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Author Topic: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)  (Read 602 times)

The Adventurer

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The Plan: To read a ton of Marvel comics I've never read before during the span of time between Onslaught and New Avengers, 1997 to 2004. From the introduction of Busiek's Thunderbolts to the end of David's Captain Marvel. I'm dubbing this era 'The World's Greatest Comics' era, because of a house banner Marvel put over their Marvel Universe titles for just 5 months in 1997. I realize this is a tenuous branding, and literally only Thunderbolts had this banner present in my reading list... But I had to call it something!

The Series (subject to change): I'm focusing on any title from this period that interested me in any way when I was a young teen with no money. Ones I lacked access to from 1997 to 2001, and ones I had felt I'd already missed the boat on from 2001 and beyond when I did have access and money (also, when I was to busy reading Image Comics and Crossgen, and being a snob about X-Men). As such, I won't be reading any Spider-Man or most X titles from the period. New X-Men and X-Statix getting special consideration for reasons of being different from the usual. I'm also not reading Heroes Return Fantastic Four and Iron Man, just to keep things... a little more sane (also I recall their runs being a bit choppier then the rest). This list of titles was largely drawn from what I remember was nuclear hot in the pages of Wizard Magazine at the time. When the comic industry was in turmoil from the comic crash of 1996 and Marvel in particular going bankrupt. When the grim and gritty 80s and 90s got a chance to modernize into something a bit more classic, yet also became a bit more nuanced.

The series I've planned out to tackle (so far) are...

Thunderbolts 1-75
Captain America 1-50
Avengers 1-45
Thor 1-79
Black Panther 1-62
Inhumans 1-12
Avengers Forever 1-12
Captain Marvel 1-36/1-25
Marvel Boy 1-6
The Sentry 1-5
X-Force/X-Statix 116-129 /1-26
New X-Men 114-154

This is roughly 480 comics, with enough wiggle room for Annuals and few other bits and bobs I'm sure to add in as I go (will I read the Maximum Security crossover? Do I have to????), that's nearly 500 comics already! The thing about this period of Marvel, is that most of these series were helmed by just one creative team for their huge runs, with only a few having two writers, or an artist change. That's some crazy consistency compared to some books today!

My plan is to read them in roughly, but not strictly, in publication order. I'm reading these comics via the Marvel Unlimited iOS app, and it does a good job of organizing single issues by publication date, even across different titles. So switching between books as I go is easy, giving me the real comic shop experience of reading many different titles at a time. Which is how I like it. Generally I'll read three or four issues of one title, until it comes to a natural break, then catch up on another. etc... etc... In the 2000-2001 period I'll be juggling probably ten series at once before it starts to taper off. Fantastic. Or insane. I'm not sure which.

Note: I am considering adding in the Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada/David Mack run of Daredevil because its somewhat short. I didn't really want to read the Bendis run though, the premise of this exercise is based on when Bendis got the keys to the kingdom in late 2004 my interest in Marvel basically died. I'll probably Read Daredevil #1 when I get to it and see what I think first. I may also add the Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty maxi-series, since it was more Mark Waid Captain America form the time.

This Thread: I figure, if I'm going to be reading 500 comic books, it might be worth talking about them a little bit. I'm already about 16 month into the timeline, so I've already got something to talk about. My next post will cover the Onslaught aftermath, Heroes Reborn, and the arrival of Busiek and Bagley's newest super-team sensation, The Thunderbolts.

I hope this proves interesting for others.

Notable Comics dropping the Week of 01-02-13


Colin YNWA

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #1 on: 13 May, 2018, 05:29:32 pm »
Chuffed you are starting this and really looking forward to reading. There's a load of books here that were fundamental to me getting back into comics after my Wilderness Years. Specifically Busiek and Perez's Avengers run. Just great fun superhero stuff and nonsense. Got a load of associated and related comics and they reminded me what fun mainstream comics can be.

There will also be some other stuff I didn't get to so looking forward to seeing what you have to say about that too.

...will I read the Maximum Security crossover? Do I have to????)

Oh I own that... I'd spare yourself. Live Kree or Die is pretty good fun...

...while I agree Bendis on Avengers was a massive misfire and led to me dropping out of Marvel in the end (well it took me over 45 issues of New Avengers for it to sink in that I shouldn't just read stuff if I'm not enjoying it and I had enough Avengers I did enjoy to not waste money on stuff I didn't - I will be badgering you to try his DD. Its interesting to see what led to Dissembled! But I'll let you get into things first!

Looking forward to this.

