Hello, loyal Alliancers! When I wrote my list of Comics You Should Be Reading in 2011, I didn’t include any Marvel titles, quite simply because I don’t read any. It’s not that I dislike the Marvel universe, but I just never dived into it the way I did with DC. I think in my formative years, I was just way too into Batman, and also way turned off by the X-Men/Marvel Card trend that was all the rage with my age group. Anyway, the result is that besides thinking Spider-Man and Daredevil are pretty rad, I’m not extremely into Marvel, and didn’t bother exploring that stuff when I got back into comic books. So I decided to recruit my friend/roommate/fellow comic book geek Grath Madden (of Barrakuda McMurder fame) to tell you about the Marvel comics he’s currently enjoying. Here’s what he has to say:
MARVEL COMICS YOU SHOULD BE READING IN 2011
by Grath Madden
The (other) Avengers titles
Brian Bendis’ 1,000 year long run on Avengers titles continues with Avengers (w/ John Romita Jr.) and New Avengers (w/ Stuart Immonen), but I’m way more attracted to the other Avengers books these days. In particular:
Secret Avengers (Ed Brubaker, Mike Deodato) features Captain Mr. Steve Rogers and his black-ops-y team of totally random folks (Beast, Black Widow, Valkyrie, Moon Knight, War Machine, the other Ant-Man, etc.). So far, they’ve split their time between wacky serpent-crown related Mars missions and espionage-y sneak-into-the-ambassador’s-hotel-room-dressed-as-his-date kinda shit. Not to mention the secret societies and the weird Nick Fury clone. This is more or less “Steve Rogers and his Amazing Friends,” and it’s great.
Avengers Academy (Christos Gage, Mike McKone) features six (mostly) new, teenage-ish characters, the first class of folks at the new Avengers Academy. The “hook” here is that they all think they’re here to be the next generation of “heroes,” but they’ve actually all been assembled due to the fact that they’ve been assessed as the six most likely to flip the fuck out and go bad. Which is an awesome idea for a book, and this certainly has the potential to be the best Avengers book of the lot, but at the moment, it’s wavering back and forth a bit between wanting to be about these six kids and wanting to be about “instructors” like Hank Pym and Tigra. When it sticks to the former, it’s great.
Avengers: Children’s Crusade (Alan Heinberg, Jim Cheung) is a 9-issue bi-monthly mini series revolving around the Young Avengers, particularly Speed and Wiccan, the “children” of the Scarlet Witch, and their search for/discovery of their mother. Out of all these three, it’s definitely the most continuity heavy, but it brings you up to speed pretty much immediately. These two guys created the Young Avengers, and this is definitely the best use of these characters in the past couple of years. This is probably the best book of the three listed here, but maybe not if you’re not up to speed already.
More or less anything written by Jonathan Hickman
This guy’s writing three major ongoing books right now, and they’re all great, as is the Ultimate Thor mini series, but, yeah, I’m really enjoying:
Fantastic Four (w/ Steve Epting) is probably the one most people are paying attention to at the moment, what with the dying and the poly-bags and whatnot, but this title has wavered back and forth between really good and great ever since he started writing it a year and a half or so ago. I personally never gave much of a fuck about the Fantastic Four, but this guy’s done a great job making all four of them interesting and multi-dimensional. The book is technically “ending” next issue (#588), but I’m sure a “Fantastic Three” of some sorts is slated to follow. Hickman’s great at putting together a long form story over a million issues, but this book, much more so than his other Marvel ones, is the easiest to pick up at any point and follow. And this is the first time I’ve ever read anything featuring Reed and Sue’s kids where they came across as anything other than annoying or excessive. They’re a major part of the story here, and they’re used really, really well.
S.H.I.E.L.D. (w/ Dustin Weaver) is fucking nuts. If you were ever all “I wonder if S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually an old-as-time organization with members like Leonardo DaVinci and Nostradamus” or “Wouldn’t it be cool if Galileo fought Galactus?” then this is totally something you should read. This book is weird and epic and reminds me of Hickman’s older non-Marvel stuff more than any of his other current stuff. It’s even got weird charts and stuff in the back. But, yeah, if you’ve got a boner for insane, sprawling mythology and cryptic catch phrases like “This is not how the world ends,” you should totally get on this.
