The Whedonesque feed, which is one to which I've subscribed, has an interesting link to a story about a comic book collector donating his stash to a library, except for 10 issues he wants to keep for himself. This made the article author wonder about her own collection of comic books and which ones she'd keep, if she suddenly had to throw out the rest. One of these she chose to hold onto was Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 8, #5 - The Chain.
Well, I have quite a collection myself from back in the 80's and 90's when I was collecting the usual suspects (X-Men, JLE, limited series, New Mutants, Avengers, etc). It made me wonder just which ones I'd hold above all others, and without digging through the boxes, I've come up with a list of those that come to me off the top of my head. I figure these were a good bet for candidates, as they were obviously so memorable that they've stayed with me, even though I haven't dug through them in years (in fact, I should really just sell them off and be done with it - Lord knows what condition they're in, sitting in the attic - but at least they're in the mylar and have the non-acidic cardboard backings).
MY LIST OF KEEPERS
First, let me say that unlike the article author, I'm not letting myself choose trade paperbacks. There will be no 'cheating' by allowing me to collect an entire arc and counting it as 'one comic' , that should make this much more challenging.
1. Uncanny X-Men #135 - You could not be an X-Fan of the 80's and not find yourself terrified for Jean Grey. We'd seen Jean save her friends from certain doom by somehow having her telekinetic and telepathic powers amplified to cosmic proportions. But, now, she's been manipulated by the X-foes, The Hellfire Club, into becoming a dark reflection of herself. They couldn't know just what they were about to unleash on the universe - the hungry entity, Dark Phoenix.
In this issue, Jean Grey, now Dark Phoenix, attacks her teammates over Central Park and dispatches them with ridiculous ease. In a display that alerts sensitives all over New York, she leaves Earth and, having flown to the edge of the solar system, creates a stargate that throws her into the heart of the galaxy. Ravenous, she searches for sustenance by entering and imploding a star, soaking up its energy, uncaring that she dooms an inhabited world circling the sun with that act. The destruction of the D’Bari sun does not go unnoticed, as a Shi’Ar battle cruise attacks Dark Phoenix. She easily destroys them, but not before they send a transmission to Chandilar: Empress Lilandra is now aware of what has happened to Phoenix and knows she must act. On Earth, the X-Men, joined by their former teammate, Beast, lick their wounds and wonder what they can do – what they have to do, as it turns out, since Cyclops senses through the vestiges of their rapport that Phoenix is returning to Earth – and she is hungry. Meanwhile, in the wake of the X-Men’s fight with the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw suggests to his friend, Senator Robert Kelly, that Sentinels should be built again as a deterrent to mutant activity. (*description by UncannyXmen.Net - thanks!)
But things for our heroes were about to get so much worse....
2. Uncanny X-Men #137 - The end of the Dark Phoenix Saga - and what a heartbreaking shock it was! Now, they've done a lot of retroactive crap in the years after this issue, completely re-writing Jean's fate and that of the Phoenix force. It is one of the many reasons that I just stopped reading - nothing was permanent, the same stories get told over and over with a different character, but the status quo always reasserts itself as creative decisions are undone or changed on the whims of a new editor-in-chief, or worse, the suits in charge. I just couldn't be bothered anymore - but back here, when I was still in love with my team of X-heroes, Jean Grey's fate was still a blow to the solar plexus:
The X-Men find themselves on a Shi’ar dreadnought and are ordered by Lilandra to give up Jean, as the threat that Phoenix poses has to be destroyed. Xavier utters a ritual challenge, which Lilandra cannot decline. The X-Men have one night left before the duel begins, to recover and to decide whether they actually want to fight for Jean. Despite some doubts, they all decide to stand by her. The next morning, both the X-Men and the Imperial Guard are teleported to the moon’s Blue Area, where the battle begins. Despite doing their best, all the X-Men are slowly beaten, until only Cyclops and Jean remain. When Cyclops, too, is struck down, the shock causes Jean’s Phoenix power to destroy the limits Xavier placed in Jean’s mind. Phoenix is back. The X-Men decide they have to fight her, something Phoenix actually wants. After she’s weakened enough, she kills herself in front of Cyclops, unwilling to take the risk of ever harming another life again.
