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Your Top Creative Runs Finale

Written by rdrsfn82 on Monday, February 14 2011 and posted in Features

Here it is. The end of the list. We've seen a bunch of great books, some not so great books, and it's come down to this. Two mutant runs and Marvel's First Family. Let's get to it.
3. 931 points - New X-Men (Grant Morrison) - 45 first place votes
#114 - #154 and Annual 2001
Forty-five people think this is the best thing ever written, which is three fewer than the number of people that voted Morrison's Batman run #1, but the book scored nearly 400 more points, meaning it was on far, far more lists! I still can't get over that Batman placement.

In 2001, Grant Morrison took over the X-Men book with issue #114, and the title was changed to New X-Men. Frank Quietly was originally the artist, but was joined by many other artists contributed as well including Phil Jimenez, Chris Bachalo, Marc Silvestri, Ethan Van Sciver, and Igor Kordey. As a result of the various artists involved, each arc could have a wildly different tone or style. During his run, Morrison attempted to add to the X-Men mythos, while also doing his own takes on all the classic X-Men stories, such as the Phoenix or Magneto "dying" and also had a focus on the mutants that don't look particularly human and can't blend into society. Overall, many people found this to be a breath of fresh air coming off a long period of time where the X-Men books had become more and more embroiled in giant crossovers with the other X-Men titles and had lost much of their uniqueness.

As one would expect, Morrison introduced many big ideas during his run. Among the biggest and most important of those ideas was the idea of secondary mutations. Before he took over, mutants would usually gain their powers sometime in their teenage years due to a traumatic event triggering their X-gene. Morrison introduced the idea of having a secondary evolutionary leap later in life which wouldn't necessarily have any connection to the previous powers a mutant might possess. One example of a secondary mutation was Beast turning from his traditional look into a more cat-like look. Another example was Emma Frost gaining the ability to turn her body into diamond, which was first shown during an early issue that saw the island nation of Genosha destroyed and nearly all the inhabitants killed, including Magneto.

Emma would play a big role in the run, as she would officially join the X-Men, have an affair with Scott Summers that led to Jean unleashing her Phoenix powers to kill Emma (and then bring her back to life, and eventually saw her relationship with Scott grow following the death of Jean and a trip to a dystopian future. Her growth into a hero and leader of the team is one of the main storylines running through the entire run.

Another big part of the run was the introduction of a new teacher at the school by the name of Xorn. Xorn is a mutant who wears a special mask, which protects the world from his powerful mutation. He is a kind and somewhat naive man, who believes in the good nature of others, and as a result he is put in charge of a class of mutants that have various physical mutations that make it hard for them to blend in to regular society. Xorn bonds with the kids and goes out of his way to save them from the U-Men (a group of humans who modify their bodies with mutant parts at the behest of their leader, John Sublime who is one of the main villains of the run) at one point. Later in the run during the Planet X storyline, Xorn removes his mask to reveal he is actually Magneto. He then attempts to take over the world and kill off all the humans, turning into something not unlike the Nazis that once killed his family. Eventually many of his students turn on him in favor of the ideals he once professed as the much more peaceful Xorn, the X-Men defeat him, but unfortunately he kills Jean Grey. The death of Jean causes Wolverine to go completely into a rage and cut Magneto's head off. As a result of a desire to bring Magneto back, and the fact many fans and the editors were upset with the extreme actions of Magneto during this arc, future writers have since turned this character and revelation into a huge continuity quagmire. Despite that, the storyline at the time was meant to show the ultimate Magneto story and bring closure to his character, as turning into that which he originally hated is kind of the only logical conclusion for his character as he's been getting closer and closer to that over the years.

Despite massive critical and commercial acclaim, many of the ideas and characters from Morrison's run have been ignored or undone by future writers beyond the Magneto/Xorn stuff. To no one's surprise this has led to lower sales the majority of the time.

2. 967 points – Fantastic Four (Stan Lee/Jack Kirby) - 48 first place votes
#1 - #102 and Annuals #1 - #6
Forty-eight people think this is the best book ever written! Hard to argue with that, it's certainly one of the most famous and historically important runs of all time, giving us many great characters, ideas, and stories. This write-up was done by Chap22, one of the biggest FF fans on these boards. Take it away Chappy!

In November 1961, Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman, a publishing trend-follower, was aware of DC (then National Comics)'s new team book the JLA's strong sales, and directed Stan "the Man" Lee, his comics editor, to create a comic-book series about a team of superheroes. According to Lee, writing in 1974, "Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called The [sic] Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes. ... 'If the Justice League is selling', spoke he, 'why don't we put out a comic book that features a team of superheroes?"

And from there, Marvel then published Lee & Jack "the King" Kirby's The Fantastic Four #1, which helped to usher in a new level of realism in the comic-book medium, and superheroes would never be the same. The Fantastic Four was the first superhero team created by Lee & Kirby, who developed a collaborative approach to creating comics with this title that they would use from then on, which became known simply as "the Marvel Method". As the first superhero team title produced by Marvel Comics, it formed a cornerstone of the company's 1960s rise from a small division of a publishing company to a pop-culture conglomerate.

