Late in the summer of 2015 Marvel Comics exited their long, and not entirely enjoyable, Secret Wars event. As such the vast majority of the books were rebooted and given new creative teams, exciting new stories, and were slapped with the ‘All-New, All-Different’ tag just to really drive the point home.
Some of these comics were fantastic with the teams making the most of the new status quo to deliver energetic stories and entirely revamped characters. Others, however, squandered the opportunity given to them and turned out the same uninspired dross that had become the bane of the old Marvel line-up.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the five best and worst comics of the AN-AD initiative.
1. Old Man Logan.
With Wolverine dead and safely encased in a mass of Adamantium Marvel had something of a ponderance before them. They could take what would likely be the easiest route and revive the beloved character or they could go in an entirely new direction. They chose the latter and fans around the world will be thanking them that they did.
Old Man Logan tells the story of an alternate universe’s version of Wolverine who, as the title suggests, is far older than the hero you’re used to. This new Logan finds himself stranded on modern day Earth having mysteriously travelled back in time, away from the post-apocalyptic warzone he has called home. He is a tortured soul having lost his family and been tricked my Mysterio into killing all of the X-Men so it stands to reason that he would go on a warpath once he finds himself in the past with the perfect chance to prevent the future from coming to pass.
The first run on this character was uninspiring but Jeff Lemire’s current work on the title is one of the finest things you will see in any comic. His characterisation is flawless and the story is riveting. Add to that the fact that the art is spellbindingly beautiful and you have the best book of the entire AN-AD group.
2. Doctor Strange.
Honestly this very nearly took the number one spot and it would be just as worthy of that position as Old Man Logan. With a movie incoming at the end of the year this was clearly going to be a title that Marvel execs put a great deal of focus onto but that doesn’t always translate to quality. Except in this case where it has worked an absolute charm.
The story, expertly written by Jason Aaron, has given a great deal of gravity to every magical action that Strange takes. No longer is he free to cast spells with impunity as now it has been established that each mystical act takes a severe toll on his body, meaning a major spell has the capability to kill him with great ease. Along with this you have the most dangerous enemy the good doctor may ever have faced in the form of the Empirikul and it all makes for a very tense and dark read, one that you are not likely going to be able to put down.
None of this is to speak of the art which is some of the best of any book and certainly the finest in a Strange adventure thus far. Chris Bachalo has captured the magical nature of the character to perfection with his vibrant colouring and out there characterisations, even Strange’s house and cape take on a life of their own through his work.
If you haven’t yet checked out this book then you need to find a copy and get reading, you will not regret it.
3. Extraordinary X-Men.
Once again a Jeff Lemire led book lands on the list of the best. It should come as no surprise as Lemire could easily lay claim to being Marvel’s best writer of the current bunch and that shines through spectacularly in Extraordinary X-Men.
Often you will find that group books become too bogged down in trying to give each character enough exposure and as such the story become secondary to the jostling for position. That is not the case on this title as each character does get a decent amount of attention but none of them steal the spotlight and they certainly don’t detract from the story. Instead each of their progressions are tied directly into the narrative and are used to further it rather than the other way around.
The X-men are in a state of turmoil, as are all Marvel mutants, as the Terrigen Mist and M-Pox has threatened their very existence and the public has turned solidly against them, forcing the heroes to set up a shelter in Purgatory of all places. Lemire has crafted a rather straightforward but enticing plot in his short run on this book and with the start of Apocalypse Wars you can expect the action to pick up in a very satisfying way.
The art is simply breathtaking as Humberto Ramos has turned out a solidly drawn book that does each character justice. Each scene is wonderfully detailed and Ramos clearly has a flair for sprawling action scenes, which is just what the doctor ordered with a title such as this.
In short, you need to be reading this book.
4. Spider-Man 2099.
There are a great many Spider-man/woman/pig titles available at the moment and it is fair to say that Marvel have put a lot of their eggs in his web lined basket. The books vary in quality, though none are going to make the worst list, but out of all of them there is a clear champion and that is Spider-Man 2099.
This will likely surprise a few people as in the past this title hasn’t been anything to rave about. Typically, it has felt like a second rate spin-off with little to no charm and a heavy handed approach to storytelling. Certainly the 2099 title put out before Secret Wars offered nothing to get excited about. That all changed when the legendary Peter David took the helm and steered the book in the right direction.
Since that point the story has been far more focused and each issue has had a weight to it as Miguel deals with various villains alongside the personal turmoil of losing his girlfriend (who turns out not to be dead). To take a previously pointless character and make him, or at least his book, more interesting than Peter Parker takes some serious work and yet Peter David has managed to do it in a very short space of time.
It doesn’t hurt that Will Sliney’s art is absolutely gorgeous at times. The most notable example is Spidey’s new suit, which may be the best one of all the Spider-suits, but to ignore his superb work on the many fight scenes and side characters would be criminal. Look no further than the issue with newly born Inhuman Gloriana for confirmation of all of these facts.
Technically this is also a Spider-Man title of sorts but it has done such a fantastic job of differentiating itself from the pack in terms of tone and story that it doesn’t feel like a member of that family. At its heart this is now a horror comic with very little to do with wall crawling of any kind.
