The Best 100 Marvel Stories Told From 1998 to 2015!

It’s been my goal since starting Comic Book Herald to help readers and new (or lapsed) comic fans navigate the modern Marvel Universe. In my estimate, that has always been since just before the turn of the century, as Marvel Knights, the Ultimate Universe, and the editorial reign of Joe Quesada rose from the ashes of Heroes Reborn.

I never really thought about what it might look like if this modern Marvel era ended. With Secret Wars set to launch the Marvel Universe into a new state of being (however dramatic that may be), it’s suddenly a fantastic time to look back on the era as a whole. What were the best Marvel stories told from 1998 through 2015? These are my picks:

A quick note about the presentation of these top 100 picks. I’ve listed the stories in chronological order, rather than “best of,” so readers can proceed through the guide in order, at least to a degree (note that extended selections will inevitably overlap).

This list is also very different from my 25 essential trades fast track, which is more geared towards getting new readers up to speed with Marvel Universe continuity at large. Some of those continuity-laced events and stories will overlap here, but not all. These are purely what I consider the best stories from the time period.

the Black Panther in a suit
A completely awesome Black Panther

Black Panther

Creative Team: Christopher Priest, Mark Texeira, Sal Velluto

Year(s): 1998 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues:  #1 – #49

I had never read a Black Panther comic in my life, but it was this 1998 Marvel Knights Black Panther series that hooked me on Marvel Unlimited, Wakanda, and T’Challa. Expertly fun and fresh take on Marvel’s royal Avenger.

Probably worth mentioning now that when I just completely love a full creative run, I’ll include the whole thing. Asking me to choose a single favorite story is like asking me to choose my favorite child, and I don’t even have kids.

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Daredevil: Guardian Devil

Creative Team: Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada

Year(s): 1998 to 1999

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 – #8

A lot of comic fans and insiders have serious problems with Kevin Smith comics, and I can understand some of it. Even Aaron Sorkin looks at some of these pages and says “Relax with the dialogue, bro.” The simple truth is this is a bottom tier top 100 story. Like it’s probably #100.

I also can’t deny that Guardian Devil is the comic that hooked me on Daredevil, and set me up for the long and destructively beautiful ride that is Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil.

Guardian Devil just feels important, and the story hits Matt Murdock where he lives, really setting the tone for the rest of the decade. I didn’t even realize how the Karen Page part of this story harkened back to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again storyline (Daredevil #226 to #233 – 1986), but you don’t need a history degree in comics to see when a broken relationship is at its bottom.

We saw a lot better Daredevil stories as the millennium progressed, but Guardian Devil deserves a spot on this list as part of the Marvel Knights launch moving the needle in the right direction.

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Inhumans

Creative Team: Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee

Year(s): 1998 to 1999

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues:  #1 – #12

One of my first favorite Marvel graphic novels. From Black Bolt’s opening interior monologue (the exterior version cracked the Earth in half) through all twelve issues, Jenkins and Lee capture the spirit of Inhuman civilization better than anyone I’ve ever seen. In continuity, out of continuity, it makes no difference: this is a perfect Inhumans graphic novel, and one of the best – and best looking – books on the list.

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Avengers react to return of Ultron
No words.

Avengers: Ultron Unlimited

Creative Team: Kurt Busiek, George Perez

Year(s): 1999

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #19 to #22

The Busiek and Perez run on Avengers isn’t particularly characterized as “dark,” but their Ultron story is almost shockingly serious. It’s one of my absolute favorite Ultron stories, with the villainous robot destroying the entire nation of Slovenia before the Avengers even have a chance to intercede. Let me restate that: Ultron commits genocide to get the Avengers’ attention.

It’s Ultron at his most powerful, committing atrocities we rarely see Marvel villains execute to completion. There’s a reason this was the first read on our Comic Book Herald reading club – modern Ultron doesn’t get better than this.

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The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank

Creative Team: Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon

Year(s): 2000 to 2001

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 – #12

It’s perhaps overly simplistic to make too much of the first page in a comic, but Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon nail Frank Castle right from the opening splash page. The Punisher stands tall and impossibly strong, menacingly telling a no-good thug “And get a haircut.”

This is the return of Punisher as violent enforcer, going on a one-man mob annihilation and succeeding. If you’ve never read a Garth Ennis comic before, you’ve likely never experienced the sort of violence, cheeky black humor, and absurdity that occurs in this series. It’s not for everyone, but good lord is it right for the Punisher.

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Ultimate Spider-Man

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley

Year(s): 2000 to 2009

Era of Continuity: Ultimate Universe

Issues: #1 to #133

It’s easy to forget now, but the Ultimate universe could have been just as much of an oddball failure as Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn.” What if we relaunched all the Marvel characters in a new, modern universe? It’s a question that only works in the right hands (and when those hands don’t craft things like teenage Tony Stark), and fortunately Bendis and Bagely were exactly the caretakers and creators needed for Ultimate Spider-Man.

These comics are astonishingly good, recreating the Spider-Man mythos Ditko and Lee created in the 60’s. Rather than adapt the source material too closely, or leap away too far, Bendis and Bagley find the right blend of old and new with remarkable consistency. No this isn’t your father’s Green Goblin, but he’s just as menacing (if not more so). No this isn’t your older brother’s Carnage, but it’s just as creepy and murderous.

The Ultimate Universe as a whole became strangely underrated and overshadowed as the millennium progressed, but for the most part, Ultimate Spider-Man can do no wrong. It’s a completely fresh reminder why millions have fallen in love with Peter Parker.

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Sentry

Creative Team: Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee

Year(s): 2000 to 2001

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #5

Conceptually, there are few series I love more than the initial five issue Sentry miniseries from Jenkins and Lee. What if there had been a Superman analogue in the Marvel Universe during the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby days? And what if that all-time great superhero had completely lost his mind, made the entire universe forget him, and was now living in quiet, agoraphobic isolation?

Ok, maybe no one has actually asked themselves that question, but Jenkins and Lee pull off the “lost” Marvel great with aplomb, creating a mythos and disturbing mental disorder that would go on to inspire New Avengers, Dark Avengers, and basically all of Marvel continuity from 2004 to 2010. It all starts with “Sentry,” though, and it likely doesn’t get better than this.

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Spider-Man’s Tangled Web: Flowers for Rhino

Creative Team: Peter Milligan, Duncan Fegredo

Year: 2001

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #5 to #6

I’m reasonably sure I read ‘Flowers for Algernon’ outloud in my 7th grade English class, but for the life of me I couldn’t have told you a single thing about the plot until I read Milligan and Fegredo’s updated ‘Flowers for Rhino.’

Favorite Rhino stories might not exactly be a cutthroat category, but typically they consist of things like “Rhino fights Juggernaut” or “Rhino fights Hulk.” Not ‘Flowers for Rhino!’

What would Rhino’s life look like with a rapidly accelerating intelligence? It’s a fascinating concept and brilliant execution from the creative team. A highly recommended quick two issue read.

Spider-Man’s Tangled Web Vol. 1

Karen Page in the clutches of David Tenn... I mean, the evil Purple Man
Karen Page in the clutches of David Tenn… I mean, the evil Purple Man

Daredevil: Yellow

Creative Team: Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale

Year(s): 2001 to 2002

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #6

My favorite selection from Loeb & Sale’s “Color Series,” although Spider-Man: Blue definitely tugs at the heartstrings, while Hulk: Grey is a more interesting psychological exploration of relationships.

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Fantastic Four: 1234

Creative Team: Grant Morrison, Jae Lee

Year(s): Oct 2001 to Jan 2002

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #4

Grant Morrison gets the Fantastic Four in his hands for their first miniseries on the Marvel Knights imprint, and absolutely tortures them until you can’t take any more. There are lots of great envelope-pushing stories that aren’t allowed into canon and it’s a detriment to the universe. With 1234, good lord is it a good thing this is out of canon. The Fantastic Four would be wandering forgotten derelicts, human shells housing the physical embodiment of their movie franchise.

If you can find me a more harrowing Fantastic Four story, I’ll cry.

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Fantastic Four

Creative Team: Mark Waid, Mike Wierigno

Year(s): 2002 to 2005

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #60 to #70, #500 to #524 (series renumbers after issue #70)

And on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo restoring joy to the Fantastic Four, the world’s leading imaginauts. This is the comic book series that made me think the Fantastic Four were great, and got me so emotionally invested I may have shed a tear during a certain tragedy. I’ll never admit that, though, so uh, *grunts*.

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Alias (aka Jessica Jones)

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos

Year(s): 2000 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #28

Brian Michael Bendis wrote some fantastic Marvel comics in the early 2000’s, but Alias might be the best of the bunch (and yes, I’m including Ultimate Spider-Man). Bendis inserts an unknown superhero mythos smack into the middle of the Marvel Universe, with Jessica Jones, a former superheroine calling herself Jewel (think a teen Ms. Marvel), now running a private investigation office and calling the superheroics quits.

Extremely mature and thoughtful, Alias adds one of the most conflicted, confused, human and ultimately heroic characters to the universe. Jessica Jones would never hit the highs she hits here in Alias, but then again, part of that is because writers would never again let her hit the lows inflicted by the Purple Man (at his absolutely most evil and twistedly compelling).

On Marvel Unlimited: It’s not available.

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New X-Men

Creative Team: Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely

Year(s): 2001 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: New X-Men #114 – #156, plus New X-Men annual #1 (read after New X-Men #117)

I was somewhat astonished when we read New X-Men as part of the Comic Book Herald reading club that there are comic fans that don’t fall head over heels in worship with Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men.

Upon re-reading, I can understand some of the dissatisfaction. Grant Morrison can be a whirlwind of imagination, occasionally favoring “crazy idea – Crazier Idea – CRAZIEST IDEA” beats in the space of a single panel. There’s literally a (nearly) silent issue here where Jean Grey and Emma Frost travel inside Professor Xavier’s mental swamp to uncover the mystery of his birth. They communicate via mental pictures. That really happens.

And still, I’m unabashedly in love with New X-Men. Let me count the ways: The transformation of romantic, funny, heart and soul of the X-Men Beast; the transformation of Scott Summers into a hard ass Cyclops comic book fans actually like; the transformation of Emma Frost from one-time evil White Queen to full-time awesome X-man; Wolverine stabbing everything.

New X-Men makes the best of list. It’s no question.

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Spidey and Ezekiel
Chats with Uncle Be… Ezekiel

Amazing Spider-Man

Creative Team: J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr

Year(s): June 2001 to May 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #30 to #57, #500 to #508

Straczynkski and John Romita Jr’s Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t get included as a full run on the list (issue #509 marks the start of the “Sins Past” story arc, which is a likely candidate for an as yet uncreated “Worst Marvel Stories of the Decade” post), but as Fleetwood Mac would say, “When you were good, you were very, very good.”

