Q&A #53 What’s your favorite comic story of the decade?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.

What’s your favorite comic story of the decade?



Anika

Avengers Disassembled. I’ve said it before, but that’s the answer.

And it’s also why I prefer Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, and why adore the Star Trek reboot, and why I’ll always love Darth Vader. It’s why I have season two of Teen Titans and Justice League: Starcrossed on DVD, and why both Batman Begins and Iron Man make my favorites of the decade list. It’s why House of M disappoints me, and why I wouldn’t mind Dark Reign continuing a little while longer. And it’s why I’m so loyal to my Ms. Marvel.

I love heroes who know they are heroes. The few, the proud, the self-aware. The chosen ones who know themselves almost too well, who are almost too flippant in their arrogance because they know their flaws, they accept their flaws, and they refuse to let any of it get in their way. They refuse to settle for anything less than the best — their best. And that kind of personality walks a very narrow road between self-consummation and self-destruction. It is most often the road of redemption.

I don’t love Avengers Disassembled because I’m a Wanda fan. I am a Wanda fan, but I love the story for the story. It is a story of all the Avengers, and their destruction by one of their own. They were the very best of heroes, the best and brightest, and they destroyed themselves. And they keep doing it. Everything going wrong — everything going on — in the Marvel Universe today, can be drawn back to that moment.

And I care. I continue to care.



Caroline

Fun Home, a graphic novel written and drawn by Alison Bechdel, isn’t much like the comics I usually blog about — but then, there isn’t much that’s like Fun Home. This uniqueness is a good thing, making it stand out from many other wonderful comics that I’ve read. It’s a memoir in comic-book form, in which the author explores the connection with her late father, whose life and death were both full of mysteries. I don’t want to say too much beyond that, because readers deserve to discover the intricacies of the story for themselves.

Bechdel blends pure reminiscence with something akin to historical scholarship, analyzing her own teenage diaries, letters exchanged within her family, as well as the impact of books that both she and her father read. It’s a book for people who love comics, but also for people who love books, and people who come from families. I’m pretty sure that covers everybody!



Jennifer

When I first started reading comics, nearly four years ago, I borrowed almost all of them from a friend with an extensive collection. Eventually, I found my way to a comic shop and began to add a title or two to my infant pull list, so I wouldn’t have to wait for him to lend me my favorites. The first three comics on that list were Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways, and Peter David’s X-Factor. And each one of those comics, published entirely in this decade, could easily answer this question. They’re three of the comics that have stuck with me the most over the last few years, the comics that made me fall in love with the medium and realize that being a comic book fan was something I needed to be doing with my life. The first two were wonderful complete stories I still love to reread, and the last continues to delight me month in and month out.

But my real answer, which will surprise absolutely no one, is the fourth comic I added to that growing pull list: Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. I still remember where I was when I read the first issue (the dining hall) and gasped at the Red Skull’s assassination at the end. I still remember reading issue 11, in which Steve Rogers learns what the Soviets did to Bucky through a dossier of documents that we read along with him, culminating in a stunning silent page of Steve’s head in his hands as he begins to process the knowledge we’ve both just gained — an effect no other medium could duplicate. And I still remember the moment when I realized this character, who Ed Brubaker had taught me to love, would be the subject of the single largest piece of academic work I’ve done so far — a work that heavily influenced my recent decision to apply to graduate school to continue that sort of research. When I say that Ed Brubaker’s Captain America changed my life — my way of appreciating comics, my future plans, and even, in some ways, my worldview — I do so without exaggeration. It was, without caveat, my comic of the decade. And now that Steve Rogers has returned from the dead, I’m excited to see what the next decade will bring.



Sigrid

Astonishing X-Men.

I can stop there, and have this be the shortest answer ever, but, being me, I won’t.

In 2003 I “wasn’t reading comics.” By which I mean I was reading Hellblazer, Transmetropolitan, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Invisibles. I was reading Alan Moore, and Warren Ellis, and Grant Morrison, and Garth Ennis. I was reading Strangers in Paradise and Dykes to Watch Out For. I was reading Sin City. I wasn’t reading comics, you understand. I’d quit, dammit. I’d given them up when they broke my heart. Right around 1994 or so.

So it had been nearly a decade since I’d read an issue of anything with and “X” in the title. But I’d heard, somewhere online, that Joss Whedon was going to be writing an X-Men comic book. Joss Whedon. I knew that Joss’s favorite comic book character was Kitty Pryde. That was my favorite, too. And I heard that he was going to be writing her in this new X-Men comic. I knew I was going to get this title, no matter what. The only problem was, ten years of continuity I hadn’t read. Whuff.

