So this is my first attempt at what I'd like to be a weekly thing, I come up with a topic to write about involving some kind of Top X list and then go on about it for a few minutes. I decided the best place to start would be my Top 10 comics issues. Now, in a real fire I might not save any of these because comics are so easy to order off the internet to replace my collection, though the entire collection would be several hundred dollars. So I'm going to present this list as if these comics would be no where to be replaced if they really burned up in a fire, you know, up the stacks a little. These are really issues that have a place somewhere in the corner of my heart and about six of them came to me the second I stopped to make the list. Here goes.
10. Amazing Spider-Man #361 (The first appearance of Carnage) I can't really say I love this issue, it doesn't have the greatest story and it's not something you might rip through long boxes at a comic store looking for. But its really my first real back issue. It was the first comic I went digging through a box at my LCS specifically looking for. The issue has the first appearance of Carnage, some wonderful art by Mark Bagley and caught my interest at a young age.
9. Sonic the Hedgehog #114 Over the course of this blog you'll realize how little street cred I really have, so why not start with my #9, a Sonic the Hedgehog comic. Remember the first time I read this comic was after my first day of high school back in 2002, for reasons I myself don't understand either. The issue covers the return Mammoth Mogul and some other little tidbits, but it isn't really the issue itself that I'd be digging through my long boxes for, but the cover. Yeah, another secret about me, I love Star Wars and if there are comic covers giving homage to Star Wars in someway, I'm in. You've got Sonic & Tails, Sally, an epic looking Knuckles and our villain Mammoth all falling into place on the cover and it still stands out to me as one of my favorite comic covers.
8. Ultimate X-Men #75 (First Appearance of Ultimate Cable) I was a freshmen in college when I read this issue, I had been working my way through the trades of Ultimate X-Men and running to the LCS to grab whatever issues I could off the stands and when I saw the advertisement for this issue I nearly died from excitement. Cable in the Ultimate Universe and there was promises that he would be shaking the book up (a promise I've heard time and time again anytime Marvel or DC wants to get people jumping onto a book). I will admit that at the time I wasn't loving Ben Oliver's art in the issue, but the story had me and that was all the mattered. The story picks up not long after the X-Men have found themselves ripped apart by a new recruit, Magician, who turned out to be a little more than he seemed, and Nightcrawler, who had jumping ship and kidnapping team members. Jean Grey is face the possibility that she may be The Phoenix and Rouge has recently had her powers re-emerge. Then a time-traveler, Cable, comes bursting in trying to kill Professor X. Single-handedly takes out the entire team and it all comes down to a face-off between Cable and Wolverine in which we discover that Cable is actually Logan from the future, sans his powers. I was shocked. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what happened Logan over the next 30 years. How did he lose his powers? Why does he have a mech arm? What did Professor X do that caused all of this?
7. (Tie) Super Sonic Vs. Hyper Knuckles #1 & Sonic & Knuckles Mecha Madness Special #1 I chose to mark these two as a tie because they fill the same niche in my comic history. The basic idea of both of these issues is a story I'd always wanted to see when I was playing Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles knocking the crap out of each other. Super Sonic Vs. Hyper Knuckles was a piece of Sonic mythos I always had some active interest in as a kid, "What would happen if both Sonic and Knuckles reached their 'Super' forms?" The story is pretty shallow by standards today, but I read X-Force and Fables now. Sonic discovers that Knuckles has been poking around in the Acorn Kingdom and goes to investigate. After a short fight they stumble upon a gateway into the Unknown Zone (The Action Zones seen in the Sonic Games), where rings and Chaos Emeralds are up for the taking. Both characters snag 50 rings and seven Chaos Emeralds and a clash of titans begins. After a long fight the two smash into each other and rip a hole back to their home world and they go back to their lives. Nothing too special now a days I guess, but it was this whole new world for back then. Oh, and in the back-up story we got the origin of Knuckles, so I was happy as a clam with this issue. Mecha Madness fits into the actual continuity of the series, after Dr. Robotnik has captured Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog #39, he turns him into Mecha Sonic and uses him to destroy Knothole Village and everything seems bleak for our heroes. Luckily Knuckles shows up and tries to stop Mecha Sonic, but even he isn't strong enough, so they Rebels have to use a device to turn Knuckles into Mecha Knuckles to even the playing field. After a long fight, Knuckles is able to free Sonic from his transformation, but not before most of Knothole Village is ravaged. Another classic comic in my opinion.