Amazing Spider-Man #30 brings Spidey into the new millennium, and moves Peter Parker forward with tremendous success. So much success, that Marvel had to undo the progress 7 years later with “One More Day.” But hey – when it was good? It was very, very good.

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Exiles

Creative Team: Judd Winick, Mike McKone

Year(s): 2001 to 2003

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #37

I could conceivably make this best of list just about Exiles, and write just as many words. Exiles is one of my absolute all-time favorite Marvel series, taking me totally by surprise with the brilliance and heart of this reality-hopping X-Universe squad.

The concept: A group of X-related heroes are pulled from various realities by the mysterious Time Broker, and must right wrongs in the multiverse in order to gain a return to their home reality. The end result is a completely fascinating and fun Marvel What If? that explores “What if Professor X was evil,” “What if Iron Man became Dr. Doom?,” and “What if the Skrulls conquered Earth,” among many others. Existing favorites like Blink (Age of Apocalypse) and Morph (a new variation on the X-Men Animated Series classic) are joined by soon to be favorites such as Mimic and Nocturne, and a rotating core of others.

The series continues for one hundred issues into 2007, but it’s these 37 issues written by Judd Winick that truly represent the greatness at hand.

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X-Force / X-Statix

Creative Team: Peter Milligan, Mike Allred

Year(s): 2001 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: X-Force #116 to #129, X-Statix #1 to #26

That hyperbolic praise I just lauded upon Exiles? I have just as much of it for X-Statix (which technically launched as the world’s weirdest possible variation on X-Force).

Over the course of three years, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred put together the single greatest satire of the X-Men industrial complex in Marvel history, while simultaneously writing a pretty genuinely great superhero team book.

The onslaught of reality TV and pop culture fame seeps into the X-verse, and while Grant Morrison played with similar themes in New X-Men, it’s never as insightful and full of meta commentary as X-Statix. The next time you read Wolverine & the X-Men and wonder “What the heck is the deal with Doop?” just know that it all starts here in X-Statix.

On Marvel Unlimited: X-Force and X-Statix

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Daredevil

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev

Year(s): 2000 to 2006

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #16 to #19, #26 to #81

One of the most important Marvel series of the early 2000’s, beginning the complete and total deconstruction of Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil. While comic fans in the 1980’s had Frank Miller and “Born Again,” newer readers in the 2000’s had Bendis & Maleev constructing “Out” and the gradual decay of the hero of Hell’s Kitchen.

Some of the comics that made me a fan for life, and possibly the first time in my life I stopped simply to admire comic book art. Alex Maleev crafts a world for Daredevil completely unique in the Marvel landscape, with evocative grit seething from each panel.

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Captain-Marvel

Captain Marvel

Creative Team: Peter David,

Year(s): 2002 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #25

Peter David wrote a Captain Marvel series starring Genis-Vell (son of Jim Starlin’s iconic Kree Mar-Vell) and Rick Jones from 2000 to 2002, but it wasn’t until the series relaunched with its life at stake (as part of a “fans vote on the best comic!” promotion that included stiff competition from… Marville) that Captain Marvel took off.

Rising from the ashes of a relatively by-the-numbers Captain Marvel series, version 2 found David exploring a simple yet complex question: What is a God? And would being a god drive you mad?

The end result is a thought-provoking and immensely entertaining comic book run in which Genis-Vell loses control of his cosmic awareness, and subsequently loses his mind. Feelings about Genis-Vell are in a constant state of flux, as he flexes heroic muscles and insane murderous rampages, sometimes in the space of a single page. Meanwhile, Rick Jones is trying to get a handle on Captain Marvel before the whole Marvel Universe pays the price. It’s an absolutely great concept-driven series that plays with themes we don’t often see explored in depth within Marvel.

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Identity Disc

Creative Team: Rob Rodi, John Higgins

Year(s): 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #5

Identity Disc is criminally underrated, a completely perfect Marvel villains heist that draws from classics like the Usual Suspects and The Sting.

The miniseries is best treated as out of continuity, cobbling together a team from various points in their Marvel history. Juggernaut is in his do-gooder Uncanny X-Men stage from the period, but Bullseye appears to be pre-Murdock head carving, and Deadpool is nebulously villainous. Which brings us to the full roster: Bullseye, Juggernaut, Deadpool, Sabertooth, Vulture, and Sandman. It’s a great, oddball crew you won’t see assembled anywhere else, and the story benefits as a result.

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Runaways

Creative Team: Brian K. Vaughn, Adrian Alphona

Year(s): 2003 to 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #18

I’m not as over the moon about Runaways as many fans, but there’s no denying it’s a great new entry into the Marvel Universe from acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona. Another series high on conceptual appeal: Imagine the lives of children of Marvel villains. What would their lives look like if they found out their parents were super villains?

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Doctor Octopus: Negative Exposure

Creative Team: Brian K. Vaughn, Staz Johnson

Year(s): Oct 2003 to Feb 2004

Era of Continuity: Marvel Knights

Issues: #1 to #5

It’s not necessarily going to get mentioned in the same breath as Runaways or Saga, but Brian K. Vaughn’s Doc Ock miniseries is a fantastic read. Vaughn takes one of the least interesting aspects of the Spider-Man mythos (Peter Parker’s photography) and turns it into a strikingly memorable, insightful, and frequently funny look at the impact on a scorned Daily Bugle photojournalist. Simultaneously a great Doc Ock story and the most interested I’ve ever been in the Daily Bugle’s editorial policy on photography.

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Avengers Disassembled

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch

Year(s): 2004

Era of Continuity: Disassembled

Issues: Avengers #500 to #503, Avengers Finale #1

At this point, Avengers Disassembled is defined more by its legacy than it is the actual story. This is the story that marks 1) The end of the Avengers as Stan and Jack intended them 2) The beginning of the modern Marvel era of events and 3) The rise of Brian Michael Bendis as Marvel architect supreme.

All of this is true, and varying degrees of problematic depending on who you ask. For me, though, as a new reader sinking deeper and deeper into the Marvel Universe, this was simply one of the most important feeling comics I’d ever read, and it absolutely did have a lasting impact on the Marvel Universe for years to come.

I also may be a total sap (see also: Cries when Gandalf lets go of the bridge in “The Fellowship of the Rings”) but “Not like this. NOT LIKE THIS!!!” is one of my favorite moments in Avengers history. Just a perfect scene that I won’t spoil with too much information.

On Marvel Unlimited: Avengers + Avengers Finale

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He has a lot on his mind.

Secret War

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Gabriel Del Otto

Year(s): 2004 to 2005

Era of Continuity: Between Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #5

As if disassembling the Avengers wasn’t enough, Bendis set out to similarly unravel Nick Fury and as a result SHIELD with Secret War.

The five issue miniseries is a clear modern parallel of the United States invading Iraq, with Nick Fury assembling a team of heroes (Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Wolverine, and Luke Cage) to run a covert invasion of Latveria.

It’s a great concept, if a bit over the top by the conclusion, and sets the stage for much better Nick Fury stories to come (I’m looking at you Secret Warriors).

The real win of Secret War is five issues of sequential art by Gabriel Del Otto, painting the Marvel Universe with unforgettable skill. That, and it gave us the weirdest deep cut reference in the history of Arrested Development.

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New Avengers

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch

Year(s): 2004 to 2005

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #6

New Avengers was the driving force of all Marvel comics continuity from 2004 to 2007, seguing the freshly ravaged ground left in the wake of Avengers Disassembled and building a path to Secret Invasion.

There’s some controversy as to the actual Avengers assembled (Spider-Man & Wolverine, Avengers? Never!), but for me this was an exciting new take on what the Avengers were always supposed to be: the most heroic and interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. As in, significantly less Jack of Hearts and Ant-Man 2.0, and a whole lot more Peter Parker.

While New Avengers would remain sturdy as it navigated the complex continuity landscape of the 2000’s, it was never better than the first six issue “Breakout” story arc. The concept is wonderfully simple, as a new group of Avengers must band together to control a prison breakout on the island Raft. It’s the premise Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would go on to use, and for good reason. There are few better moments in this series than the debut of the all-new Sentry fighting Carnage, or Luke Cage getting sweet revenge on the Purple Man.

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Young Avengers

Creative Team: Allen Heinberg, Jim Cheung

Year(s): 2005 to 2006

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #12

It’s odd to think about in retrospect, but despite the success of DC’s Teen Titans, Marvel never really had a lasting Avengers counter. Unless you count Power Pack, but no one counts Power Pack.

As simple as the concept might be (a younger version of Iron Man called… Iron Lad!), in 2005 this would have been remarkably easy to mess up. Young Avengers couldn’t just be a watered down, teen version of classic Avengers. There had to be something to these characters, they had to move the bar forward in interesting and unique ways.

Young Avengers does exactly that, reminding everyone in the wake of Avengers Disassembled what it means to be an Avenger in the first place. The success rate on new heroes is astonishing here, with Young Avengers introducing Patriot, Iron Lad, and most importantly, Kate Bishop Hawkeye, all characters that would have lasting impact in the Marvel Universe to present day.

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Deadpool versus Agent X

Cable and Deadpool

Creative Team: Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Zircher

Year(s): 2004 to 2008

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #50

Deadpool can be a very easy character to dislike. Don’t tell him I said this, but in the wrong hands, he can be disastrously juvenile, the dumbest kid in the junior high performing open mic stand-up in a bathroom stall.

Cable and Deadpool is the series that convinced me Deadpool could be brilliant. Paired with the stoic, messianic Cable, we have one of comic’s weirdest and most enjoyable buddy comedies.

Both Cable and Deadpool are rarely more likeable than they are in this shared series. I’ll stop loving this book right around the same time I get tired of Nathaniel Dayspring jokes.

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Astonishing X-Men

Creative Team: Joss Whedon, John Cassaday

Year(s): 2004 to 2008

Era of Continuity: After Avengers Disassembled

Issues: #1 to #24, plus Annual #1

There’s a reason Joss Whedon is the king of the nerds, and it isn’t just his TV (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) and movie work (Serenity… there has to be something else…). Whedon’s work with Cassaday on Astonishing X-Men is one of the most beloved X-Men runs of all-time. Where Morrison’s New X-Men challenged readers with hit-or-miss conceptual weirdness, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men got to the heart of these mutants, showing a funny, tragic, heroic group we’ve all come to love.

I’ve only read the series once and I still remember some of the one-liners that made me laugh. “No. Canadians.” “Are you a beer?” It’s a wonderfully conclusive X-story, and is most notably the point in the decade when Cyclops really solidifies into the tough guy leader with a demanding yet respectable point of view. Believe it or not.

