Archive for Top 10

“Top 10” and the Bottom Rung


One of the most depressing things I read this past week was on Rich Johnston’s “Lying in the Gutters” column about the recent “Top 10” series:

Were you one of the people buying the “Top Ten Season Two” mini-series who, like me, were surprised that it seemed to just stop rather than finish? A commentary on the randomness of life? That stories rarely end smoothly? That loose plots are endemic of our own life so why not reflect them in fiction?


The series was originally planned and written as an eight issue series with two one shots on top, all written by Zander Cannon, one of the artists from the original “Top Ten” series, with Kevin Cannon. The other artist, Gene Ha, was only available for four issues. Wildstorm seem to have decided that it was only Ha’s name that appealed to the consumer, so they only published his four issues, and the one shot drawn by Da Xiong that accompanied them. Without telling anyone that they would only be getting half a story.

But what a story it was. The first half was the equal of Moore’s run on the title and was certainly the most critically well received of the non-Moore ABC titles.

As someone who was a huge fan of “Top 10” — both Alan Moore’s original series and the new Cannon/Ha series —  this is pretty frustrating news. Bad enough that we got just half the story, with no resolution — but with no explanation about it? With no notification that they were cutting the series from eight issues to just four? I don’t know whether to blame Wildstorm’s origins as one of the first Image studios, with all the “No one cares about the writer, just the artist” idiocy that entailed, or to blame DC’s seeming obsession with cancelling any comic that doesn’t suck. Whoever’s at fault, this is certainly something that can be hit with a big, red “FAIL” stamp.

“Top 10” was always set up much like a police procedural show on TV — a cop show with superpowers — and one of the pleasures of a good cop show, in addition to seeing crimes solved and crooks arrested, is seeing how the characters develop and how their storylines evolve over the course of the season. This latest series of “Top 10” had a ton of great storylines in progress, from Pete Cheney’s ongoing meltdown and Duane Bodine’s misguided attempts to cover for him, to the new Sung Li’s attempts to develop into her own person, to Irma Wornow’s suspension from the force — not to mention the overarching story about the new commissioner’s attempt to force the precinct into his own limited worldview. To throw all that into the dumpster just because someone else does the artwork is pretty spectacularly awful.

More on the subject from Zander Cannon himself.

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Backing the Blue


Top Ten: Season Two #4

Officer Pete Cheney is, as usual, a complete loser, and his partner, Duane Bodine, just keeps covering for him. Even sadder, the previously on-the-ball Sung Li is falling for Cheney’s lines. Meanwhile, Irma Wornow is on her way to the station to get an evaluation with the police psychologist before she can go back on duty after her suspension. Slipstream Phoenix talks his way out of another jam, but you can tell his luck’s running thin. The police commissioner is in big trouble, and someone put a wizard who hands out magic words in with a bunch of hardened criminals. When he empowers them, they bust out and get ready to tear the station down, but Irma saves the day when she grabs a blaster and pops ’em. After they get the crooks to say their magic words again and lose their extra powers, though, the resulting backblast hypercharges Cheney, who tries to kill Duane and ends up frying Officer Joe Pi. Kiss that badge goodbye, Cheney.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of stuff happening here, and I’m enjoying the way the story is developing. Everyone’s going through changes, which is actually a pretty nice change for your average comic book. And Dr. Gautama, the police psychologist, is a hoot.


Top Ten: Season Two Special #1

This one, on the other hand, is a complete train wreck. All of a sudden, Sung Li isn’t a cop anymore — she’s a lawyer, a public defender, and she’s actually dating Pete Cheney, who is apparently a cop again, but he keeps getting suspended. I have no idea where this is supposed to fit in with the regular series’ continuity. And the art is wildly different from the main comic — all of a sudden, everyone looks like they came straight out of anime cartoons, and everyone’s cute and adorable and just not looking the way they do in the main series.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It goes out of its way to pointlessly wreck continuity, and it looks bizarre. The story would probably be fine, but not with this bizarro-universe version of Sung Li.

