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Why You Should Read: TOP 10

Alan Moore and Gene Ha craft a strange, unique world filled literally to the brim with the most bizarre superheroes you've ever seen. And it's all so very beautiful!

Alan Moore was already a household name in comic books in the late 90s. As the writer behind not only V For Vendetta, not only Watchmen, but of some of the most interesting, nuanced single issues DC has ever put out (seriously, a large chunk of DC’s recent stories have been based on stuff Moore wrote thirty years ago), he had told an incredible comic book story about worlds with no superheroes, another incredible one about a world with only one real superhero, logically one of the remainder had to be...a world where EVERYone was a superhero?? Sure enough, his book for the ABC (America’s Best Comics) imprint, which he helped found after leaving WildStorm, showed us the massive city of Neopolis, a city constructed in the aftermath of World War II to house the enormous number of superheroes who emerged during that time (you all remember that, right? All those superheroes?).

Sooooo many powers!

Sure enough, literally everyone from the highest ranked politician to even common pets and vermin, have some kind of superpower. Gene Ha provides the art for the two core books, and he's absolutely at the top of his game. Every panel is crammed with so much content and background jokes and references, that it's almost impossible to comprehend in a single read through without stopping to take fastidious notes on what you're seeing. Of especial note are the pieces of pop-culture that permeate the world, including a popular comic called The Accountant, with the stirring tagline: "You Will Believe a Man Can't Fly!" The notion of an entire superpowered society elevating the mundane to the fantastical has been done before and since, but I have yet to see it done better.

Moore’s first two books follow the police, which the extremely SEO-unfriendly title takes its name from, of this city. Far from being a normal cop procedural, a super powered city creates very, very specific crimes that they are equipped to solve. From the analyst with a powerful sense of synesthesia to the super-intelligent dog in a human-shaped metal chassis to the bioengineered perfect woman and even a warrior from a strange, magical land, everyone has a role to play and no one bats an eye at the bizarre sights that are commonplace in Neopolis. And it's a good thing they have such a diverse set, because crimes range from stopping a drug that gives the user the ability to vibrate in and out of reality to domestic disputes taken to a whole new level, to a homicide in a bar that caters exclusively to actual gods.

Baldur is dead! The culprit MAY surprise you!...but probably it won't.

There are four official Top 10 books (the two initial volumes, a prequel dubbed “The Forty-Niners” after the year that the main characters arrive in the city, and a fantasy spin-off called Smax centering around the character of the same name) that were written by Moore, as well as a sequel that I won’t regard here because, frankly, the quality is nowhere near the core books and it had a completely different creative team. There’s an incredible murder mystery at the heart of the two main Top 10 books, one that involves one helluva grand conspiracy and that comes to an incredibly logical and satisfying conclusion, but also never forgets to spotlight its main characters in some of the best pure character moments I’ve ever seen.

From the dog’s quest for love (he LITERALLY is a normal-sized dog outside of his human-shaped armor, which is constantly clad in a variety of gaudy t-shirts) to the Peacock King being one of the only real Satanists in pop-culture that isn’t a blood drinking devil worshiper, but certainly is a terrifying figure in his own right, and that’s what this book does: some characters are gay, some have unconventional beliefs, but none of this is ever put under intense scrutiny because they also have insane superpowers that make them stand out far more.

The far stranger stuff are things like one of the characters’ mother having cosmic powered pests invade her apartment, which causes an exterminator to call in superpowered cats, but that merely triggers a mega-crossover event as Galactapus attempts to devour reality, and in the end everything is wiped clean and the exterminator is left with a bill he can’t collect on because no one remembers any of it happening. Yes, all of that seriously and actually happens in this title, across multiple issues, and that’s what’s at the heart of it: it is a singularly unique and strange story that can, and should, be read multiple times because Gene Ha has CRAMMED every panel with a ton of detail and background jokes.

It’s not the most influential book, nor is it the most groundbreaking, but it’s definitely one of the most unique and for that reason alone, it’s worth a look. If a lot of that just sounds like a summation, it’s because it is. This is a series that is VERY difficult to quantify in terms of what makes it special without actually reading it yourself, and that goes back to one of Moore’s greatest strengths: he is one of the only comic book writers who truly writes for the medium of comic books, and no book portrays that better than Top 10. It’s the reason his books translate so poorly into movies: they weren’t written to be movies, they were written exactly for the medium they exist as.

