Storylines list and I was very surprised to see “Born Again” so highly rated. I barely remembered it! (My very favorite DD storyline is #169 to #172. It made the Top Ten list I put together last night.) So I know people like it and I’ve been meaning to see if I still have it and give it another try. (But, oh, how I hate the way Miller sometimes treats his female characters! We’ve already mentioned Catwoman. And the way he treated Heather Glenn and then Karen Page! I think I see a trend. Dave Sim can’t even begin to touch Miller for casual misogyny.)

But enough of that! We can discuss misogyny in comics another time. I need to tweak my Top Ten a bit. (I have a Top Thirteen and I’m having a hard time tossing out three of these stories.) I’ll post it in a few minutes.

I’ve never been especially fond of “Born Again.” As I (and others) have written before, Miller literally razes DD’s status quo to the ground, and then immediately skips town, leaving it up to his successor to figure out how to continue to make the character workable in an ongoing monthly series. And, to her immense credit, Ann Nocenti did a superb job at that, penning a really interesting, often underrated run. I wish her contributions to Daredevil’s mythos weren’t so often overshadowed by Miller’s.

As far as the Claremont/Byrne/Austin era of Uncanny X-Men goes, my favorite is “Days of Future Past,” which I feel is more tightly plotted & effective. But “Dark Phoenix Saga” is a close second, and I agree they did great work on it. Someone previously commented that Claremont is probably everybody’s favorite writer when they are 13 years old. Well, I didn’t actually develop a great fondness for Claremont until my late teens and early 20s, but since then, yes, he has become one of my favorite writers, and I’m 37. There you go.

Last of all, Watchmen is also incredible, with superb work by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. As a stand-alone deconstruction of the superhero genre, it is absolutely brilliant. The problem was that so many other writers, artists, and editors looked at how successful it was and decided to attempt to replicate it within ongoing titles set firmly within the DC and Marvel universes. But that is obviously not Moore & Gibbons’ fault. Regrettable, a lot of groundbreaking successes inadvertently breed pale imitations.

I guess I missed the part where single issue stories weren’t allowed. Wasted a spot on “Terror in a Tiny Town.”

My personal 10:

1. Dark Phoenix Saga
2. Watchmen
3. Dark Knight Returns
4. Days of Future Past
5. Wolverine LS
6. Batman Year One
7. Death of Gwen Stacy
8. Galactus Trilogy
9. Dr. Strange Eternity Saga
10. X-Men Proteus Saga

Well, I was 8/10! I’m a bit bummed the last two on my list didn’t make the cut, but it was a good top 100 overall.

I don’t know if it was eligible, but i cant leave this countdown without sharing what would have been my #1 if i had voted: Lone Wolf and Cub. It may not be the best, but is certainly the GREATEST comic of all-time. With the greatest ending to a series.

Its strange, the major bookstores have never carried it. They also don’t carry the new, larger omnibus editions that are now coming out. All the LCS in my area, that do carry manga, and lots of small publishers, have never kept it in stock

In terms of human drama and intense life or death situations, it leaves 99.9% of comics not just behind, but far, far, behind.

I always got the impression that while Veidt’s plan is certainly horrible and extreme, that we were meant to accept the necessity of some sort of drastic action, and that his prediction of certain nuclear destruction within a few years is to be accepted uncritically.

I never, ever took the end of Watchmen to imply that. Yes, Veight seems absolutely dead certain that he was correct, that his plan was the only way to save the world. But then, in the final pages of chapter 12, his resolve finally starts to waver, and he asks “I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.” And of course Doctor Manhattan responds “‘In the end’? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”

The point is that, yes, maybe Veidt did save the world and prevent war, at least for today, maybe for tomorrow, maybe for a few years. But for how long? Yes, in the short term, the fear of alien invasion seems like it is going to unite the people of Earth. But what happens in two or three decades, when no more bug-eyed monsters show up to cause mass destruction? Sooner or later, eventually, without the perceived threat of some outside enemy to unify them, the various factions of humanity are going to splinter apart and once again begin fighting. So unless Adrian plans to live forever and generate a brand new hoaxed invasion every couple of decades, the peace he created cannot last.

The final page of the story, with the assistant at the New Frontiersman reaching into the pile of rejected material, within which lays Rorschach’s journal, demonstrates just how tenuous the “peace” Veidt achieved really is. All it takes is just one person reading Rorschach’s writings & connecting the dots, and everything Veidt thinks he’s accomplished falls completely apart.

Hoosier x, i see that complaint about Miller’s female characters quite often, and i’ll say what i always say. He writes crime stories. And in these stories, there are drugs, prostitution and nasty men. He has written stories where not everyone is a hooker, i swear!

Did anyone else’s #1, not even make the list?

Adding to the “in case anyone gives a crap” pile, here’s my ballot:

2.Elektra: Assassin
4.X-Men – The Days of Future Past
5.Sandman – The Season of Mists
6.Gotham Central – Dead Robin
7.The Dark Knight Returns
8.Legion of Super Heroes – Rebirth/5 Years Later (vol 4, #’s 1-12)
9.MiracleMan – Olympus (book III)
10.X-Men – The Dark Phoenix Saga

I wasn’t expecting “Dead Robin” to make the list, but it’s still my favorite story of possibly my favorite comic of the ’00s, a perfect combination of superheroes and police procedurals.

