2016 Top 100 Comic Book Runs: #20-16

You voted, and now, after over 1,000 ballots were cast, here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book creator runs of all-time (this is the third time we've done this countdown. We're on an every four year schedule)!

To recap, you all sent in ballots ranking your favorite runs from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). I added up all of the points and here we are! You can check out the previous installments in the countdown here.

20. Ed Brubaker's "Captain America" - 612 points (3 first place votes)

"Captain America" (Vol.5) #1-50, "Captain America: Reborn" #1-6, "Captain America" #600-619, "Captain America" (Vol.6) #1-19

Ed Brubaker began his run on "Captain America" with quite an opening issue – killing off the Red Skull! Of course, the move was a bit of a feint on Brubaker’s part, but it was still a notable beginning to his title.

The most notable aspect of Brubaker’s run was not a death, but instead, a rebirth – as Brubaker brought back Captain America’s World War II partner, James “Bucky” Barnes, who apparently had been rescued by the Russians, then brainwashed into becoming an assassin for them, who would be kept in cryogenic status between missions, so in the sixty years since they found him, he’s only aged less than ten years (earning him the name the Winter Soldier). Finally, Bucky comes into contact with Steve Rogers, Captain America, and this begins a mission of Rogers to bring Bucky back to the side of the good guys (it also involves the Cosmic Cube, which Bucky stole from Red Skull in the first issue).

After a few other action stories, mostly dealing with the secret plan of the Red Skull (remember what I mentioned about the feint?), Steve is seemingly murdered by his own estranged girlfriend, Sharon Carter, Agent of SHIELD.

Brubaker then crafted a story where Bucky slowly came to terms with not only Steve’s death but Steve’s wish that Bucky become the new Captain America. Even after Steve returns “from the dead,” Steve lets Bucky continue to be Captain America.

Circumstances eventually force Bucky to give up the identity and return to the Winter Soldier moniker. Steve took up the name again and starred in a number of adventures in a final volume, ending a remarkably distinguished more than seven year run on the character.

There are probably three particularly notable aspects of Brubaker’s run:

1. The artwork. The initial series was drawn mostly by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins, who both brought an interesting, realistic style that they both seemed to have adopted while working with Jackson Guice at CrossGen. Guice himself took over the book for a time. Even fill-in artists like Luke Ross and Mitch Breitweiser used a similar style on the title (Frank D’Armata’s colors surely worked as a unifying factor on the title). Bryan Hitch drew Reborn, the series where Steve Rogers returns “From the dead.” In the final volume, the art style changed up a bit as Steve McNiven, Alan Davis, Patrick Zircher and Scot Eaton gave the book a more traditional superhero feel to the title.

2. Brubaker’s return to a more realistic, more violent comic – one of the retcons he established was that the reason Bucky was around was because he was secretly trained as a Black Ops soldier, and he would often go on secret commando missions for the US Government that Captain America had no ideas about. Brubaker compared the violence in his run to Steranko’s Captain America, and the book does seem to evoke those great early Steranko stories.

3. Brubaker picked out the most notable characters (in his view) from the past of Captain America, and used them ALL, so you didn’t just get Captain America (or the new Captain America), but you get Sharon Carter, Red Skull, Crossbones, Sin, Doctor Faustus, Falcon and Nick Fury. It was filled to the brim with great, engaging characters.

19. John Byrne's "Fantastic Four" - 620 points (4 first place votes)

"Fantastic Four" #232-293

A lot of creators have a certain idea in mind when they take over the "Fantastic Four," but John Byrne, hot off of his stint co-plotting "Uncanny X-Men" with Chris Claremont, was one of the few who actually carried out his plan in the comic itself.

Byrne intended to treat his run in a similar manner to what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did on their original run – take the Fantastic Four to far off new worlds, introduce bizarre new characters, while still re-using the really notable ones like Doctor Doom and Galactus (and yes, Diablo, too), and that’s exactly what Byrne did.

Soon after Byrne took over the book, he was tasked with coming up with a 20th anniversary story, and he came up with a beautiful one with the Fantastic Four trapped in a world by Doctor Doom where they did not have powers. It was quite a touching story.

Then Byrne launched into his first major storyline with the title, a major tale involving Galactus and the Avengers. Byrne introduced many different new alien races during his tenure with the book, but probably his most notable achievements were with the characters he already had, as Byrne did a great deal of character development during his run, specifically the evolution of Sue from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman, having Sue become pregnant but miscarry, having Thing leave the team (to be replaced by the She-Hulk) and having Johnny Storm become involved with the Thing’s erstwhile girlfriend, Alicia Masters. Doctor Doom, who is practically the fifth member of the book, also saw a number of interesting character work via Byrne, especially the story where the Fantastic Four did not even appear!

Art-wise, Byrne did a lot of experimenting, with one notable example being the issue where the comic is read horizontally instead of vertically. This “widescreen” approach was used by Marvel a few more times after Byrne.

In the story, the Fantastic Four visit the Negative Zone where Mister Fantastic is quickly incapacitated and the rest of the team is convinced to attack some sort of supernatural city…

Sadly, Byrne’s tenure on the book was cut short, but he still ended with a strong five-year run on the title.

18. James Robinson's "Starman" - 622 points (9 first place votes)

"Starman" #1-80, plus a #1,000,000 and two Annuals

One of the few good things to spin out of "Zero Hour," "Starman" begins with Ted Knight (the Golden Age Starman) passing the torch (or, in this case, his cosmic energy staff) to his son David. Sadly, in the very first issue, David is murdered, leaving the family title to Ted’s OTHER son, Jack Knight, who was wholly uninterested in becoming a hero.

