Just like short stories are a special form of narrative prose that can offer a great tale in a few pages compared to a lengthier novel, a single-issue comic book story can be very entertaining. The rarity of single-issue stories is a detriment to the comics medium.
It seems as if DC and Marvel are obsessed with epic sagas, spanning dozens of issues and often crossing-over across many titles. It is difficult for a reader to delve into a new comic and fully understand everything that is going on. It is even more difficult for a reader to finish reading a single comic book without feeling as if only a fragment of a larger storyline has been revealed.
This is a trend that has its merits, otherwise the comic book industry would not be so caught up in it -- the long series have proven to be bestsellers, the complex storylines have gripped readers, and the writing has evolved into a more advanced form compared to the more simplistic adventures of the olden days. It is a trend that is mirrored in television storytelling as well -- TV series have become more serial in nature, with multiple-episode "mythologies" overshadowing stand-alone episodes -- the result being that dedicated fans are rewarded with season-long storylines, intricate plots, and rich characters. But the negative side is that new viewers who try to sample the TV shows often find it hard to get into and difficult to follow, often giving up and not returning for future episodes. The same applies for comics. If you do not watch or read these tales from the beginning, it is often tough to understand what is going on.
In the comic book industry, this problem is usually resolved two ways -- fans hunt down "back issues" to catch up on the epic story, or they wait for the compilation of the entire saga in graphic novel form to read it all in one massive volume.
But I still miss those short one-story-in-one-issue comics. All the early comics were like that. Long-time readers were still rewarded with recurring characters and references to things that happened in past issues, but it was a lot easier to just pick up a comic and read a single entertaining story that did not require searching for older issues to understand everything that was taking place in the story and did not require the purchase of a bunch of other comics to see how the story would conclude.
I miss comics like What If, Marvel Two-in-One, The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Team-Up, and others, all offering self-contained and completely satisfying stories.
I hope the current batch of great writers try their hand at writing tighter, more succinct tales. I hope they accept the challenge and realize that such stories can be little gems, capturing the fun of those comics from yesteryear but told in a more modern style. I hope they realize that great stories can be told without sacrificing brevity. Maybe it might even attract a whole new generation of comic book readers.