Fifteen Years Later: The Top 100 Comics Of A Lifetime, part 1

I have a feeling–I can’t substantiate it, but I somehow guess–that I still think I’m, like, twenty-six years old or so.

Like, if you walked up to me and said “DON’T THINK, JUST ANSWER! HOW OLD ARE YOU?”, I would instinctively say a number in the 20’s.

I’m not sure why that is. I am assuredly not in my twenty’s. I turned forty several months ago. I don’t have nearly the hair on my head that I did in my twenty’s. I’m a solid thirty pounds heavier. Everything just consistently hurts more.

I actually remember driving once and–I can’t recall what made me rhetorically ask myself this, but I remember the thought–thinking “Well, what am I? Twenty-four? … Wait, I’m 29! I still think I’m 24? I’m so old!”. And as a now-forty year old, that thought is fucking adorable.

And yet… I feel like time just more-or-less hasn’t moved since the mid-2000’s. Everything that’s happened since 2000 is “five years ago, I think?”.

One of those things that feels like it was “five years ago, I think?” is the time Wizard Magazine made a list of the Top 100 Greatest Comic Book Issues “Since You Were Born”. This was not five, but actually fifteen years ago, in 2006. And because comics have oddly been aimed at my age bracket my whole life, the premise of the list was shockingly close to when I personally was born; it looked at the one hundred best single issue comics since 1979.

I first discovered the list about “five years ago, I think?” (honestly, that one’s pretty close; I think it was six), and it’s a pretty interesting read, even if it is very much a relic of its own time. While a lot of the items on the list more than hold up, others are almost embarrassingly bad to have been ever considered on a list of the Top 100 anything, even if that thing is just over a period of less than thirty years.

So I figured that, fifteen years out from the original rankings, I’d re-read the list from number one hundred to number one, and see how it holds up. What deserved to be there? What probably didn’t? And if I made a modern ranking of these hundred books, what order would I put them in?

So join with me as I review a few of these books per article and slowly see how Wizard got it right or wrong back in 2006!

#100. Ghost Rider #68

Ghost Rider #68
By: Roger Stern and Bob Budianksy

This book clearly isn’t amazing or anything (it only clocked in at #100), but it did actually trick me, which is pretty snazzy.

This story sees Johnny Blaze pull over in a rain storm and enter a church. He meets the priest there and asks to participate in confession due to his deeds as Ghost Rider weighing on his soul. And so starts a tale that is a simple retelling of the Rider’s origin story.

What I thought is that we would see Johnny bear his soul, the priest would give some deceptive “advice”, and we would see when Johnny left that the priest was truly Mephisto in disguise the whole time.

What I got instead was a story wherein we discover the priest was a murderous imposter, and Johnny is there to release Ghost Rider to take vengeance.

It’s not great; it really isn’t. But I thought I had this book nailed a few pages in, and it tricked me! So it gets credit for that.

#99. Alias #10 Alias (2001-2003) #10 eBook: Bendis, Brian Michael, Mack,  David, Gaydos, Michael: Kindle Store
By: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

Hey, the book that would eventually become Netflix’s own Jessica Jones!

Alias #10 sees Jessica hired by J. Jonah Jameson to uncover Spider-Man’s secret identity. She reluctantly agrees after driving a hard bargain, and she and Ben Urich go to work on her assigned mission.

Except not really.

She uses her expenses from the Bugle to feed the homeless, read to orphans, and do other various works of charity to basically waste Jonah’s time and make him look foolish. By the time Jameson figures it out, he’s sunk a decent amount of cash into her endeavor and can’t get her back because… what’s he going to do? Blast the P.I. for doing charity work?

The format of the story is a bit obnoxious and “Look at me, doing something different”, as there are no word balloons and the art doesn’t really show any action. We just get choppy shots of the characters with script dialogue laid over it.

It probably seemed more clever than it was in its own era. I’m seldom appreciative of art that seems avant garde for its own sake. BUT! I am a fan of most stories about old J.J.J.!

