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My Top 10 Marvel Comic Book Battles, 1980s: pre-Secret Wars

Fond memories of these comics are part of the reason I shudder at Marvel NOW stories which have made this kind of storytelling obsolete. Marvel NOW seems more about grandiose crossover stories with epic, world-shaking consequences, retconning decades of continuity, and making Disney fat-stacks by killing someone off. Stan Lee once wrote that if a writer had to resort to killing off a character to sell a book, he or she wasn't doing his or her job right. Back in the day, mysteries abounded that weren't wrapped up two issues later, but sometimes years later (Who is the Hobgoblin? One of Steve Rogers' neighbors knows he's Captain America; what are his intentions? Will Tony retake his company from Stane?). Things have changed. Joe Quesada told a magazine that Marvel was no longer interested in "writing love letters to the past." Whatevs. All the more important for us to remember the comics that led us to falling in love with comics in the first place.

lol Hypocritically, as I look over this list, the very real possibility of characters taking the big dirt nap looms in several of these issues. D'oh! Not changing my earlier statement, but making you aware that I am conscious of this irony.

List items

  • While Sam Wilson and the Falcon try to find the assailant who shot one of Wilson's friends, Captain America has one of the most gruesome battles of his career up to this point against the bizarre Vermin. Both wins come with poignant realizations. Wonderful storytelling.

  • After being rendered comatose in FF # 236, Victor von Doom returns to enlist the quartet's help in rectifying a grievous mistake that both he and they made: deposing von Doom. However, von Doom can't just ask for help politely. Hijinks ensue.

  • While the X-Men of the present battle the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the X-Men of the future deal with the repercussions of that battle. When I was a kid, the cover was captivating, and the inside did not disappoint.

  • Wolverine hunts down and slaughters the X-Men one-by-one in an amusement park. Well, no. It's Mystique preparing to lead the Brotherhood to reclaim her daughter, Rogue. In the last panel, one of the X-Men goes down hard. Apparently, I had mad-love for the Brotherhood.

  • More than the fights themselves was the novelty of this story being told from Bullseye's point of view. An amazing issue that really was a game-changer for the tone of the character and with repercussions for years and years to come.

  • In the wake of the death of the Black Widow (who is resurrected in this issue), Daredevil and friends have a massive throw down with the Hand. The issue ends with Matt probably losing his security deposit for his townhouse, and the big reveal that the evil ninjas mean to bring back Elektra.

  • I loved team-up books, and this one in particular caught my imagination because I'd read the 1985 Serpent Society stories in Captain America and really dug Death Adder as a villain. Stingray is also in on the throwdown between the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, Triton of the Inhumans, and the third incarnation of the Serpent Squad for the Serpent Crown.

  • The strongest members of the Marvel Universe go toe-to-toe with the debuting Champion of the Universe (one of those damn Elders) for the fate of the Earth. Are any of the heroes really a match for the most experienced fighter in the universe? Who wins? Who loses? Who cheats and gets DQed?

  • The Tarantula has been transformed into a creature of nightmare, and in this issue he throws down with the Will O'the Wisp, intent on revenge against the Roxxon executive who consigned him to his strange existence, and with Spidey, ever the hero. This was just visually rewarding for me. I loved this triple threat match.

  • Spidey versus the newly minted Hobgoblin... and loses. As you can tell from the cover, he gets help from a most unlikely ally.