Thursday, March 12, 2009

10 Essential Comics You Should Read (Conclusion)

Rick mentioned that I stepped into the modern age with my last list of picks, and I hadn't noticed but he was absolutely right. As such, I've retitled this last part of my Essential Reading posts with a more appropriate name. These are still goodies though.

Action Comics Annual #1 (1987) - "Cry Vampire!"

Ok, so I realize this is the second vampire-related story to make it into the list, but this one rocks for so many reasons. If you haven't read it, don't read this post or the pages of the story I've listed, but go buy it right now! It's worth the relatively small price you'll pay for a copy.

In this story, we get a Superman/Batman team-up that absolutely takes the cake. The Batman in this story is more like a "Dark Knight Returns" version of the character than anything else.

Citizens of Gotham have been murdered, and Batman has come to track down the killer. Along the way, he finds a town of people scared to death of the night. It doesn't take long to find out why: they have a little vampire problem. Obviously, Batman's outfit makes him look a little too "undead" to this country town and they go after him thinking he's the killer.

Eventually, he finds the girl responsible, only to almost die in the process. Superman flies in to lend a hand, but realizes a little late that he's not that effective against vampires because of their magic origin. As such, he's almost turned into one himself if not for the timely intervention of a not-so-dead-after-all Batman.

As I mentioned before, this Batman is one tough dude, and the last page just proves it. Even though they're only actually teamed up for 2 pages, this is a killer story you should grab as soon as possible.

Avengers Annual #10 (1981) - "By Friends Betrayed"

When a comic book opens with a superhero attempting to commit suicide, you know you have an interesting story ahead. Of course, reading this for the first time in 1981, I had no idea I was looking at a group of villains who would headline various Marvel stories for the next 20-plus years.

The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants gets reformed here (sans Magneto), in an Avengers story no less! We are introduced to Rogue and Mystique here (among others), while seeing old familiar faces like The Blob again. While I'm no fan of his, I have to say he did manage to hold his own in the fight against the Avengers.

Of course, the key point of the story was the return of Carol Danvers--a.k.a. Ms. Marvel. Turns out she'd been back for a while, though powerless now thanks to Rogue's touch. Not only that, but she had a major hate-on for the Avengers having left her behind with Korvacs years earlier.

Today, Ms. Marvel has her powers back and is still a major player in the Marvel Universe, and this story is where it started.

G.I. Joe #21 (1984) - "Silent Interlude"

I still vividly remember this comic as well. I had a vast collection of the action figures, and like everyone else, Snake Eyes was my favorite. This story from the "Assistant Editors Month" era was his first full-fledged solo tale, and appropriately enough it was wordless.

I was a huge fan of these comics growing up (and the television show as well). Each story was a good one to my childlike tastes, but this was the top for me. We are introduced to a white ninja in this tale. Later we found out his name was Storm Shadow, but for this story he was still the unknown new villain.

Snake Eyes must sneak into a Cobra base to rescue Scarlett. True to character, she's busy making her own way out of the base (she was one tough redhead) so as Snake Eyes breaks in, she's breaking out oblivious to his rescue attempt.

His confrontation with Storm Shadow is brief, but it was meant only to set the stage for the future. The final panels of the story show matching tattoos on both character's arms, giving us the hint they are linked somehow.

To show you how popular this story is, 20 years later it would be a pivot point in the telling of Snake Eyes' origin in his solo mini-series. In that, we learned how Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes were linked and their history. The mini-series actually ended at the opening panels of this story from two decades before. A great little tale you shouldn't miss.

New Teen Titans #20 (1982) - "Dear Mom and Dad"

I've already mentioned in an earlier post how Perez and the New Teen Titans made the Bronze Age for me. This story shows why. It's a letter Wally West (Kid Flash) is writing to his parents about a typical day with the Teen Titans. Each of the Titans face a new villain called The Disruptor who has apparently found the ultimate suit that will allow him to destroy any hero.

One by one, he takes them down. Ultimately, Wally tracks him down and finds out he's just this teenaged kid wanting to be loved by his father (this was years before we got to blame out parents for everything that went wrong in our life, so this was unique). The TT bust in, defeat the villain, and save the day.

The thing that made this story so powerful (along with most of the TT stories from that time) was that it was more than just mindless action. The greater part of the tale was relationships. We saw Wally's relationship with his parents paralleled with the Disruptor's own family life. In the end, this tense tale ended on a feel-good note, and I miss harmlessly-fun stories like that today.

So that's it, my "Top 10" stories. I'm sure you have your own favs, and I'd love to hear any from you that I might have overlooked.
Next week, we begin our crossover. Show up here Monday morning and I'll tell you what's up and where's it's happening. More Essential reading next week, as we look at "10 Essential Team-Up Stories You Should Read"!


james said...

Thanks for including Avengers Annual #10. It's an amazing issue in every sense. As this issue shows, Rogue was not originally conceived as a teenager who was forced to use her powers by a domineering parental figure (aka Mystique). No. She ruthlessly took pleasure in defeating others and stealing their powers.

james said...

To follow up, Aveners Annual #10 was the first appearance of Rogue, but the second mission for the "new" Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

They battled the X-Men in #141-142 of their series, introducing Destiny, Avalanche, and Pyro.

Mystique had appeared briefly in Ms. Marvel's original series, and Blob of course had fought the original X-Men.

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