I’m often called out as a DC Elitist and to counter that I’ve put together a list of the top 10 Marvel books I read on a monthly basis. Add to that the fact the number one book listed here is my favorite from the big two and hopefully the naysayers will see me differently.
I’ve always been a fan of the blind lawyer who moonlights as a devil against crime, but sometimes the devil just doesn’t get his due. Over the past few years Daredevil has shifted into a moodier more brooding version of the character that almost rivals Batman in characterization. Brian Michael Bendis took a different approach to DD by dousing him in hyper-realism and showcasing his talents in the courtroom over his skills as a vigilante. Partnered with Alex Maleev, the two created a stellar run that crafted Matt Murdock into a noir styled ninja lawyer that could really take a beating. After a brief stint possessed by a demon, the devil is back to his roots and showing the world what the man without fear is really like. Mark Waid has taken the reigns of this iconic hero and has really brought a bright spark of life back into the book. Daredevil is witty, fun, and fast-paced action that will keep you wanting more. If you like crime drama or even just a good ol’ fashioned throw-down between ninjas, then this book is right up your alley.
Oh Deadpool. The poster child for Marvel is hard to miss these days. He’s even gotten to be worse than Wolverine appearing in every book at once. It’s hard for me to really enjoy the character these days when I remember Joe Kelly’s run where he wasn’t completely bat$%@! Insane, but merely questionably insane. And yeah he talked a lot, but he never broke the fourth wall. For some reason Marvel decided that Deadpool would do much better as DC’s Ambush Bug—a witty, hyperactive fourth wall breaker. With that said, I thoroughly enjoy Deadpool MAX because it is devoid of that crap and focuses instead on Deadpool as a strange force of nature that is trying to be directed by an unlucky Hydra agent named Bob. Together, Deadpool and Hydra Bob make a gritty duo that could rival any and their dynamic blasts off of every page (especially when they blow someone up). This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you love humor and a book that doesn’t pull its punches then this is for you. Full throttle, ridiculous, over-the-top action you can’t help but salivate over.
8 ) Amazing Spider-Man
It’s been said that nobody loves Spider-Man more than Dan Slott, writer of Amazing, and I can’t really argue with that. In just a short time on Spidey, Slott has brought the webhead back to what made him cool and relatable before Joe Quesada destroyed it all in One More Day. And though we get mostly Peter’s real life and his webslinging solo action, we are not without a tether to all the other groups he’s involved with. Unifying his roles in New York, the Future Foundation, and the Avengers Slott has crafted a Spider-Man that makes sense without having to sacrifice any of the characterization that makes Peter just plain awesome to read about. We see old villains, new villains, old villains updated, and everything from sci-fi to mysticism on a regular basis while still getting our healthy dose of Peter Parker’s normal guy issues. I’m a big Spider-Man fan and I’ve always loved Peter as a character, but after One More Day there wasn’t much of Peter really left. Now, Dan Slott has changed that. My Spider-Man is back and if you ever left him for a second, then I promise you that now is the time to come back.
Greg Rucka. That’s all I’ve got to say about this book. How genius is it to put the man who wrote the most compelling and gritty Batman detective stories onto a book about a killer vigilante going after criminals and mob bosses? It’s brilliant! Rucka’s Punisher doesn’t even talk. He’s so menacing like a shadow that he doesn’t need to. By the time Frank Castle is upon you, you’re already dead. The coolest part of this narrative is that Punisher is more of an outside figure while a few police characters conduct investigations and find out information. With one of the cops being on Frank’s side, we see some amazing synergy between crime fiction and pure and simple Punisher kills the badguys before the cops even get a chance to whip out the handcuffs. Does he fight supervillains? Of course. But the best parts of this book are the grit and grime of the detective scene leading up to a date with death himself. And his name is Frank Castle.
I was not happy when they said that X-23 was a Wolverine clone. I wasn’t even stoked about the idea of another clawed hero—or even villain. But I’ll be damned if I don’t really dig the character in her solo title. X-23 has always been a stoic and often reluctant heroine who never truly fit in and her book does a great job of capturing those feelings. When she wasn’t killing things at Cyclops’ command in X-Force, she was finding out exactly what happened during her creation. Veteran X-man Gambit becomes her mentor? I didn’t see that coming considering his relationship with Wolvie. Jubilee becoming her best friend? Another unforeseen twist! And to top it all off, she just wants to die instead of being a weapon of death. Now that’s something to chew on. Instead of being a Wolverine clone, X-23 has become a living rendition of what it would have been like had Wolverine become the weapon he was meant to be. Talk about dynamism. This title is very gender friendly and often explores the idea of acting and becoming a functional woman, while maintaining the grit of a more masculine approach to both violence and human relationships. Personally, I can’t get enough of her and I’m always wondering what she’s going to go through next.
5) Uncanny X-Force
Probably the most popular book Marvel has right now, Uncanny X-Force is a dark and violent book. Touting characters like Fantomex, Psylocke, Wolverine, Deadpool, and Archangel, X-Force focuses on the idea of a hit squad to protect mutankind before an attack can be made on them first. This preemptive strike-force is covered in unapologetic bloodletting and dark humor—and I love it. If it’s not French assassin Fantomex snarking it up with Wolverine, then it’s Deadpool making severely inappropriate banter while shooting away at their enemies. Tie this all together with really interestingly well-written plot structures and you have yourself a cunning and cinematic approach to a book that could have easily become just a pile of violence and gore. Top-notch art and top-notch writing—that’s how you make a comic book stand out. Though it can often get sullied in repetitive climaxes, X-Force packs a punch that most action movies can’t replicate. You want a solid read that provides substantial text and gratuitous illustration, then this is your book. Oh and there’s violence for those of us who enjoy that too.
