I’m a big fan of the long form in comics. I like the stories that often don’t fully pay off for years. It’s one of the things that comics do best, the slow burn to the big reveal. Ed Brubaker’s Captain American run Cap vol 5 1-50 was one four year story, broken down into chapters. One day, I may do a top story-lines post, but one of the other things that comics do well is the one-off. That one issue that does its own thing, or is part of an ongoing story, but works just as well on its own. In this edition of 5 comics, I want to look at 5 comics that tell a great or offbeat story that can be enjoyed on its own.
They are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference, not that it really matters.
Iron Man #182
Written by: Dennis O’Neil
Drawn by: Luke McDonnell
On sale date: February 1984
This is one of those great turning point issues, with Tony finally hitting rock bottom. Drunk and on the street, he spends the night trying to keep the new-born baby of another drunk alive. He succeeds and in powerful issue decides that if this new-born baby is worth saving, anyone is worth saving, including himself.
It’s the beginning of his long road to redemption, becoming Iron Man again and restoring his company. It’s the end of the story of a destroyed man who’s had everything taken away from him and the start of the story of man battling his inner demons becoming a hero again.
Written by: Garth Ennis
Drawn by: Steve Dillon
On sale date: February 2000
Not technically a one shot, this was part of the Alamo, Garth Ennis’ finale to his magnificent Preacher series. The cover of the issue was one of Glen Fabry’s full face covers that Alamo had on each part. The reason I have it on this list, is that the majority of it is one scene. After spending 50 something issues seeking to make God answer for the neglect of his creation. Jesse Custer, the eponymous preacher, seeks to bring this all to a head and to do that, he needs help from Saint of Killers, the Angel of Murder. A great mix of religious conspiracy, western mythology and fantastic story-telling, Preacher is one of the great Vertigo series and this issue gives you a look at this series at its best.
Written by: Warren Ellis
Drawn by: Darick Robertson
On sale date: February 1998
One of the ‘issue’ issues that peppered Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. This issue was a look at the revivals, those people cryogenically frozen at the point of death and revived when technology permitted. In the future of Transmetropolitan, that technology is here. The people frozen are reanimated and healed and thrust into a future that doesn’t really want them and they are horrified by. This issue takes the form of an article written by Warren Ellis’ protagonist Spider Jerusalem, who tells us the story of Mary, a photojournalist from our time, who wakes in this strange new future. This is one of the better stories from what was a fantastic series, like Preacher it had a beginning, middle and end and was a fantastic ride.
Uncanny X-Men #309
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Drawn by: John Romita Jnr
On sale date: December 1993
This is an issue taking place in Charles Xavier’s mind at a time when writers were trying to make him a sympathetic character. Those days have since gone. Charles is dreaming a conversation with Magneto and the two discuss Charles Xavier’s failed relationships. It focuses on Moira McTaggart, Gabrielle Haller, Lilanda Neramani and the previously unknown Amelia Voight, who at the time was an acolyte of Magneto. He tracks the relationship with Amelia from its beginning, just after he was paralysed, to its end, when he tried to force her to see his point of view, using his telepathy. As you can imagine, that went so very badly and she never spoke to him again. This can be seen as a desperate act, soon regretted as a moment of madness that he can never really come back from. Or proof that Charles Xavier is a d**k. It paints a nice picture of a flawed and troubled man doing his best and seeing several people happier than he is and wondering, why can’t I do that. After large events, there were a lot of this aftermath issues and this one is one of my personal favourites.
Written by: Peter David
Drawn by: Joe Quesada
On sale date: December 1992
I can’t talk about this comic objectively, because of my deep fondness for it. This is when I started my love for Peter David written comics and especially his X-Factor run. After the events of X-Cutioner’s Song, the government sponsored X-Factor are subjected to psychiatric assessment and counselling. This takes the form of several vignettes where each member of the team talks with a psychiatrist, whose point of view we look through, finally revealed to be Dr Leonard “Big guy with green hair” Samson.
From Havok’s anxiety, Strong Guy’s constant pain, to Polaris’ body-shape issues. It’s all handled so well with understanding and humour. I don’t know if it is realism of any sort, seeing these super-people with psychological issues, but it is relatable. These are people with problems, discussing them and for some of them, the counselling continues.
But anyone who has ever read this comic, knows what the best part is. This issue explains Quicksilver. It’s called PMS Pietro Maximoff Syndrome (Quicksilver’s real name) the urge to be high-handed and arrogant.
“Have you ever been stuck behind someone who can’t use a cash machine? Or gotten a guy at burger king who can’t understand whopper, no pickles? Or been behind someone in the post office who wants to know every single way to ship an object to Albuquerque?”
“And how do you feel during those times?”
“Annoyed, angry frustrated I suppose.”
“Exactly, because your life is being interrupted by the incapablility of others. Now imagine if everywhere you went, the entire world, is populated entirely of people who can’t work a cash machine. I surmise you to would suffer from P.M.S”
I have not got the wording exactly right on that, did it all from memory, that’s how much I love that issue.
These can all be found on comixology or marvel unlimited as single issues or, apart from Iron Man 182, in the following trades.
Preacher #60 – Preacher: Alamo TPB
Transmetropolitan #8 – Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life TPB
Uncanny X-Men #309 – Grandson of Origins TPB
X-Factor #87 – X-Factor Visionaries Vol 4 TPB
These are all worth giving a try. Read one of them, read all of them, let me know what you think. Till next time True Believers.