I began backfilling. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men seemed a good place to start. After all, I liked his other works. I ran through what was available in trade and then started picking it up in issue. Then the trades of X-Treme X-Men, which rewarded me with Kitty nearly coming out as bisexual in “Mechanix,” and with Kitty-and-Rachel’s-undying-love in “Prisoner of Fire.” I picked up the trades of Uncanny, and while I was at it I read Warren Ellis’s run on Excalibur.

By the time Astonishing was published, I was ready. I was not only ready, I was back in love again. In love but a little smarter this time, a little wiser as to the ways of the comics publishing industry, a little more forgiving of things like crossover events, issue renumbering, and variant covers. And I was not disappointed.

Astonishing X-Men is my favorite story of the last decade. It also represents comics to me, for this decade. It represents the rise of writers from television, novels, and movies. It represents the rise of utterly breathtaking artists, and the increasing lateness and publishing delays of titles produced by those artists. It represents, with Warren Ellis’s tenure as writer, the integration of writers from independent and mature titles into my beloved superhero comics. It represents the rising recognition of superstar letterers and colorists in the industry.

But even leaving that aside, AXM is my favorite story of the decade. It’s the tale of growing up, again, endlessly. It’s the tale of discovering that we don’t just grow up once and then the world is fixed and good and set. On the contrary, we have to keep growing and changing and making ourselves into the person we next want to be. It’s Kitty’s story of forgiving herself and forgiving Emma, of recognizing that the world is not as simple as she craves it to be. It’s Scott’s story of accepting that he’s incredibly screwed-up, and that Emma loves him anyway. It’s the story in which everyone has to face their worst nightmares and just live with the consequences.

Above all this, though, Astonishing X-Men was and continues to be a story about consequences — about how things aren’t fixed and forgotten, how we as human beings are not static and set in stone, about how the world of the future is built on the world we made yesterday. This is a damn fine story for the first years of this new century. Astonishing X-Men is a new story, built on the bones of the comics I love with all my heart, produced by the creators I respect and admire, using the characters I have known my whole life. This is my favorite comic of the decade.


What’s your favorite comic story of the decade?

  • This… isn’t really my favorite decade of comics, honestly. I quit reading for a portion of the decade (2003-early 2007) and there’s a lot that I don’t like. A lot of my favorites started in the late 90s (Supergirl, Young Justice, Nightwing, Birds of Prey) and those don’t really count. But there is one comic from the early 2000s that really stands out.

    Exiles. The Judd Winick run. So, the first 40 issues or so. Oh man, I love that comic. I love Blink, I love ridiculous AUs, and I love the different takes on the characters. Basically, even with my dislike of Judd Winick, this is one of my favorite comics ever, and I was sad when it completely fell apart after he left. But when it was good, it was absolutely amazing.

    (Other answers – Meridian or Sojourn from CrossGen, Blue Beetle.)

  • Sam

    Are these ongoings only? If so, I’m going with Flash: Fastest Man Alive. It wasn’t the best characterization of Bart ever (though it makes sense with some of the stuff we learn along the way), but it was a solid arc of a next-next-next generation sidekick growing up and coming into his own. And, I’ll be honest, Issue 3 with art by Karl Kerschl that was unlike anything I’d seen before in comics… that got me back into the medium, right there. So the story was a favorite of mine both for the growth of the character, the grown of the DC Universe (which they went on to ruin, of course), and the introduction to more modern art that helped get me back into comics.

    If we’re not talking ongoings, Y: The Last Man. hands down.

  • sigrid

    @Sam Why Y: The Last Man? It’s a great story, obviously, by why is it your hands-down winner?

  • Monica

    This is really hard for me, as I started in comics very recently, and haven’t read many things in order. And I find that stories that I feel are best aren’t often the ones that are most important to me as a participant in fandom, if that makes sense.

    That said, Alias comes closest to blending a great, meaningful story with my fandom interest. Jessica Jones is a hero with a story worth reading. I love her dark, complicated world and seeing Cap and the Avenger’s through her eyes. Every hero she interacts with becomes so much more real – Luke, Matt, Carol, Scott…

    The original characters in her universe have stories worth reading, too. I love that in ‘Come Home’, queerness is used as an allegory for mutant powers rather than the standard of mutant powers as an allegory for queerness. I love the art.

    I have issues with the ending, but that doesn’t bother me because the story really isn’t over. (It never is, in comics.)

