Greetings from the Odinson,
Last week I shared my Top 10 single issues from Marvel. This week, I take a look at my Top 10 standalone issues from the original universe – the DCU. The rules of the game are the same. 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 New Teen Titans Annual #1, Batman #617, and Superman #75 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 Batman #404, Action Comics #1, and Batman Adventures #12 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 Preacher, 100 Bullets, and Fables 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: DC Edition
10 – JLI/Suicide Squad Crossover – Now, before you think I’ve already broken my own rules by including a 2-issue crossover, I must point out, this is actually one issue told from two different points of view. We as the readers get to see the story unfold from both the heroes’ and villains’ point of view. It’s a truly unique way of telling a story, one that was emulated by Marvel three months later with a Daredevil/Punisher Crossover using the same technique. I’m actually shocked we don’t see this type of crossover more often. It really makes for a fun read.
9 – Superman Annual #11 – Before Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons made history with the seminal maxi-series Watchmen, they produced this pitch perfect tale – “For the Man Who has Everything!” Not only do we get to witness the Man of Steel’s greatest heart’s desire, but we watch two master creators take the reins of DC Comics’ most iconic characters and get them right. This is still a must read issue more than three decades after its release. It establishes Mongul as a surefire DCU Big Bad, and it informs the opening act of Infinite Crisis. NOTE: Many years later, this issue was adapted into an episode of the beloved Justice League: Unlimited cartoon series.
8 – New Teen Titans #33 – Someone has murdered a super villain and it’s up to DC’s next generation of heroes to find out who, and why. As the story unfolds, each member of the team recalls their past battles with the fallen foe and it is through their stories they are able to piece the clues together and solve the mystery. Truly satisfying, complex storytelling like this was rarely seen at this time in the four color medium and it should come as no surprise this A+ issue happened during the legendary Teen Titans run of Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
7 – Warlord #66 – What if I told you a shape-shifter, a wizard, a barbarian, a warlord, a werewolf, a sorceress, and a centaur assemble to embark on a quest to take down a demonic overlord who has enslaved a kingdom? You’d probably say “Take all my money!” Master storytellers Mike Grell and Dan Jurgens fit a Lord of the Rings-size epic into just 32 pages, and it’s amazing!
6 – Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #214 – Deadshot has always been one of the coolest super villains and is easily one of the Odinson’s Top 5 DC Villains of All-Time. Plus, he has one of the best character designs ever. He has always been a force to be reckoned with, especially in the pages of such villain-starring series as Suicide Squad and The Secret Six. But, it’s in this very issue that Floyd Lawton, who is already touted as one of the world’s deadliest assassins, gets the ultimate stamp of approval when Batman himself admits that Deadshot could take him out, if he really wanted to. That is high praise indeed coming from the Dark Knight, especially considering there are a faction of fans that think Batman can beat anybody.
5 – Teen Titans Spotlight #14 – When the Dark Knight goes missing, Alfred calls in the one person who may be able to follow the clues and find him, Dick Grayson. During The Judas Contract, Grayson had already shed the shackles of Robin the Boy Wonder and transformed into Nightwing. This is the issue that actually shows this longtime fan-favorite character mature into a hero of his own. Grayson proves he has what it takes to be his own man by using the skills he learned as Batman’s protégé to track down and save his former mentor. This is the moment when Dick Grayson ceased being Batman’s sidekick and became his partner. Bonus: Another great moment for them is in Batman #637 when the Dynamic Duo, working as a well-oiled machine, take down one of the Justice League’s most dangerous foes.
4 – Action Comics #600 – Not only does this super cool anthology put an exclamation point on the first two years of post-Crisis Superman adventures, and not only does is set up many of the plot threads to come, but it also features some of the most amazing artwork ever as two Modern Masters – John Byrne and George Perez – combine their talents to bring us the ultimate showdown with Superman and Wonder Woman facing down Darkseid! Plus, this issue features the very first Post-Crisis-in-continuity smooch between the Man of Steel and the Amazing Amazon.
3 – DC Comics Presents Annual #3 – This amazing tale takes the magic of the Captain Marvel myths and combines it with the science fiction elements of the DC Multiverse. The Big Red Cheese’s notorious arch foe, Dr. Sivana, steals the lightning that empowers Billy Batson for himself and becomes the most dangerous villain alive. Just how dangerous? How about dangerous enough to overpower Superman of Earth-2, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr., and nearly overpower Superman of Earth-1?! That’s right. After he steals the magic, Sivana imprisons the wizard SHAZAM and Captain Marvel within the Rock of Eternity and then sets out across the multiverse throwing his muscle around. This is a beautiful example of a great arch villain story. It’s a great Superman story. It’s a great Captain Marvel story. It’s just a great story, period. Plus, it features an amazing cover and interior artwork by the astonishing Gil Kane.
2 – Saga of the Swamp Thing #3 – This is truly an all but forgotten gem. I’ve talked about this issue a few times before. This is the tale of how Swamp Thing and the child under his protection stumble upon a small isolated town that has been overrun by a vampire plague. The lighting, the atmosphere, the scenery is all so picture perfect and really sets a mood of isolation and dread. It’s Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot meets Hammer Horror and it is, hands down, one of the best horror comics ever produced.
1 – Batman: The Killing Joke – Once again Alan Moore makes the list, this time joined by artist Brian Bolland, as they execute not just one of the most pivotal and provocative Batman tales in history, but one of the most seminal comic stories in history. In a story that features one of what would eventually become many possible origins for the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime sets out to prove to Batman that all it takes to become him is just one bad day. Unfortunately, it’s Commissioner Gordon who suffers emotional and physical torture at the hands of the villain in order to prove his point. And finally, this is the tale that left Barbara Gordon paralyzed after an attack by the Joker. This led the original Batgirl to become Oracle, a very important and highly popular character in the Post-Crisis DCU. NOTE: Thanks to a thought-provoking interpretation of The Killing Joke by writer Grant Morrison on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast a few years ago, this tale has one of the most debated ambiguous endings that may, or may not, give new meaning to the title of the story itself.
There it is, folks, ten standalone issues from DC Comics that every fan must read at least once in their lifetime. Tune in next week when the Odinson begins his Countdown to Halloween: 2017 Edition.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
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