Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
As you’ve probably heard by now, Avengers and New Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman has now set about ending the Marvel Universe(s) in his new mega-crossover event, Secret Wars. Spilling out both his titles, along with the merged prologue Avengers: Time Runs Out, the main Marvel Universe (Earth-616), and the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), will literally collide during “The Final Incursion” as the last two remaining Earths left in the Multiverse. This will result in a world comprised of patchwork realities called Battleworld. Already infamous in the comic book community for his mind-bending sci-fi, Hickman’s long game of universe-killing definitely needs some explaining, but before we dive into that, it’s time to say goodbye to the world that will no longer be. Marvel’s most recent relaunch, dubbed “All-New Marvel NOW!” boasted some of the most inventive and exciting series yet in their repertoire, so it’s only fitting that at the onset of the destruction of everything we’ve ever loved about Marvel, we count down our favorites from the most recent incarnation. Some may live to see Marvel past Secret Wars, some have already been condemned to cancellation, and others still face an uncertain future, but they are all definitely worth any Marvel fan’s attention. Aside from Hickman’s forays into universal dissolution, here are our top eleven favorite series from Marvel’s most recent line, because this is simply too big a deal for ten.
11. Rocket Raccoon
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Skottie Young
Don’t be fooled, this is only at the bottom due to its newness compared to the other entries on this list, but that hasn’t stopped Rocket Raccoon from taking the comics world by storm. Under the direction of relative newcomer Skottie Young, Rocket’s time off from the Guardians of the Galaxy consists of bumming around in space with Groot, fighting off an army of his vengeful ex-girlfriends, and other extraterrestrial adventures that involve shooting large guns. Featuring the most violent, foul-mouthed woodland creature this side of Squirrel Girl, Rocket Raccoon is an absolutely hilarious ride with everyone’s favorite Guardian. Eat your heart out, Star Lord.
10. All-New X-Factor
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Cancelled after a mere 20 issues due to low sales in the face of Secret Wars, Peter David’s latest take on his X-team of choice was the sleeper hit X-fans didn’t know they needed until it was gone. Here was an X-book that didn’t need to bring anyone back from the past or kill anyone off to stay interesting. This time around, the rights to X-Factor have been bought by the mysterious Serval Industries, and they’ve hired Polaris to form the first corporate-sponsored superhero team. This just happens to feature oft-ignored favorites like Quicksilver, Gambit, and Warlock. A smart, witty take on corporate espionage coupled with solid character dynamics,fast-paced action, and android romance (?!!??!!), All-New X-Factor was truly in its own class of X-book. Here’s hoping it gets the second chance it deserves, and soon.
9. Silver Surfer
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Mike Allred
From the guy who brought you Spider-Men both Superior and Amazing, comes the latest take on the Silver Surfer. No longer tormented by his past as Galactus’ Herald, Norrin Radd is now free to cruise the universe as a positive force… until he’s captured by the Never Queen and informed that he has to go to Earth and collect the most important person in his life. Who is that, you ask? Why, it’s Dawn Greenwood, who he’s never met before in his life but now apparently is about to eat the most important lunch in the universe. Taking cues from Doctor Who and Cowboy Bebop, Dawn and the Surfer resolve to explore the universe together and discover all it has to offer, bouncing dry wit off each other at the speed of light. With a bold, fresh take on the Surfer Mythos and a galaxy drawn by the great Mike Allred, there’s little reason to not jump on board.
8. Captain Marvel
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artists: David Lopez, Marcio Takara
Kelly Sue DeConnick is back with Earth’s Mightiest Hero, but this time the party’s just too big for Earth, so Carol blasts off into space to take on some galactic-level threats. Don’t fret though. The terrific supporting cast from DeConnick’s first run is still very much present, and though we miss Carol Danver’s badass mohawk, it’s hardly worth complaining about while she punches alien dinosaurs and tyrannical overlords in the face. There are also some team-ups with the Guardians of the Galaxy (and even more with Rocket Raccoon) for good measure, and she’s got a cat named Chewie who’s secretly an alien and mother to hundreds of space cats, because we’ve all been there, right? Like the previous two space titles, there’s a humorous slant, but DeConnick’s unashamedly feminine wit makes it all her own, and with this relaunch even the naysayers may finally join the Carol Corps.
7. All-New X-Men
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen
Sure, bringing back the teen versions of the original five X-Men is a little redundant when you have one of the largest pools of awesome characters to work with. Sure, time travel is a bit overused in X-Men stories. Sure, there was a fiasco involving accidental bi-erasure in issue #40 and we’re still trying to sort that one out. The fact remains, only the most devout X-Men hater can deny All-New X-Men is a great series. One of the few titles to touch on both sides of the Schism, Brian Michael Bendis injects new life into familiar faces, and the young X-Men come out quite different from the versions we’re used to. The shock of “WOW IT’S THE FUTURE AND EVERYTHING’S CHANGED” doesn’t overstay its welcome, and their reactions to their current selves are actually heartfelt, even tragic moments. Even though the cast or even the premise isn’t exactly “All-New,” this is a series we’ll likely not see again, making it a must-read for any X-fan.