4) New Avengers
The golden boy Brian Michael Bendis strikes again and with this title going on for a few years now we are finally getting to see him stretch his arms a bit. Bendis has always been known as a dialogue writer who could put several characters in a room and have them chat for an entire issue while the readers laugh like they were there too. The problem was that Bendis wasn’t very action based and often left the readers feeling like nothing ever happened. Now, he’s figured it out. It seems it took a while, but Bendis has balanced his penchant for dialogue with great action sequences that are built up from strong plot structures and substantial future planning. So now we get Spider-Man making his Spidey jokes and Wolverine doing his cynical Wolvie one-liners, but we also get to see these heroes in action. Toss in spectacular artist Mike Deodato Jr. and by Odin’s beard we have a hit. Deodato nails every issue and his knack for shadows gives a level of realism to these characters that just pours off the page every time they speak a word of Bendis’ lines. This is a book you can get lost in where you really feel like these people are real and that you’re there with them. If you like ANY of the characters on the New Avengers roster, then this book will sell you in a heartbeat.
3) Daken: Dark Wolverine
I will reiterate that I didn’t think the Marvel Universe needed more clawed characters. Especially so explicitly tied to Wolverine. But what started in the Dark Avengers saga and led into his own title has literally become one of my must-reads. Daken was a character I didn’t care about at first, but grew to like as he slowly revealed that he is the opposite of what I’ve said X-23 is. Instead of becoming the weapon or a well-adjusted X-Man like his father, Daken has embraced the animal inside him. With clever manipulation of everyone around him and the claws on his hands he tears down anyone in his way. This book is smart. Very smart. The level of writing is above normal comic book standards as it weaves in existentialism, poetics, and humanism into every action-packed brawl that Daken gets sucked into (or starts himself). If it’s beating up a local set of thugs or taking down an entire syndicate, Daken does it all with finesse and evil charm that his father could never pull off. And though Daken acts as a force of well aimed nature, he struggles with the idea that he is incapable of creating anything of his own. A failure in comparison to his father, but a fighter who will never back down just the same. If you like anti-heroes who aren’t just vigilantes or hitmen, then Daken is your man. He’s sleek, witty, clever, bi-sexual, and quite possibly the most capable character in the Marvel Universe. That makes him both beautifully interesting and horrifying all at the same time.
If you like the TV shows Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer then I present you with your new love affair. X-Factor is what I consider writer Peter David’s greatest achievement. This book takes B and C-list heroes and puts them together as a mutant private investigation firm that deals with everything from supernatural voodoo to crazed demigods bent on destroying the Earth. Toss in great dialogue and character interactions that rival Joss Whedon on his best day and you’ve got X-Factor. You fall in love with the members of this team and find yourself drawn to each of their problems. Anything from Strong Guy and M sharing a kiss to the gay couple Ricter and Shatterstar having issues over how Ricter got his powers back and now Star doesn’t feel needed like he once was. All of that placed within the context of whatever crazy thing is trying to kill them per issue and you’ve got yourself an outlandish supernatural adventure featuring many characters that just feel real. When Madrox’s clones are acting out or Layala Miller is being creepy because she “knows stuff” all the time, this team is out showing the others that a dysfunctional family is better than none at all. Comedy—check. Sci-fi—check. Romance—check. Action—check. This book has it all in spades.
1) Wolverine and the X-Men
It may seem like I have a thing for Wolverine, but I really don’t. It turns out, the best writing and art combination has been coming from books related to him and I won’t deny it. The best and my most favorite book in the last few months is a book that dropped one issue and blew everything else I was reading out of the water. That’s right; this DC fan cannot deny that Wolverine and the X-Men is the best book on the shelves from the big two. This book is perfect. The perfect balance of humor and action. The perfect balance between dialogue and exposition. The perfect art. Oh the perfect art. I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bachalo and even I admit that often his style can clutter a page to the point of confusion. But he nailed it in this book and his return could not come with any higher praise. Everything from character presentation to panel layouts to his ridiculous ability to detail anything he ever touches with a pencil—Bachalo is a superstar and I feel privileged to buy this book. Writer Jason Aaron has hit this one out of the park and I can’t wait for the next issue to come out. I hope that all of the other writers and artists out there take note on how this was done. This is how you launch a title and land a perfect execution. You don’t need to be a long time reader and you don’t need to worry if you are, because this book is perfect for everyone. This book is so much fun that I’ll put my DC books down just to read this one first. And that’s sayin’ something.
I may be a DC fan, but I’m a writer and an artist myself first and foremost. I apply the same set of rules to all comic books in which I breakdown what can be done in the medium by both writing and art together. Where DC may be more consistent and their stories don’t reflect the need to take my money, Marvel excels at creating stories that don’t hold back. I’m not saying DC doesn’t want my money, I’m just saying that it doesn’t show in their books and I don’t feel any regret after a purchase. I may not appreciate Marvel’s shotgun approach to sales and yes it does show in their books that they just want my money (often after I’ve read a crappy book of theirs and I want my money back), but every now and then they put out a gem.
The books listed are the books I read monthly and enjoy without any complaints. Marvel’s Universe is vast and full of outstanding characters and story potential that with just a bit of clean up and some Universe unification here and there could really make them a better producer of quality storytelling. In short, I’m a TRUE BELIEVER as much as I am a DC Fan. Now get out there and read some comic books!