And while some of them may make people's lists of the best comics ever, most are just personal favorites. Comics with a moment or an illustration that really spoke to me. Most are from my prime era of reading comics, though they run the gamut and are pieces of my favorite runs of all time.
So, without further ado, in order of release, my 10 favorite Marvel single issues of all time.
- Daredevil (1964) #233 - Armageddon - The end of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchulli's masterpiece Born Again. This is the end of Miller's run and he goes out swinging. It's Daredevil versus Nuke, a twisted super-soldier, with Hell's Kitchen in flames. What makes this issue is Miller's use of the Avengers. Miller's narration to describe the Avengers and their individual roles is perhaps the greatest ever put to paper. He treats them like the pantheon they represent and it shows.
- Thor (1966) #502 - Putting on the Bear Shirt - Bill Messner Loebs and Mike Deodato Jr. closing out one run of Thor. This comic explores the question regarding what you would do if you knew the world was ending tomorrow. Thor spends most of the issue trying to evoke a Viking berserker rage, or "putting on the bear shirt." Instead, he finds his memories from his time exiled as Donald Blake are much more necessary. A touching issue and a good finale for this run. Just ignore the awful 90s costume.
- Thunderbolts (1997) #1 - Justice, Like Lightning - Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley introduce us to a new group of heroes striving to fill in the gap for the missing Avengers and Fantastic Four. The team had been seen in a couple of cameo appearances but this was their first comic offering. And it remains one of the best first issues ever put to print. Busiek's knowledge of the Marvel Universe is put to full use and the twist at the end floors even the most jaded comic readers.
- Black Panther (1998) #2 - Invasion - Christopher Priest and Mark Texeria's run on Black Panther is phenomenal and while I love the first issue, the second issue ratchets everything up several more notches. The intrigue, the non-linear storytelling, and most importantly the humor. The scenes with Everett K. Ross, king of the whiteboys, and Mephisto, Marvel's devil in charge, leading to the Devil's Pants bits are hysterical. Again, if you like Black Panther the movie, everything that made that film sing starts with Priest's Black Panther run.
- Daredevil (1998) #9 - Parts of a Hole Part One, Murdock's Law - David Mack and Joe Quesada's followup to the acclaimed Kevin Smith Guardian Devil run. With Mack's influence, Quesada's art got even more abstract and I love it. In particular, there is a page of Murdock at the piano, with the music telling the pieces of his background that is simply stunning. A visual treat.
- She-Hulk (2004) #4 - Web of Lies - Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo present She-Hulk at a law firm specializing in Superhuman Law. With this issue, Spider-man sues J. Jonah Jameson for libel and She-Hulk is there as his attorney. Hijinks ensue with a couple of very well timed jokes. This series as a whole was just a lot of fun and this issue in particular shines.
- Spectacular Spider-man (2003) #27 - The Final Curtain - A quite issue for Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham to close out their time on Spidey. Their run is a masterclass in character development and emotion and it was really tough to decide between this issue and the Uncle Ben/Mets baseball issue. This issue is Peter talking to his Uncle Ben at Uncle Ben's grave. It's funny, it's touching, and it includes a wonderful tribute to Bill Watterson via Killer Snowmen that Uncle Ben and Peter would create. Simply a fantastic conversation and issue that goes to the core of Spider-man.
- The Thing (2005) #8 - Last Hand - Dan Slott and Kieron Dwyer close out this short run on the Thing with another great character issue. Alternating between the annual floating poker game and the Thing's Bar Mitzvah, with a little handwaving to explain why he could have one at his advanced age, the story is a perfect Marvel Universe story and an excellent exploration of Ben Grimm. With the focus on Grimm's Judaism for the first time, Slott ties him ever more directly to his creator, Jack Kirby.
- FF (2010) #23 - Run - Jonathan Hickman's last issue of his magnificent Fantastic Four run. This issue in the partner book closed out his epic entry. Deftly penciled by Nick Dragotta, the issue turns the focus back inward, back to the themes of family. Of childhood and the endless imagination. And of parenthood and the deepest fear of that process - will they turn out ok? did we do a good job? Thanks to the endless possibilities of comics, these questions get answered for the FF and start them out on new adventures. A perfect finale.
- Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man (2017) #310 - Finale - Chip Zdarsky wraps his run on Spider-man, providing the writing and the art for this issue. Through the lens of a documentary filmmaker and his interviews, Zdarsky gives us insight into how Spider-man is viewed and why he does what he does. There is one heartbreaking interview that boils down the essence of the character, reminding us at his core, Spider-man does what he does simply because he wants to help. A perfect summation of "with great power, there must also come great responsibility" without ever uttering the words.
That's my list. These are the ones that keep me reading.
As always, Excelsior!
* - all cover images (c) Marvel Comics.