Stew Ranks The Read Piles!

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Our podcast and website is almost two years old!

On the one hand: Wow! I can’t believe we have made it to two years! That’s outstanding, and I’m happy for every single person who has ever listened to our humble little joke of a show!

On the other hand: It legitimately feels like I’ve been doing this for a decade at this point.

I don’t mean that negatively! It’s just that working on everything we do has become such a constant, regular fixture of my life, it’s like I can barely remember a time when I WASN’T doing it. Writing articles and planning shows and recording shows and going to conventions… it’s so much of my life now.

A big part of it all is just the ungodly amount of comic books I have to read these days. Not just for my mostly-weekly Stew’s Reviews/Off The Rack column, but also for our Read Pile segments on our show. Even for someone that loves comic books… that is a lot of reading, week-in and week-out.

So I crunched some numbers. Unless I am miscounting–and I probably am!–there are 63 episodes of the podcast in which Chad, Andy, and I have all reviewed a book. Now there are a few caveats to that! First, I’m ruling out any Rookie Read Piles we did where the point of the episode was to get our less experienced comic fans a taste of a classic book we are all familiar with (such as Kingdom Come, Watchmen, and The Dark Phoenix Saga, among many others).

Secondly, there were three episodes–our book swap episodes–where we all reviewed a different book because we each nominated one for another Ghost to read.

I postulated to Chad and Andy that we should take those 63 books and give our own little rankings. Grades we previously gave be damned, where do we currently think each book stands against the rest?

I was told this is madness. No one would want to read or listen to it.

And after all… who would even want to rank SIXTY-THREE BOOKS?

Right?

*ahem*


THE BAD TIER

63. NEW FRONTIER -This is one of a few “Sorry, not sorry” entries for Chad at the bottom of my list. I know he loves this book, but I found it tedious, unfocused, poorly edited, and misogynistic. And frankly? I think Darwyn Cooke’s artwork is the poor man’s halfway point between Bruce Timm and Tim Sale. Listen in here!

62. EAST OF WEST – We read two trades of this book, and I still have no idea what happened in it. It was unpleasant, and I’ll be honest: I never finished the second trade. Jonathan Hickman is not my jam. He is humorless and too in love with boring plot threads that take years to matter. Listen in here!

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61. UMBRELLA ACADEMY – Another apology to Chad! I thought this was one of the worst paced books I have ever read. The “characters” could hardly be described as such because they had no personality. Things just HAPPEN with no build. Listen in here!

60. OMEGA MEN – This was where I realized Tom King is a weirdly inconsistent writer. Mr. Miracle and Vision may have been great, but WOW was this bad. Kyle Rayner was horribly out of character. Too bad, because I had wanted to read this for years. Listen in here!

59. 13 – No review we have done surprised me more than this one. I was fully expecting all four of us to rip this book apart, but the other three schmucks were nice to it. I think they wanted to seem worldly since it is Belgian! The art was all right, but the writing was juvenile; the dialogue was choppy and unrealistic. It just was not a good nor easy read.

58. BATTLE ANGEL ALITA – As more of a manga fan, I wanted this to be better. But it wasn’t. The art was fine when folks were standing still, but the action sequences were hard to follow. The story was unremarkable. Nothing here was AWFUL, but it was a lot of lower tier work combined. Listen in here!

57. JLA: GODS & MONSTERS – Such a weird book by two creators I typically love. This just felt so rushed and thrown together. The narrative was obnoxious and no one was really likable. It was a bit misogynistic, too, sadly. And again… IMPERIEX?!

56. AVENGERS: THE KREE-SKRULL WAR – This is one of those books I spent my entire life thinking was good, and then I read it. It’s typical late Silver/early Bronze age Avengers writing where the characters are indistinguishable, and they all sound and act the same. The “war” is barely a thing at all, and everything is flat. Listen in here!

55. HOUSE OF X – DON’T YOU TELL ME MY PREVIOUS FIFTY YEARS OF X-BOOKS DON’T MATTER, JONATHAN HICKMAN. You don’t matter! Listen in here!

54. OLD MAN LOGAN – As noted in the show, no book collapses harder in the final act that OML. This was a perfectly fun and well-done series until the last two-three issues where Millar just went berserk and started doing weird Mark Millar shit just for its own sake. Listen in here!

THE NEGLIGIBLE TIER

53. AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER – I have already forgotten everything about this book. This is the one where they introduce… what’s her name? The new version of Sentry who was supposed to have been there since the beginning? Luckily that was all a trick, but… still. What a stupid gimmick. Listen in here!

