Monday, 14 February 2011

The 200 Best Comics of My Lifetime (The Last 20 Years): 30-21

30. Spawn #10
Image - May 1993
Writer - Dave Sim
Artist - Todd McFarlane
This, now legendary, issue of Spawn dealt with the prickly subject of creators rights in the early 1990s. Written by Dave Sim, creator of the epic Cerebus series, it featured a crossover between Spawn and Cerebus leading to one of the strangest and most compelling issues published in my lifetime. The dedication shown by Sim throughout, as well as the harsh realities of being an independent creator in the comic book industry, are startling and the honesty and power given to each page is nothing short of masterful.

29. Batman and Robin #1
DC - August 2009
Writer - Grant Morrison
Artist - Frank Quitely
The first, stellar, issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's collaboration stands as one of the few comic books in the last few years to grab me within the first few pages and constant beat me over the head with it's sheer brilliance for the remainder of the book. Morrison shows a different side of his creativity, moulding Dick Grayson into the new, less grim Batman, while also bringing Damian Wayne into the forefront as the darker Robin. It's a brilliant contrast, and together with Quitely's gorgeous artwork, it leaves the reader's gasping for more by the final, terrifying sequence.

28. JLA/Avengers #1
DC/Marvel - January 2003
Writer - Kurt Busiek
Artist - George Perez
It was strange to witness, in the early years of the 21st century, the birth of a creature so anticipated it had a 20 year cult following. Finally, after years of legal wrangling and threats from George Perez that he would exit the project, Marvel and DC put aside their differences and gave us JLA/Avengers. The first issue is set up, leading to the ultimate confrontation between the two teams that would spill over into the next three issues, but as an establishing portion of the story it is absolutely perfect; the characters react to each other the way they should and the general feeling is one of originality and pure dedication.

27. The Brave and the Bold #33
DC - June 2010
Writer - J. Michael Straczysnki
Artisti - Cliff Chiang
Sometimes, even a writer like JMS can surprise you once in a while; his run on The Brave and the Bold had been rocky, to say the least up until this issue, which featured a tale set during Barbara Gordon's tenure as Batgirl. At first it feels like nothing more than a fun romp through a night out with Batgirl, Zatanna and Wonder Woman, but by the conclusion of the issue, we know exactly what is going on; there are moments where things feel unsettling, and the final reveal of the reasoning behind the night out becomes clear in a horrific panel, torn straight from the pages of one of the greatest graphic novels ever published.

26. Ex Machina #1
Wildstorm - August 2004
Writer - Brian K. Vaughan
Artist - Tony Harris
This is definitely my favourite thing Brian K. Vaughan has ever written. As far as first issues go, it is almost certainly the template for how to craft a perfect introduction to a story, keep the reader engaged and also build a significant enough allure and mystery around proceedings to keep them guessing as time goes on. Dealing with politics and drama more than superhero antics, the book felt unique, giving a broader view of New York City than had ever been seen in a comic book; and then, the final page reveal of the significance of the protagonist, and his impact on the world, reflecting the harsh realities of life in the Big Apple, and the merits of heroism.

25. Ultimate Spider-Man #13
Marvel - November 2001
Writer - Brian Michael Bendis
Artist - Mark Bagley
Having put Peter Parker through the wringer throughout the first year of Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis made the conscious decision to give him a moment of peace as he confided in Mary Jane, his true love, that he was Spider-Man. The issue was an example of how great Bendis was with dialogue, and Mark Bagley wonderfully captures the anxiety and electricity between the two teenagers throughout. It's frightening to think this happened so early in the run, but looking back, it is the definitive moment of Ultimate Spider-Man and set the stage for Bendis in terms of how well he could convey drama in his storytelling.

24. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1
DC - June 1992
Writer - Alan Grant
Artist - Norm Breyfogle
A new Batman series was something of a novelty back in the early '90s, and Shadow of the Bat managed to assert itself as more than just filler material between issues of Detective Comics and Batman. Weaving an intricate storyline involving insanity and the threats of a deranged serial killer, Alan Grant handed in one of the most intense first issues of a Batman series I've ever read, while Norm Breyfogle's depiction of the character remains the definitive Batman in my eyes.

23. Planetary #1
Wildstorm - April 1999
Writer - Warren Ellis
Artist - John Cassaday
Planetary has been transformed, in more recent years, into a phenomenon; a series that seemed as though it would never reach it's conclusion, and had become so mired in delays and it's own continuity it was almost impossible to follow or enjoy. But, looking back, the first issue is absolutely one of the greatest introductory issues ever published; Warren Ellis creates a world steeped in realism, but also dedicated to mythology and science, while John Cassaday portrays the layout of the universe as stark and unique.

22. Amazing Spider-Man #617
Marvel - March 2010
Writer - Joe Kelly
Artist - Max Fiumara
When the Gauntlet event began in Amazing Spider-Man at the start of 2010, it felt like a gimmick; something to bring back old villains and keep Spider-Man engaging for readers who were buying the book three weeks out of every month. It became clear, though, with this issue that the Gauntlet was more than just a gimmick, it was a dedication to the villains of the past. Focusing on the original Rhino, and the newer, deadlier Rhino, this issue shows us a super villain who has become human, despite every fibre of his being pointing him in the opposite direction; it's a rare thing to care about a villain as bland as the Rhino, but somehow this issue captures the emotions perfectly; there was even a sequel issue, reverting the Rhino back to his brutal ways, which was painful to read given the torment he endured to get to that point.

21. Jonah Hex #50
DC - February 2010
Writers - Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist - Darwyn Cooke
Darwyn Cooke is a God among comic book artists; his style evokes the DC animated cartoons, while also drawing on a realistic, almost illustrious view of the world, but somehow it manages to be one of the most engaging styles of the modern era. This anniversary issue of Jonah Hex tells a complete story, chronicling one of the most brutally emotional periods in Hex's life, and Cooke draws the marvellous script with pin-point precision and a sense of grandeur and reverence for the material. There is nothing he can't do, and this issue illustrates that point perfectly.

Next: 20-11

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