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Top Ten Marvel Comics You Can Still Save From Cancellation

A column article, Top Ten by: Danny Djeljosevic, Nick Hanover

Recently Marvel Comics, amidst a ton of layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, cancelled a ton of books in a move some of us are calling The Marvel Implosion. The casualty list not only low-selling ongoing series, but also low-selling miniseries that were already in progress and miniseries that hadn't yet been published. It was very disheartening.

Rather than get depressed or stop reading interesting books with low readerships, we want to make the case for books that are still ongoing that we think deserve your attention, so we can keep them from also getting cancelled, should the day ever come. Because, hey, the facts are simple: the more people buy these comics, the more chance they have of survival.

But first, a caveat: don't assume these books are getting cancelled. The month-to-month sales charts you can find on the Internet certainly give us an idea of their popularity, but our main purpose here is to tell you about interesting comics from Marvel you should be reading, but are flying under the radar.

Vote with your wallets, friends.


10. X-Factor

Why It's In Danger:

Danny Djeljosevic: Even though it's an X-Title with remarkably consistent sales, X-Factor is one that often exists exclusively in its own little world, independent of what's going on in other X-Men-affiliated titles. Plus, it's been around for so long and doesn't pull off any ridiculous sales-baiting stunts (save a Point One issue) that it's easy for readers to take its existence for granted. Call it Usagi Yojimbo Syndrome.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick Hanover: X-Factor has consistent sales for a reason: while other X-Titles suffer from constant creative team shifts, Peter David's vision more or less defines X-Factor by this point. It was David who reinvented the title in the early '90s, injecting it with more of the psychological exploration that he brought to the Hulk. The likelihood of anyone else having as much of a handle on these characters as David is slim to none and that kind of expert familiarity with a cast is hard to find in mainstream titles these days.

Danny: David's also got an excellent handle on humor and tone. His work is often incredibly funny (remember Captain Marvel?), but not afraid to get super-dark when the story calls for it. A lot of these characters have become "his," and this is his second stint on the title (after a very long absence), so hopefully he'll get tell his story as long as he wants. Which, judging by previous Peter David comics, is "until the end of time."


9. The Punisher

Why It's In Danger:

Nick: It's not written by Garth Ennis.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Danny: With the impending loss of Punisher MAX, I'm sure Marvel Universe Punisher is perfectly safe, but I'm afraid readers aren't paying enough attention to this great book. Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto are putting a unique crime fiction spin on The Punisher, focusing on cops and journalists working parallel to Frank Castle. Which isn't to say that it's un-Punisher-like -- Frank is still murdering criminals with a vast arsenal of weapons, but is now more of a (mostly) silent apparition in the story as opposed to a guy who narrates his story. It's The Punisher as we know him, but Rucka and Checchetto have tweaked the angle.

Nick: Rucka and Checchetto's Punisher isn't that far removed from Rucka's collaboration with Ed Brubaker, Gotham Central, which was, of course, notably cut short. This is a Punisher series that relies on more true to life characterization than is normally found in Punisher series. But that's also what makes it such an outstanding take on the character and Checchetto's art is equally revelatory. Yeah, this isn't Garth Ennis, but when it's this good, who cares?


8. Daredevil

Why It's In Danger:

Danny: Daredevil, besides being objectively great, is something anyone can read and enjoy without having to read 12 other books to understand -- which means it doesn't exactly appeal to the mainstream fanboy crowd, who starve for "importance" which translates to "tie-in." Hopefully Daredevil's newfound Avengers membership is getting some of those readers to check out something that didn't ever cross over with Fear Itself.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick: Even if accessibility was the main characteristic of Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera's Daredevil series, it'd be worth saving. Too often, mainstream comics tend to force themselves into a corner of impenetrability and Daredevil is a welcome respite from that trend, with issues that have definite beginnings, middles and ends rather than leaving structure for the trades, and between Rivera's pop art influences and Waid's timeless writing, Daredevil is full of potential cross-generational appeal.

Danny: Mark Waid is not only writing a fantastic Daredevil series, but one that isn't totally beholden to the tropes of Frank Miller's legendary run -- for like the first time in about a century. If that weren't enough, he has Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin drawing career-defining art. The storytelling in this book is unparalleled, and often gorgeous.


