Thursday, December 25, 2014 • Afternoon Edition • "We put the "O" in OCD."

Your Top Creative Runs part 38

Written by rdrsfn82 on Thursday, February 03 2011 and posted in Features
A legacy character, a new group of "heroes", and a new version of a classic team.

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53. 157 points - New Avengers (Bendis) - 9 first place votes
vol 1 #1 - #64
vol 2 #1 - present
newavengers
Nine of you thought this was the best book of all time. It's certainly one of the most important books of the last few years, and we'll be seeing this Bendis fellow a few more times in the next few entries, and while those books might be better or more well liked, this is the book that saw Bendis become the guy in charge of the Marvel U.

Following up on his ending of the previous Avengers book with the Disassembled storyline, Brian Bendis relaunched the team in a book appropriately titled, New Avengers. Traditionally the Avengers consisted of three big names (Cap, Thor, and Iron Man) along with various smaller characters who mostly didn't have solo books (Beast, Wonder Man, Vision, Hawkeye, Wasp, Ant-Man, Black Knight, etc.) and maybe a couple of guys that had smaller books like She-Hulk or Black Panther or whomever. Bendis went a slightly different route and brought in a couple of the big guns of the Marvel U and some characters he really liked that haven't had a lot of spotlight. Thor was dead, but Cap and Iron Man were there. They were joined by Spider-Man and Wolverine, the two most popular characters outside of comics (this was before Iron Man had a movie and became popular with non-comic readers), along with characters Luke Cage, the Sentry, Spider-Woman, and Echo (from Bendis' Daredevil run we will see later on, she was disguised as Ronin and it was hinted she was Daredevil for a while before she revealed who she was). Later on he'd add more characters that hadn't been Avengers such as Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, The Thing, Bucky (who became Captain America in a book we'll see later on), and Jessica Jones (from Alias, which we will see later on), in addition to some returning Avengers like Clint Barton (first as Ronin, later as Hawkeye), Mockingbird, and Ms. Marvel. At times the use of the big names and guys carrying solo books has made the team feel a bit more like the Justice League than the Avengers, but the team has always had a few old school Avengers, a few characters old school fans had asked to have on the team at various points in time, and some other smaller characters that Bendis liked and just wanted on the team (just like every other Avengers writer ever had done with a couple of members at some point during their run, either by creating new characters or adding existing characters they felt deserved more attention).

In the past the Avengers had been the driving force behind setting up or executing many crossover events like Secret Wars, the Kree-Skrull War, Acts of Vengeance, or whatever, and Bendis kept that going by turning this book into the spine of the Marvel U over the last few years. Every big event, every big story, either came from this book, had a big effect on this book, or had the seeds planted here before letting someone else tell the main story. The Secret Invasion by the Skrulls, House of M, Civil War, Dark Reign, the Death of Captain America, the return of Captain America, the Heroic Age, and everything else was connected in a big way. Over the last five years, if you wanted to know what was going on in the Marvel U, just pick up a couple issues of this book and you'll see what's going on. DC meanwhile turned the JLA into a joke, stopped writers from using characters in favor of letting their solo books be where the important things happen, never put their biggest name writers on the book, and didn't really have a place for people to pick up one book and see where things were going for the overall universe. Not surprisingly, DC has struggled while Marvel has thrived during this era. Although to be fair, the fact Marvel understands how to get movies made while WB hamstrings DC at every turn has also helped.

As a result of being connected to so many books and having so much going on, the roster in the book was in a state of near constant flux, though characters like Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage have been mainstays from the start. In the lead up to Secret Invasion it's revealed that Spider-Woman, a member since the start of the book, was actually a Skrull helping lead the invasion (along with many other heroes and important public figures from around the world). After the events of House of M, Hawkeye came back to life and joined the team as the new Ronin. After her return from the dead in Secret Invasion, Mockingbird joined the team. When Steve Rogers died, Bucky took over as Cap and joined the team. During the Civil War storyline, the book followed the anti-registration team led by Cap while the pro-registration team was over in Mighty Avengers (also by Bendis).

Over the course of the series, despite all the various changes to the roster, and shakeups to the Marvel U, the core members of the team have become like a family. When Luke Cage and Jessica Jones had their daughter, the team was there. When that kid was kidnapped by Jarvis (or rather a Skrull posing as Jarvis as part of the Secret Invasion story), the team went out of their way help save the baby. In particular the relationship between Wolverine and Spider-Man has been fun to read as Bendis writes both characters very well and their banter is usually very entertaining.

Overall, like it or hate it, Bendis has had a huge impact on the Avengers franchise and a bigger effect on the overall Marvel U over the last few years.


