Top Four: Issues

Spiderman 38The Top Four series looks at certain aspects of the comic book world from two perspectives: Rob’s, as a relative newcomer to mainstream comics, and Kristine’s, as an older hand in the world.  Each installment evaluates the top four choices from both Rob and Kristine and why they chose their picks.



By Robert J. Baden and Kristine Chester

 

 

 

The standard unit of consumption for a comic is an issue, a 20 to 30-page helping that conveys part of a story arc while hooking readers to come back next month, while others are stand alone stories focusing on a single subject in the larger title.  Many of us have issues that we just love to read over and over again, that one most enjoyable part of a storyline or a profound issue separate from the rest of the series.  Here are several such issues for us, ones that we'll bend the pages back and reread many times over.

 

 

 

SPOILERS BELOW

 



Rob’s Picks

 


#4: Transformers #17 (IDW, Vol. 1)

Background:

The Autobots and Skywatch journey back from a disastrous mission only to be confronted with Megatron’s taunting of Prime.  Prime being Prime, he meets with the Decepticon leader and discovers that several copies of his gun form have been distributed throughout the world, including a hostage-taker in a nearby town.  The Autobots race to save the day, but, in the confusion, Jazz ends up doing something no Autobot has ever done before: killing a human.

Pros:

One of the most powerful visuals is Jazz standing over the human ready to stop him, though, it’s obvious he doesn’t want to do what he does.  The brief moment where he fires on the human, vaporizing him, is stunningly beautiful in terms of impact and character development, as is the abject look of horror on his and Bumblebee’s faces when they realize what happened.  It’s not a pretty visual, but it is quite powerful.

Cons:

I’m rather upset that the police officers charged with protecting people and assigned to the hostage situation don’t seem to care much about how things work out in regards to the Cybertronians.  The fact that a police officer would be so willing to outright destroy an intelligent lifeform—even if it were mechanical in nature—is just wrong to me, and the amount of utter hate that the man displayed was just a bit much for me to take.  Part of me was actually glad he was the one who got killed, though, it proved exactly what he was trying to say concerning the Autobots.


#3: New Avengers #50 (Vol. 1)

Background:

Osborn unveils his Avengers to the world, and several of the New Avengers comment on the situation.  Not long afterwards, the real Spider-Woman helps hatch a plan to bring Osborn down, but the team is ambushed by the Hood and his gang, leading the true Avengers to wonder just how criminals found out about Osborn’s plan.  In the end they escape, and Clint Barton decides that enough is enough.

Pros:

The absolute best part of this issue, and this volume of New Avengers, is when Clint Barton (Ronin) goes on television and calls out Norman Osborn.  He challenges the man to prove to the world that he’s being truthful about wanting to protect against villains, demanding that he show just how good he is.  I would have expected Spider-Man to do this, given the past association between him and Osborn, but to have Barton do it, and in such an open fashion, just really spoke to me, as though he was saying, “I mean this, so you better listen.”

Cons:

It seems as though the artwork is a bit cheap at times.  There are several pages in which the panels are identical to one another with the exception of dialogue, as though it was a copy/paste job.  I’m sure it was made to show how much life can look the same from one moment to the next, but it just felt fake to me.

 



#2: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #21 (Marvel)

Background:

This entire comic is done without spoken dialogue, and has been appropriately named the “Silent Issue.”  Scarlet has been kidnapped by Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes’ sword brother and former LRRP brother-in-arms during Vietnam, although, they are unaware of one another’s true identities due to the mask they both wear.  Snake Eyes defies his orders, fights off squads of Cobra soldiers, and goes toe-to-toe with Storm Shadow just to save his beloved.  It is not revealed until the very end that there is a connection between the two combatants, but only the reader sees it.

Pros:

At the time I read it, this was the only issue I was aware of that did something of this nature.  There are not even sound effect noises written in; the only text within the issue is a computer screen warning.  I also consider it one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Storm Shadows' interactions with each other; Snake Eyes proved his love for her, and Storm Shadow became aware of Snake Eyes, even if only in a subconscious fashion.

Cons:

Because there’s no dialogue between individuals, it’s not always as easy to follow the progression of the story.  There were a couple of times I had to reread some panels to make sure I didn’t miss something vital, or had to go back and refer to a past panel if it related to something I was trying to read at that specific point.



#1: Ultimate Fallout #6

Background:

The superhero community and NYC have been dealing with the death of Peter Parker, but some just have a hard time in the wake of it, such as Mary Jane.  Gwen and Aunt May go so far as to move away thanks to Tony Stark, but the one who seems to have the hardest time—the one you wouldn’t have expected—is Nick Fury, who actually cries at the very end of the issue.  A man who doesn’t show much emotion, breaking down and admitting that he believes he’s the reason Peter Parker is dead.

Pros:

For me, the most profound aspect of this issue was at the very end, when Nick Fury cries.  This is normally a very tough man, who doesn’t like to show emotion (or at least the more vulnerable forms of it), and to see him turn to Mary Jane and just cry while blaming himself for Peter’s death is astonishing to me.  Above all else, this is the one issue that sold me on trying to keep up with the Ultimate lines.

