Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson
Becoming ever more prescient with each passing day, Spider Jerusalem’s jaunt through the filthy alt-history America read more like an over-the-top satire than a prediction of the future when it was first released nearly 20 years ago. But look at where we are! Rejoice, this is what we’ve come to!
Spider’s particularly bonkers journalism (or, too-gonzo-for-gonzo) rankles the incumbent President known as the Beast, but soon the series propositions a new villain for our fearless writer to tackle: a sociopathic candidate nicknamed the Smiler.
Jerusalem is one of many memorable protagonists created by Warren Ellis, rendered beautifully by Darick Robertson. This book launched Robertson into the upper echelon of comic artists working today and should be mentioned alongside Vertigo classics like Watchmen, Preacher, and Sandman.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Frank Miller, Lynn Varley
Frank Miller’s off-the-rails sequel to his own classic Dark Knight Returns defies logic with every page. TMZ-like commentary carries through, continuing the 24-hour news cycle of the last series with heavier approach. But while the original series was truly a Batman story, DKSA attempts to speak of his importance to the DC publishing line at large — a true stab at “Batman Saves The World.”
It’s a ridiculous, over-the-top, and paranoid take on good versus evil, attempting to bring every major DC hero into one incoherent storyline about a new mystery Joker, a deformed President Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman and Superman having Super Wonder Sex in the sky for a few pages, and a god-like Green Lantern who may as well call himself Deus Ex MacGuffin.
And now for the low-hanging fruit: The art is pretty damn bad. Look at that. Shudder.
East of West
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta
For having one of the bleakest premises of all these listed series, East of West might be the most optimistic of them. Hickman and Dragotta teamed up for a few excellent Marvel comics (including the excellent FF #17, in which the Human Torch moves in with Spider-Man and turns his life to shit) before starting their Image epic about the humble beginnings of the apocalypse.
The Four Horsemen rise to initiate the end of everything in an alternate-reality version of North America segregated into six countries: the Endless Nation, the Kingdom of New Orleans, the People’s Republic, the Union, the Confederacy, and Texas. But then Death falls in love, betrays his siblings, gets murdered, and is resurrected for revenge just in time to see the world fall apart.
Mixing its own mythos with a twisted, cultish perversion of Christian-Judeo texts, East of West embraces the apocalypse with a sense of open arms that invites the next world that will inevitably rise from the ashes.
Days of Future Past
Chris Claremont, John Byrne
One of Marvel’s original post-apocalyptic jaunts and a classic later adapted into film, this is just one of many great stories in Claremont and Byrne’s foundation-laying run. Mystique wants to kill a U.S. Senator and forms the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to achieve said goal (not to be confused with Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants despite the many crossovers in membership).
The story (released in 1981) jumped forward in time to a dystopian 2013, where mutants were routinely registered, incarcerated, and executed for the simple crime of existing. The adult version of Kitty Pryde survives these horrors to send her consciousness back to the “present day” to stop Mystique from killin— wait, you’ve probably seen the movie. So you know how it goes.
The comic’s plot is pretty much the exact same. Unless you’re one of those nitpicking, continuity-obsessed assholes, because we are too and you’re so goddamn right, Bryan Singer doesn’t understand the X-Men franchise and should totally put himself in self-imposed exile. Aside from that, the comic hones in on the extreme racial and class divides between humans and mutants, interwoven with a dystopian future where the mutant-hunting sentinels have nearly eliminated mutants, placing them in camps.
Y: The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughn, Pia Guerra
In a world where Y-chromosomes become endangered and (nearly) all male mammals die off in an instant, two dudes survive: Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. They begin to navigate the new society in the wake of man’s departure, as new hierarchies and infrastructures are installed.
Pia Guerra is a skilled storyteller, using fine and deliberate linework to create a familiar world just one disaster away from our own. The collaboration with Brian K. Vaughn launched both careers into higher echelon status, but this remains one of Guerra’s most memorable comics to date.
The comic covers interesting ground, especially as different factions form and learn of Yorick and Ampersand’s presence and wonder what it might mean. Do they reverse the disaster, if they can? Or maybe just harvest the “material” they need to keep procreating?