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. The results will be five a day, except today, when you get TEN (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.
90. “Sleeper Season 1” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Sleeper #1-12) – 118 points (2 first place votes)
Holden Carver is a super-villain working for the major bad guy, Tao (from Alan Moore’s run on WildC.A.T.S.).
Tao is the smartest person in the world, and can drive you mad just by calmly talking to you (he did so to a member of Stormwatch back in Moore’s WildC.A.T.S. run).
However, he does not know something very important about Holden – Holden is actually an undercover operative for the government!
The only problem is, in the prologue mini-series that led into Sleeper, Holden’s handler, John Lynch, the ONLY person in the world who knew of Carver’s undercover mission, was shot and is now in a coma.
So that’s the gist of Sleeper Season 1, by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips – what do you do when the only person who knows you’re not REALLY a criminal can’t tell anyone that you’re NOT really a criminal? And how long can you act as a criminal before you actually ARE a criminal?
Besides this great philosophical question, the series contains a good deal of humor, really. Brubaker and Phillips clearly have a blast coming up with off-beat supervillains and their powers. Carver falls hard for one of his fellow villains, Miss Misery, a woman who, while she loves Carver, knows that she literally CANNOT be happy, because she is actually powered by, well, misery.
Check out her origin story, an example of that strange and beautiful mixture between drama and dark humor that Sleeper delivered routinely…
Phillips “noir” artwork is perfect for the book, as it is perfect for MOST of the books Phillips draws – that’s how good he is.
The series has a couple of game-changers that pop up at the end of the first “season” that made the follow-up Season 2 extremely unpredictable – the only thing predictable about this series is that every issue was going to be good.
89. “Avengers Forever” by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino (Avengers Forever #1-12) – 119 points (1 first place vote)
This time-travel classic stars a unique team of Avengers plucked from the past, present and future, who have to take on Immortus and the Time Keepers, a powerful group that has been manipulating the Avengers for years. Each member of the team is chosen at a very specific moment, as Busiek, Pacheco and Merino demonstrate in this sequence from the second issue of the series…
As you can see, Pacheco is a master at giving each character a distinct look and best of all, when you put the disparate heroes together, there is this great sense of visually being able to figure out how each character is reacting to a situation. So much personality in each drawing. Boy, he’s good.
Busiek and Stern’s epic tale brings this rag tag team of Avengers on a journey through history and the Multiverse itself as they try to take hold of their own destinies. They are aided on this journey by one of their greatest foes, Kang the Conqueror, who ALSO wishes to break free of the control of Immortus and the Time-Keepers. Anything should be possible and that possibility is what the Avengers and Kang fight for (although, in the end, can you really trust Kang?)
Along the way, Busiek also ties up some looses ends of Avengers continuity. The whole thing is an epic action adventure steeped in Avengers history but centered the whole way through in real, identifiable human reactions.
88. “Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Boy on Earth” by Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library #5, 6, 8, 9 and 11-14) – – 120 points (1 first place vote)
Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Boy on Earth is an extremely layered tale of a depressed man (Corrigan) meeting his father late in his life. This story is intermixed with the story of Corrigan’s grandfather (also Jimmy Corrigan) as a boy and HIS relationship with HIS father. All throughout, we also have the fantastical story of Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Boy on Earth – showing Corrigan as a child. However, we also see Corrigan as a depressed child dealing with his parents divorce, and so we know that the “Smartest Boy” vignettes are just dreams of a sad man who has great trouble dealing with the world as it is.
We see that attitude of Corrigan’s in his everyday life, as well, as Ware shows Corrigan’s Walter Mitty-esque fantasies while in the midst of something as mundane as his father (who he has just met at this point) taking him to a fast food restaurant for dinner…
Notice how the events of his life directly inspire Corrigan’s fantasies, while also revealing his attitudes about life.
The most brilliant aspect of Ware’s book, as is usually the case with Ware’s work, is his amazing design sense – the story of Jimmy Corrigan is really a marvel of design, there are many pages that do not even have text, because Ware designs the pages so well that you don’t NEED text – he’s so detailed and thorough that you feel like you’re inundated with details about these characters without reading a single word.
Is the story depressing?
Yes, in the sense that the actual plot of the book is depressing, but it is done so beautifully that I can’t help but be happy when I read it, no matter how dreary the plot is.
It’s a tour de force performance by one of comics’ greatest creators.
This story won numerous awards and accolades when it was collected into book form, including the Guardian First Book Award, the first comic book to ever be so honored. It’s a well deserved honor.
