Editors Note: This list comes from nerdbastards fan, and all around groovy dude Joe Field. You can follow Joe on his Twitter page and also check out his glorious ramblings on The Agoraphobic Reviewer. If you have a list of your own that you would like to submit, please contact our senior editor Luke Gallagher via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comic book lists are a strange beast. Fan’s opinions are usually varied, polarised and set in stone. Comics themselves cover a range of genres, themes and styles. This list hopefully reflects a varied diet of classic Marvel and DC characters, indie favourites like Preacher and Robert Kirkman’s long-running ‘soap opera with zombies’ The Walking Dead. The scenes I’ve picked are the ones that genuinely amaze me, but it was a hard list to compile. There were a few from my collection that only narrowly missed out, but once you start thinking about great comic books you could spend days arguing the toss. My criteria for this list were simple: great writing, great art, nailing the characters and the sheer spectacle of it all. These are the comics I love and these scenes are some of the reasons why.
Click after the jump for The Top 10 Most Jaw-Dropping Moments In Comics
#10. All-Star Superman: Volume One – ‘That’ kiss
Supes’ birthday present to Lois Lane is a vial of ‘exo-genes’ that bestow Superman’s powers on whoever drinks it… for 24 hours. So she drinks it and they do super-stuff. They beat up the supervillain Krull, leader of the giant dinosaur men from the planet’s core. They fend off the attentions of the legends Samson and Atlas. Superman rescues her from the Ultra-Sphinx. Standard comic-book stuff so far. Then they fly off hand-in-hand and Superman tells her there’s something he’s wanted to do ever since the first day they met…
#9. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – The Caped Crusader rounds up a posse
What would Batman do at the end of the world? With Gotham plunged into darkness and chaos due to the Soviet coldbringer bomb (fires burning everywhere, rioting and looting on the streets) Batman takes it upon himself to fix the city. Recruiting the ‘Sons of Batman’ vigilante group, and a 13 year old girl who has become the new Robin, Bats takes on the rioting crowd atop a shining black steed. Cowboy style. With lassos at the ready, the Dark Knight and his compadres restore order to Gotham.
#8. Superman: Birthright – Big Blue phones home
If you’ve never liked Superman comics then Birthright might be the story that changes your mind. Big Blue is an alien. He’s a little green man. He’s the Roswell incident in blue tights and a cape. That simple fact is at the core of his character. That’s why Lex Luthor hates him. In Lex’s eyes, Supes is a big fat cheat, a fluke.
The key to this scene is that Kal-El has spent the whole story coming to terms with who he is and where he’s from. When he finally confronts Lex, he briefly attempts to use Lex’s anti-Supes technology to communicate to his parents in the past, who have just launched the baby Kal-El before Krypton is destroyed. Upon defeating Lex, the technology self-destructs and Superman retreats to the safety of his Clark Kent disguise. Unknown to him, his parents on Krypton receive the message from their son that he ‘made it’. They embrace and Krypton explodes.
#7. Slaine: The Horned God – Simon motherfucking Bisley paints a legend
Imagine a comic-book that, page-for-page, leaves you open-mouthed. Now tell me that comic-book ain’t The Horned God.
Pat Mills created Slaine, the axe-wielding anti-hero based on Celtic myths, to counter the throwaway male-fantasy narratives offered by Conan the Barbarian. By the time he’d penned The Horned God Slaine had become a sprawling rebirth of British mythology, seemingly creating its own universe from the mass of folklore influences. Getting artist and fellow Brit Simon Bisley in on the action for Slaine’s character-defining story-arc was a master-stroke. Every panel is beautifully drawn and painstakingly hand- painted. No other comic collection even comes close to being such a pure work of art. And we can forgive Biz the minimal pencil sketches he submitted here and there – those deadlines must have been a killer.
#6. Superman: Red Son – Batman blows himself to Hell
With Supes re-imagined as a puppet of Soviet Russia, Batman’s role is similarly re-invented: that of anti-state guerilla fighter. In true keeping with the character Bats is always one step of Big Blue, using his wiles to out-think and out-manoeuvre him. And a good strategy requires planning for all possible outcomes.
So when this revolutionary version of the Dark Knight faces up against the Boy Scout this time he’s more than prepared. When defeat at Kal-El’s hands becomes apparent, Batman reveals he’s swallowed a bomb and, rather than become one of the state’s lobotomised drones, his path is one of fiery martyrdom.
#5. Preacher: War in the Sun – Jesse Custer falls out of a god-damn plane
Preacher was a trail-blazer in the truest sense: it did things comics had never done before. With a supporting ensemble cast of freaks, perverts and assorted degenerates, the hard-drinking, harder-fighting reluctant man of the cloth Jesse Custer comes to possess the commanding Word Of God. He then spends the series, alongside his hit-woman girlfriend (Tulip) and an Irish vampire (Cassidy) attempting to bring God to rights for deserting his post.
