Sunday, 15 November 2009

Top Ten: Comic Story Arcs

Whilst my attempts to make the site more accessible, rebooted, prettier and generally more respectable are going along at a far better pace than expected I'm sure that no-one will check the site when it's done if I don't post once in a while. As such I'm taking a leaf from the brilliant Ryan K. Lindsay of Stinkbrown fame and doing a TOP TEN COMIC ARCS! Heck, everyone should do one! START A REVOLUTION!

In a slightly shocking move this won't consist entirely of New Mutants arcs peppered with other X-Teams (GOOD GOD HAVE I GONE MAD?!) and spread itself over as many different and diverse comics as possible. Which considering one of my favourites here covers a million or so comics won't be that surprising.

(in a rare move by myself these aren't in any order, simply to save over-thinking on the subject)

1. Detective Comics: Elegy by Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III (#854-857)

I'm sure that some people might groan at how recent this is, but then those people obviously haven't read this outstanding example of how to do an opening arc right AND as a piece of art. I mean seriously, it hit fast and hard with the plot, threw in tons of natural feeling elements, hinted at Batwoman's origin and had one of the best twists in comic history (though I'm sure it's a little corny). Still even if that was non-existent this arc stood out amongst all the others I've considered because of how well the art is implemented. Switching tone entirely depending on the content of the story with layouts so insanely beautiful grown men have been known to weep (or at least write a review that opens on the word fuck in big, bold, orange writing). A story arc that did EVERYTHING right and punched you in the gut, this has truly earned its place in this top ten.

2. Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock by Zeb Wells & Carmine Di Giandomenico (#1-4)

Sometimes the thing that can truly make an arc is the flow and narrative structure, especially between issues. As such this Marvel Knights limited series captured that crucial part of a comic arc to a tee, using the 4 round final fight of Jack Murdock to frame the story of him and his son (you might know him, he's that Matt Murdock bloke. Blind, bit horny, you know) to great effect, along with the simple notion of how a person's perception of strength and what makes you strong can be completely wrong. That's really all I need to say about this story arc other than the brilliant writing and art by Zeb and Carmine. If you haven't read this then you might well have missed one of the best Daredevil arcs of all time. And heck, it doesn't even really STAR Daredevil!

3. Kraven's Last Hunt/Fearful Symmetry by J.M. Dematteis & Mike Zeck (WoSM #31-32, ASM #293-294 and SSM #131-132)

The things I could say about Spider-Man arcs and how much I love them could very well fill a very large and useless encyclopaedia and with good reason; between this, Death of Jean DeWolffe, Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12, Changes and The Other, Spider-Man has never failed to produce some of the best arcs of all time! Kraven's Last Hunt particularly stands out due to a combination of sophisticated plot elements (I could just straight up write an essay on the examination of Kraven in this comic and his grasp on obsession and insanity, or heck just quote the poem that runs throughout the comic) and some of the most exciting scenes in any Spider-Man comic EVARR. Seriously Kraven hunting Spider-Man at the start has to be one of the most heart-stopping scenes in any comic. One of the best arcs and in fact one of the best comics ever.

Oh and I should probably mention the magic that is how Dematteis claims this comic evolved and formed itself more than he created it (seriously buy the TPB, he explains it) and how it did the unheard act of running across all the Spidey titles to get the tale out quicker and to show focus exclusively on this epic story. 'Nuff said?

4. New Mutants: Legion by Chris Claremont & Bill Sienkiewicz (#26-28)

Okay you knew I'd address something to do with New Mutants eventually, so just be glad that I mentioned three other arcs before getting to this gem. Up until this point in the series New Mutants had been a brilliant if incredibly corny gem for me, with only Nova Roma standing up as a truly awesome comic arc, so when it finally came to hit the big mystery nail on the head of what the hell the deal was with Xavier's unknown son I wasn't quite ready for how awesome this arc turned out to be. And it WAS awesome. Aided to no end by Bill Sien... Sience... SIENKIEWICZ, this was a captivating piece of art for me and absorbed me into the mind of Chris Claremont's mad world of Legion's mind with the same ease that the characters themselves were thrown into it. the story didn't miss a beat and most importantly did what all good comic arcs should do. It made me want to read the next issue so badly that I just couldn't wait! If your comic can do that then you're on the path to greatness!

... Well all that and I bloody LOVE the New Mutants.

5. Secret Wars II by Jim Shooter & Al Milgrom et al (Don't Get Me Started)

Jim Shooter is a bit of a cunt. I'm not talking Ronald Perelman "complete and utter bastard ruining Marvel comics" cunt, just a bit cuntish. A tiny bit. Despite that small handicap Shooter managed to write what might very well be my favourite event of all time; SECRET WARS II. Turning the idea of comic flow on its head, SWII managed to have EVERYTHING change between each of its nine issues, to the degree that if you were just following the event comic itself you'd probably lose track of who the Beyonder actually is. In fact that would probably be a schizophrenic arc at best. No, it's when you see the bigger picture, where anywhere up to five different series would further the complete story, showing the Beyonder's exploration of humanity through the heroes he's met through his time on earth and how that shapes him between each issue of the greater picture. In all the time I've put into reading Marvel comics lately (I remind you I'm trying to find the 50 best Marvel comics of all time) I haven't read anything quite like this and I have to say that if all current events did this... Well it'd be bloody interesting. A crossover between crossovers and events this stands as a testament to how being completely different can be completely amazing. Heck I stand by that so much I'm buying the freakin' omnibus!

