Best Teams of 2004


You know the rules, creator acceptance speeches in green, our comments in italics, voted on by the Nexus staff, etc. What appears to be an issue to some is the order of the awards, specifically why it runs from 1 to 10 instead of the more traditional 10 to 1. Well, there are basically two reasons for it. Number one is that this is how the lists initially went out to the writers. Thus, on occasion, a writer will make reference to an earlier entry (perhaps to what they wrote for number 3 while writing up number 8). By preserving the order that the writers responded to the winners, their entries make more sense. The second is that I never thought of it as a countdown. I was viewing it as a sort of Gallup poll, where the winner is listed first followed by the other 9 “placers”. I know that a countdown is the norm for things of this nature so I understand why people were less inclined to see it my way. In any case, by tomorrow (Best Artists!) we may change the order to 10 to 1 for ease of consumption (I believe you guys can handle 1 to 10, but perhaps not”¦) and to please our legions of now enraged fans. For now, however, I hope you can live with the 1 to 10 order.

Best Teams

(Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, Kid Flash, Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Raven)

The Teen Titans may not be the most powerful team in the world and they may not star in the best selling comic book in the land, but there is no team with more chemistry, and that’s why they deserve this award.

It’s the high school quarterback dating the head cheerleader; it’s the class clown reaching out to the shut-in goth girl; it’s the kid nobody believed in stepping up and proving himself. Teen Titans is a comic about teenagers growing up and it’s succeeded in putting forth a realistic impression of this. Superboy, Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash are friends foremost and a superhero team second and it shows. Beast Boy continued to integrate himself into the mix of the younger team members while the addition of Raven has shaken things up while also adding the ingredient the team seemed to be lacking in 2003; Cyborg & Starfire continue to be the rocks that hold the team together while also learning from the kids themselves.

Whether it’s the incredible trust between best friends Superboy and Robin, the pressure Kid Flash puts upon himself and the friendly friction between him and Beast Boy, or the romance between Superboy and Wonder Girl that even my non-comic reading girlfriend finds adorable, Teen Titans boasts the best team dynamics of any comic book currently being published.

-Ben Morse

Nobody in the industry writes a team book as well as Geoff Johns. Johns’ ability to manage a large cast and give everyone their moment in the sun is unmatched. The reason the Titans are one of the best teams in comics is not their powers, the battles they’ve fought, or the costumes they wear, it’s the characterization that’s present in each successive issue.

Robin’s fretting about his future, the budding romance between Superboy and Wonder Girl, Cyborg facing his lost humanity, and Kid Flash’s evolution are a few of the priceless developments from the past year. Not to mention the character-centric events that brought Raven back to the team. The Titans may have fantastic adventures, but the growth of the characters never plays second-fiddle to super-powered-fisticuffs.

– Chris Delloiacono

After the weakly received 199-2003 Titans series, it seemed as though it might be time for that brand to take a little bit of a rest. A year and a half after this series launched, I am happy to say that Johns has proven that particular theory wrong. The team has great chemistry, is a worthy successor to the Wolfman era and looks good proving it (thanks to McKone’s top notch art).

-Tim Stevens

Teen Titans isn’t so much a team as they are a family. Sure it’s kind of incestuous, what with Wonder Girl and Superboy hooking up, but it’s still a family. And like any family there are secrets; Lex is Superboy’s other “dad”, Wonder Girl’s benefactor is Ares. There were also moments where they grew closer; Gar getting sick, Bart getting shot, and Raven being held by Brother Blood. They are closer than a team; they’re a family. That’s why Superboy opted to return to the Titans rather than stay with the Legion.

-Mathan Erhardt

2. The JSA
(Mr. Terrific, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat, Power Girl, Hawkgirl, Sand, Stargirl, Dr. Mid-Nite, Hourman, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel, Hourman)

They were the first and they remain among the best.

The JSA finally got a long-needed thinning out this year and writer Geoff Johns was left with a smaller more manageable cast to focus on.

Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite have one of the coolest friendships in comics; two incredibly smart guys who can sit around cool as ice doing any surgery in the world but crumble when it comes to things like dealing with their own faith or facing the family of the women they accidentally killed while drugged at the wheel; it’s a good thing they have each other to talk to.

The ever-shifting relationship between the two Hourmen (three counting Tyler) also provided for some great drama this year. And there was no more heart-crushing moment than watching Captain Marvel fly away from Stargirl as she cried over the loss of her first love while time-traveling baddie Degaton laughed in the background.

-Ben Morse

I find it hard to talk about these characters without giving a major credit to the writer, Geoff Johns. The cast of JSA is loaded from top to bottom. It doesn’t matter which characters are occupying the page at a given time, they all shine equally. Whether it’s Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific, Stargirl, and Sand, who some may consider second-tier, or the more high-profile Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Flash (Jay Garrick), Power Girl, and Captain Marvel, all of these characters stories are compelling.

