Top 9 Stories of 2009
Number 9 – PunisherMAX
Considering only two issues
in this new series came out in 2009 its inclusion on the list says a
great deal about this series so far. Violent, gritty and unapologetic
in its presentation, PunisherMAX gives you everything you’d want in
a Punisher story. But the tale that Jason Aaron is telling goes
beyond the norm as far as the Punisher is concerned. The first
two issues have built Wilson Fisk into a perfect and terrifying nemesis
for the Punisher. Creating two pillars of right and wrong Aaron
is creating a relationship that could reach Batman/Joker status.
Steve Dillon returns to once again draw the Punisher and there is debate
on whether or not that’s a good thing. I believe it is a good
thing as his work brings an instant familiarity to the character and
the world he lives in. The first two issues are an amazing start
to what could be a fantastic series as well as a fantastic start for
our look back at the year that was.
Number 8 – Ultimatum
I can hear most of you groaning
already. Many of you are probably doing a lot more than groaning.
But hear me out. Ultimatum, for all its flaws, was what it was
built up to be and exactly what Marvel’s Ultimate Universe needed.
While events and event books seemingly dominate the store shelves very
few deliver on their promises. Marvel’s Editorial Staff made
a decision regarding the Ultimate Universe which they felt had become
stagnant, drifting too far from its original goal. Enter Ultimatum.
A massive event involving the entire Ultimate Universe that would essentially
wipe the slate clean so things could get back to the way they were.
We were told that massive and drastic changes would take place and that
nothing in the Ultimate Universe would be the same. And Marvel
delivered. Characters, a whole lot of characters, were killed
off and things were truly happening at the level that was promised.
When it was all over it was clear that nothing was going to be the same
and there was no going back. It’s for this reason, despite the
lateness and despite Jeph Loeb’s increasing decline in quality that
this story makes the list. In the re-launched brand of Ultimate
Universe books the effects of this event are still there, the consequences
are lasting. Bravo to Marvel for seeing something that needed
to be changed and making the most out of the opportunity and delivery
on the promise. Hopefully they remember this lesson in 2010 with
Number 7 – Star Trek
The original televised episodes
of Star Trek went off the air forty years ago. In all that time
the Star Trek franchise has had tremendous highs and lows but few times
here higher for Star Trek than 2009. The new Star Trek movie,
directed by J.J. Abrams brought new life to Star Trek in a way few thought
possible and was a success both critically and with audiences.
The movie, in general, appealed to hardcore fans as well as new comers.
Capitalizing on the hype, and then success of the new movie IDW released
two new mini-series. The first, Star Trek: Countdown told the
origin story of Nero and his crew and their relationship with Spock
as well as many other familiar characters from Star Trek including Data
and Captain Picard. It is a terrific lead-in to the movie
and a must read for Star Trek fans and anyone who enjoyed the movie
and wants to learn more. The second series, Star Trek: Nero fills
in what happened between Nero’s arrival in the opening of the movie
and his encounter with the Enterprise twenty-five years later.
Both series focus on Nero and really establish him as a much better
villain than he was given a chance to be on the big screen. Much
like Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Captain Nero is reduced to a
plot point and only later expanded into a much more sinister villain
and shown as a worthy adversary. The comic series from IDW helped
make 2009 one of the best years Star Trek has had in a long, long time.
Number 6 – Sweet Tooth
Comics like Sweet Tooth remind
me how great it is being a fan of comic as a medium. Too often
I get caught up in established characters from the mainstream publishers.
While Vertigo is a division of DC Comics, it is far from the ‘tights
and fights’ mentality. The story telling in Sweet Tooth is slow
and methodical and four issues in there are still more questions than
answers. Gus, the main character is too naïve for words and has
suddenly found himself in the company of Mr. Jepperd, a bitter old man
who claims to only want to help and protect Gus. While so far
he has gone out of his way to defend Gus, Gus is unique to say the least
and it’s hard to tell if Mr. Jepperd is defending Gus for Gus’ benefit,
or his own. Their relationship is as unique and confusing as the
post-apocalyptic world they travel. Sweet Tooth is another series
that is barely underway but has already made a strong impression; I
have to believe we’ll still be talking about it this time next year.
Number 5 – Old Man Logan
While the final chapter of
this futuristic saga was delayed beyond belief therefore leading to
the inevitable disappointment, this story line was still fantastic.
The final piece of Mark Millar’s attempt to unite all his seemingly
unrelated projects: Fantastic Four, 1985 and Old Man Logan, his tale
of an aged pacifist Logan is remarkable. Not to mention the artwork
from Steve McNiven is gorgeous and in many ways worth the delay.
In a world where the bad guys finally pulled themselves together and
took down the good guys Logan (don’t call him Wolverine) just wants
to live out his life in peace and quiet with his family. Despite
his wishes and best efforts Logan soon finds himself right back in the
thick of things and forced to confront his past and the action that
lead to his current position as a pacifist who refuses to acknowledge
the past. Time will tell if this story will end up as one of the
all-time great Wolverine stories but it certainly was the characters
finest moment of 2009.
Number 4 – Fantastic Four
For many, many years the Fantastic
Four comics carried a banner above the title that read “The World’s
Greatest Comic Magazine!” While that may have been presumptuous
it was tradition and the banner stayed on the covers for a long time,
too long. So long in fact it was almost a bad joke. Fantastic
Four just wasn’t what it used to be. One of Marvel’s premiere
titles was no longer relevant, and more importantly no longer selling.
