Top Comic Book Storylines: 48-45

Today, we continue our countdown of your picks for the greatest comic book storylines of all-time with #48-45.

You voted (over 1,000 ballots cast and a little bit more than the last time we did this countdown) and you all sent in ballots ranking your favorite storylines from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). I added up all of the points and here we are!

48. "Grand Guignol" by James Robinson and Peter Snejbjerg (with Paul Smith) (Starman #62-73) - 219 points (5 first place votes)

In the climax to James Robinson’s Starman series, Jack Knight returns from a trip to outer space to discover that his home of Opal City is under siege by a collection of Jack’s villains, seemingly led by the Shade, who, while nominally a villain, had never acted quite like this. Robinson’s Starman was not some rainbows and puppies type of book, but there was also a general lack of the same grim and gritty style of storytelling that had become so prevalent in comic books of the time. When something bad happened, the people involved truly reflected on how bad it was. You wouldn’t see stuff like buildings knocked down and it being no big deal. So when Jack returned to see such devastation in his town, it was like a slap in the face and Robinson and Snejbjerg handled it beautifully…

The epic tale continued through a series of clever battles (the Shade has cut Opal City off from the rest of the world, so the only heroes the city has are whoever was in the town at the time, including Jack, Elongated Man, Black Condor and Jack’s father, the Golden Age Starman) intermixed with flashbacks. There were plenty of twists, of course, including the revelation of who was REALLY behind the whole thing.

The storyline ended with a sad, dramatic sacrifice. This was one of those perfect sort of mixes of action and character-driven drama that made Starman such a special comic book. Robinson’s Golden Age collaborator, Paul Smith, even had the chance to return to sort of say goodbye to that era with Robinson with a flashback about the wives of the Justice Society of America.

RELATED: Top Comic Book Storylines: 52-49

47. “The Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion (Batman #1-11) – 225 points (3 first place votes)

This story is about the revelation that there has been a secret organization controlling Gotham City from behind the scenes called the Court of Owls. They collect and train agents known as “Talons” to do their dirty work. Naturally, they take issue with Bruce Wayne having such an influence upon how Gotham City so they decide to kill off Bruce Wayne. Obviously, Batman takes issue with this and soon finds himself trying to take down the organization.

Greg Capullo is a magnificent action artist and Scott Snyder smartly alternates between the mystery of the Court and all out action sequences where Capullo’s pencils practically explode upon the page. Take, for instance, this sequence where Batman discovers one of the Court’s nests and they try to kill him…

such action!

Wow, that is a striking sequence. I especially like how Snyder really nails Batman's attitude to these circumstances - analytical, calm under pressure and just, "Screw this, I know that this is not a good situation to be in, but I'm the goddamn Batman, I Know exactly what to do here."

After the Court's chief Talon, William Cobb, almost beats Batman to death (after forcing him to go through a gauntlet that teaches Batman the history of the Court), Batman shocks Cobb and the Court itself by managing to not only escape death, but to beat Cobb nearly to death. This lets the Court know that Batman is far more formidable than they ever knew. They had been worried about Bruce Wayne, but now they had to destroy Batman and also show Gotham City that it was ruled by the Court. So this led to the Night of the Owls, where they activated all of their Talons and sent them to assassinate pretty much every major Gotham City figure. Batman had to call in all of his various Bat-related agents to save the day.

Batman then seemingly took down the Court for now, while also discovering that one of its members might actually be RELATED to him!

This was the re-introduction of Batman into the New 52 and Snyder’s intricate plotting and bold new characters quickly made it the centerpiece of the Bat-books.

46. "Wolverine" by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein (Wolverine (1982) #1-4) - 229 points (4 first place votes)

When Marvel decided to expand their publishing approach with the addition of mini-series as a standard publishing tool (rather than a very rare occurrence), there was little doubt that Wolverine would be one of the characters getting one of these new mini-series. However, it likely still took people back at just how GOOD the mini-series was. A lot of these series turned out to be fairly forgettable but when you put the top Marvel writer, Chris Claremont, with the top Marvel artist, Frank Miller, you were bound to get quite a comic book. This series (with finishes by Joe Rubinstein, whose contribution to this series is often overlooked). This series takes Wolverine to Japan for an epic battle between Wolverine and the evil ninja Lord Shingen and the Hand (the evil ninja organization from Miller’s Daredevil).

Miller's layouts are stunning and indelible, like this amazing two-page splash....

We also meet the free-spirited Yukio, who helps Wolverine in Japan. In the end, Wolverine manages to achieve enough of a position of honor that his Japanese girlfriend, Mariko, can agree to marry him. By the way, the first page of this mini-series debuted the phrase “I’m the best there is at what I do.” So for that alone, this series would be pretty memorable.

RELATED: Top Comic Book Storylines: 56-53

45. "House of X" by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia (House of X #1-6, Powers of X #1-6) – 231 points (5 first place votes)

A few years back, Jonathan Hickman was given license to completely overhaul the X-Men franchise with a pair of miniseries called House of X and Powers of X. As part of their commitment to Hickman's new approach, Marvel canceled all of their X-Men titles and had only Hickman's two books come out for three months, with House of X one week and Powers of X the next week. He worked with artists Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia on the two series.

The series reshaped the whole X-Men experience by setting up their own nation and opening it up to representatives from other nations in exchange for a special medicine that the X-Men have developed from a plant on Krakoa, but things take a strange turn with Ambassador Magneto...

The series went into the past and the future to show how the decisions made today with the new destiny of the X-Men will have impact on everything for generations to come. Hickman has always been one of the great planners in comic book history and that care was shown in the intricate plotting in House of X/Powers of X, which has led to a whole new relaunch of the X-Universe with the still-current Dawn of X.

KEEP READING: Top Comic Book Storylines: 60-57

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About The Author
Brian Cronin (15129 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over a dozen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at, the Los Angeles Times,, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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