Monday, March 19, 2018 • Evening Edition • "Magneto was right."

Your Top Creative Runs part 50

Written by rdrsfn82 on Wednesday, February 09 2011 and posted in Features
A book that's maybe a little high, a book considered one of the all time classics, and a book that has no business being nearly this high.

17. 500 points - JSA vol. 1 (Johns) - 36 first place votes
#5 - #77 plus some other minis, one shots, etc
jsa-johns_copyNow this is what I'm talking about! This is a JSA book by Johns that deserves to be on the list, unlike that earlier book that was the definition of mediocrity.

Thirty-six people thought this was the best book ever written! I enjoyed this run, but I wouldn't say it was the best ever. Still, it's pretty great.

The Justice Society of America was done. The Zero Hour event in 1994 took away the magically granted youth of the various characters, and killed off others. As a result, there was no JSA. While a few of the members remained active and retained their youth (or enough power to make up for it), most were either retired or dead. This event led directly to Starman existing, among other books. We'll see Starman in a bit, but it's pretty much directly responsible for the return of the JSA in 1999. Starman writer James Robinson loves the JSA. A lot. And it's all over Starman. Well, in 1999 he was given a chance to co-write the JSA with David Goyer in a new ongoing book, which included Jack Knight. This came towards the end of his Starman run, but he soon took Jack Knight out of the book and left writing it as well. As of issue #5. Geoff Johns was the co-writer, along with Goyer who stayed on. Johns and Goyer would go on to define the modern JSA, bringing in various older members as well as new young members, and turning the JSA once again into the training ground for young heroes. Eventually Goyer left the book and Johns continued on by himself.

While just about all the characters had moments to shine, a few in particular were given lots of attention. Hawkman obviously had a lot of big moments, as Johns was very familiar with the character and was writing his solo series during much of this run. Dealing with being on the team but not being a leader, and having his often violent reactions to villains not always be looked on favorably by the team, as well as his relationship with a Hawkgirl that doesn't retain all the memories of their previous lives while he does, are among the major arcs his character goes though in this book. Stargirl, who Johns created in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. as seen earlier on the list, also got lots of attention, going from a novice hero into someone that is seen as a mentor to other young heroes in the current DCU. She also went through a complicated relationship with Atom Smasher, the conflicted former Infinity Inc member who would also be one of the main focuses of the run.

Then there was the guy that really brought the whole thing together, mostly as an antagonist. The old Captain Marvel villain, Black Adam. Previously used as a villain, Goyer and Johns would redefine the character, focusing on his old fashioned militant sense of justice, his passion for his homeland (the land currently known as the fictional country of Kahndaq (formerly he was from Egypt, but that was all explained away as him serving Egypt while hailing from nearby Kahndaq), and his evil actions are explained as being a result of his host Theo Adam (a descendant) playing off his appearance in Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam series. First showing up as a villain, Black Adam ends up helping the team defeat villains such as Johnny Sorrow and the Thanagarian demon called the Sin-Eater. Eventually he convinces the team he has full control of Theo's influence and is given a probationary membership on the team. During his tenure on the team, Adam expresses admiration for the team, especially older heroes like Hawkman and Jay Garrick. He also deals with people who initially doubt whether he's really reformed, like Atom Smasher. However, he wins over most of his teammates and gains their trust, becoming close friends with Atom Smasher in particular. The main event that leads to them becoming friends is the reaction of Atom Smasher following the death of his mother. After she dies in a plane crash caused by the villainous cult of Kobra, Al is given a chance to travel back in time to put someone else in her place. He chooses to put the villain Extant on the plane, murdering him to save his mother. Adam sees this as a fair result, and their friendship and trust comes from Al's need to have someone justify his actions, as he had been doubting himself.

During a later part of the run, a few members of the team travel back in time to ancient Egypt and meet the young Black Adam before his corruption. Among those traveling back are Captain Marvel, who Mighty Adam (as he was called before his fall from grace) is particularly happy to see as he thinks it means his legacy will live on. During this arc we see Johns and Goyer provide a new revised origin for Adam (something Johns does in many books, giving changes, some minor and some major, to the histories of various characters, especially villains). In this new origin, Vandal Savage, along with a magical being with powers similar to Metamorpho called Ank-Ton, conquer Kahndaq while Adam is defending Egypt. During this attack, they kill Adam's wife and children. It's shown that it's this event that causes Adam's fall. Adam kills Ank-Ton, and then takes back Kahndaq, killing many he deems guilty in the process.

