DC Comics: The Best One Shot Single Issue Stories
Today we examine the beauty of the single issue, but for DC comics. If you enjoyed my last article exploring some of Marvel’s best one shots, then I hope you stick around for this entry. DC has no shortage of excellent one shots as well.
Much like Marvel, I’m sure I forgot to add, or simply haven’t read many other great single issues that are out there, so don’t be mad if I miss a few of your favorites.
This list will be focusing on stories that do not require a vast amount of background to be ale to enjoy. That’s what makes the one shot so easy and accessible to read. Let’s proceed.
Sandman Mystery Theatre: by Matt Wagner, Stephen T. Seagle & various artists
Many fans, and perhaps non fans, are aware of Neil Gaiman’s critically lauded series, Sandman. Too many people are not as aware of the other Sandman series that was going on for much of the same time, Sandman Mystery Theatre. It ran for 70 issues and had a small, but devoted fan base.
The series is a period piece set mainly during the depression era . It follows the exploits of Wesley Dodds, the golden age Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman had nothing to do with this version. Gaiman touched on the golden age Sandman briefly, but that’s about it. Wesley Dodds was just a mild mannered detective with a costume and a gas gun, very pulpy. The stories were always praised for its historical accuracy, mature tone and compelling characters. It’s exploration of relationships was rather interesting and unique as well.
This annual is a perfect mix of everything that made this series so good, and it’s all done on one issue. It’s about a mysterious central park attacker that is on the loose and terrorizing the citizens of New York. The other problem is that this mugger bares a striking resemblance to Sandman. Sandman is forced to try and stop this attacker while evading capture from the police himself.
It’s a great mystery story that really knows how to keep the audience engaged. It’s also notable for having a few recognizable guest artists for this issue, like Alex Ross! If you want to sink your teeth into a really good noir styled mystery, check this out. You just might crave more and jump into the actual series.
Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special: by Geoff Johns, Brett Booth & Art Baltazar
If you want something that’s a little lighter in tone than try this out. It’s one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. It centers mostly around the Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. ( Orange Lantern’s are powered by avarice.) Larfleeze is essentially a powerful alien hoarder. He wants anything and everything, so when Christmas comes rolling around, he’s intrigued. Naturally, Larfleeze attempts to take Christmas for himself no matter what. Green Lantern must intervene and hilarity ensues thereafter. The art is dynamic and matches the chaotic tone of the comic. Not only is it funny, but it’s also endearing at times. Geoff Johns makes you care about this selfish pain in the ass of an alien. You just want to see more of him and that’s a credit to the writing.
It even comes with a recipe to bake Larfleeze cookies! My girlfriend was kind enough to try the recipe out, which put a smile on my nerdy face. Yum yum, nothing like frosty orange colored cookies.
Gotham Knights # 32- by Devin Grayson & Roger Robinson
Honestly Batman could have his own one shots list but for now, here we are. Gotham Knights # 32 is a less well known issue that really deserves more attention. This issue happens to be Devin Grayson’s last issue on the series, and it’s quite a nice send off. It really encapsulates what makes Batman who he is. Not a flashy issue, the aptly titled ” 24/7″ is just a day in the life for Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the morning Bruce Wayne takes meetings, attends dedication ceremonies, visits a friend in the hospital and has dinner with the Foxes. Bruce manages to squeeze every minute of time from these endeavors to do some good, however small it may be.
When night falls, Batman takes part in a more direct approach. He stops crimes, saves lives, keeps an eye on Robin and visits Barbara. There’s more, but you get the idea.
For me, this issue shines a light on two very important aspects of Batman/Bruce Wayne, which are his obsessively dogged determination and his unyielding desire to help people. In many ways these are the things that make Batman so special. It’s that, coupled with the fact that he’s only a man, not Superman or Green Lantern or even Spider-man. He has to work twice as hard as them and still have enough juice left in the tank to get it all done and make it to the next day and do it all again. But the Batman will never quit or complain will he?
Look out for this wonderfully character driven issue of our favorite Dark Knight.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year 4 Annual #1- by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo
Injustice takes place in an alternate reality where Superman has snapped and become a tyrant. Batman, and a small group of resistance fighters attempt to fight his tyranny and take back the world. During Superman’s quest for power he creates a super-max prison where he has imprisoned every super villain you can name. Superman has also imprisoned anybody who stands against him, like the Green Lantern Corps.
