Here are the next ten storylines on the countdown, as voted on by you, the readers!! Here is the master list of all storylines featured so far.
Okay, as usual, the votes are more bundled together at the bottom of the list and things open up as we go along. Eventually the results will be five a day, except today (also they’ll be in smaller groups as we get to the very end)! Note, there may be some spoilers ahead! You are forewarned!
NOTE: All of these storyline posts will be image intensive, so I’ll be spreading them over multiple pages.
60. “Grand Guignol” by James Robinson and Peter Snejbjerg (with Paul Smith) (Starman #61-73) – 165 points (6 first place votes)
In the climax to James Robinson’s Starman series, Jack Knight returns from a trip to outer space to discover that his home of Opal City is under siege by a collection of Jack’s villains, seemingly led by the Shade, who, while nominally a villain, had never acted quite like this. Robinson’s Starman was not some rainbows and puppies type of book, but there was also a general lack of the same grim and gritty style of storytelling that had become so prevalent in comic books of the time. When something bad happened, the people involved truly reflected on how bad it was. You wouldn’t see stuff like buildings knocked down and it being no big deal. So when Jack returned to see such devastation in his town, it was like a slap in the face and Robinson and Snejbjerg handled it beautifully…
The epic tale continued through a series of clever battles (the Shade has cut Opal City off from the rest of the world, so the only heroes the city has are whoever was in the town at the time, including Jack, Elongated Man, Black Condor and Jack’s father, the Golden Age Starman) intermixed with flashbacks. There were plenty of twists, of course, including the revelation of who was REALLY behind the whole thing.
The storyline ended with a sad, dramatic sacrifice. This was one of those perfect sort of mixes of action and character-driven drama that made Starman such a special comic book. Robinson’s Golden Age collaborator, Paul Smith, even had the chance to return to sort of say goodbye to that era with Robinson with a flashback about the wives of the Justice Society of America.
59. “The Longbow Hunters” by Mike Grell (Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1-3) – 170 points (3 first place votes)
This is the mini-series that led to Grell’s acclaimed Green Arrow ongoing series. It is particularly notable for five major things:
1. It took a more “realistic” approach to both comic book aging and sexuality
2. It made the book a lot darker, with Oliver killing bad guys
3. It introduced Shado, a popular Green Arrow supporting character
4. It introduced Eddie Fyers, another popular Green Arrow supporting character
5. It has a very controversial scene where Dinah Lance (Black Canary) is tortured to the point where she can no longer use her sonic scream or have children
Let’s examine these, as we look at pages from the series.
To the first, here’s a nice sequence from where Ollie is complaining about getting old…
That is one of the more realistic character interactions you’re going to see in a 1980s superhero comic book.
One of the over-arching plotlines of Longbow Hunter was Shado getting her revenge on the government operatives who, when they were in the military in World War II, had dishonored her family.
Here is the controversial scene where Dinah’s torture drives Ollie to become a killer (and thus becoming the “urban hunter” of the ongoing series)…
I’m not really a fan of HOW Grell got there, but Ollie as an urban hunter certainly did have a lot of story potential.
The Shado plotline coincides with a plot involving the CIA and drug money. This introduces the CIA agent Eddie Feyers, who is an exceptionally resilient character. He is like a cockroach. You can never get rid of him.
In any event, this was a good series with strong artwork, good characters and just one iffy moment (with the Dinah stuff). The ongoing series might even be better than this first mini-series, but this story was a powerful intro. The current Arrow TV series took a whole lot from Grell’s approach to the character (plus the use of the characters Shado and Eddie Feyers).
58. “JLA/Avengers” by Kurt Busiek and George Perez (JLA/Avengers #1-4) – 173 points (1 first place vote)
The team-up of the century, as Busiek and George Perez tell this epic tale of the Avengers and the Justice League first being pitted against each other by Krona and the Grandmaster, before they then team up to take Krona down, who wants to merge the universes of the JLA and the Avengers, which would destroy them both.
One of the most interesting aspects of this crossover was when Busiek played with the differences between the DC and Marvel Universes, namely that in the DC Universe, everyone loves superheroes while in the Marvel Universe, they tend to be hated and feared (of course, the New 52 has specifically dropped that difference, but at the time it was a notable difference). However, at the same token, Captain America doesn’t trust a world where the heroes are TOO beloved. This sets the stage for why the two groups would distrust each other at first, as seen in their first meeting…
Plus, you know, GEORGE PEREZ DRAWING NEARLY EVERY DC AND MARVEL CHARACTER! Awesome stuff.
57. “A Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion (Batman #1-6) – 175 points (3 first place votes)
The vast majority of voters voted for Batman #1-6, so that’s what I went with here, but if you want to expand this one to Batman #1-11, then that’s fair enough. #7-11 didn’t make it on its own, ya know?
