In October 2012, Marvel Comics relaunched several of their ongoing titles under the banner of Marvel NOW! They also began introducing new titles into the mix. Today, Marvel NOW! is in its second wave, and with so much flux, how do we know what’s good and what’s bad? Here’s a list of what we think you should be reading from the past two years of Marvel Comics.
Written by HADEN BLACKMAN/ Art by MIKE DEL MUNDO
What It Is: Elektra made her debut in Daredevil (vol. 1) #168. Her tragic and shadowed past has seen her by Daredevil’s side and as one of his fiercest enemies. Blackman separates Elektra from her Daredevil roots to focus on what drives Elektra Natchios to be an assassin. There’s plenty of bloodshed, but the focus is the effect Elektra’s life has had on her psyche.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: The comic book world needs more strong heroines and that is exactly what you get in this series. The combination of Blackman’s intensely psychological character development with Del Mundo’s ability to mix concrete images with fluid, surreal backgrounds makes this comic a double threat. You’ll find yourself fiercely interested in Elektra’s story and wanting to read each issue multiple times to catch all the detail presented in the artwork.
2. Black Widow
Written by NATHAN EDMONDSON/ Art by PHIL NOTO
What It Is: Natasha Romanov focuses on her life outside of the Avengers in this comic. When she’s not battling super villains, she does side jobs set up by a personal assistant. She’s motivated to better the world by eliminating these clandestine threats, but she also has her own selfish reasons.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: The great thing about Marvel NOW! is the surprising amount of strong female solo books. While choosing Black Widow as the second best may seem like a popular choice more than a critical one, the content will prove the point. If you don’t jump on this title because it’s too mainstream or you can’t stand Scarlett Johansson, you’re missing out. Edmondson has done an excellent job of connecting with Black Widow’s past as established in The Avengers movie, yet he still finds an unique, emotional, and action-packed story. Noto’s art is exquisite, and he does a superb job of removing Black Widow from the mainstream image. Every aspect of this comic focuses on what makes Black Widow so interesting: her past and future colliding.
3. Thor: God of Thunder
Written by JASON AARON/ Art by ESAD RIBIC
What It Is: Thor kicks ass through space, time, and on his beloved Midgard. Aaron has placed Thor against all types of threats including the extinction of gods, a war with the dark elves, and some epic threats to the safety of Earth.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: Jason Aaron has redefined Thor in this series. From the very beginning, Thor has experienced challenges that have uncovered his past, present, and future in a way that no other author has attempted with the character. Thor may be an Avenger, but he’s more interesting here than in any other comic. Thor: God of Thunder is truly a character-defining run.
4. Avengers Arena/Avengers Undercover
Written by DENNIS HOPELESS/ Art by KEV WALKER
What It Is: When D-List super-villain Arcade kidnaps a bunch of super powered teens and recreates Battle Royale, the consequences are numerous. Heroes die, become villains, and are faced with character defining moments at every turn in Avengers Arena. As a continuation of Avengers Arena, Avengers Undercover continues to place the surviving super teens into gritty, difficult, redefining moments as the group takes on an entire team of super villains.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: Hopeless has done an amazing job of killing characters or altering how we see the character in a way that the initial outrage is overshadowed by the emotional character development. As a whole, these issue will make you love and hate characters that you may not have cared about before. That was what was great about Vaughn’s run on Runaways, and it’s what Hopeless builds on in a way that is all his own with these two series.
5. All-New X-Men
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS/ Art by STUART IMMONEN
What It Is: Upset about the downward spiral Cyclops is on, Hank McCoy travels to the past and brings the Original X-Men into the future. While usually a methodical thinker, McCoy’s actions have multiple ramifications that put the future of all X-Men in jeopardy.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: At a time when Marvel was really playing the time travel aspect pretty hard, Bendis found a way to meld two generations of X-Men together in a way that is completely natural. Readers will find that while the overall premise may be hard to stomach, each story arc brings new possibilities and a freshness to the X-Men that had been missing in previous runs.
6. Ms. Marvel
Written by G. WILLOW WILSON/ Art by ADRIAN ALPHONA
What It Is: Kamala Khan is a young Muslim girl who wants to make her traditional parents proud, yet aspires to be more than her heritage and beliefs will allow. She’s caught in the Terrigan Mist explosion that turned humans into super beings. Now with shape-shifting powers, Kamala tries to manage being a superhero and a devoted daughter.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: Diversity is a characteristic that is very rarely well expressed in comics. By taking an angsty, confused, teenage Muslim girl and turning her world upside down with superpowers, Kamala has to face her new found responsibility in a fresh, new way. This series redefines the role of Ms. Marvel in a way that is so refreshing and original that it should be a constant on everyone’s pull list.
Written by CULLEN BUNN/ Art by GABRIEL HERNANDEZ WALTA
What It Is: Magneto leaves Scott Summers’ team of mutants behind to embark on his own mission–destroy threats to mutant kind with his own brand of justice.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: It’s been a long time since Magneto has had a chance to shine as either a hero or villain. In this series, Magneto leaves Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men behind to act as a detective and executioner. Bunn balances the perfect amount of mystery, violence, and grit into the series to springboard Magneto back into the vengeance seeking, badass role he has always been meant to play.
8. Superior Spider-Man/Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2
Written by DAN SLOTT/ Art by RYAN STEGMAN & HUMBERTO RAMOS
What It Is: Peter Parker falls victim to a devious scheme perpetrated by the dying Dr. Octopus. With his success, Doc Ock redefines what it means to be Spider-Man and turns Peter’s world upside-down. However, Peter faces the challenge head on and reclaims his mantel. In doing so, Peter has to face a world that doesn’t accept Spider-Man or Peter Parker like they used to.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: Dan Slott came up against a lot of criticism for his story line that led to Superior Spider-Man, yet it was an original, exciting, and unexpected series. The events of Superior Spider-Man paved the way for a new Peter Parker era. No matter how much one might dislike the journey, Slott’s stories in these two titles breathed new life into a classic character.
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN/Art by JEROME OPENA & ESAD RIBIC
What It Is: Tony Stark decides to make the Avengers bigger by adding more members. In doing so, they can face bigger, cosmic threats. And boy have they. To date the new team of Avengers have faced world terraforming aliens, the Builder’s who arguably constructed the universe, and Thanos.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: Hickman has brought the Avengers into such a large, complex world with this series. While some turn away from it because of its massive scope and its slow development, it is for those exact reasons that Avengers stands apart. Sure, you might have to read an entire story arc to get what’s happening, and even then you might have to re-read it, but it’s a series that will challenge your preconceptions of the team and make you think outside the box. Opena and Ribic’s art make it easy to return to these stories over and over again. They are elite artists for an elite, challenging book.
10. Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Written by NICK SPENCER/ Art by STEVE LEIBER
What It Is: Several of Spider-Man’s B and C list villains band together to reform the Sinister Six (minus a sixth member). At the head of the group is Boomerang. As he tries to dodge his parole officer, The Chameleon, and the watchful eyes of his teammates, Boomrang bumbles his way through various heists and schemes.
The Reason Why It’s So Good: This series is one that many may initial pass over because of the central line up. Boomerang, Beetle, Overdrive, Shocker, and Speed Demon aren’t really headliner villains. It is this quality, however, that makes this series so entertaining. It’s a classic misfit being misunderstood setup, however, the lack of chemistry within the team results in some hilarious moments. Spencer and Lieber use a clear sense of humor as they develop the hijinks of the new Sinister Six that is refreshing.
Do you agree with our list? What books from Marvel NOW! are you reading and suggest we include? Let us hear from you in the comments below!