Top Comic Book Storylines: 24-21

Today, we continue counting down your picks for the greatest comic book stories of all time with #24-21.

You have voted (more than 1000 ballot papers and Little A little more than the last time we counted down) and you all sent ballots to rank your favorite stories from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). You collected all the points and here we are!

24. “Winter Soldier,” directed by Ed Brubacher, Steve Epting, Michael Lark and Michael Perkins (captain America #1-6, 8-9, 11-14) – 442 points (5 first place votes).

In Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker achieved something no one thought he could. Heck, his own editor, thought he couldn’t work it out when Brubaker first proposed the idea. But after Brubaker explained it, his editor realized what readers of the title also realized – Brubaker had a really good way to bring Bucky back to life!

In this story, Brubaker told some compelling stories that interacted with one another – the main story, of course, was the revelation that not only did Bucky survive a missile plane explosion that left Cap in a frozen state for decades, but Bucky was rescued by the Russians from Brainwashed him into a deadly killer, which kept him in a frigid state for months and years at a time between missions (so no one would be able to identify him – after all, five years later, they’d be looking for a 25-year-old man while Bucky was still 20). This is how he got the name Winter Soldier.

Meanwhile, Red Skull is about to begin his latest plot against Captain America when a new villain steps into an attack that apparently kills Skull. This new bad guy, Alexander Loken, was the current agent in charge of the Winter Soldier, and he used Bucky to kill the Skull and steal the Cosmic Cube.

This led to a number of daring and tragic attacks on Philadelphia.

All the while, Captain America was feeling bad (after the events of Avengers Disassembled), so he was in a really bad state of mind to discover that his ex-boyfriend was now a mortal killer.

But even when he’s frustrated, Cap’s greatest strength remains his sympathy…

Brubaker does a really great job of balancing the different characters and theirs in the series, while never really swaying in the action either. Steve Epting has hacked his new Crossgen style in this series, and it’s really stellar, with some great work done by Mike Perkins for Epting, and Michael Lark doing exemplary great work on some flashback sequences.

There is a problem filling by John Paul Lyon that I suppose you can count on as part of the story, if you so choose. It’s a highlight of the last day of the life of a character killed by Winter Soldier in an early issue of the story.

This was an excellent opening story by Ed Brubacher and surprisingly he managed to get an even better title!

Related: Top Comic Book Stories: 28-25

23. “Infinity Gauntlet” by Jim Starlin, George Perez, Ron Lim, Joe Rubinstein, and two other ink painters (infiniti gauntlet #1-6) 449 points (5 first place votes).

The mad god Thanos devoted his whole life (and since his resurrection several times, all beyond his life) to satisfy the love of his life – death. When Death decides she needs a hero again, she brings Thanos back to life. In an attempt to please her, Thanos goes on a quest for infinite gems; Powerful elements that seem to support the various sages of the universe.

After finally collecting all the gems through various methods, Thanos pools them together to form the Infinity Gauntlet, a gauntlet that, when worn, grants the user complete power over the universe. What Thanos Does With Gauntlet is the subject of the 1991 Marvel mini-series, “Infinity Gauntlet” by writer Jim Starlin and artists George Perez (issue 1-3) and Ron Lim (issues 4-6).

His first act, as shown in the first issue, to impress Death is to kill half of the universe, which he does with the flick of his fingers. The remaining half of the universe is, of course, not happy about this and sets out to try to stop Thanos. They are aided by the similarly revived Adam Warlock, who was Thanos’ main enemy when they were first alive.

Warlock helps organize a trip for as many superheroes (also Dr. Dom) as possible to attack Thanos in his fortress. Meanwhile, in another attempt to coax death (as suggested by that cunning demon, Mephisto) Thanos uses the Gauntlet to make himself fallible, so that the army of superheroes attacking him has a theoretical chance of defeating him.

The heroes leave at number 3, and at number 4 the battle takes place. Thanos cuts the heroes like a hot knife and they’re all sticks of butter. The giant suffocated, Iron Man’s head was torn off, Thor turned into glass – it’s not pretty. Finally, only Captain America remains and, in an impressive defiance, stands before Thanos one-on-one.

As Thanos prepares to strike Cap, the real Warlock’s plan begins to work. The Silver Surfer blasts off at the speed of light to snatch the challenge away from Thanos. The whole attack was just a diversion so a surfer could steal the challenge.

Only a surfer makes mistakes.

You’ll have to read the rest of the series to see what happens next, but suffice it to say Starlin did a good job on this intersection.

22. “Avengers Forever” by Kurt Busick, Roger Stern, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino (Avengers Forever #1-12) – 462 points (6 votes for first place).

The stars of this classic time travel game are a unique team of Avengers drawn from the past, present and future, who must face Immortus and the Time Keepers, a powerful group that has been manipulating the Avengers for years. Each team member is chosen at a very specific moment, as Busiek, Pacheco and Merino demonstrate in this sequence from the second edition of the series…

As you can see, Pacheco is brilliant at giving each character a distinct look and best of all, when you put the different heroes together, there’s a great sense of being able to discover how each character reacts to the situation. Lots of character in every drawing. Oh boy, it’s good.

The epic tale of Busiek and Stern brings the rag tag team of Avengers on a journey through history and the same multiverse as they attempt to control their own destinies. They are aided on this journey by one of their greatest enemies, Kang the Conqueror, who also wishes to break free from the control of the Emorts and the Guardians of Time. Everything must be possible and that possibility is what the Avengers and Kang are fighting for (although in the end, can you really trust Kang?)

Along the way, Busiek also ties into some of the losing ends of the Avengers continuity. The whole thing is an epic action adventure steeped in Avengers history but centered all the way in identifiable real human reactions.

Related: Top Comic Book Stories: 32-29

21. “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (after the sequence began in WarriorAnd V for revenge #1-10) – 471 points (7 votes for first place).

At the heart of V for Vendetta is an attractive and challenging dilemma – if you had to choose, which would you prefer? Fascism or chaos?

Previously, yes, you would be ruled by dictators, but after they finish executing their opponents, odds are that you will not be directly affected personally anymore. It would just be a cog in the machine.

In the latter, yes, you will be free, but there will be no protection from chaos.

It’s a beautiful dilemma, and while we all like to answer that we prefer the latter, in real life people often choose the first, Alan Moore solves the dilemma for all he’s worth in this alternate reality where a “terrorist” named V (who wears a Guy Fawkes mask) tries Overthrow the government, hoping to help a young woman named Evie.

Moore and his illustrious art counterpart, David Lloyd, created a lush, dark, and lively world that’s too scary to want to live there, but too interesting to read more about.

Here is one of V’s infamous attacks on a government agent, where V provided his back story in the process…

Before the big reveal…

The centerpiece of the story is Evie’s evolution from a perpetual victim to becoming directly involved in V’s revolutionary actions. What’s cool about these bits is that Moore lets us see how Evie swings her opinion of V. Like Evie, we never really know very So much about V, since his ambiguous nature allows Evie (and us, the readers) to put her on V are private views – we might see V as very sadistic, we might see him as a hero, we might see him psychic just happen to pick a good cause – Moore doesn’t lead us or Evie to No specific point of view. We get there on our own.

Keep Reading: Top Comic Book Stories: 36-33

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