Below you’ll find our reading selections for the year of 1986, and once we’re finished reading, I’ll post the winners for hero, villain, issue, artist, and writer.
Feel free to discuss the comics and any related thoughts below in the comments!
1986 Comic Reading List
(Check out Patreon for Full List With Notes!)
|1986||Comic Book Title||Issues|
|1||Secret Wars II||#7 to #9|
|2||Punisher||#1 to #5|
|3||Thor||#364 to #366|
|4||Avengers / Fantastic Four||#263 / #286|
|5||New Mutants / Uncanny X-Men / X-Factor / New Mutants Annual / Uncanny X-Men Annual||#35 / #205 / #1 / #2 / #10|
|6||Daredevil||Daredevil: Love and War graphic novel / #227 to #233|
|7||Fantastic Four||#293 to #295|
|8||Avengers||#267 to #269, #273 to #274|
|9||Captain America||#320 to #323|
|10||Mutant Massacre||See the reading order.|
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Hero of the Year: Daredevil
Villain of the Year: Kingpin
Issue of the Year: Daredevil #230 (But basically Daredevil #227 to #233)
Writer of the Year: Frank Miller
Artist of the Year: Bill Sienkiewicz
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All kinds of mixed feelings about 1986. Obviously it is a high point for Marvel, what with Born Again and the Mutant Massacre, but at the same time I see it as the start of Marvels decline as much of the top talent moves over to the distinguished competition coupled with the inevitable descent into event comics and crossover mania.
The Punisher starts us off with a strong mini. The writing is sharp and Mike Zeck does a great job on pencils. Unfortunately it won’t be long before there are three Punisher books on the shelf, all basically retelling the same story over and over again.
You really can’t go wrong with anything from Simonson’s Thor. Even as a frog the god of thunder makes an impact. And the Balder mini only serves to prove the point. This is timged with some regret, though, as soon Simonson will stop penciling Thor. And that will inevitably lead to his leaving the book and it will be literally over 2 decades before its worth reading again.
The FF this year was a load of fun, with time travel, Annihilus, Doom and the final Byrne arc. I think the best issues were the Nick Fury/Annihilus Time travel ones from 289-292. Do yourself a favor and read them. But as good as they are, these stories also fill me with melancholy because this is the end for Byrne, and it’s going to be a good 35 odd issues before the FF become readable again, and it’s 16 years before Waid and Wieringo! Byrne will be back at Marvel before too long, but this is the end of his heyday writing and drawing the flagship title.
What can be said about Born Again that hasn’t been said before? Miller at his creative peak, back on the title that launched his career. I’ve read it over and over. My beat up copy of the trade was so worn I had to buy a new copy a half dozen years back. The art is bang on, Mazzucchelli is easily artist of the year. And the writing is Miller at his best. The two combine to weave seemingly disparate subplots into a story that is almost without peer. There are still moments that give me chills (“a soldier with a voice that could command a god- and does” Miller sums up Captain America and his relationship with the other Avengers in one line). Yeah, writer of the year, too. That being said, this is also pretty much the end for Miller at Marvel. Oh sure, he’ll do a couple of stories more, but they did not bring much new to the table.
Continuing that theme we have the Mutant Massacre. A great story with a deep impact. It blew me away at the time and still resonates today. Uncanny X-Men 212 gets my vote for issue of the year for its pure giddy childlike cool factor. I think this cross-over Marvel event may be the best from the time period. It wasn’t too long (and therefore easy to follow), it had an impact and it was fun to read. However, it does inaugurate the yearly event for the X Titles, and that is going to go very old very quickly as they get bigger and more and more unwieldy.
On the other hand, Captain America and the Avengers are a beacon of hope this year, as both are setting up important time periods for both books. Gruenwald’s run on Captain A is legendary, and the Super Patriot story is a good example. And Stern’s Under Siege rocks, and it sets up a run of great stories in the Avengers over the next two or three years. Looking forward to those.
A weird thought: I was big into comics back in the early to late eighties, and as we read through the Marvel books I almost feel like we are only getting half the story. This thought started to germinate back around 81 or 82 as I recalled the ongoing “rivalry” between the Teen Titans (Wolfman/Perez) and the X-Men (Claremont/Byrne). Then in 1985, with the competing mini-series, the feeling continued. Now, as we are smack dab in the middle of the 80s and the Distinguished Competition is in full blown revamp mode, we are missing key creative efforts by Byrne, Miller, Perez, Wolfman and Moore.
I guess what I mean is Marvel did not exist in a vacuum. In the early years it was obviously the leader of the genre, with only a little influence from other publishers. In the seventies the rivalry picked up and the cross pollination began with the Kirby exodus. However, in the eighties the rivalry is in full bloom, and if we look at the comics as an art form we need to consider the creative forces behind the books and the influences the industry had upon them. I wonder if there is a way that we can include the impact of the competition in our reading club…
Lotta great points, as always. But no love for Simonson’s brief stint on Fantastic Four? We’ll be hitting some of that soon 🙂
I love the idea of merging some of this, at least co textually, with the Distinguished Competition. It never stops impressing me that Miller in particular was writing all time great Daredevil AND Batman stories in the same year.
Now if only DC will hear my pleas for a digital subscription in time for the 2017 club!
Simonson’s run on the FF was pretty good, but we have to wait about 30 issues before it starts, and it does fall prey to the “event” mindset with the new FF story line, but it was pretty good. Kinda looking forward to it as I haven’t revisited it for at least two decades…
And Miller’s work in 85 through 87 is really without peer. Even all these years later it holds up. I think I prefer his Daredevil stuff (I feel Dark Knight has suffered from later work/additions). And I think he gets overshadowed by Moore a lot. Swamp Thing is importation, but I was never a big fan (.maybe I have to give it another read) and Watchmen is a seminal work that deserves the accolades, but I think Born Again is a better story. Easier to get into, clearer prose and an ending that gives you a nice sense of closure. And Year One is still the definitive Batman story in my mind.