 

7. Venom

Why It's In Danger:

Nick: There has never been a Venom series that has hit the 20-issue mark, with most of Venom's titles being mini-series, with the exception of an 18-issue run published for Marvel's manga-influenced Tsunami imprint. There's also the little problem of the current Venom series bearing little to no similarity to the "classic" take on the character that Todd McFarlane kicked off and later rode to the bank when he made some minor cosmetic changes and renamed it Spawn.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Danny: Under Rick Remender, Venom is more than a scary pose or a glorified video game boss. It's a book with some real pathos, where the guy wearing the symbiote (amputee solider and Peter Parker bully Flash Thompson) needs that thing to function even though it's hurting, almost as some metaphor for alcoholism (another thing Flash suffers from). So, if you're missing Fear Agent already, it's got that going for it. But it's not a big angst-a-thon -- it's got lots of shooting and the Venomy things you'd expect from a muscly guy in a black Spider-Man costume. Oh, and Tony Moore and Tom Fowler are drawing the thing, so it always looks ace.

Nick: It helps that, in terms of characterization, Flash Thompson is far more complex than Eddie Brock ever was. Flash may have begun as merely a bully targeting the dweebish Peter Parker while simultaneously worshipping his altar ego, but over the past several decades he's morphed into something truly unique. Thompson is now fully fleshed out and functions in some ways as a true epic hero, complete with the pre-downfall hubris issues and a monkey or two on his back.


6. Avengers Academy

Why It's In Danger:

Danny: There are a lot of Avengers titles, and Avengers Academy gets short shrift for being the one that doesn't feature the big guns, being about Speedball, Tigra, Hank Pym and Justice teaching a bunch of at-risk kid superheroes how to be Avengers. No matter how good a title (and Avengers Academy is pretty good), these "young superhero" books are generally viewed as unnecessary derivatives of their parent books.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick: Last I checked, Young Avengers was still a series that only popped up sporadically at best and Runaways remains on indefinite hiatus. That means there's a pretty big gap in the "young superhero" market, especially when it comes to smart, well-written portrayals of the section of the Marvel U that can't throw down PBR at their leisure. Plus, where else will our resident Tigra enthusiast Ray Tate get his fix?

Danny: What's great about Avengers Academy is that it's not just a "young superheroes book" thanks to the lovely twist Christos Gage puts on the premise. In the first issue, we find out that the Avengers are training these kids not because they're promising young superheroes, but because they're the ones that seem most likely to grow up into supervillains. How do you grow up knowing that the AVENGERS think you're a bomb to disarm? That's a killer premise for a superhero comic.


5. Generation Hope

Why It's In Danger:

Danny: Generation Hope is a comic about the first group of kids to display mutant powers ever since Scarlet Witch temporarily ruined the X-Men franchise by editorial mandate. If Avengers Academy gets shafted for being a "young superheroes" comic, imagine how Generation Hope must feel when Marvel also publishes New Mutants!

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick: Because I haven't even had the chance to check it out yet.

Danny: Now that I think about it, Generation Hope actually a great counterpoint to Avengers Academy. If that book is about dealing with kids who could potentially have a negative effect on the world, Generation Hope is about kids who are providing a glimmer of hope (yep) for the future -- and just when it seemed like mutantkind was on its last legs. Writer James Asmus just inherited the book from Kieron Gillen (who graduated to Uncanny X-Men), so it'd really suck to lose a book you just got.


4. Journey Into Mystery

Why It's In Danger:

Nick: Unlike its Mighty Thor counterpart, which can at least count on hilariously misguided finger wagging to draw controversy Journey Into Mystery has as its protagonist Loki as a child. Which means no "hammer" talk or carefully placed blonde locks, but more importantly it means stories that rely on the character's cunning rather than brawn.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Danny: Journey into Mystery is a load of fun to read. Not only is the basic pitch pretty good (Kid Loki trying to make good while living in a land of gods who hate his guts), but Kieron Gillen's writing is almost always enjoyable and witty, as a comic about a young god getting into trouble should be. And it still has scary monsters and stuff -- just, y'know, fewer hammers smashing them.