Special notice must be called to Mr. Johns’ unbelievable work with the father/son Hourman combo in recent months. The recent storyline that brought the Golden Age Hourman back from the dead pulled together the team and the legacy-concept of the title to perfection. Just one more example of why The JSA is great.

– Chris Delloiacono

Teams of this size usually fail to click with me. More often than note a few characters are given all the good character moments while more peripheral ones struggle for screen time. Yet, somehow, the JSA has yet to fall into this trap, rotating cast members in and out of the spotlight with ease. There is a richness to them, but their stories do not feel overstuffed or inaccessible. For characters this steeped in history, that is a pretty impressive feat to pull off. Special kudos to writing two of my favorite non-solo book characters: Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite, who, I expect, are worth the price of admission all by themselves. Thankfully, that theory need never be tested when they are surrounded by such an excellent cast.

-Tim Stevens

The JSA is like a legacy, a heritage. The old guard of the DCU mentor the brightest stars of today and tomorrow The JSA is all about teamwork. Case in point, who did Superman turn to when Lois got shot? Dr. Midnite. And who did the DCU turn to for the autopsy of Sue Dibny? Mr. Terrific and Dr. Midnite. Now that’s what I call teamwork. This year we got to witness their most terrible moments. We also got to see them save one of their own. And they had to face off against their gravest threat yet; Zombie Ben Morse!

-Mathan Erhardt

3. Gotham Central

The GCPD go against most of the conventions of comic books. They are not a colorful cast. They don’t possess exciting powers (excepting Josie Mac). In many ways they’re not all that different from you or me. They may not be flashy, but they are the most interesting cast of characters on the market. Fantastic situations are the norm in comics, but a “normal” person’s perspective is rather rare.

This is a completely different view of the 4-Color world of comics. Different doesn’t always equal great, but in Gotham Central’s case, it sure does. There’s no other book like it.

The greatest compliment I can pay to the GCPD characters is that I’m annoyed when Batman or any other “hero” strolls in and takes the focus away from the stars of the book.

– Chris Delloiacono

One of the best ensembles out there. There is a great sense of voice given to each character and Brubaker and Rucka are never afraid to show these characters pull together or fight one another (see the Corrigan arc for a sterling example of both). If only the Law and Orders and CSIs of the TV world could be this interesting.

-Tim Stevens

4. Astonishing X-Men
(Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost)

The fun with this team of X-Men certainly wasn’t watching them work together, it was watching them not get along.

From the word go, Wolverine showed up perched on Scott Summers & Emma Frost’s bedpost chiding his longtime foil Cyclops for sleeping around so soon after the death of their mutual love (and Cyclops’ wife) Jean Grey and Cyke responded by optic blasting the little runt through a wall; meanwhile, Emma muses to Beast that despite “the best body money can buy, ” she “still can’t compete with a corpse.

Next issue it was Wolverine and Beast’s turn to fight it out physically while Kitty and Emma had it out with words, producing a classic exchange in which Kitty, once the cute and lovable junior member of the team, showed she certainly isn’t a kid anymore.
Joss Whedon’s cutting and sly humor is perfect for the world’s most dysfunctional team of mutants.

-Ben Morse

Sometimes you collect books out of sheer tradition. For a couple of years now, I’ve been doing just that. Certain titles have not rang true with me, or I wasn’t a fan of the art team, or minor gripes that have left me with a bland taste in my mouth when it comes to my favorite team.

Thankfully, sometimes one small thing happens to reinvigorate my entire belief that there are good stories out there to be told, and people who understand the voices of these characters. Joss Whedon has done just that by taking a team of standards, and making them seem believable, exciting, and one of my ‘top of the list’ books. Whether it’s Wolverine and Beast battling it out over Beast’s personal crisis, or Colossus running straight through Kitty Pryde – Joss shows us these moments with the hand of Cassaday on art, that are everything you want out of an X-Book.

I thank them for showing me how it can be done.

-James Hatton

This is the first X team that has ever inspired me to buy and collect a 616 X book. This team actually felt on equal footing with one another without anyone hogging the limelight (Logan, I’m looking at you). Plus, my favorite metal skinned mutant is now part of the team. ‘Nuff said.

-Tim Stevens

5. The Outsiders
(Jade, Arsenal, Nightwing, Grace, Indigo, Shift, Thunder, The Huntress, Starfire)

The Outsiders might seem all banter and bicker, but there is a method to their madness. They throw their opponents off guard. This year alone they’ve stopped the nuclear threat of the Fearsome Five, er Fearsome Four and they’re in the process of breaking up a child slavery ring. That’s not too shabby.

-Mathan Erhardt

6. Birds of Prey
(Oracle, Black Canary, The Huntress)

For those of you who complain that there are no comics featuring strong female characters in superhero situations, this is the team that you are looking for. For those of you who complain that there is no such thing as fun in comics anymore, this is the team you are looking for.

