Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ultimate Challenge! The List Of Awesomeness!

So, I had this thought. In the grand tradition of such epic events like 10 Comic Book Characters You Hate Day and the eight kajillion events happening daily at Comics Should Be Good, I had the following thought:

My recent stand-on-the-K-Box-and-tear-down of Brightest Day #1 made me think--You know, I like comics and all that, but I seldom seem to say so. And I don't want to constantly harangue people about shitty comics all the time (which is one of the reasons that the Prattle has exceeded its comics remit from time to time) lest I get so pissed off I forget why I liked them in the first place.

So I thought I'd redress that this way--by giving you ten awesome things from comics. Chris Sims has Batman tossing a car battery, TV Tropes calls them Crowing Moments of Awesome, and these ten things are my equivalent of that--they are the stuff that got me to love comics in the first damn place. Now, all of these aren't from comics, but they're in that spirit.

These aren't in any particular order, positively loaded with spoilers, and probably aren't explained in any great detail (or I'd have another humongous series of articles that I procrastinate about writing) they're just a list of 10 awesome things about comics. If you ain't feeling that, or you're too soaked with hipster irony, then dammit, this ain't for you.

Here we go:

1. IRON MAN #200--"My friend is dead . . .others may have been captured, taken who knows where . . .I could have stopped him before it got to this point, but I didn't. But I will. I'll accept the responsibility that goes with who I am and I will stop Obadiah Stane."

Cue the rollout of the Silver Centurion armour, a battle with Stane 30 issues in the making, and Tony Stark becoming Iron Man once again.

2. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED-"Divided We Fall." Braniac and Luthor are one being (to Alan Moore's eternal regret, Braniac's head is not worn as a hat), and powerful enough to hold the entire Justice League at bay. The only one with a chance of stopping them is The Flash . . .who proceeds to run around the entire world and lay on a beatdown so epic it traveled back in time and caused the Tunguska Explosion:

3. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #10--Obviously, myself and MightyGodKing are the only folks who like Crisis (or would, in fact, admit it in public) and enough people out there already have already mentioned the more well-known moments, but for me, even though it doesn't end well for anyone concerned is this moment in Crisis #10:

The Anti-Monitor has tricked the united heroes and villains to travel back to the dawn of time itself and begins draining their power in an effort to complete his destruction of the Multiverse. It has something to do with Krona seeing the Anti-Monitor's hand rise out of the maelstrom of creation which will a) destroy everything and b) inspire Krona to star in JLA/Avengers twenty years on.

But right when this is supposed to happen, something resists him. As all good villains must, the first thing out of his mouth is "Who dares?"

And the Spectre (DC's preferred deus ex machina for decades now) backed by every magic user in the DCU, appears and replies: "I dare, cruel one! And I will stop you!"

It's a real "raise your fist in the air" moment for me, and moments like that are pretty much what I read comics for, so really everybody wins.

4. INFINITY GAUNTLET #4--Thanos has the power of God, has killed half the universe, and the only hope that remains is a gambit involving an army of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Guess how well that goes?

Print photo at home
And yet . . .the one guy left standing, the one guy with no powers, the one guy who basically has a trashcan lid for a weapon, will still stand up to a pissed off genocidal god:

Print photo at home

. . .who breaks his unbreakable shield with contemptuous ease:
Print photo at home

. . .and Cap still refuses to back down and basically punches God in the face in response:

Print photo at home

Man, good thing I had all these images left over from when I covered this in the old blog. Heh.

You know, people think that speech from Civil War or wherever where he talks about planting himself like a tree next top the river of truth or whatever it said is epic. These people are objectively and consummately wrong. That's telling you how awesome Cap is. This comic showing you Captain Fucking America laying one on the jaw of the supreme being, and that is straight-up showing you how awesome Captain America is. Even if he's the last man standing, he will never surrender.

5. NEW X-MEN #150--Cyclops has had enough. The deception with Xorn is the last straw in what's been a pretty awful year for him. Resolving that he's done with the whole "repression" thing (which was pretty much his defining characteristic) declares that he's going to cut loose from now on, starting with Magneto.

By which I mean he grabs Magneto by the throat and point-blank blasts the helmet off his face. For longtime X-Men readers who'd grown used to Cyclops being the bland, unexciting and unending whiny leader, this was big-time stuff and possibly the beginning of subsequent writers making some effort to break him out of being the repressed stick in the mud.

For me though, it always gonna be the "Holy crap! Cyclops is breaking bad? Cyclops?"

6. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED--"Clash." Just . . .this (and yes, I wish I had a better clip as well) as Captain Marvel sends an open letter to superhero comics circa 2000-present:

7. THANOS #6--In trying to eliminate his need to consume planets, Galactus unleashes a force that consumes entire realities. Lucky for him, Thanos is in the midst of a face turn and comes to his aid. And by "comes to his aid," I mean, he traps the creature on one planet, detonates an entire nuclear arsenal on said planet whilst simultaneously crashing another planet into that one. God, I love comics sometimes.

8. ACHEWOOD: THE GREAT OUTDOOR FIGHT--To win the Great Outdoor Fight, Ray Smuckles has to beat up his friend Roast Beef, who was instrumental in getting him that far in the first place. The penalty for not doing this is that they'll get run down by men in jeeps. Rather than "beat real on his friend," Ray decides that the only sensible course of action is to tear the whole Fight apparatus down.

Y'know, putting aside that the whole thing is epic as hell you can hardly imagine that this is happening in the same strip that usually does jokier fare. It also tells us that true friendship is being willing to destroy an entire organization for someone.

