The Best Wednesdays of 2005!
Ahh, Wednesday: It’s that most wonderful time of the week — at least to the lifelong comic book fan such as myself. That’s when the comic shops offer their latest batch of goodies for the customers to come drop their money on. I’m there once a week to pick up my stack of books and out of the hundreds of stories I read over the course of the year, here’s my top 19 list. And sorry, there won’t be any of your independent, alternative comics on this list: Just straight-up DC and Marvel adamantium-claw-popping, shield-slinging, batarang-throwing, faster-than-a-speeding-bullet superheroes!
19. Black Panther “Who is the Black Panther?”
I was really hyped up for this series; art by John Romita Jr. and the comic writing debut of movie director Reginald Hudlin, on a kick-ass character… how could you go wrong? Then I bought the book. I mean, why didn’t the U.S. government and the fake Condaleeza Rice know about T’Challa and his nation of Wakanda? Wasn’t he an Avenger? I was like, “I don’t feel like trying to figure this out.” However, a buddy of mine got me to stick with it, and the story did get better. The Panther managed to hold off the super-powered invaders, the Wakanda history lessons were kind of interesting, and it was all good in the end.
18. X-Men “Bizarre Love Triangle”
What would a top 19 comic book storyline list be without an X-Men story on it? This one may be thought of as kind of lame by other die-hard X-Men fans, but it was the most entertaining of the year: I thought 2004 was a way-better year, X-wise, with Astonishing X-Men and Colossus returning and all. This story deals with Rogue, Gambit and some third-party involvement from an unlikely source. I wouldn’t lump this in with any revolutionary, ground-breaking X-moments, but it was fun to read.
17. Superman/Batman “Absolute Power”
This series is a far cry from the old World’s Finest Comics, which featured the pair in team-up adventures. This storyline gives you a glimpse of the two as world tyrants, thanks to the interference of some villains from the 31st century, making for a pretty intense adventure.
16. Outsiders/Teen Titans “The Insiders”
I gotta tell ya, I really dig that Outsiders team, or I did before things got all crazy in the DC universe. Actually, this story line is part of the craziness as the Society makes its moves against the team by getting its “insiders” to attack Arsenal, Nightwing and the gang, and the Teen Titans. Still, a great story with great characters — particularly on the Outsiders side with a mix of familiar favorites on the team and some fresh new characters.
15. Legion of Super-Heroes
All right, now this is an incarnation of the team I can handle! Years ago, the Legion was revamped as a group of pre-teens and teens, and after seeing them grow through the years, it was kind of like “Whoa, this sucks!” This relaunch was excellent with variations on the traditional characters who, in this series, have become a movement of sorts for intergalactic teens. And their year-long adventure (at least in comic book time) has them saving the universe, where the adults have dismissed them as punk kids.
14. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (miniseries)
I love the flashback stories the two big companies have been doing over the years, and this one about the Avengers didn’t disappoint. The team, close to the edge of breaking up, has their morale boosted when they find Captain America, who in turn, has to adjust to a new world after being frozen for decades. Plus, there’s bureaucratic issues the team has to deal with: I guess a new superhero group just couldn’t pop up in New York back in the day without getting governmental clearance. Then Cap’s left to lead the new recruits after the founders leave.
13. Daredevil “The Murdock Papers”
I’ve probably bought two issues of Daredevil in my life, but it’s probably my top “loitering-in-the-comic-book-shop-reading” title. Daredevil’s secret identity, that of blind lawyer Matt Murdock, is pretty much out and about. In this series, the Kingpin offers to cut a deal with the Feds confirming that DD is, in fact, Murdock by turning over the “Murdock Papers.” Elektra and the Black Widow come to their old boyfriend’s aid in the first of a few Brian Michael Bendis stories on the list.
12. Secret War (miniseries)
This series, with its awesome story by Bendis, and stunning artwork by Gabrielle Dell’Otto, almost didn’t make the list. I think it took about a year for the five-issue series to wrap up, and by the time the fifth issue finally came out, I had pretty much figured out what was going to happen by reading New Avengers and The Pulse, two other Bendis books! Nick Fury leads a team of heroes into Latveria to overthrow their leader (not Dr. Doom, the Fantastic Four got rid of him) who’s supplying super-powered armor to baddies on U.S. soil. The results of this are mixed to say the least. It’s 12th because I’m still a little pissed for having to wait so long for the issues!
11. The Amazing Spider-Man “Skin Deep”
This series starts setting the groundwork for what I guess has become “Spidey and the Avengers,” as every Spider-Man title should be called now! I mean, geez, I can’t turn a page without bumping into Jarvis, the Avengers butler, nowadays! Anyway, this story has a classic feel to it: An old high school acquaintance shows up and asks for Peter Parker’s help with this scientific project, which turns disastrous, something that’s been happening since the day Doctor Octopus’ mechanical arms were fused to his body. Spidey stops the new villain, but not before he leaves a lasting impact on the hero.