As others have mentioned, it’s a damned crime that “Unity” didn’t make the top 100 (it was #11 on my short list; in retrospect I should have bumped Giffen’s “Legion” reboot for it.) “Crisis” and “Age of Apocalypse” get all the attention whenever “event” comics are discussed, and they deserve their accolades, but the Valiant universe was literally built around “Unity.” Say what you will about Jim Shooter, he absolutely nailed the first two years of Valiant’s direction, and “Unity” was the capper. If we’re all still here in 2017, I’d like to suggest that we try to get it on the next list. It’s not only a great story, it’s a part of comics history that should be remembered. Mr Cronin, I’m not sure how secret you like to keep your balloting/results, but can you tell us if “Unity” was anywhere near the top 100?

With a few exceptions (“Long Halloween?” “Civil War?” Really??) I had few complaints about the top half of the list. Though it’s starting to feel like the once-a-decade Sight & Sound poll of the best films of all time: the top ten has the vibe of an inevitability (of COURSE “Watchmen” and “Dark Phoenix”, of COURSE “Citizen Kane” and “Vertigo”, etc), and only one of the top twenty is from this (admittedly young) century. Despite the fact that it would undoubtedly contain way more Mark Millar than I’m comfortable with, I’d love to see a similar poll for the best storylines of the 21st century.

Predictable countdown finale I suppose.

Still have never been able to sit down and read thru Watchmen, it is so tedious, too much boring pointless
extra crap like the pirate stuff. It could have easily been cut down to 8 issues. Loved the movie tho!
Yeah I’m kind of trolling, but that’s what I actually think.

Dark Phoenix Saga is one of my least favorite Claremont/Byrne stories. I much prefer Proteus, World Tour, Days Of Future Past… I like the Hellfire Club half, but once Jean goes Dark and the Shi’ar come in, it turns meh.

Born Again is my #1. I love everything about it.
I’m always surprised but happy to see it rank above Dark Knight Returns.

Here’s my list, the last 3 or 4 votes were a bit random and might have been different on another night but I stand by it.

1. Daredevil: Born Again
2. Marshal Law: Fear And Loathing
3. Batman: Year One
4. Kingdom Come
5. Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction
6. Punk Rock Jesus
7. Avengers: Ultron Unlimited
8. Spider-Man: Original Hobgoblin saga
9. Uncanny X-Men: Proteus saga
10. Wolverine: Enemy Of The State

. He writes crime stories. And in these stories, there are drugs, prostitution and nasty men. He has written stories where not everyone is a hooker, i swear!

It’s not something I’ve really noticed before but it just struck me as we’ve been discussing Miller’s major works. He took a number of major characters created by other writers and artists and so many of the female characters involved became prostitutes or useless hags or porn stars or heroin addicts or just a hot mess in general because that was all he could think of to do with them.

He got better. Notice I didn’t say anything about SIn City or Martha Washington. But I see some lazy writing in the treatment of women in some of these other works.

I’ve read some crime stories in my life and not every female character is a prostitute or a porn star or a heroin addict or a hot mess.

I’m actually surprised to see that multiple other people got the “putting on make-up” thing from Nuke when they read it, too. And Jazzbo, since you asked if there was something specifically about the art that implied it: I know that, at least in the issues I remember (they’re in a box somewhere), they never showed him actually puting one in his mouth. He held them near his mouth, like he was about to pop them, but stopped to talk or whatever. To young eyes (or, as ASD mentioned, just eyes seeing it for the first time), it may have looked like he was just about to touch up his “make-up”.

I’ll have to dig those out and see if they ever actually showed him putting one into his mouth or not.

Here’s the Top Ten I came up with last night. The perceptive among you may notice that it’s actually a Top Thirteen. I just didn’t have it in me to cut three of them.

1. Watchmen

2. “The Search for the Hulk,” Avengers #2, #3, #4, Fantastic Four #25, #26 – I don’t know that this actually has an official name but this is what I call it. It’s the very best of 1960s Marvel.

3. Maus

4. “The End of Spider-Man?” The Amazing Spider-Man #17, #18, #19 – I think this was listed in the 50 Greatest Spider-Man stories, but I added #17 because it leads right into #18, it has the Green Goblin and it has the Human Torch.

5. “The Laughing Fish,” Detective Comics #475, #476 – Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Batman, The Joker, the best of the 1970s.

6. A Doll’s House

7. “Eternity,” Strange Tales #130 to #146 – (Are these the right issue numbers?)

8. Top Ten

9. “The Powerstone,” Action Comics #47, Superman #17 – I don’t know if this has a special name, but I like to call it “The Powerstone.” Golden Age goodness! Reprinted in Superman #252 in the 1970s.

10. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1

11. From Hell

12. Church and State

13. Knightfall

Watchmen #1? Sorry, but I don’t agree with all those who voted it as the best.

Oh, shoot!

I had one more storyline I had to get on there.

14. Daredevil #169 to #172 – It should probably be more up around #6 or #7.

Nice finish. WATCHMEN was always an epic. It is so well organized and presented…impressive. X-MEN…I used to be a big fan but they have never been as well done as the Claremont/Byrne days…another good choice for top 3. DAREDEVIL was a good arc too. I always liked it. Not my top 3 but can’t argue against it too strongly.

