So first off, I’d like to apologize for being away for so long. I’d like to say I got distracted (which is true, and we are about to get into that), but the main reason I didn’t finish my Rebels reviews was because honestly the mass amount of spoilers kind of ruined the end of the season for me. Now that I’ve removed myself from that by a few months, I plan to go back and rewatch those episodes, and hopefully post something insightful about them. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, I was telling you about how I got distracted.
It was November 2014, when Marvel announced their next major event: Secret Wars. I thought to myself “oh neat, one day I should get around to reading some more comics”. I’ve always been a casual fan of the Marvel Universe; this was mostly due to the MCU movies but I also read all kinds of Spider-Man back in high school. This event, however, seemed like something new. “Universes will die, new worlds will be born”. My reactions went something like this:
Wow. Mainstream comics are still super “comic book”, aren’t they. Universes will die. So dramatic. Wait… what’s Battleworld? Wait, they are literally destroying the universe? The main universe? AND the Ultimate universe? How the hell is anyone going to survive that? What happens to all of the normal people who aren’t super heroes? Are there two Aunt Mays now? What? How the hell are they going to resolve this?
And it continued on like that in my head for weeks until I finally caved and had to start reading Marvel comics. Whatever team they have that designed that pitch to get new readers really knocked it out of the park with me. That all said, comics is a HUGE field, and I had no idea where to start. When I picked up my first issue, I had no idea the path I was setting myself on. What follows will essential be my journey through the Marvel* Universe.
*And also Batgirl.
Very slight spoilers ahead. I don’t plan on giving away any major plot points, because I’d really love for anyone who is interested in these books to read them, and let me know what you think!
Why I read it: I’ve always preferred female protagonists to male ones, and the fact that she was a Pakistani Muslim super hero was just too cool. This book marked the line where I thought “Maybe mainstream comics are starting to diversify a little. I should really give them a shot”.
This book has been a non-stop joyride since day one. I think my favorite thing about Kamala Khan is that she, at her heart, is a super-hero nerd just like us. We open to find her literally writing Avengers fanfiction. Kamala’s story is littered with guest appearances by characters crossing over from other books, and every time we get to see her genuinely fan-girl out. Not only is it adorable, it’s refreshing. So many super heroes are just miserable about their lot in life, but Kamala Khan is having none of that. Sure it’s difficult. She struggles with her family and with her faith. But at the end of the day, Kamala loves being a hero.
I was really excited by the story of Cindy Moon because it stemmed directly from one of my favorite Amazing Spider-Man stories which started with Transformations, Literal & Otherwise. When I learned that Cindy was not only bitten by the same spider as Peter Parker but that she was then locked in the very bunker that Ezekiel Sims had built to protect Peter in, I was all in. If you want more on this, definitely go check out that run of Spider-Man, but in the meantime, back to Silk. This book takes place in the aftermath of Spider-Verse, the epic multi-dimensional Spider-Man crossover, and follows Cindy in the days after she was released from her bunker, only to find her family has moved on without leaving a trace. She’s all alone in the world, excited to be a hero, reluctant to take help from Peter, and 10 years behind. This book is heartfelt and funny, and Stacy Lee’s art on the first run is just amazing.
This book was kind of a beautiful surprise for me. Black Widow explores Natasha Romanova as a covert operative rather than and Avenger, and yet she still finds herself waging the battles of a soldier. Natasha doesn’t know exactly who she is throughout this series, and the bulk of the story is her gradually coming to terms with that. Meanwhile she is still trying to strike the red from her ledger, and make amends for past wrongs in her life. She’s a loner who finds herself in need of emotional connection just for it to be torn away from her. I really don’t want to give too much away, as much of the plot is quite subtle, but I do highly recommend this book.
Why I read it: The concept was just so fresh. Even with the Spider-Man I read as a kid, I hadn’t had too much exposure to Gwen Stacy, but the idea of a female super hero in a world where there weren’t just a million super heroes was kind of cool to me. She wouldn’t be just a spin off, but actually the main NYC super hero of that alternate world.