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Gog is Dead

Justice Society of America #22

The mask is off — Gog is seriously bad news. And the gloves are off — the entire Justice Society, including Gog’s former supporters, come together to put some serious hurt on the gigantic god. They even lop his head off! Not that he gets killed by that, but it does give the Kingdom Come Superman and Starman a chance to take Gog’s head to the “Source Wall” where the other gods of the Third World are entombed. You’d think that would be the end of the story, but Supes has Starman return him to his home dimension, where the rest of the “Kingdom Come” series plays out to its conclusion… and beyond, as we get some quick glances into the next thousand years of Superman’s story.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This was a really excellent conclusion to an extremely long storyarc. I think it should’ve been a great deal shorter, but I certainly can’t fault the ending. We also get some pretty Alex Ross art for the scenes set on “Earth-22”. And yes, the Justice Society gets to appear, too, and they have a lot of good story beats here as well. All around, a very, very good issue.

Top 10: Season Two #3

Lt. Peregrine’s husband goes off on an “origin weekend” — think of it as a “Promise Keepers” con-game for roleplaying super-people — and gets a lot more than he bargained for. The formerly hypercompetent Sung Li runs into serious trouble against the Red Ring Gang. And Duane Bodine and Pete Cheney barely manage to stop a wizard handing out magic words to superpowered stooges, but something weird happens to Cheney afterwards.

Verdict: Thumbs up. On one hand, I’m not real thrilled with the new emphasis on Peregrine’s husband, but the rest of this is really extremely awesome. Cheney is the same old dimwit, Sung Li is facing entirely unexpected challenges, Bodine is still the best and most level-headed cop on the force. And please pay special attention to the buffet at the origin weekend — funniest food jokes you’ll ever see in a police procedural comic.

Wonder Woman #27

Well, Wonder Woman has gotten completely stomped by the man-made god called Genocide — and she’s taken the Lasso of Truth, which she has the Secret Society surgically implant within her, making her even more powerful. Meanwhile, Sarge Steel has gone murderously insane, and the gods of Olympus have returned, which doesn’t mean anything good for the remaining Amazons.

Verdict: Ehh, not great, but not awful either. Genocide is an interesting opponent for Wondy, but Diana spends the entire issue moping around and looking defeated, which just isn’t a good look for her.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #5

The conculsion of this story starts out with Robo getting captured by the Nazis and turned into a power source for their newest super-weapon. He gets rescued by a Scottish commando with an outrageous accent, but has to spend the rest of the issue legless and later down another hand. Can Robo and the scotsman put an end to Skorzeny’s evil schemes?

Verdict: I’m gonna give it a thumbs down. The conclusion just felt a bit flat. And the scotsman was an interesting and amusing character, but this series felt a bit like the creators were throwing a bunch of different characters out there for brief guest-starring roles. For the big conclusion, we should’ve seen the Sparrow and the other previous guest stars, too.

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Cop Rock


Top 10: Season Two #2

The officers of Precinct 10 are wearing standard-issue uniforms and carrying standard-issue weaponry. While this does make them look very spiffy, it also leaves many of them at a disadvantage without their super-science weapons. Irma Wornow is excited to learn that the late Sung Li has apparently returned from the dead — but no, it’s Li’s latest vat-grown clone, called “Girl Two,” and she has no memories of Irma. Duane Bodine and Pete Cheney go looking for illegal magic users, while the rest of the officers head to the site of an unusual hostage situation — a sentient apartment building is holding some of its tenants hostage. Irma gets frustrated by the situation, digs a bazooka out of the back of her squad car, and shoots the building, which doesn’t harm it much, but allows new officer Slipstream Phoenix to again nab credit for a bust. Of course, Irma gets suspended.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still loving the characters, loving the developing plotlines. Hating the new police commissioner and not real fond of Slipstream Phoenix, but I think that’s by design.


Gemini #3

Been a while since we’ve seen this one. Dan Johnson has no idea he’s a superhero until his former government handler shows up and tells him the truth — the government has conditioned him to respond to various code phrases to take a new identity and fight crime. Dan and Regan, his former handler, go on the run, fighting off a bunch of armored troops, and take a trip out of town ’til the heat’s off. Unfortunately, the government has found out where they’re going, so they call ahead for some superhero backup.