Anyhow, this story is about the revelation that there has been a secret organization controlling Gotham City from behind the scenes called the Court of Owls. They collect and train agents known as “Talons” to do their dirty work. Naturally, they take issue with Bruce Wayne having such an influence upon how Gotham City so they decide to kill off Bruce Wayne. Obviously, Batman takes issue with this and soon finds himself trying to take down the organization.
Greg Capullo is a magnificent action artist and Scott Snyder smartly alternates between the mystery of the Court and all out action sequences where Capullo’s pencils practically explode upon the page. Take, for instance, this sequence where Batman discovers one of the Court’s nests and they try to kill him…
Wow, that is a striking sequence.
This was the re-introduction of Batman into the New 52 and Snyder’s intricate plotting and bold new characters have made it the centerpiece of the Bat-books.
56. “Church and State” by Dave Sim and Gerhard (Cerebus #52-111) – 177 points (6 first place votes)
Cerebus began as a parody of Conan, but by the time Church and State began, the book had moved past that and become a slightly more serious satire of a number of topics, including politics and society.
Church and State, which is by far the longest storyline on the Top 100, further moved Cerebus away from its early days with an elaborate allegorical story about religion, politics and, most of all, morality.
The basic gist of the story is that Cerebus in appointed the Pope of the Eastern Church of Tarim. He lets his power get to his head, loses everything, tries to get it back, gets it back, gets even MORE morally corrupt and ultimately meets, in effect, God.
This is the story where Sim lays out the prophecy that the rest of Cerebus was “ruled” by, which hovered over the next 180 plus issues of the book like a scythe.
That’s the plot of the story, but the beauty of it all is the character development, although development almost suggests an advancement, and that’s really not the case for Cerebus through most of the story – as he completely loses his way, morally.
His actions are at times chilling, and the fact that it they are taken by the “protagonist” of the comic were quite bold by Sim.
The artwork by Sim and Gerhard is strong, but it is the writing that is the key to this great epic storyline.
55. “Gifted” by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men #1-6) – 180 points (3 first place votes)
This was the first major X-Men storyline after Grant Morrison left the X-Men, and Joss Whedon gladly picked up where Morrison left off, using the set-up Morrison left with the book (notably Cyclops and Emma Frost being a couple and Beast dealing with being a cat-like creature).
There were three major pieces from Whedon’s first arc:
1. The X-Men deciding to go back to being traditional superheroes, or at least a certain group of “public” X-Men. To this end, Cyclops re-enlists Kitty Pryde, as she is one of the best X-Men in terms of “putting forward as the face of mutantkind.” Kitty Pryde serves as a sort of POV person for Whedon’s run.
2. A scientist has developed a “cure” for being a mutant. This plot was so popular that they later used it as the basic plot for the third X-Men film.
3. Colossus returned from the dead.
Whedon tied it all together nicely, with a lot of strong character moments, and wrapped it all up in beautiful stunning John Cassaday artwork.
I am particularly partial to how Cassaday handled Colossus’ return from the dead…
54. “Winter Soldier” by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Michael Lark and Michael Perkins (Captain America #1-6, 8-9, 11-14) – 182 points (1 first place vote)
In Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker achieved something that pretty much no one thought he could pull off. Heck, his own editor thought he couldn’t pull it off when Brubaker first suggested the idea. But after Brubaker explained it, his editor realized what readers of the title also realized – Brubaker had a really good way to bring Bucky back to life!
In this storyline, Brubaker told a few compelling stories that interacted with each other – the major one, of course, was the revelation that Bucky not only survived the rocket plane explosion that left Cap in frozen status for decades, but Bucky was rescued by Russians who brainwashed him into a deadly assassin, keeping him in cryogenic status for months and years at a time between missions (so no one would be able to identify him – after all, five years later, they’d be looking for a 25 year old man while Bucky was still 20). This is how he gained the name Winter Soldier.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull is about to start his latest plot against Captain America when a new villain steps in a seemingly kills the Skull. This new bad guy, Aleksander Lukin, was the current operative in charge of the Winter Soldier, and he used Bucky to kill Skull and steal the Cosmic Cube.
This led to a number of daring attacks and a tragic assault on the city of Philadelphia.
All the while, Captain America had been feeling out of sorts (after the events of Avengers Disassembled), so he was in a particularly poor frame of mind to discover that his former sidekick is now a pretty deadly assassin.
Brubaker does a really great job balancing the various characters and their personalities in the series, while never flinching on the action, either. Steve Epting busted out his new Crossgen style of art on this series, and it is truly excellent, with some fine fill-in work by Mike Perkins for Epting and Michael Lark does his typical brillaint work on some flashback sequences.
