Because I don’t want to kill the suspense, I’ll post my “honorable mentions” at the end, and dig right in…
10. New X-Men (2002) (Marvel)
What’s the best written X-Men series of all time? If you’re talking accessibility, consistently beautiful art, and wonderful character work, it’s Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. Hands down. But if you’re talking about the concepts of mutation-as-the-future-of-our-species, ethnic cleansing, and racism—all the central themes of the X-books from day one—my vote goes to Grant Morrison. And it’s impossible for me to pick out and list a single or few story arcs—something I easily could do with his Batman stuff. From the beginning, with “E is for Extinction” (#114-116), Morrison completely rebooted the X-Men: Their costumes, Beast’s very appearance, the rapid development of the mutant gene, Emma Frost no longer being a bad guy…The whole thing was explosive, and disturbing to many X-fans at the time. He brought us true teen rebellion—something every “school” should always have, but didn’t for decades. Then he took us through the Xorn saga, which was brilliant. If you hate it, it’s probably because of what Marvel did with the Xorn character years later—not because of Morrison. And finally, he cleared the deck with a shocking twist at the end that forced readers to go back and re-read it again.
9. Animal Man (1988) (DC)
I’ve written about the last issue of this series, which is brilliant, here.
Overall, the series suffered from uneven artwork, but it never stopped being challenging and wild. It used a lot of concepts similar to what Alan Moore was doing with Swamp Thing at the time, but also had Morrison’s playful experimentation with the 4th wall. It’s like reading the current Animal Man stuff, only good. The current series takes a lot of Morrison’s ideas and…Well, frankly, doesn’t really do much at all with them.
8. Seven Soldiers (2005) (DC)
Any Marvel or DC editor will tell you that the hardest thing to do is launch a new series with a new hero, or a hero who hasn’t been in a movie or TV show. But to make an entire event about it is just impossible. Unless you’re Grant Morrison. (It helps that Morrison got to work with the greatest DC artists around, including J.H. Williams, Simone Bianchi, Cameron Stewart, Ryan Sook, Yanick Paquette, etc.) A group of miniseries and one-shots that all tied together in a confusing, multi-universe tribute to comic books of all eras, Seven Soldiers is the best example of everything that’s right about great superhero events. It’s not clean, it’s not clear—it’s a sprawling, fists and capes filled mess of a story told at breakneck speed with nothing but joy and delight. Grant Morrison has sung the praises of the Batman: Brave and Bold cartoon, and this is like a more adult comic book version of that show. Absolute balls-out fun.
7. Batman (2006) (DC)
I’ve written extensively about Morrison’s Batman run [LINK TO MORRISON BATMAN], so you may be surprised that it doesn’t rate higher on my list, but there’s a reason for that: Morrison’s Batbooks are the best Batman stories ever, but they’re still, for the most part, Batman stories. Unlike All Star Superman, Morrison never tries to transcend the superhero medium in his Batman books—he simply tries to tell the best superhero story he possibly can. And he succeeds. The best of his Batman books, I’d say, are: Batman And Son (#655-658), The Island of Mister Mayhew (#667-669), Joe Chill in Hell (#673), and Batman and Robin Volume 1, issues #1-3.
Hit next for #6 through #2!