52. 169 points - Thunderbolts (Nicieza)
#34 - #75 as well as various miniseries
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The final page of the first issue of this book would have broke the internet in half had it happened 10 years later, but that was by Kurt Busiek not Fabian Nicieza. The basic concept of the Thunderbolts, as established in that first issue, was the former Masters of Evil posing as heroes under the leadership of Baron Zemo. The book was very closely connected to the legendary Under Siege storyline that we saw in the entry about Roger Stern's run on the Avengers, at least at first.

Nicieza's run would see some of those former villains start acting more and more like heroes. Under the leadership of Hawkeye, the series saw most of the characters want to actually start doing good. Mach-I, formerly the villain known as the Beetle, actually turned himself in for a murder he committed while working as a villain and went to jail willingly (he was among those that took to being a hero) in the issues leading up to Nicieza's run. Mach-I returned to the team as Mach-II after earning his freedom by helping in a government operation to get information from Justine Hammer (a villain currently in Invincible Iron Man, and a thorn in the side of this team many times over the course of the series). Jack Monroe, a former hero known as Nomad, was brainwashed and turned into the new Scourge and sent after the Thunderbolts, killing Jolt and seemingly killing Zemo, or at least it appeared that way as all of the members attacked by Scourge actually survived. The team found out that Henry Gyrich was behind everything and they went after him. They'd team up with another group of heroes known as the Redeemers that were led by Val Cooper. Hawkeye would get pardons for everyone, but as a result had to go to jail and the team would temporarily disband.

During this run, Nicieza did a great job of showing the characters dealing with the tough decisions of whether they wanted to truly change or not, and the answer wasn't the same for all of them. After an ill-fated change of direction that wasn't popular with fans or critics, the series returned to it's roots as the New Thunderbolts and Nicieza would return and continue to tell some good stories, before that book was replaced by the run by Ellis we saw earlier on the list.


51. 177 points - Blue Beetle (John Rogers) - 4 first place votes
#1 - #25
bluebeetle
The Blue Beetle is a character acquired from Charlton Comics by DC, along with many others, in 1983. The original Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett, who in DC history was an archaeologist who discovered an ancient Beetle Scarab that granted him amazing powers. When he died, he passed the Scarab along to his student and friend Ted Kord.

Ted Kord would be the Blue Beetle for many years, joining the JLA and having a fairly high profile within DC Comics, at least as high of a profile as any second tier hero. Ted Kord had the Scarab, but could never make it work. Instead he was more of a Batman type of hero who used his considerable wealth and intellect to create gadgets to fight crime. His time on the Justice League International is his best known and most loved era, where Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis set the definitive tone for most of the second tier characters on that roster. He teamed with guys like Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, and others in an era where fun wasn't considered a bad thing. In fact, that era of the Justice League had more character development than many of the more "serious" books out there. But we'll get to that in another entry.

In the lead up to the event Infinite Crisis, Ted Kord attempted to get people to help him check out the covert organization known as Checkmate, who appeared to be up to no good. After being blown off by many of his peers, he used the Scarab to try and contact the wizard Shazam to solicit the help of Captain Marvel. This one time, Ted was actually successful and found the wizard, but was unable to contact Captain Marvel. The wizard kept the Scarab, and Ted went to Checkmate by himself. This led to his death, one of the better scenes in recent DC history. Later during the events of Infinite Crisis by writer Geoff Johns the home of the wizard, the Rock of Eternity, was destroyed. In the explosion many of the various artifacts housed there were spread all over the world. The Scarab landed near El Paso, where a kid named Jaime Reyes found it and took it home.

Towards the end of Infinite Crisis, Jaime was sleeping in his bed when the Scarab came to life. It attached itself to his spine and encased him in a suit of armor that gave him amazing powers. Recruited by Batman and Booster Gold, he helped destroy Brother Eye, only to end up going missing for a full year that seems like only seconds to him. His return to Earth One Year Later is where the Blue Beetle solo series picked up.

On his way back to Earth, Jaime is attacked by Guy Gardner. Guy thinks Jaime is an enemy, due to the Scarab. After this battle leaves him alone in the middle of the desert, unable to access the suit, Jaime hitchhikes home. At this point he finds out a whole year has passed. He explains to his family and friends what happened, telling them that he's become a superhero. Soon, he meets various other heroes including a man known as Peacemaker (another of the Charlton characters purchased by DC) who becomes his mentor.

