Greetings from the Odinson,
We all love comic books, right? Otherwise, why would you be reading this column? This week I’m going to share my Top 10 single issues from Marvel. The rules of the game here are very simple. The issues on this list must be self-contained issues and cannot be part of a running story arc, cliffhanger, or crossover event, so issues like Captain America #332, Thunderbolts #1, and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 are out of the running. Also, it cannot be an origin issue, a number one, or a first appearance of an icon, so issues like Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #1, and Incredible Hulk #180-181 are also out of the running. Plus, the issue cannot be a part of a series with a long-running narrative and an overall story arc, so issues from series like Tomb of Dracula, the original Nova, and ROM Spaceknight are out of the running. Finally, it must be an issue that is as good the tenth time you read it as it was the very first time.
Let us begin.
The Odinson’s Top 10 Must Read Single Issues: Marvel Edition
10 – Power Man and Iron Fist #85 – I just adore this issue. It is written in a way as if this series were an episodic television series rather than comic book. Eighteen-wheelers and their cargo keep going missing on a certain stretch of highway, so the Heroes for Hire are commissioned to investigate. What they discover ends up pitting them against one of the oldest and most underrated super villains in Marvel History. Both our leads get moments to truly shine in this caper. Now, that we have both Luke Cage and Iron Fist as TV series on Netflix, the Odinson would love to see this issue adapted into an episode.
9 – Amazing Spider-Man #212 – This is an issue from my youth that really resonated with me. I read my first copy of this issue so many times that it ended up falling to pieces. The artwork by John Romita, Jr. here is truly beautiful and showed that he was definitely destined for stardom. It’s a tale about how a down and out dock worker suddenly finds himself empowered with uncanny abilities and everything that can go wrong from there. Now, how he gets his powers is suspect, but the old fashioned monster that is too dangerous to be among people and the hero has to stop him even though he isn’t truly evil is on full display here.
8 – Uncanny X-Men #153 – In the wake of The Dark Phoenix Saga and the departure of Cyclops from the team and just all the combustible drama the Children of the Atom have been hit with lately, this self-contained little story was just what the X-Men, and the readers, needed to catch their breath. Kitty Pryde tells a young Illyana Rasputin (future Magik) a tall tale featuring fantasy versions of their friends and gives a happy ending to one of the X-Men’s most tragic chapters.
7 – Captain America #168 – This issue resonates on so many levels as several dramatic beats all converge right here. The villainous Phoenix has single-handedly captured Captain America and plans to execute him, but why? It turns out that Phoenix is actually Helmut Zemo, the son of Baron Zemo, one of the Captain’s greatest foes from World War II. The same Baron Zemo that was responsible for the death of Bucky, Caps first partner, and Cap falling into the ocean where he remained frozen for decades before being reawakened in modern times. This tale also shows off just how good a hero Cap’s current partner, Falcon, has become as Sam Wilson tracks them down to the villain’s lair and saves Cap’s beef before it can fall into the frying pan. Helmut would eventually return as the second Baron Zemo and not only would he establish himself as one the Marvel U’s most dangerous villains, in the Under Siege story, he would also orchestrate Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ greatest defeat.
6 – Daredevil #181 – Frank Miller took the Man without Fear to new heights with his legendary run on the title, and with this gem, he was hitting on all cylinders. Elektra was the love of Matt Murdock’s life, but she was now the Kingpin’s number one assassin. Bullseye is Daredevil’s deadliest adversary and wants that number one position. So, when his greatest foe murders the woman he loves in a brutal beat down, Daredevil is consumed with revenge. After an epic showdown, Matt must make the ultimate decision on whether or not to take the law in his own hands and end Bullseye’s threat once and for all in the name of revenge. It’s a powerful piece of art that belongs on anybody’s must read list.
5 – Thor #323 – Even the mightiest of heroes can be humbled. Set back in the days of his youth, Thor is shown as a brash, overconfident, and cocky god with an ego to match his immense power. Determined to reel his brash son in before he becomes a detriment to himself and others, Odin sends the young god of thunder on a quest he himself once took. The overconfident thunder god accepts the challenge and sets out. He eventually crosses paths with two beings whom not only can he not overpower, but after failing to do so, Thor must lay down his life. They ultimately let the young god live and send him back to Odin humbled and hopefully wiser. It is then that Odin informs Thor that he too met these strangers and their identities actually reveal their great importance to the all things. Not only does this tale show one of the mightiest beings in the cosmos humbled, but it also shows that Thor learned a valuable lesson, a lesson that has helped him become the great hero he is to this very day.
4 – Incredible Hulk #273 – This is a solemn tale set in the same vein as the classic science fiction movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Bruce Banner is in control of the Hulk’s incredible power, but this story proves that even a genius can sometimes be wrong. When Banner-Hulk comes upon a small farming community seemingly under siege by giant alien insect-like creatures, the Hulk springs into action. Smashing anything with more than two legs and ultimately destroying what he perceives as a weapon, Banner is shocked to learn that the aliens had come in peace, and the machines that he just destroyed would have benefitted mankind in such way as to make starvation anywhere in the world a thing of the past. A harsh never judge a book by its cover lesson was learned here.
3 – Master of Kung #114 – I absolutely love this issue. The story itself is very simple, but most of the greatest fairy tales are. Shang Chi meets a husband and wife who are besieged by the world’s deadliest assassin. I will not give the twist away here, but I will say that what follows is some of the most amazing kung fu action ever put down into the four color medium. If Shang Chi is ever granted a TV show of his own, I would be sorely disappointed if this issue did not get adapted into an episode.
2 – Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 – Over the years, I have brought this issue up several times and with good reason. Not only does Tom DeFalco put together a great story and Ron Wilson and his inkers provide some fantastic artwork, but this is a benchmark tale for one of the most beloved and enduring heroes in Marvel’s Pantheon. When the nigh-unbeatable Champion, a cosmically powered Elder of the Universe, challenges Earth’s mightiest heroes to a contest of champions. It’s not the Mighty Thor or the Savage Sub-Marnier or even the Incredible Hulk that saves the day. No, Earth’s destruction is forfeited by the selfless, brave, and enduring actions of the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. If a comic book could win an Academy Award, this issue would be in the contention.
1 – Silver Surfer #4 – Yet another issue that has made it into my writings many times over the years, and well deserved. This single issue is Stan Lee and John Buscema at the height of their powers. That wily troublemaker Loki orchestrates a battle between his hated step-brother and the former Herald of Galactus! It is truly a clash of titans. Marvel Comics’ two most powerful forces for justice collide in a rough-and-tumble that shakes the pillars of heaven. Plus, it’s told in such a way that neither side, nor their fans, lose face as both sides give as good as they get. Not only is this one of the greatest single issues ever, but it has, hands down, the greatest cover that has ever adorned a comic book in the history of the medium. That image of our two mighty heroes facing down on the fabled Rainbow Bridge of Asgard is quite frankly a masterpiece of art.
There it is, folks, ten standalone issues from Marvel Comics that every fan must read at least once in their lifetime. Tune in next week when the Odinson runs down his Must Read list of single issues for DC Comics.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
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