23. 413 points - Fantastic Four (Waid) - 10 first place votes
#60 - #70, #500 - #524 (thanks to a renumbering)
Ten people thought this was the best book of all time! That means this book was on a ton of lists, because that only accounts for 100 of the 413 points!
Our good friend Chappy, who finished 22nd in his class of 22 at law school, provides us with his views on this series. Take it away chap!
In 2002, Mark Waid and his former Flash partner Mike Wieringo (R.I.P. Ringo...) began what would be one of the more memorable runs on one of the most historically important comics of all time, the Fantastic Four. But it wasn't memorable just because Marvel kicked it off with a newish gimmick by selling the first issue for 9 cents (they did). It wasn't just because Waid took a new approach to classic arch foe Dr. Doom (he did). It wasn't just because Waid went a long way toward reinventing the book, making it for once more about the actual four and who they are as people than it was about what crazy new adventure they encountered (he did). It wasn't just because Waid mixed new threats with FF classic elements like Doom, Galactus, a Spidey/Torch team-up, the Yancy St. Gang (honestly IMO the one misstep in this run actually), and the Frightful Four (he did). It wasn't just because Waid killed the Thing and sent the team to Heaven to bring him back (he did). And it wasn't just because Waid wrote what may easily be argued to be one of the three all-time great runs on the book along with Byrne and of course Stan and Jack (he did).
No, it was memorable for all that, but it was also primarily memorable because it was "the run that broke the Internet." Because as popular as the run was, on Monday June 16, 2003, after less than a year on the book, Marvel announced that for some dumbass reason related to a change in direction making the book more like a TV family sitcom, Bill Jemas had fired Waid & 'Ringo effective with issue 508. And fans went apeshit. Online petitions went around. Newsarama literally shut down for the better part of a day. Marvel issued damage control press releases. And just a few weeks later, a full 180 was pulled and Waid & 'Ringo were back on the book, and a few short months later Jemas left his position, probably in part due to the stink raised by fans over the firing. From there Waid stayed on through issue 524, crafting one of the finest FF runs of all time.
22. 423 points - Planetary (Ellis/Cassidy) - 26 first place votes
#1 - #27 plus some one-shots
Twenty-six people with excellent taste thought this was the best book ever written! While I didn't vote it #1, it was a definite contender for my list. I need to reread it a couple of times and have some more distance (I only read it for the first time last spring) before I can properly judge it, but it's easily one of the best books I've ever read and should probably be a bit higher on the list. There's definitely some stuff ahead of this that shouldn't be.
I don't know if I can break this book down properly without turning it into buzzwords that Warren Ellis uses over the course of the book, but I'll try, Basically, it's the story of the history of pop culture since the late 1800's through the present day (well the present day as of a couple years ago), including comics, movies, books, religious beliefs/superstitions, and pretty much anything else of significance. Oh and the nature of reality, the purpose of existence, the nature of memory, the role of those with power and what they should do with it, the ideas of free will and destiny, absolute power, identity, family, loyalty, and the nature of heroism. Also government conspiracies, the morality of experimentation, Chaos Theory, time travel, alternate realities, espionage, life and death, and the nature of God.
Despite all of that, I don't think it's a hard to follow series that's dragged down by it's over abundance of ideas, but rather those things enhance the story and the character work, action, plot, and relationships get more than enough focus to be entertaining even if you strip everything else away. By the end of the series, if you don't care about Drummer, Jakita, Elijah Snow, and even Ambrose Chase who, despite being vitally important to the plot of the series, only appears in 4 issues, but is nonetheless a fully fleshed out character.
The main plot of the series is broken into two parts. The first 12 issues are about the search for the mysterious Fourth Man, the guy that funds the Planetary team. After that, the series becomes about the Planetary team and the Fourth Man going after The Four, a twisted version of the Fantastic Four who secretly control the Wildstorm Universe and limit the technological advances and general power level of the world. The reasons behind their actions, along with exposing who they are, is the main mission of the second half of the series.