The familiar four individuals traditionally associated with the FF, who gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space, are: Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), a scientific genius and the leader of the group, who can stretch his body into incredible lengths and shapes; the Invisible Girl/Woman (Susan "Sue" Storm), who became Reed's wife, who can render herself invisible and project powerful force fields; the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Sue's hot-headed younger brother, who can generate flames, surround himself with them and fly; and IMHO Stan & Jack's greatest creation, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed idol o' millions, The Thing (Benjamin J. Grimm), their grumpy but benevolent friend, a former college football star, pilot, and Reed's college roommate/best friend.
The four iconically represent all manner of positions or elements: Reed/brain/water, Sue/heart/air, Johnny/impulse/fire, and Ben/soul/earth. Yet through it all, the primary portrayal of the quarter is as a somewhat dysfunctional, yet loving, family. Breaking convention with other comic-book archetypes of the time, they would squabble and hold grudges both deep and petty (rarely an issue went by where Ben didn't argue or out-and-out fight with Reed or Johnny or both; Reed constantly fought his guilt over the permanence of Ben's new form; etc), and eschewed anonymity or secret identities in favor of celebrity status. Yet despite their squabbles, the team clearly loved each other and grew together over the years, most easily shown as Reed & Sue married and had a son Franklin, with "Unca Ben" made his godfather.

And while what made this title, and Marvel in general, different and innovative was its focus on its characters and their realistic problems, the book was never short on action and new ideas. With FF in particular, BOY were there new ideas. With the book's 3rd issue, Lee created the hyperbolic slogan "The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World!!" With the following issue, the slogan was changed to "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!", and became a fixture on the issue covers! And it was truly well-deserved. Over their 100+ issues, Lee & Kirby put forth a creative output of glorious, weird, and lasting ideas that has never been matched in comics. Things like unstable molecules, vibranium, the ultimate nullifier, the cosmic control rod, the Baxter Building, the pogo plane; places like Wakanda, Latveria, the hidden city of Attilan, the Negative Zone...all created in FF. Look at just about any non-mutant Marvel book or "event" and you'll see ideas or characters central to the plot that were the brainchildren of Stan & Jack. Secret Invasion? The Skrulls came from FF #2. Doom War? Dr. Doom, Black Panther and Vibranium all in FF. Annihilation? Ronan and the Supreme Intelligence and the Kree, the Super-Skrull, Silver Surfer & Galactus, Annihilus and the Negative Zone, all from FF. War/Realm of Kings? Adam Warlock, the Inhumans, both from FF. And on and on...these two men gave us a run where classic characters were thrown out every issue, almost faster than readers could realize how cool they were. Heroes such as The Inhumans, Watcher, Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, and Black Panther (mainstream comics' first black superhero) came from Stan & Jack. Villains like the Mole Man, Puppet Master, Skrulls, Kree, Ronan, Super-Skrull, Rama-Tut, Impossible Man, Klaw, Galactus, the Frightful Four, Maximus the Mad, Diablo, the Molecule Man, the Mad Thinker and Dragon Man, Psycho-Man, Red Ghost and the Super-Apes, Annihilus, and Blastaar sprung from their pens.

But no discussion of any FF run would be complete without bringing up the 5th main character of the book, the team's (and the Marvel U's) greatest villain, Victor Von Doom, Dr. Doom. More personal a foe than any other, smarter and more powerful a foe than any other, Doom is the eternal roadblock in Reed and the FF's quest to better the word through exploration. Classmates at ESU with Reed and Ben, Doom has been Reed's rival ever since. The one man on Earth who feels he is smarter than Richards (and arguably may be right), Doom is a royal monarch, a genius, a sorcerer second to one (Dr. Strange), and possessed of a hatred second to none. I could go on, but we've seen it all in the Marvel Top Villains List. Needless to say, he's proud, arrogant, strangely noble (when it suits him), powerful, smart, and deadly evil. Good villains make the best heroes, and in that respect the FF never have to worry; just one of the reasons the FF under Stan & Jack could carry off the title of The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!

And here it is, the #1 book on this list.

1. 973 points – Uncanny X-Men (Chris Claremont/Byrne) - 56 first place votes
#108 - #143
Fifty-six people voted this book the #1 comic of all time! If you combined all of Claremont's X-Men work on this title, not counting New Mutants or anything else, it would have had 63 first place votes and 1302 points, easily taking first place by a wide margin. Despite being broken up, this section of the run still ended up #1 and with good reason. The stories told during this run are well known to all comic fans and among the most iconic in all of comic's history.

The run kicks off just as the original Phoenix Saga was wrapping up. The team returns to Earth with D'Ken defeated. they returned home just in time to see the introduction of Weapon Alpha from the superhero team Alpha Flight. They then deal with the assassin Warhawk who is waiting for them in the mansion at the behest of a mysterious guy known as the Black King. That of course led to the introduction of the Hellfire Club, which would of course go on to play a huge role in the rest of the run and in the various X-Men books of the last 30 years.

