Movies & TV / Columns

The Best Comic Books from the ’90s

August 28, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Marvels 2 Giant-Man

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Last week we covered Powers of X #3, Ghost-Spider #1, and more!

On with the show!

Last time we discussed the Greatest X-Men Stories. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Prez Gar: “The Muir Island Saga, which led to most of the X-Team, rosters being rearranged, right before the launch of Jim Lee’s X-Men #1. it also put Professor X back in a wheelchair, after his greatest battle with his recurring nemesis, The Shadow King.

Fatal Attractions. So much happened in those issues. Magneto taking Wolverine’s adamantium, leading to the revelation he always had claws. Professor X shutting down Magneto’s mind, which led to Onslaught coming into existence.

And I have a soft spot for The X-Tinction Agenda, the last X-teams event with the New Mutants before they became X-Force. Most notable for the death of Warlock. (Not Adam.)”

William Jansen: “Just inherited a bunch of old Projekt X-comics, as they were inexplicably called here in Denmark, and so far my ‘vote’ goes to Dark Phoenix, which we didn’t get untill around 1985.”

Cruel Angel: “Surprised no one has mentioned the Brood Saga yet.”

Deadpoetic: “God Loves, Man Kills is such a scary story when you compare it to today’s world. It feels almost prophetic in a way. A very beautiful and well written story. Also I have always loved House of M. I get how popular Dark Phoenix is, and should be, but how House of M and GLMK hasn’t been used more is beyond me.”

Tao Jones T.jones: “One great X men story I remember is the one where Logan, Kurt and Pieter go drinking and Pieter gets in a fight with Juggernaut. The aftermath was awesome”

RAWmachine: “For me the story I really liked was XMen #127, Proteus. I know it was only one issue but I read that issue over and over. I always thought that would be the best intro movie for MCU as well.”

Ken Wood: “I am reading the Dark Phoenix Saga right now. It’s off to a good start but now I’m realizing I need to go even further back to Epic Collection Second Genesis to get the introduction to Phoenix.

Recently read a ton of X-Men, including Age of Apocalypse – which is amazing, New X-Men omnibus, which is okay, volumes one and two of Astonishing X-Men – which is amazing, God Loves Man Kills – Amazing, House of M – Decent, Messiah Complex and Second Coming – both fantastic.

Can’t wait to get my hands on the new stuff but I’ll probably wait till it’s collected.”

Rob Sweet: “How is the Onslaught saga not mentioned?? It eventually spread to the whole Marvel roster!”

Al Lobama: “My quintessential X-Men has always been the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run, and there were many multi-part storylines in that run that I still consider the best. You’ve got the Living Monolith two-parter that introduced Havoc, the three-part Sentinels saga (a personal favorite), and Strangers in a Savage Land was such a perfect story arc that just about every future X-Men writer from that point forward have gone back to that well at one point or another. And no other Marvel Comic has ever had such a great final page reveal/cliffhanger as “I guess the clothes really do make the man!””

Jeremy Thomas: “Okay, where to even start…

All of the ones Steve mentioned are great. Dark Phoenix, Gifted, Age of Apocalypse, God Loves/Man Kills, Days of Future Past and so on. (Special call-out for including Lifedeath I and II, which I love. Barry Windsor-Smith’s art… *swoon*)

The ones I would add to the list are:

* Demon Bear Saga. Okay, technically it’s New Mutants but it’s an X-Men family title. The definitive New Mutants storyline. Bill Sienkiewicz’s art still gives me chills to this day.
* Inferno. Maybe a bit controversial, but man this whole crossover event redefined so much of the X-Men. Ilyana! Madelyne Pryor! The further development Nathan Christopher Dayspring Askani’son Summers! And that wonderful panel of Cyclops blasting Sinister to oblivion. Great stuff.
* Excalibur’s Cross-Time Caper. Again, not the main X-Men book but still a great story featuring essential X-Men. Went on a bit long, but good Christ was it fun.
* House of X/Powers of X. Yep, it’s already contending for best ever (assuming it doesn’t fall apart from here). It’s that good.
* Riot at Xaviers. The arc where Quentin Quire became one of my favorite characters.
* Generation X #1 – 25. Perhaps my favorite two-year run in an X-Men comic ever.”