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs up, but not by much. The fighting is good, the intrigue is good. The artwork is really stylized and is starting to get on my nerves.

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Cops and Robbers


Top 10: Season Two #1

One of Alan Moore’s most purely enjoyable comics was the original “Top 10” which focused on police officers who had to keep the peace in a city where everyone had superpowers. Part police procedural, part superhero action-comedy, the series followed the superpowered cops of Neopolis as they dealt with alien serial killers, a corrupt police commissioner, murders of Norse gods, and an infestation of UltraMice. It’s still one of my favorite comics series of all time. There was a spinoff (“Smax,” which was awesome), a prequel (“The Forty-Niners,” which was awesome), and a sequel (“Beyond the Farthest Precinct,” which suuuucked).

This new sequel wisely pretends “Beyond the Farthest Precinct” never happened. Alan Moore isn’t on board this time, but writing chores have been taken over by former “Top 10” layout artist Zander Cannon, with penciller Gene Ha still handling the artwork.

In this first issue, a new officer named Slipstream Phoenix arrives at the precinct office — only a few vague hints about his powers, he has weird pseudo-Egyptian markings around his eyes, and he wears an actual police uniform instead of a superhero costume. Anyway, it’s soon revealed that he’s not just a new officer — he’s an open spy for the new transdimensional police commissioner, who is obsessed with enforcing normalcy and has announced that all officers are only allowed to use standard-issue police equipment, firearms, and uniforms.

Meanwhile, some mysterious serial killer has just dumped a dozen dead girls into the fountain in front of the police headquarters, Irma Wornow is still mourning the death of her old partner Sung Li, and Lt. Colby finds out that (A) she’s pregnant and (B) her husband likes to dress up in skimpy superheroine costumes. In addition, it looks like we’ll finally get some focus on Jenny McCambridge, who’s previously been just a background character.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The fear was that, without Alan Moore writing, the story would fall flat — something that certainly happened with “Beyond the Farthest Precinct,” which really was just spectacularly awful. But this one isn’t bad at all. I think it helps that Cannon and Ha were both involved with the original series — replicating the artwork is a nice touch, and maybe they were able to absorb some of Moore’s magical storytelling abilities through osmosis.

As far as the commissioner’s new rules for the officers — sounds like it’ll be a great opportunity for some fun stories. It’s gonna be hard for Duane Bodine and Irma Wornow, with their 12-shooter pistols and atomic power armor, but on the other hand, wow, those new uniforms really do look pretty good. Officer Pete Cheney always looked ridiculous in his own costume, but the picture of him on the cover — other than his goofy antennae, he looks almost normal.

Slipstream Phoenix looks like he’ll be fun — simultaneously idealistic and really, really untrustworthy. I’m also liking the idea of giving Officer McCambridge a more active role in the story. If there’s a downside to this issue, it’s that there are a lot fewer visual in-jokes here — very few superpowered Charlie Browns or William Shakespeares or sly comic book references. It may be that those will pick up as the series goes on, and it could be that those were part of what Moore brought to the original series.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for this one — let’s hope it stays fun to read.

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Alan Moore knows the score

A friend of mine suggested recently that I should spend more time here recommending writers and artists worth reading. Fair ’nuff — there are a lot of wonderful creators out there, and it’s always a good idea to steer people toward the Good Stuff.

So let’s start with the Best of the Best: Alan Moore.

Moore is a shaggy, shaggy Englishman, a practicing magician, a worshiper of a Roman snake-god called Glycon, and the second-best-known comics creator in the world, after Stan Lee. He’s known for intricate plotlines, razor-sharp characterizations, and scripts so detailed, a single panel description can go on for a page or more.

Moore has always worked to create comics for adults. That means there’s violence, nudity, swearing, and other stuff that parents may not want their kids getting their hands on. Moore sees the comics medium as something that shouldn’t be mired in juvenilia, though he also recognizes that superhero comics can be a great deal of fun for grown-ups as well as kids.

