Five Story-lines You Must Read Before You Die
Over the course of 30 years of reading comics I have managed to find several well written, well drawn comics that are head-and-shoulders above the rest. Story-lines that are so well thought out that you know that the writer spent countless hours researching every little detail along with an artist who seems to be able to read the writer’s mind to illustrate the perfect page is about as rare as dental floss at a Willie Nelson concert. (Sorry Willie!) So I’ve taken the liberty of finding 5 stories that you MUST READ before you die!
1. Identity Crisis
Released in 2004 by DC Comics Identity Crisis is the type of tale that writer and bestselling novelist Brad Meltzer is best known for — a thriller. After the murder of Elongated Man’s wife Sue, all of the DC heroes scrounge the Earth looking for her murderer. After her funeral Elongated Man, distraught and angry, claims that Doctor Light is her killer. Doctor Light? Are you insane? He’s a second rate villain. Well, he wasn’t always that way. Apparently a few years back Doctor Light broke into the Justice League’s satellite headquarters and committed a most heinous crime. However, when the members of the Justice League arrive they commit an even worse crime. What could our world’s greatest heroes have done? Did Doctor Light kill Sue Dibny? Who is this new villain that is targeting our heroes’ loved ones?
What makes this story FANTASTIC is the way Mr. Meltzer has taken events from past Justice League Of America stories and made them relevant for today’s JLA. He has also taken the secondary characters of the Justice League and brought them to the forefront. However, nothing can beat this. Brad Meltzer even divulges to the reader why Batman is this dark, moody, and non-trusting character that he has been for the last 25 years. He also has given the reader the reason why Hawkman and Green Arrow despise one another. Rags Morales’ artwork ties all of this together and makes this a story-line you must read.
2. Planet Hulk
In April 2006 Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada came up with an awesome idea…with the help of Greg Pak. The Marvel Universe hierarchy, fed up with the destruction caused by the Incredible Hulk, have decided that they will trick the Hulk into boarding a space ship and jettison him to a far off peaceful planet. Part one wasn’t too much of a problem. Part two became a BIG problem. In route to this peaceful planet, the Hulk is treated to a video of the Marvel Universe’s Illuminati explaining how sorry that they are for sending him away and they are doing it for his own good. Unfortunately the Hulk’s ship doesn’t make it to it’s intended target. Instead the ship passes through a wormhole and crashes on the planet Sakaar. The Hulk’s is then taken into slavery and forced to fight in the arena for the entertainment of the planet’s ruler The Red King. What happens to a world that tries to keep the Hulk against his will? Does the Hulk even get off the planet? And if the Hulk does get off the planet what will he do to the Marvel Universe that cast him away?
Greg Pak has written a story that is tailor made for the Hulk. Anytime that the Hulk can just cut loose and SMASH the reader is in for a great ride. Carlo Pagulayan’s artwork makes reading this story that mush easier. If the Hulk was actually walking God’s green Earth Pagulayan’s rendition would be a dead ringer for him. If you aren’t a fan of The Incredible Hulk this story might just make you one.
3. Age of Apocalypse
Waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy back in 1995 Marvel Comics created futuristic story-line featuring their most popular characters — The X-Men. Professor Xavier’s son Legion, who sees the difficulty that his father faces in trying to have mutants and humans live together peacefully, believes that travelling back in time and murdering Magneto will solidify Professor X’s vision. Unfortunately Legion’s mission backfires. While trying to kill Magneto, Charles Xavier sacrifices himself to save his friend. In doing so, the Marvel Universe that we all know and love is gone forever. In it’s place a much darker and twisted world. An evil world. An Age of Apocalypse! In this future Apocalypse has made himself ruler. Humans are hunted down and killed. Who can stop this evil and save the humans? Magneto, in this future, is now the leader and founder of the X-Men. But these aren’t the X-Men that you are accustomed to. Who are they? Where’s Cyclops? What happened to Wolverine? Who is X-Man? What does Bishop, the time travelling X-Man, have to do with all of this? Where is the M’Kraan Crystal? Ladies and gentlemen this is by far the best story ever written about the X-Men…..EVER! There have been a few stories since this one that come close but they end up paling in comparison.
It is always dangerous when a writer takes characters that are so beloved and change them in the manner that they have been here. Not only have they scored a hat trick they have won the Stanley Cup with this story. If you loved the X-Men before you will WORSHIP them after this. With all of the different books that went with the story, I say that the artwork was exquisite. (Except for Generation Next — Yuk!)
4. Batman: Hush
In 2002 DC Comics released a 1 year story arc involving their most popular character Batman. Writer Jeph Loeb was given the task of coming up with a story that would put Batman through the ringer — mentally and physically — and Loeb didn’t disappoint. The story begins as Batman is trying to save a young boy kidnapped by Killer Croc. During the rescue Catwoman steals the ransom money intended for the boy’s safety. After apprehending Croc, Batman goes in pursuit of Catwoman to get the money back. However, while tracking her down his bat rope is cut and he falls into a dark alley fracturing his skull. His life is saved by his childhood friend and world renowned brain surgeon Tommy Elliott. What follows is a series of mysterious events involving Superman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, The Joker, Commissioner Gordon, The Riddler, Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow, Jason Todd, Clayface, and the puppet master behind all of this, Hush. Who is Hush and why has he targeted the dark knight for destruction?
This story-line is PHENOMENAL! The way that Loeb has orchestrated the turmoil that Batman goes through in this story is second-to-none. Each villain is used in a manner that lets them stand alone without overlapping one another. The art work in this story is top notch. Jim Lee has always been one of my favorite artists. Whether it’s the X-Men or Wildcats Lee’s artwork has always been spot on and breath taking. This Batman story, in my opinion, rates right up there with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
5. Marvel:Civil War
Marvel Comics in 2006 released a company wide story-line that was so fresh, so revolutionary the scope of it still holds true in today’s Marvel Universe. We have all read a comic where good guy A fights good guy B, make up, and catch the bad guy at the end. What would happen if those good guys didn’t stop fighting? Our story starts out with a television crew following the teenage super hero group, The New Warriors. It seems that they have a reality show where they attempt to capture criminals. Unfortunately this particular episode goes horribly wrong. While trying to apprehend the villain Nitro he uses his lethal powers to destroy part of the city, including a school where children were playing. In total over 600 people, several of whom were children, lost their lives. The public fallout from this produced The Superhuman Registration Act which made it mandatory for all super powered beings to register with the United States. Backing this 100% is none other than Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. Opposed to this, due to heroes needing to be able to protect themselves and their families, was Captain America. In a story where good guys become bad guys and vice versa who follows Iron Man? Who follows Cap? How do the Marvel Universe villains capitalize on this?
Writer Mark Millar, along with a few others, has made a true masterpiece here. When you are able to write a story involving more than 200 characters and over 40 titles and still make a fascinating story, it is pure GENIUS! Another plus is that this main story-line helped branch off and make several other stories. Steve McNiven’s artwork is just like icing on the cake. The realism of his characters runs parallel to the works of Alex Ross. Definitely a winning combination.