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Marvel Zombies

Creative Team: Robert Kirkman, Sean Phillips

Year(s): 2005

Era of Continuity: After Avengers Disassembled

Issues: #1 to #5

The creator of The Walking Dead did a series called Marvel Zombies. It’s horrifying and I’ll be here when you get back.

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X-23

Creative Team: Christopher Yost, Craig Kyle, Billy Tan

Year(s): 2005

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #6

Taking the Wolverine: Weapon X story and reimagining it with a young girl as Wolverine could have flopped hard, but instead we got one of the better additions to the X-Men Universe in the 2000’s. The lesson as always: young girl Wolverine is money.

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Madrox

Creative Team: Peter David, Pablo Raimondi

Year(s): 2004 to 2005

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #5

I’ve been extremely impressed lately watching “Better Caul Saul,” the Breaking Bad spinoff starring Bob Odenkirk. I loved Breaking Bad (hot take!) but man did I not ever expect to care as much about sleezy lawyer Saul Goodman as I do in this series.

I feel similarly about the Marvel Knights Madrox miniseries from Peter David and Pablo Raimondi. Man, did I not ever expect to care about the Multiple Man. Peter David finds unlimited layers of personality within Madrox, with each duplicate taking over a new facet of Madrox’s persona. It makes perfect sense coming from the man who explored every manifestation of Bruce Banner’s psyche over the course of Incredible Hulk.

The story itself is a well-crafted noir mystery, and sets up a long reign for Madrox, David, and X-Factor.

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X-Factor

Creative Team: Peter David, Dennis Calero

Year(s): 2005 to 2013

Era of Continuity: After House of M

Issues: #1 to #262 (reboots to #200 after issue #50)

Glorious. Simply glorious.

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She-Hulk

Creative Team: Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, Paul Pelletier

Year(s): 2004 to 2005

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #12

It is not a simple task to find strong solo series with female leads in the early 2000’s, but Dan Slott’s She-Hulk definitely stands out. Before Slott would take the reigns of Spider-Man and never let go, he reimagined She-Hulk in a starring role on Ally McBeal, complete with law office hijinks, free sex, and women in charge.

It’s a funny, intriguing take on the character of Jennifer Walters and provides some much needed distance between her and “Hulk Smash!” These twelve issues also double as the Mad Thinker’s Android’s best comics. Do you, Andy the Android.

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Books of Doom

Creative Team: Ed Brubaker, Pablo Raimondi

Year(s): 2005 to 2006

Era of Continuity: Between House of M and Civil War

Issues: #1 to #6

If you’ve been following comics long enough, it probably doesn’t take more than “Brubaker” and “Dr. Doom” to get you excited about this six issue mid-decade miniseries.

Ed Brubaker is one of the most prolific writers in comics, crafting Criminal, Fatale, Velvet, and plenty more we’ll see on the rest of this list. Books of Doom might not be the definitive Dr. Doom story, but it captures the tone of the regal and omnipotence-obsessing Doom very well.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Creative Team: Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting

Year(s): 2004 to 2006

Era of Continuity: Between Avengers Disassembled and House of M

Issues: #1 to #9, #11 to #14 (issue #10 is a House of M tie-in)

You’ve seen the movie, now it’s time to enjoy the (superior) comic story that started it all.

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s run on Captain America would continue through 2011, and while it maintained a level of excellence, the series comes out of the gate on fire. The Winter Soldier story arc is wildly ambitious and could have fallen flat on its head in one of Marvel’s most disastrous ideas in the hands of the wrong creators.

Instead, we got an instant classic, and the story that would spark the greatest Captain America comics I’ve ever read.

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House of M

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel

Year(s): 2005

Era of Continuity: House of M

Issues: #1 to #8

I’m a sucker for alternate reality comics, and House of M was one of the stories that made me want to start reading modern Marvel comics in the first place. Plus, in context, House of M was the dramatic continuation of Avengers Disassembled, spinning the Marvel Universe through a series of interconnected events that intertwined beautifully.

The concept of House of M is an all-time Marvel great, with Magneto and his mutant family ruling the world and establishing a (semi) harmonious version of society. Instead of the evil Magneto of the Ultimate Universe, in House of M we see a warped reality where everyone gets the type of outcome they’ve always wanted. Do the heroes really need to undo things?

An absolutely essential read for Marvel continuity of the decade, and most importantly, a fun read by itself.

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Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

Creative Team: Sean McKeever, Takeshi Miyazawa

Year(s): 2005 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Outside Earth-616 (it’s its own thing)

Issues: #1 to #20

If you had told me in 2005 that I would be a huge fan of a comic starring young Mary Jane when I was an adult, I might have socked you in the quadriceps. And if Mary Jane’s high school scene sounds a little juvenile, well, I mean… it is literally a story of adolescence. You have a point.

Nonetheless, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is so well executed, with both Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa capturing the look and feel of high school drama. It’s a reimagined Spider-verse, taking all the purest elements of romance and hormones from the early Lee & Ditko Spider-Man and crafting a sweet Mary Jane love story. It is probably the most I’ve liked her character.

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Iron Man: Extremis

Creative Team: Warren Ellis, Adi Granov

Year(s): 2004 to 2006

Era of Continuity: Between House of M and Civil War

Issues: #1 to #6

Leave it to Warren Ellis to reinvent Iron Man for the 2000’s with such success that it became the template for the movie franchise that would save Marvel Studios. The scope of Extremis is pretty impressive. This could easily have been just a reinvention of Tony Stark’s origins, and that would have been notable enough.

Ellis takes the upgrade one unexpected step further with a complete reimagining of what it means for Tony Stark to be Iron Man. It’s comic book sci-fi at its best (biological armor – the suit is a part of him!) and gives us the most interesting Iron Man comics this side of the jerry curl mustache throwdown combo.

I’m not an Adi Granov scholar (#confession), but Exremis is also the best art work I’ve seen from Gradov, giving a digitally infused sheen life and malice throughout all six issues.

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Dr. Strange: The Oath

Creative Team: Brian K. Vaughn, Marcos Martin

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Between House of M and Civil War

Issues: #1 to #5

The simplest sell: One of the best Dr. Strange stories of the decade, from the creative team that recently brought us the excellent, “pay-what-you-want” Private Eye webcomic.

The possibly simpler sell: Dr. Strange playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, with Wong as Watson, solving a supernatural murder mystery with the help of the Night Nurse.

You can go ahead and start reading now. No, really, it’s fine, I’ll wait.

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New Avengers: Illuminati

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Cheung

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: The Initiative and Essentials (From Before Civil War Until Secret Invasion)

Issues: #1 to #6

One of my favorite Bendis concepts from the 2000’s. What if the brightest minds and most powerful representatives of Earth met in secret for years to determine the fate of the planet? Reed Richards, Iron Man, Professor X, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange and Namor form the Illuminati, or as it’s also known, my favorite team of the decade.

The ambition of New Avengers: Illuminati is unmatched, tackling the Kree/Skrull War, the Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars and the Beyonder, and women. Some issues go better than others.

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Planet Hulk

Creative Team: Greg Pak, Carlo Pagualyan

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Between House of M and Civil War

Issues: Incredible Hulk #92 to #105, Giant Size Hulk #1

I could tell you Planet Hulk is the best Hulk story of the decade, but that’s an understatement. It’s the only essential Hulk story from 2000 to 2007, and is the impetus for every interesting Hulk story to come.

Those aforementioned Illuminati took it upon themselves to launch the Hulk into space, where the Green Goliath finds himself a slave gladiator on an alien planet. If you’ve ever looked at Russell Crowe and thought “This could use more Hulk,” Planet Hulk is for you.

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Civil War

Creative Team: Mark Millar, Steve McNiven

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Civil War

Issues: #1 to #7

Civil War’s popularity is consistently astounding. No Marvel event or storyline from this 17 year time period can really come close to achieving the visibility and status that Millar and McNiven reached here. The Civil War reading order is the top Comic Book Herald guide week in and week out, by a wide margin.

It’s not like the concept of heroes fighting one another was particularly innovative (they’ve been doing it regularly since Amazing Spider-Man #1). Civil War brings a formality and longevity to the internal brouhaha, though, with the Superhuman Registration Act finally addressing the anonymous vigilante epidemic plaguing the Marvel Universe.

It’s an epic story (there’s a reason Captain America 3 will be a “Civil War” movie), providing some pretty great fodder for tie-in stories like Civil War: Frontline and Amazing Spider-Man. Plus, you’ll never quite look at Captain America and Iron Man the same way again.

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Civil War: Frontline

Creative Team: Paul Jenkins

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Civil War

Issues: #1 to #11

There aren’t a heckuva a lot of event tie-ins that stand on their own two legs quite as well as Frontline. These comics follow ace reporter Ben Urich’s descent from the Daily Bugle’s soul-sucking vitriol (well at least J. Jonah Jameson’s) to founding his own paper. Naturally, he unravels a sinister mystery at the heart of Civil War, with some shockingly essential/controversial details for major Civil War players.

I’m not exactly dying for investigative journalism comics every day of the week, but Civil War: Frontline executes very well, and actually adds a load of information to the primary event.

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Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War & Back in Black

Creative Team: J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Civil War, After Civil War and Before Secret Invasion

Issues: #529 to #543

Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man hit a second peak with Peter Parker’s involvement during Civil War. A big part of my initial admiration for JMS on AMS was the willingness to move Spidey forward, and we see that in spades during Civil War. First, Spider-Man grows up, utilizing his Avengers connections to gain Iron-Spider armor from Tony Stark and become a technologically advanced hero.

From there, Peter’s involvement in Civil War sets up one of the most dangerous situations in his entire life. When that danger results in the harm of a loved one, Spidey goes “Back in Black,” donning the black suit and doing his “Batman” bone-breaking imitation. In addition to a great story, this leads to my all-time favorite “definition of a chump” speech from the Kingpin (when confronted by Spidey in prison), in a scene plotted out above by Ron Garney.

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Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E.

NEXTWAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Creative Team: Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Civil War

Issues: #1 to #12

NEXTWAVE might be the funniest comic book Marvel has ever released. Warren Ellis channels the impromptu non-sequiturs of “Family Guy” and fuses them within the reliable structure of a SHIELD spy agency story.

You need to read NEXTWAVE to believe it, but I will let you know that this is the comic that finally breaches the long-awaited silence around one of Marvel’s greatest conundrums: Why does Fin Fang Foom where purple underwear?

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Thunderbolts

Creative Team: Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato

Year(s): 2007 to 2008

Era of Continuity: After Civil War, Before Secret Invasion

Issues: #110 to #121

The use of known criminal villains as part of their army was one of the more striking tactics of the pro-registration side during Civil War. Warren Ellis investigates the this morally ambiguous strategy as it moves to Thunderbolt mountain, home of the “reformed” villains turned crime-fighting do-gooders. With Norman Osborne (Green Goblin!) at the helm, a team of Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone, and other “reformed” villains do their best to prove their “heroism” before anyone can see what’s really going on inside the mountain.