-Tim Stevens

7. The Ultimate X-Men
(Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Colossus, Storm, Iceman, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Angel, Dazzler, Beast)

I’ve been extremely bored with the one-dimensional Ultimate mutants for several years, but Brian K. Vaughan turned all that around in a matter of months by actually daring to give the team members individual personalities.

Vaughan tied up the loose end Brian Michael Bendis left for him with the death of Beast by seizing the opportunity to show the different ways in which different kinds of teenagers (and their adult mentors) react when they lose a friend. In particular, Vaughan utilized the incident to allow Storm, Beast’s girlfriend, to evolve and grow as a character.

He also set up a nice little love triangle between Iceman, Rogue and Shadowcat and took Dazzler from Bendis castoff to fun little vixen. This is a team (and a book) to watch out for in 2005.

-Ben Morse

Brian K. Vaughn is a machine.

I would like to think that Stan Lee reads these stories and says ‘This guy gets it’ – because he does. In the original heyday of the X-Men, there were two underlying themes going on at all times. The first was one of racial prejudice. People hating out of fear, and a second set of people who tried to stand above it. The second was teenage relationships, and that is what Vaughn does perfectly.

Touching on themes of death, jealousy, rage, and vanity – Vaughn’s storytelling is not only fun, but it lets us know that each of these characters has limitless depth to be explored and he’s going to do his best to show us as many as he can.

-James Hatton

8. The Legion of Super-Heroes
(Kid Quantum, Cosmic Boy, Live Wire, Saturn Girl, Apparition, Triad, Chameleon, Invisible Kid, XS, Braniac 5, Spark, Leviathin, Kinetix, Gates, Star Boy, M’Onel, Ultra Boy, Ferro, Sensor, Umbra, Wildfire, Shikari, Gear, Timber Wolf, Dreamer, Superboy)

The Legion had a momentous year. They stopped the threat of Darkseid and Universo. They even teamed up with the Teen Titans to stop the Fatal 500! And to top it all off they entire book was relaunched with new continuity. Does it get any more momentous than that?

-Mathan Erhardt

9. The Fantastic Four
(Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, The Thing)

The Fantastic Four never go out of style. The Stan Lee & Jack Kirby creations are a comic book archetype and they’ll still have a monthly book long after I’m gone. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo have told some stirring adventures with the FF this past year. Waid has endeavored to place the characters in interesting settings, but even more he’s focused on the characters themselves and their relationships. As wonderful as the FF may be, if they’re constantly set in plot-driven situations they become stale. When the FF are allowed to shine as characters–even after more than forty years–very few are more fascinating.

– Chris Delloiacono

Knowing Waid’s amazing track record in comics, I picked up his Fantastic Four on a lark. How could you go wrong with a comic that cost you only 9 cents? I haven’t looked back since. Purists will twist and shout about how he characterized this person or that, but purists will shout at anything – Waid has breathed new life into Marvel’s First Family and it will be sad to see him go.

-James Hatton

10. The Runaways

I only got into this series with the first digest. As of now I’ve read the first two digests collecting issues 1-12. I have to say that this may be the most ingenious premise in years. Of course, that should be expected from Brian K. Vaughan (creator of groundbreaking books like Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina). The premise of a group of teenagers with super-villains as parents may be masterful, but it comes down to the characters and their reaction to the situations they’re presented. The premise would be worthless if it was occupied by characters you didn’t care about.

The Runaway’s fight for their lives may be intriguing, but they are one of the best because it’s utterly fascinating to watch their “story” develop.

– Chris Delloiacono

Remember earlier when I said Vaughn was a machine?

Runaways without a doubt was a redefinition of a team book. You knew this right from the get go when, after the kids had joined together, they took on member names that related to rock music. ‘Lucy In The Sky’, ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ – and the idea of them being a team forced together because of their evil parents has the stamp on it that makes you go, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”.

The team itself balances perfectly between teenage angst, and their pressing environmental problems. Much like with Ultimate X-Men, Vaughn gives us a believable batch of teenagers who have stumbled onto powers. Add in the ‘evil parents’ angle, and Vaughn has given us a book that we didn’t know we needed until we had it.

-James Hatton

Vaughan has done a lot of things for the world of comics, but this is easily my favorite gift of his. These teens speak, act, and look like teenagers. They challenged the clichéd boundaries most teen characters fit nicely in, but never felt unrealistic for it. And even with this, the book still propelled them through crazy, cool comic book adventures that never felt grafted on. If you are looking for one book that nails the teenage group dynamic perfectly, this is it.

-Tim Stevens

Tomorrow brings you the Best Artists of 2004. Sure, you might be able to miss it and live, but…are you really willing to take that risk?