10. The New Avengers “Ronin”
Who is that masked man in all the New Avengers promos? Daredevil in a ninja suit? A new Moon Knight? Turns out it was a character from Daredevil and not a man at all, but that mimicking mutant Echo. Anyway, it was great to finally find out who that was, plus you got to see the team fight some ninjas and start to learn some of the secrets as to what’s going on with new member Spider-Woman.
9. Superman (and related titles) / Wonder Woman “Sacrifice”
I usually just get my Superman fix through JLA and Superman/Batman, but these issues were really integral to the Infinite Crisis storyline, which makes sense since it is Superman, after all — The Franchise! His mind gets taken over, he beats Batman nearly to death and Wonder Woman has to make a grim decision to free the Man of Steel. Plus each part of the story came out on a weekly basis, which was great to keep me involved. (Take note Bendis!)
8. Supreme Power
Forget the old Squadron Supreme that’s been around forever in Marvel’s stable. This Marvel MAX version of the series has many of the same characters, but definitely with a more mature twist to it. I feel like I should be carded buying this book and I’m 32 years old! The series ran like a kept the same story line throughout the world, as Hyperion tries to find his place in the world where he has few super-powered peers.
7. Nightwing “Year One”
Imagine growing up with the dark, brooding, intense, morbid, obsessive Batman as your guardian. That can be a lot of pressure on a kid, and what happens when that kid wants to be his own man? This story takes a look at Dick Grayson, fresh from being “fired” as Robin, and making an effort to carve out his own identity. An interesting side note to this story is that I think it shows the tender side of Batman as he tracks Nightwing’s every movement along the way. Or that could be considered kind of creepy, I guess …
6. The Pulse "Secret War"
Jessica Jones, in my opinion, is one of the all-time greatest comic book characters created. (If you haven’t read Alias, PLEASE do yourself a favor and go to your local bookstore and get the Omnibus coming out or read the trade paperbacks!) Anyway, The Pulse picks up after Alias ends with Jessica working at the Daily Bugle. She gets involved in the aforementioned Secret War because of her romantic ties to Luke Cage, and ends up on a quest for him after he’s attacked and his body is taken out of the hospital. Encounters with Hydra, Wolverine and S.H.I.E.L.D., all while carrying Luke’s baby makes for one wild adventure.
5. Captain America “The Winter Soldier”
Not a robot, not a Life Model Decoy, not a hoax, not a what-if: Bucky, Cap’s long-dead boy sidekick, is alive! And not only is he alive, but he’s been an assassin for the Russians for decades! What’s a Living Legend to do? Take down his friend or try to undo the brainwashing of the “Winter Soldier”? And also, Bucky’s captor has in his possession the all-powerful Cosmic Cube. Plenty of action, great writing,, and did I mention that Bucky’s alive?
4. Marvel Knights Spiderman “The Last Stand”
Aunt May’s been kidnapped! And by somebody who knows Spiderman’s secret identity! A 12-issue storyline ends with the four-part “Last Stand.” It includes Spidey and Black Cat fighting tons of villains; a new Venom; superhero guest stars galore; and the final confrontation with the Green Goblin. I’ve always thought to tackle Spiderman, you have to combine comedy with tragedy as an underlying theme and writer Mark Millar does this as few have ever done before. (Oh, and Aunt May gets saved, by the way.)
3. Villains United
The only “Infinite Crisis” spin-off miniseries you’ll see on this list: An upstart group of villains is brought together by the mysterious Mockingbird to defy, oh, only every other villain in the D.C. universe, led by Lex Luthor (or is it?) and his inner circle! While not having the impact on the cosmic or mystical scale as some other “Crisis” storylines, this one details the hands-on involvement of who’s plotting to shake up the multiverse as we know it. “Multiverse,” you might ask? “I thought we were done with all that.” Au contraire, mon freres!
2. Wolverine “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. come through big time on this one. Wolverine, fresh off being brainwashed by international crime consortium Hydra, decides it’s time for a little bit of payback. In the second issue of the series, after calling the family whose little boy was kidnapped as part of a trap set for Logan, our hero is suiting up when a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor comes in, and asks him what he is doing. Wolverine asks him how many people are in Hydra, the Dawn of the White Light, and The Hand. The Doctor tells him about 52,000 and asks him if he is planning to take them all out by himself. Wolverine, claws popped, cowl on, has one word for the good doctor; “Bingo.” By series’ end, Wolverine, with a little help, trashes about 54,000 bad guys, including the supposedly indestructible Gorgon. My one word for this series: Brilliant.
1. JLA “Crisis of Conscience”
“And the Vannie for best comic book storyline of the year goes to JLA, Crisis of Conscience!” (OK, there’s no Vannie, but if there was …) I’ve read a lot of Justice League stories (every issue on the current run and more than my fair share of old-school ones) and this might actually be my favorite JLA story EVER. Spinning out from the events of the groundbreaking “Identity Crisis” mini-series, this storyline combines 1970s-style action with new-millennium writing and features the characters that really made the League great. An old JLA villain triggers the repressed memories of the Secret Society of Super Villains who know the League’s secret identities and go on a rampage. So they have to deal with this while also dealing with a dark secret on the team that’s come to surface. This was the perfect story to cap off a pretty good year in superhero-world.