This annual marks the return of fan favorite writer, Tom Taylor’s to the series he started, and boy does he deliver. It’s a story about escaping the super-max prison, while also serving as an excellent character piece. The character on full display in this issue is Plastic Man. That’s right, Plastic Man. Usually considered the butt end of many jokes and mostly forgotten over the years, Plastic Man has not had many “great” or defining stories. He’s always been thrown in for laughs, not much else. That all changes in this thrilling tale about a father trying to save his son. Plastic Man surfaces so that he can help bust his son out the super-max prison and start a new life away from the madness around him.
The story moves so fast, simply because you can’t wait to see what happens next. The emotional component proved to be the most surprising thing throughout this issue. I really felt for Plastic Man and actually rooted for him more than ever. How many times can you say that about Plastic Man?
it’s an awesome comic that is definitely the highlight of a rather mediocre for Injustice: Year 4 . Seek it out.
Action Comics # 775 – by Joe Kelly & various artists
This issue gives us the Superman we all know and love, for better or for worse. There was a DC animated movie that was based on this issue titled “Superman vs The Elite”, which I’ve always said is the perfect movie for any Superman hater to watch. The same goes for this issue. It’s won a few awards and has been loved by many fans over the years that it was first published.
One of the best things about the comic is that it touches on many of the things Superman haters gripe most about, Superman’s unwillingness to kill. In the issue, a new superhero team called The Elite show up to Metropolis very much willing to kill bad guys and clean up the world. At first they try to get Superman on board but eventually they give him an ultimatum. ” Do it our way or be destroyed.” The funny thing is that most of the public like The Elite and even agree with their harsher stance on criminals.
This leads to many more questions like, is Superman relevant? Does the world need heroes like this? It packs a punch and does not shy away from the hard truth. Superman is faced with the decision of succumbing to public pressure and opinion or doing the right thing and staying true to himself. I love this comic because it paints the picture as to why Superman exists and what he really represents, not only in the world of the DC universe, but what he represents to the society we live in today. A society that is maybe, a bit to eager for bloodshed. A bit too quick to anger and ultimately, too quick to hate.
Superman is meant to embody an ideal and NOT succumb to the anger and fear many of us could have. This is what this comic illustrates so eloquently. Superman fans and non-fans, I urge you to read this. Just trying out this one issue may give you a respect and understanding of the character, and above all, the importance of having a Superman in a world full of antiheroes.
Nightwing (vol 2) # 25 – by Chuck Dixon & Scott McDaniel
This comic has the distinction of being ranked #67 in Wizard Magazine’s list of “100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born”. It’s a thoughtful and touching issue about legacy and brotherhood. The simple premise of this story finds Nightwing and Robin( Tim Drake) on a night out training. They go through this self made gauntlet evading obstacles, fighting crime and bonding together.
Sharing a few personal stories ends up leading to several nice moments and one big revelation. They are able to trust each other and open up in a way that they can’t with Batman. Nightwing certainly takes a big brother role in this story. He gives Robin advice and listens to Robin without needing to judge him. It’s really a treat to read these two characters just being human and dare I say, normal but without being boring, that’s the beauty of this issue. It marries text and visual well enough to really showcase what the comic medium can do when it’s at it’s best. It’s a bit of a search to find this issue but well worth it.
Final Crisis: Requiem #1 – by Peter Tomasi & Doug Mahnke
There’s two things here that are important to note. I love Martian Manhunter and he loves Oreo cookies. For those unaware, Martian Manhunter was killed off rather unceremoniously in the pages of the major event series,” Final Crisis”.
This comic book acts as a eulogy for one of the most beloved members of the Justice League. it’s really a heartfelt sendoff that really makes you feel the grief that all the characters feel for their fallen friend. Far too many times the superheroes of these stories never get to deal with death. Not really anyway. They don’t have time to mourn, reminisce or have a ceremonies for their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. Sometimes they don’t even have a body to bury at all. That’s why it’s so refreshing to read an entire issue of superheroes going through the grieving process because, let’s not forget that superheroes are ultimately people too. And we as people, will encounter death and we’ll need to deal with it too. I’m not saying that the magnitude of loss will be the same in the real world… No, not at all. I’m just saying that seeing these characters go through these complex emotions humanizes them and allows them to relate to us just a bit more. It may even help some readers cope with things, even just a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone deals with loss differently, which the comic touches on too. It’s a nice script with some solid and emotive art to boot.
The ending is my favorite part. Read it and you’ll find out why.