52. CHEW – I initially gave this an F. This is probably not an F book, but it’s as not-for-me as any book ever written. The ideas were good, but I thought the art to be mediocre. And gross-out stuff is never something I can get behind; it turns my stomach and makes me queasy. Listen in here!

51. DARTH VADER – Look, I don’t care about Star War movies. Don’t expect me to care about Star War comics.

50. NEXUS – Sorry, Andy. This was my assignment from one of our three Book Swap episodes. Nicole’s and Chad’s offerings to me on our other Swaps rank much higher, but this book was just a bit weak. It wasn’t miserable, but it felt mighty rudderless. Listen in here!

49. KAMANDI – This book was BAD, but also fun! The kind of book I could absolutely get into ironically at points. You just expect better quality from King Kirby. Listen in here!

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48. TOM STRONG – Another book that came and went and has been forgotten by yours truly. Flash Gordon-y books with a future cool, strong guy have never been a hit by me. I am glad Russ Braun enjoyed it, though. Listen in here!

47. DOOM PATROL – The Grant Morrison version! I can’t get over Robotman having such an expressive face. Also, this book could have either been SCARY or FUNNY, but it straddled this line where it just felt like a basic action comic book with weird ideas instead. Such a missed opportunity to make it stand out. Listen in here!

THE “MEH” TIER

46. CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – This was such a weird book. Another one of those “nothing was terrible in particular” books, but the whole picture was just a bunch of lower end products. I would read more to see where it went from here, though; it had some promise. Listen in here!

45. LEAGUE OF LEGENDS: ASHE, WARMOTHER – This was what it was: a perfunctory introductory book to a tie-in product that I am not personally invested in. It was incredibly basic stuff, but that’s not bad. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you do a book like this. Listen in here!

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44. BLACK BEETLE – Oh, Francesco Francavilla and his blues and oranges! The biggest problem with this book was that it led in with the hint of an interesting story, but then switched gears and told a mundane one instead. I actually have every faith this book could have improved greatly from what I read because it seemed very Hellboy-esque in mood and style. But the book itself? Eh. Listen in here!

43. FLASH GORDON – Andy and his Flash Gordon! This was a case of Great Art carrying a fairly middling story. Again, Flash Gordon is just not my wheelhouse. I’m sure it’s great for the people who like it, but it was just a story about characters I don’t love, and it didn’t inspire any love in me. Listen in here!

42. DEATH OF IRIS ALLEN – Ha! This book! The first issue is simply the craziest single issue of a comic I have ever read. It doesn’t quite carry that zaniness throughout, but it does have its moments. I know Andy DESPISED this one, but to me? It was an old timey blast when I don’t usually like older comics. Maybe it’s ironic. Don’t ya think? Listen in here!

41. THE BOYS – There is definitely an enthralling, important story in The Boys, but it’s hidden underneath Garth Ennis’ dedication to covering his books in “LOOK HOW EXTREME AND VULGAR I AM” stuff. I am not inherently against foul, brutal, or sexy books, but with Ennis it always comes across as so… “LOOK AT ME”. Listen in here!

40. AVENGERS/CHAMPIONS CROSSOVER – There were a lot of characters I liked here, but the story just did not work for me. Maybe because I have always thought The High Evolutionary is a bland character. This could have been better–and should have in Mark Waid’s hands–but it just felt like The Average Comic Book. Listen in here!

39. COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS – This places much higher on the rankings than the initial D grade I gave it would suggest. The thing is that while I didn’t ENJOY this book (At night when the wind is calm and the house is still, you can hear me STILL READING THIS BOOK), I think it is important and great material for any comic fan. It was just LOOONG and had too much stuff I didn’t care about personally. Also, the ending was kind of preachy. Listen in here!

38. POWER OF SHAZAM – This was a Shazam story, but without any of the fun a Shazam story should have. It was an all right re-telling of The Big Red Cheese’s origin, but it could have used a massive injection of joy. Listen in here!

37. CLEMENTE – Fantastic, wonderful, and creative art behind a story that just wasn’t that engaging. Even being a life-long Pittsburgh resident, this didn’t stir any emotion in me (to be fair, I’m not a baseball fan). Listen in here!

36. SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI – I think Andy and Chad were both more enamored of this work than I was. I thought it was fine, if a bit silly. It maybe thought it had more to say about politics or society than it actually did.

35. SILVER SURFER: BLACK – The second of the Book Swap books I was given, this time by Chad. Silver Surfer Black was a book with some bizarre art and a story that was cyclical and gave Surfer a more universal purpose. I am still not a big fan of Knull or the whole Cates’ Symbiotes Stuff, but this book did everything fine. Listen in here!

