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The Top 100 Comics Of A Lifetime (#5 – 1)

December 26, 2022 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Joker Killing Joke Image Credit: DC Comics

And we are back! For the last time! Wow, this took some work to get here, but let’s finish the list.

Reminder: This is based on a list Wizard Magazine published in 2006 ranking their top 100 single issue comic stories of the previous 27 years or so (1979-2006). I’ve gone from 100 to 6 (you can see the list history [LISTORY!] by clicking the link in the first sentence), reading and reviewing each one. And now we are at the final five.

#5. Ultimate Spider-Man #13

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

I know this issue kind of sticks out like a sore thumb this high up on the list, but I’m not going to lie: I also LOVED this comic when it came out. It had me rolling, and it’s indicative of how terrific Bendis can be at the height of his powers.

Just a few weeks into his hero career, Peter Parker had defeated the likes of the Green Goblin and the Kingpin. But in the process, he had alienated his best friend Mary Jane Watson. To rectify that, he invites MJ over to reveal his identity to her.

MJ takes some convincing when she doubts his claims, but after showing her what he can do, she is gleeful about his secret… and accidentally lets slips that she thought Peter was just going to kiss her.

AND THEN AUNT MAY walks in and sends MJ home because of all the ruckus she had heard from the bedroom. But it closes out with Aunt May agreeing that Mary Jane is special girl. Thus starting Pete and MJ’s Ultimate on/off relationship.

And come on… Peter’s reaction to May trying to have The Talk with him is all of us reading that scene.

#4. Superman Annual #11

Image Credit: DC Comics

I have covered this at length previously so if you want my in-depth thoughts, click HERE. Or HERE. Or even HERE. Well that’s weird it keeps coming up.

No wait, it’s not. This book is amazing. And it took me several tries to fully appreciate it.

#3. The Killing Joke

Image Credit: DC Comics

Here’s something I wish I had a video of more than anything in the world: In college, I took an Acting class one semester. Our final was having to take a monologue from pop culture and deliver it on stage. I chose The Joker’s “one bad day” speech that spans 2-3 pages from this very comic. Dressed up like The Joker and everything. Got an A! Good times. Like I said… I wish I had it recorded somewhere. This is from before cellphones took videos at all (much less good videos).

This is a book that kind of has a black eye in retrospect. The Joker is overplayed these days. The modern insistence of making the back story of The Joker here canon goes against the point of the tale. The god-awful animated movie they turned this into. The fridging of Batgirl. It’s easy to write this book off. And then I re-read it just now, and you know what? It’s so damn good. It’s THE best Joker story ever written. Alan Moore handles the characters of Batman and The Joker with brilliant precision. There are moments here that are so special and funny and intense.

And the Brian Bolland art? What a chef’s kiss it is.

#2. Sandman #8

Image Credit: DC Comics

The story of Dream reconnecting with his sister (Death) and trying to overcome the traumatic impact of the struggles he had gone through as a prisoner. Gaiman’s imagining of the personified conception of death being a cheery, spritely, positive femme is so in the face of everything you’ve ever come to expect. She is not cruel or violent or mean. She is loving and caring of those that she reaps, even explaining as best she can to an infant she had to take so early in life.

As they traverse the globe, Dream is brought somewhat out of his shell by his sister’s warmth and compassion, and he ends up a different man… well, a different ENDLESS… at the end of it all. The characterizations are strong. Seeing Death go through her job and the ironically peaceful and beautiful way she brings people to their fates is powerful. It reminds you that death is just a part of life. Not something to be dreaded!

#1. Top Ten #8

Image Credit: America’s Best Comics

And after that Sandman issue, we have this: another story of not fearing death. I have ALWAYS been amazed by the choice to make this comic #1 on the list. Not because it’s bad or anything, but because outside of this issue on this list? I’ve never even heard of this comic book series in any other context.

It seems to be a more galactic Astro City style story about a universe populated by aliens and super beings, with the titular Top Ten being some kind of police force. In this issue, a teleporting accident causes two commuters to get fused with this… giant… horse guy. Who is involved in an interstellar “game” of the void of space vs the lifebringing light.

I think. Or I made that up.

