20 (tie). “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin (X-Men #141 and Uncanny X-Men #142)
Days of Future Past was a major X-Men storyline, as it introduced many key figures and plotlines that would reoccur many times over the next 30 years (and counting).
The main concept of the book is that a group of X-Men in the future, a dark future where most mutants have been hunted down and killed by government-mandated genocide (using giant robots called Sentinels), decide to try to change their present by sending one of them back in time to stop the problem before it began.
The way they do this is by sending the mind of Katherine Pryde into the mind of herself as a teenager, Kitty Pryde of the X-Men.
You see, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are destined to kill Senator Robert Kelly, an anti-mutant Senator who wants to run for President. If they succeed, this will lead tot he backlash that made their timeline occur. So the idea is to avoid that by saving Kelly’s life.
The rest of the comic mixes in the present-time X-Men trying to stop the Brotherhood along with the future X-Men facing off against the Sentinels.
The story introduced the dark future timeline, which became a major trope for the X-Books (alternate timelines), plus introduced major characters like Rachel, the telepath who sends Katherine’s mind to the past, and a few new evil mutants who kept popping up over and over again over the years (Avalanche, Destiny and Pyro).
This was also notable in that it was the last storyline that the classic X-Men team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne did on the book (Byrne left the book after one more issue, a classic Christmas tale).
20 (tie). “E is for Extinction” by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Tim Townsend (New X-Men #114-116)
19. “The Galactus Trilogy” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott (Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #48-50)
18. “Civil War” by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines (Civil War #1-7)
17. “Under Siege” by Roger Stern, John Buscema and Tom Palmer (Avengers #270-277)
16. “The Sinestro Corps War” by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Peter Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason plus a whole lot of other pencilers and inkers (Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Special #1, Green Lantern Vol. 4 #21-25, Green Lantern Corps #14-19)
15. “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (After beginning serialization in Warrior, V for Vendetta #1-10)
At the heart of V for Vendetta is an engaging and difficult dilemma – if you HAD to choose, what would you prefer? Fascism or anarchy?
In the former, yeah, you’d be ruled by essentially dictators, but odds are that you personally wouldn’t be directly affected.
In the latter, yeah, you’d be free, but there would be no protection from chaos.
It’s a beautiful dilemma, and Alan Moore milks it for all that it is worth in this alternate reality where a “terrorist” named V (who wears a Guy Fawkes mask) tries to bring down the government, hopefully with the help of a young woman named Evie.
Moore and his brilliant artistic counterpart, David Lloyd, create a lush, dark and vibrant world that is too scary to want to live there, but too interesting not to want to read more about.
14. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod (Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132 and Web of Spider-Man #31-32)
Kraven’s Last Hunt (originally known as “Fearful Symmetry”) takes a novel approach to the Spider-Man villain, Kraven the Hunter. Kraven the Hunter originally debuted under an interesting motive for being a super-villain – he was a famous big game hunter and hunting Spider-Man was a challenge for him. That was about it.
The only thing was that he never really succeeded in BEATING Spider-Man, and over the years, that has depressed him to the point of near-mania.
And that is where we open Fearful Symmetry, with a crazed Kraven the Hunter lamenting his failures and vowing to finally succeed – and he does – he not only defeats Spider-Man, but he buries him in a grave!!!
Taking on Spider-Man’s costume, Kraven goes on to try to show how he is a better Spider-Man than Spider-Man ever was.
Pretty rough stuff, huh?
J. M. DeMatteis crafted a wonderful psychologically taut thriller here, with great art by Mike Zeck and Bob McLoed.
This story, which serialized throughout all three of the Spider-Man books in late 1987, was exceptionally dark for what was a typical Spider-Man (heck, a typical SUPERHERO) story at the time – and it really made it stand out, but even in modern times the story holds up extremely well.
13. “The Judas Contract ” by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo (Tales of the New Teen Titans #42-44, Tales of the New Teen Titans Annual #3)
12. “The Age of Apocalypse” by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert, Joe Madureira, Steve Epting, Roger Cruz and a pile of other artists and writers (X-Men: Alpha #1, Amazing X-Men #1-4, Astonishing X-Men #1-4, X-Men: Omega #1 plus a bunch of tie-ins)
11. “The Great Darkness Saga” by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt (Legion of Super-Heroes #290-294)
Probably the most notable aspect of the Great Darkness Saga is just how well Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen developed the drama of the storyline. It was very much a slow burn as things slowly got progressively worse until, well, all hell broke loose at the end of the story.
Larry Mahlstedt was Giffen’s inker at the time, and the duo produced some strong, dynamic and characterization-filled artwork.
After some small references in the issues before, the storyline began proper in Legion of Super-Heroes #290, as some mysterious powerful “dark” creatures keep popping up around the world capturing items of power, with the Legion trying (to no avail) to stop them at each opportunity.
n the next issue, the situation continues to deteriorate, and the mystery of WHO these “dark warriors” are becomes a bigger issue, as it APPEARS as though the dark creatures are actually powerful beings from the past – beings that have been long dead for years (centuries in some cases).
The Legion are getting their asses handed to them repeatedly, and as #291 ends, things look pretty damn bleak…and that’s before they reveal that Darkseid is the big bad guy!!!
The impact of that reveal was a lot bigger back when Darkseid was not such a popular villain for people to use.
And that, of course, leads into a dramatic last issue that has all the drama and action you would expect from the previous issues. It is impressive to see a story slowly build and have the conclusion be truly worth the slow burn.
Levitz and Giffen both come off as wonderful storytellers in this saga.