*Spoilers ahead for Marvel’s Secret Wars*
Marvel’s massive 2015 event Secret Wars finally came to a close on January 13, after numerous delays. Love it or hate it, the event was Earth shattering (pun intended), and required all titles to stop dead in their tracks. Now, in the aftermath, Earth-616 has returned to normal, and all of the publisher’s books started fresh, with new issue #1’s taking place eight months post-event.
Which of the new books are worth spending $3.99 on each month? Here are the best of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different campaign:
The changing of the guard is a dicey game in comics, and there was absolutely no subtlety in this case. The creative team put Wolverine’s classic costume on his clone/daughter, Laura (X-23), and slapped the words All-New Wolverine on the cover. A lot could have gone wrong.
Perhaps the low expectations worked to this book’s advantage though. It’s got a lot going for it: action, humor, intrigue, and awesome cameos. It looks like Marvel is really trying to establish X-23 as a staple in the All-New Universe by having her rub elbows with classic characters and getting their seals of approval (which might be bad news to fans who were hoping for Logan’s speedy revival).
Everyone consulted for this list said that All-New Wolverine had to be on it. Between this solo title and her role in All-New X-Men, Laura is proving herself to be a worthy heir to Logan’s mantle.
Who is Black Knight? Seriously, if the name sounds familiar, sound off in the comments and earn some major deep cut fan points.
Black Knight is another character that benefits from his anonymity; he has no where to go but up. Which is good, because the start of this series finds him at rock bottom. He’s trapped in Weirdworld, and has managed to earn himself the rank of ruler through less-than-reputable circumstances. On top of that, he’s slowly losing control of himself; the Ebony Blade he wields is taking over, driving him to do some dark deeds.
There is a lot more humor in this book than one would expect, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Holistically, this is a quick, easy, and fun read.
Similar to All-New Wolverine, Black Knight‘s lack of fame is aided by some early cameos by well known characters. No plot spoilers here, but writer Frank Tieri gives fans a better Deadpool than the current Deadpool solo book.
Captain America: Sam Wilson
Captain America: Sam Wilson may be the most important book Marvel is putting out right now.
Sam Wilson, the former Falcon, is still the new Captain America. But, whereas Steve Rodgers mostly kept his mouth shut about politics, Sam is a bit more outspoken. This forthright nature immediately puts him at odds with S.H.I.E.L.D., and Cap is on his own. Without government backing, the hero takes on villains that embody real-life issues, such as greedy corporations and illegal immigration.
This book is not about politics, or pushing a liberal agenda. It’s about doing the right thing. Sam doesn’t help people cross the border because he supports them; he helps them because he doesn’t think they should be murdered by people taking the law into their own hands. Author Nick Spencer is not preaching to his audience. He is simply reminding them what it means to be a hero.
This book had big shoes to fill. It follows the brilliant run by Kelly Sue DeConnick, where Carol Danvers first took on the mantle of Captain Marvel, a mantle that she will carry in the 2019 film.
Carol’s All-New, All-Different series is written by Agent Carter showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, and carries on many similar themes as the previous volume. Carol is once again leaving Earth, taking to the stars to find what else is out there for her. She is the new commander of the Alpha Flight Space Station, Earth’s latest “first line of defense.”
All of the Captain’s best qualities are showed off in just the first issue. She’s snarky, tough-as-nails, and funny-as-hell. The real highlight is watching her adjust to being an administrator after so long in the field. Butters and Fazekas look like they’re going to do a great job following DeConnick, continuing the best parts of her run, and forging their own ground.
Doctor Strange hits theaters this November, so the character was a lock to get a book all to himself.
This book is like an acid trip. It transports its audience into new, strange realms, and the art by Chris Bachalo is totally groovy. But the story is clean, and easily accessible for new readers trying to gain an understanding of the character before the film.
Magic is being removed from the various spheres of reality. Stephen leads a band of sorcerers, witches, and shamans to save their skins and maintain order in the universe.
Jason Aaron is known for more savage warrior books, like Wolverine, Southern Bastards, The Goddamned, and the three latest volumes of Thor. The world of magical spells seems to be uncharted territory for him, but this book is so good that it’s a non-issue. He did give Stephen a sweet battle axe though, for good measure.
