Hello everyone. I just wanted to start off by thanking everyone who commented or sent me emails. I really appreciate it. This has been the best writing exercise I’ve done so far and it’s really helping me build up my confidence as a writer and it’s motivated me to start work on other editing and writing projects. I probably wouldn’t be at this point without everyone’s encouragement. So thanks from the bottom of my heart.
Now that the sappy shit’s out of the way I’ll jump right in. This week I’m doing a top 5 that I’m sure many of you have probably expected from me the beginning of this. My top 5 favorite comics. This is the other piece of the triforce of my life (music, movies, and comics). If you’ve talked to me for 2 minutes you know that I’m into comics. Not just the pretty pictures and scantily clad characters, but I’m in love with the story telling medium. It’s a graphic, sequential story telling art form that relies on non verbal queues to convey subtle story points. If done wrong you just have a bunch of pictures with some word balloons, but if done right you come out with an amazing piece of unique literature that can truly be considered art.
For most of my life comics have been stigmatized as children’s material or exclusive for nerds because of the dominant superhero genre. That’s like saying TV only has crime dramas and reality shows. Comics also have a large and diverse selection. I’ve read romances, crime dramas, mysteries, fantasy, science fiction, spy fiction, and many others. Many major motion pictures have been made after these books such as From Hell, Road To Perdition, Ghost World, V For Vendetta and so many more. In fact, many of the highest grossing movies since 2000 have either been based off comics, or largely influenced by them (Hancock, Unbreakable, Kevin Smith’s entire career, etc). So everyone goes to see the movies based on the books, but still much of the academic society refuses to acknowledge that they’re a legitimate and important medium for story telling. It seems that it’s changing slightly, but it’s not where it should be.
So the goal of my top 5 today is to let all my loyal readers know of a few of my favorite books in hopes that you’ll go out and give some of these a read. I cover a few different genres here so hopefully there’ll be something for everyone. Now I’m going to let you guys know that there’s a lot of awesome stuff that’s not making my list such as Watchmen, Green Lantern, Ex Machina, Daredevil, The Walking Dead, Transmetropolitan, Y The Last Man, Battle Chasers, Mage, Jinx, Strangers in Paradise, and Captain America. Not because they’re not awesome books (go get em), but I want to say the 5 that really ring loud in my heart as the most influential. The ones that in many ways turned me into the nerd I am today. So…here we go!!!
5. Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come is about the end of the DC Universe. It’s told from the point of view of Pastor Norman McCay who has been receiving visions of the apocalypse. He’s guided through the DC Universe to observe how the heroes react to the events unfolding. The story takes place in the distant future where after the death of Lois Lane at the hands of the Joker, Superman decides to quit. Over the years many other heroes follow suit as a new generation of heroes take the reigns. The problem is that the new heroes are reckless and seem in many cases like villains. When their irresponsibility triggers a nuclear disaster in the bread basket of America, Superman and the heroes come out of retirement to clean up the mess. This triggers a super hero civil war of biblical proportions. All the while basic humans have their fingers on the nuclear weapons in fear of the battling gods.
Written by Mark Waid and painted (yes, painted) by Alex Ross. This marks Alex Ross’ 2nd major mainstream comic effort (the first being Marvel’s, Marvels) and is easily the biggest spring board for his career. He used models for every character of the comic to make it look as real as possible. Every frame feels like looking at a photograph making the story hit even harder. This is also by far the best writing from Mark Waid. He’s practically a DC historian and it shows with how beautifully connected everything is and how much history is dug up for the story.
I first read Kingdom Come during my freshman year of college and I’ve probably reread it more than any other comic. There’s so much social observation layered through the book as well as religious commentary. What would Armageddon be like in a world where gods live among us? Before writing this top 5 I was on the phone with a friend who said, “How can you not love Kingdom Come?” He didn’t know at the time that I was putting this on my list. So if you’re looking for the ultimate knock down, drag out battle in history with the best visuals and story telling, pick up Kingdom Come. It’s easy to find because it’s been reprinted many times. You will not be disappointed.
I’ve had many issues with the writer of this series, Robert Kirkman. I admire him so much because every story he tells he swings for the fences like no other. Sometimes it’s amazing (The Walking Dead) and sometimes and the worst thing in a series (His run on Ultimate X-Men). Whether it’s good or bad you can tell that he’s trying his hardest to give you something that no one has really ever seen before. When it comes to Invincible and related books it’s never been more true.
Invincible is the story of Mark Grayson, the son of the Word’s greatest Superhero, Omni-Man. When Mark was seventeen his powers finally arrived and he set out to be a superhero just like his father. Possessing the powers of flight, super speed, super strength and invulnerability, Invincible begins his training and enters a world he’s always dreamed of being a part of. However, what he discovers and the choices he makes start to alienate himself from members of his family, the superhero community and the people he’s sworn to protect. The story gets into the psychology of what being a superhero does to you, morally grey areas or right and wrong, and just how much power can corrupt.
