Standalone stories are also referred to as one-shot or single issue comics, and they are -as you might have guessed!- fully self-contained narratives you can read in a unique volume. There are many reasons why people choose to read one-shots as opposed to series, especially when they are new to comics. One-shots give you a deeper understanding of character’s motivations and responses.
Some of my favorite comics are one-shots. They are not just fun to read and give you a sense of closure when you finish reading them but they are also easy to store and showcase, and they make for a great casual read. If you are new to the world of comics or are just looking for some new ideas, below you’ll find single-issue recommendations and some of the best one-shot comics ever written. We promise you won’t regret sitting down to read these!
What Are One-Shot Comics?
One-shot comics are standalone comic book issues that tell a complete story in a single publication rather than being part of an ongoing series. They are often used by publishers to test new ideas or to give readers a taste of a particular character or storyline without committing to a complete series.
One-shot comics can be an excellent way for readers to sample a new title or enjoy a self-contained story without having to invest in an entire series. They can also be used by publishers as a way to introduce new characters or concepts that may later be expanded upon in an ongoing series, depending on the response from readers.
Is It Difficult to Read Comics?
Reading comics can differ from reading other types of literature, but it is not necessarily tricky. Comics are a visual medium that combines images with text to tell a story, and readers need to be able to follow the sequence of panels and understand the relationship between the pictures and text.
Some readers may find it challenging to navigate the layout of a comic book or to understand the medium’s conventions, such as using word balloons and captions to convey dialogue and narration. However, with practice, readers can become accustomed to the format and develop a greater appreciation for comics’ unique storytelling opportunities.
Top One-Shot Comics and Classic Standalone Stories
The following single-issue comics are generally considered classics. You shouldn’t miss these highly-recommended volumes, especially if you’ve always wanted to read comics but were never sure where to begin.
Published by DC Comics
Batman: The Killing Joke is Alan Moore’s unforgettable meditation on the razor-thin line between sanity and insanity, heroism and villainy and comedy and tragedy. The legendary writer redefined the super-hero with Watchmen and V for Vendetta. In Batman: The Killing Joke, he takes on the origin of comics’ greatest super-villain, The Joker —and changes Batman’s world forever.
The Killing Joke is widely considered to be the be-all-end-all of Joker stories. The art by Brian Bolland is so appealing that his depiction of the Joker became a standard and was imitated by many artists to follow.
- Batman’s most celebrated one-shot.
- Will the thin line that separates Batman’s nobility and The Joker’s insanity snap once and for all?
- Lushly re-colored by artist Brian Bolland.
Published by 2000 AD
Judge Dredd is based on the longest-running comic strip in 2000 AD, a British weekly anthology comic.
In Mega-City One, the judges are the law – acting as judge, jury, and executioner. But how do the citizens really feel about a system where they are powerless? America Jara and Bennett Beeny grow up as best friends, living a fairly trouble-free life in a dangerous city… bar the odd encounter with a Judge. Time draws them apart, and when they are brought back together, Beeny is a successful singer and America has become involved with a terrorist organization – with the Judges in its sights!
- Created by John Wagner, one of the most influential names in the British comics industry.
- Paperback: 160 pages.
- Definitely one of the best Dredd stories.
Published by Vertigo
With beautiful (and deeply disturbing) illustrations by insanely amazing artist Sean Murphy, John Constantine: Hellblazer City of Demons is a one shot comic masterpiece.
After a few weeks of hospital rehab, Constantine faces a series of twisted murders and mutilations. The common denominator points back to the ER where Constantine was admitted, and a rather confusing blood transfusion episode. After a few weeks of hospital rehab, Constantine finds the London streets very different from when he left them behind. Si Spencer does a really good job of weaving a thoroughly enjoyable “Hellblazer” tale that invokes all of the traits of the John Constantine character that fans love and relish.
- A new adventure starring Vertigo’s longest running antihero, John Constantine
- Artwork by Sean Murphy, illustrator of Joe the Barbarian
- A brutal story. Not for the faint of heart.
Published by Marvel
If I had to recommend an X-Men issue to someone who has never read it, this would be it. The story follows the beginning of a genocide of mutants, lead by fanatical religious leader William Stryker, and served as the basis for the second X-Men movie.
As the X-Men and the Purifiers meet in a series of frenzied skirmishes, Stryker holds Professor Xavier hostage, subjecting him via drugs and electrodes to devastating mind-wash procedures. By far one of the best X-Men stories, and perhaps one of the best one-shot comics out there.
- Professor Xavier and Magneto join forces against a new adversary who threatens them all and the entire world
- Chris Claremont is one of the bestselling comic writers in the world
- The story of William Stryker, which the second X-Men movie loosely followed
Published by DC Comics
DC claims that The Death of Superman is the number 1 selling graphic novel of all time. The murderous creature known as Doomsday comes charging towards Metropolis with only Superman able to stop him. To defend the city and the woman he loves, Superman (obvious spoiler is obvious) has to give up his own life. A monumental story, in short, a classic.