Out to solve the mystery of exactly who IS a good boy.

Smax is the odd one out in the series as it takes place in Det. Smax’s strange, fantastical homeland and, as such, is a massive shift in terms of both tone and setting. Though he brings the protagonist, Robin, of the two main titles with him, so there’s someone to question all the strangeness going on at all times, the story is a definite departure, and only really recommended if you absolutely can’t get enough of the two main characters. The art is provided fully by series colorist Zander Cannon, and while his colors on all the titles he works on are top-notch, the pencils are muddy, indistinct, and the characters lack detail. The writing and the story are still absolutely top-notch, and learning more about one of the most enigmatic characters of the Farthest Precinct is a welcome addition.

Which brings us to the prequel (the last book released) with Gene Ha back in the artist's seat and Moore returning after the series’ unfortunate foray into continuation without him and the quality level is right back where it belongs. The story centers on the character who would be police chief in the modern stories and deals with a cabal of vampires secretly planning to overthrow the newly founded city’s government, but again, the larger story is actually a mere footnote to the amazing character studies that go one. From former rivals on the battlefield trying to find love, but finding friendship when love proves impossible, to seeing Neopolis in a more embryonic state in a story that truly feels like a great prequel, rather than a shoe-horned cash-in, Top 10: The 49ers is absolutely worth picking up.

These four books are also entirely self-contained, which is why I’m writing about them as a singular entity, and they’re all worth picking up for their own reasons, if for no other reason than to see masters of their craft at the top of their games. Read them once and then read them again for all the background jokes that you missed...did you catch the kid with the flaming skull riding a unicycle?

27 Comments
Posted by TheShutup

An old Alan BORE story?
No Thanks.

Give me a Geoff Johns DC event about every DC character and him changing everyone origin, and if there is truly a comic god, he would allow Rob Liefeld to return to DC to do art duties. but that would be to good to be true
if not have Jim lee do art duties, he will probably leave after a couple issues but it's OK, I love shelling out money for mainstream stuff! X)
uyuck!yuck!yuck!



Edited by Billy Batson

Top 10 is very good.

BB

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@undeadpool:

Okay, I`ll read this. Probably should`ve, already. Maybe I thought it was one of his Wildstorm-stories, for some ungodly reason.

Posted by Billy Batson
Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k
Posted by Billy Batson
Edited by kfhrfdu_89_76k
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

I love that that dog has a tshirt on that just says "dog"

Posted by longbowhunter

I'd like to get a hold of that Absolute Top 10.

Posted by Nahuel

Wanna read it... But no money *sigh*

Posted by Kerrigan

Top 10 is fantastic. The 49ers tie in is also wonderful.

In fact, Moore's major 21st century work--Top 10, Promethea, Tom Strong, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen--blows anyone else out of the water, and it's arguably been his strongest period for flat-out creativity.

Posted by captkangaroo727

Yes yes yes! I love Top Ten, such an incredibly well done book. I don't have the 49ers but after reading this article it's next on my list. The Easter eggs and references alone are worth owning Top Ten.

Posted by Reignmaker

Alan Moore had so many good books going on at once when Top 10 came out. Greatest comics writer of all time.

Posted by Shallbecomeabattoo

I dunno... I really disliked Promethea a lot and just read the first Tom Strong hardcover for the first time yesterday. I liked the first 5-6 issues a lot, but it got too disjointed after that.

Also was not a fan of the league of extraordinary gentlemen. So I guess top 10 won't be for me either.

Give me back young 80s Alan Moore any day!!! Loved all his Captain Britain stuff, Swamp Thing, his DC stuff (KILLING JOKE!), Watchmen, V!!! Somehos his modern stuff is not for me.

Posted by etragedy
Edited by LP

@shallbecomeabattoo: Tom Strong is one of my favorite comics of all time, and Jack B Quick from ABC was too but I can understand why someone would find it all a bit disjointed. I think that was the point of those... Anyway V for Vendetta is obviously his best. I wonder if I would like Top 10 because I hated Promethea.