A fantastic look at the depravity of our heroes, Ellis sets up Osborne and the Thunderbolts for a major role in the Marvel Universe moving forward.

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Death of Captain America

Creative Team: Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting

Year(s): 2007 to 2008

Era of Continuity: The Initiative and Essential Stories

Issues: #25 to #42

I highly encourage you to read the Brubaker and Epting Cap run in its entirety, but The Death of Captain America Civil War aftermath stands out. Any “death of” storyline could easily be a publicity stunt, but Brubaker and Epting present a story that flows logically out of their narrative, and sets the stage for a completely new and highly entertaining era of Captain America to come.

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The Death of Captain America: Fallen Son

Creative Team: Jeph Loeb, Leinil Francis Yu

Year(s): 2007

Era of Continuity: The Initiative and Essential Stories

Issues: #1 to #5

Five heroes deal with the death of Captain America in their own way, with each hero taking on a new aspect of the stages of grief.

Again, this goes well beyond publicity and presents an insightful take on mourning in the Marvel Universe.

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Annihilation

Creative Team: Keith Giffen, Andrea Di Vito

Year(s): 2006 to 2007

Era of Continuity: Marvel Cosmic Annihilation (During Civil War)

Issues: #1 to #6

The Marvel Cosmic scence was something of a desolate galaxy for many of the years following Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet / War/ Crusade trinity in the first half of the 90’s.

Annihilation completely changed all that, with a galaxy-spanning war between the cosmic forces of good and Annihilus of the Negative Zone’s Annihilation Wave!

Annihilation goes for everything bringing Galactus, Silver Surfer, Thanos, Nova, Skrulls, Drax the Destroyer, and much more together for a cohesive and impossibly entertaining cosmic starscape. The Marvel Cosmic scene would see some good stories in the following years, but it arguably never got better than Annihilation.

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Nova

Creative Team: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Sean Chen

Year(s): 2007 to 2008

Era of Continuity: Marvel Cosmic, Annihilation to Thanos Imperative

Issues: #1 to #15 (runs until issue #36)

The Marvel Universe has such history, and so many memorable characters, that it takes a lot to lift one of those characters above the fray and make them a fan favorite. The Marvel Cosmic power-duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were able to do this with two series: Guaridans of the Galaxy and Nova.

Annihilation impacts Richard Rider more than just about any character this side of Thanos, building him into the leader of the galactic resistance, and sole representative of the Nova Corps. It’s strange to think about, but in a lot of ways Nova is the single most important Earth hero in all of Marvel. While the heroes are back home resolving their conflicts with property damage, Nova is saving every living thing from an Annihilation Wave.

While it certainly tapers off a bit during the last third, the full Nova run is one of the main reasons Marvel Cosmic fans so fervently love this stretch in cosmic history.

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Annihilation – Conquest: Star-Lord

Creative Team: Keith Giffen, Timothy Green

Year(s): 2007

Era of Continuity: Marvel Cosmic, Annihilation: Conquest

Issues: #1 to #4

First things first, this is not your summer’s Star-Lord. This is the build up to the Peter Quill fans of the MCU have come to know and love, and a fascinating build it is. Just see what Groot’s humble beginnings look like compared to the focused mind we know now!

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Creative Team: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

Year(s): 2008 to 2010

Era of Continuity: Marvel Cosmic, Annihilation: Conquest to Thanos Imperative

Issues: #1 to #25

See above. Oh and this: There were no Guardians of the Galaxy until Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning brought them out of a half-formed, idea seed in the Annihilation Conquest: Star-Lord miniseries. Yes, the team name exists, and yes there are Guardians of the Galaxy moments in Marvel history as essential as the Avengers’ Korvac Saga, but the team of movie-reknown didn’t exist until this series in 2007.

These are the comics that bring us Peter Quill, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer at their best. Not to mention non-movie favorites like Mantis, Bug, Cosmo, and Adam Warlock. We’ll always have Knowhere.

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Thor

Creative Team: J. Michael Straczynski, Olivier Coipel

Year(s): 2007 to 2009

Era of Continuity: After Civil War, Dark Reign Through Siege

Issues: #1 to #12, #600 to #603

The post-Ragnarok years were not very kind to Thor’s Midguard companions. Without Thor, the Avengers disassembled, the mutant population was decimated, brother fought brother, Thor got evil-cloned, and Captain America died. Things escalated quickly. I think Brick killed a guy.

JMS brings Thor back with the same forward-thinking plots that made Amazing Spider-Man so interesting, and Olivier Coipel tightens Thor’s helmet enough that he doesn’t look like a Medieval Times lifer on a smoke break. A consistently great Thor story that gives us Asgard, Oklahoma, Lady Loki making literally every man in America question their sexuality, and Sir Bill the Brave.

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The Immortal Iron Fist

Creative Team: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja

Year(s): 2006 to 2008

Era of Continuity: The Initiative and Essential Stories

Issues: #1 to #16

I’m no Iron Fist scholar, but if you had told me Danny Rand would have one of the best Marvel stories of the 2000’s, I’d have been both excited and extremely skeptical. As power-sets go, Danny Rand’s couldn’t be more on-the-nose. He strikes with a fist as unto iron. That’s it. It’d be like calling Spider-Man “Sticky Hands” (or better, Super Hans).

Brubaker and Fraction tap into the mysticism and kung-fu at the heart of Iron Fist, diving head first into the mythical city of K’un L’un and never looking back. The Kung Fu contest of champions alone, with fight moves so gloriously named they’re nearly blinding, is worth the price of admission.

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Captain Britain & MI13

Creative Team: Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk

Year(s): 2008 to 2009

Era of Continuity: Secret Invasion, Dark Reign

Issues: #1 to #15

I didn’t expect to have a Captain Britain comic on this list. Then again, I didn’t expect a Captain Britain comic to tell the best supernatural haunted house story of the year (paging… Doctors Who and Strange… paging). And I certainly didn’t expect a Captain Britain comic to tell the best Dracula story of the year. Captain Britain & MII3 does all that and more.

Paul Cornell’s imagination runs rampant with the Captain Britain mythos, and somehow simultaneously inserts this Captain Britain run into Secret Invasion and Dark Reign tie-ins. Easily the most invested I’ve been in Brian Braddock, the Falsworth family and Pete Wisdom from comics in the 2000’s.

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World War Hulk

Creative Team: Greg Pak, John Romita Jr

Year(s): 2007

Era of Continuity: World War Hulk

Issues: #1 to #5

If Planet Hulk is the best Hulk run of the decade (it is), then World War Hulk is the after party. How do you follow up an Incredible Hulk alien gladiator space romance? You send him back to earth madder than he’s ever been, and you give him some arrogant Illuminati to smash.

I’m not going to try and pretend there’s a smarter undercurrent to WWH. This is Hulk SMASH! fun at its smashiest. Hulkbuster Iron Man armor? Check. Hulk vs. Black Bolt on the moon? Check. Dr. Strange calling upon forces unknown and avoiding banishing the Hulk to another dimension basically because “that’s too easy.” Check.

War. What is it good for?

World War Hulk.

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Wolverine: Get Mystique

Creative Team: Jason Aaron, Ron Garney

Year(s): 2008

Era of Continuity: After Messiah Complex

Issues: #62 to #65

Mystique never felt quite justified as a top Wolverine villain for me until I read “Get Mystique.” The concept is simple but beautifully executed: Wolverine, the world’s greatest tracker, is hunting a nearly unidentifiable master of espionage.

This could only end in blood, and trust me, it does.

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Incredible Hercules

Creative Team: Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Paul Neary

Year(s): 2008 to 2010

Era of Continuity: Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Chaos War

Issues: #113 to #141

Hot on the heels of World War Hulk Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente tell what has to be the finest extended Hercules run in Marvel history. No longer the rollicking brainless brawny Avenger, Incredible Herc and Amadeus Cho (with pup in tow) travel through Greek Myth and the post Civil War landscape for a surprisingly mythic buddy comedy.

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Old Man Logan

Creative Team: Mark Millar, Steve McNiven

Year(s): 2008 to 2009

Era of Continuity: The Future, but Published after World War Hulk

Issues: Wolverine #66 to #72, + Wolverine: Old Man Giant-Size #1

I expected to find Old Man Logan pretty corny, or pretty obnoxious (I’m lupewarm on Millar, but when he’s bad – see also: Wanted – oy vey). Instead I got a really fun alternate reality future Logan story, with old blind Hawkeye (great concept), an America carved up territorially by super villains (great concept), and a Hulk controlled California with a lot of interbreeding (ok, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad?).

More than anything, I was completely enthralled in the Wolverine backstory Millar and McNiven create to give a reason for Logan’s newfound nonviolence. It’s mysterious, clever, and surprisingly believable. The pacing inevitably feels rushed, and it certainly feels like the Old Man Logan universe could be explored in more detail, but as is, this is a highly enjoyable future Wolverine read.

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Invincible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted

Creative Team: Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca

Year(s): 2008 to 2009

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign

Issues: #8 to #19

The Marvel Universe has been pretty insistent on knocking Tony Stark down a few pegs since the start of the decade, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s handsome, he’s charming, he’s impossibly rich, and if that wasn’t enough to set your jealousy over the edge, he’s generally the smartest guy in the room (and he’ll let you know).

None of that can save Tony Stark when he wins the Civil War (at the cost of Captain America), becomes Director of SHIELD, survives World War Hulk (barely), and subsequently is held responsible for the Skrull Secret Invasion. Nobody said being the man would be easy.

Iron Man’s fall from ruling the world inspires one of his better stories, as he’s suddenly on the run from Norman Osborne’s Dark Reign. Not only is he a wanted man, but Tony also has to find a way to keep Stormin’ Norman from accessing the identity of every superhero on Earth – stored in Tony’s brain. Comics!

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Dark Avengers

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato

Year(s): 2009 to 2010

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign

Issues: #1 to #16

Bad guys playing the role of good guys happens all the time in comics. Juggernaut joins the X-Men, Magneto joins the X-Men (weekly), Doctor Doom joins the Fantastic Four… it happens. Bad guys don’t typically displace the good guys, though, and that’s what we have with Dark Avengers, the book at the heart of Norman Osborne’s Dark Reign.

Part of the thrill of Dark Avengers is that these government sanctioned “heroes” rarely have particularly altruistic motives or desires for betterment. Bullseye and Venom are still complete lunatics, even if they’re dressed up like Hawkeye and Venom.