I’m glad to see other people voted for Ditko’s Dr. Strange. It’s something that I feel like is rather beloved but for some reason keeps not making this list.

I didn’t vote, but I definitely would have voted for the Dr. Strange Eternity Saga. also, maybe the Lee/Kirby Thor “To Wake the Mangog!” or whatever it’s called. Maybe the New Mutants “Demon Bear” by Claremont and Sienkiewicz. Goodwin and Simonson’s “Manhunter.” Too many things to narrow them down.

“Born Again” is great. The ending does wander a bit from the themes of the early issues, and so I tend to think of it as a very short run rather than a single storyline, like “Strange Apparitions.” Either way.

I wonder how high Watchmen would have ranked if everyone that honestly considered it a Top 10 story had voted for it? As a few people have already mentioned, they didn’t vote for Watchmen because they knew it would be #1 and they wanted to give their points to something less obvious. I’m sure a lot more people did that than the few that have said so in the comments. I don’t blame people for doing this, or think they shouldn’t have or anything, I’m just curious how much higher Watchmen would have been if all those people had kept it on their list.

I agree with Ben Herman in disagreeing with Mary Warner. I never read it as we’re supposed to accept that what Veidt did was right or the only choice. I’ve always interpreted it as pretty much the opposite, as Ben mentioned, that just because his plan works for the moment it almost surely won’t work indefinitely. And that it wasn’t necessarily the right plan to begin with, but Veidt is so full of himself that of course he thinks it’s the only solution because it’s the one he came up with.

TJCoolguy – I wonder if the reason we never see Nuke actually put one of the pills in his mouth had anything to do with the comic code? Maybe being that overt about his drug use wouldn’t have gotten by? Is that enough of a question to be a Legends Revealed at some point?

Oh, and since people are listing their Top 10s, I might as well throw mine out there. Numbers 6-10 were different from last time, and might very well be different if I were to make the list today. And only one of my picks beyond my Top 5 made the list.

1. Watchmen
3.Kingdom Come
4.Avengers – Under Siege
5. Avengers – Ultron Unlimited
6. Thor – Ballad of Beta Ray Bill
7. Grendel: War Child
8. Cosmic Odyssey
9. JLA: Year One
10:Preacher: Til the End of the World (called something different I think when it made the list)

I actually thought the same thing about not showing the pill-popping, Jazz. Now I REALLY need to dig those issues out to make sure, but an image search only turned up shots of him holding the pills like mentioned earlier:



That second one is actually the image I remember seeing as a kid. Honestly, looking at it now, I can totally see why 8-year-old me thought it was a stick of makeup. It even looks a little flattened on the side that would touch the face.

Is there an interview with Miller or a behind-the-scenes featurette in one of the collections or something? I’m actually really curious now about why you never see him with one in his mouth. An editorial mandate seems like the most likely thing.

In regards to people leaving Watchmen off their list (as I did) because it was a lock, it’s probably balanced out by the people who voted it number 1 because they felt obligated to put the consensus Greatest Comic in the top spot.

I was 2/10 in the end :(

My two that placed were Year One and Olympus

My favourite Alan Moore story, Ballad of Halo Jones didn’t make the list at all. I find that one to just be more human, and relatable than his other stories, regardless of the sci-fi setting.

Voted for Strange Apparitions, didn’t place.

Didn’t vote for Watchmen as I felt it was a sure bet.

Most of the rest of my top 10 was 2000AD stories like Judge Dredd and Nikolai Dante.


So how about best single issues next year?

And if you decide to give it a go please don’t limit list only by done-in-one stories.

Surprised by the following omissions:

– The Invisibles. At least one storyline from this should have made it yes? It’s one of the greatest comics series ever.

– Seven Soldiers of Victory. Although you would have to consider the “run” as the entirety of it, every issue, for its inclusion to make sense. But again, one of the greatest comics series ever created, and a better read than Final Crisis.

– Dark Knight, Dark City. Vastly superior compared to Hush, Court of Owls, and Last Halloween

I thought Nuke was painting his face as well. And I was 17.


There’s probably 20 odd Batman trades alone that are vastly superior to Hush!

Ben Herman: “I’ve never been especially fond of “Born Again.” As I (and others) have written before, Miller literally razes DD’s status quo to the ground, and then immediately skips town, leaving it up to his successor to figure out how to continue to make the character workable in an ongoing monthly series.”

Yeah, I’ve seen this argument before and I don’t get it. Miller’s new status quo was super easy to get out of for anyone who wanted – just have Matt cleared on all charges and have Foggy give him his old job back. In fact, that was what Nocenti did in her last issue on the title, Why she waited so long to do it? I get the impression she simply liked Daredevil being a more downtrodden character (first as a legal advisor to poor people, then as a drifter).

So I don’t understand why a setup that the incoming writer embraced, and wouldn’t have been a problem to overturn if she hadn’t, could be seen as a strike AGAINST Born Again.

Can’t remember exactly what I voted for but I remember voting for both Dark Phoenix and Born Again. Good to see them here.

I’m a little disappointed that neither the Earth stories from Zot! or Spider-Island made the list. The former is the most emotionally moving comic I’ve ever read, whilst the latter is probably one of (if not the) best Spider-Man story of the past decade. Anyone else vote for these?