3. The Dark Knight Returns #3 - An old, bitter and cynical Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to train a new Robin, who has chosen to fight the growing gangs of Gotham. Meanwhile, one of the gangs targets Jim Gordon and Bruce himself may be going senile.
As Batman and Robin are breaking up a robbery, something is moving very fast through Gotham City - faster than a speeding bullet. As Superman interferes, and ruins, Batman's operation, Batman tells him to meet him tomorrow. As a result of Batman's defeat of the Mutants, the young members of the gang have turned to become vigilantes, fighting evil. Meanwhile, the Joker has arranged for a little mayhem, and, while nearly killing Robin, he does manage to kill quite a few innocents.
The next morning, Clark is meeting Bruce, explaining that if he doesn't stop his crusade, that he will be ordered to bring him in. Bruce warns him that he will fight Superman if he has too. Before Clark can reply, he learns that US forces have just engage Soviet forces, which means he must leave to help the US win.
The Joker, with an accomplice, are planning something big. Yindel is prepared, eager to keep the Joker from escaping from his public appearance. This also appears, to her, to be an excellent opportunity to apprehend Batman. As the Joker's accomplice sends off a doll filled with some sinister purpose, Batman and Robin move towards the TV station. Batman plans on a showdown with the police - he expects that his reputation, as well as the older police that will remember him, should guarantee his safety. He's wrong...
As Batman descends toward the building, the police open fire. After the tear gas is set off, Yindel orders the police to rush Batman. After one officer questions the order, Yindel replies, "He's twice your age, boy. Find the nerve." Meanwhile, during the Joker's interview, he announces that he is about to kill everyone in the room (about two hundred people). The doll is filled with the Joker's smiling poison, and he does kill everyone in the room. And Batman manages to fend off the police (leaving twelve hospitalized), and escapes with Robin. The Joker escapes, and shows up at Selina Kyle's. He is interested in one of Selina's call girl's guests... a Senator. Whatever he does, it induces the Senator to jump off a building. An officer, O'Halloran, asks Yindel about the situation. After he leaves her, O'Halloran shows up. Yindel realizes that she was just standing next to Batman, and orders the police after him. Batman and Robin escape to Kyle's apartment, where he finds a beat up Selina. Robin discovers a cone of cotton candy, and Batman realizes that the Joker is about to kill thousands at the county fair. Batman asks himself, "How many more - until I finally do it?" (meaning until he kills the Joker).
As Batman and Robin go to leave the building, the police show up. Batman reminisces about how Jim used to be like this. He also remember how Jim used to warn him "...you told me that I break too many of the important rules... that I've made too many of the wrong enemies... that, for all my tricks... I've been getting by on luck... it's all a game of odds, you said.. all it will take is one bullet." And suddently Robin's strap holding her to the hang-glider breaks, and she falls. As Batman holds her, he keeps muttering "Good Soldier. Good Soldier." Yindel realizes that Robin is a kid, and orders the charge of child endangerment added to the arrest warrant for Batman. However, Batman and Robin have escaped yet agin.
As Superman is assiting the US forces in the war against the Soviets, he recalls Bruce's retirement. He remembers the problems with the FBI, the trouble with Oliver (Queen - Green Arrow). He recalls that to Bruce, his crusade is a holy war. The agreement with the government was that Batman retire, Superman give his obedience and invisibility, and they let them all live. Batman and Robin arrive at the fair too late - already dozens of children have died at the Joker's hands. As Robin sees so many dead (probably including some of her friends), she is shocked. Batman swears to the Joker that "it ends, tonigh." Batman remembers that "there's nothing wrong with you that I can't fix with my hands..."