6. Ultimate Spider-Man #133 This was the last issue of Ultimate Spider-Man before the line relaunched, it was a silent issue and possibly my favorite of the series, if not evident from the review I gave it, here's a few lines of my review:
"Peter Parker is dead. As far as anything is concerned, Parker is dead. There is a white flash at the beginning of the issue, Parker is gone. (I bet Loeb undoes this at the end of Ultimatum) The issue, in all it's silent glory, revolves around Spider-Woman trying to help as many people as possible in New York. She runs into Kitty, there is a very funny moment there and the life saving continues. In the last few pages, they find what's left of Spider-Man's mask, there are tears as Kitty presents it to Mary Jane and Aunt May. The issue ends and we get an interview with Bendis about the series as a whole.
The art is fantastic. People of less artistic realization would say the writing was poor, but doing an issue without words is even harder to write than one with words. So, the team jumped the hurtle of words and did it with flying colors." I really, really like this issue and if I can only have ten comics, this is one of them.
5. New Mutants Vol. 3 #6 So, in terms of comics, I'm fairly new to the X-Men universe. Yeah, I've seen the films and the cartoons, but it wasn't until about a year ago that I really got pulled into the X-Men's rich history thanks to The Uncanny X-Cast. New Mutants #6 was my favorite issue of 2009 without a doubt. The issue revolves around the return of Doug Ramsey (aka Cypher) who has been dead since the early 90's and has the power to understand all languages, a "quiet power" at best. He's back from the grave thanks to the events of Necrosha and at the time was under the control of Selene. Now, when I say Doug can understand languages the first thing that comes to mind is that he can switch between Spanish and Wookie with no problem, but his power has evolved way past that to the point where he can read body language, making him a formidable opponent against his old teammates. The jury is still out on whether he can understand women. I have to give a lot of credit to Zeb Wells who wrote the issue on his delivery of Doug and his thoughts in this issue for why this ranks so highly in my mind, because in the opening Doug is watching the New Mutants and Professor X reunite for the first time in years as a group and Doug is reading everyone in the room as to how their words are contradicted by their body language. Doug also this thinking in binary due to this exposer to the Transmode Virus and it makes him seem like more of a machine than a man for the most part. The issue ends with the cliffhanger and in my opinion the series has just recently hit the high marks it did with issue. But it goes without saying that if you thought a power like omni-lingualism was silly, this might change your opinion.
4. Green Lantern Vol. 4 #43 The attentive reader might notice that I just said that New Mutants #6 was my favorite issue of 2009 and yet I am ranking this issue higher on my list. To those people I say don't ask questions. It was the cover of this book that caught my eye, the manager of my LCS had been pushing me to read Green Lantern for a few months at that point and something sinister drew me on with this book. Now, to say I loved this issue may making me a horrible person, because the entire issue revolves around the origins of Black Hand, an old school Green Lantern villain getting a very dark update, and the first time we see him in this issue he's laying in a grave with three corpses. Maybe I'm wrong for falling in love with a character who finds the dead more beautiful than the living, who killed & stuffed the family dog for taxidermy practice and who walks into his family's home & vaporizes all of them before killing himself. But I loved all of it for the layers it added to the Green Lantern mythos. In the end, Black Hand becomes the Black Incarnate of the Black Lanterns and the catalyst for Blackest Night. There isn't really much more I can say about the issue, no doubt it's dark, but I loved it.
3. Civil War : The Confession If Civil War was the event that changed the Marvel Universe, then this issue was the one that I think best set the bar for the stories that could be told in the post-Civil War universe. It's a talking issue, there is no explosions, no good vs. bad, just two old friends ripped apart by the war of super heroes and the reaction of Tony Stark to Steve Rogers' death. This is what I would call the second part of a three part story from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. I'm referring to the one-shots, New Avengers: Illuminati (Road to Civil War), Civil War: The Confession & Secret Invasion: Dark Reign. You can tell from this issue that Bendis did have plans for Secret Invasion (not to say that he was lying about having plans). There are many references to how "the mighty will fall" like Stark does at the of Secret Invasion. But it also works for the purpose that I loved it for when it first came out, the motives of Tony Stark. He confesses to being a futurist, that he saw what the world would become. That he saw the citizens of world that rely on super heroes to protect them and how one day they'd take them for granted. And once Nick Fury presented the documentation for what we would one day know as the Registration Act, he knew it would take just one slip up from a super human to bring everything down. He confesses that he knew who would fall on what side and that this war that was coming wasn't going to be over good guys vs. bad guys. He knew he'd have to take a stand and be the leader for that people he saw would be portrayed as the "bad guys". And once it started, he confessed that he and Steve would never be teammates, friends or allies again. And after all of that, he confesses, to Steve Rogers' dead body, "It wasn't worth it." The brilliant part of this issue is that we then turn the pages back two days and see what might be Tony and Steve's last conversation. Tony is the dickish victor. Steve insists that just because he's sitting in a jail cell doesn't mean he lost. Tony insists that if Steve actually understood the kinds of things Tony's armor could do, Steve might have won the war. And after all that, Cap asks Tony if it was really worth it, which Tony brushes off and walks away from. All of the weight of Civil War, all the context and relevancy was right here. I come back to this issue from time to time when I'm searching through my long boxes and every time I get a kick out of this issue.
2. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man # 1 I'm a huge fan of Spider-Man and will be indebted to Brian Michael Bendis for the rest of my days for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man. When the story ended in Ultimate Spider-Man #133 we were left to believe that Peter Parker was dead and in the closing pages of Ultimatum, we discovered he had in fact survived the slaughter of the Ultimate Universe. So here we are with a chance for a fresh new world for Peter Parker and once again, Bendis delivered. This issue is exactly what I, as an Ultimate Spider-Man fan, have been waiting for. I really don't want to give away the two big reveals, but it set the series to live up to it's quota, bring us Spider-Man stories we'd get no where else. Peter, now without the Bugle to employ him, is working at a McParody called Burger Frog and the job is, as anything in customer service would be, very very annoy and rough. But I loved it, the scene rings true to anyone who has even had an annoying customer would has no idea what the heck they're doing and a boss who could care less about their side of the story. We find ourselves in a New York City six months after the Ultimatum and finally the city is "open for business" again, echoing the world after 9/11 in many ways. All from the prospective of Mary Jane as the school's internet reporter. We get a look into the crime world as a small store gets ran into by car. The driver and his assistant get out of the car and try attempt to rob the place, only to get stopped by the new hero in town who fight crime wrapped in a crimson trench coat and with their face in shadows (it's Kitty Pryde). Spider-Man shows up after the fight dies down and the cops show up. Best part: The cops are honored to meet Spider-Man and want to shake his hand, a much different relationship that even Peter hasn't gotten used to. This is the point when the issue takes a turn I really loved, Peter Parker is dating Gwen Stacy! Finally, I get my Spider-Man they way I've dreamed of since learning of the character and her death in Marvel 616. It's all kind of left up in the air was to what has happened to all the characters we knew and loved in the last 6 months, but I was along for the ride. I think I read this issue 8 times the day I got it, finding something knew I loved every time.
1. Sonic The Hedgehog #42 And now we've come full circle, I've covered some of my favorite issues of all time that sit in my collection, and yet we come back to Sonic The Hedgehog. This was the second comic book I'd ever owned and it still is my absolute favorite comic I own. The cover draws me, the opening with Sonic fighting Knuckles, the almost black-ops style story that follows that gave me all the context to what this series was about and would continue to be about until about issue 50, a war against Dr. Robotnik. I'm not even 100% sure how to sum up what I liked so much about the issue, because it all just clicks with me. I loved the video games, I saw the comic, I read the comic. There is no doubt that when I have kids some day, I'll want to buy the digests of the series and hopefully they'll want to read them, or maybe I just will. It's tattered now, sitting bagged and boarded in my long box, but if there is ever a fire, this is the first thing I'm grabbing.
I've been reading comics for most of my life and in a very hardcore sense since about Civil War. I'll admit that up until about a year ago I was really just a Marvel Zombie and DC was just "that other universe" to me. But with the introduction to Blackest Night last year and my slow exploration of many Vertigo titles such as Fables and Y: The Last Man more recently I've grown to love those other universes.
That said, I'm really the comic-junkie of my group of friends and thus I have affection for a lot of characters that my friends scratch their heads over. But I wanted to talk about a few and tell the world why I love these characters that a typical pop-culture-comic-fan who thinks Gwen Stacy was "the other woman" in a love-triangle with Emo-Spider-Man may have never heard of. And while I would have loved to have had Deadpool on this list, even he's become too mainstream for me to include and feel like I'm keeping what little street-cred I have. Let's start at the top:
1.Phobos (Marvel) My favorite "underground" character isn't really that well known even to some Marvel Zombies, he's the son of Ares (who appeared in Mighty Avengers and most recently Dark Avengers) and currently kicks around Secret Warriors with Nick Fury. He's the god of fear in the shell of a teenager and he's pretty good at holding his own, the best example of such comes to mind when Norman Osborn sent the Hammer agents after the Secret Warriors and Phobos single-handedly drove them and Norman off. He's the kind of character that isn't an anti-hero, but it seems clear that unlike a lot of the other characters floating around the book, he's not frightened by Fury. I think that after the events of Siege and where the character ends up following that event that there are plans being put in place to give this character more of a role in the Marvel universe in the coming years.