6. Black Widow
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Phil Noto
Bummed that Black Widow keeps getting shortchanged in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Rejoice, for Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto have answered your prayers and then some. Wisely focusing on Nat’s activities outside of Avengers and Secret Avengers, Widow’s first true solo title zeroes in on the darkness surrounding her history, and the cold-blooded killer she has become. Seeking atonement for her time as a KGB assassin, Nat covertly travels the globe, bringing down the world’s deadliest crime syndicates from the inside while crossing paths with Marvel mainstays like Punisher, Hawkeye, and even X-23 along the way. Edmondson’s writing is razor sharp, and Uncanny X-Force alumni Phil Noto is the perfect artist to capture Widow’s dark, mysterious allure. Black Widow is one of the best spy-thriller comics in recent memory, and if this doesn’t convince people she deserves her own movie, we don’t know what will.
5. Moon Knight
Writers: Warren Ellis, Brian Wood
Artists: Declan Shalvey, Greg Smallwood
Anyone who didn’t believe Moon Knight could ever be cool got quite a shock when Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey stepped up to the plate. Their six-issue stint on Moon Knight brought a healthy mix of psychological horror and detective noir to balance out the insanity that is Marc Spector, and the current team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood have successfully kept that dark energy alive. This time, Marc is back in New York, operating as both private detective “Mr. Knight” to freely interact with the police, as well as his traditional “Moon Knight” alias when the situation requires more unconventional methods. This series also dares to call Moon Knight’s entire persona into question, wondering aloud if Marc really is empowered by the Egyptian God Khonshu or if that’s just another part of his bent psyche. Celebrating Marc Spector’s dark, twisted mind with stories and an atmosphere to match, Moon Knight doesn’t just overcome the fringe character stigma. It beats it to death with a crowbar.
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn
Deadpool. The man. The merc. The mouth. Marvel’s number-one cult hero and internet darling never quite had a series stand out from the pack before Gerry Duggan and stand-up comedian/professional metal nerd Brian Posehn got ahold of him. Where past creative teams chose the “crazy for crazy’s sake” approach, Duggan and Posehn opted to slip in some emotional beats into Wade Wilson’s unfiltered insanity, delving into who killed his parents and even the daughter he never knew he had (*gasps*). And if you’re worried that means Deadpool’s infamous, 4th Wall-shattering hilarity has dwindled, fear not, for the first arc involved S.H.I.E.L.D. hiring him to kill the evil reanimated versions of former U.S. Presidents. Yeah, that happened. It was beautiful. From dishing out 70s Kung Fu with Luke Cage and Iron Fist, to teaching young X-Man Genesis how to control to destructive power inside him, the latest run of Deadpool is the regaling tale of bloody murder and batshit lunacy we’ve been craving. Have your chimichangas handy.
3. Ms. Marvel
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
If you haven’t heard of Kamala Khan yet, we feel sorry for you. We really do. Spilling out of the crossover event Inhumanity, Kamala was your average Jersey City Muslim teenager until she was exposed to the Terrigen Mists after a costume party. Sensing her adoration for Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) the Mists left her in an updated version of Carol’s costume as Ms. Marvel, while also granting her powers including shape-shifting, size alteration, and superhuman elongation and flexibility. Inspired by Carol’s example and her newfound abilities, Kamala now fights crime in Jersey City as the new Ms. Marvel, while also dealing with the constant friction between her Muslim upbringing and her self-identification as a Jersey City girl. Besides sporting one of the few Muslim superheroines in all of comics written by an actual Muslim woman, Kamala’s brand of dry wit and inner fangirl have resonated strongly with readers, and we can’t wait to see where her story goes next.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Honestly, if you want to fully experience the awesomeness of Mark Waid’s Daredevil, you need to go back to the 2012 series when Matt Murdock was still hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen. After revealing his identity as Daredevil and being disbarred in the state of New York at the end of Waid’s first run, Matt and partner in crime/law Kirsten McDuffie move to San Francisco in an attempt at a fresh start for both Daredevil and Matt Murdock’s law career. Aside from the astounding art by Chris Samnee that cleverly demonstrates how Matt’s blindness translates to his crime-fighting, Waid’s take on Daredevil stands out by having Matt fight his inner demons with positivity, resulting in one of the most realistic portrayals of a person’s struggle with depression in recent comics’ history. Kirsten is also a welcome addition to the cast, as her sly humor and take-no-bullshit attitude is a far cry from the overly victimized women of Matt’s past. With the unrelenting bleakness of past runs long behind him, this is truly a bold new start for The Man Without Fear, and one that will likely be talked about for years to come.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hawkeye frequently gets written off as “That Guy With the Arrows,” but in the comics… it’s pretty much the same. That is until Matt Fraction and David Aja were called in to revitalize the character, turning Hawkeye into one of Marvel’s best comics of the past few years and the highmark of the All-New Marvel NOW! relaunch. This series actually follows both Hawkeyes Clint Barton and young protegé Kate Bishop as they fight off the deadly crime syndicate terrorizing their apartment building. And by deadly crime syndicate, we mean Russian guys in tracksuits who end every sentence with “bro.” Here we have two heroes who have no problem stealing from the richest crime families in New York in the pursuit of rent money, who sometimes get distracted and forget to label their trick arrows at crucial moments, and don’t always get away clean from their near-compulsive heroism. The perfect mix of arrow-filled action and offbeat humor, Hawkeye is the definitive series on Marvel’s top archer, setting the standard for all Marvel solo titles hereafter.