Some great back and forth last week. To read ALL of the comments go HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we ask…

The Best Comic Books from the 90s!

For some of you, the 90s were before your time. To the rest of us, that 90s became an interesting and dark time to be a fan. Sure, sales were booming, Wizard magazine was riding high, and it was all good fun. Until you factor in the endless parade of variant, hologram, and foil covers that littered the racks. Plus, with so many gimmick events going around, stores were filled with casual fans with the “collector mentality”. Thanks to a lot of hype, comic covers and stories were filled with big superheroes with guns and big pouches. Women were drawn in the most unrealistic portrayal ever and everything popular had to be…EXTREME!

And it all came crashing down.

But that’s a story for another time. It wasn’t all bad in the 90s. We had Alex Ross, for example. Alex’s artwork can be described as painted realism but it’s so much more than that. He opens the curtain and gives us a believable look at what our favorite heroes (and villains) would look like if we were in the room with them. Alex teamed up with Kurt Busiek’s for Marvels, a fun, engrossing, and personal journey through the history of the Marvel universe. I flipped through it the other day and it still draws you in and you can’t help but marvel at its simple complexity. Ross also teamed up with Mark Waid for DC’s Kingdom Come. While Marvels celebrated Marvel’s past, Kingdom Come took a look at DC’s dark apocalyptic future. The story is heavy on religious allegory but it takes pleasure in revealing on what happens to the heroes and villains that we’re familiar with and introduces us to a new cast of characters.

Alan Moore has achieved near iconic status in the industry and while some of his interviews delve into incomprehensible diatribes, we’ll always have The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The League was a crazy “what if” style book that looked at what would happen if some of the greatest figures of fiction teamed up. Some of the easter eggs went over my head (at the time) but you read it and felt like you were reading something important.

Image gets a lot of flack when it comes to the 90s but we have to acknowledge the impact it had on the industry as a whole. The great Marvel exodus included eight of the biggest artists at the time: Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, and Chris Claremont. While Image took some hits and received some bad press for missed deadlines and gimmick covers, you can’t deny their pushing the fight for rights forward. Characters like Spawn and Savage Dragon still thrive today. And Astro City still continues to shine with some of the most solid storytelling out there.

On the other hand, I was a big fan of Valiant in the 90s. While they had a certain “house style” when it came to art, the stories were solid and different from the usual fare. Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman, the crossover event called Unity, and then Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong. Yes, Valiant pioneered a number of marketing innovations, such as the issue zero “origin” issues, the gold logo program, coupons redeemable for original comic books, and chromium covers, and they became a victim of the comic book bust. That and some questionable ownership deals.

The name Malibu may not mean much to some but in the early 90s it caught some attention with its Ultraverse line of comics. Ultraforce, Night Man, Exiles, Prime, and a number of other titles presented some fun stories and artwork. Malibu was a casualty of the market being overloaded but I always felt it was vastly underrated and a number of books could survive today. Marvel acquired Malibu in 1994 and promptly did next to nothing with it. While rumors of bring the a book or two back have surfaced over the years, it doesn’t look like anything will happen anytime soon.

When it came to the independent scene, two books stood out as well. Sin City and Hellboy. While Frank Miller’s best work may be behind him, Sin City was a gritty film noir style book that took the reader on a journey like none other. On the flip side, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy still remains one of my favorite books of all time thanks to it’s use of legend, layered characters, and artwork that stuck with you.

While rumors of Milestone Comics’ return swirl over the years, it was founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers, consisting of Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. Its first batch of titles: Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Static caught the attention of fans and it’s still talked about fondly today.

DC gave us some of the best Vertigo books ever in the 90s. Preacher, Hellblazer, Animal Man, and, perhaps the best of all, Sandman, and so many more. It was a good bet that if you picked up a Vertigo title during this time, you would get your money’s worth. While not Vertigo, James Robinson’s run on Starman is still one of the best reads you can give yourself.

On the other hand, Marvel gave us one of the best crossover event series ever with Infinity Gauntlet, a book so important that decades later a couple of movies used it as a blueprint and made quite a bit of money for Marvel. The 90s also gave the X-Men family of books perhaps their greatest popularity.

There was plenty to enjoy, if you knew where to look. What do you think of the 90s? What was your favorite title?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!