Day 1: Best One-Shot

One-shot comics are a great way of telling a good, complete story without much need for background reading. One-shots can also be used as prologues or epilogues to bigger events. It’s a very broad term but for the purposes of this award, I refer to “One-Shots” as comics that are listed as the only issue of their series, so single issues of a comic series won’t be mentioned here.

Runner Up #1: Hulk: The End by Peter David and Dale Keown

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I’ve talked about this before so I’ll be brief. Hulk: The End is a dark, post-apocalyptic tale that sees the Hulk alone at the end of Earth. Bruce Banner is still alive but only wishes for death, but the Hulk will not let it happen. The ending of this story is a real gut-wrencher and it’s all beautifully drawn.

Runner-Up #2: Superman Annual #11 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

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Superman Annual #11 aka “For The Man Who Has Everything” is a well-regarded classic and there’s a reason for it. Moore and Gibbons tell an amazing tell where Superman is trapped by the villain Mongul inside of a false reality. Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman battle Mongul while the Black Mercy flower keeps Superman trapped. The writing here is so amazing. Moore wrings a lot of complex emotions out of Superman’s time back on Krypton. There’s a bit of good comedy from Batman and Robin to lighten the mood. Gibbons puts in amazing work as always, it’s super expressive and detailed.

Runner-Up #3 Countdown to Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Judd Winick, Rags Morales, Jesus Saiz, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez

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This one is a personal favorite as it is a long story about Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle that ends in his death. Ted is a very likable, relatable protagonist here as everyone thinks of him as a joke and ignores him. Ted’s narration allows for some insight as we see his thoughts about the big heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. They’re larger than life but also they are shown to be some of the kindest people. As Ted’s life goes to Hell throughout the story he never gives up and stands defiant right to his death. It’s a great character-focused issue and sent off one of my favorite heroes in a respectable fashion.

Winner: The Death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin

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This shouldn’t surprise anyone as in my Thanos marathon I really raved over this issue and put it as the best comic of the marathon. The Death of Captain Marvel is definitely Jim Starlin’s greatest work as it’s the most relatable comic I’ve read from him. I’m sure everyone has lost somebody or something due to something unavoidable like Cancer. Starlin took something like that and made a story that doesn’t take that lightly. Mar-Vell’s cancer may be because of a supervillain but it’s treated with the seriousness it deserves. There are so many great moments throughout the issue like the Skrull medal Mar-Vell is given and the final sequence with Thanos. It’s a brilliant, well-drawn comic that hits hard every time and I have no problem calling it the best One-Shot comic I’ve read this decade.

The Thanos Imperative

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The Thanos Imperative is a six issue miniseries that includes two one-shot comics, one for a prologue and another for an epilogue. This series stars the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos as they try to stop an invasion from another reality where death does not exist. The ruler of this “Cancerverse” is Lord Mar-Vell who leads the Revengers, a Lovecraft inspired team of Avengers. A lot of the biggest cosmic characters are in this event as they all try to survive against the invading forces.

Thanos Imperative is the last big event by the team of Abnett and Lanning who have created the biggest cosmic events in the modern age of Marvel from Annihilation to Realm of Kings. Having only read Annihilation this comic does a good job keeping you up with previous events as the Ignition one-shot provides some context while advancing the story by introducing our villain. I really was surprised to see Lord Mar-Vell as the villain and the explanation for how he turned into one in his universe is very interesting as it’s unexpected. Unfortunately he falls into the generic side of villains as he does cliché things like killing his own subordinates for no good reason.

This story has a whole lot of characters and while that can be a strength as they’re obviously trying to tell this space epic, it can bog down things. The Inhumans and their drama with some other ruler is very irrelevant and just seems petty for them to argue at this time when everything is in danger. My favorite character in the comic was Cosmo and that’s because he’s a funny space dog who actually trash talks Thanos and does a lot to help the team. Nova and Star-Lord are the two main heroes here as they try and escort Thanos into the Cancerverse. They’re a good team and they have similar personalities that gives them good lines and jokes. The rest of the Guardians and the Cosmic beings don’t stand out much as they all play backseat to Thanos himself.

In this comic, for the first time, Thanos started to annoy me. There’s a lot of scenes of him and Drax just fighting and scenes of characters saying how great Thanos is. Having read all these comics about him, his scheming has just gotten old. Starlin himself criticized the constant deaths and rebirths of Marvel characters but here it just keeps happening with Thanos. There’s a lot of death in this comic and all of it now has been reversed so it’s hard to buy into the stakes of the event.

The Thanos Imperative has a few negatives but the positives outweigh them. The art is very good, the characters who are important are cool and have funny lines, the basic idea of the Cancerverse is something I’ve never seen before, and the Lovecraft inspired heroes are visually interesting villains.

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artists: Miguel Sepulveda and Brad Walker

Rating: Full Price

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Thanos: Cosmic Powers

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Now here’s a book I’d never heard of until preparing for this marathon. Cosmic Powers, later collected as Thanos: Cosmic Powers, is a six issue miniseries that is told in six one shots about different characters in the Marvel universe. There’s a running story throughout each issue about Thanos preparing to take on Tyrant, an extremely powerful cosmic being. Each issue spotlights a character or pair of characters as in issue 3 and there’s one writer but a few artists so quality is definitely going to vary between issues.