6. X-Men Icons - Chamber: The Hollow Man by Brian K. Vaughan & Lee Ferguson (#1-4)

Let's be honest now, you haven't read this. Heck as far as I SHOULD be concerned I haven't read it either. Except I did, having to shamefully resort to downloading the issues online (as I type this I've spied a relatively cheap bundle of all 4 issues on ebay I may order on thursday though, so disregard that). For whatever reason this balls-blisteringly brilliant limited series hasn't surfaced in trade form yet, a tragedy and no mistake. This comic managed to...


... Okay at this point I'd just be reiterating how well narrated and structured a comic can be so instead of all that usual crap I'll say this: this comic makes Chamber even more awesome than he was before. I KNOW! I'm not even saying that as a fanboy *shuffles banner with Chamber on it out of the way* but from the simple knowledge that BKV turned him into a brilliant tool to show how the prejudice against mutants isn't restricted to humans as he interacts with the arc's other prominent character Amber, a shape-shifting reptilian mutant woman with the major hots for the then-faceless wonder. Possibly my favourite limited series of all time (I say stuff like that a lot, so ignore that statement if you must), this... Is REALLY hard to explain to the full extent I should! READ IT! NOW! GO DO IT AND SAVE ME THE EFFORT OF STRUGGLING WITH THIS BUM-LICKING!

... Okay? Good.

(side note: look forward to me moaning about how I should write a Chamber ongoing series in a future article)

7. New X-Men - E is for Extinction by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (#114-116)

"Oh look someone saying that a part of Morrison's New X-Men was one of the best comic arcs what a surprise he must be a genius to think so ahahahaha-"

SHUT UP!... Wait who was that? Never mind, the point is that some series will obviously appear in lists like these and this is one of those series that was guaranteed to crop up at some point. It's almost such a guarantee that I don't need to explain how this arc took a series that had been stale to a ridiculous degree and changed EVERYTHING. Up was down, black was white and the X-Men had learnt how to be mature instead of edgy. Oh and it wiped out an island of mutants, beating the arse off of the far more recent mutant removal of a crazy woman using powers beyond the scope of reason to fuck shit up (though I do actually like House of M). Morrison did it all right here and then kept up that level of power in his stories right up until the end... Well except for Here Comes Tomorrow, that wasn't quite as good but shut up I'm making a point here.

8. Generation X: The Third Genesis by Scott Lobdell & Chris Bachalo (#1-3)

... It MIGHT be because Chamber is in it. MAYBE. It certainly isn't because Skin is in it and even less so that Jubilee is in it. It MIGHT be because Banshee is in it. Oh and Penance, who is genuinely intriguing, especially when she interacts with Chamber. Heck it might be because the first issue was REALLY SHINY. This is pure self-indulgence. I love this arc and as such it stands up here with the other 9 as the best comic arcs I've read. Sure it's not very professional but no-one can tell me I'm wrong this way! WAHAHAHAHA! *ahem* Uh... Moving on...

9. Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina by Grant Morrison et al (#18-26)

MORE Grant Morrison?! Creative choices, eh? This is notably more credible with the artsy crowd than my million and one mutant-related picks. This is the famous arc that took the 4th wall and bent it over and made it Morrison's bitch. Not just that but the comic evolved past everything it had already become to be a spookily sombre insight into the incredibly self aware mind of Morrison, to a degree I don't believe any other comic writer would have allowed. Not just that but the ending isn't even happy. AT ALL! It fills you soul with sadness (with that crucial tinge of hope, a light shining in the darkness) and leaves you slightly in despair. Oh and it's from when Morrison wasn't a Lex Luthor lookalike. For those reasons and more this is one of my favourite arcs of all time.

(Want another reason? I love the Psycho Pirate. However we won't dive into that here, for my obsession with mentally unstable characters is something to be addressed in a future post)

10. Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen & Jamie Mckelvie (#1-6)

And finally we come to a series that isn't about superheroes, has no pretty colours and fucking hates Kula Shaker. Yes, Phonogram: Rue Britannia. An epic tale of Phonomancy, Retromancy and a jaded Phallocrat disguised as an intricate look into the creator's attachment to a musical era long dead (wait, that's the wrong way around, reverse that), Phonogram captivates the true Brit in me and twists its melons until all that remains is a slack jawed comic fan who's been amazed by one of the best comic stories out there. I can't speak for The Single Club (the follow-up series) as I haven't read it yet, but this arc is flippin' brilliant and has managed to be the only independant series apparently deserving of such a position in this Top 10.


  1. Fuckin' great choices. Haven't read many of them, and for every 'obvious' Morrison choice, you put in other obscure X arcs, which I completely dig. I am interested that you put in Battlin' Jack Murdock; as a massive DD fan I must say I loved that series, it was absolutely killer. I loved that frame of the fight, and I liked that Battlin' Jack finally got treated like a real character for once.

    I have kept my eye out for that Chamber series for a few years now, still no luck, which sad.

    You want to write Chamber, I want to write Black Tarantula, with maybe Steel Serpent along for the ride, we could have one hell of a blast. We should really make that happen...who knows someone who can draw?

    And this post makes two, the revolution is degrees into a full turn, watch the world crumble and faces change.

  2. Heh so all we need to do is find artists and we can make obscure characters big! It's on!

    Well, that and being credible enough to be noticed by them with their scouting process... ah such an obstacle.

    though saying that you've got you essay printed in the sinners today so that's a step in the right direction towards their notice!

  3. Wow, interesting list with some unexpected choices. I'm really glad I persevered with Battlin' Jack Murdock. I didn't really like the first issue but the four issues together was masterful - really empathetic towards poor old Jack.

    That said, hope Jim Shooter doesn't read this post... ;)