We’re back at the good ol’ Wizard list of the top 100 comic books from 1979 – 2006.
For more in this series, click HERE!
Let’s get into the next chunk…
#70. Planetary: Night On Earth
Warren Ellis is very much on of those “Oh man, why did YOU have to turn out to be a dick bag?” kind of guys.
Planetary, like much of what Ellis wrote, was a pretty fun book that I hate having to feel just a bit skeevy about still liking in 2021. It was a fun takedown of various other genres and heroes, but most importantly, it told an engaging and interesting story of its own on the way.
I definitely always forget Planetary was a DC comic, though, as it was published under the Wildstorm imprint. And being that it is a DC comic, it takes place on an Earth that has a Gotham City.
The Planetary crew–Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner, and Drummer–head to their Gotham on the search for a missing man, John Black. Mr. Black, it turns out, can alter reality around him, so when the team finds him, he panics and warps the world… causing Planetary to encounter a slew of Batmen from the DC multiverse.
Jakita coming face-to-face with Batman ’66 is worth it for the price of admission, as is Elijah facing off with the Batman from Dark Knight Returns.
Ultimately Batman finds a kinship with John Black, allowing the man to calm down and revert reality to what the Planetary team knows.
Warren Ellis may be problematic, but I don’t think John Cassaday is! And he’s just fantastic. He has a beautiful style of comics realism that I absolutely have adored ever since Astonishing X-Men (written by Joss Whedon, and MAN does Cassaday pick some winners to work with). His interpretations of the various Bats throughout reality are terrific.
#69. Sandman #17
Wizard may have started late in the list, but don’t worry… there are a fair few Sandman books the rest of the way. And I honestly think this is one of the better ones, at least based on my recollection from the first time I read this list.
This issue is called “Calliope”, and the titular character is a mythological muse who was kidnapped by a writer sixty years ago. He is moving on, though, and sells Calliope to an upcoming talent, Ric Madoc.
Calliope is eventually freed by Dream, who it turns out is her former lover with whom she had a kid.
I don’t usually start with the art, but god damn is Kelley Jones’ artwork fantastic here! This is a grimy, guilty book, and Jones’ art really pounds that point home. Calliope is a beautiful girl stuck in a very ugly world around her.
Neil Gaiman, man. What is there to say? He almost–ALMOST–makes Ric Madoc somewhat human by having him show terror at the idea that he was tricked and just purchased an innocent girl instead of a muse (meaning his first act with the muse–to rape her!–could have been performed on a human instead of an abstract), but aside from that, he’s a true dirtbag who gets such a glorious and deserved comeuppance from Dream.
Overall, just a wonderful juxtaposition of the beauty of Gaiman’s fantasy world and the real hideousness of what men are capable. I mean, it’s SANDMAN, guys. You don’t need me to tell you it is great.
Remind I said that a few articles from now…
#68. Gotham Knights #8
The primary story here is a typical little “is Bruce the mask or is Batman the mask?” tale as Dick Grayson and Tim Drake ponder Bruce Wayne’s life, all while Catwoman deals with a Batman imposter. There is better Tim/Dick action to come in as little as one more entry. But this was listed by Wizard for the Brian Azzarello backup story.
It’s a confrontation between Batman and Victor Zzasz. The villain, having just slain a few more victims and about to be run in by The Bat, tells the hero about the intimacy he feels when he kills a victim, and how it lets him know them in a way no one else ever can. And to honor that intimacy, he wears his scars so he never forgets them. That, he figures, is power.
Batman is of course like, “Nah”, and explains that true power is someone seeing you and knowing you are there to save them.
It’s at least an interesting take on Zzasz that gives him a reason for the self-mutilation gimmick besides “he’s CRAZY, that’s why”. It’s fun to see writers pick out an underdeveloped D-tier baddie and give them a reason for being.
Come for Azzarello’s character work, stay for Eduardo Risso channeling the HELL out of Frank Miller. Being in black and white didn’t hurt, but I kept thinking “Why is Batman punching out John Hartigan”?
#67. Nightwing #25
See? I TOLD you there’d be better Nightwing and Robin action!
It’s also the THIRD Bat-adjacent book of this group of five. Calm down, Wizard-From-2006, wow.
This is just a fun little side story to build up some character between Batman’s two pre-eminent sidekicks as they engage in a blindfolded training exercise. Dick reveals his recently-ended relationship with Huntress; Tim talks about Spoiler’s pregnancy. They compare notes on what their times as The Boy Wonder had and have been like. There is a bit of action, too, as some nameless toughs jump the train to attack them, but that goes as well as it typically does for those kinds of characters.
These two characters have always had some of the best chemistry in comic books. I’d read just about anything with Dick and Tim, who are standouts even among the best of Batman’s exemplary supporting cast.
Also, I don’t know if it was intentional on Dixon’s part or not, but they do their TRAIN-ing on a TRAIN, and I laughed harder at that than I should have.
#66. Adventure Comics #466
Another book included solely for a backup feature (it happens several times on this list), the focus here is a Len Wein story about Deadman meeting an elderly cancer patient, Abraham Gold. Not wanting to live out his treatment, Abraham intends to kill himself, but Deadman manages to stop him. Seeing this as a sign, Abraham returns home… to his grand daughter and his drug dealing son.
Turns out that Abraham’s son is working for a very Wilson Fisk Lite, but after a stern talking to from his dad, the son decides to get out and give his daughter a better life. He storms down to confront his boss, but this ends in a shoot-out… and the accidental death of Abraham, who had followed his son.
It’s weird how when comics wanted to tackle drug dealing, they almost made it seem more extravagant than it really is. People in suits working under a very professional man at the top and his bodyguards. It all feels very well organized and nefarious. I’m pretty certain in real life it’s a lot more junkies-dealing-to-other-junkies. But that problem is harder to punch in the face, I guess.
More great art here, this time from Garcia Lopez! If nothing else, this run of books all had at least very good pencils.
That was almost certainly the best pull I’ve made yet from this list. Nothing here was less than “perfectly good” (Adventure Comics #466), and we had two more great books in Sandman #17 and Nightwing #25.
Let’s check out where I’d rank the list so far in the here and now:
- Fantastic Four #60 / #489 (legacy numbering)
- Sandman #17
- Amazing Spider-Man #248
- Astro City #1
- Nightwing #25
- Hitman #22
- Uncanny X-Men #268
- Planetary: Night On Earth
- Animal Man #16
- Batman B&W #4
- Robin #46
- Preacher Special: Cassidy – Blood & Whiskey
- Gotham Knights #8
- Web of Spider-Man #1
- Preacher #50
- Exiles #16
- Ghost Rider #68
- New Teen Titans #20
- Adventure Comics #466
- Justice League Annual #1
- Legion of Superheroes #3
- Batman Adventures Annual #1
- Preacher: Tall In The Saddle
- Adventures of Superman #474
- Legion of Superheroes Annual #1
- Batman: Devil’s Asylum
- Conan The Barbarian #100
- Alias #3
- Tales of the New Teen Titans: Cyborg
- Fantastic Four #3 / #432
- Punisher #10
- Legion of Superheroes #296
- American Century #9
- Demo #3
- Semper Fi #1
We still have 65 to go! Just how long will Fantastic Four #489 (originally #87!) hold the crown for me? What will be the book that knocks it from the top? Could it be something from the 65-61 stretch?
Until next time… take care!