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Top Four: Memorable Moments

spider-man diesThe Top Four series looks at certain aspects of the comic book world from two perspectives: Rob’s, as a relative newcomer to mainstream comics, and Kristine’s, as an older hand in the world.  Each installment evaluates the top four choices from both Rob and Kristine and why they chose their picks.



By Robert J. Baden and Kristine Chester

 

 

Throughout comics, there are certain moments that stick out, certain events that just remain with the reader as an anchor point, a defining situation that resonates for years, even decades, to come.  These moments not only help to define the comics that we read, but also our relationship with said comics; we become more interested, we become more invested, or we become more disillusioned by them.  The two of us have seen many such events in our day, but these four moments are the most memorable for us, the ones that stand out the most and define our involvement and enjoyment for reading comics.

SPOILERS BELOW

 


Rob’s Picks

#4: Crippling of Batgirl (Batman: The Killing Joke)

Background:

During one of his more notable schemes, the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon in his own home and shoots Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), causing a severe spinal cord injury and paralyzing her from the waist down.  Following this event, Barbara becomes the Oracle, an expert hacker who provides logistical support to various superheroes (including Batman).  While as Oracle, Barbara helped to form the Birds of Prey team and continued to work closely with Batman throughout her time confined to a wheelchair.

Pros:

This is one of the only times that I personally know of in which a superhero was injured beyond the point of recovery (until her return in the New 52 continuity).  Barbara had to deal with no longer being Batgirl, as well as the normal problems associated with now becoming a paraplegic.  But, that didn’t stop her; she pushed forward, she evolved, and she learned to fight crime in a different way.

Cons:

This event effectively took out a long-time partner of Batman and one of the few mainstream female superheroes.  Until this event, the title of Batgirl existed with only her; following it, Batgirl became much like how Robin was, a revolving door of young girls who at one point would partner up with Batman, and then move on to other things (either by choice or fate).


#3: Crippling of General Hawk (DDP’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Issues #32-34)

Background:

While battling it out with Cobra forces in the Joe headquarters, Zartan (in the guise of Cobra Commander) shoots Hawk in the waist, causing the bullet to lodge itself into his spine without the possibility of removal.  After having a coma-like dream in which he’s captured Cobra Commander, Hawk awakens to find himself paralyzed and restricted to a wheelchair for the foreseeable future.

Pros:

While there have been deaths and injuries in Joe comics before, this is the first time that a leader—in both name and fact—has been taken out to such a degree.  While he doesn’t die, he is regulated to a more advisory role, and I feel it shows that even those who are considered untouchable can still be hurt.

Cons:

Hawk was always good at leading from the front, never asking more of his personnel than what he would be willing to do himself.  Following his injury, he’s been pushed to the side while others take command, and the lust for vengeance upon his enemy threatened to overwhelm him extensively.


#2: Death of the Wasp (Secret Invasion Crossover Event)

Background:

During Marvel’s Secret Invasion event, the Skrull pretending to be Hank Pym (Yellowjacket) gave Janet van Dyne (The Wasp) a new serum that was supposed to enhance her size-changing properties; instead, it caused her to grow at an out-of-control rate with devastating consequences.  Thor instead killed Wasp in order to keep her from harming others, an act that plagues him and the real Hank Pym.

Pros:

Though she’s not often described as a major superhero, she’s been involved in major events since her introduction in the 1960s.  To have the death of a semi-major character—and not have her come back a short while later—shows promise in my mind that Marvel can evolve its storytelling process.

Cons:

The way in which the Wasp died leaves much to be desired; this is a character that has been a part of the Avengers nearly since its inception and partners with Hank Pym throughout several developments in their relationship.  She deserved a much better way to go out than having to be sacrificed by one of her colleagues and friends.


#1: Death of Ultimate Spider-Man (Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1, Issues #156-160; Ultimate: Fallout)

Background:

Several criminals escape prison and—under the leadership of the Green Goblin—track down Spider-Man for revenge.  Knowing that the criminals are coming for Peter, Aunt May and Gwen leave, hoping that he will see their warning and get away before the criminals show up. He doesn’t and the result is a battle that taxes an already wounded Spider-Man from being shot while saving Captain America’s life.  Finally, the effort proves fatal for Spider-Man, and the teenaged webbed wonder succumbs to his injuries.

Pros:

The is the first time that I know of that a major and popular superhero—if even in an alternate timeline than the main continuity—has been killed and actually stayed dead.  It required the characters to deal with the death and to deal with the outcome of what was to happen following his death, and that was a big deal for me.  I truly loved reading the line, and the death of Peter Parker hit me hard, but it proved that even heroes really can die.

Cons:

Spider-Man’s death left a huge hole in the Ultimate Comics lineup, and even though Miles has come to replace Peter, it’s just not the same as before.

 

 



Kristine’s Picks

 

#4: Secret War Crossover Thing (Top 10 #6, #9, #12, 1996)

Background:

Dust Devil's mother's apartment is infested with Ultra Mice, so Dust Devil hires the Ex-Verminator, who realizes the only way to handle Ultra Mice is to use Atom Cats.  The situation escalates as mice and cats use their cosmic powers against one another, forcing Dust Devil's mom to move in with him.  Later, Dust Devil's mom calls him, because the Ex-Verminator has come looking for his paycheck.  Unfortunately, the Ultra Mouse Cosmouse altered continuity, saying the entire incident never happened, leaving Ex-Verminator frustrated and Dust Devil and his mother clueless.