It IS a good story, just… putting it at #1? It feels like Wizard was trying to be random and off the wall. I don’t see this as better than Sandman or For The Man Who Has Everything or The Killing Joke. Or many other books from the 6-100 range, really.

And that’s the whole shebang. So now that EVERYTHING is in, let’s get to the final restack. With the gift of hindsight, and my own personal tastes, how would I rank the books that Wizard included in their top 100 single issues of all time?

Like this:

  1. Astro City: The Nearness Of You
  2. Superman Annual #11
  3. Action Comics #775
  4. The Killing Joke
  5. The Flash #182
  6. Hitman #34
  7. Daredevil #191
  8. Sandman #18
  9. Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1
  10. Sandman #8
  11. Swamp Thing #21
  12. Fantastic Four #60 / #489 (legacy numbering)
  13. Animal Man #7
  14. Incredible Hulk #420
  15. Ultimate Spider-Man #13
  16. What If…? #4
  17. Superman #9
  18. Incredible Hulk #341
  19. Sandman #17
  20. Uncanny X-Men #159
  21. X-Factor #87
  22. Batman #424
  23. Batman: Holy Terror
  24. Amazing Spider-Man #248
  25. Astro City #1
  26. Captain America #7
  27. Top Ten #8
  28. Ultimate Spider-Man #28
  29. Starman #11
  30. Tangled Web #4
  31. Nightwing #25
  32. Birds of Prey #8
  33. Incredible Hulk #393
  34. HERO #11
  35. Green Lantern #188
  36. Gotham By Gaslight
  37. Hitman #22
  38. Sandman #40
  39. Ghost Rider Annual #2
  40. 100 Bullets #11
  41. Uncanny X-Men #268
  42. New Teen Titans #38
  43. Amazing Spider-Man #239
  44. Planetary: Night On Earth
  45. Planetary #13
  46. Iron Man #237
  47. Avengers #217
  48. Animal Man #16
  49. Flinch #1
  50. Justice League #1
  51. Batman B&W #4
  52. Iron Man #128
  53. 100 Bullets #27
  54. Robin #46
  55. Omega Men #26
  56. Preacher Special: Cassidy – Blood & Whiskey
  57. GI Joe #21
  58. Incredible Hulk #340
  59. Fables: The Last Castle
  60. Legion of Superheroes #13
  61. Sandman #50
  62. Avengers Annual #10
  63. Batman B&W #1
  64. Gotham Knights #8
  65. Fantastic Four #245
  66. Web of Spider-Man #1
  67. Spider-Man Vs Wolverine
  68. The Thing #2
  69. Preacher #50
  70. Secret Origins Special #1
  71. Exiles #16
  72. Ghost Rider #68
  73. Spectre #5
  74. New Teen Titans #20
  75. Planetary #3
  76. Adventure Comics #466
  77. Justice League Annual #1
  78. Legion of Superheroes #3
  79. Preacher #18
  80. Batman Adventures Annual #1
  81. Lex Luthor Special
  82. Preacher: Tall In The Saddle
  83. Classic X-Men #25
  84. Adventures of Superman #474
  85. Legion of Superheroes Annual #1
  86. Batman: Devil’s Asylum
  87. Avengers #189
  88. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15
  89. Dark Horse Presents #1
  90. Conan The Barbarian #100
  91. Dr. Strange #56
  92. Alias #3
  93. Hellblazer #63
  94. Tales of the New Teen Titans: Cyborg
  95. Fantastic Four #3 / #432
  96. Punisher #10
  97. Legion of Superheroes #296
  98. American Century #9
  99. Demo #3
  100. Semper Fi #1


Okay, that’s it, and all told? This list is simultaneously eclectic and yet… crowded by the same things over and over. If you take out books written by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Peter David, and Garth Ennis, you lose over a quarter of the whole thing!

But aside from that, you’ve got the Big Guns (lots of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man), but also lower tier and lesser known titles like Demo, Flinch, 100 Bullets, and Dark Horse Presents.

My take? I couldn’t make a list like this. Oh, I can (and did) re-order Wizard’s picks, but given a blank slate and tasked to make the same concept (Top 100 Comics Of The Last 27 Years), I probably couldn’t do as well as they did.

I hope you enjoyed this series, forever though it DID take me!

Until next time… take care!