The 135 Comics Challenge, Part Two: An Article Introduction by IAN EXPLOSIVO
(Nuv, find those old-school MS Works firework effects for my name or I quit. – Ian)
Aw man, if you guys only knew! I wrote the first part of this article months ago and since then Nuv put my ass on the same probation that DC has Kevin Smith on. Namely, if I didn’t give him the second part up front, he’d make sure the first part was shot and buried behind the barn. Well I had to get the second part done because I think we all know how awesome that first part was. Amirite? Anyway, I wrote the last one all goofed on CIL Dulux semi-gloss so it may have lacked some of the literary integrity you’ve come to expect from this fine site. But if perchance you liked the last part, happy day, more of the same!
The history of Iron Fist comics is one of mass humiliation. And for the foreseeable future, it seems as though Marvel is set on reverting Danny Rand to his past embarrassments. Have you seen his new white and gold uniform? It’s like, oh my god. But let me hip you kids to something you might NOT have known! Back in ’06 Marvel handed the character over to a young pup named Matt Fraction, slapped Ed Brubaker’s name on the front cover so people would actually buy the thing, and lo and behold! One of the best runs OF ALL TIME was born. I frigging love this book and when I first thought of writing this article, it was the first set of comics I added to the list.
If sci-fi / fantasy was the Wu-Tang Clan, Neal Gaiman would be Ol’ Dirty Bastard and by that I mean THE BEST OF THEM ALL. If you haven’t read American Gods or Neverwhere, you just don’t know what time it is. By that token, you should probably pick up a copy of Marvel 1602 which is written by Gaiman and is therefore unrivalled in its greatness! Basically in this story the mutants didn’t manifest their powers in the ‘60s or whatever bullshit. No, they manifested them during the Elizabethan-era Inquisition. AWKWARD! Anyway, what follows is probably the best superhero story involving basically every superhero that matters in the Marvel Universe. Get it!
I’m a sucker for origin comics, but only origin comics that have something new and fresh to say. Sure, this series was originally designed to “bridge the gap” between comics and the movies for new kids on the block, but Jenkins and Rivera didn’t let that stop them from making six extraordinary one-shots that tell you everything you need to know. Each issue deals with one character, so by owning the whole set (like I do, because I rule) you get to learn about the only history that matters: The Hulk, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men and Captain America.
Man, I do a lot of kidding around that Bendis has lost his goddamn mind and who knows, maybe he has? How else do you explain the Ultimate comics? But when the man gets it right, he gets it right. Case in point: The second volume of New Avengers that started way back in 2010. Simply put, it’s the greatest. A perfect mix of dialogue and action, character development, funny parts and sad parts too. Christ, even Squirrel Girl rules. And the art? Let’s just say that if Stuart Immonen ran for Prime Minister in the next election, I’d vote for his Canadian ass based on drawing merit alone. AMAZING!
Nuv always makes fun of me for liking Davide Gianfelice, but you know what? The man’s pencils are so fluent and the evolution of his style is so fun to watch I even followed him through the tedium of Greek Street. (BTW, fool me twice Milligan…can’t get fooled again.) Brian Wood has really rocked my world with Northlanders as a whole, but the first arc Sven the Returned is so astoundingly good it probably ranks as my favourite set of comics of all time. I’m that serious about Nuv being that wrong!
The rest of this list is gonna feature more than a couple of Darwyn Cooke comics, but this issue of Rocketeer that came out last month was everything I expected it to be. I was already a huge fan of the whole aesthetic of The Rocketeer, so when I heard Cooke was going to be doing a story I basically lost my mind. And man did he ever deliver! He put Betty in the goddamn suit! Do you know what that means to me you guys?! Everything!
I generally don’t like “kids comics” because I generally don’t like “kids”. And I didn’t really like Jeff Smith’s magnum opus Bone because it was “waaaaay too long”, “a chore to read” and “boring” (I’m quoting myself here). But Shazam is the bees knees for a lot of reasons! It’s basically the opposite of Bone. Fun and engaging, great art, and a great story for kids that doesn’t pander. SHAZAM!
You know you’re doing something special when you take DC’s more boring property and make it something worth reading AND collecting. Seriously, the whole premise of Denny Colt and his dumb resurrection is so hopelessly Will Eisner I can hardly stand it. And I know it’s a crime to rip on Will Eisner but his stories were so boring and miserable (and kinda racist) when you read them you just want to throw yourself down a well. Anyway, this isn’t about Will Eisner, it’s about Darwyn Cooke and how he made fourteen of the best comic books I own.
Nobody read this comic because nobody knew if it was a kids comic or not. Then it got cancelled and everyone got into an uproar about how DC doesn’t care about anything but the bottom line (and, of course, their well publicized inter-office orgies). That’s how it goes I guess. I’m just stoked there were eight full issues worked on by two dudes who clearly cared a lot about what they were doing. The result was that each stand alone story was a real treat.
A super cute two-part mystery involving a weirdo alien and a grumpy X-Man. Well they’re solving some case involving a pink lady and blah, blah, blah, I guess Peter Milligan used to know how to write comics even if he’s long since forgotten how. And Darwyn is Darwyn.
Anyway, that’s it! Sure if my apartment ever caught fire I’d probably go down in flames trying to stuff them all into that one short-box, but at least I’d have a pretty good idea of what I was packing. Peace out everybody!