Mutants are dying (again)! The Inhuman Terrigen Mists are spreading across the globe, and are revealed to be extremely poisonous to Homo sapiens superior. Storm leads a team of heroes that includes Iceman, Magik, and Colossus in tracking down the world’s remaining mutants and proving them a haven
The story is good, but the real stand outs are young Jean Grey and Old Man Logan. Their relationship alone is worth the price of admission. Whereas Logan and Jean were always in a forced love triangle, the new age gap here makes for a more grandfather/granddaughter situation. It will be interesting to see how their personal experiences will influence the team members that are where they actually belong in the timeline.
Hercules is a god, notorious for his debauched lifestyle of drinking and womanizing. But he wants to clean up his act, and become a better hero.
Creatures and monsters of the olden days are popping up in New York City, and Heracles charges to stop them. However, he quickly realizes that the old threats are not threats at all; they’re simple trying to survive. A mysterious force known as The Uprising Storm is in play, removing all remnants of the past.
Dan Abnett is writing an interesting story about a fringe character that’s finally getting his day in court. Herc makes for a great character study. He’s essentially a former rock star who has not responded well to his fall from grace. The most interesting aspect is how modernized he has actually become, even wielding a machine gun in the latest issue. How will his embrace of the contemporary affect his standing with The Uprising Storm?
Invincible Iron Man
Just as Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Invincible Iron Man kicked off the All-New, All-Different era.
Brian Michael Bendis is no artist, but he can write a good action/adventure book. This series is the comic book equivalent of a popcorn flick. Pop it open, turn off your brain, and enjoy a fun story.
The first arc had cameos galore. Mary Jane Watson is going to play a big role moving forward; Doctor Strange pops up a couple of times for hugely funny bits. Most importantly (and slap a mild spoiler alert on this), issue one has the first appearance of Victor Von Doom post-Secret Wars, and it’s under pretty unexpected circumstances.
Invincible Iron Man feels like the flagship book of All-New, All Different Marvel. Don’t miss out on the fun.
Consider this: Karnak only has one issue out currently, and it made this list.
Karnak may be the most fascinating Inhuman character outside of Black Bolt. He’s a philosopher, which is interesting enough in a character. It adds a layer of depth to him, as he thinks and perceives things differently than most. The Inhumans need a philosopher in this new era. They are suddenly thrust into the spotlight, commingling with humans more than ever before, unsure of how to handle it.
Don’t be fooled; as smart as he may be, Karnak is fierce, as clearly demonstrated in the first issue. Inhumans are the new mutants, feared and hated by the world, and Karnak is not one to stand for that.
Warren Ellis is penning this one, which is really all the reason needed to pick it up.
The Mighty Thor
This is a pretty simple pick. One of the best books pre-Secret Wars proceeds to be one of the best books post-Secret Wars.
The Mighty Thor is glorious. It’s beautifully drawn, and incredibly written. The story is empowering, not just for women, but for everyone. Aaron is finally getting around to the War of the Realms that has been building in the background for quite some time, and it looks to be massive. Plus, his take on Odin as a tyrant is blood curdling.
Jane has settled into the role of Thor very nicely; readers don’t even seem to really miss the former wielder of Mjolinir. But, after a few issues, the question still remains: where is the Odinson?
Old Man Logan
Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven is a modern day classic. So, to see the character get his own Secret Wars tie-in was great for fans. Then, hearing that he was going to be introduced into the mainstream Marvel universe was pure bliss.
Logan wakes up naked and confused in Times Square, 2016. After going momentarily berserk, he begins to regain his bearings, and wonders how/why he’s been sent back to this time. He determines that he has a purpose: to stop the villain uprising that cost him his friends and family. He writes four names on his arm, and he’s not going to stop until he crosses off each one.
Jeff Lemire is also writing Extraordinary X-Men, which Old Man Logan also stars in, but this solo title has a much darker tone.
Welcome to Earth-616 Miles Morales, hope you survive the experience!
The Ultimate Universe was faring so poorly that Marvel literally destroyed it. The fact that they wrote in a loophole to bring Ultimate Spider-Man to the mainstream universe says a lot. Fans love Miles, and for good reason. He’s everything that made Peter Parker a great character before Dan Slott took over writing duties and soiled him.
