Flash #182 (Volume 2) "Absolute Zero"
Let's be honest, Captain Cold never gets much respect. He's been around so long he's just taken for granted. He's fought Barry Allen, Wally West and Bart Allen, and has only succeeded in killing one of the three (with help). Still, it's those quiet ones we often take for granted.
This story find Captain Cold on the hunt for his sister's killer. Through this story we are given perhaps the biggest back-story this character has ever received outside of his 2-page origin years ago. We find out just how close he was to the Golden Glider and what she meant to him.
But more than that, we find out just how far he's willing to go to avenge her death.
Golden Glider's ex-boyfriend, Chillblaine, gets some of Captain Cold's old equipment from the Glider and then she's dead. This doesn't sit well with CC, so he tracks Chillblaine down through the underworld until he finally finds him for an all-or-nothing fight to the death.
This is the one time in a comic book that Captain Cold's threats actually seem like they should be taken seriously. When he threatens to stick his gun inside a guy's mouth and freeze him from the inside out, it's enough to make the Punisher stop for a minute.
The final showdown is great as we see the classic cold villain take on the newer model. While he's never been one to take down many heroes, this story will show you what Cold's capable of...and even manages to end on a tender note on the very last page as he makes peace with the memory of his sister for what he's done. All around, this is one of the best Flash villain stories ever (that never actually has the Flash in any of it).
Green Lantern #188 - "Mogo Doesn't Socialize"
Forget the cover story in this issue. It's a rather forgettable John Stewart tale, but the back-up story is a gem. Watchmen-scribe Alan Moore pens the story of perhaps the most powerful Green Lantern of all...and why he doesn't hang around the other Lanterns.
Thanks to the recent "Sinestro Corps" storyline, I'm sure everyone is very familiar with Mogo. He finally became a key player in a Green Lantern story with that one. But when this tale came out, Mogo had never been heard of. He was considered this legendary Green Lantern, and thought to be a myth.
Through this story, we are introduced to a galactic bounty hunter who is out to make a name for himself by finding and killing this great Green Lantern. We are treated to his search for the character until he finally finds exactly who he's looking for...and high-tails it out of there!
Ok, in truth this is more of a light-hearted tale than a rough, scary one like you find in the series today, but that's what makes it fun. And even though the punchline is lost today since Mogo's been such a big part of GL history lately, it's still a great introduction to the character (and he never says a single word in the whole thing).
X-Factor #87 (Volume 1) - "X-Aminations"
I'm a big X-Factor fan and I don't deny it. This story is one of the reasons why. Each character is interviewed by a psychiatrist (bet you'll figure out who it is if you think about it) who gives them insight into their actions.
Through 2-and-3 page vignettes we are given an intimate glimpse into each character and why they act the way they do. Why does Polaris keep pushing people away? What does Havok think of his leadership abilities? What secret does Strong Guy keep from the rest of the world? Why does Jamie Madrox keep dupes around? All of these actually come as startling revelations in this almost completely non-action tale.
The biggest revelation? Why is Quicksilver such a jerk? The answer is because he's perpetually stuck behind every slowpoke in the world since he thinks and moves so much faster than everyone else. He's not the same man today he was then (dead and all), but this makes his hot temper a little easier to understand.
In the end, Val Cooper gives the mystery psychiatrist (figured it out yet?) her take on the heroes...and she's wrong on every count. She's completely misread them all, just as they have misread each other.
This exact same format was done recently in the newest version of the series, and it's what makes it such a great one to follow. X-Factor is a cerebral comic and not one necessarily filled to the brim with action. A lot can happen without a single bad guy getting squashed in the process.
We continue our look at essential stories in our next post!