Here we go with the second half of my epic list.
5 - Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on Ultimates, volumes 1 and 2
4 - Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, et al, on JLA
3 - Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon on Preacher
2 - Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch on The Authority
1 - Walt Simonson's run on The Mighty Thor
Readers of "a lay of the land" know full well my love of The Ultimates. It's on this list for the same reason that JLA and The Authority: big widescreen action with excellent art and terrific writing. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, considering that I've already posted about it. Okay, moving on.
Grant Morrison and Howard Porter delivered big widescreen epic action on JLA. They reimagined the JLA as the Greek pantheon, put them on the Moon, and made them fight through time and space and dimensions without any logic. Low on character development, high on face-kickin', this is a very fun and entertaining run. The highlight is the Rock of Ages arc, six issues of uber-complex back and forth time travel and alternate universes. The best part of Grant Morrison is that he doesn't talk down to his audience. So much happens from one panel to the next that it's sometimes hard to keep up. (PS, I also want to include Morrison's DC One Million mini-series in this, but that's cheating. DC One Million is the greatest comic book "event"/crossover ever. It's also one of the best time travel stories ever concocted).
Next is Preacher, one of my favourite self-contained series, ever. Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon, it's the story of Jesse Custer, his girlfriend Tulip, and his Irish vampire friend Cassidy as they search for the God who abandoned the human race. It's a complex story about honour, brotherhood, masculinity, and the tropes of the Western. It's also ridiculous funny, that Ennis style of black humour. When I first read Preacher, I wasn't really into it. There's no superheroes, there's no costumed villains. But the dynamics between the three main characters is so nuanced and developed that every time I read Preacher, I pay more attention to what's happening beneath the surface, rather than the copious buttsecks jokes.
Secondly, of course, is The Authority, but the original Ellis and Hitch version. Again, it's that widescreen epic action. Comics Should Be Good! has a neat little story about the creation of the title, read it here. I've talked a lot of The Authority before, using up two posts back in the hazy beginnings of "a lay of the land".
First and foremost, Walt Simonson on The Mighty Thor is just balls-to-the-wall high octane rocknroll excitement. Simonson's combo of Norse mythology and 80's era superheroics was a perfect match. The Surtur Saga, which takes up the first third of the run is awesome hardcore and just blows people away. But he was also able to make stand out character moments, like Skurge the Executioner's last stand (read Dave Campbell's watery retelling). In what world in which the Asgardians get automatic weapons and invade Hell isn't a perfect world?
So that's my list. Here are some runs that I had to leave out: Mark Millar and Frank Quitely on The Authority, Bendis and Michael Oeming on Powers, Grant Morrison on New X-Men, Alan Moore on Supreme, Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on All-Star Superman, Dave Sim and Gerhard on Cerebus (if only for the sheer audacity of it), John Byrne on Fantastic Four, Claremont and Alan Davis on Excalibur, Moore and Davis on Captain Britain, Moore on Miracleman/Marvelman, Mike Carey on Lucifer, Neil Gaiman on Sandman. The list goes on.