As a formative text, MOKF stands out as the epitome of sexy and cool in a Marvel book for me. Shang-Chi, an idealist fish out of water, doesn't come across as trite or lame – he's cool. MOKF takes the over-the-top grandiose spy-fi of the 60s and 70s and filters it through the smoky lens of Kung Fu with some of the best art that's ever been in comics.
Kind of a spiritual inheritor to MOKF, Immortal Iron Fist blindsided me when it came out – the perfect combination of martial arts violence, super-spy shenanigans and secret history, all wrapped up in a package of evocative and unmistakable art. Perhaps most importantly (to me), I think this was my first intro to the Daughters of the Dragon, who I later picked for my first Marvel job back in 2011.
No one does cosmic like Jim Starlin – his sci-fi vibrated with the power of fantasy, and Warlock was the greatest example. Warlock coming into conflict with the Magus and the players brought into that struggle (one in particular!), remains a masterclass of cosmic greats butting heads at a big-picture level while remaining personal. And the art! The blacks, the shadows! Read through #181 and try Warlock (1972) too!
When I was a kid in the 90s, the X-Men were the coolest that ever were. In 2001, New X-Men took that cool and re-examined it at the dawn of a new century. Everything about New X-Men was exciting – amazing art, big ideas, great new characters, sweeping, apocalyptic changes to the status quo, and a new view of the mutant community and their place in the world.
My first exposure to Alpha Flight was their appearance in the 1990 Marvel trading cards, and it was a light bulb moment: "Wait, there are Canadian super heroes? We can do that?" Reading Alpha Flight years later, I came to love the gang of misfits that represented my country – their adventures were always weird, they screwed up a lot, and nothing ever went easy for them. But despite all that, they were great.