This book had kind of a rocky start to me. The character, of course, was introduced in the hugely popular Edge of Spider-Verse #2, and I was absolutely in love with that story. The book itself threw me a little, as I initially thought that the only difference in this world was who the spider bit. But when we also had evil Matt Murdock working for the Kingpin and Frank Castle as the chief of police, I was a little thrown. Add in the fact that her first antagonist was the Vulture, who traditionally has always bored me, I was a bit discouraged. By issue 3, however, things started to pick up, really tapping into the emotional side of Gwen and starting to feel her out a bit more as a character. Of course now they are blowing up her world, so who knows. (Side note, she’s the star of the new Secret Wars spin off Secret Wars: Spider-Verse, and so far it’s off to a great start!)
Why I read it: I really wanted more of Silk’s origin story, and this was the place to get it. Also it seemed fun, especially considering how tied in it was with that original Ezikiel/Morlun arch I loved so much.
I can’t even begin to describe the craziness of this thing. It was my first major crossover event, and let me just say, I’m VERY grateful to comixoligy for including a “next in story arch” option at the end of their issues, otherwise keeping the order of the books together would have been a nightmare. Even though Spider-Verse didn’t start until issues 8-9, it was well worth reading Amazing Spider-Man from issue #1 for the events leading up to the crossover. It established Cindy Moon’s origin, and also allowed for an adorable Spider-Man Kamala Khan crossover. Personally, I found this story to be very satisfying, and it really did its job of making me care for the other spider characters, particularly both Jessica Drews, who would both wind up being on my short list of favorite Marvel characters.
Hold up. I know Batgirl isn’t Marvel, but since she’s really the only DC book I read, and the post issue #35 run is much more colorful and fun than it had ever been, it might as well be. So in Batgirl 35, Babs wants a change of scenery after the hardships suffered in her first 34 issues, so she packs up and moves to Williamsburg. I mean Burnside. This book hits all of the points on my list for what a modern super hero comic should have: Compelling female leads, diversity, fun and engaging stories, and more time out of costume than in. Also the new costume designed by Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart is exactly what a super hero costume should be: practical, cool, simple. I actually loved Barbara Gordon so much that I went back and read Batgirl: Year One, as well as all 34 issues of the New 52 series that lead up to the current run. While Year One was great, 1-34 was not exactly what I was looking for. It had a little too much of the tortured-character grittiness that I’ve come to associate with DC books. The New 52 Birds of Prey had its enjoyable moments, but ultimately when it comes to DC, I’ll stick to the current Batgirl. This book is being heralded as a turning point for DC, and post Convergence we are supposed to usher in the age of “Quality over continuity” that the internet has dubbed the “Batgirling” of DC comics. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Why I read it: Spider-Verse had a lot of Jessica Drew, and she quickly became one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe. Also I’m in love with her new costume, which she adopted immediately after Spider-Verse.
After Spider-Verse, I quickly devoured and Spider-Woman I can find. Sadly I knew I didn’t want to delve too deeply into Avengers or Civil War, (it’s just so many books and I have to draw the line somewhere), so I started with Spider-Woman: Origin and Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., these being my first exposure to Brian Michael Bendis, whose work I would come to know and love. Both of these were a tremendous insight into the character, but it was really her fresh solo run kicking off with issue #5 that really got me. Jessica quits the Avengers and heads out on her own to try to be a street level hero and a private detective, but she’s terrible at both. Obviously she gets better fairly quickly as the issues progress, but it was such a refreshing take to see a superhero mess up so bad that she ends up in jail, and still comes out of it with good spirits. Not to mention this comic is beautiful to look at and has a relatively low-key, but very interesting plot. None of that back reading is required, you can pretty much dive right in at issue 5.
Why I read it: I’ve always liked the idea of Daredevil, but my only previous exposure was through Spider-Man crossovers and the terrible 2003 movie. I figured before the show came out (which was amazing, by the way, go watch it if you haven’t) I should probably catch up.