My number 1 didn’t make the top 100, either. It was Whedon/Cassaday’s “Torn,” which is what got me back into comics. I had kinda been following the first two arcs of Astonishing, but “Torn” is what got back in all the way.

Well, no huge surprise in the top three. I voted for Born Again and Dark Phoenix, and I’d recommend them both to anybody.

I prefer Born Again to any of Miller’s other stuff (although I do actually like it when Miller draws his own stuff, Mazuchelli did such a great job here).

I would argue that the Dark Phoenix saga, along with the rest of the Claremont/Byrne run, has influenced comics at least as much as Watchmen has. As with Watchmen, there have been both negative and positive efffects of that influence. And heck, it’s just plain fun and entertaining. Some of the melodrama can seem a bit much these days, but I think it just manages to avoid being too heavy-handed. And, as others have said, Byrne knew how to draw action scenes in comics.

I really need to re-read Watchmen, and probably will do so within the next month. It didn’t impress me way the other two (or, for example, From Hell) did.

My list, which I’m sure you’ve all been eagerly waiting to see:
1. Deus Ex Machina (Animal Man, Morrison and Truog) – climbed from 32 to 29
2. We3 (Morrison and Quitely) – climbed from 55 to 42
3. From Hell (Moore and Campbell) – Climbed from 58 to 32
4. All Star Superman (Morrison and Quitely) – Climbed from 6 to 4
5. The Slavers (Punisher Max, Ennis and Fernandez) – Did not place, 93 last time
6. Galactus Trilogy (Fantastic Four, Lee and Kirby) – Climbed from 19 to 17
7. The Plague Widow (Northlanders, Wood and Fernandez) – Did not place
8. Maus (Spiegelman) – Climbed from 10 to 9
9. Born Again (Daredevil, Miller and Mazzucchelli) – Stable at 3
10. Dark Phoenix Saga (Uncanny X-Men, Claremont and Byrne) – Stable at 2

I’m hoping the prestige of WE3, as well as the others on my list that climbed, continues to grow. Didn’t expect The Plague Widow to place, so not too disappointed. I am disappointed that The Slavers didn’t place though. I hope Ennis’s Punisher Max does well in the next runs list at least. It got me back into comics after a long hiatus.

My biggest problems with Miller’s writing:

1. Anyone possessing traditionally feminine traits is deemed weak, cowardly, and/or evil. Sure, he’s written plenty of strong female characters, but they are all physically aggressive, stoic, and a bit mean- traditionally masculine traits. Not to mention the fact that half of them are prostitutes.

2. His writing of non- white characters is often problematic. Except for Martha Washington (which I haven’t read), he’s done a terrible job writing black characters. Cowardly Turk and dumb Luke Cage in Daredevil stand out. The Persians in 300 are either effeminate (Xerxes) or monstrous. I don’t remember any black or Latino lead characters in Sin City (maybe one of them was of mixed ancestry?). All Asians in Miller comics are nimjas. Holy Terror is inexcusable. I don’t like calling anyone racist, but Miller’s writing shows an alarming amount of racism.

Born Again, Elektra Assassin, Year One, DKR, and parts of Miller’s Daredevil run rank among my favorite comics. Too bad I won’t be buying another Miller comic any time soon.

The Crazed Spruce

November 28, 2013 at 6:14 am

And, apropos of nothing…

My Top 25:
1: The Great Darkness Saga
2: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
3: Fables: Animal Farm (I’ve only read the first few story arcs and one of the spinoff minis, and this was by far the best of what I read.)
4: The Judas Contract
5: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill (I tried to stick to one story per creator run, and this was my pick from Simonson’s Thor)
6: Batman: Year One
7: The Dark Phoenix Saga
8: Runaways volume 1
9: The Order of the Stick: Don’t Split the Party (I made a point of including a webcomic story when Brian said theywere eligible, and this was one of the best arcs from my favourite webcomic. I nearly went with “War and XPs”, but I like a lot of the character work from this arc.)
10: The Walking Dead: The Best Defense/This Sorrowful Life (I’d just read the first 5 years worth of TWD trades just before putting my ballot together, and I wanted to include a few non-superhero comics. I included both arcs because the first ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, and it didn’t feel right splitting the two.)

And The Rest:
11: The Man of Steel
12: Justice League Europe vs Starro (from Justice League Europe 25-28)
13: Watchmen
14. Justice League International vs Despero
15: The Dark Knight Returns
16: Ultron Unlimited
17: Hawkeye: The Tape (I’d have included the entire first trade from the current Hawkeye series, but it was mostly made up of one-and-done single-issue stories, except for this two-parter.)
18: Legion of Super-Heroes vs Legion of Super-Villains (from the first 4 issues of the first direct-sales series)
19: Crisis on Infinite Earths
20: Astonishing X-Men: Torn (I nearly went with Gifted, but I prefer this arc a little bit better.)
21: Shadowland (Again, I’d just finished reading it just before putting my ballot together, so it was fresh on my mind.)
22: E is for Extinction
23: JLA: New World Order
24: Annihilation
25: Secret Wars

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Jazzbo and Lemonhead, good picks with Cosmic Odyssey and Dark Knight, Dark City. I think both could have placed if they were hyped a little more (and some other stories were hyped less…).

