When we talk about the truly ‘great’ comic books to have graced the medium, typically it’s in reference to the many storylines and collected editions that take into account more than one issue. Every now and then, however, an issue comes along that accomplishes what most arcs do in six issues in but one, providing a ‘one and done’ story that’s both accessible and definitive in equal measure.
They’re few and far between, and though some do set up the rest of an arc, they’re no less impressive – even if these kinds of issues are something of a rarity these days.
An issue doesn’t necessarily have to even be definitive to be considered one of the all time greats, with stories in both the superhero genre and elsewhere having enhanced previous material, or even reappraised it entirely, resonating not just because of their influence, but because they responded to an industry – and world – that’s constantly changing.
With comics that have started years-long runs, defined them, capped them off altogether or even emerged out of the blue with little follow-up, here are the issues every comic fan should make a priority of seeking out.
10. Winter Soldier: Winter Kills
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Captain America run is one of the all-time greats of the medium, and one whose influence can most palpably be felt in the MCU, where it’s inspired all three Captain America films to varying degrees of success.
Brubaker’s run was most famed for its resurrection of Bucky Barnes, who was revealed to have survived the blast from WW2 and was subsequently captured by Soviet spies. There, he became the Winter Soldier, a man out of time tasked with assassinating the U.S.S.R.’s political opponents and various other kinds of espionage. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Buck to snap out of his trance and go back to being Steve Roger’s best pal, even succeeding his friend as Cap when he passed away in the wake of 2006’s Civil War.
It’s during that conflict in which Winter Kills is set. During the one-shot, Brubaker places Bucky on a journey that forces him to address his time spent as an assassin head on, while assisting Nick Fury in his attempts to steer the Young Avengers away from a Hyrdra base way above their pay-grade.
There were plenty of stellar issues from Brubaker’s run, but the fact that Winter Kills is largely self-contained aides it greatly. Round it all off with some stunning art from Lee Weeks, and you have everything that made Brubaker’s comic so appealing condensed into one issue.