Daredevil probably has the highest percentage of amazing stories to bad ones than any other super hero I know of. That said, I had my work cut out for me. I started with some Frank Miller, namely Man Without Fear and Born Again, but also read Daredevil: Yellow, along with the original character defining run of Miller from Volume 1 of the series. While these were all fantastic, I would say of them, Man Without Fear and Born again were probably the best, as the others felt a little dated to me. I know that’s just my perspective, but sometimes I find the older stuff more difficult to digest. I then launched into the more contemporary run, starting with Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil. This I did not care for at all, it’s one of those few Daredevil stories that’s just…meh. Honestly it was probably largely in part to the fact that I had just finished Born Again, and Guardian just felt like a watered down, more ridiculous version of the classic. Parts of a Whole which followed immediately after was fascinating in both its art direction and story telling, and the Bendis run picked up on many of those elements. Some people say this was Bendis at his best, but I still think he puts out a ton of quality work. That said, I have yet to finish the Brubaker run that follows. I am, however, reading the current Daredevil Series, and the one that came just before it, and they are phenomenal as well. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this character.
Why I read it: Honestly, even though this comic was hailed as the greatest title Marvel had pushed out in a long time, I was never really interested. Then a coworker put a copy of the first Hawkeye Hardcover on my desk, and it changed how I looked at comics forever.
This book had more hype going for it than any comic I’d ever read, but I have to say, it lived up to every word. The book follows Clint Barton after a major injury he suffered as an Avenger, and really looks deeply into what he does when he’s not being an Avenger. Sounds simple enough, but this book is anything but simple. It’s a long, melancholy dive into the humanity of a lone hero as he faces odds that he really can’t handle by himself. He’s joined for the bulk of this ride by my absolute favorite Marvel character, Kate Bishop. She’s also Hawkeye, from a time when Hawkeye was done being Hawkeye. It’s a whole thing. While there are other books that I like just as much, this one is just the best.
This was another one of those runs from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man which branched out into a giant tie-in event for many of the NYC based Marvel heroes. The basic plot was that for some mysterious reason, normal people were waking up all across Manhattan with Spider-Man-like powers. Peter of course had to deal with this the best he could, but it quickly became a classic case of “if everyone is super, no one is”. While I did enjoy this romp through spider-infested New York, I personally liked Spider-Verse a lot more. Some of the tie-ins were really cool, but didn’t ultimately affect the plot. I had not previously encountered, for instance, Cloak and Dagger, but while their book was really well done, I couldn’t see how it really had anything to do with the story it was supposed to tie into. Spider-Girl was another one, which while the story of Anya having to work with a spider-powered kingpin to defeat the wasps that had come to wage war on the spiders, again, this didn’t factor too heavily into the major plot of Spider-Island. The Spider-Woman story was great though, and the bit about why Mary Jane was the only one getting powers did make me go “heh”.
Anya, who in later books was the new Spider-Girl, grew on me quite a bit over the course of both of the major Spider-Man events, so when I found out she officially claimed the Spider-Girl mantle and costume in the Grim Hunt story arc, I had to give it a shot. Ultimately, I’m glad I did. There was some cool stuff Kaine and Madame Web (who at the time was not yet the Julia Carpenter I knew from later, but turns out is also in the book), but as Kraven the Hunter has always kind of skeeved me out, it wasn’t my favorite overall. Definitely recommended for anyone who’s really into Spider-Man, though.
Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I haven’t finished this series yet. I really like what I’ve read. The main reason I haven’t been able to delve as heavily into this one, and I know this makes me a terrible person, is because it’s not available digitally. In fact the series itself is a really weird manga sized 3 book set printed on an almost newspaper-grade matte paper. It’s an odd set. The content is great, as it follows Anya Corazon in her origin days as Araña, the Hunter for the Spider Society. (I couldn’t believe how many spider people there were who didn’t even have anything to do with Peter Parker). She’s also half Puerto Rican and half Mexican, a fact that I would think would get her some more street cred in this age of “diversity in comics”, but it was still really hard to find her book. I really look forward to finishing this one, as I already know I love her character from her chronologically later stuff.
Why I read it: I actually read the last two runs of Secret Avengers. The first one I read because it had Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Daisy Johnson and Maria Hill, and I either read each of their solo books or watch their shows. The second run I read was that plus Jessica Drew, and had art by Michael Walsh, who had a similar style to David Aja’s Hawkeye. No brainer.
So the first run was pretty good, but also a little weird. I hadn’t read any S.H.E.I.L.D. comics previously and it took a bit of getting used to the vibe. I’m really here to talk about the most recent run, which actually just ended. The writing by Ales Kot was smart, quick, and fun. The books were action packed but also knew when to slow it down and just have quiet and often absurd moments with the characters. Highly recommended, even without context.