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34. DR. STRANGE – Silver Age comic bookery! It had the goofiness and middling quality than I come to expect from that era. As a Lee/Ditko property goes, this is NO Amazing Spider-Man. It just doesn’t have a ton of heart to it. Solid fantasy art, though. Listen in here!

33. AMERICAN VAMPIRE – A lot of the books in this tier are just in the “This was fine” level where I don’t regret having read them, but I also quickly forgot them. This is one such book. Listen in here!

32. THOR: GODBUTCHER/GODBOMB – This was such a silly book. I noted at length that there is just a middle step in the writing process that I feel like Aaron whiffed badly on. The actual execution was fine, and the overarching “this is what I want to do with Thor over the next few years” was a good idea. But the plot of this Gorr (or whatever he was called) story didn’t wow me. Listen in here!

31. AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE – If we were just judging the first trade of this title, it would be much lower. Luckily, this improved drastically in the second trade, all the way to becoming a book I want to follow as it goes on. I still want Archie Comics, even the horror imprints, to look like classic Archie art, but… I get it. Francavilla needs to show me he knows what blue and orange are instead. Listen in here!

30. COSMIC ODYSSEY – This was SO CLOSE to being good, but there were just too many moments that felt so “off” to me. Take out Batman shooting aliens and suicidal John Stewart and passive-aggressive mean girl J’onn J’onnz… this could be a good book. Listen in here!

THE “NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE” TIER

29. SPIDER-MAN: PARALLEL LIVES – There felt like there was a lot of relevant material left out of this book (and a punchy fighty story added in that needn’t have been), but I like the focus on one of comics’ most underrated characters, Mary Jane Watson. Listen in here!

28. SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY – Another Spidey book! Life Story was an incredibly interesting concept that was executed mostly well, but I feel like it lacked a lot of the heart I want from my Spider-Man stories. We never really saw any happiness; it was just a lot of loss. It made his life feel shittier than it really should have. Spidey has a hard-knock life, but this book makes you think he should be downright suicidal.

27. MARVEL 2-IN-1: THING & HUMAN TORCH – This was a fun book giving two characters I have not read as much of as others have a time to shine. Torch and Thing have a fun dynamic here, and while I think the story gets a bit oversized at the end of the first arc, it’s a fun trip there.

26. MILES MORALES SPIDER-MAN – The ending to this story fell flat for me, even knowing it was Bendis imposing his own feelings of mortality based on a health scare. That said, Bendis writing Miles and Ganke and others is always a hit. Show 12.18.18: Spidey Claus is Coming to Town

25. DEADPOOL 2 SOON – Todd Nauck art! That’s all I usually ask for. This is an appropriately funny Deadpool “Whodunnit?” kind of story, mutated Deadpool/Squirrel Girl hybrid and all. It’s nothing long-term important, but it’s fun. Listen in here!

24. EMPEROR JOKER – Is this too high? This is too high. But you know what? I just never hated this book, and it is something I have re-read multiple times since it came out. It really should be better, but the ideas behind it are fine. Ed McGuinness art at the height of his powers, too. Listen in here!

23. NEXTWAVE – If you remember, I had very little to say about this book on the show in which we discussed it. That was because Chad, Andy, and Nicole just loved it SO MUCH, and I think it is just… good. So I let them go. It’s fun enough, and I appreciate the focus on underutilized characters, I just think some of the shenanigans involving Dirk Anger were silly. Listen in here!

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22.  DAREDEVIL – This didn’t feel as important to me as it is to Chad, but it’s unquestionably a good comic. I totally enjoyed it, and while the first few issues were a drag, it got better (and stayed there) starting with Ultron’s appearance. Listen in here!

21. BLACKEST NIGHT – While not great in its execution, Blackest Night is just such an ambitious and flawless idea. The road to the story itself, with the gradual introduction of all the new Lantern Corps, was the shot in the arm that the Green Lantern books had needed in the second Hal Jordan era. Listen in here!

THE ENJOYABLE TIER

20. PLANETARY – Not so much a book I WANT to read again as it is a book I NEED to read again, Planetary seemed like a great story to NOT read as homework. It deserves a slower, more meticulous read to let all the details and hard work wash over you. I think the back half was weaker than the first, but it was still very good. Listen in here!

19. ANIMAL MAN – My favorite thing about DC is the work they occasionally put into their tertiary characters, and Animal Man is another glowing representation of that. Grant Morrison’s work on Buddy created a realistic world and character I enjoyed reading… even if the first few issues were problematic.

