On the other end of that spectrum is Plastic Man. Originally a small-time criminal who something something chemicals in the Silver Age, his entire body became plastic and he started using his newfound powers for good. Plastic Man is great because he is pretty much another normal guy, albeit with materialistic proclivities, who happens to hang out in the big leagues. He's great because he, like the Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern storyline, gets to interact with other heroes and show us what's heroic about them, and thusly, about him. Deadpool also did this, so I guess it's common for newly-minted heroes to have a series of team-ups so they can meet other heroes, get their autographs, and learn an important lesson about heroism (I did actually try to do this for Mutants and Masterminds, with the exception of the fact that the player-characters were supposed to be the heroic ones and the city natives...not so much). His powers are versatile, but limited enough that he's still provided ample challenges.
He's also a great seasoning for other heroes; I have an issue where he needs Batman's help to set this kid straight. It's naturally his own son, who has an improved version of his own elasticity powers, but instead of dealing with the kid himself, he lets Batman traumatize the tyke into not screwing around with gangs anymore. It's a great scene for Batman doing what he does best (cowardly, superstitious criminals, etc), but it's also great because we can see that Plastic Man is afraid, like I think a lot of parents are, that trying to be a parent to a kid is just too big a job for them. That Plastic Man has serious flaw, and one that isn't his inability change color or some other bullshit, but an actual fear that actual people have makes him pretty compelling.
Sadly, like Amanda Waller and Black Panther, I just don't think I've got enough background for this guy to really say Spider-Man or Cable. I think I'm going to have to cross out everyone that I haven't gotten to read a fully story arc on (sadly, including Martian Manhunter, who was great in Justice League Unlimited, but who I haven't read doing anything in comics except getting killed by Libra while the Human Flame took pictures on his cell phone [seriously, Human Flame? Fuck that guy.], and that's not the basis for a healthy fandom.)
Thor, on the other hand, I have been able to read about. It's a funny thing too. I read and hear about Thor from other people and all of the stuff before the recent J. Michael Straczynski run, and seriously, it sounds both "bizarre" and "what the fuck." I guess it just seems natural to me that the nine worlds of Norse myth are all messed up because Asgard is somehow hovering over Oklahoma. Asgardians are being reborn into human bodies and Odin is totally out of the picture. The only thing that strikes me as funny is that people trust Loki. I mean, I know he came back with boobs (don't worry; he was totally a chick, so it wasn't weird. Vagina and everything. [I suppose. They never went into detail, but I assume there wasn't a gender-bending hermaphroditic/transsexual subtheme to his return that I never caught.]), and boobs will make men trust things they Should Not Trust, but seriously folks, it's Loki; don't let a single Norse rendition of 'I Can Change' fool you.
That said, I liked Thor. He had a time share in the body of Donald Blake, giving him an honest-to-Thor secret identity. He had to navigate human/Asgardian relations, Asgardian politics, the Odinsleep (well, Thorsleep), plus punching things. The stories he was in here fascinating new twists with good ideas in them. I quit reading “Thor” because the bookstore I get my comics from just didn't carry them regularly. The storyline for the “Thor” relaunch was a composite of Thor, Loki, Volstagg, and Balder. It wasn't an ensemble book, but as a largely political story, it required a cast that each played their part. Thor was a great character in it, but he just didn't get me pumped up. Thor is a man of action and character, and while I liked his character and it was well-played, he didn't get enough action to really make me enthusiastic. Even if he did, I'm not sure I'd get enthusiastic about it. I might read some of the Avengers comics with him, Steve, and Tony where he gets more focus in a more straightforward story, but he just didn't quite 'make it' in his own story.
I hate making such a subjective evaluation, but that's what it comes down to. Straczynski's “Thor” was good and I'd recommend it to anyone, but Thor himself just...didn't really stand out.
The Midnighter(Warren Ellis/Mark Millar)
Jenny Sparks(Warren Eillis/Mark Millar)
Booster Gold (Geoff Johns)
Damian Wayne (Grant Morrison)
Steve Rogers(Ultimates Vol 1 & 2)
Cloud 9 (Dan Slott)
Superman (All-Star Superman)
Cable (Cable & Deadpool)
Deadpool (Cable & Deadpool)
Holy shit, Geoff Johns wrote “Booster Gold”? Wow, I never thought I'd like something he'd written, though mediocre to poor writing might explain by “Booster Gold” is easier to express in a family tree than a story line.
Incredulity aside, Spider-Man is the first one off of the list. I'll pick up Spider-Man comics because they're good seasoning, but a good Spider-Man, for me anyway, isn't a very serious Spider-Man. Maybe I just don't take all of his soap-operatic bullshit seriously (probably why I didn't really mind any of the One More Day/Brand New Day stuff.). The depth the character has--and trust me, he has loads of it—just is not the sort of depth I want to read about.
Also, I don't think I've ever read an entire Spider-Man arc that wasn't both written by Kevin Smith and terrible. Except Web of Shadows, which I played instead of read and it was awesome.