Welcome to the return (or is it the end?) of the long running and Tony award winning "From Top to Bottom" column! Every column, I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.
I was in the middle of writing my new Shout Outs! and Scream Ats! column and I was looking at my set of Premiere hardcovers and I noticed that I have two of Marvel's The End series in that format. I was thinking of some of the other ones that Marvel published and thought about making a new Top/Bottom column based on Marvel's The End series. Especially since Iron Man: The End should be hitting shelves next month and we still have Daredevil: End of Days on the horizon. Hopefully these new End series will be more like my Top 3 picks than the Bottom 3.
3) Fantastic Four: The End
There are a couple of reasons why I really liked this series. The biggest reason was the art by my favorite artist, Alan Davis. The second reason why I liked this series was because it actually had a happy ending. The third reason is that this felt like the Fantastic Four, this is what I would imagine them doing in the future. It begins with the FF battling Dr. Doom which results in the death of Franklin Richards and Valeria Richards. The FF 'disband', Reed loses himself in his work, Susan leaves for an archaeological expedition underwater and eventually runs into Namor. Johnny, is leader of the Avengers, who now police much of the universe and Ben lives with his wife Alicia on Mars with their three children. The Fantastic Four, Reed in particular has helped Earth become a force in the Universe and has invented many things to improve life on Earth especially after the "Mutant Wars". Eventually they reunite when Sue contacts the team and they battle Dr. Doom again and we find out that Franklin and Valeria are alive and they are reunited with their family. A lot more happens than this. The only thing I didn't like was the last page, where basically it tells us that this wasn't really the end but just the beginning. The premise of these types of series was that this was the "End" or final story of the Fantastic Four. I don't mind the happy ending at all but it should just have ended there.
2) Hulk: The End
This is the first 'The End' that Marvel published and I feel that it was one of the best ones. Peter David and Dale Keown crafted a tale where hundreds of years later, the Hulk and Bruce Banner are still fighting for control. The world has ended with a nuclear war and the Hulk is the only survivor. Banner is devastated and tries to end his life but the Hulk manages to keep him alive. Finally, the Hulk and Banner reach a conclusion that results in both getting what they want. Not the happiest of endings but one that did end happy.
1) Punisher: The End
When I first read this I hated it. But each time I read it, I started to really like it and I think it is the strongest "End". Nuclear war (must be a trend here) has ended all life and the Punisher is in prison. A year later, Frank and another survivor trek to New York City to find a bomb shelter, which is hidden deep beneath the former site of the World Trade Centers. There he finds other survivors but deems that these survivors are ones that he would not run the world. So he kills them and then he kills the other guy that came with him because he was a criminal. Then he gets out and walks towards Central Park where we all know is where his family was killed and where the Punisher was born. Then he is consumed by fire. Garth Ennis really nails the Punisher here in this MAX End.
Not all "The End" series were great. Some of them could have been good but either were too long, not creative, or felt familiar.
3) Marvel Universe: The End
This really was not a terrible series but it felt like I had read it before somewhere. There were a couple of things that I did like. I enjoyed Thanos retelling how the Marvel Universe ended and I also liked how heroes kept being resurrected to keep evil in check. And they all the heroes were resurrected during the course of the story as well. What I didn't like was that it felt like the Infinity Gauntlet all over again, or was that Infinity War? It might have been Infinity Crusade, which is my point. I had read this before, the heroes get slaughtered until the strongest ones are left and then they do battle. Can you name them all? Hulk? Check. Warlock? Check. Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom? Check. Out of all the Bottom Ends (pun totally intended) this was the most enjoyable and most accessible.
2) X-Men: The End
You would think that the Father of the X-Men would have been the best one to end that franchise but I was wrong. First, this series lasted WAY too long. Three 6-issue series was way too much for me. Claremont had some neat moments in the series but they were few and far between. The majority of the comics just pandered to Claremont's favorites (WarSkulls, Slavers, Brood, Vargas, etc). If you didn't enjoy Chris's second and third run on the X-Men I would stay far away from this series. Most of the X-Men were featured which was nice but this didn't really feel like an X-Men story. I was expecting something along the lines of God Loves, Man Kills but I got something more like New Excalibur.
1) Wolverine: The End
At least this one didn't go beyond 6 issues. This was supposed to tie into Origin but I had a hard time following what was going on. Why did this series take #1? Wolverine (whom was an old fart by this time) was being stalked by the White Ghost who claimed that he could have killed him 200 years ago. Then why he just didn't kill him then? The White Ghost turns out to be John Howlett III, his brother from Origin. The White Ghost has this grand plan to put mutants on top and Wolverine and him wrestle and they fall out of a window and the White Ghost is killed when he is impaled on Logan's claws. Then the White Ghost whispers that he is sorry. That makes little sense to me. Why would he apologize when he said he could have killed him anytime? This horrible story was not helped by the cluttered artwork as well. I expected something like Wolverine's first miniseries but I got something completely opposite. Ugh.
This concludes another "Top/Bottom" column. Is this the "End" of these columns as well? I might have another one in me, I did just recently re-read Secret Wars II (in anticipation of the Omnibus) and I could post my Top/Bottom moments if you readers would like more.