Here’s a confession: I’m not a fan of Astro City. I don’t hate it. I like the concept. I just never found it interesting enough—what with all the other comics competing for my attention—to read all the way through. I bought the trade (twice), and I just couldn’t get into it.
Everybody knows that when you think of fan-letter-writer-turned-celebrated-comic-book-author Kurt Busiek, Astro City is what first comes to mind. But not for me.
My favorites are…
THE BERKELEY PLACE KURT BUSIEK TOP 10
10. FANTASTIC FOUR #286/AVENGERS #263
The ressurection of Jean Grey was Kurt Busiek’s idea, and it actually made sense. No, he didn’t create these comics, but without him they wouldn’t have existed—and Busiek might never have had a comic career, either, as the concept was his big breaking moment.
Busiek and Carlos Pacheco Wildstorm 6-issue fantasy mini about a universe in which the United States of Columbia is the world’s dominant super power. The story is a coming-of-age tale of a kid in the U.S. of C. Army that uses magic to fight ogres and dragons. The art is amazing, and the strength of the book—like most of Busiek’s best stuff—comes from the little moments of characterization and the tight dialog.
8. JLA #107-114 (“Syndicate Rules”)
An under-appreciated gem from a title that has always been uneven. It’s high concept: The Crime Syndicate are evil versions of the JLA from an alternate Earth, which Marvel did first when they used evil versions of the JLA from an alternate Earth and called them The Squadron Supreme, who fought the Avengers in some Avengers books that Busiek himself wrote back before he was famous. Got all that? No? Well you can read about why I think this JLA run is great here
7. AMAZING FANTASY #16-18/ UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN
These are on here more for the concept than the execution. Amazing Fantasy #16-18 are very well done stories that essentially take place right after Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Fantasy #15. The concept worked so well that Marvel green-lit Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which ran for 25 issues and retconned (or “filled in the blanks between”) classic older Spidey tales. It’s a great idea—the kind of think Brian Michael Bendis might have done early in his career—even if it didn’t always hit home runs. If you’re a Spider-Man-phile (and if you read my blog, you probably are), it’s worth checking out “Untold Tales.” But no comic fan will go wrong with Amazing Fantasy #16-18.
Some kind dude posted the whole issue of #16 here
6. THE AVENGERS #41-55 (“KANG!”)
You’ll note that Avengers Forever is not on my list. That’s because that book tried too hard to sew together a time travel story that got mired in continuity problems. But Busiek made similar efforts in what is collected as “The Kang Dynasty,” a long arc that really should have been the blueprint for Bendis’ recent Ultron event. This is time travel done right.
5. POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #90
Nobody ever remembers Power Man And Iron Fist when they do best of lists, but many, many creators worked on this book before (or while) they became Famous with a capital F: John Byrne. Frank Miller. Chris Claremont. Jim Owlsey. Mary Jo Duffy. And, yes, Kurt Busiek. Issue #90 was my first time meeting Unus the Untouchable, and the way Kurt handled a duo whose only powers are hand-to-hand combat taking on a guy who can’t be touched was absolutely brilliant. And a lot of fun. A great little done-in-one that everyone forgets, but you can probably scoop up for under a buck at most comic cons.
Don’t bother trying to understand the story, and don’t look for the character work that Kurt Busiek is terrific at. Just admire that he created a framework on which George Perez could hang the most jaw-dropping art of his career.
Busiek was very good at big, loud, stupid events. (It’s funny: He does intimate and gigantic equally well.) I actually love his Maximum Security miniseries, which tied into most Marvel books at the time (including The Avengers), and which I’ve written about here. But JLA/Avengers is the mother of all crossovers, and no “Best of Busiek” list would be complete without it.
Marvels, and it’s good-but-not-as-good sequel “Eye of the Camera” retconned Marvel’s Golden Age by telling the story of the coming of super-powered beings through the eyes of a reporter. There’s actually been lots of great comics told from a reporter’s POV—it’s a gimmick that works. Marvels is full of Easter eggs—the more you know about the Marvel Universe, the more you’ll enjoy it.
It also was the first Alex Ross comic to hit it big. I’m not as big a fan of Ross’ art as many others are, but his classic, painted style works in this book about the olden days.
2. SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY
One of DC’s best Elseworlds stories, but I know that that’s damning with faint praise. So don’t let the fact that it’s an Elseworlds-type story keep you away from this miniseries, with wonderful art from Stuart Immonen, that tells the story of a Clark Kent who loves to read Superman comics and
learns that he actually has the powers of Superman.
1. THE AVENGERS #19-22 (“ULTRON UNLIMITED”)
Busiek and George Perez had a terrific run on The Avengers from start to finish, but this is by far the best of all their arcs. It’s also the best Ultron story ever. See what I wrote about it here.