Each week the ANTiFanboys select the best of the best of certain categories using our advanced ranking system created by Slytherin Studios.
Introduction by Devon Kopec
Comic books as a creative medium are unique in the way that it combines both written word and images. This can lead others to believe that comics are “kid’s stuff” but any reader worth his salt knows that there can be some really powerful work. Comics can make us angry, happy, inspired, or in this particular case, sad. We all have a story or two that really hits us in the feels; the one comic book moment that you read and all of a sudden some dust may have gotten into your eye or the room gets all stuffy. It’s okay. We’ve all been there.
Now it’s no shock that the comics that have lasted 70+ years are going to have some sad moments but please be aware that spoilers will be unavoidable.
To give you a bit of a heads up, there will be POTENTIAL LIFE-RUINING SPOILERS for the following titles:
Pride of Baghdad
Y: The Last Man
You have been warned!
4. Y: The Last Man #58 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
Jon: Y: The Last Man is the first comic book that I actually “gave a chance” to in my adult years. When I got back into comics, there were the Batmans and the Supermans and the X-mens etc. And then there were legendary timeless comics suggested to me like Preacher and Sandman that I read and loved. Y is actually a book that was on-going at the time that I took a chance on by reading the back of the first trade in a comic book store. I bought the first trade on a weekend, read it in one sitting and then went right back to the store to buy the other 3 available. The story of Yorick Brown was so compelling that it forced me to buy the other books and later hunt down every single issue in the run (which I still have to this day).
Now, with this story, I was able to level with Yorick, by reading and experiencing the comics through his perspective. And like Yorick, when first introduced to Agent 355, I was hesitant to trust her. She was initially shrouded in mystery. At the same time, I didn’t want the story to force a romance between a man and his bodyguard. It was too clichè. Too cookie cutter. And her relationship with Yorick grows throughout the story, but it’s kinda just there. The main objective for Yorick is to find his fiancè, Beth and you are cheering for them to reunite even though you don’t know much about her or if she is even alive. And 355 starts a relationship with Dr. Mann (somewhat) so the idea of a forced romance between her and Yorick is kind of put aside.
Towards the end of the story, like Yorick, I realize just how important 355 is to him. And regardless of what the outcome of Yorick’s reunion with Beth is, it doesn’t matter at that point. You know the phrase, “it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey”? Well this is defined explicitly. “It’s not who I was marching towards, it’s who was marching next to me every step of the way.” Right before the reunion with Beth, it’s obvious what 355’s feelings for Yorick are, when she gives him that goddamn scarf she was knitting for pretty much the entire length of the series. He starts to realize it too but then his life gets taken over by his highly anticipated reunion with Beth.
And after? Well there’s this incredible revelation, this shared appreciation between the reader, Yorick, and Agent 355. And she’s wearing that amazing dress. And she’s gorgeous. And they both still bounce that signature banter off of each other like they had the entire story. And she whispers her real name in Yorick’s ear. And they share that moment. And then she gets sniped through the head and dies. And that’s the issue. It ends right there and I would be lying if I didn’t mention how hard it was to even pick up the next issue the month or so after it came out. And there were only 2 issues left in the whole series!
Yorick was named after a fairly unimportant character in Hamlet. The connection between Y and Hamlet, though, besides his name, is that the true hero, 355, is the tragic death in this story.
(Tie) 3. The Amazing Spider-Man #617 & #625 by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara
Devon: One of the great things about Spider-Man aside from the character himself is his villains. A character’s villains are a huge building block of what makes a successful character. While many agree that Batman has the best rogues gallery, Spider-Man’s aren’t far behind. One of Peter Parker’s greatest traits is his empathy. He’s always looking for the best in people, whether it’s trying to connect to the human inside The Lizard or trying to help Morbius curb his blood lust, Spider-Man is trying to help people. I remember one of the coolest Wally West moments in Flash was him sitting at a diner full costume with one of the Keystone city rogues and just talking to him like a person. What Spidey does here is on that level and more.
What writer Joe Kelly does is one of the more difficult things a comic writer can do is change your perspective entirely on a character and Kelly does this amazingly well. We are smack dab in the middle of a mini spider-centric event “The Gauntlet” Peter comes across Russian thug Aleksei Sytsevich who has given up on his life of crime as Rhino and is now an ordinary bouncer at a casino. Citing meeting his now wife Oksana at a diner after getting dropped off after making parole as his motivation for finding a new life. This Rhino isn’t the dullard strong guy that he has been written at times, this Aleksei is thoughtful quiet and contemplative. During the events of The Gauntlet however, new or upgraded versions of Spider-Man’s villains are popping up and this time it’s the new and improved Rhino however there is a problem, The “New Rhino” feels that he cannot ‘ascend’ until he defeats the original in combat. Aleksei contemplates this but thanks to Spidey and his new wife Oksana opts to go into hiding. Score one for the good guys right?! Not so fast. Eventually the New Rhino finds them and as a result Aleksei’s wife Oksana, dies. He dons his old suit again and promptly kills the New Rhino letting Spider-Man know that his wife’s death is on the Spider.
What really hits home for me here that Peter Parker while some of it his own doing, has some pretty rotten luck. Finally this one thing seems like it works out and when it may not? Peter steps in and makes it work. He WANTS to desperately for things to work out. He wants second chances to work and for the world to be better. Then when it so spectacularly fails his heart breaks. While wholly untrue Spider-Man takes what Rhino told him to heart. He does feel like Oksana’s death is on his head and it lands on him like a ton of bricks. So after all this and to see everything fall apart for everyone involved it KILLED me. Joe Kelly really plays the long game and having an appreciation for how Long Spider-Man has been around and the history he has with his villains really puts this sadness into the stratosphere for me.