Secret Warriors (w/Alessandro Vitti) is, unfortunately, near the end of its run. This is more or less a Nick Fury book, which, if I’d known that going in, I probably would have avoided. But I’m glad I didn’t. This is more or less a mixture of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers Academy, as we’ve got Nick Fury assembling his super-secret team of young super hero-y folks that no one knows about but him, but at the same time we’ve got all sorts of complicated S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. HYDRA vs. Leviathan stuff where there’s all this this-guy’s-on-that-guy’s-side-and-then-he’s-not-and-then-BOOM!-double-cross-and-then-wait-a-minute-we’re-all-on-the-same-team-and-oh-no-you’ve-been-a-bad-guy-all-along and whatnot. Plus more weird charts and lists in the back! Basically this guy writes awesome comics for nerdy 30 year olds.
If I had to only give a shit about 5 or 6 Marvel books, I’d probably just take what I’ve discussed above. Thankfully, my life is empty and my spirit is broken, so I care about WAY more shit than that. Shit like:
The Ultimate Universe really interested me when I started reading comics again a couple of years ago, and I’ve found that, in the right hands, these characters and this universe are WAY more interesting than their “regular” counterparts. Ultimate Spider-Man (Brian Bendis, David LaFuente) is still one of the best comic books in the world if not of all time. While Bendis’ quippy dialogue tends to drive me nuts in his Avengers comics, it always works great here. Ultimate X (Jeph Loeb, Art Adams) comes out like once ever 800 months, but it always looks amazing, and it’s (slllloooowwwwwlllllyyy) setting itself up to be 100x more interesting than Ultimate X-Men ever was. Past those two, everything’s a slight step down, but Ultimate Avengers, New Ultimates and Ultimate Thor are all good reads.
I tend to avoid the fuck out of all the X-Books because of the constant crossover action, but, for the past couple of years, I’ve really enjoyed New Mutants (Zeb Wells, Leonard Kirk), at least when it’s been it’s own stand-alone story. I was never a big New Mutants fan growing up, so I might miss a reference here or there, but this book seems more spiritually akin to whatever it is the “X-Men” should be than any other X-Men book I’ve picked up in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, Zeb Wells is leaving and wrapping up his story in a couple of issues, so I have no idea where this is headed. Generation Hope (Kieron Gillen, Salvador Espin), on the other hand, just started, and it’s the X-Universe equivalent of Avengers Academy or Secret Warriors. Hope is some sort of teenage mutant messiah (I’m not really sweating the back story, as it was the focus of the past few years of X-crossovers), and this book features her and the “five lights,” a bunch of young new mutants. 3 issues in, and we’re still just sorta getting the band together, so there’s plenty of time for this book to go off the rails into uber-X-nerd territory. But so far, it’s very new-reader friendly, and I’ve really liked this guy’s artwork ever since the short-lived Exiles series a couple of years ago.
Marvel pretty much kills DC in the Mini-series department. Between the 800 movie-character-related ones and the general push to feature secondary characters more in mini-series than in their own monthly books, there’s some really good stuff coming out. I was totally shocked by how much I’m enjoying the 4-issue She-Hulks (Harrison Wilcox, Ryan Stegman) series that either just wrapped up or is about to (I’ve read the first three). Pretty “fun” superhero type stuff. Jen “Original She Hulk” Walters is put in charge of Lyra the new-ish “Savage” She Hulk, who can now turn into a human looking person and goes to high school. It’s very much in the vein of DC’s Batgirl or the Jimmy Palmiotti/Amanda Conner Power Girl stuff from a year or so ago. I also really enjoyed the recently wrapped up 5-issue Avengers Prime (Brain Bendis/Alan Davis) series which had Mr. Captain Sir Steve Rogers, Thor and Iron Man stuck in the nine realms (that’s some Thor, Asgard-y shit) trying to find their way home. Another really straightforward, really fun stand-alone super hero story that’s well written and looks amazing. I’ve been pretty intimidated by years of Captain America mythology, so I’ve pretty much only read Captain America in mini-series form lately. I really enjoyed Steve Rogers: Super Soldier (Ed Brubaker/Dale Eaglesham), which I imagine is in or close to being in trade format at this point. Steve Rogers sneaks around, and robots wear masks. It’s pretty great. I’m also always a sucker for “I’m from the past! Man, the future sure is craaazy!” stories, so I’m also enjoying the current Captain America: Man Out of Time (Mark Waid/Jorge Molina). IF I have one complaint, it’s that it’s pretty tough to tell the awesome from the awful, at least on first sight. For instance, do you really expect me to pick up a fucking Taskmaster (Fred Van Lente/Jefte Palo) series?! I mean, I surely fucking didn’t, but I hear it’s amazing.
Anyway, yeah, Marvel comics are amazing. Fuck you.