This would be followed by one of the signature arcs of the book, one that brings many of these issues to a head, and one written by Johns after Goyer left and which featured a crossover with Hawkman's solo book. Black Adam and Atom Smasher quit the team and begin a group with various heroes and villains around the DCU that have no issues killing those deemed guilty. They kick this off by killing the terrorist leader Kobra, and then set their sights on reclaiming Kahndaq, which was ruled by an oppressive dictator that was largely ignored by the rest of the world. This arc, titled Black Reign, saw Hawkman temporarily become the leader of the JSA as the team basically went to war against Adam's team and his many supporters within the nation who wanted to see Adam take power. Eventually, Atom Smasher is the one that kills the dictator, the former Infinity Inc member known as Brainwave is shown to have been under the control of Mister Mind causing his erratic changes from hero to villain, and in Adam is left in charge of his nation, with the condition that he's not allowed to leave it's borders. Atom Smasher remains in Kahndaq, though later on he dies and is revived by Adam, only to be returned to the JSA where he ends up going on trial for his actions and facing the repercussions for his role in the death of the former leader of the nation.

Overall, many characters saw definitive arcs during this run, many characters were added to the history of the JSA, and the team was revitalized to the point that they currently carry two titles. Johns returned to the book for that run we saw earlier, but the less said about that the better. He'd also return to use many of these characters in various books, as would other writers such as Peter Tomasi's very entertaining Black Adam: The Dark Age miniseries that saw a new Suicide Squad, including Atom Smasher, searching for Adam as he became the most wanted man in the world and had loss this powers during the events of 52.

16. 501 points - Swamp Thing (Alan Moore) - 36 first place votes
#20 - #64 minus a couple of issues
Annual #2
Thirty-six people think this is the best book of all time! My wife was going to pick this up for me, but decided not to since I'm already trying to read Powers, Gotham Central, Invincible, and Astro City. So instead she got me The Killer vol 3, which should show up at the end of this week. You guys should read that book, it's a cool French comic about a hitman, and features some really cool art. I'll probably try to get to this next year, but I really want to read it. I've read an issue or two here and there, but not the full run, however I love much of what I've read from Moore and this seems like something I would love. But I digress.

Created in 1971 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing was a fairly minor horror character in the DCU, that occasionally showed up in other books as a magic or horror character as the story required. Take nothing away from those early books, they were fun reads, but he was far from a major character, despite having a movie made by Wes Craven (a fun movie, IMO, if a bit dated at this point). However in response to the movie, the character was given a new book written by Martin Pasko. Pasko wrote the first 19 issues, but then had to leave the book as a result of growing commitments doing the writing on various TV shows. So the book was given to a rising British star named Alan Moore. Moore was given free reign to do pretty much whatever he wanted on the book, and that's what he did.

Tossing away much of the supporting cast set up by Pasko, Moore took the book into a different direction, focusing on the idea of the Swamp Thing as an elemental being that had been around forever with many different hosts. The role of the Swamp Thing was as the defender of The Green, a group of former elementals that represent all plant life on Earth. As you can see, Moore's typical big ideas were all over this book. In addition to the stuff with The Green, the book also focused on the idea that Swamp Thing wasn't the reincarnated Alec Holland, but was rather a plant being that had absorbed the memories of Holland upon his death, that was trying to be Holland.

During this run, Moore attempted to add in many new ideas and things, some of which have stuck around. Beyond The Green, there were other elemental groups such as The Grey, an alien group that would create various fungus based things on the Earth, and which included Solomon Grundy as a member. The idea of the Grey and the Green plays a big part in the arc of Grundy in the Starman series by James Robinson. He also created a supernatural adviser to Swamp Thing, a guy named John Constantine. Constantine would go on to become a major character on his own long running solo series (as seen earlier on the list with Mike Carey's run).

The book, despite all these big ideas, took place within the main DCU, featuring characters like the Floronic Man and Poison Ivy in big roles in various stories, along with memorable guest spots by characters like Batman, Hawkman, the Phantom Stranger, Etrigan, and others.

All in all, this run is considered one of the classics of all time, and well deserves this spot on the list.

15. 541 points - Batman (Morrison) - 48 first place votes
Fourty-eight people thought this was the best book of all time. I'm not looking up the issues or doing anything else. You people are morons. I don't give a fuck if you think you deserve better. There is no way this is Morrison's best work, the best Batman story, or anything else. The fact this beat books like Moore's Swamp Thing or any of the other classics on this list is a fucking joke. Completely fucking ridiculous.

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