Category Archives: Top Five

Friday Five (Times Two): Top 10 Marvel Series of 2010

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Since the trend around the comics blogosphere is to go with Top 10 lists, I’m doubling the usual Friday Five to offer up my top 10 Marvel Comics series of the year. Keep in mind as you read this that I didn’t read everything they put out, only about 60%, but I read them a lot more than anyone else, so I figured keeping it to only Marvel would be more fair than saying Top 10 Comics of the Year and then having them mostly be Marvel since that’s what I read. So with that, here’s what I liked this year:

10. Avengers Academy: One of the few “young” teams that Marvel has brought out in years that is interesting and the dynamics of the team keep changing, so it’s fun.

9. New Mutants: I was always a big fan of the original series and its good to see them back with a new batch of quirky stories.

8. X-Men Vol. 3: I liked the X-Men vs. vampires stuff and this series had the best of the bunch.

7. Taskmaster: This series, while mostly fun and funny, rewrote Taskmaster’s history to make him much more interesting and compelling.

6. Secret Warriors: The only Marvel series where the art stuns me every issue, add to that this is the best Nick Fury writing in years.

5. Uncanny X-Force: Not sure why they ended the old X-Force series and renamed it with the Uncanny name, but it has great art and a great concept that has been well executed.

4. Thunderbolts: The best group of characters and best dialog and interaction of anything in Marvel not written by Brian Michael Bendis.

3. Avengers: John Romita Jr. art is enough to make this high on my list, but a return to classic Avengers-style stories with Kang and other great characters makes this a winner.

2. New Avengers: This one gets a slight nod because Bendis has a particular knack for writing this group of characters better than the other group, particularly Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Dr. Strange. I don’t know if he just likes these characters better or he just gets them better, either way, I like what he does with them a whole lot.

1. The Thanos Imperative: This one is truly flawless for big epic event comics. It has a great cast that has a great diversity. It has a huge menace and amazing action sequences. It has great writing, dialog and art. And it has enough twists and turns to keep anyone interested, even if you don’t like cosmic stuff and don’t have a background with the characters. That would be me. I always hated Marvel’s cosmic stuff, but the recent work on these series, including this one most of all, has made me a believer.

Friday Five: Worst Marvel Comics Characters

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Any company that has been around as long as Marvel is sure to have some misfires. Whether it’s the constant strain of monthly deadlines or getting into a rut or whatever, bad characters make it into print. For the most part, they disappear, but some of them pop up over and over again and a few make it to heights well above what their character deserves. Here are, in my opinion, the worst of the worst of those mistakes from Marvel. These are characters that are either bad conceptually, poorly executed or both.

Honorable mentions: Frankencastle, Squirrel Girl and any of the Great Lakes Avengers, Cosmo, Rocket Raccoon, Hellcow, Doctor Bong, any of the 1970s one-note characters (Paste-Pot Pete, Rocket Racer, Egghead, Kangaroo, Frog-man, Stilt-Man, Big Wheel, The Walrus, Hypno-Hustler), dumb rip-offs (Thor Girl), and the majority of characters that have appeared in Deadpool Team-up.

5. Beak: Beak is an ugly, mostly powerless mutant bird-guy thingy. He’s mostly a liability up until the point when he is depowered and he might actually look even stupider. His name is Barnell Bohusk. Seriously. He recently got a makeover into Blackwing and it’s a major improvement.

4. Gambit: I’ll probably catch the most flak for this one, but I’ve always thought Gambit was a bad character. He has a horrible stereotypical accent, he throws playing cards as his weapon and he’s had some of the most cliched and dull stories written about him over the years. He’s been written into a corner, such that later writers have little chance but continue him down the same dull path. X-Men comics always get worse when Gambit is around.

3. Slapstick: Do I really have to explain this one? Look at the picture. He’s a cartoonish clown who has the powers of a Looney Toons character. Really.

2. Nanny: Nanny is a giant egg-shaped “woman” who steals adults and makes them her children. Literally. Plus she’s a giant egg.

1. M.O.D.O.K.: M.O.D.O.K. is a giant head with useless little arms and legs. His name is an acronym for “Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.” That name alone is enough to get him on the list, but he makes it to the top of the list because he’s a giant head with useless little arms and legs.

Friday Five

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Today’s five is the Top 5 artists whose work was most memorable to me over the years, in order. There is obviously a bias towards books I actually read, which means a bias towards Marvel in general and the X-Men in particular, but the art I’m citing still holds up to me now.

5. Dave Cockrum

4. George Perez

3. Steve Ditko

2. John Romita Jr.

1. John Byrne

Friday Five: Favorite X-Men Characters

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Sorry I missed the Friday Five last week, I was out of town. This week I’m going to take a look at the characters I like the most from my favorite family of comics ever, the X-Men. The first comic I bought was an X-Men comic and I was hooked ever since, particularly because of the great stories in the 1980s of Chris Claremont and the art of Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. As the X-universe expanded, I continued to like a lot of the work that was added to the canon over the years and it has remained my favorite. Without further ado, here are the characters that made it my favorite.