Batman chases the Joker, and gets shot. But he carries on, realizing that this might be his end; but that might be worth it, just to stop the Joker forever... As the Joker stabs him, Batman makes the decision - he breaks the Joker's neck, but doesn't kill him. The Joker tells Batman how disappointed he is - how Batman didn't have the nerve to finish him off, instead of paralyzing him. So the Joker twists his neck further, until he dies, laughing hysterically. The police are closing in on Batman, and he is slowly dying, with everything getting cold and dark. (description from: www.darkknight.ca)
image from www.comicvine.com
4. The Dark Knight Returns #4 - The Joker lies dead. Batman is suffering hallucinations. The world stands on the brink of nuclear annihilation in a conflict between the Soviets and Americans - and Superman is pissed off that Batman has broken an agreement that the super-powered had negotiated with the world governments:
The police have closed in on The Tunnel of Love, where Batman lies waiting. He has placed incendiaries in the tunnel. He "wastes one second... with a good-bye" for the Joker, and spits on him. The police find the Joker's body, and as they touch it, it ignites. Yindel finds Batman, and tells him to freeze - so Batman punches her in the face, and takes her gun. Batman is delirious now - he wants the Joker to stop laughing... As a SWAT team moves in, Batman calls Robin to bring in the chopper. He decides to go full forces against the SWAT team, as they're armoured. He plants some explosives on the wall.. and doesn't hit the target. The police figure he's shotting at them, so the order is "shoot to Kill." Finally, Batman hits the plastique, and the roof falls in. Robin saves him, and takes him back to the Cave.
As Bruce and Clark are talking the next day, Reagan appears on TV. The US have won, but apparently the Soviets are poor losers, and have launched a nuclear attack. Clark leaps away, to stop the warhead. The warhead is more than a nuke, though - it is designed to send out a large magnetic pulse. Suddenly, the warhead explodes, and all electronics in the US are stopped. Batman talks to himself, wondering if Clark paid attention to this sort of thing. Batman has - so he and Robin head for the stables, to get horses.
Jim Gordon was out buying groceries when the pulse hit. And as everyone stood in the streets, a plane crashed into Gotham. The Sons of Batman decide that now is the time to raze Gotham, to cleanse it of crime. But Batman shows up on the scene, and tells them to stop. He promises to teach them a more quiet cleanup - one with fists and brains, not guns. Gordon helps organize people on the street to put out the fires, and to help the wounded. But he can't find Sarah...
The nuclear blasts send up so much dust into the atmosphere that it blocks the sun - and blocks Superman's source of power. The people of Gotham go crazy, looting, fighting for food. Until Batman and the Sons of Batman appear. The fights end, and order is built. But there is no morning for the city to wake up to - a nuclear winter has set in.
Reagan and Superman Clark are meeting, and Clark tells Reagan the he doesn't think that Batman will let Superman bring him in alive. And Oliver Queen shows up at Bruce's house. Oliver has lost an arm, thanks to Superman, and wants to help Batman. Oliver tells Bruce how he should have kept a quiet presence, like him, instead of being such a big target. Now they will have to kill Bruce to quiet him. Oliver explains, "I always knew it'd get down to you and the big blue schoolboy. Planet's too big for the two of you. When it all comes down, I want a piece of him.
As Bruce teaches Robin how to ride a horse, a blast of heat comes from the sky, leaving one word in fire: Where?. So Bruce looks up into the sky, and replies, "Crime Alley." Batman gets ready for the final showdown, and takes a pill, to cause death in one hour. The police and army cordon off Crime Alley, and the media is not sure why - are the police closign in on Batman, or will there be a showdown?
Batman shows up in his tank, and shoots rockets at Superman, to see if he's back to full strength, after loosing almost all his powers when the sun disappeared. He's not, so Batman enjoys watching Superman get hurt. Meanwhile, Alfred sets the Batcave to self-destruct. Batman plugs into the city's power supply, and fires a sonic pulse at Superman, enough to cause Superman to bleed. Batman has chosen Crime Alley as the place to end his life - the place where his parents died. Bruce shocks Superman with the electricity, but gets a lot of feedback - which starts to weaken his heart. Batman is wearing a strength-enhancing suit, and starts pummeling Superman. Superman is upset, telling Bruce to stop and live. Batman answers him:
You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you to. My parents taught me a different lesson... lying on the street, shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to...
5. - 8: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, #12-15 I love Buffy. And, despite my up and down with the comic books, I'm sure I'll keep collecting the ongoing title for as long as it lasts. But this story is one that I can say I really love. Sure, I still find a few questionable things... Xander visiting Dracula?! Dracula being allowed to continuing existing at all in a world of Slayers?!