All New Hawkeye
Why I read it: Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, is one of the two greatest sharpshooters known to man. He’s also an Avenger. Kate Bishop, a.k.a. Hawkeye, is the other one. Some might say the better one. This is what they do when they do what they do best. So really, what’s not to want to read?
This book is only two issues in, so I don’t have much to say about it other than that it’s a pretty good sequel to the original Hawkeye so far. It seems to be told half through flashback, which are done in beautiful watercolors, which are a stark contrast of the normal hard lines the last book was famous for. The first story hasn’t resolved yet, but so far its just Clint and Kate, fighting Hydra, and it’s a blast.
Why I read it: I actually read the origin of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man before going back to read the full run, mainly because he was announced as being in the post Secret Wars title All New, All Different Avengers, which I was interested in because Kamala Khan made the new team. Before moving on the the most recent Miles book, I decided to go back and read the full run.
So Ultimate Spider-Man from start to finish was one of the best comic runs I’ve ever read. The modernized retelling of Peter Parker’s origin had so much going for it that made me like it right up from, including but not limited to the fact that Mary Jane knew he was Spider-Man very early on. This quashed the normal dynamic that usually drives me crazy in most Spider-Man books. Just about every element of this run was great. While the Ultimate Universe wasn’t my favorite all around, everything about it from the very public face of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the particular brand of racism towards the Ultimate mutants played really well through all of the characters in this book. The new Clone Saga, while holding the name of one of the worst runs of Spider-Man ever made, was handled well, and was contained within a single trade. It also introduced my favorite Ultimate character, Ultimate Jessica Drew. While she was still Spider-Woman over here, she had an entirely different story. Here she’s the female clone of Peter Parker. She still has all of the memories and feelings of a very male Peter Parker, and this makes her an interesting spin on a transgender character. She’s also pretty amazing in her heart and conviction, and plays a giant role for Miles Morales later on. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but the final run of USM before Miles came on the scene was some of the best written most emotional comics I had ever read.
I also read Ultimatum, which came between the two Peter Parker runs near the end, but decided not to get too into it here. You can google it if you don’t believe me, but this is the worst thing I’ve ever read. Ugh so bad. Luckily it’s over quickly and we’re back to Spider-Man.
Sadly it wasn’t that great. I really like the team, which consists of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Jessica Drew who now goes by Black Widow, Kitty Pryde, Cloak and Dagger, and Bombshell. I still love them all. I love them as a team. Sadly the writing isn’t great, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the art wasn’t some of the worst I’ve seen in a comic. The best scene in this book for me was when all of the girls took a well deserved break and take a beach day, and they talk about their romantic lives. Sounds cheesy I know, but there’s a really nice Jessica Drew moment here. I don’t want to spoil it, but sadly that’s about the only thing I liked about the story. The covers are beautiful, though.
This book starts of with an emotional and beautiful scene that I wouldn’t get into the details of without spoilers, but I can say that here we see Miles a year later and a much more confident Spider-Man. This book is finally the Miles that I wanted out of his first run. My favorite things about this current series is how Miles interacts with all of the people from Peter’s life. MJ, Gwen, even Aunt May are all huge supporting characters. There’s not much I can say about this book without major spoilers, but I can say the book leads right into the beginning of Secret Wars. It’s pretty intense.
These next few I actually read all roughly at the same time, because as it turns out, they crossover a fair amount.
All New X-Men
Why I read it: I actually realized how much I loved reading Kitty Pryde in Ultimate Spider-Man, and I also felt like it was about time I read a current X-Men. Bendis hadn’t let me down yet, so I figured this was a great place to start.
I’ve also always been a fan of crazy time travel stories. In this book, after the mutant world has gone to hell with Cyclops at the reins, Ice Man cracks the joke “The Scott we grew up with- he would hate this.” Beast of course jumps to the conclusion that he could arrange that. He travels into the past and convinces the original X-Men team of him, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel and Ice Man to come back with him to the future where they can see the world for what it is and hopefully change the outcome. This…doesn’t quite work out. The events of this book spin wildly out of control, crossing over with X-Men from further into the future, with the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the Uncanny X-Men, and even with the Ultimate Universe. The events of this book also contribute directly (in part) with the breaking of space-time that leads to the Secret Wars event.