Jack owns an antiques and collectibles store, and is quite happy to just do that – but with his brother dead, Jack feels the need to take up the Starman name, but only if his father would agree to use his research that led to the cosmic staff’s creation for the good of mankind.

Jack then began one of the stranger superhero tenures, as the whole time he’s doing it, even as he grows more and more as a hero, he still does not exactly fit in with other typical heroes.

While Jack is nominally the star of "Starman," the REAL star is the city Jack and his father, Ted, live in – Opal City. Throughout the series, a message writer James Robinson gets across is an appreciation for the classics, and Opal City is a whole city that is BUILT around that notion – that the classic stories need a city, too, and that’s what Opal City. This leads to the Shade, a classic villain who Robinson re frames as an almost immortal man who just wants to enjoy his time in Opal City, the city he loves. The Shade even ended up getting his own series!

There is a family of cops in Opal City, the O’Dares, who also play a major role in the series, including former crooked cop Matt O’Dare who is pushed into heroism by the spirit of his ancestor.

Artist Tony Harris co-created the book, and did the art for the first 45 issues or so. He was responsible for all of the design of both Jack, Jack’s tattoos (a notable style element of the book in the early days) and Opal City. Harris left the book after 45 issues or so, and was followed by Peter Snejbjerg, who stayed until the end of the book.

"Starman" was one of the most cultured superhero comics – you’d have stuff like thugs debating the works of Stephen Sondheim!!

In fact, that’ll be our sample. From #14, a spotlight on the O’Dares…

In addition, Robinson revisited the past to find every past bearer of the name “Starman,” no matter how obscure. Other old heroes and villains kept popping up in the series, as well.

The book was such a massive critical success for DC that they allowed Robinson to end the story as he wished, which is a tremendous compliment in this day and age of “the show must go on, no matter how bad!” publishing.

17. Jonathan Hickman's "Fantastic Four" - 630 points (8 first place votes)

"Fantastic Four" #570-611, "FF" #1-23

Jonathan Hickman burst onto the "Fantastic Four" “scene” with an impressive opening. Reed Richards meets “The Council,” a group of Reed Richards from throughout the Multiverse…

However, our Reed Richards is special. He has something that these other Reeds doesn’t have. He still has a conscience.

It was a brilliant observation by Hickman that what makes Reed so special is not his great intelligence, but rather the fact that he is surrounded by a family that grounds him and prevents him from ever becoming the mad scientist he very easily could become. They make sure he has a conscience.

One of the fascinating aspects of Hickman’s Fantastic Four run was how calculated the whole thing was. Hickman is a complex thinker and his run was carefully planned out. In his early issues, the Fantastic Four slowly encounter a growing group of brilliant young minds. After the Human Torch was seemingly killed off, Reed Richards decides to form the Future Foundation, a group where he can help mold these young minds into helping the world. A Council of his very own, but one guided by good intentions and not ego.

Meanwhile, Hickman also has made sure to put new spins on a variety of classic Fantastic Four concepts and characters. Galactus, the Inhumans, the Kree, Atlanstic, Black Panther, the Wizard, if they were a part of the classic Jack Kirby/Stan Lee Fantastic Four run, they’ve been addressed and given an interesting new spin by Hickman.

Dale Eaglesham was the original artist on Hickman’s run. Then Steve Epting joined for the “death” of the Human Torch and the launch of the Future Foundation in a new title, "FF.:" After the Fantastic Four returned (with the return of the Human Torch), Epting went with the Fantastic Four but a number of artists did arcs on "Fantastic Four," as well. "FF," meanwhile, was taken over by first Juan Bobillo and then Nick Dragotta.

Hickman left behind a very impressive legacy in his three years on the book. He sort of wrapped up the Reed/family deal in "Secret Wars."

16. Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" - 634 points (3 first place votes)

"New X-Men" #114-154, plus an Annual

Marvel was in bankruptcy when they hired Grant Morrison to become the main "X-Men" writer, and they basically gave him total freedom to do what he wanted, and what he wanted to do was to make some major changes in the title, from eliminating the traditional costumes (going with a “leather jackets” look), which is similar to what the movies did, to making Beast look like the Beast from the famous Jean Cocteau film from the 1940s, adding Emma Frost to the X-Men having it be revealed that home sapiens were on the verge of extinction and, of course, introducing a new bad guy named Cassandra Nova who systematically leads to the Sentinels destroying the mutant population of Genosha…

And that was just the first story arc!!!

After there, Morrison kept the pace quick and the new characters a-plenty, from Xorn, Angel, Beak and the Stepford Cuckoos to John Sublime, Fantomex and Kid Omega.

The book was set-up as a sort of homage to Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s run, in that Morrison would attempt to address the same stories they did, just in a different manner. They had a Sentinel story? Morrison would do a Sentinel story. They had a Shi’ar story? Morrison would do a Shi’ar story. And so on and so forth.

Sadly, the amazing artwork of Frank Quitely, which was meant to be a regular feature on the comic, only showed up about 15 of the 40 issues (if that), and the “regular” backup artist, Ethan Van Sciver, also only did a couple of issues. This led to fill-in artist Igor Kordey being forced to draw some quiiiiiiick comic books, and the result is some ugly looking artwork at times (not Kordey’s fault, of course, as he had VERY little time to get the books out), which is a shame, as the stories were top-drawer.

Morrison’s final story arc (set in the present) was a big Magneto story where Morrison mocked the very nature of comic cycles of death and resurrection. He also killed off a few characters, and had Emma Frost and Scott Summers end up together.

The final arc, period, was set in the future, drawn by Marc Silvestri.

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