1. The Saga of Swamp Thing (No. 34, Mar ’85, DC) – Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette & John Totleben
A neural milkshake of awesome. If you’ve never read Alan Moore’s 80s run of Swamp Thing, this issue is the perfect introduction. No prior assembly required. Moore’s Swamp Thing is widely acknowledged as the first mainstream comic series to abandon the Comics Code, so expect plenty of Lovecraftian plant-on-human sex scenes. A sample of Moore’s erotic purple prose:
In him, I ride the amber sap, oozing through miniature labyrinths. Clusters of insect eggs burn like nebulae, suspended in their unique and vinewrought cosmos . . . Through him, I sprawl with the swamp, sopping, steaming, dragonflies stitching neon threads through the damp air surrounding me . . . The bark encrusts my flanks. The moss climbs my spine to embrace my shoulders . . . We . . . are . . . one creature . . . and all . . . that there is . . . is in us . . .
2. Animal Man (No. 28, Apr 2014, DC) – Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque
Animal Man is the only title in DC’s New 52 relaunch that has made me cry. Don’t laugh. The Maxine story line will break your heart. And Rafael Albuquerque’s art is breathtaking. The way he can illustrate facial expressions and the subtlest of human emotions puts much of today’s DC artists to shame.
3. Elephantmen (No. 16, Feb 2009, Image) – Richard Starkings & Chris Burnham
Bladerunner noir. Mutant animal detectives. Los Angeles in the year 2242. Enough said.
4. Journey Into Mystery (No. 652, July 2013, Marvel) – Kathryn Immonen, Valerio Schiti & Jordie Bellaire
A fun introduction to the Shieldmaden of Asgard, servant of the All-Mother. Gotta love the tagline: “All Warrior! All Woman! Tough enough to kill, strong enough to love.” Even if you didn’t particularly like the Thor movies, or comics for that matter, Schiti’s art and Immonen’s writing are hard to resist. Thor is just the tip of the Asgardian iceberg.
5. All Star Superman (No. 3, May 2006, DC) – Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
Disappointed by Zack Snyder’s joyless Super Christ? Not happy about Henry Cavill fighting Bat-fleck in the Man of Steel sequel? Reading Grant Morrison’s 2005 Superman series will transport you back to when you were four and reignite your faith in the last son of Krypton. I found issue 3, by accident, in a bin and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. And the art didn’t suck. Which is saying a lot if you read Superman comics.