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The Five Best Single Issues of 2008

There are those of us who continue to purchase comics in their single, “monthly,” pamphlet-esque periodical form– those of us who hold onto the lovely little paper-and-staples format for some reason or another, who journey into the shop every week, or order online every month. Those who love the floppy little bleepers– myself included– understand the value and power of a well-done single issue. Which titles achieved 22 or so pages of glory this year? Look inside to find out! (And for those of you craving some material from the Big Two in your year-end remembrances, hop on in!)

5. Vinyl Underground #5

Ah, Vinyl Underground– the little series that couldn’t. Sad to see this series go. This issue, #5, by Si Spencer, Simon Gane, and Cameron Stewart, saved the series for me, and I bought it till the end.

In this issue, protagonist Morrison Shepherd walks around London with his five-year-old self (it makes sense in the book, don’t worry), looking for a street, and for his mother– and finds new revelations in the depths of his own mind. Meanwhile, other stuff happens that furthers the plot. The best part, though, is the characterization, and how it dovetails into the map motif throughout, comparing Mozza’s internal mental/spiritual maze with fictional streets Phyllis Pearsall slipped into her maps (“London– where sometimes the name have no streets”). I also enjoyed the reveal of what the “Hunth-Hunth” monster really was (go by the trade to find out for yourself).

This issue solidified the main character for me, and finally got me into the world, able to press on, so it did its job. It grabbed me. This one’s the best issue of the series, though #10 follows a similar thematic approach, and is another very good one.

Croninborg wrote about this issue back when it came out. Read his review here.

4. The Spirit #12

I’m pretty sure the only reason this is on the 2008 list is because it shipped late and slipped to January, but by golly, it counts!

Inspired (potentially heavily–I’ve never read the old stories) by Will Eisner’s original Sand Saref tales, Cooke crafts a narrative here that weaves through the past of Denny Colt and the present of the Spirit, tosses in his archnemesis, and provides us with an intriguing femme fatale. Because this is Darwyn Cooke, of course, we get a perfectly crafted comic. The noir stylings of the narration that don’t go over the top (I’m looking at you, Frank Miller), the brilliance of the pacing and perspective, and the layout and slight difference in the inking line seen in the flashbacks– it all comes together for a perfect, done-in-one package, the kind of thing you don’t see in comics anymore.

It’s perfectly accessible for someone who has no idea what the Spirit is, yet evokes the whole of his world for a die hard fan. Don’t give someone a ticket to go see the movie for Christmas– give them this.

3. Blue Beetle #25

Ahh, 2008. The year I finally discovered Blue Beetle. We have John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque to thank for this most epic of conclusions. Here’s how you culminate a run, friends– reminiscent of one of the bigger season finales on, say, Buffy, this issue brings the entire cast and crew together, and then some (hurray for the reunion of surviving JLI members!), to defeat the Big Bad. Everyone gets at least one perfectly-crafted shining moment in this one. It’s a blockbuster movie fit into 22 slim pages.

With this issue, Jaime finally inherits the Blue Beetle legacy and claims the mantle as his own– and we also get some lovely characterization for his scarab, who finally gets to speak in plain English.

It may have taken two years, but there you go; a new hero introduced into the DC Universe. Rogers bade goodbye with this issue, and the series could’ve easily ended here, but hey, we got another year out of it! That’s not bad in today’s fickle comics market.

2. Casanova #14

Well. The issue that changed everything.

And that’s why it’s good, my friends. After reading this one, you put the comic down and say “Whoa.” And then you pick the whole series back up and read it over again, because the developments in this issue make you go back and reread it all, for it changes what the previous issues meant. That’s the sign of a powerful single issue. And, well, then you’ve got the gorgeous art from Fabio Moon. I don’t know how the guy does it. The adjective “fluid” has never been more deservingly earned.

Casanova, more than anything, revels in the fact that it’s a comic. It looooves the comics form, and takes full advantage of it. The ludicrous situations, the infinitely clever dialogue, the fourth wall breaking, the soundtrack listings at the top of every other page, the songs that tie into the series, into the character, into Matt Fraction himself, as the backmatter guides us through his life as he guides us through his masterwork– this is what comics are all about, kids. All the elements just seem to cling together with ease; I love it. Casanova might just end up being one of the best series of the decade.

