As I said in Part 1, these aren’t in any particular order (except #1). Five more comic book runs that are guaranteed worth your time. Each one appeals to me in a different way. Some through stunning visuals, others through tight or innovative storytelling, some with both. Just like the previous four, most are Marvel. Two of the runs are relatively new and can be had for cover price. Two are mini series.
All of them are great.
Power Man and Iron Fist
1978-1986, Marvel, Writers: tons of them, Artists: even more
As a kid growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, aside from sports, I was obsessed with three things: Bruce Lee, New York City, and soul music. Then, my cousin Toby handed me Power Man and Iron Fist #84, and, suddenly, I was staring at all of my obsessions, together in one comic! To me, it was an amazing idea, ripped right out of the karate and blacksploitation videos that I watched over and over as a kid. Little did I know, it was an idea birthed out of desperation.
Luke Cage: Hero For Hire‘s comic sales were sagging; Iron Fist just had his series canceled after 15 issues. So, instead of canceling two comics, some genius, possibly Chris Claremont, decided to team up the badass protector of Harlem with steel hard skin with Danny Rand, a rich, white boy that was raised in the mountains of K’un L’un by warrior priests.
The comic had a great cast of side characters, none better than the ladies of the NightWing Detective Agency, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. They weren’t just there for eye candy; they were badass, and even bailed Luke and Danny out of a scrape or two. Plus, it introduced me to one of the best catchphrases of all time: Luke Cage’s, “Sweet Christmas!”
#84 will always be particularly special to me, as it was the first time I met my favorite Marvel character: Sabretooth.
2016-2017, Marvel, Writer: Jeff Lemire, Artist: Greg Smallwood (with the help of a few others)
Moon Knight has always looked cool.
When I was a young kid in the early 80s, the crazy, creepy looking Bill Sienkiewicz covers made Moon Knight look cool.
When I was a young kid in the early 80s, the crazy, creepy looking Bill Sienkiewicz covers made Moon Knight look cool. Then, as I was growing up and he joined the West Coast Avengers, I felt like he was out of place because he still looked so cool. I stopped reading comics for awhile, but I assume he was still out there…looking cool. A safe assumption because when I picked up his new comic (2016), Moon Knight was still…you guessed it…looking cool—really fucking crazy now—but still as cool as always.
Maybe he was always really fucking crazy! I didn’t read much Moon Knight when I was younger, and never really understood the whole multiple personality thing Marc Spector had going on; I always figured they were alter egos. He definitely has always been portrayed as a little off; as Spider Man has once said, “Moony rhymes with looney.” This new series has confirmed it…maybe? Kinda?
The series begins with Marc Spector waking up in a mental asylum. He’s told that he’s been there since he was a child, and Moon Knight has always been a fantasy. To make matters worse, everyone that he’s been close to in his previous series are now residents in the asylum with him! And all the doctors and orderlies look like bad guys from his past. Has everything all been inside a disturbed man’s head? Does he finally have his shit together? Well, after 14 issues, we’re not totally sure yet, but it was a wild ride.
Jeff Lemire handled the twists and turns expertly, and Smallwoods’ art is amazing—some of the coolest panel work I’ve seen. He turns them into part of the art. He gets help from other artists to convey the chaos of Marc grappling with his multiple personalities, having a different artist draw each “Marc” in their own style. How cool is that?
Oh, and one more thing: space werewolves. Don’t you want to find out what that means?
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
2016-present, Black Mask Comics, Writer: Matthew Rosenberg, Artist: Tyler Boss
If Quentin Tarantino hired Wes Anderson to be his art director for a movie titled “The Stranger Things Kids Rob a Bank,” this is what it would look like.
4KWIaB, as all the hip people write it (oh that’s just me cause I’m lazy? I make no apologies!), is so fresh, so witty, so well done, that I’m already mourning the fact that it’s only a 6 part series, and we still have 2 issues to go.
The characters are sharply written and expressively drawn. Thought has been put into each panel. Originality is seen throughout, even in things as little as the sound of a sandwich being smacked out of someone’s hand: Sammich, instead of the typical Smak!
The story is one that’s been told before: dad used to be bad; now he’s good, but some old friends just got out of jail, and they’re want him back in the life. The difference in this story is that these bad guys are all idiots! There was a reason they were all in jail; they get caught!
Luckily for her dad, Paige and her three friends—who at 11 are all already smarter than the criminals—aren’t going to let things go down like that. Their solution? Figure out how to rob the bank before the bozos do.
1975-95, Marvel, Writers: A lot of Chris Claremont, a little of some others, Artists: so many greats
With Giant Size X Men #1 in 1975, a book on the brink of cancellation was totally revamped, a new team was formed and, thus, an impressive two-decade run began.
In this run, tons of classic Marvel characters were created—Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Deadpool, Cable, Gambit (to name a few)—and existing characters were perfected and made legendary—Wolverine and Sabretooth. This run is similarly packed with historic Marvel events—The Dark Phoenix saga, Days of Future Past, God Loves Man Kills, The Mutant Massacre, X-Cutioners Song, Age of Apocalypse—and a plethora of spin offs were made to fatten Marvels coffers: New Mutants, Excaliber, X-Factor, X-Force, Wolverine, X-Men, X-Man, and the list goes on. To top all that greatness, it seems almost every character has since gotten his or her own mini series.
What I’m saying is, it was an unprecedented run. And I bought them all!
What I’m saying is, it was an unprecedented run. And I bought them all!
There is so much more good than bad, it’s immeasurable. The characters became so well-defined, you knew everything about them—except for the mysterious ones, of course. (There’s always mysterious ones.) The annual crossovers seemed natural and not money grabs. They didn’t reset the clock every 9 to 12 months; there weren’t multiple versions of each character running around; there weren’t cheap stunts. It was tight storytelling, and, let’s not forget, some of the best art in the biz came through those X-books: Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Whilce Portacio, the Kubert brothers, Mark Silvestri, Art Adams. It was my favorite stuff to read; so much so that by 1993, I had stopped collecting Spider Man, Iron Man, Captain America and the like. It was all X-Men all the time! And why not, when it was the best.
1994, Marvel (duh), Writer: Kurt Busiek, Painter: Alex Ross
You read that right. I didn’t say artist; I said painter! Alex Ross’s work was breathtaking; every panel was a work of art, an innovative concept realized perfectly. The story was an exciting concept, as well, writing the early history of the Marvel universe from the perspective of a photojournalist, Phil Sheldon.
The four part series portrayed ordinary life in a world of superheroes with each issue featuring a retelling of the most famous events in the Marvel universe, all told from the vantage point of someone like you and me. It made you feel like the Marvel Universe was real, something that could be a documentary on the History channel. Many tried to copy the style, including Marvel, but none were done as well as the first one.
So there you go.
Before you say a word, I know there is no DC represented. But, if you read my earlier blog post, you’d know I said that I wasn’t a big DC guy. Aaaaand my blog, my list, my rules. I’m sure there’s some DC-heavy, top ten blog post you can google. Go get ‘em.
Where are the rest?
We definitely broke this massive tome of comic book knowledge into two parts. Read the first five of the “Top 9 Comic Book Runs of All Time.”