…Should have had a kind of “This year in Comics” annotation for each year to give new readers an idea of what else was going on around the industry.
Wow, what an incredible year. My voting, where I chose Born Again for pretty much every category, is more a personal choice than an objective examining of the year, as Born Again changed what I thought was possible in superhero comics, and still stands as one of the most devastating arcs I’ve ever read. If Born Again hadn’t happened in 1986, I would have still had so, so much to choose from for my voting. I pretty much enjoyed everything this year, so let’s review everything other than Born Again:
– Secret Wars 2 was maybe the weakest of everything this year, and I’m not terribly surprised. I had a feeling it wouldn’t end well, and the ending, with the Beyonder supposedly killed, felt suitable but ultimately kind of disappointing. I still enjoyed the overall series much more than I thought I would, but the early part of the series was better than the end.
– Circle of Blood was excellent, with some incredible artwork and pacing, and could have won my arc of the year in a less stacked year (like say, 1985). The Punisher’s abilities and character gets fleshed out very well here.
– Frog Thor is genius. You can’t believe that it’s happening as you read it, and that it goes on for a full three issue arc, but it somehow works so well, and there’s even an incredible payoff in Mutant Massacre later on. The panel of Frog Thor once he grabs his hammer has to be in the pantheon of great comic book panels.
– The whole Jean Gray being reborn thing bothers me quite a bit, but I guess I’ll roll with it. It’s now the second time that they’ve tried to resurrect Jean Gray, and this time especially, it ends up cheapening the emotional impact of the Dark Phoenix Saga. X-Factor in general is just odd to me, and I like that it gets acknowledged by the Morlocks and the X-Men that X-Factor hasn’t exactly helped the other mutants with prejudice. Scott also comes across as incredibly awful, abandoning his wife and child while starting X-Factor just to get back in the field. Yeesh.
– The X-Men in general had a terrific year, though I’m not as into Mutant Massacre as I thought I would be. It’s a solid crossover, but I think the issue is that there’s just too much time spent in the tunnels and it starts to drag after a while and ends up kind of overplaying the Marauders, who are much scarier when there’s less known about them. Still, Lady Deathstrike, Psylocke, and the death of a ton of mutants? Quite an impressive and impactful run in 1986. I’ll also just say here that I like Spiral but don’t enjoy how Mojo is written at all, which makes his scenes a slog to read. However, Simonson writing Thor with those kids in Thor 373? Now that was a pure joy to read.
– Love and War is a really neat and at times beautifully told tale by Miller, but it’s the Sinecikiwcz art that makes it a classic. The depiction of Kingpin alone is stunning.
– I loved the end of Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four. It’s a great, crazy story that shows the dark side of a brilliant scientist, and ends up being a reflection of what could happen if Reed made a wrong choice and/or bad calculations. Byrne may have started off a little shaky on Fantastic Four, but his run turned into one of the better long runs we’ve read.
– And again, an arc I loved: the Once and Future Kang. This FINALLY made Avengers Forever make sense to me (which I read first in your reading order many moons ago, Dave), and was quite entertaining throughout. I love how smart and ruthless Kang is, and how Immortus balances Kang’s evilness while still being uncompromising. Under Siege is fine, but we cut out in practically the beginning of the story, so jury’s out on that one.
– Cap was solid, though not my fave this year. The Ultimatum stuff was intense though, with Cap actually killing someone! Future Patriot was kind of odd, but I’m sure it’s setting something up down the road.
– Star Brand was solid, and the characterization felt notably different from most of Marvel. It was almost more down to earth and human, with characters that felt flawed but were regular people and were mostly nice to each other. It was a pleasure to read.
– Balder the Brave was excellent as usual from Simonson, with an amazing epic journey to and battle with the Frost Giants, and Agnar in particular gets strong character development. It was also perfectly paced, and had such a satisfying ending.
– I’ll end on the biggest shocker of the year for me, the Squadron Supreme. I went in with zero expectations and left blown away by how good it was. The characters were all so well fleshed out, which made the tragedy of the ending hit that much harder. The themes were interesting and much deeper than we usually get, and that end discussion between Nighthawk and Hyperion was wonderful. You could really sympathize with the villains! I think this would have gotten Issue/Arc of the Year from me if it hadn’t been for Born Again.
Boy, that was one of the best years yet. Onto 1987!
I’m guessing that for USA residents, the holiday weekend took a big chunk of time for reading and commenting.
My favorite series for 1986 is Walt Simonson’s Thor. Thor #366 is the best issue of the year. The whole run is solid, quality entertainment, but that frog story is just too outlandish not to recognize. My villain of the year was Loki as a write-in choice. Thor took the hero vote, and Walt Simonson got my writer and artist votes.
Byrne’s take on the Fantastic Four concludes, and it is strong throughout. Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men work is also highly recommended for consistent quality work. Mutant Massacre is both a good story and important for its impact on “family” crossovers as opposed to company-wide crossovers. It’s not what I consider a fun read, which you might guess from the title, but there is lots of drama, character work, and heroism involved.
No Name says
Secret Wars 2 is as awful as Born Again & Elektra: Assassin are amazing. Nuke is villain of the year, I’m sad I had to write him in.
Did I really just read a story arc about Thor as a frog?
Puddlegulp comes for us all 🙂
Dave C says
Should we be reading through 1987 for the Mutant Massacre? Or will they be part of the 1987 list? Also, how come no comments up to now? Am I missing something?
Yep, read the whole mutant massacre now!