Despite the tenuous grip Osborne and co hold on their Avengers’ cards, it’s still immensely entertaining to watch them go on actual Avengers missions. The Dark Avengers take on Molecule Man and live to tell the tale. Sure they’re a murderous band of criminals, but that’s some heroism right there.

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Dark Reign: The Cabal

Creative Team: Assorted

Year(s): 2009

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign

Issues: #1

If a roster of cool characters assembles with a one word, vaguely meaningless team name, I’m 98% of the way on board. When a roster of Doctor Doom, The Green Goblin, Namor the Submariner, Emma Frost, The Hood, and Loki (lady style) gather to take over the world, I might just up and rank a single issue one of the best 100 Marvel stories of the last 17 years.

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Secret Warriors

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Casselli

Year(s): 2009 to 2011

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign through Heroic Age

Issues: #1 to #28

This isn’t that post, but in my opinion Jonathan Hickman wins the crown for most consistently excellent Marvel writer from 2008 to 2015, in a landslide. It all starts with Secret Warriors (with a major assist from Brian Michael Bendis). Hickman takes what could have been an innocuous Dark Reign tie-in, and turns it into the best Nick Fury story of the millennium.

This is the comic that every Marvel fan wishes Agents of SHIELD could be. This is the comic that made me consider naming a child La Contessa Valentina de Alegra (and I don’t even have kids). This is the comic that you should be queuing up in your Marvel Unlimited library right now.

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The Punisher

Creative Team: Rick Remender, Tan Eng Huat

Year(s): 2009

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign

Issues: #1 to #10 + Dark Reign: The List – Punisher #1

Rick Remender’s time on Punisher is probably best known for the spinoff he created (the series is called Frankencastle… I’ll let you put it together), but his issues set in the Dark Reign landscape are excellent. The first issue begins with Frank Castle taking a shot at Norman Osborne (something only Hawkeye would have the cajones to do until Siege) and then fighting the Sentry. If you’ve ever wanted to see Punisher v. Superman, well that’s basically what we have here. And man is it a joy.

In grand Rick Remender tradition, things do not go well for Mr. Castle, but his street savvy in trying to take on the whole darn Dark Avengers is one of my favorite Punisher stories of the decade.

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Ghost Rider

Creative Team: Jason Aaron, Roland Boschi

Year(s): 2008 to 2009

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign to the Heroic Age

Issues: #20 to #35 + Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire #1 to #6

I’m not a Ghost Rider guy. Never have been. I don’t think any character was as negatively hit by the weird post-Spider-Man 2 and pre-Marvel Studios movie wave as Ghost Rider. A flaming skull riding around on a motorcycle? Those are two things I literally never want to even try.

So when I say Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider is a must-read, and oddly comparable to Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, that doesn’t come lightly. This is a fascinating mythology spanning heaven, hell, and a whole lot of penance stares. If you like a little supernatural religion in your comics, give Ghost Rider a shot, and pray he doesn’t find you guilty.

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Fantastic Four / FF

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Dale Eaglesham

Year(s): 2008 to 2012

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign to the Heroic Age

Issues: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1 to #5, Fantastic Four #570 to #611, FF #1 to #23

The Fantastic Four fell on some hard times following the phenomenal Waid / Wieringo run early in the decade. Quality writers like J. Michael Straczynski and Dwayne McDuffie tried some interesting approaches, but much of it was mired in Reed’s questionably out of character involvement in the Civil War. Marvel even called in the Ultimates “Dream Team” of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, but no miracles were worked. Mix all of that with 2 atrocious Fantastic Four films, and well, Marvel’s First Family was in some dire straits.

That would all change when Jonathan Hickman got a crack at the Fantastic Four during a Dark Reign miniseries. Practically overnight Fantastic Four became the most complex, most intriguing long game in all of Marvel Comics. It’s an inspiring and inspired rejuvenation of the team, and one of the best long runs of the decade. There’s almost too much good to list, from a council of interdimensional Reeds (awesome), to angry multiversal Celestials (awesome), to “All hope lies in Doom” (the awesomest). If that wasn’t enough, Fantastic Four gave us FF (the Future Foundation), and in many ways can be seen as  a prequel to the impending Secret Wars.

To make sense of the Fantastic Four and FF crossovers, you can use my Fantastic Four Reading order.

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Osborn

Creative Team: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios

Year(s): 2010

Era of Continuity: After Dark Reign + Siege

Issues: #1 to #5

Criminally underrated miniseries about Norman Osborne’s imprisonment following the Siege of Asgard. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (who are currently working together on the excellent Pretty Deadly for Image Comics) craft a unique undersea prison world, wholly unparalleled in Marvel Comics.

A post-Dark Reign Norman Osborne comic has no business being this good, but DeConnick and Rios blow the lid off expectations. There’s an entire culture and fascinating villainous creatures to explore within this prison. It’s like nothing else in Marvel that I’ve seen before or since.

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Wolverine: Weapon X – Insane in the Brian

Creative Team: Jason Aaron, Yanick Paquette

Year(s): 2009 to 2010

Era of Continuity: Dark Reign

Issues: #6 to #9

Just when you think you probably, almost certainly, don’t need a horror remake of Wolverine in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Jason Aaron does it anyway and creates one of his best Wolverine stories.

There are scenes in this story line so haunting I still get squeamish thinking about them. To this day, if I see someone lie down on a skateboard, I might scream. Wolverine’s had an awful life in many ways, but Dr. Rot’s asylum makes a strong run at the top of the torture list.

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Black Widow: “The Name of  the Rose”

Creative Team: Marjorie Liu, Daniel Acuna

Year(s): 2010

Era of Continuity: The Heroic Age

Issues: #1 to #5

My favorite Black Widow story ever, and with the exception of Warren Ellis’ one-shot Widow issue of Secret Avengers (below on the list), it’s not even that close.

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X-23: The Killing Dream

Creative Team: Marjorie Liu, Filipe Andrade, Nuno Alves

Year(s): 2010 to 2012

Era of Continuity: The Heroic Age until Avengers vs. X-Men

Issues: #1 to #21

More greatness from Lie, with the best extended X-23 run in the history of Marvel Comics!

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Ultimate Enemy, Ultimate Mystery, Ultimate Doom

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Rafa Sandoval

Year(s): 2010 to 2011

Era of Continuity: Ultimate Universe

Issues: #1 to 4 (for all 3 series)

At its best, the Ultimate Universe was always willing to take risks we would never see over on Earth-616, and the Ultimate Enemy trilogy is perhaps the best example of the payoff. The Marvel Ultimate U is shaken to its core by a familiar face, in a plot that instantly revitalized the entire line of Ultimate Comics.

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Secret Avengers

Creative Team: Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, Jamie McKelvie

Year(s): 2011

Era of Continuity: Between Fear Itself and Avengers vs. X-Men

Issues: #16 to #20

Did Warren Ellis take over Secret Avengers for six issues, and completely nail 6 individual, one-and-done storylines? Of course he did. The single issue story is rare candy rare in the Marvel Universe, which makes what Ellis is able to do here (and later on Moon Knight) all the more impressive. 22 pages, one team of Secret Avengers, beginning, middle, and END. The Black Widow issue alone is enough to make you stand up, celebrate, and build and a time machine out of kitchen appliances.

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Captain America: Man Out of Time

Creative Team: Mark Waid, Jorge Molina

Year(s): 2010 to 2011

Era of Continuity: Flashback

Issues: #1 to #5

There’s a whole lot of revisionist history in Marvel Comics throughout the 2000’s, and you’ll notice that with a few notable exceptions (Winter Soldier chief among them), it’s kept off the best 100 stories list. The primary reason is that, while interesting conceptually, creating new stories to convince us that after 50 years Professor X was actually kind of a creep is just tedious. I like having the Marvel Universe of the 60’s and 70’s as history for this world, and while I certainly don’t advocate remaining a slave to the past, too much revision is just overly formulaic at this point.

I rant all of that at you to note that Man out of Time is nothing like that. Mark Waid revisits Captain America’s first days in the modern world, and it may well be the best take on an adjusting Cap this side of Stan and Jack.

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Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli

Year(s): 2011 to 2013

Era of Continuity: Ultimate Universe, After Ultimate Fallout

Issues: #1 to #28

The mere existence of Miles Morales is an unavoidable spoiler for the state of Ultimate Spider-Man, so if you’ve just entered the comics world, or possibly the actual world (you’re my youngest reader, congrats!), go to the next pick quick!

There’s so much to love about what Bendis and Sara P were able to do with a new Spider-Man. Miles got all sorts of mainstream attention for his diversity, and it’s undeniably a great step forward for the Marvel Universe to have a biracial Spider-Man.

That’s not what this update on Ultimate Spider-Man is about. Bendis and Sara P find the core of Spider-Man again and translate it to all-new circumstances, to an even younger kid just trying to fit into his family and do the right thing. Miles is an instantly lovable character, both silly and heroic, and a much needed reminder that teenage heroes can inspire us all.

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Uncanny X-Force

Creative Team: Rick Remender, Jerome Opena

Year(s): 2010 to 2012

Era of Continuity: Heroic Age until Avengers vs. X-Men

Issues: #1 to #35

I don’t re-consume a lot of media. There are exceptions (the Lord of the Rings trilogy extended editions; Catch-22; Scharpling and Wurster greatest hits; the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series) but mostly I consume stories and, in grand Jay-Z fashion, am on to the next one.

Uncanny X-Force is the comic I most frequently want to reread. Seriously. It’s a masterpiece from Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna, and it may well be my favorite X-Men comic of all time. The comic that reminded us 1) Age of Apocalypse is the best 2) Deadpool looks great in white and 3) Wolverine killing people all the time is highly ethically questionable. A must-read. And re-read.

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Ultimate Comics Ultimates

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic

Year(s): 2011 to 2012

Era of Continuity: Ultimate Universe

Issues: #1 to #10

Oh what could have been. These ten issues of Ultimates from Secret Wars architect Jonathan Hickman are nuts. Hickman takes inspiration from the best elements of Ultimate Enemy and crafts a menacing end of the Ultimate Universe as only he can.

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Venom

Creative Team: Rick Remender, Tony Moore

Year(s): 2011 to 2012

Era of Continuity: Between the Heroic Age, Through Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #22

Venom really lost his way throughout the 2000’s. Just look at that cover to Venom #1. There’s a reason the artist is best known for his work on the Walking Dead; Venom had become a monstrous symbiote zombie, literally clamoring for brains with his Gene Simmons on steroids tongue. This menacing beast had its place during the Dark Reign, but the once sinister and truly threatening Venom of the early 90’s was well gone (or at least turned Anti).

Rick Remender and Tony Moore revamped the character by bonding the suit to Flash Thompson, fresh off the loss of his legs fighting for America overseas. Agent Venom became a way for Flash, the one-time Peter Parker bully, to regain the use of his legs and fight for his country all over again.