This series actually starts off really well with a mostly silent battle where Thanos wipes out an army singlehandedly. Ron Lim is a very good artist so the first issue is definitely the highlight of the comic. Ron Marz writes Thanos pretty well and he really gets the character about as well as Starlin. The next issue focuses on Terrax, someone I’ve never cared about, but the story is good if a little cliché. Jeffrey Moore’s art isn’t bad but it has weird quirks like Terrax’s giant shoulder pads sometimes and the MS Paint looking blood. The next issue is about Jack of Hearts and Ganymede who are two more characters I either don’t know or don’t care about, but they both look ridiculous and Ganymede is supposed to be important in beating in Tyrant but that doesn’t really pay off. Their own solo stuff doesn’t really matter until Thanos arrives and beats them down. The art by Andy Smith is good except for the last page of Legacy which just looks gross.

Speaking of, Legacy is the next issue and I actually like the character. He’s Genis-Vell, the son of Captain Marvel and he goes out to kill Nitro, his father’s killer. It’s predictable what’s going to happen here but it’s a cool brawl. Lim does the art for this issue too so it’s still very high quality. The next issue is about Morg, another character I don’t know and it has art by Tom Grindberg so I was dreading this issue. However, Grindberg’s art here is actually good and nothing like his Infinity Watch issues. There’s still one really weird image that the anatomy of confuses me but that’s it. The story isn’t interesting as Morg is just another Galactus herald which is a character type repeated three times in this series. The final issue about Tyrant is just one big battle where the heroes fight Tyrant and we learn that he is also a former herald. Everyone except Thanos is useless in the battle so we just watch them battle for a while and that’s the end of the story. Scot Eaton is on art here and it’s just fairly standard 90s Marvel fare.

So overall I’d probably just recommend the Ron Lim drawn issues as they have the two best characters in the two most interesting stories.

Writer: Ron Marz

Artists: Ron Lim, Tom Grindberg, Scot Eaton, Jeffrey Moore, Andy Smith

Rating: Borrow from a Mate

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The Death of Captain Marvel

The marathon continues with one of the most famous deaths in comic history, Captain Marvel’s.

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Going into this I have to mention how before this comic I have read very little of Captain Marvel. Those eight issues collected in Avengers vs. Thanos are the most I have actually read of his solo comic. I am a fan of those issues I’ve read and would consider Mar-Vell one of my favorite Marvel heroes, (eventually I’ll make a list for that.) Another important thing to talk about is death in comic books. It’s widely known that death in comic books is cheap and that most characters that die will come back. It’s happened to almost all of the famous heroes. So one thing that sets this comic apart is that it still has not been undone.

The Death of Captain Marvel is a short comic, only 64 pages, and the main plot of the story is told to you in the title so there won’t be much to talk about here. The story begins with Mar-Vell hanging out with Mentor and Eros, the father and brother of Thanos, on Titan, when he collapses. A scan is done on him and confirms something his cosmic awareness had told him long ago, that he is dying of Cancer. That’s the basic story and I don’t wanna spoil most of the events as this comic is about the journey towards the inevitable end.

The thing that works the most about this comic is how realistic it portrays all of the events. The friends and loved ones of Mar-Vell just can’t believe it, especially Rick Jones and Spider-Man. Their scenes have the most impact as you wouldn’t expect something like that from them normally, but it makes for these two to be crushed by this the most. Rick was his best friend and the longest partnership he ever had while Spider-Man has dealt with multiple deaths of those important to him. Mar-Vell himself can barely accept the end of his life which is completely understandable.

Of course because this comic is in this marathon that must mean Thanos appears. Thanos takes on an interesting role here as he guides Mar-Vell to death. He’s not in the comic for long but his relationship with death itself and his history with Mar-Vell gives a satisfying conclusion to the story and their characters.

I highly recommend reading The Death of Captain Marvel. It’s a very good comic with great art and writing by Jim Starlin.

Writer: Jim Starlin

Artist: Jim Starlin

Rating: Vintage

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The Avengers vs. Thanos

Let’s begin the marathon with the origins of Thanos.

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Avengers vs. Thanos is a trade paperback collecting many different comics that make up Thanos’ first two major storylines, the Cosmic Cube and the battle with the Magus. I’ll include exactly what’s collected in the bottom but the main comics include issues of Warlock, Captain Marvel, Marvel Feature, Avengers, Marvel Two-In-One and Daredevil mostly while including his very first appearance in Iron Man #55. 

With so many different comics put together in this collection you’d think the story wouldn’t flow so well, and besides a kind of weird tangent into Daredevil, it all fits together well. I would put that down to a good list of editors like Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Roy Thomas, and Archie Goodman. The art team manages to create a consistent art style across every issue that keeps the book looking good in that classic 70s Marvel style. Of course when talking about Thanos Jim Starlin’s name comes up and his pencils, plotting, and scripting definitely keeps this book on track.

