A year ago, the other editors and I here at the site did a series of articles in response to another site’s declaration of what was the best at that very moment. The timing was pretty decent, as we’d just about hit the halfway point in the year anyway (on the road to making our yearly Best Of lists), so it made a fair deal of sense for us to divide and conquer with a few lists.
And then we decided to do it again. So here we are, with me in the Marvel hot seat, breaking down what are the ten best Marvel books coming out right now.
As an aside (and to break the rules of this article series, much to the chagrin of the other editors who will follow me), I do feel the need to make the following note: Marvel has a lot of good comics right now. It was actually fairly hard to whittle it down. Things like the consistently underrated “Iron Man,” the rather hilarious “Deadpool” and the incredibly witty “Loki, Agent of Asgard” all felt like they deserved mentions, as well as a dozen brand new titles that have hit the scene like “Elektra” or “All-New Ghost Rider.” A few of these picks came down to literally the flip of a coin, because that’s how you put together a professional column.
But alas. There can be only 10, and they are as follow:
10. Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Steve Lieber
Why It Made the List: Perhaps one of the more unexpected pleasures of comic book reading as of late, “Superior Foes” is a book with a bad title and an amazing premise. Following the lives of a bunch of cruddy B- and C-Rate villains, the book manages to be both incredibly endearing and rather hilarious, with wonderfully expressive and inventive artwork to boot. Putting together Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber, both creators feel very much at home in the book cracking wise and pulling off bawdy humor. It’s very much the kind of book that younger audiences could read and realize why it’s fun to read comics, especially when they star characters you never knew you cared so much about.
Now, I should note: if this book had a) come out on time and b) hadn’t featured two issues with randomly different teams telling not-so-great anthology stories, the series would be much higher on the list. What Spencer and Lieber are doing together is great. It’s a book that definitely needs to get its act together a bit more, but when it comes out proper it fires on all cylinders.
9. Fantastic Four
Written by James Robinson
Art by Leonard Kirk
Why It Made the List: Jonathan Hickman’s extended run on the Fantastic Franchise left incredibly big shoes to fill, and perhaps that’s why all things considered the follow-up run by Fraction and Friends felt a bit lackluster. However, no sooner did Fraction leave than Robinson and Kirk arrived to pick up the torch and just run with it, and it is magnificent.
The new run of “Fantastic Four” works so incredibly well for two reasons. For one, it honors both what came before (in the immediacy, as well as in the distant past). For two, it very much pushes the team forward at rocket speed. No sooner did Robinson and Kirk take over that the team went through a few cataclysmic changes, and while some of it surely feels like the sort of comic book thing that will just be undone soon enough it is never the less compelling. That’s the highest praise I can give the book: it’s wonderfully compelling.
It’s a story about a heroic family and the trials and tribulations that they have to overcome. The trials are great, surely, but I can’t wait to see how they overcome it.
8. Avengers Undercover (formerly known as Avengers Arena)
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Kev Walker
Why It Made the List: Sparking a bit of controversy with its original incarnation, I think it’s absolutely fair to say that whatever nefarious purpose you may think “Avengers Arena” was created under, the result was great. It was an intense book, rather raw at times but never the less solid and entertaining, and the continuation in “Undercover” has not dropped the ball yet. It’s dark, almost impossibly so, but that it continues on where other teen-related books do not certainly says something for the longevity of this story.Continued below
(Which, mind you, is not to knock the wonderful recent series of “Young Avengers.” They’re different books, assuredly, and I quite like both.)
“Undercover” hits a different nerve than other books coming out at this time, perhaps one that is more raw but never the less speaks to a particular generation. Perhaps Hopeless and I are just born from the same cloth in this instance, but the way that he writes the characters features a voice that I can surprisingly relate to in their angst. I compared “Arena” to a Whedon show some time ago, and that’s never the less true for “Undercover” — and as long as Kev Walker is illustrating this I will happily recommend every issue.
7. Amazing Spider-Man (formerly known as Superior Spider-Man)
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos
Why It Made the List: You know, it’s interesting. When “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 came out, I derided it and didn’t put “Superior” on my pull. But when curiosity (stubbornness?) got the better of me, I not only found that I quite enjoyed “Superior” a lot, but that I’d argue it was better than what Slott was doing with “Amazing.” And now, here we are with a new “Amazing,” and there is literally no insane place that Slott could take us that I wouldn’t eagerly follow (see: Spider-Verse).
Dan Slott is the perfect person to be writing Spider-Man, because it’s clear that he cares about it all so much more than you or I do. I think that says a lot to his credit, really; I grew up with “Spider-Man” comics and the character will always be near and dear to my heart, but it is so clear to me with every issue of “Spider-Man” by Slott that I read that Slott cares more — and that’s what I think sells the book the most. Slott cares; there is nothing he won’t do, no limit he won’t push Peter to. He’s the only one that can do it anymore.
The kid gloves are off and long gone. Slott on Spider-Man forever.
6. Miles Morales: the Ultimate Spider-Man (formerly known as Ultimate Spider-Man)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez
Why It Made the List: Humorously enough, Ultimate Spider-Man rates higher on this list than the original Amazing Spider-Man! Why? It’s a touch inexplicable, really. Part of it comes down to a flip of a coin, part of it comes down to personal attachment and the rest of it comes from just the two books being wildly different. But this much is clear: as much as Slott writes an amazing Peter Parker, I think Bendis writes a very inspirational Miles Morales.