Honestly, Casanova #14 was utterly brilliant. Really, terrifyingly, beautifully brilliant, and a terrific wrap-up for this arc. Also, it’s two bucks! Two bucks! Hell, it could easily have been the best issue of the year, if only for…

1. All Star Superman #10

Oh, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. You do know how to treat a lady.

Here’s the time-jumping issue where Superman sets up his last will and testament, creates life on Earth, and cures cancer. You know. The small stuff before the big climax. However, it’s also the issue that summarizes Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane and Lex Luthor in mere panels, and tells us what Superman’s really about. Hope.

Some critics complained about this series’ seeming reliance on Silver Age tropes. I don’t see it that way. Sure, there’s some Silver Age inspiration, but what it takes from that era most of all is its sense of hope for the future, of the indomitable human spirit. That’s what I get out of old comics, anyway, and what I got out of this. All Star Superman #10 is a summation of Superman’s character, of his entire mythos. If Superman didn’t exist… why, we’d have to create him. And that’s what happens inside these 22 pages. Oh, and the art’s pretty. But you knew that.

ASS (that won’t ever get old!) was a landmark series in cape comics, and I’ll treasure it forever. And this one, #10, will go down in my books as one of the greatest single issues of all time.

There we have it. Five different kinds of single issues, all at the top of their respective games, all fulfilling their respective purposes: fresh hooks, done-in-ones, epic conclusions, head-twisters, and love letters. Sure makes a guy love comics.

Strangely, everything I talked about came out within the first half of this year. Huh. Funny that. Are comics getting better or worse? U-Decide!

While we’re at it, what were your favorite single issues of this past year?

Coming later in the week– I throw some categories at you and tell you what else was good in ’08.

33 Comments

Cooke’s story was indeed heavily inspired by the original Sand Seref tales; amazingly, it still manages to be its own thing.

I whole-heartedly agree with the Spirit, Blue Beetle, and ASS choices. Haven’t read the others but now I’m inclined to check them out. Some of the Dini Detective Comics were excellent self-contained stories.

You picked the right issue for number one. First thing that poped into my head, “This is going to change everything.”

Man, just *remembering* ASS #10 makes me sniffle up.

Some intriguing choices, Bill. Skirting around the edges of the mainstream a bit. I dig.

I’m kinda surprised Ellis’ Thunderbolts didn’t rank, though. His issues were always so manic and dark and entertaining.

Casanova 14 was such a powerful conclusion, and my favorite comic book released this year.

All Star Superman 10 couldnt agree wiht you more

I’d have picked the Darwyn Cooke issue of Jonah Hex, but a DC Spirit issue is also a cool choice.

I second the “Don’t see the Spirit movie” motion. PLEASE, buy some Eisner books instead.

I’m embarassed to admit that lying around my apartment somewhere is Vinyl Underground #5… bought but unread. Damn, I really wanted to like that series but it just never hit a groove with me and now I learn I stopped an issue before I should have. Even though I’d payed for it!

The choice for number 1 was pretty obvious. I’m of the opinion that All Star Superman is the series of the decade and that was THE issue. It saddens me that more of humanity will never get to experience the specialness of that book. It does take a lot of built up cultural baggage and a particular type of reading to appreciate what makes it so much better than 99% of the rest of anything. I’ve used the phrase “shining ray of awesomeness” to describe the arrival of each new issue and now, to extend some musical metaphors I often use as well, will henceforth declare that All Star Superman “sings in my heart” when I describe the experience of reading it to people.

Also, this may sound stupid but what happened in Casanova #14? Are you referring to the big reveal about where Cass had been? I’ve been reading that book since it began – the ad on the back of Fell #1 made it inevitable – and just don’t recall that issue being particularly spectacular. Not saying it wasn’t but I just can’t place it in my memory.

No love for Young Liars #7 (and #9 as well)? That book’s cover alone made it stand out and for trippy different craziness with just enough connection to what had come before both of them would probably be on or near my personal top 5. Personally, for me, and I know a lot of people would probably disagree, Black Summer #7 deserves some consideration too. Yes, it’s just the final chapter of a “serialized graphic novel” but, and I know many will disagree, I thought it was an absolutely perfect final issue. Which is something I’ve often found Ellis has trouble with.

I only read ASS no. 10 a month ago and, as with many other posters, that was the first comic that popped to mind for this category. That was the best single issue I’ve read in a long, long time.

I’m also generally impressed with most issues of Fell but, thinking about it, did they publish a single issue in 2008? It’s a shame if that series has fallen by the wayside.