9. CAPTAIN MARVEL #29--Mar-Vell has just been beaten down by the Controller, who's only a Dragon for Thanos, who holds the Cosmic Cube and godlike power over . . .wow, Thanos showed up a lot on this list, didn't he?

Trapped under the wreckage of Avengers Mansion, Mar-Vell is spirited away by Eon, a cosmic entity who looks like a tree (hey, it was the 70's) and for most of the issue questions Mar-Vell about just how far he's gotten being the Kree warrior who thinks most every problem can be solved by punching it really hard. That is--not very far at all.

So he's given a chance to become something greater--to evolve into the Protector of the Universe (which still seems to involve a lot of punching, but what are ya gonna do?) and be the key to defeating Thanos (who very helpfully waits before starting up the whole "turning into God" thing so Mar-Vell can get his shit together) and Mar-Vell decides to make the change that will allow him to be what is needed.

Now, admittedly Captain Marvel is not necessarily an a-list hero, but this issue does a great job of summarizing his history and building an argument that there's potential there he should live up to. And while he doesn't fight anyone physical in this issue, that he triumphs over his inner demons feels like a satisfying enough victory in itself.

10. Oh, and last but by no means least, thanks to time and the toll it takes, comics are just about the only milieu where we Doctor Who fans could see a scene like this.

Maybe you have your own list, maybe you want to call me on bits of mine--lord knows I'm sure to have left stuff out. I'd love for this to become a thing and for other people to post ten awesome things from comics. Let's take the weekend off from gnashing our teeth about the Sentry retroactively fucking everyone. The mendacity will be here when we get back.


C. Elam said...

I find this list a wonderful read, though I have read your thoughts on at least two or three of these before. It's kind of interesting that two are from the JLU cartoon and two or three are from Jim Starlin. I could never argue with either of those.

I've been pondering this, and I have a lot of trouble picking out "key" moments that speak to me. Most of my favorite comics at the present - well, many earn that distinction more for their imagination than their drama.

HOWEVER, I can pick out some :

1) The Brave & The Bold #197 - this is one of the biggest emotional payoff stories of all time for me. I intend to write an entire entry on my own blog about it someday. Suffice to say, Batman and Catwoman.

2) The amazing last page of "Even An Android Can Cry"

3) Most of the original JLA/JSA team-ups, epitomized by this ->

4) "For The Man Who Has Everything", particularly where Kal-el tells his son that he doesn't think he's real, and of course, "Burn."

5) Nuff said?

Kazekage said...

I find JLU to be my preferred method of dealing with DC heroes (because the conics leave me mostly cold now) and Jim Starlin apparently had wayyyy too much influence upon my formative years. Which is odd, given I was a child of the Claremont era of X-Men, but nope, the Starlin stuff sticks with me more.

1) You know, I've never read that issue, and I really have no excuse, do I? It's not like it hasn't been collected dozens of times, but dammit, I keep missing chances.

2) That scene should not work, especially as Roy Thomas is laying on the melodrama with a trowel. But dammit, it does.

3) I wonder if those things had as much gravitas as they did because big crossovers like that were fairly uncommon back then. I mean, it still happens--the end of JLA/Avengers #3 is a good example--but most of the time now it feels so damn rote, dunnit?

4) My favorite part of "For The Man Who Has Eeverything" is either Superman replacing the replica city of Kandor with the one Wonder-Woman gives him at super-speed or Robin figuring out how to get the Black Mercy off Batman and on to Mongul while the battle between he and Superman has hit its fever pitch.

5) It's amazing that you can just about get away with verry risky speeches with Captain America. Of course, it's easy to go too far with them too, but when you're lucky, you get great moments like this and that Steranko issue.

C. Elam said...

I probably love DC heroes even more than you do, and I can't bear to read most of those comics either. Sad, really.

There was a time when Starlin's work was a huge influence on me. It's not quite as apparent anymore, but getting his Adam Warlock tossed into my lap unannounced at an impressionable age led to some serious expanding of my mind's parameters.

As to my picks :

1) It's reprinted in the original GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD from the late 80s, albeit with dodgier coloring. It manages to be intellectual without off putting regarding Batman, which is some kinda feat.

2) I credit John Buscema for giving it an elegance, dynamism, and totally making you buy it. I can't think of anyone else at Marvel, not even Kirby himself, who could've communicated that page any better.

3) That's exactly it - they were really special and cosmic at a time when things like that were uncommon. Even as much as I love them, I won't tell you that most of them are special as stories today. But they had an impact, and they are powerful in their nostalgia as a result.

4) That whole story is filled with great bits, and in only 40 pages.

5) I don't think you could do that with anyone OTHER than Captain America. I mean, even Superman would come across badly, but for Cap, it makes sense. It's sooo obvious and implausible and yet it still makes you want to go "Yeah!"

Kazekage said...

Yeah, it's as someone on the Selectbutton board said--"I like DC characters in any venue except DC Comics."

Well, if you want a quintessentially "trippy" storyline, Adam Warlock would do it for sure. The twist in that story will hurt your brain if you think about it too much.

1) I know--again, I should have read it by now and yet, I haven't. I may just cave in and buy the back issue sometime . . .

2) Absolutely. I know Conan was closer to his preference and everything, but man he was a solid Avengers artist, even if my favourite run of his was about 20 years off. *L*

3) It's more than that, though--they blended the cosmic with very personal-level stories. It's very easy when writing cosmic stuff for everything to get utterly detached and it all be personified abstract concepts running about and none of it really amounts to much.

4) And it translated into a pretty decent episode of JLU, I thought.

5) Well, Superman doesn't embody an idea--or he does, but not quite on that level. When you're dealing with a character who literally wraps themselves in the flag, well . . .you kinda have to go for it sometime.