Here’s some of his best stuff, with short descriptions.


We’ve discussed this a bit already. This is widely considered to be the very best comic book ever created. They teach this one in many universities as literature. If you’ve never read this, you should.

V for Vendetta

A masked, swashbuckling anarchist battles a fascist dictatorship in Great Britain. Not a perfect work — there are way too many characters to keep track of — but the story absolutely blisters the brain with excitement, derring-do, and mad, dangerous ideas. An extremely political comic — Moore wrote it in response to Maggie Thatcher’s hard-right British government.

From Hell

This is a story about Jack the Ripper. Moore comes up with his own solutions for the Ripper slayings, ties it all together with head-trippy stuff about sacred geometry and time travel. Moore did a lot of research into “Ripperology” and includes an excellent bibliography and panel-by-panel endnotes. This comic is violent and absolutely blood-drenched, but if you have any interest at all in the Ripper slayings or in the seamier side of Victorian England, it’s highly recommended.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s a superteam composed of characters from Victorian-era adventure fiction! The British government assembles a covert team of Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll, and the Invisible Man to battle Dr. Fu Manchu. A second series of the comic has the team taking on invaders from Mars. Guest stars include everyone from Auguste Dupin, Mycroft Holmes, Dr. Moreau, the Artful Dodger, Mr. Toad, John Carter, and many, many more.

Tom Strong

A modern-day superhero book that takes most of its inspiration from old pulp adventure novels, particularly Tarzan and Doc Savage. The quality is a bit here-and-there, but in general, it’s grand, frothy fun.

Top 10

One of my favorite Moore comics, it’s a hard-boiled police procedural set in a city where everyone — citizens, cops, crooks — has superpowers and wears a brightly-colored spandex costume. It’s a fun commentary on comics in general, plus it has a lot of really wonderful mysteries for the cops to solve. If you like TV shows like “Law and Order” or “Homicide: Life on the Street,” you’ll like this one.


A psychedelic/metaphysical comic about a superhero who is destined to bring about the end of the world. If you’re into new age stuff, magick, Qabalah, or the Tarot, you’ll love this. This comic is also the one where Moore does the most experimentation with visual styles and symbolism. It’s not light reading — it’s a very challenging book that requires fairly deep reading to understand.


A British superhero, similar to Captain Marvel. The original version got its start in the ’50s, and Moore started working on it in the ’80s. In his version, Marvelman ends up taking over the world and ruling as a god. It’s awfully hard to find this series anywhere in the U.S. — the rights to the character and the series are in dispute. (They even had to change the name from “Marvelman” to “Miracleman” when Marvel Comics threatened to sue.)

The Killing Joke

This Batman story presents the definitive origin of the Joker. And it’s the story that started Barbara Gordon on the path from being Batgirl to becoming Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker. It’s a wonderful comic, one of the best Joker stories ever.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

DC was preparing to reboot the Superman from the beginning back in the mid-’80s, and Moore wrote this story to bring an end to everything in the old Superman mythos. Supes is forced to deal with powerful enemies who destroy his secret identity, turn his old rogues gallery into psychotic murderers, and threaten to destroy him and everyone he loves. It’s a sad and scary story that’s soaked in nostalgia for the lost innocence of DC’s fabled Silver Age.

Saga of the Swamp Thing (especially “The Anatomy Lesson”)

When Moore took over this comic, the Swamp Thing was a low-selling comic on the fast track to cancellation. In the space of just a few issues, he turned it into one of DC’s best-selling and scariest comics. “The Anatomy Lesson” revamps Swamp Thing’s origin and re-introduces the character as a terrifying monster. Highly recommended — go hunt it down.

Terra Obscura

This one was just plotted by Moore, but it’s still great fun. A simultaneous spin-off from “Tom Strong” and a series of superhero comics from the ’40s, this series featured a bunch of characters with a strong Golden Age flavor but modern personalities and characterizations.

Most of these stories are still in-print in various anthologies and trade paperbacks. You can go out and buy them today. In fact, you should, because they’re all wonderful reads. Git after it, kids.

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