5BC: Five Best Comics of 1988

After fifteen issues in which other artists illustrated his stories, Matt Wagner returned to both write and draw this and the following three issues, a flashback tale to the time of the original Grendel, Hunter Rose. Besting WATCHMEN, Wagner subdivided each page into 25 panel areas, carrying out his story with masterful syncopation. The back-up story was the first part of a short interlude that set the stage for the second book of Wagner’s other masterwork, MAGE.

It was a controversial work even when it first appeared, and because it had been so long in coming, many of its narrative tricks had been employed and bettered on Alan Moore’s subsequent strips. But all that said, the combination of Moore and meticulous artist Brian Bolland on a Batman tale created a story with the power to stand the test of time.

Reprinting, colorizing and then completing the storyline that Alan Moore and David Lloyd had begun years earlier in the pages of the now-defunct WARRIOR. It was titles such as this that led to the rise and formation of the Vertico imprint at DC. A not-quite-superhero-story set in a dystopian future (which is now the past), it’s worlds better than the clumsy film adaptation that was based on it.

When the revival of ANIMAL MAN was first announced, I can remember having conversations with people about why anybody would need such a book. Turned out that Grant Morrison had the last laugh here, exploding on the mainstream American comic book scene with his own take on super heroes that was at once heartfelt and touching while also being a meta-narrative about the genre. One of the most influential series of its era.

A dark horse candidate, to be sure, but John MacLeod’s DISHMAN was perhaps the most full-on realization of the trend towards more realistic depictions of super heroes in comics in the 1980s. The Eclipse one-shot collects the first six issues of MacLeod’s self-published mini-comics–there were ten in all, with an eleventh done decades later. What should be a dumb joke is instead one of the best-realized concepts of the time.

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