While the story itself is dramatic and impacting, it’s what this collection kicks off that really elevates it to legendary status. It’s something that all true Superman fans have to read at least once.
- The number 1 selling graphic novel of all time
- Can even Superman stop the unstoppable creature called Doomsday?
- A a seminal moment in the history of comics and the character.
Published by Vertigo
Author: Grant Morrison
The Invisibles is a secret organization out to battle against physical and psychic oppression brought upon humanity by the interdimensional alien gods of the Archons of Outer Church (yep, you read that right). Magic, conspiracy theories, Manichaeism, Eschatology, tantric sex, alien abductions, ultra-violence, time travel, consciousness-expansion, fashion and memes are among many of the key themes in the series. Collecting for the first time ever all three volumes of controversial and fan-loved series The Invisibles by Eisner Award winning writer Grant Morrison.
If you were surprised by the premise, hear this: Grant Morrison gained most of his inspiration after, per his own claims, he was abducted by aliens in Kathmandu and given narrative ideas. And what have you done today?
- Grant Morrison has been working with DC Comics for twenty years
- The series allows for multiples readings
- Great paper stock and printing quality.
Published by Marvel
Miller’s Daredevil: Born Again has as much drama and tension as the best Hollywood films. David Mazzucchelli’s art transports you into the story, without a single page wasted. The characters live and breathe, and the intensity of their emotions is palpable. You don’t need to know who Daredevil is before reading this piece, you’ll love this comic nonetheless.
Karen Page, Matt Murdock’s former lover, has traded away the Man Without Fear’s secret identity for a drug fix. Now, Daredevil must find strength as the Kingpin of Crime wastes no time taking him down as low as a human can get.
- The comic introduces the Kingpin character
- A psychologically engaging story that drives you into the ugly, unsettling perspectives of its protagonists
- Extraordinarily well written and illustrated
Published by Eclipse Comics
What happens when the superheroes win? The poor are cared for, the world’s nuclear arsenal is sent to the sun, money is abolished… In Miracleman, Moore takes the idea of “costumed superheroes as the new mythology” and literalizes it, but not in the way readers at the time might have expected.
From the ashes of great tragedy, the world will be reborn. The sick will be healed. Military powers will be disarmed. The planet will be restored. Poverty will be abolished. Every day shall be a day of miracles… a new dawn for humankind!
- A world being reshaped as a sort of socialist utopia
- Moore’s cynical approach sets things up for Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s subsequent run
- A comic that resonates with today’s monstrosities
Published by DC Comics
The Swamp Thing #57: Mysteries in Space really is unique. Here we have ST as an entity floating in space, bonding with a lonely bio-mechanical space station and a sentient plant civilization, among others. In these last chapters of the series, Moore switches from weird horror to weird sci-fi-horror.
Mysteries in Space is drawn by artist Alfredo Alcala, mostly with a collage technique that works wonderfully with the space theme. Visually astonishing and philosophically mind-blowing, this comic is guaranteed to change your life – a little.
- Alan Moore’s weirdest and finest Swamp Thing episode
- Explore space through a sentient plant civilization, a bio-mechanical space station and other sci-fi monstruosities
- Illustrated beautifully by Filipino artist Alfredo Alcala
Published by Max Comics
Marvel re-launched the Punisher series under it’s mature audiences imprint MAX. Legendary artist Richard Corben joins definitive Punisher writer Garth Ennis for Frank Castle’s last stand. In a world gone mad, the Punisher just might be the sanest man on Earth. Now he’s heading home, to the place it all began, and heaven help anyone who stands in his path.
Ennis added supreme depth to a character who was normally nothing more than a walking, talking cliché. The last of the 12 volumes is this fantastic one-shot, The Punisher: The End finds an old Frank in a dead world in the future, and he has only one thing to do: kill. Harshly, and violently.
- Follows Frank’s last days on earth as a nuclear war destroys the planet and practically everyone on it
- Recommended for more mature audiences
- Hands down, one of the greatest Punisher stories ever told.
Published by Marvel
Marvel’s Marvels provides a look at the most memorable comic book moments from Marvel’s history through the eyes of a news photographer -a normal human- named Phil Sheldon. It takes place in the years 1939 to 1974, and portrays ordinary life in a world full of costumed supermen.
Sheldon the entire birth of the Marvel Universe, and tells a story of awe, appreciation, respect and fear regarding the Marvels (as he likes to call these superheroes). This is the Marvel Universe, where the ordinary and fantastic interact daily. Alex Ross did an amazing job illustrating these volumes with photo realistic art. The miniseries has won several awards.
- Explore Marvel’s history and its heroes’ ordinary life
- Contains some of Alex Ross’ freshest and most beautiful artwork
- Busiek’s characters are filled with heart and humanity
Do you want more comic suggestions? Check out some more ideas below. Marvel Comics is a major American comic book publisher and the creator of many popular superhero characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. Marvel Comics was founded in 1939 as Timely Comics and later became known as Atlas Comics before adopting its current name in the 1960s. The following one-shot stories and comics are all published by Marvel.