So it gets a pass for that.

#98. The Punisher #10

The Punisher (1987) #10 | Comic Issues | Marvel
By: Mike Baron and Whilce Portacio

This is… this is just a Punisher story.

I really don’t get this entry at all. It’s not terrible or anything, but it’s a pretty standard Punisher tale.

Frank [INCREDIBLY] easily tracks down a ne’er-do-well who is poisoning pain relief medicine (very “ripped from the headlines” for the 1980’s, I guess). Before he can put the murderer down, Daredevil gets involved and has a “you’re not a hero, Castle” tirade at him before subduing the criminal and swinging off to jail with him.

That’s it.

It’s not even a particularly good Daredevil/Punisher encounter.

This was a truly bizarre choice for any kind of Best Of list.

#97. Uncanny X-Men #268

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #268 | Comic Issues | Marvel
By: Chris Claremont and Jim Lee

Of course it would only take me four comics into a list of the best anything to find a story prominently featuring Jubilee! I wonder how many more times I’ll see Jubes over the course of this journey! Probably a bunch, right?

ANYWAY, I’m going to come out and say that this list has some weird ass choices for issues of Uncanny X-Men, and this is just the first of a handful. They had almost the entire Claremont run to pull from, and the ones they chose… I don’t know, man.

That said, this is a fun book that simultaneously shows Wolverine working with Black Widow, Psylocke, and Jubilee in the present day and with Captain America in 1941, back when Logan met Natasha for the first time.

Jim Lee is on pencils. Wolverine is the headliner. The dynamics between everyone works. Cap asks Wolverine to be his sidekick. Jubilee is here. This is just pure fun. Even if it’s a really weird choice as far as X-books from 1979-2006 go.

#96. Legion of Superheroes #3 Legion of Super Heroes (2005-2009) #3 (Legion of Super-Heroes  (2005-2009)) eBook: Waid, Mark, Kitson, Barry, Klein, Todd, McCaig, Dave,  Kitson, Barry, Kitson, Barry, Thibert, Art, Blythe, Chris: Kindle Store
By: Mark Waid and Barry Kitson

The Legion of Superheroes is one of the more massive comic book blindspots I have. I have just never gotten into them or read very much about their adventures. What little I have experienced from the LoS has been when they guest-starred in another title I was following (Teen Titans comes to mind, when they pull Conner into the future to induct him as a temporary member).

Much like the Ghost Rider issue above, this is an origin issue, and I really hope you like those because Wizard sure did in 2006! Here we get the backstory of Triplicate Girl, an alien with the power to clone herself who was the sole survivor of her destroyed world. Using her powers, she put the planet back together and repopulated it before three of her left to join the Legion. After her adventures with the team, she was not welcomed back into the fold at home, so she stayed on longer as a hero.

Aside from detailing her backstory, we get the intentionally misleading story of TG going on three separate dates only to eventually find out they all are going on at the same time!

It’s a creative spin on the hero story, as you would expect from Mark Waid. Again, not fascinating, but a good issue of a comic, sure.

And that will wrap up part one of our trek through memory lane here! I’ll try to keep each chapter of this series at somewhere between five and seven books reviewed so I give myself enough time to read each chunk fairly and have things to say on them.

How does this end of the list shape up? It’s oddly mediocre. Nothing here is anything I’d consider “bad”, but it doesn’t wow me, either. You have to think… how many THOUSANDS of comics were published between 1979 and 2006? I couldn’t even hazard a guess! And these made the top one hundred from that era? They are some bewildering choices.

As promised, I’ll be re-ranking these books from #1 to #100 as I go, and hey! We have a top five! I mean, It’s the only five, but still! Let’s stack them up:

  1. Uncanny X-Men #268
  2. Ghost Rider #68
  3. Legion of Superheroes #3
  4. Alias #10
  5. Punisher #10

Join us next time as we at least get out of the 90-100 range. And if I recall correctly, the garbage book that will almost certainly be #100 in my final re-rankings is there. Exciting!

Until next time… take care!

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