The comic medium had a lot to celebrate last weekend. Not only did Iron Man 3 usher in blockbuster season with our favorite exoskeletal superhero, but Saturday saw all of the major publishers unleash a metric ton of pro bono product on Free Comic Book Day. With all of these reminders of how fabulous the printed and digital panel can be, Paste decided to sit down and take inventory of the titles that make our Wednesday comic shop jaunts an addictive necessity.
Today we’re taking a look at our ten favorite comic books from Marvel, with lists from the other prolific publishers to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday. And though these are our favorites, we realize that The House of Ideas releases many comics from many talented creators; let us know yours in the comments.
(from 5 to 1, rest at the source)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mike Allred, Others
Replacements never last long in the Fantastic Four, and Matt Fraction’s FF immediately acknowledges that truth in its initial setup: The Four’s hand-picked backups are only supposed to stand-in for four minutes as the main team embarks on a space-time field trip. Things go wrong, those four minutes stretch into weeks, and the “Fantastic Faux” struggle with their unexpected responsibilities. With typically wonderful art from Michael Allred, FF is a funny, character-driven take on Fantastic Four’s cosmic tradition, with the viewpoint characters of Scott “Ant-Man” Lang (newly non-dead) and Darla “Miss Thing” Deering (Johnny Storm’s non-hero girlfriend) injecting some genuine pathos into this rich title.
4. Thor: God of Thunder
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Of all the Marvel NOW! launches, Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder has been the most ambitious. Alternating between three different timelines in the Norse god’s life (his pre-Mjolnir days, his present incarnation, and his future as a battle-scarred veteran), Aaron has spun an epic, sprawling tale centering on Thor’s confrontation with the villainous Gorr, aka the “God Butcher.” Esad Ribic’s haunting artwork perfectly complements Aaron’s beautifully flowing writing style. Aaron’s true accomplishment, however, is embracing Thor’s otherworldly nature while allowing his turmoil to feel all too human. And, if that weren’t enough, the battles scenes are a glorious sight to behold.
3. New Avengers
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
The original WildStorm Universe didn’t quite survive its transition into DC’s consolidated playground, which is a damned shame: Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, and Joe Casey reinvented the superhero concept for the modern age, with the politics and intensity to match. Marvel certainly kept an eye out, and it’s not hyperbole to say the imprint has adopted as many of Wildstorm’s virtues as possible. New Avengers reads like a perfect evolution of Warren Ellis’ runs on Stormwatch and The Authority without feeling derivative. The book takes a pressure cooker of the 616’s top minds — Iron Man, Black Bolt, Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther, Beast, Doctor Strange, and Namor — and pits them against universe-ending odds. Big science, acidic personalities, and nose-bleed stakes converge into one of the most addictive, challenging experiences in comics.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee, Others
Mark Waid continues to flaunt his incredible skill at mixing the swashbuckling and smart with Matt Murdock, proving that the horned one doesn’t have to be a spandex pity party to sell books. Despite losing artist extraordinaire Marcos Martin, Daredevil has maintained its vibrant, art-deco mystique with Chris Samnee, creating a kaleidoscope of bright color and movement. Waid’s proclivity for lush palates and adventure doesn’t mean that he’s been going easy on the Man Without Fear, especially in recent months: issue #25 introduced new villain Ikari, an insidious mimic who proceeds to do terrible, terrible things to our hero for many panels. Though Daredevil constantly teeters on the edge of falling into the infernal depths he channels through his alter ego, his struggles haven’t been this entertaining in years.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja, Others
The knock against Hawkeye has always been that he’s just a regular guy. He’s not a supersoldier or thunder god or even a dude with a fancy suit of armor— he’s just a guy with a weapon that’s been obsolete for centuries, and he doesn’t even use the thing for what it was created to exclusively do (i.e., kill other guys). The genius of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is that it celebrates the character’s regular guy-hood. Clint Barton is just a man trying to help people out as much as humanly possible, and he happens to be so good at it that he’s been an Avenger for like 50 years in the real world. Hawkguy Hawkeye isn’t just an atypical superhero comic — it doesn’t even feel like most comics about similar so-called “street-level” heroes. It proves that Fraction can write small-scale character studies as well as the epic sci-fi craziness he made his name on.