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No thanks, Cyborg, Jason Schachat prefers to stand.
Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdowns
The Best of 2005

A year full of heroes turning into murderers, mutants turning into norms, Spider-Man turning into SPIDER-Man, evil entities launching doomsday machines/beasts/armies against unsuspecting planets, A, B, and C-list characters coming back from the dead, and way too much Liefeld.

Now, let’s try to find the good in it!

As we did last year, this top ten list is based on an old Howard Hawks method for rating good movies. We were looking for books that had three great issues and no bad ones. Naturally, any comic that did better than that scored higher, but, to be fair, books that didn’t run for the whole year were taken down a few pegs.

So, without further ado–

Top 10 Ongoing Comic Series of 2005

1. Fables
Last year’s #8 moves up to the top spot this year, thanks to the delightful fallout of “March of the Wooden Soldiers” and, more importantly, the jaw-droppingly awesome “Homelands” story arc. We knew big things were coming in 2005, but who would expect Bill Willingham and company to actually reveal the identity of The Adversary and for it to be so flipping cool?

Great book, month after month. It ain't no Shrek.
“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is a magnificent tale when collected (which is what earned it so much critical praise), but “Homelands” was the comic book equivalent of cocaine; each issue was an pulse-pounding experience that had you desperate for the next fix.

Honestly, when Willingham ends this book, it’ll be a great loss to us all.

2. Ultimate X-Men
Well, if you’re surprised to see an X-book on this list, you’re not alone. The fact that it’s Ultimate X-Men is even more shocking to me, but when you see the name of Brian K. Vaughan attached to this title, it all makes sense.

True to form, Vaughan flooded us with great comic series in 2005, but nothing was as much of a sheer delight as Ultimate X-Men. Picking up the pieces left by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, Vaughan re-imagined even the most embarrassing heroes and villains of the X-franchise in ways both unique and loyal, giving this book more momentum than it’s had in quite a while.

...and now the bastard has to leave!

Let’s just hope the upcoming runs can keep the momentum going this time. Vaughan put so many pieces on into play, it’ll be very easy to lose track of some smaller threads, but, wow, what a rich tapestry they can weave.

3. Ex Machina
Yes, we’re all Brian K. Vaughan’s whores, here, and that’s why we’ll put any book he writes on our top ten lists.

Well, okay, that’s a lie.

But, just like last year, his books dominated. Ex Machina retains its position at #3, though it was a little shaky towards the end, there. The quasi-Golden Age meets The West Wing feel of the book started to fade on a couple issues, but artist Tony Harris kept the book worth the cover price.

Truth be told, I’m actually rather baffled that it hasn’t been cancelled yet. I mean, who knew a book that might be too political for spandex-lovers and too... well... spandexy for the literati would actually have a chance in this market?

Well, we look forward to putting it on the 2006 list!

And we're getting Tyroc back?

4. Legion of Super Heroes
I was pretty bummed last year when I had to write up my list and simply couldn’t justify working Mark Waid’s final issues on Fantastic Four into the top ten. This year, he gave me a book I had no qualms about pimping.

Legion of Super Heroes had to suffer through yet another facelift (oh, let’s hope Infinite Crisis doesn’t force more), but Waid and artist Barry Kitson finally made it welcoming to new readers while retaining the epic feel of LoSH stories. Tapping into the “kids vs. the adult world” aspect lacking from most of the teen hero books out there (see #5 below for another exception) pushed the story into a different brand of soap opera, but the space opera counter-balanced it beautifully.

Is it the next “Great Darkness Saga”? Well... yeah, I’d say that’s the level we’re approaching, here. Once again, thank you Mr. Waid. Thank you for making us love books we feared we’d never read again.

5. Runaways
Yup, that’s three Brian K. Vaughan books in the top five. Runaways was a runner-up, last year, but the dalliances with vampires and Cloak and Dagger slowed the pace down and thus ruined it for our criteria (despite a pulse-pounding conclusion).

