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.