Even writing that now on paper, it’s a wonder this series works as well as it does. Agent Venom is a ton of fun, and the sleek symbiotic suit is one of the finer costume redesigns in Marvel.

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Journey Into Mystery

Creative Team: Kieron Gillen, Doug Braithwaite

Year(s): 2011 to 2012

Era of Continuity: Fear Itself to Avengers vs. X-Men

Issues: #622 to #645

Kieron Gillen’s “Fear Itself” tie-in quickly becomes a completely fascinating Loki story, and one of the better deep dives into Asgardian myth.

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Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe

Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Dalibor Talajic

Year(s): 2012

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #4

Almost certainly the most threatened I’ve felt by a comic book. The title says it all: Deadpool kills the Marvel Universe, and it ain’t pretty.

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Hawkeye

Creative Team: Matt Fraction, David Aja

Year(s): 2012 to 2015

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #23

No comic looks better, is more frequently inventive, or did more for Marvel comics than Hawkeye. In a lot of ways, this isn’t necessarily a very good Hawkeye book. The long-time Avenger, and leader of the West Coast Avengers, gets whooped up routinely by tracksuit Draculas and other non-powered thugs. Hawkeye rarely even gets the bow and arrow out (although when he does, it’s fantastic). Isn’t this guy supposed to be a superhero?

And that’s exactly what makes Hawkeye incredible. This is what the normal guy Avenger running around with an antiquated weapon does in his spare time. He’s cranky, and he can’t help helping people, and of course he adopts a three-legged dog. Thanks to David Aja no Marvel comic is more stylish than Hawkeye, making use of panels and layouts in ways that consistently rearrange your expectations for the entire medium. It’s Fraction’s best Marvel work, and unquestionably sparked a wave of creator and character-driven series (She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Magneto) that have remained among Marvel’s best.

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Captain Marvel

Creative Team: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Filipe Daniel Moreno De Andrade

Year(s): 2012 to 2013

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #12

The transition from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel was a pretty important one. Sure, there’s all the character design changes, as Carol Danvers shifted from flowing blonde locks and the world’s strangest boot-tan-line to short hair and a full body costume (the horror!). More important than all of that is the tone that comes with being Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers is no longer the casualty of the real Captain Marvel’s accident, with a case of endlessly transitory identities. Instead, this is the real Captain Marvel, and dammit, she’s a hero ten times over.

DeConnick has defined Carol Danvers for a generation of Marvel readers (What up Carol Corps!), with a fiercely loyal and occasionally whimsical powerhouse. In my opinion this series got savagely interrupted by tie-ins (first for Captain Marvel’s own The Enemy Within crossover, and then Infinity), so the best issues you see here are from those simpler times, when Carol was just flying through New York beating up dinosaurs.

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Wolverine & The X-Men

Creative Team: Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw

Year(s): 2011 to 2014

Era of Continuity: After Schism, Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #42

I’m not a huge fan of Schism, but for all its flaws, it’s hard to fault something that ultimately spawned Wolverine & The X-Men. Simply put, this is the best X-Men book about the actual school since New Mutants, and possibly ever. Wolverine & The X-Men is almost impossibly warm, a particularly marvelous feature given we’re dealing with Headmaster Wolverine. Enter the doors of the Jean Grey school of Higher Learning, and I can just about guarantee you fall for Broo, Kid Gladiator, Idie, and even Quintin Quire (ok, especially Quintin Quire) like a junior high crush.

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Daredevil

Creative Team: Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee

Year(s): 2011 to 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #36

I’ll never stop repping for the Bendis/Maleev, Brubaker/Lark decade of Daredevil, but for everyone who wasn’t feeling it, or simply grew tired of the beatdown of Matt Murdock and Shadowland, Mark Waid’s Daredevil is the antidote.

It’s not always this easy, but you can tell in one issue that Daredevil is going to be fun again. Waid’s Daredevil is smart, action-packed, and artists like Marcos Martin and Chris Samnee grasp the visual aesthetic of the blind superhero as well as anyone ever has.

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Spider-Men

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli

Year(s): 2012

Era of Continuity: Ultimate Universe / Earth-616 Crossover Party!

Issues: #1 to #5

If you’re skeptical about the Marvel community’s infatuation with bringing Miles Morales over to Earth-616 (and onto the Avengers!) when we already have a perfectly good Peter Parker thank-you-very-much, well, Spider-Men is the reason everyone is so confident. The Ultimate Universe mash-up already happened, as Peter Parker of Earth-616 and Miles Morales find themselves on the same side of the multiverse with a common enemy.

I highly, highly recommend you read Ultimate Spider-Man before trying this miniseries, as the payoff is much greater.

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Uncanny Avengers

Creative Team: Rick Remender, John Cassaday, Daniel Acuna

Year(s): 2012 to 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #23

Initially pinned as the flagship Marvel NOW! title, and the clearest bridge from Avengers vs. X-Men to Marvel’s new status quo, Uncanny Avengers gets off to a rocky start. Get past those first 5 Red Skull drenched issues, though, and suddenly you realize Uncanny Avengers is the gifted godson to the story Rick Remender started telling in Uncanny X-Force.

There is some conceptual magnificence here, with a surprisingly committed continuation of the Dark Angel saga, a fierce dedication to the challenge of Unity, and my favorite Kang the Conqueror story since Young Avengers in 2005.

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Thor: God of Thunder

Creative Team: Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic

Year(s): 2012 to 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #25

If you think I’m going to try and use words to sum up Thor: God of Thunder, you are sorely mistaken:

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New Avengers

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Various Artists

Year(s): 2013 to 2015

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now, Infinity, Time Runs Out

Issues: #1 to

Whereas Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers in many ways required an impending Secret Wars to justify the long game and the meandering, New Avengers was building the road to the end from day one. The concept is simple but endlessly compelling: What do the smartest, most powerful men in the Marvel Universe do when they have to destroy to survive?

This is a dark, deadly serious Illuminati title, and as such is the single most relevant read before Secret Wars hits us all.

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Superior Spider-Man

Creative Team: Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman

Year(s): 2013 to 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #31

To think, there were Spider-Fans who lost their minds over the end of Amazing Spider-Man #700 and the entrance of Dr. Otto Octavius as the Super Spider-Man. If ever we needed proof that fear of change is a hindrance to great comics, the reaction to Superior Spider-Man served up a lifetime’s worth.

Superior Spider-Man is the best thing to happen to Spider-Man (Earth-616) in years, and I say this as someone who likes a good bit of Slott-era Amazing Spider-Man. Doc Ock’s ruthless superiority, infused with an overwhelming helping of Parker responsibility (not to mention luck) gave us a progressive if flawed Spidey. The Superior Spider-Man owned New York in a way Peter Parker hardly even tried, and for a good while there, Doc Ock truly was the Superior Spider-Man. We’ll always have this book, you dolt.

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FF

Creative Team: Matt Fraction, Mike Allred

Year(s): 2012 to 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #16

Jonathan Hickman did a lot of great things with the Fantastic Four, but my enduring favorite may well be the FF (Future Foundation). The school of genius youngsters of impossibly diverse backgrounds (high-evolutionized mole men, android dragons, power pack kids, mutants, heads in jars!) is at once adorable and way too darn smart for their own good.

FF finds Matt Fraction and Mike Allred putting Ant-Man (Scott Lang), She-Hulk, Medussa, and one of Human Torch’s girlfriends in charge of the FF while the real Fantastic Four take a “short” trip into space. The result is one of the most purely enjoyable Marvel NOW! books with an issue that is very actually a pool party. Things will get weird by the end, but the ride there is a blast!

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Infinity

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung

Year(s): 2013

Era of Continuity: Infinity

Issues: #1 to #6

Event books are hard. Crossover fatigue has hit many Marvel fans hard in the 2000’s, and the event books of the 2010’s often didn’t do a lot to help matters. Fear Itself? Meh. Chaos War? Wait, Hercules got an event? Avengers vs. X-Men? Ok, I like Avengers vs. X-men just fine.

Infinity, though, is an impressive feat. First there’s the planning, with Infinity carrying through Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers titles and propelling both narratives forward. Then there are the layers of cosmic righteousness Hickman and co. added to Thanos. The Mad Titan has always been one of Marvel’s coolest villains on his own, but adding a roster of fierce warriors and evil manipulators like Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glave is almost too much for me to handle. We can only hope that Secret Wars is as strong.

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The Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Creative Team: Nick Spencer,

Year(s): 2013 to 2014

Era of Continuity: All-New Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #17

And the title for best Boomerang / Shocker / Beetle / Overdrive / Speed goes to… wait, who?

It didn’t seem likely, but Marvel’s best all-villains book of recent memory stars 5 near no-names at their, well, at their worst. Nick Spencer commits whole heartedly to a Goodfellas for incompetent costumed villains and the results are nothing short of brilliant.

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Ms. Marvel

Creative Team: G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona

Year(s): 2014 to 2015

Era of Continuity: All-New Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #15

Reading the first six issues of Ms. Marvel is like reading your first comic all over again. It’s pure high school hero joy, complete with requisite family drama, teenage dissatisfaction, and the heart of a hero. A lot has been made of Kamala Khan’s ethnicity, and it’s a great leap forward for comics to be more representative of all people. There’s a lasting takeaway here for all of us: “Embiggen!” is an awesome catchphrase for all backgrounds.

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Moon Knight

Creative Team: Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey

Year(s): 2014

Era of Continuity: Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #6

Warren Ellis gets back on his single issue story grind with the greatest costume redesign of the decade by Declan Shalvey. I’ll be honest, I’ve never quite been able to figure out Moon Knight. Batman with multiple personality disorder? Daredevil with an actual Moon god in his back pocket? Rogue Ultron hunter with the personas of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America? (Ok, that’s just the Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev series.) What is Moon Knight supposed to be?

As only he can, Warren Ellis answers this question in the space of a solicitation. Moon Knight? Dude’s crazy. And crazy rich. And he fights people and supernatural ghosts with sharpened moons. And now he’s going to fight punk rock ghosts, a house full of snipers, and reenact Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.” Ok, yep. I’m in.

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She-Hulk

Creative Team: Charles Soule, Javier Pulido

Year(s): 2014 to 2015

Era of Continuity: All-New Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #12

In retrospect, getting a lawyer to write She-Hulk makes almost too much sense. This is Jen Walters at her best, intelligent, funny, good at her job, and yes, a hulk.

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Magneto

Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Year(s): 2014

Era of Continuity: All-New Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #8

There are certain Marvel characters, often villains, who instantly add a level of “oh man, this is awesome” to any comic they’re in, but don’t necessarily work in their own ongoing series. Doctor Doom (Warren Ellis’ Doom 2099 excluded), Galactus, The Living Tribunal, Doop, and of course, Magneto.