I’m a big fan of Miles, and I’m a big fan of what he ostensibly represents. It’s an unfair burden to be placed upon him as a character, that’s for sure, and I will even relent that the criticism I’ve seen of Miles is often fair. But to me, Miles is by far the biggest step in the right direction that we’ve seen at Marvel in a long time. He’s a legacy hero, he’s a character that exists within a more modern and real world than Peter and he’s something that I think everyone can aspire to. He has had it very rough since his inception, and his situation is often unenviable, but that we are shown a young character who can overcome tremendous hardship is a plus.
“Miles Morales: the Ultimate Spider-Man” is just that: the ultimate Spider-Man. We’ve had quite some time to spend with Miles, and I can’t wait to see what this new chapter has in store for him.
5. Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona
Why It Made the List: There are few books on the stands today that feel as special as “Ms. Marvel” does. It’s amazing to me that this book exists, honestly, and that it is so good seems like a fringe benefit. If I look back at comics five, or even ten years ago, I don’t think I would see anything quite like this on the stands. You’d see things that maybe had the same aspirations, but nothing as bold as this book. And yet it’s 2014, and here it is: one of the most progressive books on the market today.Continued below
If nothing else, I think Marvel has gone above and beyond in trying to improve its line. It can’t please everyone, that’s for sure, but that they frequently try new things really makes their motto (Marvel: Your Universe) stand out to me. Kamala Khan is very much like Miles, in that she brings to the table something that the other heroes can not of their own accord — and I’ve been so excited to read every issue, to see the gorgeous, gorgeous artwork by Adrian Alphona bring the lush and exciting world of Kamala to life.
4. Captain Marvel
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by David Lopez
Why It Made the List: There are two certainties in life: I will always like Carol Danvers, and I will always read Kelly Sue comics. That her run on “Captain Marvel” got extended to a second volume and thrown into space is only a benefit.
I wrote about “Captain Marvel” a bit a couple weeks ago, and there’s a bit that I’d like to reprint here because it sums up my thoughts pretty succinctly:
With Kelly Sue’s “new” Carol Danvers, the comic industry was given something we perhaps didn’t even consciously know we needed: a character to rally behind, a cultural icon and symbol for us to point towards as a sign of change — and there was Kelly Sue spearheading it all wonderfully, honestly and earnestly. Carol Danvers and Kelly Sue were both the heroes we deserved and needed, and that’s not changed one iota.
Yup, that about covers it.
3. Secret Avengers
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Michael Walsh
Why It Made the List: If you’re not reading “Secret Avengers,” then I don’t know what to tell you. That seems like the least intelligent or objective thing to say in this piece, but it’s true. Since its original incarnation as a Brubaker/Deodato joint, “Secret Avengers” has always been a rather subversive take on the traditional “Avengers” formula. But now, with the latest volume spearheaded by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh (after a rather great clean-up arc by Walsh that ended Nick Spencer’s run), this book has become something else.
“Secret Avengers” is pretty much what makes comics great. It’s very rare that you get a book from a creative team that so clearly gets each others quirks in a mainstream series, but such is the case here: Walsh and Kot were born to work with one another, and what they’re doing with this book is pretty much everything that I love about the current iteration of Marvel Comics and all of its indiefication. Whoever thought to put this series together in the first place was rather genius, and if the change between volumes 2 and 3 is any indication of how crazy this book can get from here on out, I’m ready to buckle up tight and enjoy the ride.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja and Annie Wu
Why It Made the List: “Hawkeye” is the book that surprised no one, and I mean that in the best of ways. When it was announced that Matt Fraction would once again be teaming up with David Aja for a solo-Avenger series, I don’t think it was a major shock to anyone that it was great. When it evolved and split into basically two books in one, I still don’t think anyone was shocked that it was great. And why should it? Creators at the top of their game writing a character that they clearly enjoy messing around with, all in a big homage to some of the best cinema there ever was? It’s literally a formula for greatness.
But what really made the book special is that, despite all this, it still managed to surprise. “Hawkeye” would throw the most random curveballs out of nowhere, with special hurricane issues, a book from the perspective of a dog, a children’s cartoon issue and more. It’s a book that had some kind of definition, but yet refused to be defined by one thing at the same time. That’s hard for a book at a company like Marvel to do, but the powers that be clearly showed a lot of faith in the series and have continued to show a lot of faith in the series. Its given us some of the best Marvel comics of the past few years, but most importantly it set a brand new standard at Marvel — and just about every great thing we see at the company today is a result of Hawkeye.Continued below
Now, that said, “Hawkeye” is the book most people would probably suspect for #1. It’s a fair assumption, as it is a critical darling. However, I’ll say this: “Hawkeye” can have its top spot back when it comes out on time, and in order. Yeah.
So what gets #1?
1. Thor, the God of Thunder
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic
Why It Made the List: “Thor, the God of Thunder” by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic is the best Marvel comic currently coming out. I’ve not one doubt in my mind about that.
When Marvel NOW! was announced and all the relaunches and all that hoopla, there is only one book in the entirety of the announcements that was met by unabashed excitement. For all the pitches and all the creative teams, only one seemed outright perfect — and lo and behold, it was. What Ribic and Aaron have done together on the book is nothing short of epic, and that’s a used that’s misused so much these days that it basically has no meaning. Yet the extended 12 issues of “Godbomb” was some perfect comics mayhem, with literally one of the biggest pay-offs we’ve seen in years. And what has followed, Dark World tie-ins and all, continues to show that these two make a perfect pair for bringing the mighty God of Thunder to life.
Marvel has redefined itself in the past few years as a company that takes chances and is quick to snatch up Image creators as soon as it can, and that’s fair. For every “Hawkeye,” you get an equally exciting “Secret Avengers,” and so on and so forth.
But there is nothing like “Thor, God of Thunder.” This is a book that is both representative of what used to make Marvel great and what makes Marvel great today, because Aaron and Ribic know how to make it rain.
Forever may they reign.