Perhaps I should qualify that headline to the more accurately titled, “The Top Ten Team-Ups in Comics Today, From The Pool of Books on the Subscription List of Peter A. Klauser (me).” As a long-time reader, the term “Team-Up” in comics conjures images of Spider-Man pairing up on the pages with Daredevil, or the good & noble Superman joining forces with dark & brooding Batman. But, for the sake of my article, I am choosing to focus the duo behind the pages … the writers or artists that come together to make magic. Wonder twins activate:
#10. Frank Miller and Jim Lee: Batman and Robin
Frank Miller has always been a writer that I have enjoyed reading (and his artwork is just as dark and dramatic). The work he has been turning out with Jim Lee on the Batman and Robin title is some of his best. Miller has visited this character many times in the past, and each time he has brought something special to the book. However, with the help of Lee, this title is some of the gruffest, roughest work I’ve seen featuring the Dark Knight. The duo often lets many months lapse between titles (I suppose that’s the byproduct of Miller’s new career in film), but it’s always worth the wait.
#9: Damon Lindelof and Leinil Francis Yu: Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk
Speaking of “worth the wait,” the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk book took years to deliver just a few short issues. But I (for one) didn’t mind. The teaming of Lindelof (writer and co-creator of ABC’s Lost) and Yu (who seems to be just about everywhere right now) was simply perfect. Their take on the Hulk was funny, pointed and memorable. And Wolvie has never been such a bad-ass. The visual of The Hulk ripping Wolverine in two, then throwing half of him miles into the mountain was only topped by The Hulk eventually eating his adamantium-laced opponent. Tasty!
#8: The Web Heads: The Amazing Spider-Man
The #8 Top Team-Up is comprised of the large group of Web Heads at Marvel (Gale, Guggenheim, Kelly, Slott, Van Lente, Waid, and Wells). Ever since Marvel drastically altered the direction of Spider-Man (with the One More Day / Brand New Day arc) they have been releasing the Amazing title three times a month (which is awesome for the fans, although a little challenging for the pocketbook). The rotating teams of artists and writers (each work on one to four issues at a time) have all been stellar. Paul Azaceta’s stylized artwork is great (almost like Sean Phillips), and he even made Electro scary/cool again. Joe Kelly’s writing is extremely funny. Mark Waid has crafted a creepy Vulture character that actually gave me nightmares. And Mike McKone’s Black Cat reminded me what it was like to be a teenage boy. Thankfully, all of the writer/artist teams have been carefully overseen by the ever-watchful eyes of the Web Heads committee. I also enjoy the witty, no-holds barred Letters Column from editor, Stephen Wacker (and occasionally, Assistant Editor, Tom Brennan).
#7: Mark Millar and Steve McNiven: Wolverine, Old Man Logan
Having previously teamed up for Marvel’s Civil War, and later on the Nemesis title, Millar and McNiven make one Hell of a creative team. Mark Millar is a great writer, although many of his stories seem similar to me. Steve McNiven is one of my favorite current artists (and a really nice guy too — I met him at the Emerald City ComiCon a couple of years ago), however sometimes his art can miss the mark. However, with the Old Man Logan storyline, these two superstars nailed it from the very first page to the last. Wolverine will never be the same (case in point: after this run, I canceled Wolverine from my pull-list).
#6: Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev: Spider-Woman
Bendis and Maleev have been teaming up for some time. And, while my favorite work from this paid has to be the long run they turned in for Daredevil, I love the books they are currently delivering for Spider-Woman. BMB’s writing is easy to read (he write thought-bubble-dialog as well as Stan Lee did), and Maleev’s artwork is mesmerizing. His photo reference for Jessica Drew (Jolyn Carpenter) must be a strong, sexy woman since his illustrations of the character are dependably depicted in that way. This is one of those few books where I find myself reading it twice — once to enjoy the story, and a second time to savor the artwork.