At this point Peacemaker explains that the Scarab is actually a weapon sent to planets by a group of aliens called The Reach. The Scarab is supposed to download all the necessary information to the person that uses it, but that information was accidentally sent to Peacemaker instead. The Reach are not good guys, hence the attack by Guy, instead they are a group that goes around conquering planets with the help of the Scarab powered heroes. However, due to a glitch, this Scarab has lost contact with the Reach and thinks for itself. As the book goes on, the Scarab evolves and gains a personality, all the while communicating with Jaime and learning from him the difference between right and wrong. The rest of this run, while telling many standalone stories has the threat of the Reach in the background.

In an attempt to learn more about the history of the Scarab, Jaime and his friends seek out the granddaughter of the original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett. Dani Garrett becomes a very useful supporting member of the book, thanks to her years of research on everything related to any and all of the Blue Beetles.

Over the course of the series Jaime interacts with the rest of the JLI crew, beyond just Booster and Guy, and even teams up with Guy again. By the end of Rogers' run, Jaime and the former members of the JLI band together to stop The Reach from taking over the Earth.

Keith Giffen, who helped define Ted Kord at DC, was co-writing with John Rogers for the first 10 issues, with Rogers taking over as the solo writer after that. Artist Cully Hamner did those first 10 issues as well, and was replaced by Rafael Albuquerque who ended up doing the majority of the next 15 issues that made up Rogers' run.

This book was unique compared to many other DC books for many reasons. One, it was about a teen superhero who had a supportive family that knew about what he was doing. Most comics, from any company, about a teen hero either have parents that don't know, parents that are evil, or parents that died tragically. Two, it took place in a real city as opposed to a fictional place like Gotham or Central City or Opal City or whatever. Very rarely do DC books not take place in either an established fictional city or a new fictional city. Three, the book featured a minority hero who wasn't defined by his race. The fact Jaime and many of his supporting characters were Mexican or Mexican-American was just a fact, not something that defined who they were or what causes they fought for. Too often in comics minority characters are defined by their race and writers feel a need to play up stereotypes or social causes, as if highlighting those things is a sign of diversity. Rogers, along with Giffen, did a great job of showing aspects of Mexican-American culture without focusing on it to the point that it became a distraction or what defined the character.

One of the strongest aspects of the book was the focus on the supporting cast members. Jaime's friends and family were just as entertaining as any of the superhero stuff going on in the book. The relationship between his two best friends, Paco and Brenda, was a big part of the storyline, while Jaime's love interest was teenage witch Traci 13 who he met while battling Eclipso in the lead up to Final Crisis. The Posse, a group of teens with super powers, were a constant presence as well. Brenda's aunt, who she lived with, was actually a major figure in the underworld known as La Dama. This revelation was a big turning point in the relationship between Jaime and Brenda, and also was used to show that not everything was black and white, as she wasn't painted as a straight up villain or hero from that point on. Jaime also spent a lot of time teaming up with various heroes, not just the JLI crew that Ted used to run with, but also Superman, the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre, Traci, the Teen Titans, Lobo, and many others. The connections to the rest of the DCU were strong in this book, but didn't overshadow things and make it feel like the book was just setting up the next big event.

Another good aspect of the book was it's tone. Much like the JLI stories Ted was famous for, this book was not afraid to have fun and have compelling relationships at the same time. While the idea of exploding robot penguins or being trapped in an alternate dimension filled with murderous cute little critters might seem silly, there was always a tether back to the themes of friendship and morality. For every discussion with Paco of video games or some other frivolous thing, there was true emotion as well. The characters talked and acted like real people, which meant they weren't always worried about life and death issues and a potential date could be as big a deal as saving the world.

Rogers left the book with issue #25, having told a pretty complete story, in order to work on a TV show called Leverage that would also have a fun tone, good action, and actual character development. The book would carry on, under Matt Sturges, until issue #36. After that there was a back-up feature in Booster Gold for a while, but that too ended. The quality was never really an issue, but sales were not strong. He's also joined the Teen Titans, but that book has become a mess and it's best not to think about it.

The character however, has gained a fairly strong presence outside of comics. On the cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Jaime has become one of the most used guest starring heroes, and has one of the main roles in the recently released video game based on the show as one of five playable characters besides Batman. In this universe his attitude and history is very similar to how Rogers wrote him in the comics. He will also be appearing in live action in the final season of Smallville, in an episode that will also feature Booster Gold and will be written by Geoff Johns, who helped get Jaime started in Infinite Crisis

And if Judd Winnick, in his brilliant Generation Lost comic, kills off Jaime I will be one pissed off reader. I am terrified this will happen. If he "dies" next week only to be shown alive by the end of the series, that's fine, but if he kills him and doesn't bring him back I may have to find Winnick and kick him in the balls.

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