The 100 Best Single Issues Since You Were Born

So, you remember my post about the Wizard list of the 100 Best Single Issues Since You Were Born, right? Well, since I have now read every comic on the list, I thought I’d post up my verdict.

Hopefully, everyone searched for the torrent as soon as I made my post and has been reading along with me!

I read through the list as if it were a countdown, so I started with the Ghost Rider story entitled “The Curse of Jonathan Blaze”. It’s quite a traditional sort of comic book story, but it works so well. I thought it was fantastic, and foolishly raised my expectations. I thought to myself, If this is in 100th place, the quality of these stories must be really high.

Sadly, it has to be said that the list is actually quite poor; there are a lot of fillers and some quite arbitrary choices. “The Curse of Jonathan Blaze” is great, but I thought the other Ghost Rider story on the list, “Wish For Pain”, was terrible. How on Earth did it get ranked 50 places higher?

There are also a lot of issues of Ultimate Spider-Man included on the list, and frankly I just don’t get that. I’ve come to quite enjoy Bendis’ writing thanks to his Avengers work, but I can’t get into these Spider-Man comics. It’s fairly straightforward teen stuff, and though it’s done well, I can’t see how Wizard can really justify giving it these kinds of accolades.

Still, with all that said, there is certainly some fantastic storytelling on the list.

The Preacher and Sandman issues are all excellent, although I would have put them in a slightly different order. Truth be told, I have never fully understood Sandman’s popularity, but the stuff on the list was so good that I’m considering dipping into that series again.

I might also have to check out Geoff Johns’ run on Flash if “Absolute Zero” in issue 182 was a true indicator of the quality that I can expect.

I was pleased to see Hellblazer’s “Forty” and X-Factor’s “X-Aminations” make the list. Each of these comics made a big impression on me as a teen and re-reading them both was a joy.

All of the Alan Moore-scripted titles in the top 10 are exceptional. He is such an intelligent writer that I can’t quibble with his domination near the top of the list. It tells you something about the general standard of comic book writing when he still stands head and shoulders above the competition.

“The Overview” better than “The Killing Joke”, though? I don’t think so.

Naturally, the highlights of the list for me were the comics I hadn’t read before. I was expecting big, big things from “The Overview” and it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped it would be. Of course, it’s still a brilliant story.

I enjoyed all the Fantastic Four stories, but I think especially “Happy New Year, Reed Richards… Now Die!” That was just such a neat little story. It doesn’t hurt that, as I have said in a previous post, I’m a total sucker for Alan Davis’ work.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the Fantastic Four, but seem to enjoy their adventures more and more. Similarly, I’ve started to get interested in the Legion of Super-Heroes and thought that “Who Shot Laurel Kent?” was a lot of fun. I had to do quite a thorough Google search to make sense of the ending.

The Dr. Strange tale “A Mystic Reborn” was a surprising gem. It’s always nice to see a second tier hero really fulfill their potential.

The comic I enjoyed most on the list (excluding those I had read before) was Action Comics 775, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” I think I may have actually mumbled a “Whoa” or two while reading this comic. This is a truly terrifying vision of Superman unleashed. He’s such a powerful, commanding character, but too often mired in his own boy scout persona.

Now, as a little something extra, I’m going to provide a list of what I consider five awesome single issues that were not on the Wizard List and I think should have been.

I’ve provided free downloads for all the comics my list, so you can actually read them if you feel inclined. Just click on the individual titles for a link. Cool, huh?

5. Justice League America Annual 4 (“What’s Black and White and Black and White and Black…”)
By Keith Giffen, J M DeMatteis and Mike McKone

The Wizard list had a couple of Giffen and DeMatteis Justice League comics on it. This comic is funnier than either of Wizard’s picks. It was written just as the writers hit their stride and has a wonderfully confident, brazen style.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s more of a self-contained story than “Born Again” was, as that was the first part of a larger arc and it felt like it.

4. X-Men Unlimited 1 (“Follow the Leader”)
By Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo

Yeah, I have an X-Men comic on my list. Wanna make something of it?

Lobdell and Bachalo eventually came to define the X-Men titles at the end of the 90s, but this was an early collaboration and they were just finding their feet.

Cyclops is one of the blander Marvel superheroes, but Lobdell manages to give him some real depth with this story. “Follow the Leader” completely changed the way I felt about the character. I’m sure it will have you rooting for him too.

3. Incredible Hulk 417 (“Party Animals”)
By Peter David and Gary Frank

This may be a bit of a cheat, because this ties in quite neatly with issue 418, in which Rick and Marlo tie the knot. That’s a fantastic issue also, but I prefer this one just a little bit more. I think the bachelor party episode can stand on its own, so this comic goes on my list.

Peter David is a gifted comedy writer. His characterisation and dialogue is spot on, so you should find some of the exchanges in this comic very enjoyable.

With a few notable exceptions, I usually preferred the quieter issues of Incredible Hulk while David was writing it.

2. Swamp Thing (“Windfall”)
By Alan Moore, Stan Woch and Ron Randall

Superheroes and drugs.

The two have been combined on many occasions, but never before like this. Ultimately, drugs have generally been treated in quite a conservative way in comics, which is hardly surprising. Comics are generally aimed at kids, so writers usually take a very anti-drug stance. A few brave writers have attempted stories about addiction, with mixed success.

Alan Moore’s balanced, morally ambiguous stance on the subject is a breath of fresh air. Above all, though, this is innovative writing and fascinating to read.

Credit is due to Wizard, as they have Moore’s “The Anatomy Lesson” in 7th position, but I think this is a better story.

1. Batman 431 (“The Wall”)
By James Owsley and Jim Aparo

Why this particular Batman story? I am not entirely sure why it resonated with me. “The Wall” is quite a typical sort of Batman tale, but it’s done so well. I first read it when I was very young, but like to revisit it periodically. I still feel that it’s a very strong piece of writing and a genuine classic.

If you liked the Batman Begins movie, you’ll probably like this comic.

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3 Responses to “The 100 Best Single Issues Since You Were Born”

  1. The issues that you have listed should have all been in the top 100. Honestly I think that the wizard list is a bit wank. I don’t think they thought about the issues properly at all. I mean one some of them aren’t even ‘complete’ stories just a part of a story arc…I mean surely you can’t include stories that are incomplete in the list?

  2. thebigsmoke Says:

    “The issues that you have listed should have all been in the top 100.”

    Damn straight.

  3. thebigsmoke Says:

    By the way, did you notice how I actually managed to finish the list I started, Dip?

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