1. Deadpool consoles a child that could end the world

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Wade Wilson is mostly known for cracking wise, breaking the fourth wall and repeatedly saying the word "chimichangas" until it loses all meaning, but he's got a pretty big heart. Nowhere is this more evident than in Rick Remender's epic run on Uncanny X-Force, which focuses on a team of mutants that go on clandestine operations that the X-Men proper could never touch. In the last arc (drawn by Phil Noto), Deadpool serves as the conscience for Evan, a kid grappling with the fact that the's a reborn version of the evil mutant god Apocalypse.

But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. The X-Force's first mission was actually to kill the reborn Apocalypse -- who again, is still in elementary school. The mutant community knows what a scourge a full-grown Apocalypse can be, that allowing him to grow up might mean the end of the world -- but taking him out means murdering a child. It'sa tough call to make, even for a jaded guy like Wolverine. In the end, the X-Force's resident French bastard Fantomex does what no one else will. Everyone is resigned to the choice that was made -- everyone but Deadpool.

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Behind the scenes, Fantomex felt so guilty that he re-ressurected Evan himself, and raised him in a secret farm -- his own virtual version of Smallville for a person who he had hoped would grow up like Clark Kent. It worked, to a degree. Though he came close to the brink, Evan held onto the goodness inside of him long enough to be accepted at the School for Gifted Mutants. 

In comes Deadpool, who sneaks in Evan's dorm window while he's studying, like a more vulgar version of Sam from Clarissa Explains It All.  

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From the get-go, Deadpool has always been in Evan's corner. Even though the kid was raised as Apocalypse, and everyone knows what he's capable of; that's what launched the X-Force's mission in the first place. But after dozens of issues and more than a few close calls, Evan has kept it together like a champ. All the way through, Deadpool (and Fantomex, who "died" somewhere along the way) have kept hope alive with the belief that the right kind of nurture could beat out the worst kind of nature. In their eyes, Adolf Hitler's great-grandson Phil Hitler is completely capable of winning over his capacity for evil in order to manage a string of successful Del Taco franchise locations. 

Evan isn't so sure that's the case, especially since he's learned that his "childhood" was all a fabrication built in a fantasy world. 

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Deadpool has a pretty good point. Whether Evan's upbringing was real or fake, it helped shape him into the kind of person who would rather help than hurt.

The same sort of sentiment applies to superheroes themselves. We know that Batman and Superman and Deadpool are not real, but that doesn't stop us from being inspired by their adventures. When we feel empowered by a superhero facing adversity and coming out on top, we're affected just as though those stories were true; just because something isn't real, that doesn't mean it can't make real change. Evan might be an artificially regrown test-tube, but he's still like family to Deadpool.

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Just bringing up the concept of a fart joke during a tender moment already kind of spoils the mood, but we can forgive Wade here. He's just been given the kind of positive reinforcement he never had. For much of Deadpool's history, he's been trying to grapple with the urge to do good but lacking the life skills to properly follow through.

When Wade looks at Evan, he sees the same kind of inner-struggle. Deadpool doled out that constant stream of encouragement not only because he had genuine hope for this kid, but because he wanted to desperately to believe that there was still hope for himself. But when his kindness is finally reflected back at him from the most innocent source imaginable, Deadpool has no idea what to do with it. Hence the non-fart joke, and the uh, study materials Wade leaves behind for Evan.

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Deadpool's parenting technique still leaves a little to be desired. I mean, this is what the internet is for.

 

2. Harley Quinn finally frees herself from The Joker

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As far as fictional villainous couples go, it's tough to beat Joker and Harley Quinn. Their rotten romance has fueled countless comics and cartoons, not to mention enough cosplay to drown the Earth in white greasepaint and green hair dye. 

Taken separately, Harley and Joker are definitely characters worth celebrating. But together, they're more than a little disturbing. As we've talked about before, these two are terrible as a couple. Specifically, Joker is an abusive shit vortex from which Harley Quinn can never escape. 

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From the neverending string of insults to the near-constant physical battery, the Joker's horrendous treatment of Harley is eerily close to that of a real-life abusive spouse or partner. It's not as easy as "She should just leave" or "She should fight back" -- anyone familiar with a situation like this knows it's never that simple. On top of that, this is the Clown Prince of Crime we're talking about here; it can't be any easier to escape the clutches of a supervillain. 