Cullen Bunn and team found a way to make an exception for Magneto, adopting a line from the best parts of X-Men: First Class with Magneto the vengeful anti-mutant hunter. Magneto has remained consistently well drawn following a depowering in Avengers vs. X-Men, and it’s engrossing watching this long time terrorist, first time under the radar mutant still trying to enact his vision of himself as savior.

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Silver Surfer

Creative Team: Dan Slott, Mike Allred

Year(s): 2014 to 2015

Era of Continuity: All-New Marvel Now

Issues: #1 to #as-long-as-it-goes

If there’s a comic with Mike Allred art from Marvel over this time period that I haven’t included on this list, let me know in the comments and I will immediately remove something from this list.

In other news, Slott and Allred give us the Doctor Who version of the Silver Surfer, complete with adorable companion. It’s great cosmic fun.

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Death of Wolverine

Creative Team: Charles Soule, Steve McNiven

Year(s): 2014

Era of Continuity: Death of Wolverine

Issues: #1 to #4

You won’t find any argument from me that the “Death Of” card has been overplayed in comics. I think that makes Death of Wolverine an even more impressive achievement. Even with all the negativity surrounding an event like this – Marvel’s killing a fan favorite, they’ll inevitably bring him back, we won’t get Wolverine in comics for a while – Soule and McNiven deliver a high quality miniseries that hits all the right nerves for Hugh Jackman’s favorite mutant.

Of all the ways Wolverine could have gone – in battle with Sabretooth, getting the metal torn from his body by Magneto, being murdered and forcefully resurrected as an evil agent of The Hand, getting torn in half by the Hulk – I’m extremely happy with Soule and McNiven’s choice. It’s a very well executed “conclusion” to one of the most popular costumed characters of all time.

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Secret Wars

Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic

Year(s): 2015

Era of Continuity: Secret Wars

Issues: #1 to #9

You won’t see me rave more passionately about any single Marvel event in the history of the publisher. I read every single Secret Wars tie-in, and somehow I didn’t burn out on the story once. Sure, I didn’t go outside for 9 months, but what good is the sun anyway?

So yeah, I love Secret Wars. I love it dangerous amounts. I love it the point that I’ve written entire columns about different events (Civil War) just so I could talk about how much I love Secret Wars. I love it to the point that this write-up is getting weird. It’s great!

 

There you have it. The best 100 Marvel stories from 1998 to 2005. Who you got? Who’s missing? What story’s inclusion drives you nuts? Do what feels right to you in the comments.


58 Replies to “The Best 100 Marvel Stories Told From 1998 to 2015!”

  1. I’ll forego the sputtering at the stuff I don’t agree with, and instead say it’s a mighty fine list, and hopefully a good jumping-off point for some discussion here in the comments.

    One quibble: I’d really like to see Juan Bobillo’s name on that first She-Hulk entry. Adi Granov “only” did the covers (and only some of them, at that), while Bobillo was the first artist on the title, and as such, co-creator of the characters (and settings) in it that were new to the MU. Also, between this and his wonderful Howard the Duck mini with Ty Templeton, he’s pretty far up my list of the best Marvel artists of the aughts.

    Some mid-to-late 00s suggestions for supplements to your list:

    * The Mystique ongoing by Vaughan, McKeever and various artists.

    * Rucka’s run on Wolverine (especially the Robertson issues. Supports my thesis that Wolverine gets exponentially better the shorter he’s depicted by the artist).

    * Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan. The wonderful and dearly missed Seth Fisher’s last work. We were only starting to see what he was capable of, but this is a lovely taste of what could have been.

    * Beyond. Speaking of tragic losses. This was probably Dwayne McDuffie’s major Marvel work, and while it’s sad that he didn’t get to go on to bigger and even better (his subsequent FF run was marred by editorial interference and too-frequent artist changes), this one work is one of the most quintessentially Marvel books of the period. Also, Scott Kolins just kept getting better and better throughout the decade, before sadly decamping back to DC. This might be his crowning Marvel moment.

    * Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears. I never warmed to Clayton Crain on X-Force, but this was a perfect fit for his unique, phantasmagorical style. Ennis is hit and miss for me, whether he’s working in a comical or more serious mode; this is one of the better examples of the latter.

    * You already have Immortal Iron Fist up there, but I’ll go to bat for the work Swierczynski and Foreman did on the book after the original creative team left. They did an amazing, underrated job in finishing off the storylines left by Brubaker, Fraction and Aja. Some of the standalone issues are among the best of the decade.

    1. Thanks, Karl. Excellent commentary. I’ll be taking a close look at this for additions / updates. Mystique was right on the cut off, as was the remainder of Immortal Iron Fist.

      Beyond is a really interesting choice. I remember it feeling both surprisingly fun and bewildering.

  2. Dave,

    Re: Marvel never having its own New Teen Titans before Young Avengers — I do count Power Pack, and I also count New Warriors vol. 1 #1 to #25.

    1. Wasn’t New Mutants a Marvel version of New Teen Titans? And, well, wasn’t New Teen Titans a DC version of the Claremont X-Men?

  3. Thanks for another awesome post. As usual, you’ve given me a plethora of runs to check out. CBH is quickly becoming my go-to for all things Marvel!

    The only story I would have put on my list that wasn’t on here is Rucka’s run on the Punisher. So damn good.

  4. I’m absolutely loving the site and am spending countless time digging further into every selection you’ve made – as well as denting my bank account with purchases.

    Just a quick question though, are you planning a selection of “The Best 100 Marvel Stories Told PRE-1998 – to accompany the 1998 to 2015 list? I have very high hopes that you do…and if so, when can we expect to see it?

    Anyway, keep up the incredible work and many thanks.

  5. I curse you! I curse you so much! Now I’m so excited about all the awesome things I’m going to read in my way to House of M but I stopped reading this because I have a studies and a life to raise, and I don’t want to have a big pile of must-reads. CURSE YOU! CURSE YOU AND YOUR AWESOME WEB SO MUCH! 😛

  6. I’m brand new with comics and looking for a starting point. I read your fast track guide which is great.
    But I have a question about Ultimates volumes 1 and 2 for avengers by mark miller. I’ve read on other sites that it is one of the best stories but I don’t see it anywhere on here or the fast track. I was looking to read it but now not sure. Is it apart of any continuity? Not as good as what I’ve read?

  7. I just signed up for Marvel Unlimited with a free trial a couple weeks ago and have already devoured Inhumans and Hawkeye. I am now on eXiles and LOVE IT! I wish I could purchase that box set of toys you posted as the image, haha.

  8. I have zero fault with this list.

    That said, one series that is so often overlooked that it might be invisible is Si Spurrier’s 2012 X-Men Legacy. I find it an amazingly sensitive treatment of mental illness (at least relative to other Legion stories) and depression, one that also serves a really interesting purpose in the post Professor-X landscape following AvX, namely one that isn’t just about lionizing Xavier. The first few issues are bumpier than it gets. I cried a lot. Whatever.

    1. I really love that run on Legacy. Way more than I expected to. That’s a great call. I need to seriously consider when I do another sweep!

  9. Hey Dave, awesome website and work!
    Listen, I was wondering if you would have a ‘not so fast’ track collection of Marvel Universe from early 2000s – Avengers Disassembled to Avengers VS X-men or even Marvel NOW!.
    I checked your Complete Reading Order Guide but there are SO MANY comics (not a bad thing at all though) and on the other hand the 25 fast track seems too few 😛 So I wondered if I could ask you for such a list.
    I already read some of the ‘main story arcs’ comics, but you always feel like there are some references missing. I suppose you could name it ‘Marvel 2000 to 2015 main story arcs and few tie-ins’
    Would you have that?
    Thank you very much in advance!

    1. Not too hot, and not too cold, huh? Honestly, I think this Best 100 Marvel Stories is the closest I have to a middle ground list between complete and the fast track. Give it a go and if you run out of reading material, well, I’ll be impressed 🙂 Enjoy the comics!

  10. I am having so much fun going through the titles in this list. Imo, I think following Marvel titles can be added to this:
    1. The Messiah trilogy- Messiah Complex, Messiah War and Second Coming
    2. The Mark Mille]ar run on Marvel Knights Spider-man
    3. Some more wolverine stories e.g. Enemy of the State, Ruka’s run on Wolverine, Wolverine Origin
    4. Marvels by Busiek and Ross
    5.

    1. Glad you enjoy the list!

      Pretty fair picks for additions. Can’t argue too much against any one, although Marvels was 1994 so misses the cut here. Otherwise, it’s absolutely one of my all-time favorites.

  11. Hey, Some great picks here. Just to let you know You spelt Marjorie Liu’s name incorrectly in each of the posts about her. You called her Marjorie Lie

  12. Some titles I’d like to shout out:

    Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts
    Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers
    Jonathan Hickman’s SHIELD (although you have enough Hickman)

    I also like pretty much everything Nick Spencer’s been involved in at Marvel and while it’s early days on his Ant-Man run it’s looking set to become a great run.

  13. Hi Dave – Peter David’s X-Factor #1-262 seems to be highly recommended, but it’s clearly a huge commitment and only a few of the issues are mentioned in your reading orders. Do you recommend reading it all in one go, and where should we slot it into your complete reading order? Thanks.

    1. It’s awesome and well worth the commitment. I suggest reading the Madrox mini-series after House of M, then getting into the run you’re talking about. Once you’re into the run you’ll see where it directly ties in with the rest of the X-books for particular events, like Messiah Complex, etc.

  14. Hi Dave, just to let you know, those Garth Ennis Punisher issues (1 – 12 from vol. 3) are now all available on Marvel Unlimited. His V4 and Max issues still aren’t there but the ones you recommended above are now. Have a good day.

    1. Hi Navarre,

      That is probably due to the forthcoming, The Punisher MAX complete collection v1 – due January 2016. This will collect the ‘Born’ (2003) miniseries and the first twelve issues of the 2004 series – the ‘In The Beginning’ and ‘Kitchen Irish’ storylines.

      1. Cool. Thanks. Hopefully when those are released they’ll make their way onto MU. I’ve read them, but anything to attract more people to MU. It’s the best and I’d really like DC to see that it’s working for Marvel.

  15. I’m reading my way through MU, and I agree with most of your picks so far, but… Identity Disc? Oh man, I’m sorry but that was sooo bad. 🙂 Character motivations were mangled to try and fit together a C-grade heist story. The author clearly had seen Oceans ##’s too many times with no clue as to what makes a decent heist fic.

    1. Oh, and just so I have my own chance to be ridiculed, comics from 2004 I would have placed on the list instead of Identity Disc:

      Black Widow
      Bullseye: Greatest Hits
      Warlock
      What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers

      1. That Warlock miniseries is a really interesting pick. Definitely well under the radar, and good work from Greg Pak before he took the Hulk to new levels.