As for Nuke and his edible make up, I think the fact that his pills were the same colors as his tattoo and that he referred to them as colors helped with our confusion. Which leads to the question, who would create a male tough guy who touched up his make up during battle? I think Kirby, Mark Miller, Morrison… who else?

I finally read Born Again during this countdown. It’s a solid story. Miller does a great job switching the POV and has a great feel for the pacing and the characters. But the ending is beyond weak. I mean, I get that it needed to be open ended, because it’s a serial, but so is most of the rest of the books on this countdown and most of them still managed to tell a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It seems so incomplete to have a story that puts two characters at major odds and then never have a final confrontation between them.

Dark Knight, Dark City is great – no idea why it’s become a forgotten classic and never been reprinted. It has a name writer, fantastic Mignola covers and was even referenced in a recent Morrison storyline. They could bundle it with the excellent Milligan/Aparo run of Detective as they’re all fairly supernatural.

Jazzbo, with regards to Watchmen, I think Watchmen is not alone in this. Coming up with a list of 10 is hard and you end up coming with all sorts of crazy criterion to make the calls. Watchmen probably wouldn’t have made my 10 anyway, but I had Born Again on my shortlist, and knowing it didn’t need the love affected my decision.

But I made lots of decisions. I threw off Confession, as I already had Marvels and wanted my list to be as varied as possible. But then I kept two Lee/Ditko stories, as well a Dreadstar and a Thanos story, so I wasn’t entirely consistent about that.

No matter what the vote turns out, Brian always finds something insightful and special to say about each comic ranked. Who knows if he agrees or disagrees? He’s like the Watcher, but more neutral and presumably with a smaller head.

I’m sorry, but while I can respect it’s place in the history of the medium, I can only say this:


The Dark Phoenix Saga is incredibly overrated. Second best comic book storyline of all time? C’mon, it really shouldn’t even be in the top ten.

@TJCoolguy — The top six (minus “All-Star Superman”) on this list basically invented modern graphic fiction.

This is an interesting point. The Dark Phoenix Saga is basically the reason why we have TPBs in the first place, which in and of itself makes it a HUGE influence on the development and current state of the medium, without even getting into the story itself.

Watchmen and TDKR are obviously the two most influential post-Silver Age comics.

Year One and Born Again probably don’t have quite that level of influence, but they do seem to be the standard for superhero stories in the day and age (along with Watchmen of course; TDKR doesn’t seem to get quite that treatment anymore even if it was at one point widely considered THE greatest comic of all time).

@Acer — It is overrated, I’ll give you that. Though I still maintain that the problem with it is the rather weak story (which the movie proved was weak AFAIC). But I think it’s fair to say that it still holds up as a “deconstruction” of the medium, even if the story itself isn’t strong enough to stand up on its own (which is why it didn’t work when they tried to adapt it to another medium sans deconstructive elements).

And Brian, yay or nay on the Favorite Issues of All Time idea for next year that several people have thrown around already? I agree with the one comment that it should allow for issues that are part of a larger story and not just “done in ones”.

What I voted for that didn’t make the cut:
1.Dr Strange: Mordo/Dormammu/Eternity Saga (it’s really a crime this never makes the list; it’s one of the most innovative and imaginative stories in comic history)
2.Chris Ware’s Rusty Brown (although it’s not yet finished, it far surpasses anything he’s done so far; The Seeing 3.Eye Dogs of Mars was especially great).
4.Barefoot Gen (about Hiroshima, a sort of precursor to Maus)
5.Persepolis (we need more comics about Iranian girls!)
6. Heartbreak Soup (a very early and incredibly charming Palomar story by Gilbert Hernandez. It’s much better written than almost anything else on the “official” list)

I don’t see much of a point voting for favorite issues in a run. It would just be this list all over again with an occasional Killing Joke tossed in. Favorite done in ones makes more sense. I’d also like to see a favorite non-superhero list.

My list:

1. Batman: Dark Knight Returns
2. Daredevil: Born Again
3. Watchmen
4. Swamp Thing: American Gothic
5. Daredevil: Elektra Saga
6. X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga
7. Sandman: A Season of Mists
8. Miracleman: Olympus
9. Walking Dead: Made to Suffer
10. V for Vendetta

The one that didn’t make it (and kind of sticks out) is the Walking Dead storyline, but I just felt I had to represent the series, as it’s the most recent comic book to give me a child-like page-turning what-happens-next emotional investment. I agree with people who think the series has hit a bit of a cyclical pattern, but at the time “Made to Suffer” came out, it represented the book at its heart-breaking, jaw-dropping best.

I didn’t vote for this because most of my favorite stories are single issue stories, so it was hard to come up with a top 10 and even harder to rank it in order.