Miles is flawed and confused, but so willing to learn and be a better hero. It’s going to be a lot of fun reading about him on Earth-616, and seeing him interact with other heroes. All-New All-Different Avengers has already shown a little of this, with Tony Stark taking the youngster under his wing, similar to how he used to interact with Peter. Spider-Man is probably going to be the old-school street-level Spidey book that fans are craving, while Peter is off globe-trotting in Amazing Spider-Man (ugh).
Brian Michael Bendis is a polarizing writer. However, when he’s in his wheelhouse, he can amaze. Miles, being a character that Bendis created, falls right in that wheelhouse.
Totally Awesome Hulk
Greg Pak writes an amazing Hulk story. He’s the mastermind behind Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, arguably two of the biggest Hulk stories ever, with the former being the strongest contender for a feature film adaptation. So, Totally Awesome Hulk got a huge boost in fan interest when Pak was announced as writer.
There’s a much larger comedic element with Amadeus Cho as Hulk, as opposed to Bruce Banner. It’s clear how much love Pak has for the character, having created Amadeus back in 2006 as a representation for himself (both Cho and Pak are Korean American). The author’s personality just shines through his writing in the most enjoyable way.
It’s not all fun and games though. Pak is known for the long game in his writing; there’s a good chance he’s planting the seeds for an intense story to come. Make sure to get in on the ground floor.
This is the best team book by Marvel right now, bar none.
The company really seems to be investing in their Inhumans these days, essentially making them the new mutants. As mentioned earlier in this list, the start of the All-New, All-Different books came with a drastic drop in the mutant population due to the Inhuman Terrigen Mists. Now, one could assume that this is all in response to the supposed feud between Fox (who own mutant film rights) and Marvel Studios (who are using the Inhumans in Agents of S.H.I.EL.D. before giving them a feature film).
Regardless of the motivations behind it, The Uncanny Inhumans does not read as some cheap throwaway book designed to cash in on movies. It’s a well crafted character study by the impeccable Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, with plenty of action and adventure thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t fall prey to the normal pitfalls of team books either; each member gets focused on and developed. The story always leaves you wanting more; fans won’t be able to help but crave the next issue.
Also, Black Bolt confronting Johnny Storm about his relationship with Medusa is one of the greatest standalone moments of the short lived All-New, All-Different era.
This is a book for the Ex Machina fan. Whereas Invincible Iron Man is a light action story, The Vision is a dense read, and a dive into the realm of existential sci-fi horror.
Tom King is writing an eerie, slow burn of a Vision story. It begins in media res; Vision has removed the emotional components of his programming, thus eliminating them as a distraction. Yet, he still strives to be normal. He has synthesized a family for himself, a wife and two teenage offspring, and they try to blend normally into suburbia. A Stepford Wives level of creep is felt throughout the tale. Everything seems too perfect to be true, but not all is as it seems, and things immediately begin to unravel.
The focus thus far has been more on Vision’s family than on the titular character himself, and it’s worked perfectly. The three struggle to adapt to society, finding normal human behavior strange and illogical. A striking moment comes in the first issue, when Vision tells his wife, “to assert as truth that which has no meaning is the core mission of humanity.”
Purpose is a core theme of this book, and what it means to be human. It may actually be hysterical, if it weren’t so chilling.
BONUS: Most Anticipated Series
Black Panther – April 2016
Fans lost their minds when Ta-Nehisi Coates was announced to pen the upcoming Black Panther series for Marvel. It will be the author’s first comic, but he’s fresh off winning the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his Between the World and Me.
Coates is known for his writing in the realm of cultural, social, and political issues, especially regarding race relations. This is exactly the spin that a Black Panther series needs. T’Challa was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, and he’s African royalty. He deserves a book that will explore socio-political themes, and where he can be a champion of his people.
Black Panther’s own film is coming in 2018, so the company is probably going to invest in making this a solid read to get fans excited.
There are many more titles worth the money every month that unfortunately just couldn’t fit on this list. Astonishing Ant-Man is fun; Uncanny Avengers is action-packed; Weirdworld is…weird. What are you reading? Let us know in the comments!