After confronting the Saint of Killers (a man-with-no-name replacement for the Angel of Death) Jesse and co hijack a presidential plane in order to escape an imminent nuclear explosion, unleashed by a secret religious society in an attempt to destroy the Saint of Killers.
Having the main character of a story fall out of a plane with no parachute is a brave move by the authors. In reality it meant Jesse was missing from the comic for just a month – in true comic fashion he ‘wasn’t really dead’. But it’s the way it happens. We know Cassidy is planning to betray Jesse, but instinctively he still wants to save his friend. Hanging on to Jesse despite the sun burning his flesh, Cassidy refuses to let go. So Jesse uses the Word Of God, saving his vampire friend from becoming undead barbecue and sacrificing himself instead.
#4. The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life – Michonne mutilates the Governor
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead throws so many twists at its readers they surely open the pages of latest editions with the mantra ‘expect the unexpected’. In a world dominated by the dead, The Walking Dead‘s damaged survivors attempt to ride it out and make sense of what little society’s left.
Samurai sword-wielding Michonne is probably the most damaged of Kirkman’s thrown-together band. At this point she has been kidnapped, along with some of her friends, by a small-town dictator with a fetish for all things Thunderdome. Having amputated the main character’s hand and sexually abused Michonne, the Governor is simply asking for trouble. When Michonne finally gets her revenge, what readers will probably find most surprising won’t be the visceral eye-gouging or the cold-blooded, clinical appendage removal: it’ll be how much they cheer Michonne on in her terrible act of retribution.
#3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume Two – Mr Hyde sodomises the Invisible Man
I promised myself I wouldn’t write about this scene… and yet here it is. If there’s one scene that will make you believe adventure comics can be for adults, this is it. With the League, Alan Moore brought classic literature’s finest heroes and anti-heroes together for an unashamedly fun-driven boy’s own romp. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr Hyde is brilliantly re-invented as a Hulk-like monstrosity, the physical embodiment of the wild, un-restrained side of the mouse-like Dr Jekyll.
When Griffin, the Invisible Man, goes too far and beats Mina Harker, Hyde decides to punish him. Luring him into his trap, Hyde gradually reveals his ability to see Griffin – he possesses a form of thermal vision. Playing cat-and-mouse with the increasingly bewildered Invisible Man, Hyde then brutally beats and rapes him, leaving him to die in an upstairs room. Typical of Alan Moore at his peak, you don’t realise quite how monumental the scene is until a few pages after its all over, at which point you will undoubtedly flick back through the comic to confirm that what you think you’ve just witnessed did in fact take place.
#2. The Ultimates: Homeland Security – Captain America and the Hulk take on a shape-shifting alien Nazi
The Ultimates is widescreen comic action from cover to cover. Scottish writer Mark Millar brings Marvel’s big names together for an alternate view of the Avengers super-team. He injects the characters with a wry sense of humour, exemplified during Captain America’s battle with his arch-nemesis Kleiser.
Kleiser is the leader of a group of shape-shifting aliens who have infiltrated Earth’s populace… a bit like the film They Live. Kleiser’s race were behind the rise of Nazism, and they’re still wearing the same old uniforms and swastikas. After taking Kleiser on in hand-to-hand combat Cap soon realises that his shape-shifting enemy has unnatural regenerative powers. Even setting fire to him doesn’t stop him, nor does a point blank bullet in the brain from Nick Fury. Kleiser turns on Fury while Cap is knocked-out, but Kleiser’s suggestion that Cap should surrender soon brings the super-soldier round. He gets up, headbutts Kleiser and proceeds to cut him in half with his shield, finishing with a quip that belies the writer’s British roots. Cap eventually disposes of Kleiser by unleashing the Hulk on him, who proceeds to rip him apart and eat him, bit by bit.
#1. Justice League of America: The Tornado’s Path – Solomon Grundy rips off the Red Tornado’s arm… and eats it. Holy shit.
Solomon Grundy is a minor DC villain: an undead enemy of the first Green Lantern and, later, Batman. The Red Tornado is a minor DC hero: a robot who possesses the ability to create miniature tornadoes. Oh and he can fly. The fact that writer Brad Meltzer and artist Ed Benes can make us give a shit about these minor character is in itself a minor miracle. Meltzer gives this arc a similar feel to his earlier success, Identity Crisis, by focussing the story on the human angle. In Tornado’s Path he gives Red Tornado the chance to become a real man, by transferring his consciousness into a human body. It’s Pinocchio with capes, essentially.
Solomon and Red Tornado get into it near the end of the story. Red has been enjoying spending time with his wife as a real man, understandably. But Grundy reveals that Red’s new body is all just part of a plan to finally kill him for good. Unaccustomed to pain and blood, Red soon falls at Grundy’s hand. And Grundy rips his off. The whole scene is incredible to behold: Brazilian artist Benes combines visceral gore with palpable helplessness. You can almost feel the tendons tear, and you can almost feel Red’s terror that he’ll never see his family again.