Though Harley has been on her own in a self-titled ongoing series for some time, she finally confronted her tormentor in issue #25. Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin send our anti-heroine to Arkham Asylum to break out her new beau, Mason. And of course, of course Mason's cell was right next to Joker's. She could have easily ignored the jeering coming from the next door down, but this time Harley decided it was time to face off with her past. 

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At the time this comic was released, Harley had spent a couple of comic-book-years away from her "Puddin." More than any time in the character's 20-year history, Harley is her own woman, unwilling to be defined as the token sexy henchman for a monster incapable of compassion.

That's not to say Harley has pretended the Joker doesn't exist. He's undoubtedly still in the back of her mind somewhere, a looming pale spectre reminding her of what she once was and who she could be again. That little ember of doubt is what she's here to extinguish. The Joker has never had any faith in her; he doesn't think she's strong enough to get rid of him. 

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To say that tearing off his bottom lip with her teeth has "freed" Harley of the Joker is probably oversimplifying things. There's no magic switch that will erase everything that happened to her under the thumb of the world's most ruthless criminal. But what Harley can do is reaffirm that she won't let Joker rule her life. The infuriating part is how her tormentor will never acknowledge that she's done with him. He'll always be cackling in the corner, waiting for what he believes to be her inevitable return. 

But then it occurs to her. Why not just kill Joker once and for all? There's a gun handy, and all it would take is one bullet to ensure with a 100% chance that this human stain wouldn't hurt her (or anyone else) ever again. 

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That's just it. If Harley kills Joker, she proves that she's not strong enough to live in the same world with him. To admit that the only course of action would be to eliminate the threat means acknowledging that the threat still exists in the first place. In other words, if he dies, he wins. And if Harley's right -- she now knows exactly how Batman feels. It can't be a great place to be in, but in a way, it's heartening to know that Harley is done feeling terrible.

Harley went through a similar transformation in the universe of Injustice, where a grief-stricken Superman straight-up murdered Joker. After some contemplation (and a super-strength pill), Harl came to a realization during a fight with Lobo.

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Violence isn't typically the solution to violence, but sometimes it just feels good to see an asshole get punched through a concrete wall.

 

3. Two former archrivals have an awkward reunion

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The rest of this list is filled with instantly-recognizable comic book heroes, but not this one -- and there's a good reason why. Written by Troy Hickman and drawn by a host of guest artists, Common Grounds was a 2004 anthology that focused on the smaller moments in the world of superpeople. Instead of taking turns fistfighting cosmic deities, the heroes and villains of Common Grounds mostly just sit around and talk and sometimes drink coffee.

The story that seems to have stuck with the internet the longest is "Time of Their Lives," which sees a well-to-do man running across a familiar face digging through trash. 

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They remember each other, back from the days "when heroes were heroes and villains were villains." Commander Power is the blonde fella in the sharp suit, whereas Blackwatch is the guy with the clock shirt and the stain/Watchmen homage on his shirt. Together they reminisce about the old times, and remark on how different things have turned out for each other. Imagine coming back to your home town only to see the captain of the football team rummaging through the grocery store dumpster, and now make it a little bit weirder, and this is what we're looking at here. 

They're only beginning their chat when a couple of unfortunate street creep stereotypes butt in.

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After thanking Commander Power for scaring them off, Blackwatch remarks that he was worried that he would inflict some real damage on those kids. Cue tragic origin story.

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Even though he's guilty of manslaughter, you can't help but feel for Blackwatch. You can tell that he never meant to truly hurt anyone, that his heyday was in the middle of that classic Silver Age Era -- heroes fought villains, but in the end the only thing damaged was pride. 

Seeing what was once essentially a co-worker in such a rough spot speaks to Commander Power's good nature. He offers Blackwatch a warm place to sleep, and after some hemming and hawing, Blackwatch agrees. 

