Maybe I should take a moment and re-qualify my premise. I’m not really looking for ‘best’ superhero; I’m looking for ‘favorite.’ I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap, but it’s a fine distinction, really. I misstated things in my first few opening paragraphs, but I’d like to adjust that now. While I will likely revisit ‘best’ superhero after completing my list of favorites, for now, I’m just talking about things I like.
Yes, Batman will be on both lists.
Amanda Waller is ruled out for the same reasons as Victoria Hand and Lois Lane. Even if she’s as cool as those two multiplied by one another, not only has she never had any significant super powers, etc., but I’ve never actually seen and/or picked up a comic with her in it (except “Final Crisis,” which doesn’t even come close to counting). All I know about Amanda Waller I learned from the Justice League Animated Series, scans on the internet, and the streets.
Mask? Check. Costume? Check. Superhero identity? Check. Saving the world? Check. So, how does Adrian Veidt measure up against Jenny Sparks? Spider-Man? Ultimate Captain America? Booster Gold? Sure, Jenny’s saved the world a few times. Ultimate Cap’s even got a world save. Hell, hang around in either the DC or Marvel universe wearing tights one weekend and you, too, can help save it from an alien invasion. Strangely enough, only Midnighter can claim that he tried to proactively save the world from itself, and he didn’t succeed by a long shot. I don’t think any of them monologued about it (Although Cap did ask some pointed questions to his would-be invaders.). Ruled the world? Don’t think so. Kicked ass with clean, efficient style? Check. Had a compelling arc of development? Check. Has flaws that make him an interesting character to read about? Check, actually. That he would go to so much trouble to orchestrate this plan, only to remain oblivious about a little thing like Rorschach’s journal shows the problems with the theory that cheating to win is okay so long as you cheat perfectly even a stone cold intellectual/physical/social badass like Veidt missed (at least) one detail in his decades-long quest for peace. That he should have to learn (and so harshly), that his comic book, no matter how nuanced and genre-redefining, should be held to the same type of justice that its contemporaries and descendants are is a challenge that even the smartest man in the world may find difficult to surmount. Will his work be undone, forcing him to become a pariah, his light for good no less dimmed? Or will it merely become a thorn in his side, a book of apocrypha always threatening to take root and chew through the foundations of his new and finer world? Will he become the tyrannical monster he and others sought to stop in his quest to destroy that menace to world peace at the price of both his own soul and the freedom of the citizens of the world? A further exploration of the world would only hurt Alan Moore’s original story, but another look at the characters—icons all, and each with their own detailed history—would tell us more about just how each of them lives in the world they’ve made.
Except Rorschach. Not because he’s dead (Spoiler Alert), but because we pretty much know Rorschach. His book is closed and his character is complete. Granted, his character was complete the night he burned a man alive. The rest was just giving us depth. Rorschach’s character was through developing and he was killed at the right time; he didn’t contribute much more to the story and his death revealed a lot about how strong his convictions were. It was puzzling he took off his ‘face’ for that, as though Veidt’s revelations and choice destroyed the persona of Rorschach just as they destroyed the persona of The Comedian, but that tends to make Rorschach’s death more of a release than a principled acceptance that he’s simply to be destroyed as another necessary part of Veidt’s plan. It’s strange that Rorschach is awesome, and he does have development and flaws, etc., etc., but that I can’t bring myself to put him alongside Jenny Sparks or Damian Wayne.
Maybe I’m just burnt out on this for now. Veidt and Rorschach are also in, bringing the grand total to a bloated thirteen (Crusader’s out).