870889-5981_4_12_super Last week, I wrote about one of my favorite comic book writers, Kurt Busiek. This week, I’m going to write about another favorite, Mark Waid. Waid has been every bit as important to me as Busiek. The two of them are like twins in my mind- drawing me into comics in the mid-‘90s and giving me endless hours of enjoyment in the time since.
So, once again, here’s a happily random celebration of Mark Waid, in order of appreciation.

10. JLA: Year One

Mark Waid is insulted by his detractors for being too much of a fan. He knows the ins and outs of comic book history as well as anyone. However, that doesn’t have to be an impediment. And it can be an asset. In Year One, Waid wrote a new origin for the Justice League. After all, their history was no longer coherent due to the many revisions that had taken place over the years. But this was no mere exercise in history. Waid gave interesting personalities to his key characters. Aquaman was truly a fish out of water. Black Canary was competent and charming. Martian Manhunter was humble and secretive. And the Green Lantern and the Flash became fast friends. Waid wove known events and new ones into one coherent narrative, showing the foundation and formation of the greatest team of superheroes ever assembled. Plus, he and artist Barry Kitson brought in the guest stars
by the bushel full.

Crux2 9. Crux

Mark Waid took a short sojourn as a staff writer for CrossGen and while he may want to forget his experiences there, his books are unforgettable. Crux was the closest CrossGen had to a superhero team yet they were also something incredibly different. The cast was made up of Atlanteans who each had special powers, such as shape-shifting or speed. But they were no team. They were thrown together by fate, wondering why they were the last survivors of their people and trying to figure out what went wrong. The real draw, however, was the interaction between the characters. There was a sibling rivalry and a love triangle. There was friction with the youngest- and smartest- of the group. And, as the series progressed, there were plenty of difficulties and shifting allegiances with new characters.

5797_4_01 8. Ka-Zar

Ka-Zar is an underappreciated classic. Mark Waid teamed with Andy Kubert on this short-lived title. Waid came up with the brilliant idea of reversing the standard Ka-Zar story. Usually, Ka-Zar stories are about Ka-Zar or other heroes travelling to the Savage Land and experiencing the jungle in its full force. But for this series, Waid brought Ka-Zar and the Savage Land to a very different jungle: New York. We saw how Kevin Plunder (Ka-Zar) and Shanna dealt with the modern world in different ways. And we got to experience the thrill of watching sabretooth tigers and tyrannosaurus rexes run around the streets of Manhattan.


395px-52_14 7. 52

It’s hard to know how much credit to give to Mark Waid as this title was written by four writers working in conjunction. But it would be an even bigger mistake to leave 52 off of the list. With Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka, Waid helped put together one of the comics’ great epics. 52 featured interweaving stories focusing on some of DC’s lesser known characters like the Elongated Man, the Question, Will Magnus, Steel and Starfire. It had plenty of classic moments, like “the rain of the supermen” and featured the full range of superhero comics. It was simply a great read.

1-1 6. Captain America

Captain Americawas one of the first ongoing titles to really be associated with Mark Waid. He had two tenures on the title. The first was with Ron Garney. It had critical acclaim and growing sales as Waid re-examined
what it meant to be a patriotic hero while also taking Cap’s powers away. Unfortunately, the title was canceled to make room for Marvel’s Heroes Reborn launch. When that was done, Mark Waid came back for a
second stint and showed that you can go home again. He matched Captain
America up with classic villains like the Red Skull and the Skrulls and gave Cap fans something to cheer about. He even made me, who wasn’t a Cap fan at the time, a reason to pay attention.

3752_400x600 5. Flash

This is the other ongoing title that really raised Mark Waid’s profile. Waid identified with Wally West and poured himself into the title. It was as if Waid was writing himself and the readers responded. Wally West soon became the most popular Flash, winning fan polls as the best Flash ever ahead of his mentor Barry Allen. Waid built a huge supporting cast of fellow speedsters: Jessie Quick, Max Mercury (who used to be Quality Comics’ Quicksilver) and his own creation Impulse. He brought in guest stars and friends like Nightwing. And he gave Wally a significant love interest, Linda Park. Waid would leave Flash and come back for a second run that wasn’t as well-received as his first. But that initial run made stars out of both Mark Waid and Wally West.

51MNGAFDM6L._SS500_ 4. Ruse

Mark Waid has a reputation as a superhero writer. But, like Kurt Busiek inlast w eek’s list, Mark Waid has shown that he’s a great writer even when he switches genres. One of Waid’s best books is the mystery title, Ruse. Mark Waid introduced detective Simon Archard and his plucky assistant, Emma Bishop. Their interaction was
brilliant. Simon was caustic and sarcastic. Emma was hopeful and bright. Together, they solved crimes that had mystical trappings but usually turned out to be surprisingly mundane. Emma developed a rivalry with the baroness Miranda Cross, Simon relied on a rogue’s gallery of unlikely assistants and they both matched wits with Simon’s mentor turned villain Simon Lightbourne.
Ruse was a consistently entertaining and excellent book.

50-1 3. JLA

Mark Waid followed Grant Morrison on JLA. Morrison’s run was great and is rightly lauded, but Waid’s run is also great and is criminally ignored. He started with an over-sized special, Heaven’s Ladder, with artist Bryan Hitch before taking over the regular title. Mark Waid pulled from his interest in modern science, telling stories of time and space and atoms. He pulled from his interest in fable and mythology, introducing the Queen of Fables as a new villain and Santa Claus as a new teammate. He broke the team apart and put them back together again. He exposed their weaknesses in order to showcase their strengths. It was a tight, action-packed and often intense superhero story.