Kirkman’s writing style and story pacing are much more decompressed than most writers, so don’t be surprised if you read the first two volumes of this and you’re not hooked. It takes until the third volume for the storey to really fully take shape, but when it does you’re in for the craziest ride of you superhero life. I have never while reading uttered, “Holy shit,” as much as I have reading this book. If I had to make a list of the top 5 best superhero battles, three of those would be fights from Invincible. So if you’re looking for a balls to the walls, intriguing, touching and original take on the superhero genre, Invincible is a must read.
It’s NYPD Blue meets the Marvel Universe. Powers in the story of Detective Christian Walker and Detective Deena Pilgrim, who specialize in police cases involving metahumans. There are so many crime dramas on TV these days but none as interesting as cases involving super humans. How are you supposed to perform an autopsy on someone who has impenetrable skin? How are you supposed to arrest a suspect who can break through hand cuffs like they’re string? What happens when a hero snaps and decides to try to take the planet with him? It’s all in this book.
This is by far the best ongoing series I’ve ever read. Brian Michael Bendis has been my favorite writer since I first read Ultimate Spider-Man. He has the best dialogue I’ve ever seen and his pacing is nothing short of genius. The artist for the series, Michael Avon Oeming, has designed such a great world that makes you throw a double take. The art seems so cartoony, but the content is so raw. It’s like watching the Batman animated series if The Penguin was a serial rapist and The Justice League hated each other.
Powers consistently wins multiple Eisner awards (The most honored award in comics) and it constantly seems to be upping the ante every story arc. Every time there’s a new issue I’m left feeling like there’s no way that can be topped, and yet every issue they do it again. I believe there are 12 collections out now so collecting them all will take some time and money, but I assure you it’s very much worth it. When I see shows like CSI and Law and Order I have to cringe because they are just tired and boring compared to Powers. The best crime drama on is in comics, but soon to be TV.
2. Ultimate Spider-Man
Oh, Peter. I believe that Spider-Man is in fact the single greatest superhero to ever exist. Not only is having spider powers pretty freaking sweet, but Spider-Man possesses the selflessness, bravery, willpower and brains of a true champion. On the other hand, Peter Parker is extremely relatable. We’ve all experienced loss, regret, rejection, anxiety, overwhelming stress and everything else that comes with being human. Peter Parker is just like all of us, but Spider-Man is so much more.
When Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley launched this series it was with the intention of reimagining and modernizing the character. What they did instead was create the definitive version of Spider-Man that has far surpassed anything that came from the original series. What we have in this 160 issue series is the single greatest superhero story ever told about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. The series continues after issue 160, but as most of us know, the story of Peter ends with quite possibly the greatest hero death since Superman in the early 90’s.
Peter may be dead but the series lives on with the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. Bendis has been in charge of this series since the beginning and I have faith that he’s going to make a great character out of Miles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the book got even better since it won’t have the issue of having to stick to some vague resemblance of the original character. Either way, you’re doing yourself a horrible disservice for not reading this series.
1. The X-Men
What can I say about the Uncanny X-Men? Everything. They’re life changing. I remember when I was a little kid in K-Mart with my brother. He got a Nightcrawler action figure and I got Cyclops. I had absolutely no idea who these characters were I just knew my brother liked them. When we got home he introduced me to X-Men #1 with art by Jim Lee. I’d never really read comics before. Hell, I never really read before. When I was a kid I had trouble reading, not because I was slow, but because I was stubborn as hell and school stuff didn’t interest me. X-Men did. X-Men is probably the main reason I’m even literate. The characters were just so cool and so different from Batman or Superman.
I didn’t even realize when I was younger the social undertones of the entire comic. It’s all about racism. The book originally came out in 1963 right in the heart of the civil rights movement just 5 years before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ever since the beginning it was always about humans and mutants living together in peace in a world where humans hated mutants. During the Cold War and Vietnam the team line up changed to represent people from all around the world. Every person had a different nationality, religion and political view. Wolverine (Canadian), Cyclops (American), Storm (Kenyan), Colossus (Russian), Banshee (Irish), Nightcrawler (German) Sunfire (Japanese), and Thunderbird (Native American) made up probably the most diverse cast of characters ever. In the last century the X-Men started showcasing homosexual heroes Like Northstar, Phat, Vevisector, Anole, and Karma. It seems that whenever there’s an issue of the world not accepting people, the X-Men are there to save the day.
Aside from the politics of the comic and the childhood nostalgia, there have been some amazing stories to come out of this series. I literally have completed the entire X-Men collection. Every x-title and every issue amongst those is in my possession. I can go over the whole history of the comic for you, but just so you won’t hate me I’ll recommend a few story arcs for people who just want to get a few good stories under their belt. You should be able to find collections of these on the Internet or any comic store worth anything. X-Tinction Agenda, Operation: Zero Tolerance, The Astonishing X-Men, The Age of Apocalypse (I’m currently rereading it), Deadly Genesis, and of course the classic Phoenix Saga.
So that’s my top 5 favorite comics. Most people I know really aren’t into comics so hopefully some of these will interest a few of you non believers. Join me in 2 weeks for my Top 5 places I’d love to visit.
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