It's really about time we did one of these. The Comic Vine staff has put our noggins together to collect and codify the all-time greatest moments in superhero comics. We make no pretense at any academic objectivity here - - these aren't supposed to be the most "important" to the history of the medium. These are simply the times where we've been so wrapped up in a story that we literally had to say "Wow!" when we turned the page. These are the most-memorable pages or panels for readers like you (as decided by our highly-discriminating reckoning,) These are the first ten of the top fifty greatest moments in comics.
So relax, have some fun and be inspired to offer your own personal choices, all right?== TEASER ==
50. Peter Parker dies in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #160
There have been countless superhero deaths over the years and the decades, and everybody knows by now that they’ll all eventually be reversed. There are no such reassurances in the Ultimate universe, though. Dead is dead, and the familiar scenarios of the regular Marvel U are allowed to reach the logical endpoints that traditional continuity has prevented (or protected?) them from reaching. Thus, the fact that this Spidey would die defending his loved ones from the Green Goblin is doubly tragic, because it does seem like the most likely fate that would befall an underage vigilante playing around with dangerous super-criminals. Since we've seen this Spidey's entire, brief career on page, this conclusion maybe even makes us grateful that the regular one's gotten off easier in his timeline, and that we've gotten to see him in action for so much longer.
No screen adaptation of the Punisher will ever get past the basics of his origin, nor the surface explanations for his vigilantism. Throughout his run, Garth Ennis dug much deeper into Castle’s motivations and explored territory in his life that had never truly been shown up until then. Here, he shows that big Frank wasn’t just a normal guy who was totally transformed by “one bad day” - - he'd actually harbored vindictive and bloodthirsty tendencies for his entire life. Vietnam gave him a savory taste of what a life at war could be like, and the taste made him hungry for more. When a rescue team searches for the sole survivor of the Fort Valley Forge massacre, they find a Frankenstein monster who’ll soon be given an identity with the death of Castle's family. It's an undeniably terrifying scene and sight.
Grant Morrison had the brilliant idea to keep the Leaguer’s private lives separate from their adventures during his run on JLA. Every issue had an “all killer no filler” feel and, really, there are many more moments we could've included here - - and most of them involve Batman.
The Dark Knight’s always been an icon, of course, but this was the first time he felt like a badass; a relentless tactician who holds all the cards and is prepared for every conceivable contingency. Here was his first such badass moment, showing the white Martians how it was a grave mistake to underestimate this particular “mere human.” They didn’t do their research on him, but he did his homework on them and their weaknesses to fire, deducing a way to take these space gods out with only a bottle of gasoline and a pack of matches.
No villains dismissed the Batman after this one.
47. “I’ve got the box” in ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN #8
This is technically a major spoiler but it’s real hard to avoid those when discussing a comic that’s 25-years-old. Frank Miller un-apologetically revels in the power fantasies inherent to the superhero and he'll flip the bird to anybody too constipated to get the joke. ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN is a wickedly-fun satire that takes pot shots at the Right and the Left and every one in-between. It spends eight feverish issues establishing what a wonderful, misanthropic pig SHIELD Agent Garret is while also harping on the ever-escalating threat of nuclear annihilation posed by the presidential election of the Hand's demigod, the Beast. So what could its proper final trick? How about putting the power of the latter into the outrageously-inappropriate hands of the former? Few other moment in comics have gotten this gleefully anarchic.
46. Deadpool faces everybody he’s ever killed in DEADPOOL #33
Joe Kelly’s run is the definitive version of the ‘Pool for most of us. DP was still cool, he was still dangerous, his adventures had nasty snark and heartfelt pathos, and there was even something romantic about how his book was able to get away with so much because it was narrowly dodging cancellation every month. Like this very fitting end for the ‘Pool, for example...
Deadpool had gone through a three-year-long quest for redemption and had even saved the universe. It was even looking like he was just about to get satisfaction against T-Ray, the man who’d murdered his wife, Mercedes, and set his life on its horrible downward spiral. Only it turned out that T-Ray was actually Wade Wilson and Deadpool was actually the psycho killer who did the murdering and life-ruining. DP's entire life and quest for a redemption had been a farce; a coping mechanism constructed by an insane mind. With the rug pulled out from underneath so tragically, Deadpool threw his arms up at last and surrendered to his vile nature in both figurative and literal terms. At that moment, T-Ray and Mercedes used their black magic to conjure everybody DP had ever killed and the Merc with a Mouth perished against their onslaught, going down swinging and unrepentant.