The Guardians current run is just excellent. It has a lot of naysayers on the internet, but you know what, forget about them. This book is an absolute blast. The characters are fun and witty, the stories are big and entertaining and the guest characters are just fantastic. Cosmic Iron Man, Angela (who now has her own book, at least for now), Captain Marvel at the start of her cosmic run and even Agent Venom, who just feels right in space. Granted there could have been more of Venom, but he got some great moments here, including a visit to the Symbiote home planet. Guests aside, the team is the same as the core 5 from the movie, but around the time the movie came out the characters also got a visual overhaul to go along with it. Strangely enough it kind of worked for me. Peter Quill quickly became one of my favorite Marvel characters over the run of this book, and it’s through the crossovers that he is introduced to Kitty Pryde, and thus starts one of my favorite comic book relationships ever.
Note: I should also note that before reading Volume 4 of Guardians, which was the Original Sin tie in that explained what happened to Peter Quill in the mysterious Cancerverse, I thought it was a good idea to actually read those events for myself. It also wasn’t until around this time that I realized the current Guardians team has only been around since 2008, and I could feasibly read every book that had come out since then (and have!). So yes, I went back to read the original run for this team, and the tie ins that went along with it. I have to say that I personally like the newer run more. It seems that the events of the 2008 book were written before the people at Marvel were really sure what to do with the cosmic line, and it was all very over-the-top-comicbook, at least too much so for my tastes. A friend of mine pointed out earlier that Bendis writes a lot like Joss Whedon, which explains my love for his work and the internet’s very black and white mixed feelings on the subject. Oh well, Agree to disagree.
The Legendary Star-Lord
Why I read it: Again, largely for the crossover that was going on with X-Men. But also, again, because Kitty Pryde was in a lot of this run, and that’s two of my favorite characters in a book together.
This book gets off to, well I guess you can call it a slow start, but I still really enjoyed it. Being the Star Wars fan you all should know by now that I am, I’ve always been a fan of that space opera, alien bar, living on a spaceship kind of world to set a story in, and Star-Lord was all of that and then some. Granted it’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s just so damn fun I don’t even care.
A large chunk of this run is devoted to Black Vortex, a huge cosmic crossover between Guardians, X-Men, Cyclops, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy: Team Up and Nova. While this story wasn’t terrible, it just seemed to drag on a little too long. I mean 13 issues to tell a rather simple story is definitely just too much. That said, events of this story did permanently change certain characters in both Guardians and X-Men from this point on. It also contained a great Peter/Kitty moment that I won’t ruin in case you are going to read this one.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Team Up
Why I read it:This series was only 5 issues in at the time I started it, and I already owned issue 3 from Black Vortex. Also, like I said, I was reading everything Guardians.
This small series is simple and fun, and just consists of random side stories in which the Guardians team up with other Marvel characters. The first two issues are crossovers with the Avengers, the third is with Ronin the Accuser, the fourth is a Gamora/She-Hulk story and the fifth is Rocket joining forces with the Pet Avengers. Yes, that last one was pretty dumb. Still fun though. This is a great concept for a silly but enjoyable book, and it pays off.
It’s kind of a shame that so many new books like this are ending with Secret Wars, but we can only hope that it’ll all balance out in the end.
So yes, I’ve been busy. Between all of these books and writing a book of my own, I haven’t had the time I used to to keep the posts up. I plan to keep on myself in the future. There are still more books I’m reading now that I just didn’t feel ready to speak about yet. Marvel Universe Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon, Avengers Assemble, Young Avengers, X-23 and Elektra are a handful that I own but have yet to get around to. There are also all of the Secret Wars books currently coming out, but I’ll wait until the event is over to more accurately talk about my feelings. I have to tell you though, so far it’s not doing a whole lot for me. I will also write a separate article sometime in the near future about all of the new Marvel Star Wars books.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this list. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that these are the best comics out there at the moment, just that these are all of the books I’ve read this year, and the reasons for which I read them. If you have recommendations, please feel free to leave them. I always love an excuse to talk about comics.