B-Horror may be the most fitting description of Carnage as it revels in big showdowns between monsters like the titular creature as well as Man-Wolf, and Toxin. The tone of the first arc was a deeply claustrophobic one that put readers in mind of the Alien franchise, not a bad thing if you’re trying to scare your fans senseless. The story was delightfully dark and twisted, taking several unexpected turns that had huge payoffs for the audience. Sure, the first arc ended in somewhat poor fashion but it still moved efficiently into the second one which has just begun with the latest issue and promises to be far larger in scope but no less bloodcurdling.
Mike Perkins and Andy Troy can be thanked for delivering the jarring visuals that told the story with expert precision. If Gerry Conway wanted you to feel suffocated then the art reflected that, if he wanted you to be uplifted then it achieved that to, and if he just wanted you to be downright frightened then it was more than capable of that as well.
If you have the chance then pick up the entire series thus far, you will love it.
1. All-New All-Different Avengers.
A full assessment of just why this book is so torrid could take up an entire thousand-word article with ease. There is just so much to touch upon before you even get to the moronic ‘Standoff’ story arc that is currently going on. Fear not though, this shall be a short version of that rant.
The easiest way to put this is to say that everything that went right with Extraordinary X-Men, went terribly wrong here.
The story is focused entirely on further little bits of in-fighting between the numerous cast when it should have been more concerned with setting them up as a compelling team that people could route for in a world full of unique team-ups. None of the characters have an ounce of personality that would cause somebody to feel anything other than apathy towards them, even big hitters such as Iron-Man are as tiring as can be in this poorly executed waste of paper.
You’d have thought that with such a packed cast, Mark Waid would have been able to knock it out of the park with this book. Instead he settled for worthless villains, nonsensical infighting, and blander than bland characters.
No more words shall be spent on this abomination but rest assured that it should not be on your haul list.
This one could be controversial pick considering the popularity of the Merc with a Mouth but the book just had to be on this list. The reasons are plentiful but let’s focus on two key ones for the sake of brevity.
The first reason is that little to no thought seems to have been put into the stories as long term entities. The first arc held a tremendous amount of promise and to have Madcap be the villain was a stroke of genius as he is a genuinely great and underappreciated character. What followed was far from genius though as no sooner had the story finally picked up steam, the whole thing was over with Madcap killing himself off for the time being. It made no sense and put a number of people off from buying the next issue, it just wasn’t giving enough to warrant the price tag.
The second reason is that this guy just isn’t Deadpool. He looks like Deadpool, he fights like Deadpool, he even goes off the rails like Deadpool but he just doesn’t have the humour or the charm that ‘Pool should always have. Instead the humour falls flat on almost every occasion as Gerry Duggan clearly lacks the chop to pull of such a brutally sarcastic and unapologetically offensive character.
If you want a good example of a current Deadpool title, then pick up Spider-Man/Deadpool as it has all of the things that made you love this character in the first place and doesn’t feel like a kick in the nards.
3. Silver Surfer.
Truly this book is probably worse than Deadpool but then it was never going to be all that special whereas Deadpool could have been which is why it finds itself a little lower on the list. Don’t be fooled though, it is still an absolute train wreck.
The best analysis would be to liken it to Steven Moffat era Doctor Who. There is an irritating sidekick who holds no special qualities yet is constantly shoved down your throat as you are told just how special and important she is. The hero is doing a tired man out of time shtick that grates on you after about a page or so. The villains are not in the least bit threatening and, in the case of the first issue, are defeated in the most implausibly stupid fashion that you have to wonder how they became a villainous force in the first place.
Basically this is a book to read if you want to lose a little piece of your soul. It is an abhorrent nightmare and it will be cancelled by Marvel in due course. The first one did have a cool cover though.
Daredevil isn’t necessarily terrible so much as it is woefully uninspiring. With the tremendous success of the excellent Netflix series you would expect for some of that shine to rub off on the comic version of this popular character. That has not happened.
The story is, frankly, boring. It just doesn’t feel like there are any stakes to what is going on and that makes it hard to invest in the story in any meaningful manner. Why should you care if Tenfingers kills some witness? Who cares if The Hand then kills Tenfingers? Very few people is the answer to both of those questions.
There is some good work to be found in this series as Matt has been rewritten as a tougher character in terms of his general demeanor. His training of his new sidekick, Blindspot, is done in a decidedly Bruce Wayne fashion as is his approach to the criminal underworld whom he clearly has no patience for any more. If only the story could have offered anything in the way of excitement, then this could have been a rather good book. As it is however, Daredevil is no more interesting that watching paint dry.
Oh CM Punk, how we wished you would be good as a writer. The man has an excellent speaking ability, as it evident by his pipe bomb promo. But apparently that does not translate into a natural ability with the written word.
To be fair to Punk, Drax is not an easy character to base a solo series around, Sure he’s a big tough guy who just cuts his way through enemies with ease but that doesn’t lend itself well to a continuous series. It just isn’t a strong enough reason for an audience to engage with a character and it’s why you will never see a solo Drax movie whilst you could well get a lone outing from Star-Lord. Still though it is worth noting that this series was bad from the very first issue.
The dialogue seemed incredibly forced and unnatural, with each individual coming across as a caricature. The humour missed its mark each time, failing to elicit even a small titter from readers. Even the action was uninspiring which is proof positive that something just went very wrong with the creation of this comic.
It is another one that is highly likely to find itself on the cancelled list sometime very soon and it is safe to say that no one is going to miss it when it does.