There is a fill-in issue by John Paul Leon that I suppose you could count as part of the storyline, if you so choose. It’s a spotlight on the last day in the life of a character who Winter Soldier murders in an early issue of the story.
This was an excellent opening story by Ed Brubaker, and amazingly enough, he managed to get even better on the title!
53. “Annihilation” by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Simon Furman, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Scott Kolins, Kev Walker, Renato Arlem, Jorge Lucas, Greg Titus, Andrea DiVito and more (Annihilation: Prologue, Annihilation: Nova #1-4, Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4, Annihilation: Ronan #1-4, Annihilation: Super Skrull #1-4, Annihilation #1-6) – 185 points (5 first place votes)
Annihilation is about the forces of the Negative Zone, led by Annihilus, who decide to invade our universe. They do so with the so-called “Annihilation Wave,” a large wave-like formation of powerful battleships.
The whole endeavor is powered by Galactus, who Annihilus has managed to capture and use as a power source.
In the first wave of the war, the entire Nova Corps was wiped out…well, not the ENTIRE Nova Corps. Richard Rider, of Earth, manged to survive and, once he merged with the Worldmind (the computer that ran the Nova Corps), Richard became the most powerful Nova around.
With Nova working as a sort of overall general, the remaining free planets (mostly the Kree) banded together against Annihlilus’ forces.
The series was told in an interesting fashion that was later re-used for the sequel mini-series, Annihilation: Conquest.
There was a prologue issue, where the situation began.
Then there were four separate mini-series starring four characters tied into the mess – Nova, Ronan (of the Kree), the Super Skrull and the Silver Surfer.
The most notable aspect of the initial mini-series was the way that Nova was transformed into not only a super-powerful being but also truly grew into himself as a warrior. Take this moment from Nova #3…
Once the four mini-series ended, we got the Annihilation series, written by Giffen and drawn by Andrea DiVito.
There is lots of action and a significant amount of casualties, including an Avenger!
The series basically worked to revitalize Marvel’s pretty much ignored “Cosmic Universe” of heroes.
52. “The Kindly Ones” by Neil Gaiman, Marc Hempel, Richard Case, D’Israeli, Ted Kristiansen, Glyn Dillon, Dean Ormston and Charles Vess (Sandman #57-69) – 187 points (7 first place votes)
The Kindly Ones is the climax to Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman series and as such it draws upon so many different earlier stories of the series, primarily the idea that Morpheus, over the course of the series, has made ALL sorts of different enemies. And now, all of those debts are going to have to be paid with Morpheus’s life.
A fascinating aspect of the story is that the whole time Morpheus understands what is the ultimate end to his story, yet he cannot turn away from his responsibilities to avoid his untimely end.
Meanwhile, Lyta Hall (the former superheroine known as The Fury) believes that Morpheus is responsible for the death of her son, Daniel. She is in a total daze, as demonstrated in this page from early in the story…
Lyta is a perfect patsy, of sorts, to arrange Morpheus’ ultimate fate and, just like all great tragedies, she understands too late that her son is actually alive.
Meanwhile, we get to check in on pretty much every major character from the series, from Lucifer to Thessaily the Witch, as they all play a role in the story…
It’s a truly wonderful climax, bringing in all of the various plots and awesome characters that Gaiman had created during the series’ run. All of the favorites check in at one point or another.
51. “The Dark Angel Saga” by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Mark Brooks, Billy Tan, Robbi Rodriguez, Richard Elson, Scot Eaton, Dean White and a whole bunch of inkers (Uncanny X-Force #8, 10-180 – 200 points (5 first place votes)
Uncanny X-Force began with the team trying to stop Apocalypse from rising again. Instead, they just ended up seeing him rise again in the form of their own teammate, Archangel. With Warren Worthington slowly turning evil, X-Force must travel to an alternate dimension, revisiting the Age of Apocalypse, to bring back something that could possibly stop the increasingly evil Archangel as he slowly gathers together a fearsome group of soldiers to serve him in the celebration of the survival of the fittest (through lots and lots of killing). The problem, of course, is that the Age of Apocalypse needs the same remedy that the heroes of our Earth need, as the Age of Apocalypse is being taken over by its OWN Apocalypse-controlled X-Force member, Wolverine! This storyline is ALL about the hard choices. Which reality is more important? And eventually, the most brutal of decisions – if they cannot save their friend from Apocalypse’s control, do they have to KILL him? Archangel’s girlfriend, Psylocke, might be the one who has to make that final decision in this heartbreakingly epic tale that was written by Rick Remender and drawn by a bunch of different artists, most notably Jerome Opena, Mark Brooks and Billy Tan.
Jerome Opena is such an amazing artist (especially when paired with colorist Dean White).