So every Friday, I want to do a Top 5 list with some kind of connection. These are my opinions based solely on the comics I’ve actually read. I obviously can’t rank those works I haven’t read, but if there’s something that should be on my list that isn’t, let me know and I’ll check it out and will add it if I think it should be on the list. The idea isn’t just to give my opinion, but to open up discussion, so if you agree or disagree, let me know in comments…
This time around, I’m going to do my Top 5 Major Marvel Events…
Honorable mention, Realm of Kings-The Thanos Imperative: This series isn’t over yet, but it has already become one of my favorites, as I described it elsewhere today: A recent battle between the Inhuman Blackbolt and the mad human mutant leader of the alien Shi’ar empire (and Cyclops’s brother) ripped a hole in the universe while killing both. That hole, called the Fault, opened a doorway to the Cancerverse, a universe ruled by the Lovecraftian “many-angled ones” where “life won out” and nothing dies (but is still quite undead-esque) and the inhabitants of that universe (including the Avengers-dopplegangers “The Revengers”) want to come to the Marvel universe to take power. The only thing that can stop them is Thanos, this universe’s avatar of death and pretty much most evil being, so the entire army of the Marvel cosmic heroes teams up with Thanos to save the day. All that with snappy dialog and funny characters, including a talking Russian telepathic dog and Rocket Raccoon, who is just what his name implies. Yeah, that’s awesome. If it ends well, it might move up the list.
5. Secret Invasion: I know some people don’t like this one as well and I think the ending is a bit anticlimactic, but the sense of paranoia and fear of conspiracy that permeated this series to me was so well done that I’d have to rate it this high. The Skrulls coming in on top of the string of events (Civil War, World War Hulk, Decimation, House of M, Avengers Disassembled, Secret War) that the Marvel Universe had just gone through, to me, was a perfect choice and it was very well-written.
4. Days of Future Past: This story was one of the key tales in terms of launching the Marvel multiverse and it set in motion a string of events and characters that would impact Marvel comics for years to come. I’m a sucker for dystopian post-apocalyptic stories and the X-Men, so a story that combines the two is just great. It would be higher on the list if it weren’t just two issues long.
3. Civil War: Certainly the best examination of politics that the Marvel universe has ever done, this one was a direct commentary on the issues raised by the war on terror and the actions of the George W. Bush administration. Some people complained that they didn’t like the way some characters reacted to the situation and thought it was inconsistent with the characters’ past behavior, but I disagree, I think the characters were all quite well-written in the scenario. It would be higher on the list but, like most other recent Marvel cross-overs, it’s too big and involves way too many mini-series and one-shots.
2. Secret Wars: It wasn’t the first of the company-wide crossovers, Contest of Champions beat it to the punch, but Secret Wars really set the tone for how crossovers would work in comics. It is to comic crossovers what movies like Jaws and Star Wars are to blockbuster movies. It had a great storyline that was well-plotted and it had no shortage of shocking moments and real changes to characters that re-wrote the Marvel universe at the time. It had some weaknesses, as the writers didn’t quite figure out how to fully develop so many characters and a number of the characterizations were false (such as the Wasp and the X-Men), but overall, it is still the gold standard for Marvel (although DC would almost immediately eclipse it with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was bigger and better).
1. The Dark Phoenix Saga: This is the story that made me a comic book devotee for life. It was played out over time and developed slowly, but surely, and the whole story was developed more like a novel than your run-of-the-mill comic book plot. The greatest group of characters in comics at the time (and the most diverse) was put through the most difficult and gut-wrenching story that centered around the very nature of power itself, betrayal, love, sacrifice, and cosmos-spanning action. All of the elements you would like of a great comic story are here — great plot, great characters, great dialog, great art and a story that stays with you long after you are done reading it. And it stands up well, it has just as much impact now as it did in the 1970s-80s. This is what made the X-Men a phenomenon and was part of one of the greatest comic book runs ever, the run on the Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne.