Continuing my exhaustive look at the single-issues of ongoing series that are nearest and dearest to my heart.
Remember the ground rules: Single issues, generally done-in-ones (although issues that are part of an arc are okay if the comic can stand alone as well), of ongoing series only (so no miniseries, one-shots, graphic novels, annuals, etc.).
30. IRREDEEMABLE #1 (2009)
The best book Mark Waid has ever written, and the first time that a psychopathic Superman story is ever bone-chillingly realistic. No-holds barred, rough, gritty, and brilliant.
29. THE NEW TEEN TITANS #20
Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s reboot of the Teen Titans is definitely one of the best, and most important, DC comics of all time. And this issue, which was framed by Kid Flash’s letter to his parents, is the epitome of why. It’s about family, it’s about friendship and teamwork, and it’s full of action. I had a hard time choosing between this this and #18, in which the Russian version of Starfire teams up with the Teen Titans to stop a biological threat—a disease sent to the U.S. in the body of a child. I’m still not sure I picked the right issue between the two. They’re both great, in their own ways.
28. X-FACTOR #87 (1993)
Peter David and Joe Quesada’s terrific tale of Doc Samson psychoanalyzing the team. This book was great for many reasons. First, X-Factor was basically one long story, so it was hard to find a jumping-in point, and this issue achieved that by telling readers everything important that was going on with the characters without being a “recap” issue and while still advancing their individual storylines. Second, because it’s all talk—which is really hard to draw—and yet it’s entirely captivating. And third, because it actually makes good and proper use of Doc Samson. That ain’t easy to do.
27. HITMAN #34 (1999)
“Of Thee I Sing,” the Eisner Award winning issue where Hitman and Superman have a debate, and Hitman pretty much wins.
26. CAPTAIN AMERICA #34 (2008)
The best issue of Ed Brubaker’s seminal, identity-changing run on Captain America isn’t the one where Cap gets killed. That’s just the one that sold the best. The best was nine months later, when Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier, finally takes up the mantle after a long arc of espionage and drama. Why was it so good? Because Cap was dead, and
Barnes takes on the role not because he needs it (even though it proves critical to his own rehabilitation), but because the world needs it. He even resists, trying to get Falcon to take it on, but Sam Wilson tells him that this is what Steve Rogers always wanted. Ultimately, it’s about the love soldiers have for each other and their need to support each other, even past death.
25. ASTONISHING X-MEN #18 (2006)
Written by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday. You shouldn’t need more than that. But you get it: This is the classic Percy Dovetonsils issue, in which Wolverine is reduced to a terrified, meek wretch. It may be the funniest comic I’ve ever read.
24. WHAT IF? #34 (1982)
There were many good What If? books in the 1980s, but none stand out as memorable to me. Except this one. The all-humor book that was actually funny. There’s lots of humorous comics, but usually when they become like Mad Magazine—just joke after corny joke—they’re awful. But this one was gold. Marvel tried it again a decade later, but it just wasn’t the same. Lightning only strikes once, I guess.
23. FANTASTIC FOUR #52 (1966)
Frankly, nearly every issue of Stan and Jack’s run on Marvel’s first comic book family could make this list. But I settled on two. This one, which was the first appearance of Black Panther, and another … Which is the best comic of all time.
22. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #38 (2002)
From the J. Michael Straczinsky/John Romita, Jr. years, this was the issue where Aunt May figured out Peter Parker was Spider-Man, and confronts him with the rags of his costume—tattered during a terrible battle the night before. The whole issue is a long, emotional conversation. One of the few comics that brought a tear to my eye.
21. BATMAN #673 (2008)
Grant Morrison’s Batman saga is probably the greatest long-form comic book ever written, but it’s really hard to include it here. Every issue has ties to every other issue—it’s a maze that many bloggers, including myself, have written long essays about.
But this is one issue that can stand on its own: “Joe Chill in Hell.” In it, Batman deals with the demon spirit of the man who assassinated his parents. Other than Spider-Man, no hero recalls his origin as a motivating incident more than Batman. No hero is more defined by their creation than Batman. And Morrison’s take on how the adult Batman deals, psychicly, with his childhood loss, is powerful.
Coming soon: The top 20!