Before we start talking about comics and how I’ll be ranking every story I’ve ever read, let me just say this: we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now so things are pretty weird. It’s probably going to get weirder, so I hope you, whoever you are reading this, no matter your current circumstances, are doing OK.
Stay home. Stay safe. Stay together. Stay human.
Now back to comics!
I’ve always wanted to do a reading project but I never found the time to start something. Now that I have more time in my hands — thanks, coronavirus — I’m starting something.
Beginning with the comic book stories I read recently, I’ll be placing everything in a list. But it’s not just going to be any ordinary list, no. I’ll be ranking these stories from best to worst based on my personal enjoyment of the writing and the art. I will update the list regularly as I read new stories or revisit the ones I’ve read before. That’s it. That’s the project.
Shout out to Battle of the Atom, the podcast that ranks every X-Men story ever, for inspiring this initiative.
Let’s kickstart The List with the four stories I read in the first week of May 2020: The Judas Contract, the first volumes of Bitch Planet and The Beauty, and The Man Without Fear, plus a few that I’ve recently reviewed.
New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Story: Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
Art: George Pérez
Inks: Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo
Originally published in 1984 in Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 and Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3, The Judas Contract is probably the most defining Teen Titans story of all time.
This doesn’t cover the reveal that the newest member of the Teen TItans, Terra, is a dirty traitor planted in the team by Deathstroke the Terminator. That’s one of the most shocking and controversial moments in comics history, so I recommend starting with that before diving into Judas Contract.
Here though, we go in with Deathstroke already enacting his endgame with the Teen TItans. The story focuses more on Deathstroke’s origin and mission to collect on his dead son’s contract with super criminal organization H.I.V.E. It gives Deathstroke the character depth most super-villains never get.
By giving the main antagonist a strong backstory while continuously developing the characters of the Titans through multiple sub-plots, it’s no surprise that this Wolfman and Pérez classic has been the inspiration for Titans stories in other media including an animated movie and a bad ass streaming show.
It’s just appropriate that a classic like The Judas Contract sets the bar by being the first to enter The List.
Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
Story: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Valentine De Landro and Robert Wilson IV
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Some comics are accused of being feminist and some creators are demanded to admit that they have a feminist agenda, mostly by butt-hurt incels. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Bitch Planet embraces feminism and violently throws it at readers’ faces.
The first volume, Extraordinary Machine, introduces a dystopian future where men rule with iron dicks and women who are deemed “non-compliant” in terms of looks, actions, and every other criteria men have invented are sent to a prison planet.
Think Orange Is The New Black but with characters being forced to compete in team-based Fight Cub matches on another planet in the future.
I like the high concept and the bold political message, but Extraordinary Machine is just a taste. I feel like the meat of the story comes in later volumes which I still haven’t read.
As strong as an introduction as it is, it’s still just an introduction. It gets the #2 spot on The List.
The Beauty Vol. 1
Story: Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley
Art: Jeremy Haun
Colors: John Rauch
The Beauty is about a sexually transmitted disease that inexplicably makes the infected more physically attractive. The only thing they need to worry about is a slight fever and the eventual spontaneous combustion.
It’s a quick read and the art looks great, so I’m inclined to check out the rest of the series even though reviews for later issues aren’t that good.
The Beauty Vol. 1 has the right amount of mystery and suspense and grisly deaths. I’m glad I got this when it was on sale.
It’s a more satisfying first volume than Bitch Planet’s, so I’m making this the new #2 on my list.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Story: Frank Miller
Art: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Al Williamson
Daredevil’s origin story has been told numerous times in multiple forms of media, but among the retellings across comics, movies, and TV shows, The Man Without Fear has to be the most beautifully told.
This 5-issue mini-series is a retcon of DD’s origin, but unlike most retcons, it’s not unnecessarily complicated nor infuriatingly illogical. Elektra and Wilson Fisk, The MF’n Kingpin of Crime, fit seamlessly into Matt Murdock’s early years. Matt’s story is rewritten without throwing away everything that came before.
Frank Miller uses beautiful words to tell the tragedy of Matt’s father Battlin’ Jack Murdock, the intoxicating volatility of Elektra, and the rise of The Kingpin. He even works in how a young Matt Murdock trained with Stick, making it more believable that a blind lawyer can kick ninja ass as a vigilante.
Miller’s lyrical writing is accompanied by John Romita Jr.’s dynamic artwork. His line-heavy work may not float other people’s boat, but I’m a big fan especially when fight scenes are involved. He just gives more weight to kicks and punches.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is just a great piece of storytelling that I would love to revisit again and again. This is our new #1.
Also Ranking Every Story I’ve Recently Reviewed
I’ve already written about the following stories, so I’ll just quickly talk about them here, short and sweet, with links to my reviews if you want to check it out.
House of X – Mutants triumphant! Jonathan Hickman’s relaunch of the X-Men franchise is such a joy to read, especially for X-Men fans like me. Adding this as our new #2.
Powers of X – While this series pretty much goes hand in hand with House of X, I find HoX to be less weird and more enjoyable. Putting this right below HoX.
Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening – Beautiful and haunting, I’m putting this above the other Image stories on The List so far.
Rachel Rising – There are seven volumes of this series, but since I read them all one after the other, I’m putting Rachel Rising in the list as one single story at #4.
The Avengers #1: Coming of the Avengers! – The first issue of The Avengers is fun, goofy, and drawn by Jack Kirby. I would gladly revisit it every now and then, but it’s not delightful enough to go beyond #7 in the list.
So, IN CONCLUSION, here’s the first iteration of The List: Every Story I’ve Ever Read Ranked from Best to Worst:
- Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
- House of X
- Powers of X
- Rachel Rising
- New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
- Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening
- The Avengers #1: The Coming of the Avengers!
- The Beauty Vol. 1
- Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
Whether you agree or disagree with this list, let me know through the comments or contact me directly.
New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine, The Beauty Vol. 1, and Daredevil: The Man Without Fear are all available wherever fine comics are sold.