Pros:

This B story in Top 10 highlights exactly the sort of jabs Alan Moore got in at the comic book industry during the series' run.  Hearing the Ex-Verminator narrate the events going on is hilarious, and the images of the Ultra Mice and Atom Casts duking it out are so cute.  The punchline to this situation also arrived at a time when it was needed most, after several dark and heavy Top 10 issues.

Cons:

The story unfolds over the course of several issues and a lot of things awesome, funny, and terrible happen in between, which makes it easy to loose track of this storyline.  It also brings to mind all the horrible retconning and complicated crossovers that occur in superhero comics.


#3: “How Come You're Not a Girl All the Time?” (Runaways Vol. 2, Issues #22-29, 2007)

Background:

Xavin is a skrull from Tarnax VII, destined to wed a Majesdanian bride, Karolina Dean, in order to create peace between
their peoples.  There was just one problem: Karolina was a lesbian.  Skrulls are shapeshifters by nature and Xavin had no problem changing between male and female depending on Xavin's whim.  When the character was brought into Karolina's adoptive family of the Runaways, Xavin's gender-changing caused some confusion and discomfort for the others on the team.  Molly even asked, “How come you're not a girl all the time?”

Pros:

Xavin is something rarely seen in comics, someone who doesn't fall within the gender binary.  Throughout the books Xavin appears in, Xavin's gender changes from scene to scene.  Sometimes it's the focus, such as Karolina arguing over who the real Xavin is, other times its merely that, background material, but the Runaways eventually accept Xavin as one of their own and stop questioning Xavin's gender.  For me personally, the handling of Xavin is one of my most memorable moments in the Runaways and superhero comics in general, because a straight answer about Xavin's gender is never given.  Xavin is simply Xavin.

Cons:

English could really benefit from a set of gender-neutral pronouns.


#2: Teaching Fun (Batgirl: The Lesson “Frogs, Snails & Puppy-Dog Tails” #17, 2011)

Background:

Damian Wayne on his best days is a serious, snarky twelve year old.  At his worst, he's a raging psychopath.  Contrast that with the optimistic, equally sarcastic Stephanie Brown, and you have comedy gold.  “Frogs, Snails & Puppy-Dog Tails” featured the two of them teaming up. No Batman and no Oracle around to force them to play nice.  The two of them attempt to stop a child kidnapping operation during which Damian has to go undercover as a student, which he does badly, causing Stephanie to realize Damian has no idea how to play.  The two of them ultimately stop the kidnappers and then Stephanie insists that Damian learn how to have fun, dragging him to a moon bounce, insisting “this is fun.”  Damian continues to argue with her, but in the last panel, we can see him start to smile.

Pros:

This is such a cute and really humanizing scene for Damian, which was something he sorely needed.  Any time Steph and Damian are paired up under the pen of Bryan Miller, it's a wonderful issue with “Frogs, Snails & Puppy-Dog Tails” not only being my favorite Stephanie/Damian story but one of my favorites in the all of Batgirl.

Cons:

For the Damian fans, this scene could probably be maddening as Stephanie, someone he doesn't like, forces him out of his psychopathic little shell.  The earlier scene showing Damian to be unsure of how to play is just painful to see for everyone, though that was clearly its intent to have us sympathize with his lack of a normal childhood.


#1: Death of Ben Reilly/Spider-Man (Spider-Man #47, 1997)

Background:

Ben Reilly was a clone of Peter Parker originally created by the Jackal to seed confusion for our hero.  The two fought and Ben lost.  Years later, Ben returned to New York not quite the same person.  He took up the mantle of the Scarlet Spider for a time before Peter lost his powers and it was discovered he was the clone.  Ben, thought to be the original Peter Parker at the time, then took up the mantle of Spider-Man.  About a year later, both Ben and Peter were captured by the previously thought dead Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin.  During the fight between both Spider-Man and the Goblin, Ben threw himself in front of the Goblin's glider and was impaled in order to save Peter.  After Peter kicked the crap out of the Goblin, he returned to Ben only to find his body was breaking down.  Ben had been the clone all along.  Peter was the one true Peter Parker and Spider-Man.

Pros:

The comics where Ben was Spider-Man were some of my earliest comic memories.  Following him was a fresh start and, for all intents and purposes, he was my Spider-Man.  This moment was very powerful and upsetting after devoting so much energy to this character to have him killed.  What perhaps made it worse was learning that Ben was the clone all along.  This comic did lead to some other really cool things such as the alternate universe spin-off Spider-Girl, where Ben was very much a legacy character, with Mayday mimicking her uncle's costume and web shooter design.

Cons:

Anyone not me is likely to view this in a rather positive light.  After having stripped Peter of so much, he had many things restored to him, knowing he was the real Peter Parker, Spider-Man, etc.; however, for every good thing, there are the bad.  He was forced to watch Norman Osborn die again, he lost Ben, who was essentially his brother at this point, and he was absent while Mary Jane gave birth.


There are other major events within comics, and some of them are quite noteworthy; we just were not able to evaluate them all for our article.  But, if you have specific moments, events that define your enjoyment—or lack thereof—concerning a certain title or character, then good for you. For those of you who don’t have such defining moments, think hard and reread if you have to, because we can guarantee that those moments are there.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 December 2018 17:37

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