Thanos first appears near the back half of Iron Man #55 and his appearance still hadn’t been ironed out so he looks very odd. His lips are way too big, his outfit doesn’t cover his whole body yet, and he’s more wrinkly than craggy. This Thanos though, is actually a robot; our first hint of Thanos’ intelligence and scheming. Then the next issues of Captain Marvel show Thanos with his modern appearance, notably the dark eyes and craggy chin. He reveals his first scheme is to acquire the Cosmic Cube, the ultimate weapon in the universe. Here Thanos is given the motivation that makes him such a compelling and interesting character, his love for Mistress Death. Of course he does such awful things and goes too far but it’s almost admirable how much he would do just for the one he loves.

The main heroes opposing Thanos in this early story are Iron Man, the Thing, Captain Marvel, and Drax while the Avengers pop up mostly as fodder. Thing is written very well and has some of the funniest lines of the book. Captain Marvel is the most interesting character to me and his dynamic with Rick Jones makes his issues my favorite ones. Special mention to issue #29, Metamorphosis, where Captain Marvel goes through a journey of enlightenment and comes out with the power of Cosmic Awareness. It’s very trippy and psychedelic, like most of Starlin’s comics, and the way the universe is drawn is always amazing to look at. Drax is in the story in his original incarnation as the Destroyer, with thoughts of destroying Thanos as the only thing he has. This sets him up for his future characterization but he’s not very interesting as he is here.

After a very interesting conclusion to the Cube story, Thanos ends up in the Warlock comic. Adam Warlock is a major character in cosmic Marvel and here he faces off against an evil future version of himself with an awful afro called The Magus. Thankfully most of the very overt religious metaphors with Adam aren’t here and it’s mostly about Adam wandering as everything falls apart around him. These issues set in motion events that will be followed up on in the final issue of the trade and even the Infinity Gauntlet. Not to spoil anything but the final issue does a very good job of wrapping everything up and gives Spider-Man one of the best scenes I’ve seen from him.

After planning this marathon and having read so many related comics I appreciate these early issues more. A lot of important characters are created and key concepts like the Infinity Gems and Cosmic Cube show up here. My only criticisms go to the more tangential Daredevil issues that only explain a little more about Moondragon, a future important character, but don’t really relate to the overall story of the Cosmic Cube which is where the issues are placed. Overall I really enjoy this trade and would recommend it to anyone interested in Thanos.

Issues collected in the trade: Iron Man (1968) 55; Captain Marvel (1968) 25-33; Marvel Feature (1971) 12; Daredevil (1964) 105-107; Avengers (1963) 125; Warlock (1972) 9-11, 15; Avengers Annual (1967) 7; Marvel Two -In-One Annual 2; material from Logan ‘s Run 6

Writers: Jim Starlin, Mike Friedrich, Steve Gerber, and Steve Englehart with Scott Edelman

Artists: Jim Starlin, Don Heck, Bob Brown, and John Buscema with Mike Zeck

Rating: Vintage

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Convergence: Shazam #1

And now for the final issue of Convergence week 4. It’s ironic that my top three heroes have their Convergence tie-ins in the same week. This issue is brought to us by Jeff Parker with art by Evan Shaner.

This issue takes place in Captain Marvel’s home city of Fawcett City. Billy and the Marvel Family can’t transform so they try to use their radio show to calm the people of the city down. The Marvels also deal with the Monster Society of Evil. Without their powers how will they deal with this threat?

Final Thoughts: This is a great piece of Golden Age nostalgia. The familial ties that I mentioned about Captain Marvel are still here, which is always a highlight. I was a little lost because some of these characters I have never heard of, but a little research helped clear that up. The fight scene against the Monster Society is one of the best in Convergence and I wish it had lasted longer. Also Tawky makes a hero’s arrival and it is amazing.


#3. Shazam/Captain Marvel

Ugh, the name change makes writing this one a little bit of a problem. I’ll just stick with Captain Marvel for the rest of it.

Origin: Young Billy Batson was chosen by the wizard Shazam to be his champion for his pure heart. By saying the name “Shazam” Billy transforms into the adult superhero Captain Marvel. The word Shazam represents the six gods that he derives power from. Billy’s friend Freddy also gains the powers of Shazam becoming Captain Marvel Jr. Freddy’s sister Mary also gains the powers, calling herself Mary Marvel.

Life: Being one of the oldest comic characters, a lot of history and retcons have been made to Captain Marvel. Sometimes he’s been depicted as two different people. At other times it is just Billy’s body growing up. Billy often clashes with Dr. Sivana an insane scientist, making a magic vs technology duel. His biggest rival is Black Adam, the original champion of Shazam. In the New 52, Billy becomes Shazam and his new adopted family can share his powers.

Why he’s on the list: No matter what he’s called, Billy is still one of the strongest superheroes. Going by the name “The World’s Mightiest Mortal,” he frequently is compared to Superman. Him being a magic superhero causes many clashes between the two in Elseworlds. Billy’s cheery attitude is one of the defining traits of his character and series. There’s also a sense of family between him and the other Marvels. One last thing, they have a tiger butler named Tawky.

Recommended Reading: The Trials of Shazam, Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, Shazam (New 52)