Luckily in 2009 that changed. This year saw the end of Mark Millar’s
ambitious, if flawed, attempt at putting new life into this once great
series. Unfortunately his run just wasn’t what it could’ve
been you can’t fault Millar for trying. At the very least he did
have people talking about the Fantastic Four again. Enter Jonathan
Hickman. Hickman had written two Fantastic Four mini series before
coming to the main book in late 2009. Both mini series were well
received and comic fans were eager to see what Hickman would do once
he started with the one-time Marvel flagship. Hickman did not
disappoint. He has created a wonderful take on the characters
while staying true to everything that has gone into the comics since
their beginning. Hickman clearly understands the Fantastic Four
and has big plans for them. In 2010 the words “World’s Greatest
Comic Magazine” may or may not return to the covers of issues but
I am confident that in Hickman’s hands the issues will return to a
deserved level of popularity and success.
Number 3 – I Kill Giants
I Kill Giants was another instance
in 2009 where I stepped out of my comfort zone to try something new.
There was a great deal of buzz around this series and when the trade
came out I took the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.
What I learned was that I need to venture outside of my comfort zone
more often. Charming and sweet while simultaneously dramatic and
emotional I Kill Giants affected me in a way I had no idea a comic book
could. Barbara, the main character, is a strong willed, opinionated
young girl who has a bit of a problem when it comes to separating reality
from her fantasies and imagination. It’s hard to go into much
more detail without giving anything away. Barbara’s story is
powerful, heartbreaking and unfortunately, very real. I found
myself crying more than once before finishing it. To anyone who
missed out on this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For deeply personal reasons I Kill Giants will forever have a special
place on my bookshelf and in my heart.
Number 2 – Dark Reign
Coming out of the events of
Secret Invasion Dark Reign was the new status quo for the Marvel Universe
which finds Norman Osborn, for all intents and purposes, as the most
powerful man in the country. While not an event in the traditional
sense Dark Reign was rather a company wide crossover with a new status
quo. Single-handedly stopping the Skrull invasion Norman Osborn
is chosen, by popular demand, to replace Tony Stark as the head of SHIELD.
A nice commentary by Marvel that shows the media can make a hero out
of anyone. Osborn restructures SHIELD as HAMMER, makes a
few promises to his fellow bad guys including Loki and Dr. Doom and
suddenly the Dark Reign had begun. With arguably more tie-ins
than a typical event Dark Reign affected almost every major Marvel title.
The bad guys were in charge and now had the law on their side.
Many of the heroes were still considered outlaws because they had still
not registered after the events of Civil War. Some books were
unaffected for the most part with only vague references to Norman Osborn
or HAMMER while books like Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man dealt
with it directly and with amazing results. Iron Man could have
easily made this list this year with the “World’s Most Wanted”
storyline but I felt it should be included in the larger whole of Dark
Reign. Tony finds himself on the run and forced to protect his
secrets from Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers. One of my favorite
elements of Dark Reign was the ‘Dark’ Avengers. Norman’s
hand-picked group of super-villains all pretending to be the Avengers.
My favorites being Venom as Spider-Man and Bullseye posing for Hawkeye.
Dark Reign was the last of many steps leading up to next year’s Siege
which promises to be the final chapters from several years’ worth
of stories. Dark Reign has been a lot of fun and while I’ve
enjoyed seeing Norman run the show from the top of the world I just
know his fall will be even more entertaining!
Number 1 – Blackest Night
The best thing in comics during
the year 2009 was indeed Blackest Night. While the top spot on
this list may come as no surprise, luckily the series itself has been
jam packed with them. Another massive event years in the making
Blackest Night was first teased during the Sinestro Corps War storyline
and has been building momentum ever since. The first half of 2009
was spent wrapping up the stories that would bring the various other
colored Corps into the DCU. With Blackest Night #0, a Free Comic
Book Day exclusive, Blackest Night was underway and Green Lantern and
the whole of the DCU has been very exciting ever since. While
on the surface Blackest Night seems like a Green Lantern event it truly
is an event spread across all of DC’s titles. Even including
the resurrection of the Flash and the death of Batman into its main
storyline, Blackest Night is incorporating story-telling tactics previously
unseen in comics. The planning and details that Geoff Johns laid
out and followed through on are extremely impressive. The smallest
details come back with huge pay offs and secondary characters are shown
in new ways and continuing the notion that this event is about so much
more than Hal Jordan. Like the events that preceded it the individual
issue of this event keep building at an exponential level. Just
when you think you know what’s going on or what’s going to happen
next it goes in a whole new direction and gets even bigger and even
better. A remarkable event and impressively handled from its origins
to this point, it’s very appropriate that the last comic book released
in 2009 was the latest chapter of Blackest Night.
Well friends there they are, my picks for the best comic stories of 2009. As you can see it was a wonderful year to be reading comics with something for everyone. What do you think? Think I missed something; maybe your picks didn’t make my list? Sound off comics fans and let me know, I’ll see you in the forums! In the meantime it’s time to start looking forward to 2010. Happy New Year!---Submitted by: Ryan Porter