  • This might be heresy, considering it’s from the Distinguished Competition, but my favorite single story of the decade was Infinite Crisis, for two big reasons:

    1) It paid off or played off of nearly all of DC’s big projects that particular year – not just the four miniseries that directly flowed into it (though if you read them all, seeing the collective ramifications add up to the Worst Day Ever was a fun reward) but it also showed us the final consequences of Identity Crisis in the self-destruction of the JLA at the worst possible time.
    2) Was it violent? Yes. But the violence here wasn’t for “show” – it was a manifestation of the fact that the stakes were raised and the villains were truly deranged. I cringed like anybody else when Superboy-Prime beat the crap out of Kal-L, but if the name of the game is do or die, it shouldn’t be Marquis de Quisenberry rules.
    3) Between this series, 52 and One Year Later, there was a period of time where it felt like this event really *did* clear the decks for DC. That’s not to say EVERYTHING WAS CHANGED FOREVER or whatever the latest lame self-promotional buzzphrase is, but things did feel different for me as a DC reader, and that’s all too rare these days.

  • Wils

    I’ve read a lot of old comics during this decade. I started reading them nearly twenty years ago and then stopped about ten years ago or whenever that Magneto Rex mini came out cause I was so annoyed with comics. With the X-Men movies I tried every so often to pick something up but never really got back into it until a few years ago cause of online stuff. I think my fav was The Order. I got to it after the run had ended but I liked the story. I liked the art. I’ve enjoyed the few fan fics I’ve read involving the characters from it. They’re is a lot of depth. It’s also probably because I wasn’t as invested in any of them as I am in the X-comic ones. But I really enjoyed how they set up each character and the interactions.

  • Menshevik

    Since I’ve been first and foremost a Marvel reader since the mid-1970s, the past decade looks very bleak right now, when, after stuff like Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and One More Brand New Day spoiled my enjoyment of old favourites to such an extent that my current pull list includes a mere three titles set in the mainstream Marvel Universe (all of them very much dependent on the current writers) and otherwise I am pretty much confined to other universes and alternate realities (stuff like X-Men Forever, Ultimate Spider-Man, the Spider-Girl part of Web of Spider-Man, Powers, etc.). But there were bright spots as well, among which I would number Runaways, the early Exiles and Young Avengers, as well Fun Home.
    And since I usually have problems settling one one nominee, I’ll list my favourites in different categories:
    Marvel (mainstream universe):
    The middle part of J.M. Straczynski’s run on ASM (ca. from Aunt May discovering Peter’s secret to “The Other”). I had stopped buying The Amazing Spider-Man after Aunt May and Norman Osborn were brought back from the dead and I was rather inclined against JMS from what I read about the Spider-Totem and Ezekiel, but in the end his writing was great enough to win me over and even reconcile me with Aunt May as a leading member of the cast.
    Marvel (alternate universes):
    Ultimate Spider-Man, in particular the ending of that title starting with the Clone Saga.
    DC:
    The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russel.
    Other US publishers:
    The finale of Strangers in Paradise – I had become a bit tired of the series, but in the end it picked up again and engaged me once more, due in no small measure to Casey.
    European:
    Sur les terres d’Horus by Isabelle Dethan. A historical detective series with a continuing general story set during the reign of Ramses II.
    Manga:
    Ikkyu by Hisashi Sakaguchi. This biography of the famous Zen monk was published in Japan in 1998, but the German translation only appeared in the new decade.
    Comic strip (US):
    Dykes to Watch Out For. I’m a sucker for Mo and Sydney.
    Comic strip (international):
    Strizz by Volker Reiche. A topical strip that appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, now sadly discontinued.
    Graphic novel:
    Cash – I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist. Bio of the Man in Black.

  • Sam

    @sigrid Ah, sorry for the delay. I really need to subscribe to follow-up comments or something.

    For me, Y is a hands-down winner because it’s the best complete story, the one that affected me the most, and the one that I want to make everyone who doesn’t appreciate the storytelling ability of comics read. When I was a kid I didn’t follow comic arcs, I just bought random single issues with characters I liked or that I thought looked cool. But when I was a teenager I discovered Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta and Watchmen (in that order) and then, in college, Sandman. I’ve always felt a strong connection to these sort of set apart, complete-on-their-own stories.

    And aside from that, I found the way that Y was written, and the way that the issues all wove into each other so well, to be very satisfying. I’ve been talking a lot lately about immersion, and how I always enjoy something (movie, video game, book) more if I’m immersed in it. Y immersed me more than anything else I’ve read this decade, and most of the things I’ve seen this decade. I felt like I was a part of the story. That’s huge for me.

  • Nicole

    ok, this is a totally unrelated question, but can someone PLEASE tell me where that scan of Ms Marvel is from? I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. :(

  • Anika

    Hi Nicole, the scan is from “Giant Size Ms. Marvel #1” which was a House of M tie-in and is collected in the first MS. MARVEL trade “Best of the Best”. I highly recommend it 😀