And not that anyone cares, but here’s a list of what I might have voted for in no particular order:

Captain Marvel in The Monster Society of Evil (Golden Age version)
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
The Black Knight Saga (from Uncle Scrooge [I’ve always considered this one single meta story, so I’ll count it as such])
The Battle of Springfield (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero)
Cobra Civil War (THE ORIGINAL ONE ONLY [there have been several] from Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real America Hero)
Born Again
The Dark Knight Returns
Fantastic Four #234-235 (Wherein they [eventually] meet Ego the Living Planet [This wasn’t even billed as a single story, but I think it counts since the second issue continues the events of the first])
The Elektra Saga
Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut

RUNNER-UPS (In No Particular Order):

Snake Eyes is John McClane and He Fucking Kills Everybody (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #103-106)
Return of Cobra Commander (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #98-100)
The Snake Eyes/Kwinn/Dr. Venom/Scar-Face Saga (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #12-19)
The War in Benzheen (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #108-115)
The Gulag Saga (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #61-66, G.I. Joe: Special Missions #6)
The Origin of Snake-Eyes (Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #26-27)
The Battle of the Baxter Building (Fantastic Four #39-40)
The Galactus Trilogy (I just can’t call this “The Coming of Galactus”, that’s always seemed weird to me)
The Power and the Peril! (Fantastic Four #57-60)
This Land is Mine! (Fantastic Four #246-247)
The Trial of Reed Richards (aka The Trial of Galactus [can’t remember the exact issue numbers])
Spider-Man: Blue
Hulk: Gray
Planet Hulk
Superman For All Seasons
All Star Superman
DC Comics Presents #27-29 (Jim Starlin authored three parter with Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, The Spectre, and of course Superman)
The Man of Steel
World of Metropolis
Up, Up, and Away! (Geoff Johns/Kurt Busiek Superman/Action Comics arc)
The Return of Barry Allen
Blackest Night
The Sinestro Corps War
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Rage of the Red Lanterns
Secret Origin (Green Lantern arc)
Agent Orange (Green Lantern arc)
Mystery of the Star Sapphire (Green Lantern arc)
EVERY Hitman arc (can’t even pick one over the others, but they’d all make the runner-ups for sure)

Not in front of my computer, but I know the 3 votes of mine that didn’t make it.

Seven Soldiers of Victory
Alpha & Omega (Solar Man of the Atom)

And my number 1 pick


No Moonshadow?
No Invisibles arcs?
No Doom Patrol arcs?

What gives?

Here was my list:

1. Swamp Thing: Love & Death (just so much in this – the horrific twist, the innovative structure, the redemption of forgotten DC supernatural characters, the expansion of the comic book cosmos into Dante mythological territory, etc., it’s sort of my ideal of what a comic book can be without forsaking its sensationalist, pulp roots)
2. Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (still surprised this didn’t even rate, but A Game of You did?)
3. X-men: Days of Future Past (it is stunning how many folks have “borrowed” from this storyline since it first appeared)
4. Grendel: Devil’s Legacy (shame no Grendel stories made the list. I thought this story was as good as Frank Miller at his best)
5. Inhumans, vol2 (I think this series is just awesome, great art and storytelling, wonderful detail and atmosphere, an operatic plot filled with cool character moments. Surprised this series isn’t more well regarded)
6. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (Just the perfect love letter/obituary for the Silver Age)
7. Batman: The Laughing Fish (To me, it will always be the definitive Batman and Joker tale)
8. Doom Patrol: The Painting That Ate Paris (It was mindblowing to pick up these issues as a kid as just a another comic in the regular DC line-up. Those were the days where you really didn’t know what you would get when you just picked up a new comic book at the store)
9. Fables: Homelands (my favorite arc of probably the most consistently high quality and entertaining ensemble based series I’ve read)
10. Legion of Super Heroes: Earthwar (yeah, I knew this was a real long shot to make the final list and I probably would rank the Great Darkness Saga ahead of it, but I really hoped more than one Legion story would make the list this time and this is such a fun, epic tale from the days where stories this huge were almost unheard of, I felt I had to give it a spot)

Putting off doing the Thanksgiving dishes here…

Thanks to Brain for running the list and thanks to The Crazed Spruce for all the additional number crunching. It was interesting to see what was gone and what had stayed. It’s great to see all of those Bendis stories disappear, hopefully forever, but it was a shame to lose “Crawling from the Wreckage” and “Reign of the Supermen”.

As with many others, I think the most egregious oversight here was the Dr. Strange Eternity storyline.

As infuriating as it is to see stuff you hate show up, these lists are still a lot of fun. Please may we have some more? Best single issue stories? Best non-American comics? Best comic strip runs?

Ooh! One more request: Could we find out what placed from 101-150? Pretty please?

The Angry Internet

November 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm

@TJCoolguy / Jazzbo: Born Again does actually show Nuke putting pills in his mouth. More than one, even:


@Hondobrode –Seven Soldiers of Victory

Was totally expecting this to show up.

@Matt Bird —

Best single issue stories?

Or just single issues in general. I’d especially like if it allowed for issues that were part of larger arcs.

Best non-American comics?

This is an excellent idea. The criteria would be a tad difficult to decide upon (Runs? Or just series? And what to disqualify?), but otherwise an excellent idea.

Best comic strip runs?

Too predictable. There aren’t enough comic strips that anyone enough people have heard of for there to be any surprises in the overall list.

Could we find out what placed from 101-150?

Brian must be tired as shit of doing all these lists, so I don’t imagine that he’ll do this barring that he just posts the raw list sans pics/commentary in the comments section.

It’s interesting to see Dark Phoenix so high on the list, considering that the death of Jean Grey was forced on the creative team by Jim Shooter. The original ending was eventually published in “Phoenix: the Untold Story”.
I wonder how the story would have been ranked if it had ended as Claremont and Byrne intended.

