Venom: Rex Reprints Venom v4 #1-6 Written by Donny Cates Art by Ryan Stegman
I’ve previously delved into the world of Venom via Rick Remender’s run on the series. I always admit upfront that I am not a fan of the character. Venom came about right as Marvel was being dominated by the future Image Comics founders, most artists, where grimy & complicated design overshadowed proper character development. Venom is essentially “evil Spider-Man” and has become an anti-hero with an apparently large fanbase, comparable to The Punisher or Deadpool (two more characters I don’t really like). I had heard extremely positive buzz about Donny Cates’s current run and decided to put aside my personal biases and give this one a look.
X-Statix: The Complete Collection Volume 1 Reprints X-Force #116 – 129, Brotherhood #9, X-Statix #1-5 Written by Peter Milligan Art by Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, and Paul Pope
This is the most of Peter Milligan’s work that I have ever read. Before this is was a handful of Justice League Dark issues and a mini-series he did for DC’s Flashpoint crossover. I can’t say I was ever a fan of what I read, it is all so strange & off. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, more that your brain sort of has to adjust to the wavelengths Milligan is broadcasting on. It’s evident he has his own style and is writing first for himself. I prefer writers who practice that approach, write a story you would want to read, and the audience will come to you. This is one of those forgotten runs in Marvel’s X-Men niche, running alongside Grant Morrison’s brilliant reboot of the main title. Milligan’s take on X-Force got a lot of attention when it kicked off, but I don’t remember it lasting too long, the series kept going but the buzz faded.
New Mutants Epic Collection: The Demon Bear Saga Reprints New Mutants #13-31, Annual #1 Written by Chris Claremont Art by Sal Buscema, Bob McLeod, & Bill Sienkiewicz
Calling this volume “The Demon Bear Saga” feels a slight bit disingenuous as the conflict with the titular entity takes up about four issues in this collection. A more apt title would reference the stye transition brought to New Mutants by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz. The switch in issue 18 from Sal Buscema fairly standard art to Sienkiewicz dynamic and kinetic style is jarring in all the best ways. There are quite a few story arcs and subplots running through this collection, so it’s not as much about one singular narrative as it is New Mutants differentiating itself from its sister title at the time The Uncanny X-Men.
House of X/Powers of X Reprints House of X #1-6 & Powers of X #1-6 Written by Jonathan Hickman Art by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva
Forty-four years ago, writer Chris Claremont was tasked with reviving the middling X-Men title for Marvel. Compared to books like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain America, X-Men was never a marquee hit for the company. Its characters were often operating in their own mutant pocket within the larger universe, occasionally being a part of the larger world. Claremont embraced the marginalization of mutants and expanded the mythos farther than it ever had been. At the end of his sixteen-year run on Uncanny X-Men, spinning off titles like Excalibur and New Mutants, Claremont left the book due to clashes with a new editorial staff. What remained was the template for what X-Men could be that every writer has clung to tightly since. The adherence to Claremont’s characterizations and plots have been so rigid that X-Men was a moribund franchise within Marvel for the last five years. Characters died only to be resurrected months later, and there never seemed to be real growth & change save for a small handful of heroes & villains. Then came Jonathan Hickman.
Spider-Man: Life Story (2019) Written by Chip Zdarsky Art by Mark Bagley
Peter Parker was fifteen years old when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. That was in 1962. Today it’s 2019, and he’s in his early thirties, finding some success in life but still rare in love. An expected conceit of comic book superheroes is that they will always age at a much slower rate than an average person. This allows writers to extend their lives. Superman has been around for 80 years, and in the last four has just become a parent through convoluted circumstances. Batman has been through five Robins yet is still mid-thirties at most while former Robin, Dick Grayson, is a mid-twenties Nightwing.
The Omega Men by Tom King (2015) The latter half of 2015 could be considered the Tom King period for me. I’ve consistently enjoyed almost everything he’s put out, even the stuff that seems to have a significant fan backlash. This 12 issue series for DC Comics takes the Omega Men concept (aliens united as the result of an oppressive force) and revamped it thirty years after its original conception. The Omega Men fight against The Citadel, an interplanetary corporation that uses the destruction of Krypton as a means to sell their services, stabilizing the cores of worlds. The rare metal needed to fix these planetary cores is only found in planets within the Vega System; thus, the inhabitants of those worlds have been enslaved, and in some circumstances, wiped out by genocide to ensure the resources can be harvested. The Omega Men kidnaps former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner so that they might have a witness to the atrocities done to their people and to see their retribution.
These are the comic books that I enjoyed reading the most that were published in the last decade. You’ll definitely see some recurring authors and characters, signifying my personal bias. I know there are a ton of great books I haven’t read from this period and as time goes on I plan on reading some (look for a huge Image Comics read-through in early 2020). Please let me know of any titles not on my list as I may have not read them and always appreciate recommendations.
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman (2010) Jonathan Hickman came onboard Fantastic Four at the start of the decade with big plans for not just this series but Marvel as well. He adhered to that original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby of exploring the unknown and created an optimistic, diverse possible future. The best thing Hickman gave us, and what has been criminally underused since, is the Future Foundation. The Future Foundation was Reed Richards’ effort to cultivate the next generation of scientists, and it played with reader expectations. Of course, Franklin and Valeria Richards are part of the team, but Hickman also includes some adolescent Moloids, the android Dragon Man, and a clone of Reed’s foil The Wizard. Not only is this a great read, one of the best Fantastic Four runs we’ve ever gotten, but it’s also almost essential reading to understand this last decade of Marvel comics.