(Tie) 3. All-Star Superman #6 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Jon: It’s on the cover. Superman is literally looking at his adopted father’s grave on the cover of the issue. The death of Jonathan Kent isn’t high on shock value either. It’s almost expected in any Superman story, whether it be a TV Series (Smallville), a Movie (The Original AND Man of Steel), or in continuity proper (old 52- Brainiac, new 52- already dead). It is a vital part of Superman’s origin and in some ways, like Superman for All Seasons (Loeb and Sale) it’s an important lesson that Superman has to learn the hard way. He can’t save everyone and he can’t beat everything and anything. A heart attack or a tornado is right around the corner.
What sets this version apart from the rest is basically Morrison and Quitely and their uncanny ability to utilize each other’s talents to tell a story. At first glance, the story is mumbled and fumbled about in vintage Morrison fashion. His signature idiosyncrasies of time travel and alternate dimensions make up the background. There is a chronovore on the loose in a young Clark Kent’s Smallville and three Supermen from the Superman Squad have traveled to that time to contain it.
It sounds crazy and complicated but it really isn’t. An overzealous young Superman helps even though it is unnecessary and in doing so the chronovore eats away at 3 minutes of his life. Within those 3 minutes, Jonathan Kent suffered a heart attack and dies. Superman is then forced to live with the fact that he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
His eulogy afterwards is truly a heart-breaking one, and also the moment he shares with Martha Kent before he leaves for Metropolis. The stinger though, was the fact that present-day Superman traveled back to that time with the other two Supermen disguised as the mysterious unknown Superman of 4500 AD, wrapped in bandages. In doing so he was able to spend those 3 minutes with his Pa that he lost all that time ago. This definitely makes the heart-break less intense but increases the feels exponentially.
In my humble, humble, humble opinion, this is one of the best iterations of Jonathan Kent’s death and one of the best Superman issues to date.
2. Adventures of Superman #501 by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett
Steve: I remember owning this book when I was young. It came out during the height of all the Death of Superman comic craze and featured a special cover that was all black except for a yellow Superman shield with the words, “The Return of Superman” underneath which is a brazen lie. The book is pretty much a Superboy book about him looking awesome and one-hand lifting hot 90’s chicks by their asses out of danger but it’s the small two-page subplot starring Bibbo that has stayed in our memories for so long.
To honor his ol’ pal Superman’s memory and help those in need, Bibbo takes food to the poor at the docks of Suicide Slum. They give him shit about him stapling the bags shut when some bitch lets Bibbo know that since she didn’t know he was coming with food that she threw a sack of puppies into the river. That’s right. This bitch’s logic is that since she can’t take care of these puppies the only rational next step is to BIND THEM IN A BAG AND TOSS THEM INTO A FUCKING RIVER. Without a moments hesitation, Bibbo selflessly dives into the river and fishes out the bag only to discover that he was too late. The puppies are dead. By just the art and the few select words Bibbo mutters, you know that he is taking this hard. Superman would’ve been able to save those puppies but he’s dead now. The world seems hopeless to Bibbo and right before he is about to give up on trying to make a difference, a single puppy springs to life and begins to bark. Everyone at the docks tears up as the little white pup begins to lick Bibbo’s face and Bibbo vows to adopt the pup and give him a good home. He even christens him “Krypton” since Bibbo’s “Fav’rit” was the last of his liter too. This little puppy brings so much hope into Bibbo’s life. Bibbo saved Krypto but Krypto also saves Bibbo too.
1. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
Steve: This one is the most rough for me. Personal Story: I bought this Graphic Novel in the city and was taking the train back home. It was a long enough ride and I was the last stop so I cracked the book open and began. I had just gotten a little baby kitten (The famous Nightwing the Cat) that year and to this day is still the most important thing in my life. The book is about a pride of lions from the Baghdad zoo who get free after an American bombing run and their story.
Among the little lion family is a baby cub named Ali who Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon give so much life and spirit to throughout the book. He is optimistic and wide-eyed about everything. The world is so new to him as he spent his entire life in the zoo but everything in the outside world he reacts to with such wonder and astonishment. This reminded me so much of my own little cub back home that I began reading the character as my kitten. I was fully along with the adventures the pride was having across this dangerous war-torn Iraq and invested in them. After fighting so hard to survive after fighting a massive bear, they finally get a moment relax and take in the beautiful sunset over the horizon that the one older lion, Zill, has been talking about practically the entire book. All is going to be good.
KRACK. This onomatopoeia haunts me to this day. You just see this word and then suddenly the older lion falls to the ground. What happened? Did something happen?
KRAKKAKRAKKAKRAKKA. One of the lionesses is torn apart as you see parts of her body literally exploding from her. Ali and his mother are all that is left. Ali says “I don’t like that noise!” to the dead pile that was once a living breathing part of his family unit because he doesn’t really understand the concept of death as he’s only a young child and has so much to learn still.
KRAKKA KRAKKA KRAKKA. The final onomatopoeia we read is above an image of a mother and baby lion being shot to death. My baby lion. They lie motionless on the next page. Gunned down by what is revealed to be American soldiers.
So I’m sitting there on a fairly packed train and I am bawling my fucking eyes out. I don’t get emotional unless it’s something important to me. Sure, I can tear up but this was full-on sobbing. I was crying because a family of talking lions was just murdered and one of them was my brand new baby kitten. Fuck you, BKV. You asshole. Way to go and make me personally identify with events and characters in your wonderful stories. </3