Between the team's return to Earth and the actual beginnings of the Dark Phoenix story, there were many moments that have become classics to X-Men fans. The introduction of Mariko (the true love of Wolverine's life), the flashback to the battle between Xavier and Shadow King for young Ororo Munroe, a trip to Murderworld, a return to the Savage Land, Beast and Jean's apparent death in the explosion of Magneto's volcano lair (and eventual reunion with the team), and a battle with the reality warping Proteus that led to Banshee leaving the team.

This all lead to the introduction of the Hellfire Club as they tried to recruit Kitty Pryde to their team. Kitty instead joins the X-Men, and the mutant Dazzler is also introduced. Scott Summers leaves the team, and Storm becomes the new leader. This was followed by the beginning of the Dark Phoenix storyline. The Hellfire Club then takes on a new goal, they kidnap Jean and the villain Mastermind uses his illusion powers, along with a device built by Emma Frost, to control Jean, leading to her becoming the Black Queen. As the X-Men try to rescue her, the Phoenix force grows tired of being controlled by others and takes over, turning Jean into a being obsessed with power. After beating the X-Men and unleashing the full power of the Phoenix, the Dark Phoenix heads off to space and destroys a star causing the deaths of billions of living beings on the various nearby planets. A council of aliens, including the Shi'ar, Kree, and Skrulls, decides that the Phoenix must be killed before she destroys the entire universe. Meanwhile, Xavier engages the Phoenix in a psychic battle and puts up barriers in its mind giving Jean control once again and limiting her power levels back to where they were before the Dark Phoenix took over. The Shi'ar then capture the X-Men and tell them of what the Dark Phoenix had done and insist on killing Jean. Xavier challenges the leader of the Shi'ar to a battle to save Jean, but during the battle Scott is injured, which upsets Jean to the point that the blocks put into her mind by Xavier break and the Dark Phoenix is once again released. The X-Men attempt to battle her, and Jean regains her senses for a moment and grabs a Kree weapon that she uses to kill herself. This leads to Scott once again leaving the team,x-men-ccjb2

This arc would be followed by some more classics like the introduction of the rest of the Alpha Flight team. There was one more all time classic arc left in this run, which is the event known as Days of Future Past. Mystique forms a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants intent on killing Senator Robert Kelly. They succeed, and it leads to a dystopian future where Sentinels have killed nearly all the mutants in the world as well as many of the non-mutant heroes. This future is then averted due to time travel that helps the X-Men prevent the murder of Kelly, despite the fact he's a staunch anti-mutant advocate that was a big backer of both the Mutant Registration Act and the Sentinel program.

Overall this run presented some of the most famous X-Men stories ever, saw the book continue to rise to the top of the sales charts, and is remembered as one of the best books of all time. Obviously Claremont's work both before and after Byrne's time on the book is some of the most important work in comics history, taking the formerly unimportant mutant team and turning them into the biggest selling franchise at Marvel, a group that has spawned multiple TV shows (which have adapted many of the stories from this era many, many times), movies (again adapting aspects of this particular run), and turning the characters into icons. Storm's time as leader of the team is largely responsible for her continued popularity to this day, and in fact was the start of an era where she would become one of the most iconic and well known heroes in all of the Marvel U. The introduction of Kitty Pryde, the humanizing of Wolverine, the heroic sacrifice of Jean Grey, the complicated relationship of Cyclops with the rest of the team, the supporting groups like Alpha Flight and the Hellfire Club, and many other elements of this run have become so important to the X-Men and the Marvel U on the whole that this run is more than deserving of it's spot on the list and certainly one of the best comics ever written by any measure, be it sales, lasting impact, critical reaction, or whatever else you want to go by,.
Well, that's it.

I'd like to thank everyone who submitted a list and showed patience in waiting for this list to get posted. I know it took a while due to unforeseen circumstances, but I'm glad you guys mostly stuck with us. Your reactions in the thread, even when you completely disagree with me, make it fun and are what these lists are all about.

I'd also like to thank Jude, Royal, e_galston, JamesV, Allen, Crump, Chap22, and everyone else that did a write-up and helped out with getting this posted.

Again, I'd like to apologize to those of you who had a list that was lost and that weren't able to see everything you wanted on here. Sorry for the mistakes or the insufficient write-ups on your favorite books. That's all on me and my bias.

I'd like to thank misac, who found the vast majority of the covers posted and who also posted everything to the front page and did an excellent job as usual. His layouts in the thread in particular have been very, very well done.

And above all I'd like to thank Bubba for doing all the hard work compiling the list and collecting the votes and tallying them and getting all of this organized. I know he's been dealing with some stuff in his personal life that has delayed this, and he's lamented that fact more than a few times, but he did an amazing job on a nearly impossible task that involved a ton of work. And he's already in the planning stages of doing another one of these, though the subject matter and time frame are yet to be determined. Hopefully it will be soon and hopefully you guys will all join us again.



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