Well, Runaways came back, this year, but without the over-arching “supervillain parents” plotline. Oddly enough, that works just fine. What killed the momentum last time was that we’d become so involved with the “kids vs. parents” story, any other arcs just seemed to get in the way. Now that they’re gone, these kids can get on with their lives– even if those lives are dedicated to fighting crime.

6. Daredevil
2005 was a damn good year for Daredevil. After the disappointment from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s enjoyable but decidedly NOT life-altering 2004 arcs which were expected to tell the story of Matt Murdock’s reign as Kingpin, the team turned the heat up with “The Decalogue” and the final chapter in their second run, “The Murdock Papers”.

Sure, it was a little late in coming (especially for Bendis fans who endured David Mack’s “Echo” run), but that dark, nuanced plotting that made us fall in love with Bendis the first time was back in force. It’ll be sad to see this team go, but at least they’re going out with a bang.

7. Astonishing X-Men
Oh, jeez... another X-book?

Yeah, sorry kids; there was just no denying the glory of the Joss Whedon/John Cassaday team. Sure, many people are fighting over whether the “Danger” arc lives up to or surpasses last year’s, but it’s hard to deny that this is one of the best X-Men runs we’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, the creative team had to take a sabbatical, so they couldn’t make it into the upper portion of this list, but the combination of powerful emotion, character, plot, and action pretty much guaranteed Astonishing X-Men a spot on this list.

Though 2006's return of the Hellfire Club (implying they actually went somewhere?) May not hold quite as much appeal as the Danger Room gaining sentience and attempting to exterminate the X-men, it’ll be hard to resist this title as long as Whedon and Cassaday stick with it.

8. JLA Classified
I almost feel guilty for including this title on my top ten...


If we get down to brass tacks, JLA Classified is more of a collection of unconnected mini-series than a bonafide ongoing. Nevertheless, when you can fit Grant Morrison and Ed McGuiness’s return of the Ultramarines, the last hurrah of Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire’s JLI, and Warren Ellis’ “New Maps of Hell” into the same year, you’re getting some kudos for making a consistently enjoyable title.

Now, if only the regular JLA were this good...

Come back, Bendis...Vaughan's just a fling...

9. Powers
Did everyone just forget about Powers since it went over to Marvel or something?

Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but it seems like Thor, New Avengers, and House of M have overshadowed the great work Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming have done on this book. Sure, it’s not set in the Marvel Universe and the history that has built up from the Image days until now are what it draws its strength from, but the creators almost seem to be bending over backwards to keep it accessible for new readers.

That and the sheer coolness of Deena Pilgrim’s character arc are enough reason to put it on this list.

10. Cable & Deadpool
Yeah, I’m deadly serious, even if the book isn’t.

Why put Cable & Deadpool on a list of the best books of the year? Well, truth be told, I was inundated with superhero books this year, so I didn’t get my usual exposure to goth comics, art crowd stories about emotionally crippled wage slaves, or manga sans oversexed tentacles.

Still, I have the feeling that none of them would do what Cable & Deadpool has consistently pulled off every month: it actually makes you laugh out loud.

For some reason, I never knew Fabian Nicieza could actually tell a joke, much less a story (that reason is probably called “Liefeld”), but this book has used Deadpool’s manic gallows humor and tendency to get himself into the most absurd of situations to make even dead wood like Cable interesting.

Maybe it initially filled the void left during She-Hulk’s hiatus, but Cable & Deadpool has proven itself to be both a gleeful romp through Deadpool’s killing spree’s and an insight into Cable’s search for a reason to still be in comics.

As long as Rob Liefeld never takes Patrick Zircher’s place on art duties, this should continue to be a solid title in 2006... but, yikes, you can just see Marvel doing that, can’t you? Cross your fingers.

Runner-ups (in alphabetical order)

Judd Winick has done surprisingly well with the sad, sad duty of being the one to bring Jason Todd back from the dead. In fact, I really wanted to include this on the top ten for that alone, but there just weren’t enough “great” issues to justify it.