300px-Kingdom_Come_2 2. Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come is one of the greatest stories in comic books. Artist Alex Ross had the initial idea and Mark Waid developed it into a classic. It’s a glimpse of a possible future in which the good heroes have given way to anarchy. It’s the call of hope as the classic heroes come back to save the world they once abandoned. It’s the clash of ideas as some who claim to be humanity’s saviors jealously protect their world from this superhuman help. It’s a literary masterpiece, with Biblical allusions and prophetic foreshadowing, but also a comic book extravaganza with hundreds of heroes both new and old. It’s a story that I re-read almost every year. Thanks, Alex and Mark.

524-3 1. Fantastic Four

This is the book Mark Waid was born to write. He poured himself into Reed Richards the way he once poured himself into Wally West. He understood Reed better than any other writer, including his creators Stan and Jack. He gave Reed a credible motive. He gave the team a new modus operandi as imaginauts, adventurers of the imagination. He took them to space, microspace, Heaven and Hell. He wrote the greatest Dr. Doom story I’ve ever read in “Unthinkable.” He had Johnny Storm grow up, while staying youthful. He wrote a masterful tribute to Ben Grimm, and to Ben Grimm’s creator Jack Kirby. He wrote one of the best comics ever. Period.

And that’s my list of the best Mark Waid books. Of course, half the fun of writing a top ten list is finding out where others differ. So go ahead and tell me what you think I got right and what books you think I should have included.

Views: 159

Comment by Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) on December 4, 2009 at 3:02am
I might quibble with the order here and there, and I'd probably swap Sigil (or Irredeemable) out for Crux, but this is a damn nice list.
Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on December 4, 2009 at 11:08am
I was all set to argue for FF over Kingdom Come with you, Chris...but...no need.
Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on December 4, 2009 at 11:11am
The only time I ever wrote, as a stock holder, to the upper management at Marvel was when Mark was going to be fired from the FF. It turns out, I was one of many and he kept the job.
Comment by Chris Fluit on December 4, 2009 at 11:22am
Thanks for the comments, guys.

Rob, I thought about those other books. I chose Crux over Sigil for a couple of reasons. One is that, even though I liked Mark Waid's run on Sigil, I liked the Chuck Dixon run that came after it even more.

As for Irredeemable, I tried it and didn't like it. I know that others like Waid's stories about villains (Empire being another example) but not me.

Doc, I'm glad I surprised you in a good way.
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on December 4, 2009 at 1:19pm
Ruse was something I discovered in the quarter bin, but I liked it, a lot. Although I never understood what Emma's mission was -- something about getting that stick out of Simon Archer's butt and getting him to loosen up. Was that ever explained?
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on December 6, 2009 at 10:00am
I've never been able to see what virtually everyone else sees in Waid's FF. Perhaps the problem lies within myself. I really must read it again someday.

My expectation were far too high for Ka-Zar. I read the first half of it then dropped it. ("Don't buy what you don't read; don't read what you don't enjoy.") I picked up the second half at a quarter sale, read it, but barely remember it. (Thanos' participation was later retconned out by Jim Starlin.)

I've read JLA: Year one three times but it's no longer necessary.

I'm glad to see that my least favorite Waid project (Birthright) didn't make your list.

My favorite is definitely Captain America (including Sentinal of Liberty), with Flash running a close second (pun intended).
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on December 8, 2009 at 11:53am
Good read, Chris. Reading one of the FF trades of Waid's run was what made realize I just flat out don't like them. I've read pieces of almost every run, and they have just never clicked with me.

I didn't hate his run on JLA, but I just found it to be average superhero fare. I think by the time Crux came around I had already had my fill of Crossgen's super slow moving plots. I read it for a while, but eventually dropped it.

I would have put Flash higher. It is one of the few runs by a creator that I stayed in for the long haul. Love Ruse, JLA Year One, Kingdom Come and Cap as well.
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on December 8, 2009 at 1:12pm
I don't know what you're not seeing in Mark Waid's Fantastic Four. I know that he grabbed me from his first issue when he revealed Reed's Dark Dark Secret ... and it was something that wasn't that dark, because Reed's not a dark guy, but was wholly credible, because Reed is a responsible guy. Waid got Reed in a way nobody else ever had, the way Gail Simone got Wonder Woman in a way nobody else ever had. And the assertion that the Fantastic Four aren't superheroes, but adventurers -- "imaginauts" -- really rang true, too.
Comment by Luke Blanchard on December 11, 2009 at 7:24pm
Like Jeff, I don't get the appeal of Waid's Fantastic Four. I've read three of the trades. Each issue seemed too thin: it's the run I had in mind when I once referred to comics that read like placeholders between stunt twist endings. Waid's FF weren't the same as Lee and Kirby's, and he didn't get me caring about his versions of the characters. There was no humour that I responded to.

The Fantastic Four taking over Latveria was a strong idea, but I don't think Waid fleshed it out well. (The most they can think to do is destroy a building in which Doom conducted executions? Reed rescues Doom from Hell to trap him in a pocket dimension?) The Frightful Four story I found forgettable. The Galactus story tried to do something different but didn't wow me.

I like the two Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham issues currently in the free section at Marvel's website much more. Their Reed is much more a Reed I recognise. However, they still didn't have me enjoying the company of the Fantastic Four the way the comic used to.

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