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Nice, right? A couple of old enemies meet up, and even though they've taken very different paths, the more fortunate is still willing to give a chance to the less fortunate. After all these years, Commander Power is still a good gu--

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 Oh... ohhhh. Common Grounds went and Shyamalan'd the shit out of everyone. All this time, the assumption was that Commander Power was the clean-cut superhero and Blackwatch was the down-on-his-luck supervillain, but their roles were actually reversed. On one hand, it's kind of cheap twist, especially with the misdirect of Blackwatch accidentally killing a superhero. On the other hand, you probably took a look at the two of them at the beginning of the comic and made your assumptions subconsciously: Good is rich and bad is poor. Plus, superheroes fight other superheroes all the time, so an unlucky accident isn't out of the realm of possibility. 

Though the switcharoo is still a bit gimmicky, it's still impressive that a single story in a single comic managed to set up expectations and smash them so hard you re-evaluate the people you see on the street every day.

 

4. Spider-Man gives one fan the flight of her life

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In the canon of comic book characters ripe for heartbreak, we've already done a kid and a homeless person. Combining those two concepts is "Leah," a comic by Peter David and Colleen Doran that seems tailor-made to empty every last drop from your tear ducts. It might be a little saccharine and a little cloying, but it's remarkably effective.

The story is wordless for the majority of its six pages, as it introduces us to an impossibly adorable homeless child named Leah. With trademark dirty coat, cap and hobo gloves all the same shade of filth, she doesn't have much going for her -- but that doesn't stop her love of Spider-Man. Leah coats every inch of her living area with the wall-crawler, and sleeps in newspaper clippings of her favorite person in the whole world. We don't hear it from her, but it's clear that she hopes to one day be saved by Spidey herself. 

And what do you know, he finally does. 

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Wow, this is too good to be true, right? Spider-Man, Thor and Iron man, whizzing through the city to make a little girl's dream a reality? This is almost like something straight out of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Unfortunately, that comparison is not far off. 

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We all knew this was coming, but that doesn't make it any less depressing. That flight around the city with Marvel's greatest heroes was nothing more than a fever dream of a dying girl. Maybe Spider-Man coming (too late) for her rescue in real life is what inspired it; but, knowing Leah, maybe that's what she sees every night when she closes her eyes. 

Either way, we don't see Leah open her eyes again. Spider-Man is talking with the doctor right there, wallowing in the guilt of not reaching her sooner. We know it's not his fault, that Spidey has saved countless lives and can't possibly be accountable for everyone in the city, but he probably won't be able to shake his failure any time soon (or ever). But in Leah's mind, Spider-Man is perfect, infallible. He and his friends were the one thing she could count on, the one thing that gave her life meaning. 

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You can go on ahead to the next page without me. I just need some time, preferably curled up in a ball under my desk. 

 

5. All-Star Superman is everything we want to be

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Since the series wrapped up in 2008, the very best answer to "Superman is boring. Why does anyone like him?" has been a copy of All-Star Superman. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's opus is not only one of the definitive renditions of the Man of Steel, but it's one of the best achievements in comics, ever. The unparalleled craft of the work has been expounded upon ad nauseum by now, so we can just skip the effusive praise and get to what we're here for.

There are many, many moments worth mentioning in the series, but the most memorable comes in issue #10. The series up to this point has followed a Superman who knows he's dying, and has taken on the herculean task of wrapping up all the loose ends of the world's most powerful man. In the middle of solving the impossible problem of how to keep the world safe after he's gone, Superman never stops helping people. To him, curing cancer is just as important as stopping a speeding train from derailing.

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It's hard to tell, but Superman overheard that phone conversation. He picked it out in the middle of untold amounts of noise, and kept it in mind. Though Superman continued about his day, which involved fighting giant robots and writing his last will and testament, he made sure to come back to "Regan," who sounds like she's in trouble.

What results is the best page of Superman ever drawn. 

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It only takes five panels to tell a complete story, and five panels to encapsulate everything we love about Superman. Regan drops her phone off of a tall building, in disbelief that her doctor was delayed (coincidentally by the out-of-control train Superman stopped). But with just a few words, Superman changes everything. It's something anyone can do, but at the same time, something only Superman could have done. 

Grant Morrison himself explained it best in his book, Supergods:

"We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be."

This is what Superman is there for. You can call him boring or unrelatable all day, but in the end he'll still be sitting on a cloud, waiting.