Favorite Single Issues

Someone recently asked me what I thought the “best” single issues of all time were. It’s a difficult question to answer, you get hung up on what constitutes “best,” what the criteria are, how to keep it subjective, what qualifies as a "single issue," who's the audience and what's the objective, does it have to be self-contained or is it allowed to be part of a larger arc, best issues to the industry or best issues to you personally… and on and on ad nauseam. Wizard attempted the Top 100 Best Single Issues Since You Were Born a while back; I agreed with a mere handful of their picks. So… without giving it much thought, here’s what I quickly rattled off to the person who asked. Not necessarily the “best of all time,” but some personal favorites. I think this is a testament to the fact these stuck with me as memorable or representative of some cool moments or capabilities of the industry. I’ve shared many of these to hook non-comic readers and have reviewed many of them here. In no particular order;

Local #3 (Oni Press): Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly's masterpiece that deftly provides insight into a local band’s meteoric rise and subsequent fall. It examines what it means to be in the eye of the media, deal with expectations of fans and a sense of obligation, and asks some tough questions about any creators in any artistic medium. This is my favorite issue (to date, haven't read the impending #12) of a great series.

Solo #3 (DC): Yes, it's the out-of-print Paul Pope issue that houses the short story Teenage Sidekick, which won an Eisner that year (the year before he won two Eisners for Batman: Year 100). I still don't understand why DC didn't collect this story with Year 100 instead of the Berlin story, but I digress. This issue of the wonderfully uneven Solo Project contains a plethora of interesting stories, some personal and some company properties. It's a cross-section of this innovative storyteller's diverse body of work.

The Spectre #13 (DC): JM DeMatteis & Ryan Sook had an interesting run on this relaunch, but this was the zenith for my money. They offered up a time spanning love story that pushed the boundaries of the medium out toward the bleeding edge. It was an anachronism of design, in that it looks not like a traditional comic, but a simple pairing of free floating imges and prose lines. It allowed DeMatteis' spiritual lines to sink in and Ryan's amazing pencils to shine unadorned with word balloons or caption boxes, pairing the strengths of each in an exciting way. It's a strong example of what the medium is alternately capable of.

Sandman #50 (DC/Vertigo): Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell crafted this tale which was designed to reflect the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, a traditional Arab anthology. The locale is Baghdad, as Haroun Al Raschid has ascended as the fourth Caliph of the city in 785. He unexpectedly encounters The Dream King. Though collected in a larger loosely related arc, this is essentially a self-contained story. It dislpays many qualities of the Sandman series, with its strong ability to weave art, literature, mythology, religion, and pop culture entertainment in a palatable and relevant way.

X-Factor #87 (Marvel): Peter David & Joe Quesada's X-Aminations issue makes many of these lists due to its fascinating look into the psychological drivers and hidden insecurities of this X-Factor team. We learn that they are often times the exact opposite of what they project to the world. When the X 'verse was largely "zigging," David's scripts tended to "zag" and here displayed compassion and empathy toward homo superior having some very human frailties, rather than the larger than life superheroes the market was accustomed to. Their flawed qualities and quirky personalities made this entire run great fun, and this was the unanticipated pinnacle. Doc Samson explains how he'd feel behind a slow person at an ATM to Pietro Maximoff. He says flatly, “Impatient. Irritated. A little angry sometimes.” Quicksilver responds, “Precisely. Because your life is being slowed to a crawl by the inabilities or the inconvenient behavior of others. It’s not a rational or considerate attitude to have, but there it is. Now, imagine, doctor, that everyone you work with, everywhere you go… your entire world… is filled with people who can’t work cash machines. I’d venture to say, doctor, that you too would suffer... Get the picture? Not so puzzling now is it?” For me, this was one of first times I felt that an ostensible “superhero” comic could transcend its self-imposed limitations and offer more weighty commentary about the typical human experience.

Demo #12 (AiT/PlanetLar): Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan's underexposed anthology experiment (recently announced for both rerelease and the green-lighting of a "Season Two" by Vertigo) had some interesting highs and lows. The last issue of the run is notable because it was so antithetical to conventional expectations. Wood did not offer a tidy wrap up of the entire set of disparate series elements, but a poemic beautiful relationship set to music video cuts that treated the readers to an ethereal and touching experience with "Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi," or My Last Day With You.

What are your personal favorites?


At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about All Star Superman #1?

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

While All Star Supes is part of a larger story, I think it works pretty well as a stand alone issue, effective intro of the character and an experimental take by Morrison. All in all, a very respectable choice!


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