2. Larfleeze (DC) Gosh. Where do you start with this guy? He's the sole Orange Lantern, a Corps based around the Orange Light of Greed in the DC Universe, and he's had the spot of a very long time. The flavor of this guy is prefect, he doesn't allow anyone else to play in his sandbox and the large percentage of the space creatures that have even come near him have been killed and reconstructed as "slaves" or collectables to him. He's greed personified. He can't read, he fell in love with the idea of Santa Claus the second he was told about him and he offers the comic relief in any panel he shows up in. If not for this guy, I don't know if I would have started reading Green Lantern, and now I don't know how I claimed to be a comic fan without it.
3. Boy Blue (Vertigo) He's the young man from the nursery rhyme about blowing a horn to wake up all the animals on the farm. Well, that's how most people know him at least. But if you've read Fables by Bill Willingham you know he's about hundred times more heroic than the rhyme gives him credit for. Blue goes under the radar for much of the run, being overshadowed by The Big Bad Wolf in terms of heroics and general bad-assery, until he becomes the lynchpin that starts the war with The Adversary. I'd hate to spoil even a small fraction of the twists of Fables and all the amazing events as they unfold, but I kid you not, Boy Blue does an excellent job of stealing the title of Bad Ass from Bigby very quickly. I only wish that more people knew just how astonishing the little man with the horn could be.
4. Black Hand(DC) William Hand is the embodiment of my dark side when it comes to comic characters I love. He's a very old school DC character who got completely revamped in time for Blackest Night and I can only guess that I wouldn't have liked this character 3 years ago, from what I can gauge he wasn't nearly as cool. A black sheep in his family, whose family trade was running a funeral home, William had a very intense connection with the dead. He tops my list due to his recent origin issue in Green Lantern #43, the first image we see of him is him sleeping in a dug up grave with a few skeletons. In the issue we see his mental connection with death and his final moments of life before he claims the title at Embodiment of the Black Light, by killing his family and himself. Liking the issue automatically made me a bad person I believe. He goes on to lead the Black Lanterns and in the end fall into enslavement with the Indigo Lanterns. I'm sure plans for him are already seeded and I'm looking forward to them.
5. Magik aka Illyana Rasputin (Marvel) There is something so appealing to me about Illyana, her character is as rich as nearly any other X-Men character (almost singlehandedly because of the Magik limited series). She's the ruler of Limbo, she's the sister of Colossus, she's an innocent little girl whose been corrupted by dark magic and half her life in the hellish world of Limbo. It's really hard for me to truly sum up what I find the most interesting about her, she brings dark comedy to Zeb Well's New Mutants and a lot of the mythology behind the book. I swear that if like the magical side of your X-Men books and you give her mini-series, X-Infernus or Kyle and Yost's take on her in their New X-Men run a chance you'll find something to love about her too.
I know I've really just scratched the surface of really good "underground" characters, heck Yorick from Y: The Last Man and Bigby from Fables are honorable mentions in my book. And I know that there have to be characters that everyone else out there must love that you feel the general public should know more about, so give me some love and comment about them.
With the release of the final issue of Dark Avengers (#16) we're given the last pieces of the fall of the Dark Avengers. But what I actually find most interesting is not what happens to Daken or Victoria Hand, but the final scene with Norman Osborn. What we expect going into the monologue by the now fallen Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. is that he is trying to give a word of warning to Tony Stark and Thor as they berate him for "screwing the pooch." Norman talks about how the world is broken right now, how the tiniest mistake will lead to the downfall of the entire world and how men & women who put masks on are allowed to go out and decide who is the heroes and villains. And how he could have fixed everything had he not had "You" in his way. Now I was expecting that Osborn was ranting at Thor and Tony, but no, this was all for the Green Goblin persona floating around in his head.
And it got me reflecting back on the Dark Avengers series and possibly some of the older material as well, Norman Osborn has always, like Tony Stark, had his eyes trained on the future. And maybe deep down he really saw all the problem with the Marvel Universe and thought he could fix them. This is a man who in his early appearances was a wealthy businessman who would stop at nothing to try to make his company noteworthy, he did it by testing on himself and becoming a super villain, yes, but slowly all his power and influence went away. Now, in recent years, he's slowly made his way to the top of the chain, he used his eye for seeing the future to realize that things like the events of Civil War and Secret Invasion could have been prevented had we only crossed more lines. So here comes Dark Reign and Norman is running the show and actually making improvements, questionable actions were taken, but it wasn't like we've never seen actions like that happen in real life.