I’d second seeing #s 101-150.


Comics are just awesome

Yes to favorite single issues.

Or top ten by decade. I would love to see what readers rank as the top comics of the 70’s or 80’s. Heck 90’s would make a very interesting list.

“The Angry Internet
November 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm
@TJCoolguy / Jazzbo: Born Again does actually show Nuke putting pills in his mouth. More than one, even:

Nuke eats all the makeup!

Because he’s worth it.


I hadn’t noticed that in the second-last panel you featured above, Veidt/Ozy is examining the “scorched” remains of the map that Captain Metropolis put on display, pondering…

I hadn’t noticed that in the second-last panel you featured above, Veidt/Ozy is examining the “scorched” remains of the map that Captain Metropolis put on display, pondering…

Right? It’s nuts the amount of detail in that piece.

I am the only person who was underwhelmed by Watchmen. By issue 5 you know who the villain is…and its not an exciting ride seeing it happen. Admittedly, the panel with “I did it 35 min ago” was very well done…but how this thing keeps getting #1 on these lists is beyond me.

well, read it again. read it untill you understand

@Sleepwalker42 —

It’s overrated for sure (though how can anything lauded as “the greatest of all time” not be?). It deserves credit for “deconstructing” the state of the medium at that time, but we’ve reached the point where what it “deconstructed” no longer really exists. What we’re left with is little more than a reflection of a memory at this point in time.

Mind you, I’m not saying that a bad thing, it just is what it is.

Just because this was my first time submitting a list after a couple years worth of actually visiting the site…

1. Dark Knight Returns.
2. Dark Phoenix Saga.
3. Daredevil: Born Again
4. Watchmen.
5. Batman: Year One.
6. Avengers: Under Siege.
7. Astro City: Confession.
8. Manhunter by Goodwin and Simonson. This was my first introduction to Simonson and, while a bit rougher-edged than his work on Thor, I’m still captivated by the story to this day.
9. Thanos Imperative I thought this was a beautifully done modern take on the vintage Marvel space opera, and the best portrayal of Thanos since the Marvel Two-in-One/Avengers crossover.
10. Welcome Back, Frank. I’d have to re-read it, but at the time there was just something off-putting to me about Ennis’ work on Preacher. Admittedly, I was getting flustered for a final pick and would have rather had just about anything else on my final cuts in hindsight.

Honorable mentions: The Final Threat (I guess that’s the accepted title for the Avengers/ Marvel 2-in-1 Annual crossover with Thanos), Ultron Unlimited, Assault on Olympus, Days of Future Past, Return of Barry Allen, JLA: New Frontier, the Magus Saga, Ballad of Beta Ray Bill, Surtur Saga, Grendel: Devil’s Legacy, Elementals: the Natural Order, Swamp Thing: Love and Death, Punisher: Mother Russia.

Just read “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, not bad, but top ten? am i missing something?

“Just read “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, not bad, but top ten? am i missing something?”

Yeah, nostalgia factor. The same factor that brought Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, The Coming of Galactus, Days of Future Past, The Great Darkness Saga, The Judas Contract, Crisis on Infinite Earths into Top 20.

@Carlos — At least half of those are better than 90% of this list.

Yes, because being new automatically makes something better. If you’re 12.

my top 15 (I couldn’t stop at 10 were
15 – Spiderman – Death of Jean DeWolff
14 Luther Arkwright – series 1 (Incredible art from Talbot)
13 Battlefields -Dear Billy
12 Master of Kung Fu: The crystal connection (Spy thriller drawn superbly by Gulacy)
11 Fish Police – Hairballs

10 Camelot 3000 (Bolland!!)
9 Wandering Star volume 1
8 Mage: the hero discovered
7 Adam Warlock – The Magus Saga
6 Saga – volume 1

5 Usagi Yojimbo- The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy (A samurai epic – the first big story in the series, though I almost voted for the smaller, more personal Circles, or the longer Grasscutter)

4 Twilight Guardian – A great series I recently discovered, it feels more character study than story depicting a “real-life superhero” in a quiet suburban neighbourhood while also examining comics

3 Akira -volume 1 (some superb cinematic action scenes)

2 Watchmen

1 Cerebus – Church and State

I’m sad to see that NEXTWAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E is nowhere to be found, considering that it is not only the greatest comic book storyline of all time but the peak of human artistic achievement.

Nostalgia isn’t the only reason (and it’s doubtful it’s a primary reason) stories like The Dark Phoenix Saga get the votes they do. I think a lot of people take into account the influence a story has had on the medium, the power and brilliance of the art, and are pretty comfortable discounting the writing elements designed for a monthly book and not a planned collection.

I’ve been reading some of Claremont’s work again recently and it struggles a bit more when you binge read it…because it wasn’t designed to be read all at once. It really was written as a serial with a presumption that you might be a new reader in every issue. That you didn’t re-read last month’s issue ten minutes before reading the new one. And it’s more than fair to take things like that into account.

The plotting on the Dark Phoenix Saga is terrific. The pacing within the issues is fabulous. And it’s also written to play to Byrne’s strengths. It’s a classic super-hero story and the design of it is hugely influential.

