Good idea for a thread.
I have to say, from the current books out there, my favorites are Thunderbolts (Warren Ellis & Mike Deodato) & All-New Booster Gold (Geoff Johns).
My favorite current writers are Gail Simone, Geoff Johns, Marc Andreyko, and Alan Davis (looking forward to his upcoming ClanDestine series).
But on to my overall list.......I'll be a little specific, for the most part.
My personal essentials list would be......
52 (although it wasn't that great towards the end, with the WWIII bit)
Action Comics #771, 830, 831
All-New Booster Gold #1-up
Batman: Year One
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman #588, 589, 632, 667-669
Batman Family (Limited Series) #1-8
Batman Gotham Knights #9, 54
Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #138-140
Batman and the Outsiders #27
Birds of Prey #56-68, 76-91
Countdown to Infinite Crisis
Detective Comics #821, 822, 824, 826 (these are recent Paul Dini issues)
Green Lantern (vol. 3) ---most of the issues, especially starting with issue #10, and the Sinestro Corps War isn't bad
Hawkman (vol. 3) --the majority of work done by Geoff Johns, which were 1-25......also #27, which was done by Brubaker
Infinite Crisis (Lots of mixed reviews on this, but I liked it)
about half of the JSA run Geoff Johns did
Manhunter (vol. 4) full run, done by Marc Andreyko. I look forward to when it's released as an ongoing again
Secret Six (Limited Series) #1-6
Shazam! Power of Hope (tpb)
a few issues (no more than 10) of Geoff Johns' work on Teen Titans
Villains United (Limited Series) #1-6
V for Vendetta
from Top Cow:
Battle of the Planets #1-12, as well as the Jason, Mark, and Thundercats one-shots......I was very surprised at how good this series was.
Agents Of Atlas
Amazing Spiderman: Kraven's Last Hunt storyline
Annihilation (Limited Series) #1-6
Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #2
Almost all Excalibur issues which had Alan Davis (And in contrast, I would swear against any issues which Alan didn't have a hand in)
original full-run of the Invaders from the 70's (including the 4-issue limited series which came out in 1993). Not the greatest stuff out there, but worth a read due to its nostalgic feel with important Marvel characters.....But, stay THE HELL AWAY from the garbage title called New Invaders, which was released a couple years ago.
Killraven (by Alan Davis, of course)
Marvel Universe #1-3 (an ok continuation of the Invaders storyline)
Nova (vol. 4) #4-up (so far, these have been very good)
Thunderbolts #110-up (Warren Ellis/Mike Deodato team)
Uncanny X-Men (during the Claremont/Byrne years). I'd also consider any X-Men comic Alan Davis had a hand in to be "essential" as well.
these are other Marvel issues which I quite like, albeit not as good as the comics/issues listed above.......But, they're definitely worth checking out:
Amazing Spiderman #316, 317 (Venom, before they over-used him)
Avengers (vol. 1) #273-277, 281-285, 334, 343-351, 355-366, 368, 369, 372-375, 378-382
Avengers Annual #10, 17
Captain America #253, 254, 272, 280, 345, 347-349
Regretfully, I've never read Miracleman (by Alan Moore & Alan Davis), so I can't list that title.
A couple comics which seem to be very popular, but I don't like at all, would be The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller) and Identity Crisis (Brad Meltzer)......I just couldn't get into those two storylines.
And a writer I can't seem to get into (aside from that Hawkman issue he did) is Brubaker. A lot of people seem to love him, but I don't see the appeal.