87. “Secret Wars” by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton, John Beatty and a host of other inkers (Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #1-12) -121 points (1 first place vote)
In possibly the greatest comic book event series written to tie in with a toy line, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars is designed like the ultimate fan dream – nearly all of the major Marvel heroes of the time and nearly all the major Marvel villains of the time are thrown together on to a distant planet and forced to fight each other at the behest of a seemingly omnipotent being.
Sounds simple enough, right? But writer Jim Shooter elevates the story a bit beyond that (“beyond” that. Get it?) by showing the interesting strategies the various characters decide to employ. For instance, rather than forming a unified front, the heroes splinter into two groups, the X-Men and everyone else. The villains, similarly, are not uniform in their approach. While plenty of them are thrilled to just attack the heroes, others, like Doctor Doom, try to think of the situation more strategically.
After a series of battles (including an awesome fight between Spider-Man and the X-Men, of all people, and a sequence that ended with a mountain falling on the heroes, with only the Hulk preventing them from being crushed) Doctor Doom flips the battle field by taking control of the power of the mysterious being who brought them here. He offers a truce with the heroes. But can they truly work with him? The heroes decide…
Man, this series had some killer cliffhangers!
Mike Zeck and John Beatty were at the top of their game at the time of this series. They really excelled (and Bob Layton did a great job as a fill-in artist).
86. “Rock of Ages” by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, Gary Frank, Greg Land, John Dell and Bob McLeod (JLA #10-15) – 122 points
Rock of Ages was a multi-layered storyline that opens with Lex Luthor leading a new team of villains known as the Injustice Gang against the JLA. However, that turns out to NOT be the main point of the story. No, as it turns out, Luthor inadvertently stumbled across an artifact that will ultimately lead to Darkseid taking control of Earth.
We cut to the future where Darkseid has, indeed, taken over the Earth and Green Lantern and Aquaman have traveled through time to this dystopic situation. Their role is only to be told of what they have to do in the past to avert this horrible future. Once they’re gone, though, the people of the future still have to deal with Darkseid, leading to one of the most famous sequences of Morrison’s JLA run – the time that Green Arrow and the Atom took out Darkseid.
This whole arc is filled with fascinating little bits like that. For instance, the Joker is part of Luthor’s team and the only way that the Martian Manhunter can figure out how to deal with the Joker is to use his shape shifting ability to alter his own brain so that he can think like a madman. So cool.
One of the most amazing things about this story arc is that Morrison was not only dealing with Blue Superman, but he also had to deal with Wonder Woman being temporarily dead and, of course, a tie-in to a company-wide crossover IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORYLINE!! How Morrison pulled this off is beyond me.
85. “Half a Life” by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Gotham Central #7-10) – 123 points (2 first place votes)
Ever since he began working on the Bat-titles, Greg Rucka was fascinated with the relationship between Two-Face and Renee Montoya. Two-Face became obsessed with the stalwart Gotham Police detective during No Man’s Land and his obsession causes Renee a good deal of turmoil in “Half a Life,” when Two-Face delusionally strives to drive Renee to him by destroying her personal and professional life, framing her for murder and outing her a lesbian…
Powerful stuff there by Rucka and the always brilliant artist Michael Lark. You can just feel both Renee’s anguish and that of her partner, Crispus Allen, who is seeing the injustice of his partner being framed right in front of his eyes while also dealing with the shock of learning that she is a lesbian.
Two-Face believes that with her life ruined, Renee will be “stuck” with him (ignoring the whole “she’s a lesbian” thing). This leads to a striking confrontation where Renee not only has to struggle to clear her name but determine whether she can let Two-Face live. There is even an awesome debate where Renee puts some of the blame on Batman and Batman’s position of not killing super-villains. If Batman had just killed Two-Face years ago, none of this would have happened, ya know?
Try as she might, though, Two-Face’s actions broke Renee’s life like a mirror. Even when you put the pieces back together, it is never the same. This storyline won a number of awards and is the most acclaimed storyline of a very acclaimed series.
84. “Scott Pilgrim” by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together,Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe and Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour) – 125 points
The story of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim is about a Canadian young man (a bit of a slacker) who falls in love with an American girl named Ramona, but before he can “officially” date her, he has to defeat her seven “evil ex-boyfriends.”
In the early volumes of the series, O’Malley got a great deal of humor out of the idea that this otherwise normal young man suddenly fights people, Street Fighter-style.
Since that still remains the most famous aspect of the story, I figured I sort of “had” to show sample pages featuring this concept, even though the other aspects of the book fascinate me a lot more…
While humorous, though, O’Malley never lost touch with depicting an otherwise realistic vision of what it is like to be in that weird nebulous zone between being a teen and being an ADULT. Scott is our slacker hero, but the rest of his band (Sex Bob-Omb), his sister, his too-young-for-him high school girlfriend Knives, his gay roommate Wallace and Ramona Flowers, the young woman he has to fight the boyfriends over are given very nice, defined, personalities.
