By Zack Quaintance — Earlier this week (or maybe it was last?), I mentioned on Twitter that I thought Immortal Hulk was Marvel’s best book...and that it wasn’t close. Now, I threw in that last bit because, well whatever, and also because overstating things can be a great way to get attention online (only use that power for good). Somewhat surprisingly, the vast majority of folks who responded to my effusive Hulk Tweet seemed to agree with me! This could be an effect of disagreers having healthy attitudes about life and just rolling past, going on with their days.
Orrrrrrr, it could be that Immortal Hulk is really that good. Whatever the case, it became clear that there was a conversation (and listicle) to be had around the things that Marvel has been doing well in recent months, at least since the publisher’s semi-weird Fresh Start announcement turned out to be less of a drastic relaunch, and more of a soft but steady refocusing. Anyway, what I’m here to talk about today are the Top 5 Marvel comics right now.
I’ve culled this list from the suggestions of folks on Twitter plus a healthy dose of my own opinions. Let’s do this!
Top Five Marvel Comics Right Now
1. Immortal Hulk
Al Ewing is a writer who’s had a number of beloved-by-critics-yet-ignored-by-fans superhero book, with the most prominent among them being The Ultimates. The Ultimates was fantastic, a direct cosmic successor to many of the ideas in Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four/New Avengers/Avengers. The problem, however, was that the book wasn’t pushed hard enough. It should have been billed as Marvel’s flagship title, but it was shuffled out with a wave of other forgettable All New, All Different team books, fated as it was to go unnoticed. Immortal Hulk, however, has avoided that.
Marvel wisely spun the book out of its attention-grabbing (if not quite meriting) 16-issue weekly Avengers event, No Surrender, making clear as it did that this was A. the return of Bruce Banner, and B. the Hulk in a horror book like you haven't seen before. It was a great conceptual move, one that Ewing and artist Joe Bennett capitalized on by setting a clear tone, telling four seemingly self-contained stories to start, and then segueing into an ongoing story arc that pulls in all of Marvel’s hardest hitters, including The Avengers, just like any good Hulk crisis would. It’s really something, and I can’t recommend it enough. For extra reading points, do yourself a favor and try guessing the villain of this story. I think about it every month, and it makes this title all the more engaging.
Jason Aaron’s run on Thor has just been so good for so long, ascending into the pantheon of all-time great Thor stories alongside those of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson. Oh yeah, and it’s not even headed for its end just yet (although it’s likely well past halfway). Aaron just gets the nordic lore that inspire Thor. He also gets that this hero is immortal, and that his time in The Avengers is but a blip on his life arc.
Understanding all this the way Aaron does has freed up his story, allowing it to extend through all of time. He walks a careful tightrope with chronology and he walks it well, expertly plotting developments so as to not contradict himself. And, really, I could have very easily put this book number one. In fact, given the length of its run, it probably merited it, but, hey, this is monthly superhero comics, where the attitude of what have you done for me lately reigns. A more interesting question is whether the opening arc on Immortal Hulk ends up being as good as the opening God Butcher arc was for Thor. That’s a battle.
Donny Cates is a rising star at Marvel, with nearly everything he touches finding a vocal and extremely pleased audience (presumably a tattoeed and head bang-y too). After tooling around with brief stints on properties like Doctor Strange and Thanos (read Thanos Wins, like, yesterday if you haven’t), Cates seemed to land on a book he’s always wanted to do: Venom.
And his love of the character has certainly shown, along with his obvious desire to write a sustained run, potentially to rival Aaron’s Thor (which he’s already entwined his Venom story with). I’ll be honest, I’ve never read Venom for any length of time before this, but Cates collaboration with veteran Spider-Man artist Ryan Stegman has been great. It hasn’t totally obliterated me with sheer excellence the way Immortal Hulk has, but I don’t have a single complaint about this title. It’s going to be very good for a very long time.
4. Captain America
This is a beautiful comic, drawn to near-perfection by one of Marvel’s best artists, Leinil Francis Yu. Plus, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose background is firmly in non-fiction and journalism, clearly learned a lot from his early stumbles in 2016 on Black Panther. This book has all the compressed and exciting action that run lacked, complete with the poignant ideas that he executed well even as he was learning the medium.
Phew, writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Juan Cabal sure had a tough road to follow, taking on Laura and her world after Tom Taylor’s fantastic run with her on All-New Wolverine, but they’ve done a fantastic job, keeping the best bits and the boundless heart from his work, while bringing a slightly more serious, horror-tinged new direction. If this Fresh Start business has a sleeper book, I’d definitely say it’s this one.
Others Receiving Votes
Amazing Spider-Man has especially been a favorite of mine, with writer Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley really working to capture the long-time spirit of Marvel’s flagship title, and, really Amazing Spider-Man and X-23 could be 5a. and 5b.
At one time, Marvel 2-in-1 and X-Men: Red would have been no-brainers, but the debut of Fantastic Four and the forthcoming event of Uncanny X-Men have really sucked the momentum out of those titles.
Punisher had a great first issue with savage artwork from Szymon Kudranski.
Exiles, meanwhile, has been eclectic and high-energy, if a bit frivolous (which to be fair is by design).
The aforementioned Ta-Nehisi Coates’ continuing Black Panther run has been strong, but it’s more of a new arc than a fresh start proper.
And after this week’s Avengers #8, I’m all in on Jason Aaron as the long-term writer for Marvel’s flagship superhero team...what a quiet but strong feat of character building that was!
For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.