2017 Top 100 Comic Book Storylines: #55-51

You voted, and now, after over 1,000 ballots were cast, here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book storylines of all-time (this is the third time we've done this countdown. We're on an every four year schedule)! We started with ten storylines a day, and now we're down to five storylines a day (until the last week, which will be three storylines a day). You can click on the Top 100 Comic Book Storylines tag either here or at the end of the post to see the other entries, in case you missed one.

To recap, you all sent in ballots ranking your favorite storylines from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). I added up all of the points and here we are!

And yes, it was probably a bad idea to use a foil cover for the featured image. But I just couldn't help myself.

55. “Anatomy Lesson” by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben (Sage of the Swamp Thing #21-27) – 186 points (1 first place vote)

When Alan Moore took over Swamp Thing, he did something drastic in his first issue. He killed off Swamp Thing. That then led to the beginning of his first storyline (as the death of Swamp Thing was wrapping up the previous writer’s storyline) and the introduction of one of the most mind-blowing twists in comic book history.

There had been a number of other significant retcons with titles before, but they all paled in comparison to what Alan Moore did with “Anatomy Lesson,” where Jason Woodrue, the Florenic Man, reveals that the entire origin of Swamp Thing was false – Alec Holland was not transformed into Swamp Thing during a chemical explosion – instead, the chemicals animated a group of vegetation into THINKING it was Alec Holland.

This was a great shock to Swamp Thing’s system and he was sort of stuck in shock. Moore would use this time to explain the various inconsistencies of Swamp Thing’s origin by saying that there were many different Swamp Things who all had the same basic origin. Clever meta-fiction work by Moore.

Woodrue, though, was driven insane by the situation himself so Swamp Thing had to get over his/its shock over this new revelation to stop the crazed Woodrue (this includes the famous issue where Moore shows how the world views the Justice League as sort of detached god-like beings). By the end of this initial arc, after a brilliant re-introduction of Jason Blood and the Demon back into the DC Universe, Swamp Thing finally comes to terms with its new state of being and officially buried Alec Holland and prepares to embrace his/its new life.

Moore was ably assisted by the art team that was there when he joined the book, penciler Stephen R. Bissette and inker John Totleben – together, Bissette and Totleben delivered a stunningly rich art style, that was perfect for the moody stories Moore told.

54. "Grand Guignol" by James Robinson and Peter Snejbjerg (with Paul Smith) (Starman #62-73) – 192 points (4 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.

53. “Knightfall” by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent and a number of inkers (Batman #491-500, Detective Comics #659-666) - 196 points (3 first place votes)

The basic gist of Knightfall is that this fellow named Bane shows up in Gotham City with basically one goal – “break” Batman. Bane first studied Batman for a few months and then he came up with his plan. He first freed all the inmates of Arkham Asylum to force Batman to capture them all before they can do too much damage. This resulted in a frantic series of stories as Batman hunts down all the escapees, allowing writers Moench and Dixon to feature the whole gamut of cool Batman villains. Meanwhile, the man formerly known as Azrael (who had been trained to be a killer by a cult - he is the latest assassin to to take on the name Azrael - he did not even know that he had been programmed to become a killer until his father died and he was triggered so that he could become the new Azrael), Jean-Paul Valley, has been training with Robin to be a hero (and to get past his evil programming).

When Batman finally captured all the villains after a whole pile of issues, Batman is naturally exhausted. He had already been dealing with exhaustion even before this storyline - tackling all of his greatest villains in a row was too much for him. He was happy, though, to know that it was finally over. Unknown to him, though, this is the time that Bane chose to strike, as he is smart enough to figure out Batman's secret identity and so he is waiting for Batman at the Bat-Cavs and he ultimately deals Batman a tragic blow.

However, Bane is shocked when he thinks that this now makes him "king of Gotham," as Batman decides to instead name Jean-Paul Valley as his successor. Jean-Paul, of course, was not ready for the mantle of Batman, as he was still dealing with all of that assassin training that had been programmed into him, and as a result, he slowly became more and more violent as Batman. He also began arming himself with special armor and new weapons, much harsher stuff than what Batman normally used in fights. While this was unusual stuff, it is fair to note that "Batman" (he soon became known as Az-Bats) DID go out and defeat Bane, succeeding with his violent weapons where the previous Batman failed.

This story was a bit of a social experiment on the part of Batman editor Denny O’Neill. He wanted to show just why Batman was so special, and to do so, he would have a “Batman for the 90s” show up, all the better to contrast with the original - overly violent, high tech weapons, all that jazz - that was Az-Bats and the idea would be to show how much worse off everyone was by having a "kewl" Batman instead of the original (and, of course, hopefully this new character could be spun off into his own book when Batman returned, which is just what happened).

Go to the next page for #52-51

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