Detective Comics
I just loved David Lapham’s mega-arc, and it’s worth noting that his issues have given the book its strongest sales since Ed Brubaker was the main scribe... but then you take a look at the “War Crimes” crossover, and you not only see some less than stellar issues, but also a spike in sales that demonstrates how intolerant fans are of arcs that take more than a year to complete.

Damn, Geoff Johns ended his run on this book in a blaze of glory. Unfortunately, the issues following his departure were as painful as root canal surgery.

...and it won't get a chance at redemption?

Gotham Central
This was another tough one... No really bad issues, but the few low-energy ones, Montoya’s increasingly depressing struggle with her dark side, and that damned Infinite Crisis crossover issue dragged Gotham Central off the top ten.

Incredible Hulk

Peter David’s “Tempes Fugit” arc rocked. Then friggin’ House of M used him for one of their few crossovers which, while somewhat enjoyable, ultimately led nowhere. Still, it wasn’t until Daniel Way sucked the life out of the book that it truly fell from grace.

Iron Man
Oh, this just hurt. Warren Ellis upgrading the character, Adi Granov giving us some of the best art of the year... but then they started missing deadlines, and the months just kept passing by... and, well, that’s just too few issues for us to consider it.

New Avengers
The core of this year’s New Avengers was “The Sentry” arc. It finally delved into the story of the ultimate-hero-of-the-Marvel-Universe-who-nobody-remembers (Stan Lee, you dog), and, rather than overloading us with another round of David Finch art, we got some breathtaking work from Steve McNiven. If not for the lagging endings to “Breakout” and “Ronin”, this would have been way up there.

Teen Titans
Again, Geoff Johns gave us some big, big moments from the return of Dr. Light, Robin’s dad dying, and Superboy coming under the control of Lex Luthor... but then another team took over for an arc, and, even though it was Gail Simone on script, Rob Liefeld had the duty of punishing our eyes with his crudely distorted screaming monkey art.

Bad Liefield! No top ten for you!

Ultimate Fantastic Four
I was actually astonished that this book did so well this year, especially when so much of that joy came from Mark Millar rather than Warren Ellis (although “N-Zone” was quite a good story). Still, the sluggishness of some issues and the recent “Tomb of Namor” arc kept it from being top ten material.

Here’s another damn shame. You start off the year with the wrap-up of “Enemy of the State”, and go right into the equally cool “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. THEN Marvel tosses the title to a bunch of yutzes who make Wolverine as dull as ever. Sure, the beginning of the year gave us some of the best Wolvie stories ever told, but the end of the year undid all that good in record time.

Y: The Last Man
Let’s face facts: Brian K. Vaughan had too friggin’ many books on the list as is.

Well, alright, there is also the problem that Y didn’t have enough great issues to make the cut, but it was damn close. In fact, I should probably re-check my count, but Vaughan really DOES have too many books on the list, so let’s stick it to that uppity over-talented bastard and deny Y a spot, ‘k?

#1 with a Bulleteer...

Top Crossover Event of 2005

Last year, we named the top 3 mini-series and maxi-series of the year and placed them in their separate categories, but this year put us in an interesting position.

Firstly, a decent number of the best mini-series this year are actually parts of crossover events. But then we have to consider that adding these series together into one story makes them count as maxi-series.

So, rather than work out the ins and outs of what is what and which is which, I took the coward’s way out and went with one big winner for the best Crossover of the year:

Seven Soldiers of Victory
Aside from a rocky zero-issue, this crossover has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of the year. Every issue of the seven mini-series involved plays an important part in the cataclysmic event that links all the stories together, but none of them fail to entertain as individual issues and separate miniseries.

THIS is how a crossover event should be. Rather than the rushed snippets and poorly linked subplots that make up the other events coming from the Big Two, Seven Soldiers actually attempts to gives us rich, satisfying stories instead of endless cliffhangers that force us to buy piles and piles of irrelevant comics.

Will Seven Soldiers have a lasting effect or boost any sales? I don’t know. What I can say is that it’s been a blast to read.

...and I can’t remember the last time I thought that of a multi-title crossover.

Jason Schachat

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