The fact that Cooke’s The Spirit didn’t make it to the Top Runs list a while back is an outrage. Those issues are great comics. Nice choices here, and nice, but easy call, on the top dog. A hairy, tough looking dude, like three minutes into my first and only conversation with him, proudly confessed to crying at ASS #10. That’s strong story telling.

Couldn’t agree more with your choice for the top spot. My favourite superhero comic, not just for the year, but for, like, ever.

The top spot was never even up for debate, so I’ll just say that issue 10 of All Star was on par with a religious experience to read and leave it at that. I would add issue 1 of P. Craig Russel’s adaptation of The Dream Hunters to that list. That book is comics poetry.

Not a bad list, but I would’ve taken out the Blue Beetle and replaced it with Thunderbolts #120, which was Ellis’ best issue to date and Marvel’s best issue of the year. That was the best Norman Osborn dialogue ever written.

For me it was Cassanova #14 all the way as the best single issue of the year. You were so right in saying that it made me go back and re-read the series looking at it in a whole different way. It wasn’t like RIP where I had to re-read it because I didn’t understand it the first time (Although re-reading it, I liked it a lot), but it was to add a whole other level to what happened. And damned if you don’t pick up on a bunch of clues that I had missed completely the first read through in Cassanova.

Not really sure on the order yet, but my picks for top 5 single issues would probably be the following:

Young Liars #7
Criminal v. 2 #2
The Boys #21
Punisher MAX #54
All Star Superman #10

Honorable mentions would be Punisher MAX #60, Young Liars #10, Crossed #1, and Grendel: Behold the Devil #7.

Fell is AWESOME! Buy the TPB now!!

Anybody read Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #16? Now that was some good times right there.

All Star Superman #10 was not only the best single issue of the year, but is right up there in the running for the best single issue I’ve ever read. It really distills the whole concept of Superman into 22 tight, near-perfect pages.

Oddly enough, the only single issue I can think of enjoying that much off-hand was also written by Morrison — the Invisibles “Best Man Fall” issue (don’t remember the number).

Fell is AWESOME! Buy the TPB now!!

I utterly agree with you, however, did an issue of Fell actually come out in 2008??

As for Mr Reed’s list, I’d personally swap ASS #10 for Spirit #12, but then again… I’ve never been a fan of the Big Blue Boy Scout, but I have ADORED All-Star Superman! Pure gold… so maybe I’d just bump Spirit #12 up to #2…

Vinyl Underground was great, sucks that it’s gone. I really enjoyed the Robin/Spoiler Special by Chuck Dixon and Rafeal Albaquerque (i screwed up on that name).

Some reviewers have talked about the silver age stuff in All Star Superman, but after reading the latest six issue arc that ties into a huge multi-universal gazillion book crossover it’s nice to sit back and read something like all star superman because theres so much more in that one issue that it feels like you really get your money’s worth with art and story that speaks to something happy (and theres not enough happy in comics today).
Can i give an honorable mention ot Guardians of the Galaxy #1, i love DnA’s work on that series and Pelletier’s art is great.

I would also include the end of the Heart of Hush storyline, as that was just damned excellent Batman.

And All-Star Superman #10 is the perfect comic book.

All Star Superman 10? *laughs* I could list 10 issues that were better than it for the first half of 2008.

Alright, then do it, rather than spout meaningless hyperbole.

1 – Action 864.
2 – All New Atom 20.
3 – Birds of Prey.112.
4 – Green Lantern V4 25.
5 – Green Lantern Corps V2 19.
6 – Nightwing 140.
7 – Robin 170.
8 – Supergirl 23.
9 – Wonder Girl 6.
10 – Wonder Woman 14.
And since when have I spouted meaningless hyperbole?

Yeah, gonna have to disagree with you on all of those there, but, you know, opinions…

Can we please retire the term “pamphlet” in any form when talking about comics? It’s so pretentious and anyway it relates more to factual publications. After all, the FF is called the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, not the World’s Greatest Pamphet. Sheesh.

Yeah, I don’t like the term “pamphlet” either, hence the esque. I prefer “singles.” Of course, then people think I’m talking about cheese.

“Yeah, gonna have to disagree with you on all of those”
All of the issues I listed were miles better than All Star Superman 10.

No room for RASL #2? That issue is right up there with All Star #10.

Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for novice blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

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