Superhero Comics, The Best Ever
by Alex Carnevale
Once a superhero hooks you, you will be willing to watch him do most anything. Jerry Seinfeld’s ability to walk out of a car crash unaffected forced me to illegally download Bee Movie and close my eyes while watching it. Jenna Fischer’s superpower is her lack of acting ability. Jennifer Beals’ superpower is her love of photography. Even superheros need superheroes; Ryan Reynolds wants to express his repressed masculinity through his portrayal of Deadpool, for example.
And yet as the superhero medium continues to only sell to a niche audience, there is plenty old and new that will appeal to the most mainstream of the vast TR audience. Enjoy.
10. The Eternals & The New Gods
by Jack Kirby
While Kirby’s Eternals was, in fact, a DC comic, he’s Marvel through and through, and there is nothing about these books that screams DC.
Kirby was at his best when working with the super characterization and wit of partner Stan Lee. Their Fantastic Four collaboration was one of the most risktaskingly stupendous runs of all time, a period in which they created all sorts of awesome ideas that stood the test of time like The Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and Galactus himself.
The reason I focus on the Eternals is both because it was a more limited series and because the color artwork is the best things I have ever seen done in the comics medium.
When it came to dialogue and plot, Kirby wasn’t terrible, but the visual element is where he really shined, and I’d be psyched to hang any page of The New Gods or The Eternals on my wall. If you want to experience the full brilliance of the Kirby-Lee collaboration, try the Essential Fantastic Four, volume 4.
The last volume of Kirby’s collected work at DC just came out, and you can buy it here.
9. Earth X
by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger
The enigmatic Alex Ross established himself as a force in the comics world by his photorealistic work in Marvels, a re-imagining of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of a photojournalist. I don’t think that book holds up very well, but Ross’ Kirby-esque reimaginings of the Marvel universe have been a huge impact on what followed. His marvelous D.C. Universe all-in-one Kingdom Come is a must read if you’re a fan of Superman and the like, but for me his more exciting work came in the Marvel version, Earth X.
Is Earth X for newbies? No. Are its sequels any good? They’re largely terrible. Then there is the small matter of Ross basically just contributing the concept of the series and the covers.
Once you get past that, and the everything but the kitchen sink feel of the book, Earth X is a gorgeous rendition of a dark future in the Marvel universe, Jim Krueger’s plotting is more than up to par, and from the moment you see a fat-out-of-shape Spiderman, you’re appropriately hooked.
The central role given to Machine Man, the Watcher, and Black Bolt are all of interest, and the ancient Reed Richards is one of the best manifestations of Mr. Fantastic. While X isn’t a great superhero comic, as something different and the pleasure that comes with reimagining characters familiar to us – as if I Love Lucy was about a crack whore – this book is worth reading. Don’t buy the sequels unless you have a wish for the sweet embrace of death, however.
Buy Earth X here.
8. Ultimate Galactus Trilogy
by Warren Ellis
Sometimes it seems like all the giants of comics are either Jews or Brits, and in the case of Warren Ellis, it’s the latter.
Ellis has his admirers and detractors. He doesn’t care about catering to his fanbase and he’s not shy about saying so. His Vertigo series Transmetropolitan, which Patrick Stewart has wanted to star in for awhile, is sublime and his run on Thunderbolts added to his glowing legacy. His new series is Gravel, about British combat magician Mike Gravel who he debuted in the wonderfully weird B & W series Strange Kiss & Strange Killings.
Warren Ellis’ version of the Galactus story, which prominently features the Ultimates (a revised take on the Avengers that is the best team in comics after the Fantastic Four) is my favorite thing he has done. Ellis has a tendency towards broad strokes and cutting to the point. For better or worse he’s never afraid of his own ideas.
With UGT, it seems like getting boxed in by basically having to write a Galactus movie suited Ellis, and his focus on Hawkeye and Falcon, as well as a more rough and tumble Cap, all benefit from the Ellis take. As a Galactus fanboy, I love this book dearly, and the special bonus is a Millar-Romita Jr. (the amazing Kick Ass is well worth seeking out) collaboration.
You can buy Ultimate Galactus Trilogy here.
7. The Punisher MAX: The Slavers
by Garth Ennis
I never liked The Punisher, née Frank Castle, very much. He always struck me as the worst kind of moralist – someone who thought and acted from a place of rage rather than a place of reason. (Kind of like Eliot Spitzer but he takes his socks off during intercourse.) If you’re not familiar with Castle’s story, every Punisher restates it. Castle metes out justice to wrongdoers, and is violently indifferent to those who stand in his way.
Turned onto this particular Punisher story by a friend who is a Garth Ennis fanboy, I was more than pleasantly surprised- I was gifted with bloodlust and a desire to avenge prostitutes. They pretty much stole this story for Eastern Promises, but the Punisher’s version has different twists. In the wake of the Spitzer scandal, it’s also nice to see the men and women of the slave trade get their just deserts. This book shows you don’t need glitzy powers or epic storylines to get a character over: you just need a lot of blood.
Buy Vol. 5 of Ennis’ run on The Punisher here.
by Mark Millar
Wanted is Millar’s best one-shot, a from-scratch tribute to the supervillains of Marvel and D.C., along with the best of Ellis’ and Garth Ennis’ evil protagonists. As a story it has its flaws, but as a conceptual re-imagining of the superhero, it hooks you from the very first. Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov helms the adaptation, which looks a little silly, but should have plenty of enjoyable moments. Enjoy these images of Jolie’s tats from the movie:
i believe one of these tattoos is for jon heder
There is the feeling that Angelina probably should have just done this movie while pregnant. It’s a little strange for her to be going around promoting a movie in which she is a brutal murderer while she’s all Heigled, but hey, if she can end the conflict in Iraq, she can do this.
Buy Wanted here.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. Tomorrow the best five ever.
“All the Umbrellas In London (Magnetic Fields cover)” – Arcade Fire (mp3)
“Lazerkill” – Johnny Neon (mp3)
“I’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind” – Vashti Bunyan (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Molly beat the meatles.
Rachel rags on Hampshire.
Science Corner changed all our lives forever.
4 thoughts on “In Which The Best Superhero Books of All Time Counts Down For Your Amusement”
I grant that I haven’t been into comics for a long time and haven’t read any of these, but… where’s <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squadron_Supreme”Squadron Supreme? Their miniseries from the mid-80s was outstanding – about superheroes who, perhaps logically, realize that they’re the best fit to run the planet. And then they totally fuck it up.
We should probably wait on the “what about…” comments until the list finishes. That said, I think it’s fair to say Ellis reached his apotheosis with Transmetropolitan and Planetary, and everything since has been some rehash of one or the other. His characters are one note, and anything really groundbreaking tends to come from either the artist, and he does usually get paired with fantastic artists (Mike Deodato notwithstanding) or whatever New Scientist article on theory he’s ripped off this month. I can’t wait until this truth becomes more widely apparent than it seems to be now so I can stop hearing about him; it almost happened a few years back, and things seemed to be turning around for the industry. Now he’s back and I couldn’t be more bored with the mainstream.
Just a guess, but I’m betting and hoping the top five will include Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Come up with two Jews so we can keep the Jew-to-Brit ratio.
Where do I even begin to thank you. I nearly coughed up to dough to choke down the Earth X sequels until I got the full deal on it. So very helpful.