But, the story is so strong with Dracula showing explicit affection toward Xander Harris, and sense of honor and choosing to help Buffy and her Army to fight off a rival pack of vampires that had cheated Drac out of his powers during a drunken poker game?! That's awesome. We have humor, we have tragedy, we have shout outs to Japan's kaiju-eiga films - especially Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla and we have some really awesome action scenes. I love this story to undeath. And plus, Satsu and Buffy are hot.
Wolves at the Gate is the strongest of the Buffy S8 arcs, in my opinion - though No Future for You comes really close.
Image from the Buffy wikia, because I failed to include the cover on my review! Oops.
9. New Mutants #37 - He is The Beyonder. A transdimensional being of nearly limitless power, but stuck as an immature individual, both fascinated and frustrated by the mortals he's encountered. In his desire to understand them, he gets increasingly violent and deranged. For the New Mutants, things are about to get bad... worse than bad. The Beyonder had offered Illyana Rasputin the chance to get rid of her demonic side - her Darkchilde persona - forever, and all she had to do was become his convert and follower. She did so, but instead of the demonic soul being banished forever, it found a new home in Illyana's best friend and psionic-sister, Kitty Pryde. In order to save Shadowcat, Magik retook her Darkchilde, turning her back on The Beyonder.
Now, he's returned to Xavier's Mansion to work out some of his frustration on the teens:
On the grounds of the mansion the team sees an all too familiar figure. As one they say the name "Beyonder". The figure voices agreement with the team. He states that his purpose is too understand the meaning of his own existence. He states that he offered them a chance to be at peace with all creation and they refused his offer. The team on the ground whispers to each other that they have bad feelings about this visit from the Beyonder. Rahne thinks he has come to punish them for their refusal.
Meanwhile in the air, Sam asks Dani if she is scared. Dani says she is scared, but she will never let the Beyonder see her true feelings.
On the ground, Illyana sates that she was the chosen messenger. She tells the Beyonder that if anyone is at fault she is. She says that the others should be spared and she should pay the price for denial.
The team screams Illyanas name as the Beyonder accepts her sacrifice. Amara changes to Magma and unloads her full force on the Beyonder. The Beyonder takes to the sky and tells Magma that her flames cannot hurt him as he is too powerful. Sam leaps into the air from Brightwinds’ back and joins the battle by hitting the Beyonder with the full force of his power. Sam sees the Beyonder still standing and makes another attempt at him. The Beyonder responds by backhanding Sam and sending him hurdling away, through the mansion and into the pool.
Dani sees that Sam is protected by his power and despite the rough landing he is ok. She then decides to use her power to pull the Beyonders’ greatest fear from his mind and make this fear his reality. Dani screams, grabs her head, and falls from Brightwinds back the ground below. Dani experiences the Beyonders’ reality as no other has. She sees him as being as much afraid of life as of dying. Yet, interwoven with the fabric and existence of the universe, while at the same time being the greatest threat to the life of the same universe.
Karma rushes to the fallen body of her friend and yells at the Beyonder to release Dani before he kills her. The Beyonder states that Dani's death is his intention. Karma puts her whole heart and soul into an attempt to possess this powerful being. Unfortunately, her power is reflected back at her with its force magnified so much that her mind is instantly destroyed.
On the ground, Dani regains consciousness only to have Rahne tell her that Karma is dead. She silently fears that her visions are coming to pass. Rahne tells Dani that there is no more they can do against this powerful being. Magma overhears this conversation and continues the fight by pulling granite stones from the ground to crush her enemy. However, her effort is not enough. The Beyonder shatters the mountains of stone as effortlessly as he has shattered Karma's mind. Warlock wants to flee this being, but instead stays to fight. The Beyonder reminds him of his dead Sire Magus because he has injured Warlock's friends. Warlock hits the Beyonder with full force while remembering the star Magus destroyed when he was after Warlock. The Beyonder is flung to the ground. Magma and Cannonball join forces with their teammate and keep after the Beyonder until he ceases to move.