Cons:

The biggest downside is that there’s a scene at the Triskelion in which the art style is different than the rest throughout the issue.  It’s not as though I have a problem with differing art styles, but I don’t like how they interconnect with one another in the same issue; it becomes a bit distracting, and, in this case, it seemed as though the art style was made specifically to help convey the darkness of it.  It would have been much better if the art style was all one way.



Kristine’s Picks

#4: “Terror in the 3rd Dimension” (Batgirl Vol. 3 #14, 2010)

Background:

Stephanie Brown is bored out of her mind on a Friday night when Kara, Supergirl, comes to town looking for an opportunity for a little normalcy.  The girls head to the University of Gotham campus and end up seeing a 3D Dracula movie, but 24 holographic Draculas come forth from the screen thanks to a science experiment gone wrong.  Batgirl and Supergirl track down and “stake” each of the Draculas using control rods and end up having exactly the sort of fun Friday night they were looking for in the first place.

Pros:

This issue is Bryan Miller's Batgirl letting loose on the kind of wacky storytelling Miller is best at.  Kara and Stephanie's banter throughout the issue is great and the individual scenes where they hunt down the Draculas at such places as “Requisite Dance Club” and chasing a Segway-riding Dracula are priceless.  Most of all, the issue is about being able to rely on your friends and avoiding the sort of lonely, boring night that the issue started with.

Cons:

Dracula on a Segway.  No?  “Terror in the 3rd Dimension” is a goofy issue, which, while it captures the tone of Miller's Batgirl, is probably the least meaty issue on this list in terms of content.



#3: “Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur and Why Dr. Dinosaur Hates Atomic Robo” (Atomic Robo and Friends Free Comic Book Day 2009/Atomic Robo Vol. 4 #3)

Background:

Robo comes to a Polynesian island to investigate reports of lizard people, but what he finds is a crazy, intelligent, historically inaccurate velociraptor who manages to outwit Robo time and time again, eventually resulting in Robo's capture and attempted decapitation.  The Tesladyne Action Scientists arrive in time to destroy the base and save Robo, but are unable to capture the creature now called Dr. Dinosaur.

Pros:

Originally the best Free Comic Book Day issue of all time.  Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur was a funny, banter-filled issue that gave a great impression of Robo and introduced one of the most popular characters in the series, Dr. Dinosaur.  Later, the second half of the story was added, leading to more Dr. Dinosaur goodness and Robo's failed attempts at naming him and arguing historical fact with him.  The dialogue in this issue is amazingly funny.  Trust me, check it out for yourself.

Cons:

Unfortunately, this issue spawned quite a few additional appearances by Dr. Dinosaur where he just wasn't as funny and actually detracted from my enjoyment of the character.  The art style is a little rough at times, especially where Dr. Dinosaur is concerned.  His exaggerated gestures take some getting used to, and his eyes basically bug out of his head in some scenes.



#2: “A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Sandman #19, 1989)

Background:

After striking a deal with the Endless known as Dream, Will Shakespeare writes one of two plays for Dream, this one based on the faeries.  The first time the troupe is to perform, it is in front of Dream, King Auberon, Queen Titania, Robin Goodfellow, and the other faeries the story is about.  During the course of the play, Robin Goodfellow, the Puck, causes mayhem, the faeries try to make sense of the performance, and Shakespeare's son, young Hamnet, vies for his father's attention, citing that if he were to die, his father would just write a play about it.

Pros:

Neil Gaiman made a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The faeries watching a play about themselves is funny as they acknowledge what's true, what's not, and what's somewhere in between.  It's a rather poetic issue with the acting troupe falling asleep following their most unusual performance and waking up in the morning wondering if it was all a dream.

Cons:

You really need to be familiar with the play A Midsummer Night's Dream to appreciate this issue.  If you haven't read or seen a performance of Midsummer, then what are you waiting for?  Afterward, you'll have a much greater appreciation for this issue and its connections to Shakespeare.



#1: “The Conversation” (Amazing Spider-Man #38, 2002)

Background:

May Parker discovered Peter passed out, badly beaten, and in the remnants of a Spider-Man costume.  After taking a day to think about it, Aunt May goes to Peter and reveals that she knows he's Spider-Man and the two have the conversation they were dreading for years.

Pros:

“The Conversation” is a touching issue, focused solely on the relationship between Aunt May and Peter as it evolves to include all parts of Peter's life.  As far as coming out metaphors go, this is pretty damn perfect with representations of Peter and May's dread of the conversation, having difficulty admitting parts of the truth, and May's unbending love for her nephew even if the circumstances of his life upset her.  May even admits that she suspected Peter was gay when he was a teenager.  She knew he was hiding something in his closet, she just didn't know it was a costume.

Cons:

This issue isn't really about Spider-Man, it's about Peter and the closest person he has to a parent. While I consider that to be some of this issue's strengths, it could be considered a slow-paced issue in the middle of an otherwise action heavy plot.  The only other con is that I can't acknowledge Aunt May's whole arc in this Top Four focusing on issues, since her journey to understand Peter's role as Spider-Man starts an issue earlier and continues for a few issues as she tirelessly works to improve Spider-Man's reputation.



It wasn’t easy to pick which issue had the most impact for us; actually, it would have been easier to have picked which story arc had the most impact, but that’s already been sort of covered in our Top Four: Memorable Moments article; however, we feel that we came up with the right choices for us, and hope that you see the reasons why we enjoyed them so much.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 December 2018 17:31

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