#5: Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris: Ex Machina
I’ve been following this book from the beginning and I am constantly impressed with Vaughn’s writing and Harris’ illustration work. The story is entertaining & engaging (at times violent & shocking) while fresh & exciting. At last year’s EmeraldCityComiCon, I inadvertently told Tony Harris that he had been fired from the title when I informed him how disappointed I was he wasn’t working with Vaughn anymore (I thought that they were making a change in artist when he took a break and a guest artist stepped in). I think I scared the Hell out of him for a moment, until I realized my mistake and corrected myself. I guess I was just returning the favor by giving him a jolt, just like he and Vaughn give me each month. (As a side note: Vaughn and Harris are almost ALWAYS on time with their title, I don’t think they’ve ever missed a month).
#4: Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting: The Marvels Project
Ed Brubaker is one of my favorite writers right now (see #1 below). He is so much fun to read, and I love the work he and Steve Epting are doing together on The Marvels Project book. They are re-telling the early stories of key Avengers characters, and placing them deep in the pulp-inspired history that created comic books in the first place. By weaving real-world historical figures and events into the story, they are making the supernatural seem real. And the covers from my friend, Steve McNiven don’t hurt either.
#3: Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.: Kick-Ass
Mark Millar appears for a second time on the list, this time by teaming up with the unparalleled John Romita Jr. They have combined their talents to bring us one of the coolest, craziest books on the shelves today. Every month or so, I stop by The Comic Stop in Lynnwood to pick up the contents of my subscription box. Without fail, the Kick-Ass title is always the first book I read. Now that the story has been turned into a major Hollywood movie (as most great books do), I hope more people will discover the original material. Kick-Ass is … well, pretty kick ass!
#2: Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti: Jonah Hex
This team of co-writers made the list (toward the top, no less) because of their consistent ability to entertain in 22 short pages. Grey and Palmiotti have such a natural style with their character dialog, and they can create a creative and compelling story that wraps up between covers (very few times have they carried a story for more than one issue — often times, they tell more than one tale in a single issue … and it’s always engrossing). The stable of artists they work with are wildly different from each other, and a perfect fit for each story (I especially love the realism of Billy Tucci’s recent work).
#1: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: Criminal, The Sinners
Sitting high on the top of my Top Ten Team-Ups list are Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Having teamed up many times in the past, the duo gets better with each title they take on. From Criminal, to Sleeper, to Incognito, and back to Criminal again, the creative crew is the best comic book team since Lee & Kirby (in my humble opinion — but that’s what this post is all about). Phillips’ artwork superbly frames up the noir tales that Brubaker creates. His art is rough, and dark — just like the characters. I am jealous of Sean’s ability to convey so much emotion with his mastery of negative space (and his painted works are always cool too). A special mention must be made for the compelling colors of Val Staples. Brubaker also shares his love for the medium by providing reviews of classic movies, books, or pulps (often through a guest essayist). Brubaker and Phillips are so good, they really make you care about the bad guys in their winning work.
Filed under Entertainment , Product Review. Tagged alex maleev, art, avengers, batman, billy tucci, brian k vaughn, brian michael bendis, comic book, comics, damon lindelof, ed brubaker, frank miller, hulk, jim lee, jimmy palmiotti, john romita jr, justin grey, leinil francis yu, list, mark millar, review, sean phillips, spider-man, spider-woman, steve epting, steve mcniven, the comic stop, tony harris, web heads, wolverine
Peter, you really love comic books! I grew up in Egypt watching Batman & Robin, I use to wait every week for it. back then we could not get any comic books (Egypt was kind of censored from any American books back then)
Great post, Pete. You did you research, and it shows. I haven’t read all of those titles, but you definitely got me interested in checking them out. I do believe you got your list in the best order and I like how you built up to Number One (incidentally, I totally concur with your Brubaker/Phillips assessment, and I can totally appreciate your mention of Val Staples and his contribution to the team). Number one revelation from your list: ELECTRO is cool again!!!! This, I really must see. Thanks for spending time on a great post — it is really fun!
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