Nick: It doesn't hurt that Loki is simply a far more interesting character than Thor, either. There's something inherently fascinating about trickster myths and it's easy to see further appeal in Loki in an era where we veer closer and closer to absolute chaos. Or that's what the crazy religious ladies on the bus keep telling me.


3. Thunderbolts

Why It's In Danger:

Danny: Thunderbolts is one of the few "recent" Marvel creations that's still around, but the premise sure has changed. What was once supervillains posing as heroes eventually became imprisoned supervillains enlisted by Norman Osborn to catch any superheroes that hadn't registered with the government, post-Civil War. Now, under Jeff Parker, Declan Shalvey and Kev Walker, it's about Luke Cage leading a team of super-prisoners to fight crime by way of a teleporting Man-Thing, who sometimes time travel and fight in World War II alongside the Invaders. Which might be too weird for readers who just want to see Captain America throw a shield at something.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick: Let's take a look at the Thunderbolts roster real quick. Heroes, if you're present, please say "Here." Wolverine? Wolverine? Wol-ver-ine? Hmm, absent. Spider-Man? Spider-Man? Spi-der-Man? Also absent. How peculiar. Captain America? Captain? America? Another absentee. Very odd.

Danny: If the fact that they use Man-Thing as their Quinjet wasn't enough, there's the totally bizarre anniversary issue, Thunderbolts #150: Captain America, Thor and Iron Man show up to do a performance evaluation and end up in a weird alternate universe where, amidst a lot of fighting and introspection, they run into an anthropomorphic frog fisherman. This is why Thunderbolts is necessary monthly reading for me.

Nick: Hey man, I told you to keep your frogman fetishism off the site. It's bad enough that half our content is devoted to lusty descriptions of Tigra.

Danny: It's not the frogmen... it's their legs.


2. Deadpool MAX

Why It's In Danger:

Nick: Are you kidding?! Have you read this series?! It's like if 120 Days of Sodom was a comedy directed by Quentin Tarantino. Also, David Lapham writes it and 99% of everything he touches gets canceled.

Why It Should Be Saved:

Danny: David Lapham + Kyle Baker = WINNINGTEAM

Nick: Admittedly I had to take a break from this series for a bit but that's probably because reviewing the series regularly is not the best way to experience it. Just trust me on this one: poop jokes are not meant to be analyzed and tied to wildly different mediums. Though I stand by my assertion that in terms of scatological art, Lapham and Baker's only competitors are George Clinton and the Ol' Dirty Bastard. But that aside, Deadpool MAX is a comic that simply needs to exist because Johnny Ryan can't function as the antithesis of the high-minded alternative comix movement all by his lonesome. And he doesn't have the backing of a subsidiary of Disney, so that has to count for something.

Danny: The fact that Disney technically publishes Deadpool MAX is the most perverse thing I have ever fucking heard.

Nick: That's only because you haven't read the original script for Snow White.

Danny: I do know that during the original version of "Heigh Ho" they were soliciting little dwarf prostitutes.

Nick: Wait a minute, do you know about Coal BlackMerry Melodies was pretty fucked up back in the day. "The assassins kidnap the girl, but after several unseen "favors" which make the would-be assassins very happy, set her free in the woods unharmed. Just before they drive off, the assassins are seen covered with So White's lipstick, an innuendo as to exactly how she earned her freedom."

Danny: Heigh-ho-lee shit


1. S.H.I.E.L.D.

Why It's In Danger:

Danny: While the title elicits thoughts of eye patches and HYDRA, under Jonathan Hickman S.H.I.E.L.D. is all about the architecture of the Marvel Universe -- a crazy cosmic thing where Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla team up with Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards to fight Isaac Newton. And Nostradamus is chained up in a dungeon somewhere. You can never, ever accuse Jonathan Hickman of selling out, okay?

Why It Should Be Saved:

Nick: It's clear that Hickman has a heavy interested in the Steranko era of Marvel, where technology was a frontier that could go toe to toe with Kirby's celestial lunacy. It's an area of Marvel that's been neglected for far too long and with Marvel's space titles undergoing a bit of a renaissance thanks to Annihilation, it'd be to Marvel's benefit to let Hickman continue to push the tech wizardry on readers until they come to their senses and make these books a hit as well.

Danny: It is a comic where Galileo has a giant laser pointed at Galactus.

Nick: SCIENCE!


Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery.


When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.

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