Cannon ball tells Magma that he believes they have killed the Beyonder. Magma says that he got what he deserved. She reminds him that the Beyonder was attempting to kill them too. Still Sam is not happy and he begins to cry. For the home and friends he has lost to this battle. Dani tells him to save his tears as she does not believe the battle is over with quiet yet. She reminds her teammates that they are kids, human kids, despite their powers and they Beyonder is anything but human. She reminds her friends of the fight she had last winter with the Demon Bear. Despite her arrows, she did not kill the bear.
The shocked team hear the Beyonders voice congratulating Dani on her perceptive thinking. They turn to see the Beyonder rise unhurt from the ground into the sky once more. He tells them that he has endured everything they could throw at him. And now, it's his turn to fight back. A pit opens up underneath Amara and she falls. She has suddenly lost her ability to control the earth around her. Cannonball goes in after her and catches her. However, the pit has sealed itself and despite his blasts and invulnerability the walls of the pit are closing in on them. Dani silently wonders if the Beyonder was sent to humble them, teach them their true place in the scheme of life.
Warlock scans for his friends underground but can get no life readings. Rahne cries out their names in shock. The Beyonder turns his power on Warlock next. Doug, seeing Warlock nearly killed, goes to offer his life-force so that Warlock can reconstitute his body and survive this experience. Warlock refuses his friends help but Doug reminds him that the ultimate choice belongs to Doug, himself. Rahne stands nearby and silently prays for her friends to be strong and fight. In reality, she appears to be in shock and repeating the words "I'm sorry".
Dani stands with her head buried into Brightwnds side. She realizes that to the Beyonder they are just enemies to be dealt with as the Cheyenne were in the movie she watched with her friends earlier this evening. The Beyonder turns to her and asks her why she does not flee.
Dani answers him by stating that he is so powerful he could have destroyed them at any time. Yet he chose to play with them. She asks him if he was trying to learn something new about being human? She states that she wants to live just as much as her ancestors did, but realizes that her life, and the lives of her friends, ultimately mean nothing to a being as powerful as he is. The Beyonder tells her that there is a purpose to everything he does and he is very sorry that she is unable to understand this. Dani tells the Beyonder that what he is doing is wrong. The Beyonder tells her that it is his job to cleanse the world, which will restore peace and order to his existence. Dani reminds him that she and her friends have done him no harm. The Beyonder replies that they have done more harm then they can be aware of. Therefore, he will no longer tolerate their existence but will envy their eternal serenity instead.
Dani chooses this moment to say goodbye to her loved ones. She believes this is a good day for her to join Black Eagle. The Beyonder states that he has no choice and with a wave of his hand Dani and Brightwind tumble from the sky.Image and description borrowed from UncannyXmen.net, also.
10. Uncanny X-Men #211 - The Marauders vs. The Uncanny X-Men... Kitty and Nightcrawler fall, Colossus kills - something he has always refused to do in the past, the Morlocks die in their dozens below New York, the Massacre continues as the X-Men retreat....
The Marauders have reached the Morlock Alley in the abandoned subway tunnels below New York. Without warning they randomly start to kill anyone at sight. Taken by surprise many Morlocks are injured or killed. One of them makes it to Xavier’s mansion to alert the X-men, before finally succumbing to his injuries. Psylocke, currently staying at the masion, picks up images of the events in the tunnels right before the Morlock dies. Storm orders Illyana to teleport the X-Men to the Alley, while she asks Magneto to stay behind and protect the school and the New Mutants. Upon arrival, the team find many dead and injured people, and not before long they too are attacked by the Marauders. Nightcrawler overpowers himself and can’t teleport away as Riptide spins across him, cutting his body in many spots. Colossus and Rogue protect the others by taking many direct hits of Riptide’s weapons and even one of Harpoons spears hits Colossus‘ steel skin. Later, when Rogue is rendered vulnerable by Scrambler’s touch, Kitty tries to phase her to safety, but is hit by another energy lance. The effects are soon evident. Kitty can no longer unphase and is stuck in intangible state. Storm finally decides to retreat taking many injured and surviving Morlocks with them, but she sends Wolverine further ahead alone to bring them one single Marauder for questioning. Among the dead Morlocks are Piper and Annalee.
Above image and description also taken from UncannyXmen.net.