It’s like Bill Simmons’ theories of the “evolutionary” basketball player: Steve Nash as the evolutionary version of Bob Cousy. Nash is the better player; he’s a better shooter, better athlete, etc. But by the standards of their times, Cousy is more impressive compared to Nash. Cousy is more revolutionary, more important to the development of the game. By the same turn, The Dark Phoenix Saga is a better and more important story than any number of modern stories that might be objectively “better” written.

You can find a number of stories that flow better when read all at once from the past 15-20 years or so…but Dark Phoenix is one of the major reasons we have the possibility of monthly stories being collected and reprinted in trade. Beyond that, it established Wolverine as one of the premier characters in the Marvel Universe in ways that hadn’t been dreamed of yet. Long-running characters were introduced that are hugely influential decades later. Things like this are more important than “hey, some of this dialogue is a little dated” or “why are there so many words in this non-deconstructed story”.

You can make similar arguments about Watchmen. One of the reasons the movie didn’t meet expectations was its plot was no longer revolutionary to people. We’ve seen the deconstructed super-hero story before. We’d seen deeply flawed heroes running amok. Strip away the revolutionary aspects of Watchmen and it’s a much more ordinary story (the art remains stellar and important)…but you can’t take things like that away from Watchmen, especially in a list like this.

At least not in mine.

The Dark Phoenix sage really starts with the whole X Men reboot, covering almost four years. Its greatness lies in the intro of such new iconic characters (all the new xmen, plus alpha flight and the other characters mentioned) with the reintroduction of classic villians from the series that carry the story arc (magneto, to sauron, to mastermind). Plot elements are foshadowed years in advance, the identity of Wyngrade a mystery pieced together by old fans (the shadow on the wall!). It was incredibly well thought out, great artwork, and a landscape changing series for the marvel universe.

“Just read “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, not bad, but top ten? am i missing something?”

Obviously i did miss the nostalgia factor, although i did enjoy the story, perhaps would of worked for me better if i’d been more into the x-men.

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@Mike Loughlin Thanks for mentioning that Hulk run. I voted for it too. That, along with the JLI era (voted the first JL story, actually) were on my list, but didn’t figure either would make it because it’s hard to pick one story from those runs. Glad someone else voted for it.

@Jazzbo I would guess Watchmen would rank no higher than number 1. ;-)

TJ Cool Guy – I think the pics you posted help illustrate why there was some confusion about the pills; the way Nuke is holding the pills is not how anyone would hold a pill. It’s much more how someone would hold make up, or a pen or crayon. People usually palm pills. But then you can see him holding it in an artistic sense so it’s forced to be drawn in a confusing perspective. Not until he goes off his rocker does he really obviously swallow them.

@entzauberung I think part of what people are remembering is the editorial mismanagement of Daredevil after he left. Nocenti didn’t really start her run until like 5 issues after Born Again ended. And we had a mismash of stories right after it, including things like Madcap, that were filler at best. (I believe, because someone else was supposed to take over and then left over editorial interference. Think I learned that here, but I don’t have the link at hand.)

As for why so much older stuff- it’s because the older stuff has shown staying power. For a variety of reasons that’s a whole other thread, how many new characters and concepts not only stick around, but become big time? As Josh points out, Wolverine might be the only really big Marvel character not created in the 60’s. The only new bad guys anyone expects to see in a movie are Bane and Venom (and neither are that new anymore). I mean, you put Parallax in there and you see how that turns out. It’s not that older is better, or that it’s just stunted creativity currently….but the old stories have concepts that stick, and the newer ones seem to fade away. (Of course, it doesn’t help that it seems any time someone comes up with a good concept it gets undercut by some other creator who wants to prop up their creation. For Batman alone, Bane, KGBeast, Hush, Prometheus, etc. all started off great but were immediately marginalized, and in some case actually had to be fixed to be any good again).

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watchmen is severly overrated, in my book story will always be king, and in that regard watchmen is really lacking. and even tough Moore tried to give his cape*s a semi realistic approach, they still seem kind of goofy – see “the worlds smartest man”

One of things that I liked so much about Claremont, writing wise, was that he could take things that were forced on him plot-wise (The end of the Dark Phoenix saga; Inferno – Jean’s return and Maddie’s exit; Magneto’s storyline from X-Men #1-3; etc.) and still make them seem very character-driven. Like he had always planned to write the story that way. I think Inferno particularly surprised me, since it seemed so well thought out the way he wrote Maddie out, and then finding out years later what Claremont actually thought about the whole Maddie/Scott/Jean situation that was forced on him because of Jean’s return. To me, Claremont’s X-Men issues of Inferno were epic, then and now. Just as epic, to me, as his Dark Phoenix storyline. But then, part of it was that I was a Scott and Jean shipper.

My picks:

1) Inferno – the Uncanny X-Men issues of it
2) Dark Phoenix – Uncanny X-Men
3) Despero arc – Giffen and DeMatteis – Justice League America vol. 2, #37-40 (April–July 1990) — according to Wikipedia – It was both very serious and very funny. – I loved the Mister Miracle subplot in it.
4) Age of Apocalypse – various X-titles
5) Fall of the Mutants – various X-titles
6) The Brood storyline – Uncanny X-Men – Chris Claremont and Paul Smith
7) Justice League: The Nail – Alan Davis
8) Son of the Demon – Batman – Mike W. Barr
9) Proteus – Uncanny X-Men

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