Batman Adventures ( vol 2) # 17 – by Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett
Batman Adventures #17 is a comic that has had plenty of accolades and awards thrown it’s way. It’s a fantastic issue that addresses something that hasn’t been explored too often in the Batman mythos. What happened to Joe Chill?
Joe Chill is responsible for the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the defining moment of Batman. This makes Joe Chill almost as important a villain as The Joker or Two Face, now just imagine a reunion between he and Batman? It’s an issue done by the creative team of Templeton & Burchett, who had been putting out quality work on Batman Adventures for a number of years already. Many fans and critics have said it’s one of the best Batman comic series of all time, and it’s hard to argue with that once you see the quality of this issue. It’s got a hell of a story and it doesn’t skimp out characterization either. It gives us a rare look at things from the view point of Joe Chill.
The story begins with Chill in the present day. He’s worn down and constantly lives in fear and regret. Fear of ever being discovered as the murderer of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s parents, and in regret of not having finished the job on Wayne himself. He can’t sleep, and it’s even gotten so bad that Chill sees Bruce Wayne’s face everywhere, on everyone. Things get worse when a detective from the GCPD, decides to reopen the Wayne’s unsolved murder case. The story only gets better from there. If that’s not enough to hook you in I don’t know what is.
It’s a masterclass in storytelling, short form or otherwise. The story is tight tight tight. Every page has a purpose and every moment ties into the next moment. It’s truly a great issue with a great payoff. There are times where you might find yourself turning pages and gasping, and then smiling quickly afterwards. We all know how Bruce Wayne dealt with his parents murder, so it was intriguing to see what life has been like for the man who actually committed the crime. Complex themes of guilt, remorse and trauma are explored in a comic that was supposed to be dismissed as a kiddie comic. That’s perspective for you.
Nightwing ( vol 2.) Annual #2 – by Marc Andreyko & Joe Bennett
Nightwing makes another appearance on my list, this time with Batgirl by his side. To be honest it’s a story about her as much as it is about him. This annual tells that tale of Nightwing and Batgirl’s rather complicated romantic relationship over the years.
The comic starts with Nightwing injured and lying in bed with Barbara Gordon at his bedside. She tends to his wounds and lets him know that he’s been in a coma for weeks. The comic then jumps from the past to the present.
We see Dick and Barbara’s rather embarrassing first encounter.( A rather awkward and hilarious way to meet) We see their first date, the reason they broke up and even the moment in time where Dick finds out that Barbara has been paralyzed. It’s equal parts sad, funny and charming. It’s even fairly romantic, but not in a sappy way. Marc Andreyko really writes the hell out of these two characters. He manages to give them a chemistry that practically leaps off the page. He also does such a masterful job of weaving the convoluted comics history of these two characters. Joe Bennett is no slouch. His artwork keeps right up with the quality of the writing.
I remember I picked this up on a whim and started reading it on the subway ride home. Before I knew it, I was completely focused in on the story and was hoping I wouldn’t get home before finishing it.
Everyone has either been, or knows someone who has been in a complicated relationship like Dick and Barbara’s. Again, moments and themes like these manage to humanize the characters and make us care and relate to them more. I found the ending surprisingly mature and realistic, for a comic especially. It’s certainly my favorite Nightwing issue of all time. Track it down.
Brave & The Bold ( vol 2.) #33 – by J. Michael Straczynski & Cliff Chiang
We end the list with, probably my favorite issue out of the bunch. It’s a story titled ” Ladies Night” and it tells the story of Wonder Woman and Zatanna deciding to take Batgirl out for one night of pure fun.
From the beginning of the story we see that doing this for Batgirl is important to both Wonder Woman and Zatanna, we find out why later. Batgirl takes some convincing, but ultimately gives in. The result is a carefree night on the town for 3 women that don’t often get that luxury. It’s really great to see these three iconic superheroes just kickback and have fun like regular women. On the surface it’s just a fun story but by the end it’s so much more than that. It’s a tale of sorrow, trauma, acceptance, consequences and most importantly friendship. Saying anything more about the story directly is a disservice to it. The art is just as good as the script. I’ve never seen Cliff Chiang eclipse the work he did on this issue. His run on Wonder Woman comes close, but this issue still reigns supreme for me.
Much like a suggestion I made on the Marvel list of one shots, if you read just one issue of all the issues on this list, make it this one. Tracking it down for a decent price will be a task, let me tell you, so I would suggest to pick up the trade.( Team-Ups of the Brave & the Bold) It’s totally worth it, plus you get a lot of other quality stories in there as well.
That does it for my DC one shot recommendations. Stay tuned for more in the future!