hulk smash

The Incredible Hulk once visited my hometown.

The May 2001 issue of Incredible Hulk #26 sees the sad, brooding Hulk walking through the midwest and coming across Wausau, Wisconsin, with art that does not at all realistically portray the city. At the same time, longtime Hulk villain Killer Shrike and his girlfriend are looking to settle down in the area, but not before one final robbery. While Hulk just wants to be left alone, Shrike is convinced he's there for a fight. Shrike destroys a building, Hulk shrugs off the attack and keeps moving, and Shrike's girlfriend is revealed to have been killed by falling debris.

I discovered this issue out of the blue at a Waldenbooks in the Wausau Center Mall. I still have it, though it is not the best nor my favorite comic. The best, I suppose, is Astro City. It typically explores how normal people exist in a world of superpowers and is unique in comic book deconstructionism, in that it maintains optimism in a genre far too mired in cynicism. It is everything good and right and awe-inspiring in comic books.

As for my favorites:

Amazing Spider-Man #238-239

The origin of my favorite Spider-Man villain, the Hobgoblin. This was also the peak of Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.'s classic run on the title (which included "The Cat Came Back" & "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut"), with Romita later returning to Spidey's noir elements in his 1996 Spider-Man run (#64-95).
Animal Man #26

Animal Man was the first of many comic characters to be revamped by Grant Morrison, with a run that introduced environmental messages and breakings of the fourth wall. This final issue of his run saw Morrison himself making an appearance to confront his creation and provide a heartbreaking finale.
Batman & Robin

Grant Morrison also provided fascinating revamps for the likes of Superman and the X-Men, but my favorite remains his Batman run that embraced the comic's long, bizarre past and eventually put ex-Robin Dick Grayson under the cowl.

Batman: Knightfall

My first exposure to the comic book Batman, where Bane breaks every villain out of Arkham Asylum and then breaks Batman's back. The first eleven parts in particular are what I'm considering here, as those are what were what I discovered in a bundle at a local Shopko around the time of Batman Forever.

Brave & the Bold #197 & DC Super Stars #17

Two largely forgotten issues focusing on an alternate 'Earth-2' Batman, who eventually married Catwoman and had a superhero daughter named the Huntress. When first getting into comics and reading DC's encyclopedic Who's Who series, I thought this was the legit fate of the character before the company's 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot.

Calvin & Hobbes

I wrote above that Astro City is the 'best' comic book of all, but if I am to also include comic strips in the discussion, it is actually probably this.
Fantastic Four #570-572 & 579

Batman and the Fantastic Four are my personal favorite superheroes, the latter because they're a celebration of space, science, and family. The runs of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby and Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo are standouts, but my favorite exemplifications of the title are these relatively recent issues from Jonathan Hickman.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Shotaro Ishinomori's twelve-part video game adaptation first appeared throughout Nintendo Power magazine in 1992. It helps that this is one of my favorite video games, but the comic also offers a surprising number of original additions.

Peanuts 01.02.2000

Peanuts as a whole is largely wonderful, but this specific post - Charles Schulz's last before his final daily strip - completely crushes my emotional state.


There are a few other manga titles that I enjoy - Blade of the Immortal, Clover, the works of Naoki Urasawa & Junji Ito - but this five-volume series about garbage collectors in space sits at the top.

Punisher MAX

While not all of the storylines are equal in quality (my favorite being issue #50-54's brutal "Long Cold Dark"), Garth Ennis' dark sixty-issue run remains my favorite character study in comics.  

Saga of the Swamp Thing #21

Alan Moore's landmark Swamp Thing revamp is my favorite of his works (thanks in part to the art of Stephen Bissette), and this game-changer is both absolutely terrifying and probably my favorite single comic issue.

Spectacular Spider-Man #189

The first comic I ever owned, which luckily turned out to be tremendous. An anniversary issue with hologram cover, it takes place amidst the underrated final run of Harry Osborn's Green Goblin character.

Ultimate Spider-Man

Brian Michael Bendis' 21st century Spider-Man revamp is the very best of Spider-Man tales, with my personal preferences stretching all the way from issues eight to two-hundred - in particular, "Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends," "Death of Spider-Man," "Who is Miles Morales?," "Irresponsible," and Annual #1.

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse

I feel guilty for only one X-Men story being included here (I'm also quite partial to Joe Madureira's Uncanny X-Men run, Scott Lobdell's 'quiet' issues, Classic X-Men #1, & Kitty Pryde's debut), but this alternate-reality saga from 1995 is far and away my favorite story concerning the merry mutants. My first X-comic ever was even X-Men #41, this event's lead-up that had me convinced it was the last issue of X-Men ever.