  16. Thank you for putting together a nigh-impeccable list. Based on my (not complete) knowledge of the post-’98 period, your choices are very strong–both what you included and what you left out. Great job!

    Unless I’m miscounting, though, there are only 95 choices here. (AM I miscounting?)

    Not to worry, though–just like some of the other commenters, I’m happy to provide the remaining five. 🙂 In my case, they would be:

    Marvel Boy (Morrison/Jones)
    Unstable Molecules (Sturm/Davis)
    Incredible Hulk (Bruce Jones)
    Ultimates (Millar/Hitch)
    Daredevil (Brubaker/Lark)

    1. You are not wrong! A fabulous Marvel No-Prize for being the first to call me out on 95 picks for a best of 100 list 🙂

      I intentionally left myself some wiggle room for additions. Love that you mention Marvel Boy in your picks – I choose that for our CBH reading club, and they darn near fed me to the wolves.

      Ultimates has gotten a few votes on here… I was pretty aware of leaving it off, although it may be somewhat unfairly. Those first 6 issues are solid and so tremendously influential.

  17. Thanks for the article. It is well written, and a good mix of obvious choices (but that need to be in a “best of” list) and hidden gems. As it is always the case in this type of lists, everybody can have its own opinion about the quality of the picks (I’ll probably state mine in a future comment), but you “defend” your recommendations very convincingly.
    But I believe it is more urgent to comment the article from another point of view: SPOILERS. I’m VERY nitpicky regarding spoilers, and one of the reason I like your site is because you actually seem to care about not spoiling things, and you do a good job at it, for the most part. But, obviously, you can’t be perfect (yet, we’ll try to get there in time :)), so these are my comments in that regard:
    “Avengers: Ultron Unlimited”: I understand that to articulate the reason you recommend it, you have to tell us about Ultron’s cruelty, but I’m not sure I like so much details. I don’t really know how far into the story that happens, either. Maybe a more general, cryptic and “curiosity-inducting” phrase “you’ll be as shocked as the Avengers when you see the level of atrocity Ultron reach to get their attention” would be better.
    “Sentry”: Tied to worst offender. This fortunately I have already read, and I recommend everyone to read it ASAP: very atmospheric and with a “gothic” touch to it. It is a story that benefits A LOT from not knowing anything regarding it (it would be even better if we didn’t even know that it is a Marvel comic, at least for the entire 1st issue). You reveal too much details, some of them not even hinted until the second half of the miniseries. The best way I can conceive to recommend it is with a vague phrase: “Interesting and atmospheric story. If it happens to be real, for sure it would have an impact in the Marvel Universe. If it is not, it is a good story nonetheless. Read it ASAP. Now. Go.”
    “Captain Marvel”: Again, I don’t know how far into the story its “twisted plot” is lied out (I presume it is very early), so it is probably ok, but somehow I feel that I know too much.
    “X-23”: Again and again, I don’t know how far into the story you know “what” X-23 is. If is very early, it is ok. If it is even an issue into the story, I’d prefer not to know.
    “Winter Soldier”. In the text, you do a very good job avoiding explaining “what” the Winter Soldier is, but maybe the picture is too much revealing (maybe only to those who already know). I’d at least add a level of urgency to reading this: “If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t know what the Winter Soldier refers to, read this ASAP. Now. Go.” (for sure a minority of your readers right now, but that minority will thank you a lot).
    “Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War & Back in Black”: Again, in general you do a very good job avoiding spoiling Civil War, and in the text of this entry, you do as well not entering into much details about the facts and consequences regarding Spidey and Civil War. But in the picture you want (rightfully so) to reproduce the “chum” definition. And any smart reader (in other words, any of your readers), will know part of what happened if he already doesn’t. Maybe a mild warning about the picture would be welcomed.
    “Venom”. At first, I believed that you were telling too much revealing who Venom is. Then I got to the comics, and I learned that it is already an established fact before this Venom series. Nonetheless, I think it would be a good idea to begin the entry with: “if you don’t know who Venom is right now, you might want to go read XXX before continuing (being XXX the issues where the new Venom is introduced, of course)”.
    “Superior Spider-man”: Tied to worst offender. You detail “what” Superior Spider-man is right from the beginning. You should include the same kind of warning that I recommend about the Winter Soldier and Venom. “If you don’t know why Spider-man is now Superior, go read: Dan Slott entire run (recommended) or at least the Dying Wish arc. ASAP. Now. Go”. Again, most of your readers already know, but those who doesn’t will thank you immensely.
    Thats all. It may seem I’m overly critical about your job. It is really the opposite. I think you are doing such I good job, that I want it to be the best there is. Hope you find my suggestions/comments valuable. Think about the children/Peter Pan adults you are not going to spoil if you do ;).

  18. Sorry about the wall of text , Dave (it hard to stop writing about some topic you like)… Next time I’ll send you and email. You can delete it after you read it if you wish.

      1. Well, then. I sincerely hope you mean it, and it’s not a polite way of saying “you can shove your so-called *improvements” to my article up your shiny metal … 😉
        By the way, answering one of my concerns, New Venom origin seems to be developed since the beginning of the Dan Slott run in Amazing Spider-Man (#648-#654), and materializes in ASM #654.1 (I’m starting with the Slott run; I rushed off to Dying Wish in order to read Superior Spider-Man, but I realize now that it was a mistake). So now there are to reasons to read Dan Slott ASAP for new readers.

  19. Dave, thanks for this awesome list. I’ve just started really getting into comics this summer, and having a comprehensive, well-presented list of the best modern Marvel stories has really helped me get off to a great start.

  20. I really would like to thank you for this list. I was very excited when I first signed up for Marvel Unlimited, but after a few weeks of going through the several different comics I felt a little lost and confused about what other titles to read. This list really has helped me discover new titles and guided me to other titles that I may have ignored. My thanks for this.

    My question is do you have any plans to make a similar list for DC comics? Even before I started making my way through your comprehensive list I was nowhere near as familiar with the DC universe as I am with Marvel. There are the titles that every comic lover knows about, the classic Batman: Year One, the widescreen beauty of All-Star Superman, the wonderful plotting of the Azzarello/Chang Wonder Woman. But I suppose I’m looking for some deeper cuts. Is there anything you could recommend?

  21. Can someone tell me why, in TPB collections Alias #10 is collected in the 3rd volume along with #16-21.
    I ask because I have tracked down volumes one and two collecting issues 1-9 and 11-15 (missing 10). And I have also tracked down volume 2 of “The Ultimate collection” which collects 16-28. Unfortunate that I am missing only one issue right in the middle.

  22. Thanks for the list! I’ve been tearing through these and loving ’em.

    Just as an FYI, though, your link to Warren Ellis’ run on Iron Man is messed up. Takes me to a list of characters.

  23. Overall great list and I will use this as a baseline to catch up on some titles.

    Titles I feel should be included:
    Ultimate X-Men: Mark Millar – Brian Michael Bendis. As much as I love Brian K Vaughn and Robert Kirkman, their UXM runs are skippable.
    Ultimates and Ultimates 2: Forget 100, these should be on a top ten list of modern Marvel.
    Those are just the 1610 books I felt should have been on the list.

    Also, Ennis’ Punisher Vol 4 has been added to Marvel Unlimited since this article was written.

    1. Additionally, I would argue that the Ultimate Spider-Man run should include all of Peter’s story up to and including Ultimate Fallout. Just because they decided to arbitrarily reset the numbering after the horrifically bad Ultimatum doesn’t mean that the rest of the story should be excluded, in my opinion.

  24. I started reading comics back in april and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you’re blog. Sometimes the smount of content out there is overwhelming but when I get into a series I really like I remember why I started. You’re guides are a life saver.

  25. Hi Dave,

    I had a lot of fun reading over this list and found myself agreeing with you waaay more often than not. It’s a delight to see someone write about Marvel’s many great series with so much passion and appreciation-or even love for the source material. Negativity is too easily found on the Internet, I recently moved away from daily visits to a certain well-known comic book news site as I couldn’t stand the fact that the staff and visitors constantly seek their way to criticize every percieved flaw and especially always try to bash Civil War and CW Frontline – both really seem to be reviled by many. Sure, I have a couple of issues here and there as well but with a positive attitude, and perhaps a tendency to think of ‘no-prize’-solutions for things which may not seem to fit too well, I truly ‘marvel’ at the rich recent history of Marvel comics.

    The one series I would definitely still include should I get a top 100 together nyself would be ‘”The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. It’s quickly become one of my fave titles ever. It makes me laugh with almost every single page and it does a great job at making the character believable, showing how she defeats enemies by using her intelligence… and squirrels. The art is perfect for the series as well.

    I also greatly enjoyed Scarlet Spider and New Warriors by Chris Yost, although both series unfortunately have a rushed wrap-up ending (very likely due to sudden cancellation). Still, Kaine’s now in my top 10 Marvel characters because of the series.

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the list and the site!

      I had Unbeatable Squirrel Girl pretty high on my favorites of 2016, I could definitely see it up for consideration just based on its first year.

      Scarlet Spider was really strong, but I fell behind. I’ll have to give that one another go and see where I stand.

      Thanks, and enjoy the comics!

  26. Love this list! Thank you for compiling it. I had read a number of these but many of these I missed. My Marvel Unlimited is LOADED. I know Agents of Atlas didn’t make your list (and I’m not making an argument for it), but what did you think of it?

    1. I like Agents of Atlas. It’s a great idea, with really fun characters. Easy, enjoyable spy story with a sense of humor that you can pick up at pretty much any time.

  27. So I have a bit of a dillema here. I want to read Marvel Comics, having just bought Unlimited. But the complete reading list seems to be way too much/overwhelming (I think) and the 25 trade fast track seems too brief.

    Is this ‘best 100’ list a good method to catch up on the 2000 era of Marvel Comics? Or does it skip some essential reads?

  28. I may be in the wrong place, but have you done a broad continuity list? Mine ran something like sentry to disassembled to house of m to civil war to wwh to secret invasion to dark avengers to siege to fear itself to childrens crusade to avx to hickmans avengers/new avengers/time runs out to secret war to civil war 2. Did you not include those crossovers because you dont like them? Is there a place to find this type of list?

  29. I dropped by your site every week and it’s great to see new reading orders (especially the one on Moon Knight) popping up on a frequent basis (We, readers, really do appreciate the time you’ve invested). However, one of the things I’m anticipating most is seeing this list completed! I can’t wait to know what your last three choices are.

  30. Hi Dave,

    I’ve been using this as a condensed reading list (the complete guide was a little daunting for me). What do you think the next step is after getting to the end of this guide?

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