If you've been reading Dark Avengers you may have noticed that there was this grey area that Norman walked in, he seemed to be trying his best to run the world safely while going crazy behind close doors, I believe that his own personal demon, The Green Goblin, may have actually been the one to worry about, much like The Void was the actual problem keeping Sentry from being one of the best.
But now the heroes have returned and Steve Rogers has taken over as Director of SHIELD, like I believe he should at the end of Civil War. And Norman is in a jail cell.
Does anyone else have any strong opinions on the issue?
Back in the early years of the 00's I was in love with the Ultimate Universe, I think it was really a good gateway drug to the Marvel Universe Proper in many ways, you learn about Peter Parker and Mary Jane in Ultimate Spider-Man, you go look into their adventures in Amazing. But as the reboot nears the one year mark in a few months I'm beginning to wonder if it's simply that I no longer need a second living timeline in my Marvel comics experience or if the universe as a whole has run it's course.
Believe me, I loved Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 and all the new things it brought to the Ultimate Peter Parker character. I'm interested to read about Peter and Gwen as a couple, because even though she was dead for about a decade when I was born, I like the idea of Peter and Gwen more then Peter and MJ. But as the last few issues have passed by, I don't feel that much into what's going on, maybe I just want the High School romance of two characters more then the misadventures of Rick Jones. I still plan to read it for awhile longer, just to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt, but it's becoming a shorter list of things I'm liking every day.
But the real reason I write this blog, the thing that really makes me stand up and shout, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" is New Ultimates, after reading this crap I begin to wonder why the Ultimate office is letting Loeb near these characters after he F%&$ed them over last time. I mean, is it just me? I think this is a waste of paper. I understand that there is the underlining story of the return of Ultimate Thor and some other mess, but this doesn't feel needed, it doesn't feel like it continues the story. And why is Hela disrobing for Thor? I understand sex happens in the Ultimate/Marvel Universe, but this and the crap going on in Ultimates 3 a few years back (also written by Loeb strangely) just seems to be sex for the purpose of getting attention.
I don't know, the more I think about it the more I think maybe Jeph Loeb shouldn't be allowed near the Ultimate Office and that people like Bendis and Millar can handle it. I really liked the Ultimate Universe so many years back and I guess I'd like to know how other feel.
I think beyond the creation of Superman, which changed comics and the idea of what they could be period. Jack Kirby did more to change what a comic was and how a comic looked, if you look at a comic in 1958 compared to a comic in 1969 you can see big differences, those changes were Kirby. He was a huge Pop Culture sponge, you look at what is in the background of New Gods, Fourth World or Fantastic Four or strictly what the story was you can see elements of Star Trek or themes from the book "Gods from Outer Space."
He, with the help of Lee, made Captain America work after his return as kind of a modern day Hamlet who was the product of a different time. The art was fantastic and with almost no effort, told a story and made the the idea of a picture inspiring 1000 words true in the pages of Fantastic Four or The Avengers. I think elements of Marvel Comics that I really love come from Kirby and Marvel's nature to embrace maverick writers and artists and I think it started with Kirby.
I think there are really good examples of great characters being portrayed as being really great. Batman, Spider-man (in 1 & 2), The X-Men & of course our recent Joker.
But the characters that stick out the most are always going to be the one's that really sucked. And there is a certain amount of pandering as I see it, if people like Venom or Sandman, then the studios think that as long as they make it on screen we'll love them. My belief is, mainly regarding Deadpool on this one, is that if you can't make an intelligent character out of a fan favorite (which in the comic book world is everyone because every character has fans) then don't put them in the film. And changing powers or origins can be really cheap. And don't get me started with having Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, you commit to Mary Jane being a mix between the two in the context of the film and don't go around trying to change things. We're smart enough people to understand a love triangle, and Spider-man 2 could have been the place to have that. Make Peter choose between Spider-Man and Parker & Mj and Gwen.
Spider-Man 2 still stands out in my mind as one of the best comic book films ever, and that's because they took characters and made them very strong. So what if they changed Doc Ock and gave him a wife, for the terms of the film it all worked. I didn't feel like they were making changes because they thought we wouldn't notice or because they wanted to fit another character in there for a cameo.
I think the Civil War storyline would made a wonderful game. I'm not sure what kind of game fits the best, maybe an RPG where you can pick a side and survive the war, just don't play as *spoiler* Captain America.