Honorable Mentions: Magneto, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Angel, Beast, Rogue

5. Professor X: Early on, Professor X was my favorite (Heck my rap name is, to this day, Professor Rex. Yes, I said my rap name. I’m a rapper in my free time). I liked the fact that, despite the fact that he was in a wheelchair, he was the most powerful mutant on Earth. I liked that he was a teacher and a leader and often taught the X-Men by letting them alone and letting them succeed or fail on their own without really ever letting them be in much real danger (except in the early days with characters like Thunderbird and Jean Gray). I didn’t like the 1990s and 2000s turn where it was revealed that he had been manipulating his students’ minds all these year. It fit and I buy it in the context of the story, but I guess I felt the same betrayal the X-Men felt.

4. Emma Frost: One of the few female superhero characters whose ridiculously inappropriate sexualized costume actually fit with her personality, I love the growth in Emma’s character over the years, going from what seemed to be one of the baddest of the bad villains to one of the key good guys. And not in the flippant, seemingly patternless way that Magneto or Quicksilver flipped back and forth, Emma’s change was the growing of her character as a human being. Her personality is a great one and seems to be quite at odds with the rest of the X-Men, which makes for reading her stories much more interesting.

3. Kitty Pryde: With the last three characters, we have the three that I identified with the most. While I always looked up to Professor X the most, I always felt the most like Kitty, the awkward young person who was good with computers and not really good yet in social situations. The person who was frequently underestimated, but still managed to somehow saved the day more often than not. I also thought that her relationship with Colossus, another of my favorites, was always the best-written of the relationships in the X-universe and, really, in most of comics. It hasn’t lived up to that in recent years, but the way it was written by Claremont back in the day was, to me, perfect.

2. Wolverine: My father is Canadian, so Wolverine was the first thing that ever connected me to my Canadian heritage. I didn’t know much about Canada growing up (other than what I saw in the movie Strange Brew), but Wolverine was from there and he was a badass, so I figured it must be pretty badass to be part Canadian. Wolverine always had the power set I most wanted in the X-universe and, for a long time, he was my favorite. But his growth was somewhat stunted over the years and he became awfully over-exposed. There may not be a Marvel character that is involved in more great stories than Wolverine, but part of that is because there are so many of those stories. Last year’s Old Man Logan and a number of other stories show there’s still a lot of good stuff being written about Wolverine, but those seem to be simple explorations of the same territory, unlike…

1. Cyclops: There are few characters in the history of comics, particularly characters who have existed for a long time (Cyclops first appeared in the early 1960s) who have grown as much as Cyclops. And few of those growth stories over time, especially over decades, make sense and are realistic and ring true. Cyclops started out as “Slim” Summers an awkward teenager with a tragic power that prevents him from experiencing life as a normal teenager and promises to prevent him from ever being part of normal society. As he masters his powers and grows to become the leader of the X-Men, he fails as often as he succeeds, but he never, well almost never (see: the start of the Madelyne Pryor storyline) gives up and he’s not particularly good at being a leader and eventually cedes his leadership position to maybe the greatest African-American female comics character ever written, Storm (shows you how great the X-Men comics have been over the years that she just misses the top 5 character list). But he fails to be dissuaded and continues to learn and grow despite going through one of the most disturbing character histories of anyone in the entire Marvel universe. But along the way, he does learn. Go back and read the X-Men issues of the mid-1980s and compare the Wolverine of then to the Wolverine of now. Very little difference. Now compare the Cyclops of then, an awkward young man searching for his place in life and trying to deal with tragedies that few could survive, to the Cyclops of now, the badass leader of the X-Men, and all of mutantkind, who can handle any problem, can make decisions none of us could ever make and who will do anything he has to do to ensure the survival of his species. And he’s winning. And he’s dating Emma Frost. As much as I always felt like Kitty Pryde and thought it would be awesome to be Wolverine, I really always aspired to be Scott Summers and be the person who could save everyone, the person who would make the hard decisions that affect the fate of an entire race, an entire planet. Cyclops is to Marvel what Jack is to Lost. These are the characters that I look up to an would most want to be — flawed leaders who learn from their mistakes and don’t always do the right thing or accept their positions of leadership with ease or calm, but do them anyway because they know no one else will do what needs to be done.

Man, that’s good writing. The fact that I can draw all of that information about Cyclops off the top of my head without having to look up a single detail shows you why he’s my favorite X-Men character and my second-favorite comic book character of all time. Behind…well, that’s a different post altogether.

Friday Five — Top 5 Major Marvel Events

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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…

Realm of Kings/The Thanos Imperative 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.

Secret Invasion 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.

Days of Future Past 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.

Civil War 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.

Secret Wars 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).

The Dark Phoenix Saga 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.

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