By Kevin McVicker
From time-to-time on Facebook, there are silly chain posts where you are supposed to fill out a list of things and why those things are on a list. Recently from my more literate friends’ pages, I have seen a post referring to the top ten books that have stuck with them and they are asked to put reasoning behind that. I started thinking about it and while I have in fact read “real” books (a few weren’t even nonfiction or comics) I realized my list was ten comics that had stuck with me, and they were all, with one exception, Marvel comics. So here is a top ten list of single issues that have stuck with me over the years spanning several decades. Note, I’m not considering these the most important comics in comic history, just important books to myself either on a personal level or moments where my perspective on comics changed. I hope you discover something new to check out. These are in no particular order, and I find it impossible to say one is better than the other.
Spider-Man #44 (March, 1994) by Howard Mackie and Tom Lyle – This is a self-contained issue in which Peter dwells on Uncle Ben’s death on the anniversary of that occasion. He ends up also battling the Hobgoblin at the end of the story. While the writing is well done and it is an enjoyable issue, I remember being given this issue by an Uncle for babysitting my nephew. I complained to him that I wanted to spend all the money I used to get paid babysitting on comics but my mom wouldn’t let me, so he paid me several times in nothing but comics. It was pretty great. The cover of this gripped me when I first held it in my hands. It is a simple nighttime image of Spider-Man, and is really nothing too special, but to this day it is still one of my favorite Spider-Man covers.
Wolverine #32 (November, 2005) by Mark Millar and Kaare Andrews – This is another self-contained issue which centers on Logan’s time in a Nazi prison camp. This is one of those issues which lifts comics up as not only a form of art, but also shows why it can so perfectly be used to tell a story. I became a huge fan of Kaare Andrews after as he has a great gift when it comes to sequential art, and I think this issue is one of the finest examples of that. I have bought this issue many times in varying formats, and each time I have worked with an artist in trying to create our own comics I give them this issue as an example that you don’t have to be the slickest or prettiest artist when it comes to comics, because sometime those guys aren’t the best storytellers.
Amazing Spider-Man #90 (November, 1970) – by Stan Lee and Gil Kane – There is another article elsewhere on this site which spouts my love for Gil Kane, and this was one of those issues which introduced me to him. This was part of my Dad’s collection which he handed down to me and helped grow my passion for comics. I think I was around eight when I first read this issue. What was so incredible about this issue was that although comics were supposedly for kids this was one of the first issues I can remember that dealt with the adult theme of death. Now, there have been a lot of deaths in Spidey’s life and it could be stated that the death which occurs in this issue is at best the 3rd most important one for Peter Parker to face. But the truth is this is the first one I had to face with him as I read it, which is why this is still one of the most powerful deaths in his history for me and why this issue is one of the first issues I thought of on this list.
The Infinity Gauntlet #4 (October, 1991) – by Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Ron Lim – Another issue which is vividly etched in my mind predominately thanks to the cover. This was one of the first comics I remember spending my own money to buy. It was Christmas, and my father took my brother and I to the mall and gave us money to buy whatever we wanted. We first went to a bookstore where I picked up this issue, X-Men #3, Wolverine #50, and a Punisher comic (later I also bought a Final Fantasy game for our SNES). I still own each of those comics and have a fond memory of them, but Infinity Gauntlet #44 stands above them as my introduction to Thanos. I hadn’t read any of the other issues, but that cover with Thanos amid the cosmos grinning like the Mad Titan he is and motioning to me to try to take him on in a fight… how could I turn that issue down? Hence I was hooked on the cosmic side of the 616.
The Flash #4 (February, 2012) – by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato – The most recent and most controversial comic on this list (in that this is a Marvel fansite) is from my favorite non-Marvel (or non-Darkhorse) superhero. Hopefully this issue won’t get edited out by the powers-that-be (Editor’s Note: If Kevin wasn’t so awesome, this would have been chopped liver), because while it isn’t a Marvel comic, this is a masterpiece of what comics can be. The layouts of the art in this story are by far some of the most profound given the emotional nature of the story being told. I don’t think one would even have to read this entire series to get that. I strongly encourage everyone just to give it a try (even Jarid who will hate that I’m even mentioning it and will never read it and is missing out on a truly great comic (Editor’s Note: #truth)). I don’t immediately reread comics ever, but I immediately reread this two more times after I finished it the first time and have read it several other times since then. This has nothing to do with if you like Marvel or DC. If you like comics, this is a comic well worth your time.
What If? #25 (May, 1991) – by Jim Valentino and Rik Levins – I wrote an article on this particular issue here. It was not only an introduction for me to “What If?” comics which have become one of my favorite series, but it was also my introduction to Marvel events. This bleak and cynical take on the Atlantis Attacks story was introduction to a huge world outside of the regular comics I read, and I credit it for developing my love of dollar bin diving as I searched for a long time for each of the Annuals associated with the Atlantis Attacks story.
Nextwave: Agents of HATE #1 (March, 2006) – by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen – This wasn’t the first Warren Ellis book I ever read, or even humorous superhero tale, but it was/is one of the greatest. From the opening page, usually worth being ignored unless you’re vested in who are the top letterers of the day, this book set the tone for a crazy and hilarious superhero adventure. It is considered a cult classic for a reason, and is also the reason for many grown men’s infatuation with the bearded-demigod Warren Ellis.
Defenders #2 (October, 1972) – by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema – This is one of the earliest team books I remember reading and to this day I think it is the greatest team ever assembled in Marvel history. Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor, and the Hulk… who couldn’t they beat? They could take over the world and everyone would have to agree to live with it. They are almost as bad as supervillains in that the egos in this group proved they couldn’t last long together. This was the first antihero team-up in Marvel history, and how poorly they worked together was brilliantly written.
X-Men #54 (July, 1996) –by Mark Waid and Andy Kubert – I vividly remember this being one of the first comics I truly anticipated and couldn’t wait to read. I have never been a huge X-Men or Uncanny X-Men fan, but during the Onslaught storyline I was hooked. From the first moments they found Juggernaut knocked out I wanted to find out who and what Onslaught was. When it was all revealed it was a punch to my gut! As a fifteen year old kid I had no idea comics could get this dark. I still hadn’t read the Watchmen or any Vertigo titles at this time, so this was one of the earliest and heaviest moments in reading comics. I never thought they would’ve made the leader and mentor of the X-Men their greatest villain. While the fallout from this event created some of the worst stories I’ve read in Marvel history (Heroes Reborn was awful) the event itself is up there as one of my favorites.
Heroes For Hire #15 (September, 2007) – Zeb Wells, Alvin Lee, and Leonard Kirk – Part of the amazing thing about this issue is the build and growth all of the characters in this series had since the first issue. The emotional impact of the final issue is extremely powerful. As much as the single issue stuck with me, I have to recommend it not be read alone. You really should read the entire series. The growth of one character from a joke to a danger is on par with Speedball’s transformation to Penance in the Civil War series, but the results are far more resonating emotionally. This series also had some of the greatest event tie-ins in Marvel’s history (this final issue being part of that).
That is my random list of ten issues which have stuck with me. Again I’m not saying these are the best issues that have ever been, but ones that on a personal level I’m extremely fond. I hope you found something new to check out and read. If this has motivated you to think of your own list please put a link below or tag me if you make it a Facebook post. I’d love to see what you’re list would be and maybe I’d discover some new reads myself!