Each issue of the series was an homage to a different aspect of pop culture, such as issue #10 which showed that The Four stopped analogues of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern from existing on Earth. While investigating The Four, the team stumbles upon a trophy room featuring items that would be instantly familiar to any comic fan, among them three items in particular stand out. A red cap with a symbol on it, two gold bracelets, and a lantern shaped item with strange power coming from it. The history of those items are then shown. The baby sent to Earth from a dying planet is incinerated by the Human Torch-esque William Leather, the mystical ambassador to the world from an island of women is killed by Kim Suskind (the Invisible woman analogue), and the alien policeman is captured and used for experiments by their leader Randall Dowling. The brief descriptions of what happened
In fact, that's a theme of the whole series. Merely explaining what happens, like a trip to an island of the coast of Japan filled with giant monsters such as a moth and a dragon-like being, or a test site in the Nevada desert that was overrun by giant bugs and where the skeleton of a hulking monster is found near the site of an exploded gamma radiation bomb, just doesn't do justice to the depth, character, and sheer awesomeness of what's on the page. The covers of each issue were mostly references to famous covers, movie posters, albums, books, or images that had some connection to what the story inside was dealing with. As a result, there are many amazing covers that range from the haunting (#10) to the bizarre (#21) to the pop art (#12) to the traditional (#26 up top) to the hilarious (#23). Even if you have no interest in reading the books, go to a site collecting the covers and check them out. Everything from a Native American Cave painting to an homage to 50's monster movie posters to an image compiled of every page of the series to date to the amazing wraparound final cover is in there.
And I'd be remiss to not mention the work of John Cassaday. Anyone that thinks his work on Astonishing X-Men was great, should pick this book up and realize that the rushed work he did, especially towards the end of the series, was nowhere near the level of what he did in this book. Despite massive delays (the book started in early 1999 and ended in late 2009 despite only being 27 issues), this book truly was worth the wait, and the art and writing by both creators were amazing.
This book is truly one of the best things ever written, one of the most beautiful artistic achievements in comics history, and one of the best stories I've read. On top of that, you also get to see some wild ideas and a love letter to comics, movies, and books that clearly inspired the creators.
21. 439 points - Daredevil (Bendis) - 21 first place votes
#26 - #81 (minus an arc in the middle)
Twenty-one people think this is the best book ever written! With the release last year of the three volume HC series that collects this full run, I feel like I should give it a try. I love Daredevil, I like a lot of what I've read by Bendis, but I was out of comics when this started and haven't gone back to pick it up.
Let's see what Royal has to say about this book.
When Brian Michael Bendis was given the assignment to write the ongoing Daredevil series, they did so to fill some time while waiting for Kevin Smith to return to the book. Smith never came back. What did happen was Bendis grounding Daredevil in the same muck that Frank Miller did, only with the pathos and urban grit cranked up to a near oppressive degree. By exploring the lows of being a superhero, and so few of the highs, Bendis created a long form storyline full of pure drama. Not bad for a fill-in.
In the late 90's during David Mack's run on the series, rising independent writer Brian Bendis co-wrote an arc with his friend. A couple years later in 2001, Bendis was given the job as the main writer on the title, along with artist Alex Maleev. The two would go on to work together on the title for four years, before passing the book off to Ed Brubaker (as seen earlier on the list). During their run on the book, they would have Daredevil go through lots of terrible things, because that's how writers treat Daredevil over the last couple of decades. And it's led to the title being one of the most consistently entertaining and well written superhero books of that time period, with this run being no exception.
During their run on the title, Matt's life would get turned upside down over and over. He met Milla, a blind woman he saves from getting hit by a truck and starts a relationship. This being a Daredevil comic, she is with Matt when he's attacked by Typhoid Mary, nearly killed by Bullseye, but eventually she marries Matt. Of course, this is followed by Matt going to jail, being outed as Daredevil, and during Bru's run she's driven insane and poisoned by Mr. Fear in a way that makes being near Matt drive her into a violent rage, but that last part is not part of this run, so let's move on.
Another arc of the series saw the reemergence of the Kingpin, and his fall at the hands of DD. Obviously, this sort of story has happened more than a couple of times, the difference in this one is that after beating the Kingpin, Daredevil announces himself as the new Kingpin of Crime and rules over the criminals in Hell's Kitchen in much the same way Fisk once did as he tries to use a role of evil for good purposes, with less than successful results. Although the story didn't feel the need to turn into a giant crossover like some other similar story.
Overall the run added to the supporting cast, brought new things to the table, put Daredevil and Matt in bad spots, touched on just about all the major DD villains in some way, had big action, smaller character moments, revelations, and generally was a great run. As you can tell by the number of DD runs on this list, this was far from the only time in the last 30 years someone did this on this book, but many fans find it to be one of the best.