‘Tis the season for gift guides and this post is no different. I present to you my favorite modern Marvel comics! Forgive the specificity, but it has a purpose. Modern comics, in this case comics published in the last fifteen years, are more approachable than the classics with their out-of-fashion style and less relatable commentary. If you are getting any of these suggestions for a comics fan, they probably already read ‘The Infinity Gauntlet’ anyway. These collections as trades would make a great present, but I made this list Marvel specific because of a last-minute secret weapon this holiday season. All these issues are available with a Marvel Unlimited subscription. Gift that sucker and your giftee can read all this crap on their phone or tablet at their leisure. So let’s get into it:
Daredevil by Mark Waid
Waid gave us a more upbeat Matt Murdock than one would expect with all the tragedy in Daredevil’s life. This differentiates the character from, say, Batman, and created a throughline for the stories he tells. The villains are a great mix of old and new and the threats feel sufficiently grand yet personal. It should be no spoiler that Daredevil more of less prevails, but he also takes more hits than just about any hero in a 36 issue span. This Daredevil has to make multiple changes to his status-quo in response to the villains, which only compound in Waid’s almost-as-good follow-up run of Daredevil in 2015.
Vision by Tom King
Vision is a story of an android (okay, synthezoid) who builds a robot family to live with in an attempt to have a normal life. Vision being a superhero isn’t important to the story, he could just as easily have the day job of Data from Star Trek: TNG, the magic of the series is how beings who do not fit in try and fail to fit in. There’s quite a bit of science fiction and philosophy within these pages. If that’s your thing, enjoy!
Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen
Star Wars is a great title for Marvel and should be read with Darth Vader, but Vader is the standout run for making the character scary powerful again after the prequels brought to like the weaker version of Anakin Skywalker. The title explores his motivation and explains the trials he had to face after taking on the responsibility of failure after the loss of the first Death Star. The series takes place after A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back.
The Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction
2008- 2010 #1-33
Iron Man’s popularity due to the Marvel Cinematic Universe inspired me to seek out the character in comics. The most interesting exploration of Tony Stark I found was in Matt Fraction’s The Invincible Iron Man in which he rights the wrong of Civil War’s registration act before it falls into the hands of new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Norman Osborn. The kicker is that he must erase the last of this dangerous information from his own mind, which is essentially a slow suicide over many issues.
New Avengers by Brian Bendis
Bendis’ New Avengers kicks off the modern Marvel Universe in my opinion. It reboots the Avengers with roster mainstays as well as other fan-favorites like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Daredevil. The chemistry is surprisingly good and tells a series of interlinking stories that feed into major events like Civil War and Secret Invasion. It also introduces Sentry, a character that has some problems, but also plays a pivotal role in several major events following. It’s required reading for understanding Marvel’s big picture.
Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron
It’s hard for Thor to find a competitive rival that doesn’t feel like it should be an Avengers’ villain. Here, Thor discovers that a mysterious entity is slaying the gods of various cultures throughout the universe. This is a very personal crime and one he requires help to overcome, but not the help of the Avengers. He helps himself in this timeline spanning epic.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man by Brian Bendis
This run is why Miles Morales became so popular. It reignites the excitement of the Spider-Man origin story without having to recycle the same plot points. The new character is fresh and the perfect perspective for any young person who has alway imagined gain superpowers. Live vicariously through Miles.
Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender
Get together Archangel, Deadpool, Fantomex, Psylocke and Wolverine and you should expect the best action seen anywhere on this list. They are a group of badasses in a hard sci-fi story centering around Apocalypse and a more advanced Weapon-X program. The events lead into the similarly great Uncanny Avengers also written by Remender, but start here. You won’t regret it.
The Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan
The Runaways is a favorite Marvel run that feels like an independent comic. It’s about the children of a team of supervillains coming to terms about their family and figuring out the powers this grants them. The fact that it isn’t independent and instead tied to a publish with a rich history and character base makes creates a narrative shorthand that allows readers to largely skip origin stories. One character is a mutant, for example, powers explained. Hulu is making The Runaways into an original series.
“Old Man Logan” Wolverine by Mark Millar
A glimpse of a possible future puts Wolverine in a family that is trying to survive a world taken over by villains. It plays like a tragic buddy adventure with an elderly Hawkeye and features X-Men and Avengers cameos galore. Who knew this series would be so relevant today? With the younger Wolverine dead in current continuity, the Logan from this future has been time displaced and is featured in comics once more. The final Wolverine film, title ‘Logan’, is thought to take inspiration from this story.
Steven is a relativistically-locked time-traveler. Follow him on Twitter for insights from the present.