18. WHO IS BLACK PANTHER? – Here’s one we reviewed way back near the start of our podcast, a retelling of the origin and early days of The Black Panther. It did a good job making Wakanda lively. Listen in here!

17. LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL – This was the hardest book to rank out of all 63 of these. What do you do with a comic that is so middling for 80% of its run, but so god damn fantastic and emotionally rending in the other 20%? If every issue was written with the same relatable heart as the story of Carol’s parents, this would have been a top three book. Such a great single issue. Listen in here!

16. BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR – I’m still bothered by the Orcas not having eyes. THAT SAID, I liked Dick Grayson’s run as the Caped Crusader, and the team of Snyder, Jock, and Francavilla made him the more fun hero we need right now. Listen in here!

15. HARLEY QUINN: PRELUDES & KNOCK-KNOCK JOKES – The first of two Terry and Rachel Dodson books in this tier, because their art makes everything worthwhile. This was another series that seemed like a chore to begin but then grew into its own. Listen in here!

14. AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE – I never would have figured this would finish as high as it did, but… here we are. It is Shakespeare compared to the myriad of other Avengers books we covered in the last two years, that’s for sure. The stakes feel real at all times, and the peril is prominent.

13. WINTER WORLD – Another book from our early days when our microphone quality was so poor. This is a powerful dystopian society book about life in an eternal winter.

12. THE EVIL THAT MEN DO – Another Dodson book, and one that really only I loved, this Spider-Man/Black Cat team-up mini is a bit oversexualized, but it’s also respectful and unflinching in its look at rape… as much so as can be written by a man (who specialized in potty humor), anyway. I genuinely really enjoy this book and think it’s handled well. Listen in here!

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11. PLANET HULK – Was this a Rookie Read Pile? I can’t recall. Oh well, I’ll count it. It’s simple: Planet Hulk is the ONLY Hulk book not written by Peter David that I have ever enjoyed. Listen in here!

THE SUPERSTAR TIER

10. MR. MIRACLE – This book was still over my paygrade, and I am okay with that. I personally prefer King’s Vision to this, but they are both extremely well-written (with tons of nuance) and have art that is spot-on perfect for the mood. Listen in here!

9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER – Ed Brubaker put in some WORK on making Captain America an interesting character, and he took one of the worst ideas in comics–bringing Bucky back–and made it a GREAT story. Bravo, Ed.

8. HELLBOY: SEED OF DESTRUCTION – The weakest Hellboy story ever (and the reason I think Black Beetle could have turned into a great book), but who cares? I love Hellboy. Listen in here!

7. DEATH NOTE – One of the few books I have picked for us to read, Death Note remains one of the greatest manga of all time… for most of its run. Listen in here!

6. SAGA – Loved saga. Hell, EVERYONE loves Saga. I wish I could find the time to read more of it; I have had the next several trades loaded on my Kindle for ages. It really seems like a wonderful series, and the first trade was a brilliant kick off. Listen in here!

5. SECRET EMPIRE – What is it with me and this widely reviled book? I thought it was great. It was a bit heavy-handed at points, and the art was a constant let-down, but I think this was easily the best Marvel event story of… the millennium so far? I’d go there. It was clever and witty and juggled a lot of balls. Listen in here!

4. MONSTRESS – The last of the three Book Swap books, and–obviously–the big winner, Monstress was BREATH-TAKING to me. Beautiful Sana Takeda art, and an expertly paced tale of a fantasy world as dreamed up by Marjorie Liu. This is another title I direly need to find the time to read more of, but in one trade, I fell in love with this book. Listen in here!

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3. ANT-MAN – Just an extraordinarily fun little series about a guy doing his best by his family. This was such a charming book. Listen in here!

2. DRAGON BALL – I’ve always loved Dragon Ball. Listen in here!

1. SAVAGE DRAGON: A TALK WITH GOD – What can I say? Apparently I have always loved books with “Dragon” in the title. Savage Dragon is one of my favorite books ever. Listen in here!


Okay, yeah. That WAS a lot of work. They were probably right. From beginning (listing every book we covered) to end (writing this all down), this was a SEVERAL HOUR process. Whew.

But also, it was… rewarding. Maybe? I mean, I feel good about it. You know what? No. I just ranked 63 different comic books. I DO feel rewarded! That was a lot of work!

Let me know what you think! What was egregiously placed? What do you like that I hated (or vice versa)? Let me know!

Is this ending kind of weak? Like I said… I already spent more than a whole work day on the article!

Until next time… take care!

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