Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular. I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype. I was already a jaded fan at that point. By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.
Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page. Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat. You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.
Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986: This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick. Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.
Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991: There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once. I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes. There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues. This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.
Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991: It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues. It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch. Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.
Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981: An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come. The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one. Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had. This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus. It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.
Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990: This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best. It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way. It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.
Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989: The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was. Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is! Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over. Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.
Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984: I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories. Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book. This issue was a surprise in every way. Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die? Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer. Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that! Naive of me? Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming. This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.
Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984: The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s. Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.
Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011: I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures. What I AM is a dog person. This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up. This issue was better than ANY of those. I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.
This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.
Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.