Every day in April we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!
Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).
Today’s list is the Greatest Brian K. Vaughan Stories Ever Told!
10. Escapists #1-6
This sort of sequel to Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay tells the story of a young man who buys the rights to his dead father’s favorite comic book character, The Escapist (the comic book character created in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay). He and his friends set off to relaunch the hero for a new generation. One of the creators dresses up as the Escapist for a publicity stunt. Things look great but then begin to fall apart. The whole thing sort of ends on what seems to be Brian K. Vaughan’s current mission statement – it is fine to want to honor the heroes you grew up with, but it is better to do NEW things on your own. There are a variety of artists on the series (especially since we see the comic as they are drawing it as well as their “real life” adventures). Jason Shawn Alexander, Steve Rolston, Philip Bond and Eduardo Barreto all worked on the book’s art.
9. “Pride and Joy” Runaways Volume 1 #1-6
Along with penciler Adrian Alphona, inker Craig Yeung and colorist Christina Strain, Brian K. Vaughan introduced a fascinating group of young heroes. The heroes of the Runaways are all the sons and daughters of a group of Los Angeles-based super criminals known as the Pride (their kids don’t know this, of course). The parents get together once a year (ostensibly for a charity event) and when they do, their kids awkwardly hang out with each other. This year, though, they discover their parents murdering an innocent girl as part of a yearly sacrifice to some ancient gods. The kids go on the run (hence Runaways), each taking with them some aspect of their parents’ abilities (for one, futuristic technology, for another, alien abilities, for another, mutant powers, for another, magic powers and for another, a sharp tactical mind). They decided to band together to take their parents down and perhaps do a little good as well along the way.
8. “Oath” Doctor Strange: The Oath #1-5
This series, drawn impeccably by the brilliant Marcos Martin (with inks by Alvaro Lopez), helped in a many ways to set up Doctor Strange for his inclusion in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. The series introduces a new take on the Night Nurse character, this time as an underground medic of sorts for superheroes.
7. Saga #1-6
Saga is the tale of Alana and Marko, two young people from warring planets (well, one is a moon) who have fallen in love and have now had a child. They and their offspring are hunted by both sides of the war. Vaughan and the excellent series artist Fiona Staples populate the world of Saga with a variety of fascinating characters. Most notable are the the bounty hunters hunting down Alana and Marko. Some of the most striking aspects of the series come from the bounty hunter known as The Will, who is accompanied by a Lying Cat, a cat who can tell if you are lying. The Will is not a good man, but he is also driven by a certain code of honor that comes up in a bizarre fashion while on a pleasure planet. The Will has had his heart broken by a fellow bounty hunter and their interaction is fascinating in how it drives him.
This is a great, character-driven series filled with action and adventure.
6. “Unmanned” Y The Last Man #1-5
This is the introduction to the world of Y the Last Man, as one day, all male animals on Earth die except for a young man and the helper monkey that he is training. Vaughan and co-creator and penciler Pia Guerra (with inks by Jose Marzan Jr.) quickly adapt us to this new world, where young Yorick teams up with a government agent and a scientist to hopefully find a cure for the death of all men on Earth. Their journey is a complex and intriguing look at a dramatically changed American landscape.
The top five is on the next page!
5. “First Hundred Days” Ex Machina #1-5
This first volume of Ex Machina is mostly highlit by the initial issue, “Pilot.” The series introduces us to Mitchell Hundred, the Mayor of New York (the series is told in flashbacks from some point in the future). Hundred is a real life superhero who quits and tries to do good as Mayor of New York. No one takes him seriously until he bursts on to the national scene in a dramatic fashion in a twist at the end of issue #1. The rest of the first volume establishes the very fascinating supporting cast members. Tony Harris does a really good job on the art for the series.
4. “Whys and Wherefores” Y the Last Man #55-60
This volume, which concludes Y the Last Man’s 60 issue run, is especially noteworthy for the final issue, “Alas,” which is a fascinating epilogue to the series. It tells us where everyone ends up, including one of the most heartbreaking death scenes you’ll ever see (I know a few folks who just skip over those pages). Co-creator Pia Guerra finished the volume off on art with inker Jose Marzan Jr.
3. Pride of Baghdad OGN
In this powerful original graphic novel, Vaughan and artist Niko Henrichon tell the story of four lions who escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Vaughan decided to tell the story from the perspective of the lions, and he does an absolutely brilliant job of developing the personalities of the four lions (the dominant male lion, two female lions (one young one old) and the cub of the younger female lion) while, even more impressively, keeping their personalities at least somewhat consistent with what we know of lion behavior. Henrichon’s artwork is fluid and filled with characterization.
2. “The Good Die Young” Runaways Volume 1 #13-18
The end of the first volume of Runaways brings the kids into a final conflict against the parents as well as one of their own, who has betrayed them to his/her parents. It is a bittersweet ending to the first series, with great artwork by Alphona, Yeong and Strain.
1. “Safeword” Y the Last Man #18-23
This trade has two stories, but really everyone is voting for the first three-part story that gives the trade its title, where Yorick (the titular “last man” on Earth) is tortured by an associate of his bodyguard/traveling companion, Agent 355. The associate, Agent 711, reads 355’s journals of their travels so far and determines that Yorick is suicidal, so she basically does an intervention for him – although to him, it appears to be torture. What is striking about this storyline is that Vaughan really turns the book on its end a bit, by having Yorick almost be re-envisioned. He had always been a wiseass, and that had been seen as part of his charm, but in this story, Vaughan’s strips him of this defense mechanism in a highly abrupt fashion. By tearing down the character, Vaughan allowed him to grow as a character. It’s really quite striking work. This story also has probably the most memorable moment of the entire Y the Last Man series, the famous scene where Yorick tells of his first sexual encounter with a member of the opposite sex. Penciler Pia Guerra and inker Jose Marzan Jr. do a bang-up job on the art for the arc. Goran Parlov and Jose Marzan Jr. draw the other story arc in the “Safeword” trade.
That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!