45. The Kid who collects Spidey in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #248
Many copies' collectble value was ruined due to the tears readers shed over this one-off issue's bittersweet ending. A young boy who’s Spider-Man’s #1 fan, collecting every article about the wall-crawler (even the Daily Bugle’s retractions about their favorite “public menace,") gets a personal visit from Spidey after he learns that the boy's just days away from succumbing to leukemia. The web-slinger opens up to his young fan about what it’s like to be Spider-Man, showing him a trust he'll never be able to show to any other stranger again. The story was the fulfillment of a fantasy many children involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation have when requesting to meet their favorite superhero; and it's a demonstration that Spidey doesn't always have to be punching bad guys to make a difference in people's lives.
44. The T-Bolts are really the Masters of Evil in Thunderbolts #1
We still haven’t gotten over the shock of this surprise. It struck us, like lightning, just before high speed internet made such secrets all-but-impossible to keep before streetdates. In all promos and advanced solicits, the T-Bolts were presented simply as new heroes with a vague “dark secret" who were stepping up to fill the power vacuum left by the “death” of all the heroes during the finale of ONSLAUGHT. We, the readers, were in the same shoes as Marvel U's desperate citizenry, placing our trust in what would soon be revealed as Baron Zemo ingenious, diabolical scheme to seize, control and crush the hope of the world under the new Masters of Evil's boot. It was an absolute knock-out way to set up a whole year's worth of white knuckle cape-and-mask tension.
43. Swamp Thing revives in blue SWAMP THING #56
Here’s a moment that precisely illustrates the unique appeal of a “shared universe” and an open-ended title. As with the Punisher, any screen adaptation of SWAMP THING will never get past the origin story; it'll keep Alec Holland perpetually hung up on regaining his humanity. Alan Moore and Steve Bissette show us here how that's actually the least interesting angle on the character by taking Swampy literally light years away from his original premise. After the meddling of Lex Luthor and Batman “kills” him, Swamp Thing's consciousness escapes from the Green of Earth and into the Blue of unnamed planet in another solar system. There, he re-constitutes himself out of the azure vegetation and spends an entire issue roaming throughout the alien fauna and pondering his inexplicable circumstances. It's real hard to think of many other comics that have shown how far a concept can be taken beyond any boundaries better than this does.
42. Huntress saves the universe in DC ONE MILLION #4
Superheroes forget to think fourth-dimensionally when they’re dealing with threats from the future. Who’d have figured that Solaris, the Tyrant Sun of the 853rd century, would be defeated by a street-level vigilante whose business doesn’t typically go beyond busting wise guys down at the Gotham docks? Since the Justice League and the Justice Legion Alpha are fighting the same villain in two different eras, Ms. Bertinelli realizes there’s really no rush to figure out how to defeat Solaris - - they’ve got centuries to figure it out, in fact. Under her instruction, the two JLAs set some nasty traps throughout the Solar system that nab the evil sun in a way that not even his astronomically-advanced consciousness could ever see coming. And that's not too shabby for a leaguer who never seemed that special next to Atlantean kings and Amazonian princesses.
41. Barry Allen's sacrifice in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #8
The debate over the precise dates for each superhero age’s beginning and end will go on and on. Still, if the Silver Age started with Barry Allen’s debut, it most certainly ended with his “death” here, which coincided with the onset of many years of storylines like WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS that deconstructed everything that had long been taken for granted about clean-cut heroes like the second Flash. Even though Barry eventually returned from this merging with the Speed Force - - and we’re possibly only a few years off from seeing a generation of kids who can’t remember him ever being gone - - his acceleration to light speed in a last ditch effort to thwart the Anti-Monitor still remains one of the most iconic deaths ever. It literally ushered in a new era.
Stay tuned for numbers 40-31 next week!