O’Malley’s Manga-inspired art adds to their personalities nicely, with the subtle touches in their reactions and facial expressions putting across a good deal of the information that we have about their personalities. The relationship between Scott and Ramona (she is an Amazon.ca delivery girl, they have a “Meet Cute” when Scott orders from Amazon just to meet her) is rich, and believable. O’Malley has an ear for realistic dialogue, and the interactions between Scott and Knives (the high school girl) and Scott and Ramona are distinct entities, but both of them portray how Scott can be seen as appealing to both ladies.
Later in the series, things take a dramatic turn as Scott’s “journey” is nearing its end and the question has to be asked – what now? What does everyone do with their lives once Scott has defeated all of the ex-boyfriends? Have any of the past volumes truly prepared Scott for a “real life” with Ramona beyond the spectacle of fighting her evil ex-boyfriends? It’s a sober reality that pops into the tale with a vengeance, as O’Malley pulls the ol’ bait and switch, giving us heartfelt drama in the middle of our funnybook! It all leads to a dramatic, heartfelt and thought-provoking final chapter.
83. “Elektra: Assassin” by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin #1-8) – 127 points (1 first place vote)
A true modern epic, Frank Miller and Sienkiewicz combine for a twisted, sprawling story about a SHIELD agent sent to capture Elektra, who is trying to prevent a mysterious figure known as the “Beast” from getting a figurehead named Ken Wind elected President.
The SHIELD Agent, John Garrett, becomes obsessed with Elektra and he soon learns that getting close to Elektra is dangerous for your health….
Isn’t that a striking sequence? The timing of the panels is perfection. It reminds me a lot of the early sequence of Dark Knight Returns where Bruce Wayne almost dies but decides it is not time yet.
This story was a wonderfully offbeat satire of politics, action films and comic books themselves (the depiction of women, the overabundance of ninjas and violence, etc.). Think of this as Frank Miller trying to give a Garry Trudeau-effect on a superhero adventure. Sienkiewicz is basically the PERFECT artist for such an offbeat approach. This is a marvelous comic book work.
82. “Squadron Supreme” by Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan, John Buscema, John Beatty, Sam De La Rosa, Jackson Guice and Keith Williams (Squadron Supreme #1-12) – 128 points (5 first place votes)
The concept of this series is a simple but powerful one. What if the superheroes of the world just decided to fix the world? It is a concept that many comics (Authority, for one) have addressed in the years since, but at the time, Mark Gruenwald’s story was quite novel. Here, see the Squadron come to their determination of going through with their plan to make the world a Utopia…
The conflict between Superman and Batman…oops, I mean Hyperion and Nighthawk is the centerpiece of this series. The rest of the maxi-series shows how superheroes would go about changing the world while also showing Nighthawk try to come up with a way of stopping his former friends from what he feels is an ultimate betrayal of the concept of free will.
There are detours along the way, of course, including some disturbing plots involving mind control and rape, but in the end it comes down to two former friends coming to an impasse in their beliefs and the bloody after effects of what happens when their conflict comes to a head.
This was truly ahead of its time and it was rightly the proudest Mark Gruenwald ever was of one of his works (even going so far as to have his family and Marvel mix his ashes with the printing of the trade paperback after he died). Bob Hall and Paul Ryan did fine work on the art for the series.
81. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” by Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge #285-296) – 129 points (3 first place votes)
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is the type of comic book project that really should not work as well as it does. Over his decades of writing Uncle Scrooge, Carl Barks threw in little details of Scrooge’s past here and there. Occasionally, the details even conflicted (although that might not be Barks contradicting himself, it could have been another Scrooge writer contradicting a Barks detail). So writer/artist Don Rosa decided to use all those little details about Scrooge and then fashion a 12-part detailed life of Scrooge from boyhood until his first appearance as regular comic book character.
That might sound like something better suited for an essay or a spreadsheet, yet Rosa’s brilliance as a storyteller make the whole endeavor an utter marvel.
Scrooge’s adventures are all pretty much “done in one”s, yet they continue an overarching character development that is quite impressive. Also impressive is all the actual historical details that Rosa peppers in with Scrooge’s travels. It’s strong historical fiction.
Here’s a bit from an early part of the story where young Scrooge is working as a cowboy and has to rescue a stolen bull from some cattle thieves…
Notice the famous historical figure Scrooge has met here? He returns for more adventures in he story arc. Truly. Really.
As you can see, Rosa’s art is a detailed delight. He’s amazing.
It’s no surprise that this story won an Eisner Award!