Smith

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #2 on: 13 May, 2018, 06:12:47 pm »
I wouldnt recommend bothering with Sentry.AT ALL.
If you want a Superman who's mental,get King Hyperion.King Hyperion was a beast. :-)

The Adventurer

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #3 on: 13 May, 2018, 06:48:40 pm »
I wouldnt recommend bothering with Sentry.AT ALL.
If you want a Superman who's mental,get King Hyperion.King Hyperion was a beast. :-)

From Exiles? I’ve read Exiles, it’s great stuff (when Chuck Dixon and Chris Claremont aren’t f-ingit up.

Sentry, like a couple of choices on my list, is more for its historical context.  Like it or not, these books shaped marvel's future for a long time. Also it’s short, and I recall totally getting fooled by its 'Unearthed lost Marvel Comic' lies. Gotta find out the hubbub.

Notable Comics dropping the Week of 01-02-13


Smith

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #4 on: 13 May, 2018, 07:53:53 pm »
From what I remember,Priests Black Panther starts strong,but loses steam quickly and just becomes a mess.Its something of Priest trademark,it seems.
Marvel boy isnt even interesting from a historical perspective.But it is Grant Morrison,so thats probably your reason.
I cant remember what was going on with Thor and Captain Marvel at the time.
Spoiler I guess,but King Hyperion later showed up in Parkers Thunderbolts.Also great stuff.As mentioned in a different thread,there is a whole arc homaging Judge Dredd.
Also,Ultimate Spiderman,Paul Jenkins Spiderman (credit were credit is due),Garth Ennis Punisher,Bendis on Daredevil,Cable and Deadpool...there is a lot of good stuff from that era,and Im not saying that just because it was "my era".

Professor Bear

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #5 on: 13 May, 2018, 09:13:14 pm »
I was reading Dan Jurgens' Thor around this time, and it really is an underappreciated gem of a run beginning with the JRjr relaunch right up until the bizonkers years-long storyline set in the future of the Marvel universe where Thor has invaded Earth.  Jurgens really took his time with it and just as it was starting to get interesting, it got a single-issue wrap-up as Jurgens was booted off the title so it could be redressed under the Avengers: Disassembled banner - though we did get Michael Avon Oeming's Ragnarok wrap-up to the Thor character as was, so it wasn't a total loss.  This Jurgens/Oeming run was heavily stripmined for both Marvel films and comics over the coming years, who nicked some of the standout moments like Asgard falling on New York and the destruction of Mjolnir.

I would also argue Sentry should be skipped over: partly as he was just a rip off of Alan Moore's Supreme retcon but without any of the latter's inventiveness - once it's done the "unearthed Marvel character" schtick it has nothing else - but also because the Sentry saga being told by Bendis acknowledges no outside influence.  Where Bendis typically sanded over specifics in his Avengers titles until miniseries by other writers filled in gaps so Bendis could then fold those details and backstories into his Avengers work (IE: Ares), with Sentry the opposite happened: Bendis didn't just ignore the work of other writers, he actively retconned it.
Anyway, that's why I'd argue that if historical context is your only motivator, it might be an idea to give the non-Avengers Sentry titles a miss, even though Age Of The Sentry is actually really entertaining (though it also saw print after the 2004 cutoff).

Smith

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #6 on: 13 May, 2018, 09:24:57 pm »
And boy,did Marvel bend over backwards to explain how Carnage survived being ripped in half.In SPACE.
Look,Sentry sucked.In comparison,Triumph looks like good.And dont get me started on how much I cant stand Triumph.

Pyroxian

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #7 on: 13 May, 2018, 10:02:58 pm »
You could always try the CMRO order - http://cmro.travis-starnes.com/reading-order.php?page=136&list_type=1&limit=100. It's a bit better than just the publishing order as it tends to lump runs of stories together, so you don't get spoilers.

The Adventurer

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Re: 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project (Marvel Comics 1997-2004)
« Reply #8 on: 14 May, 2018, 12:40:00 am »
'The World's Greatest Comics' Project - 01: Justice, Like Lightning...

Incredible Hulk 449 (Peter David, Mike Deodato Jr.) January 1997
Thunderbolts 1 - 12 (Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley) April 1997 - March 1998
Thunderbolts Annual '97 (Kurt Buseik, Mark Bagley, Various.) August 1997
(Reading Total to date... 14)



First, a quick word about what came before...

In my experience the early-to-mid 90s were not kind to the Avengers. The founding members all went through some very questionable changes, mostly involving really bad new costumes , and in Iron Man's case made to turn traitor and then being replaced by a teenaged time traveling doppelganger. The Avengers team itself always seemed to be made up of C and Z-stringers. With such amazing heroes as Sersi, The Black Knight, and former Thor understudy Thunderstrike, just to name a few who made up its seemingly always changing, always middling, roster. The 90s were the years of X-Men and Spider-Man, with everybody else playing second banana-fish-fiddle. And you could tell.

