When I start reading a new series or an ongoing series with a new creative team, the hope is for me that I am embarking on the beginning of something great. That at some point I will be pulled in and unable to quit until the end. For me, these series did that.
Green Arrow by Mike Grell (Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters 1-3, Green Arrow 1-80, Green Arrow: The Wonder Years 1-4, and Shado: Song of the Dragon 1-4)
In 1987 Mike Grell wrote and illustrated the incredible Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters miniseries. It was 3 double-sized prestige format issues that changed the character forever. Gone were the silly trick arrows and team-ups with Green Lantern, this was a complete rebirth of the character.
Green Arrow stalked the streets of a rainy modern day Seattle with his longbow. Even though he was still a good guy, there was something unsettling about the character now. He was real, and at times Grell put him in kill or be killed situations, and Green Arrow did what he had to do, and it was awesome.
In the opening story, Ollie encounters a rival who also wielded a bow, Shado. The deadly Yakuza assassin with a dragon tattoo on her arm and a blood debt to her employers. Throughout the ongoing series Shado returned numerous times. Those issues, especially 9-12, 21-24, and 63-66 are a must-read for any Green Arrow fan.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Eastman and Laird (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1-12, 14, 15, 17, 19-21, 48-60, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo one-shots)
What began as a goofy Daredevil parody quickly became a style of it’s own, and one that endures to this day much to the delight of myself and millions of other TMNT fans. The first issue is such a brutal opening to the series, it’s easy to forget they weren’t always the same turtles we grew up with. The Turtles are pissed off warriors in that first issue, and won’t shy away from shedding blood.
However, as the series progressed Eastman and Laird began to define the true style of the Ninja Turtles. Soon they were traveling through dimensions, fighting Triceratons armed with lazer guns, and eating pizza. The action could still be quite violent, but the characters evolved into a family unit, with April and Casey Jones joining in the fun.
The creative team often had to leave their own series to deal with the business side of the Turtles, which had taken on a life of it’s own once the cartoon series debuted. For that reason there were a lot of weird filler issues written by hired hands, the issues I’ve listed are the ones done exclusively by Eastman and Laird.
Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Sleeper Season One 1-12, and Season Two 1-12)
For me, this is really the beginning of the legendary collaboration between writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. To this day the pair are nearly flawless when they work together and have put out some of the best comics ever.
This series is about an undercover agent named Holden Carver, who has been infiltrating a supervillain empire run by criminal mastermind Tao. Holden has the dubious task of lying to the face of a man who is a hundred times smarter than him. The story is full of unpredictable twists and turns, as Holden doubts whether he can complete his mission, or even survive, once he’s been left out in the cold.
Green Lantern by Geoff Johns ( Green Lantern Rebirth 1-6, Green Lantern (2005 Series) 1-67, Blackest Night 0-8, Green Lantern (2011 Series) 0-20, Annual 1
Before Geoff Johns started work on Green Lantern, DC had trouble selling even one monthly Green Lantern comic. Now years later there are five ongoing titles, with no signs of slowing down. One of the things Geoff Johns needs to be commended for is the cohesiveness within the Green Lantern Universe. It all fits together so well. Often the best parts of his epic Green Lantern run is tied into other Green Lantern titles flawlessly.
Case in point, The Sinestro Corps War which is a crossover, is also one of the greatest Green Lantern stories ever written. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. Another example of this is War of the Green Lanterns, which is a collaboration between three different creative teams all coming together to tell one fantastic story.
Another thing that is great about this series is the artwork. This Green Lantern title has boasted some of the most talented artists in the industry. I can’t say enough about the scope and vision presented by Doug Mahnke or Ivan Reis, who handle the bulk of the run. So not only is it a great story, but it’s great to look at as well.
Hellblazer by Garth Ennis (Hellblazer 41-50, 52-83, 129-133, Hellblazer Special, and Heartland Special)
Before Ennis took over this title, Hellblazer was a bit of mixed bag. You never knew what you were going to get from the previous creative team. Looking back, I think there’s more bad than good in the first 40 issues. And then in issue 41 everything changed.
Dangerous Habits kicked off the first arc where Constantine discovered he was dying of lung cancer. The great thing about this story is it takes a man whose trademark is to be cocky, clever, and in control and turned it all on it’s head. Our titular character is left scrambling and desperate to see if there’s any way he can get out of this. It’s these issues that showed us what old John was made of.
From there the series is incredibly malleable. Some stories are funny, some sad, and some horrific. One of my favorite stories is issue 50 where John takes a late night stroll and runs into the King of Vampires, which is no accident. The King wants to use John, and lays out how he, in his eternities of existence, views life. He attempts to make Constantine subservient to him. All I can say is John’s response is classic. All I can say is the next time these two meet, the interaction does not disappoint.