Posted by redhood21

@theshutup:

you tickled my funny bone :( im calling the police

Posted by QueenCorp15

Ive been reading his promethea wich is very good so il definately try this

Posted by tec79

It is to bad the relationship between Moore and DC is terrible, projects like Top 10 are a perfect example of why the New 52 would have been perfect for him to return to mainstream Superhero comics.

Posted by Shallbecomeabattoo

@lp: cool! Can you give me an advice about Tom Strong? As I said, Ireally liked the general tone of the series. The first 6 issues were really great, but I lost some interest after that, because they started doing three short stories per issue, instead of a longer arc. Does that continue this way, or do the long arcs come back? If you say that HC vol.2 has a lot of those longer arcs again, I would want to continue reading. I am not a fan of those short one and done kind of stories.

Posted by Perfect 10

great series, just wish it could have kept on as an ongoing. maybe one day. astro city just recently came back so anything's possible

Posted by LP

@shallbecomeabattoo: well to be sure, Tom Strong does have a lot of shorts that aren't a part of any larger story and as the story goes on the dialogue becomes very.... wordy in that Alan Moore way. for me the best part of TS is how much Alan incorporates the history of the comic industry into the story while creating enough "original" content that could tie into the other ABC books. SPOILERS: in issue #7 Ingrid Weiss, the Nazi villainess from the 40s (introduced somewhere around # 3?) returns with HUGE secrets that prove to haunt the Strong family in more ways than one. the first secret is Albrecht, Tom's Son!

There are a lot of shorts (peppered throughout the series really) from #6 to #11, where the story picks up again as several Golden Age heroes, including Doc Strange and The Terror, team up with the Strong family to fight an enemy that destroyed "America's Best" (America's first science hero team of which Tom and Johnny Future were members of). A lot of new villains and heroes are introduced and they play a much bigger role through the series than suspected - especially Paul Saveen, Tom's oldest and greatest arch nemesis. Throughout the story Tom travels through different realities, which are all revisted several times but the best one is the one-shot "The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong" where his daughter Tesla travels through these realities to save her world and the other worlds.

By #15-20, Tesla has nearly stolen the show as she discovers an ancient civilization (and love!), the Strong family team up with a Russian superheroine/astronaut (and her husband, Dimitri) and a 3-eyed cowboy to fight against an alien invasion and meet a time traveller that shows Tom an alternate version of his own story - a story where his father dies in the journey to Attabar Teru. This story arc is my favorite of all of them. The stories take even more left turns, and the story arcs become longer each time until finally, the last episode where everything is explained, all the ABC characters are together and the world... ends? It was kind of confusing but then i realized that it was tied into something that happens in Promethea, which I didn't read at this point!

After that, the next time we see the Strong family is in The Robots of Doom miniseries, in which Albrecht, now an adult and Ingrid, bustier than ever (lol) are plotting to change history in their favor just as Tesla is getting married!

You could read Tom's Strong's Terrific Tales but you don't have to as it's just more oneshots detailing Tom's early life on Attabar Teru (which nicely explains and references Tom's main book story). However! Each issue contained the story of another character from ABC: Jonni Future. I honestly think they should have published her stories separately and made more of them. I read TT just for her and Art Adams' breathtaking artwork! Plus, Bruce Timm does one issue and there's an awesomely adorable children's poem in another episode.

so there you have it! try some out and let me know what you think!

Posted by texgnome1

One of my favorite series in recent memories, and glad it's getting a spotlight here. From the very first issue to the reveal of the killer's identity, it's just good comics storytelling. And I'm not really an Alan Moore fan for the most part. Strongly recommend picking this up.

"Break her freaking neck son."

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Wow I had heard about this before from others telling me how great it was. I've never read it before and your recommendation has me reeled in! Its library trip time!

Posted by lorex

I love Top 10 it is a very good take on super powered beings. One part I really liked was that Neopolis for all its grandure was essentially a superhuman getto.

Edited by Shallbecomeabattoo

@lp: thanks for that big write up! I love when people are that passionate about their favorite comic series!

As I said before, I really loved the first HC until the end of the first big Ingrid Weiss arc, but all the short stories kinda took a toll on me. Its definately a great series. The best part dor me is the overall whackyness of the adventures. Like the whole idea of the framing device of the first issue with the kid reading the comic was brilliant!

If and when I read HC vol2 I will send you a PM with my thoughts! Again, thanks for the time you took to talk to me about it.