In 1994 Marvel had bought Heroes World Distribution to distribute their comics exclusively, and when the bottom fell out of the comics collectors market in 1996 that acquisition was a major factor that lead to the company's bankruptcy. Bought out by toy company Toy Biz, Marvel set to work to shore up their assets and start climbing out of the hole they were in. One of the first decisions they made was to 'kill off' their weakest selling properties; The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Fantastic Four. Then relaunch them under the control of early 90s Marvel superstars, and Image co-founders, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. These 'Heroes Reborn' were set in their own pocket universe with its own unique Marvel history. Meanwhile in the original Marvel Universe, life moved on, with the characters in that world believing their greatest heroes to be dead.

This period without the Avengers and Fantastic Four, gave Marvel an interesting opportunity, to launch a series of new titles set in the Marvel Universe to refresh, revive, and redefine some of their other languishing properties. Only now without the Avengers and Fantastic Four around to overshadow them. Out of theis came titles like John Ostrander & Pasqual Ferry's Heroes for Hire and Tom Peyer & Casey Jones on Quicksilver. But of these titles there was one that captured readers imaginations, stood the test of time, and set the tone for Marvel super-heroes in general for the next few years. That series was Kurt Buseik and Mark Bagley's Thunderbolts.

The worst kept secret in comics...

The Thunderbolts are the Masters of Evil in disguise. At the time it was one of the greatest twists in recent memory. A bait and switch so perfectly executed NOBODY WOULD SHUT UP ABOUT IT. I learned of Thunderbolts, like most of these comics, from Wizard the Guide to Comics, and that twist was something I knew from moment one as a result. The Thunderbolts had been introduced briefly in Incredible Hulk 449, and debuted in their own title a few months latter, and as best I can tell the revelation that these 'all new heroes' were actually a handful of super-villain footnotes from throughout Marvel history was kept pretty tightly kept (it was pre-internet, it was probably a lot easier). But that one twist turned what was expected to be fun classic super-hero team book from 'Why didn't they just relaunch New Warriors'? to a 'Holy shiiiiiiiii...' experience. It certainly got people talking, and I recall their first appearance in Hulk 449 becoming a very sought after issue, even in a post collectors boom period.

But a series has to be more then a twist ending. And that's the the thing I didn't have going into reading this series, the answer to why its lasted so long, becoming a major Marvel franchise even now in 2018. And you have to chalk that up to writer Kurt Buisek and artist Mark Bagley. Bagley would latter become a superstar, drawing over a 100 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, but here on Thunderbolts you can see him really cutting loose, giving the characters really classic and recognizable looks with well organized action scenes. As for Kurt Busiek, if you're creating a super-hero team book that draws heavily on obscure characters from throughout Marvel history, there is no better choice. He manages to pepper every issue with interesting trivia and obscure villains. And the team dynamic of a group of out-of-luck loner super-villains corralled under the machinations of one of Captain America's greatest foes, Baron Zemo just.... works. The process of these characters transitioning from cynical bad guys taking advantage of a power vacuum to people who start to get addicted to the public attention from their heroic actions really rung true for me.

That said, if the first 12 issues of Thunderbolts has a weakness its in its antagonists. The Thunderbolts might have made their debut battling the Hulk, but their early rogues gallery is strictly D-list. The Mad Thinker and Arnim Zola are probably the best of the bunch, but they only hangs around for one issue each. Zola is tied into the introduction of non-villain new hero Jolt. The Rat Pack and the Elements of Doom are not so interesting. The Elements of Doom do hang around long enough to draw out the majority of New York's remaining super-heroes, in a very cool team-up scene though. Ironically, or maybe even intentionally, Zemo is the Thunderbolt's greatest enemy. By undermining his teammate's changing priorities, generally manipulating them against one another, and eventually outing the team's identities to the media early just because he grew impatient with the whole scheme. I get the sense that the return of the Avengers and Fantastic Four to the Marvel Universe by issue 10 of the Thunderbolts run accelerated plans for keeping the team's identity a secret longer, both from Zemo's perspective, but probably also editorially. This premature outing by Zemo leads the majority of the Thunderbolts to revolt against their leader even though his plan to conquer the world basically goes off without a hitch. The team clashes with Zemo and the mind controlled might of a combined Avengers and Fantastic Four, in easily the best showdown of the series so far.

Overall the first year of the Thunderbolts was big, bold, and the kind of action & adventure I look for in team super-hero books. Its unique focus on villains gave it the rub it needed to stand out in crowd, and its creative team was one of the best ever put together. Some sub-par bad guys, and possibly editorially rushed end game doesn't tarnish its great character growth and bombastic battles.

Next time... 'The World's Greatest Comics' Project - 02: Heroes Reborn, Return.

Notable Comics dropping the Week of 01-02-13