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.)
Today we’re climbing up the chart to the not-quite-top-ten….Click the “Best Single Comics Ever” tag at the bottom of this post to read the whole series.
20. THE WALKING DEAD #100 (2012)
This comic took my breath away. That motherfucking Robert Kirkman killed Glen. He killed Glen. I’ve never forgiven him for it. In fact, I almost didn’t include this issue on my list. Instead, I was gonna go for the one where Tyrese kills about fifty zombies with a hammer. That was a great one, too. But I decided two issues from this series was enough for this list, and I knew #1 had to be included. So between those two issues, I went with the one I remember most.
But I stil hate you, Robert Kirkman.
19. THE X-MEN #4 (1964)
The first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!
Rather than include the debut of the world’s first mutant superheroes, I thought this issue was better. It was better written, for one thing, and it established the “mutants vs. mutants” conflict that would run through nearly all of the team’s tales from then until the present day.
18. DETECTIVE COMICS #38 (1940)
Some comics are on this list because they’re so ‘important” that they warrant inclusion, and others are here because they’re so good. This one is extremely important, but it’s also pretty darn good. The idea that Batman needed a sidekick was new, but the idea that he needed a sense of family was critical. He’s a sad man with a tragic origin—and adding a child to the mix was a pretty risky tweak to the formula.
17. SAGA #10 (2013)
Saga is one of the best comics ever.
It is the best comic ever. And #10 is where they “kill” Lying Cat. Sobbing ensued.
16. MS. MARVEL #1 (2013)
G. Willow Wilson’s first comic, the first Marvel Muslim heroine, and the return of Adrian “Runaways” Alphona to comic books after a very long absence. This is the second-best origin issue of all time, and a great launch to one of the best comics around.
15. JUSTICE LEAGUE #5 (1987)
A great series, a great entry in it, and the punch that rocked the world.
14. AMERICAN FLAGG #1 (1983)
In the early 1980s, Marvel was a powerhouse—running on all cylinders—and DC’s output may have been the best it’s ever been. So what did upstart First Comics do? They launched a series you simply couldn’t get from Marvel or DC. An anti-establishment story full of ultraviolence and sex, painted in the red, white and blue. This first issue grabbed you by the collar and shook you hard until by the last page you stood, sweaty and stunned, and waited in a daze until the next installment. By today’s standards, it may be tame—but in 1983, this was a comic book revolution.
13. BATMAN #427 (1988)
In which Joker beats Jason Todd to death with a crowbar. Bloody, shocking, and sad. This wasn’t just important, it was a powerful read.
It was also part of a multi-issue arc, but you can read this issue on its own and feel the power. In the next issue, Todd nobly tries to save someone using his last, dying breaths.
12. THE UNCANNY X-MEN #137 (1980)
And speaking of important deaths, Jean Grey’s death was the first time DC or Marvel killed off a foundation character, by which I mean a character who had been around basically since the company’s beginning.
11. THOR #337 (1983)
Much has been written about Walt Simonson’s debut on Thor, and deservedly so. This issue literally smashed the logo and replaced Thor with Beta Ray Bill. Walt was like, “I’m not even gonna try to rehabilitate this book, which has been dull, tired, and stupid for decades. I’m just gonna remake it.