2. "The Strange Death of Captain America" Captain America #110-111,113
In this three-part epic by Jim Steranko (with dialogue by Stan Lee and inks by Joe Sinnott), Captain America runs afoul of Hydra and their leader, Madame Hydra, who kidnaps Rick Jones to draw in Captain America in one of the most stunning sequences of ANY comic, but especially a comic forty plus years ago!!
This leads to Cap's seeming death and when he returns - oh my goodness - Steranko fit about twenty-five issues of coolness into just these three issues (although, to be fair, it was SO much coolness that he was late with the final part, resulting in a fill-in issue for Captain America #112).
1. "The Winter Soldier" Captain America (Volume 5) #1-6, 8-9, 11-14
In Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker achieved something that pretty much no one thought he could pull off. Heck, his own editor thought he couldn't pull it off when Brubaker first suggested the idea. But after Brubaker explained it, his editor realized what readers of the title also realized - Brubaker had a really good way to bring Bucky back to life!
In this storyline, Brubaker told a few compelling stories that interacted with each other - the major one, of course, was the revelation that Bucky not only survived the rocket plane explosion that left Cap in frozen status for decades, but Bucky was rescued by Russians who brainwashed him into a deadly assassin, keeping him in cryogenic status for months and years at a time between missions (so no one would be able to identify him - after all, five years later, they'd be looking for a 25 year old man while Bucky was still 20). This is how he gained the name Winter Soldier.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull is about to start his latest plot against Captain America when a new villain steps in a seemingly kills the Skull. This new bad guy, Aleksander Lukin, was the current operative in charge of the Winter Soldier, and he used Bucky to kill Skull and steal the Cosmic Cube.
This led to a number of daring attacks and a tragic assault on the city of Philadelphia.
All the while, Captain America had been feeling out of sorts (after the events of Avengers Disassembled), so he was in a particularly poor frame of mind to discover that his former sidekick is now a pretty deadly assassin.
Brubaker does a really great job balancing the various characters and their personalities in the series, while never flinching on the action, either. Steve Epting did an excellent job on the artwork, with some fine fill-in work by Mike Perkins for Epting and Michael Lark does his typical brilliant work on some flashback sequences.
That's the countdown! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!