Funnybook Babylon

February 29, 2008

Not Just For Kids: The Best Superhero Comics You Aren’t Reading

Filed under: Articles — Matt Jett @ 8:00 am

The Marvel Adventures imprint is Marvel’s latest attempt to get younger readers to start buying comics, something they don’t do very often these days. The books are set up as sort of an ancillary, less-edgy Ultimate imprint, with new, continuity-free takes on the characters everyone knows and loves, but above all, kid-friendly in content. The existence of the Ultimate imprint doesn’t really hurt the Adventures line. They both serve the same purpose (re-imaginings of classic Marvel characters) but they couldn’t be more different in execution. While the Ultimate books are aimed pretty squarely at either the early teen (Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four) or the late teen (Ultimates 1&2) markets, the MA stuff is for the pre-teen crowd.

The audience dictates the format: one or two issue stories, with the occasional minor subplot that runs through more issues. Marvel realizes that kids aren’t necessarily going to be able to get their parents into a comic book store once a month, so they don’t penalize them by having 6 part storylines that are incomprehensible once they miss an issue.

So what, if anything, about the Marvel Adventures books makes them worth reading to an adult, intelligent comic book audience? First and foremost, the format allows the authors to focus on fun, exciting storytelling. marvel-adventures-spider-man-04-page-17.jpgYou’ve got classic heroes fighting classic villains for 22 pages every month. There’s always a lot of humor in every issue, making the somewhat simple stories forgivable. The fun factor is the real selling point for the line, both for kids and adults. The jokes and subtle nods to Marvel continuity proper fly fast and furious, particularly if you pick up one of Jeff Parker’s issues of MA: Avengers. Where the Marvel Adventures line succeeds and many other all-ages initiatives failed is talent. Many old lines have consisted of, and I’m generalizing broadly here, work that was phoned in by pros who knew they could half-ass the job since 1) the books were aimed squarely at small children and 2) nobody was going to buy the books anyway. This has given all-ages books a pretty bad, but often deserved, reputation of being a sort of comic ghetto, where nothing produced is really worth reading. Marvel has totally turned this stigma around with this line, and it’s largely due to the work of Fred Van Lente, who’s writing two books, Paul Tobin, and the fine people over at Periscope Studio. I’ll weigh the pros and cons of each book after the jump.

maradvavn021.jpg

Marvel Adventures – Avengers
Marc Sumerak, Ig Guara

MA: Avengers features a team that will look fairly odd to a mainstream Marvel reader. Alongside Captain America and Iron Man are a pair of mutants, Spider-Man, and a female version of Giant Man (fittingly named Giant Girl). This team works, though, as it’s a team full of characters just about every kid knows and can relate to. This is far and away my favorite title under the Marvel Adventures imprint. There isn’t really a kid friendly alternative to the mainstream Avengers titles, and this fills the niche incredibly well.

MA - FF

Marvel Adventures – Fantastic Four
Paul Tobin, David Hahn

The Fantastic Four is one of those comics that stay more or less the same in most of it’s incarnations, and the Marvel Adventures version isn’t an exception. It’s a good book for the kids, but the mainstream Marvel book has been kid-friendly enough that you could give either one to your little brother and not really have to worry. I’d recommend this book if you want more stories that really highlight the relationships between the cast members.

MH - Hulk

Marvel Adventures – Hulk
Paul Benjamin, David Nakayama

This title really goes back to the roots of the character. Bruce Banner is the Hulk, and he pals around with Rick Jones (and a monkey) and has wacky adventures involving lots of smashing. Considering that your choices for a Hulk book at this point are this and Jeph Loeb’s Hulk, I can’t recommend this enough if you just want to get a Hulk fix. There are no murder mysteries, no guns, and the writing quality is much, much better.

MA - IM

Marvel Adventures – Iron Man
Fred Van Lente, Graham Nolan

My second favorite of the Marvel Adventures titles. Fred Van Lente does wonders with the character, distilling Tony Stark to his essence. His origin is updated in a way that keeps the core conceits intact (kidnapped and forced to make weapons, chest condition, etc.) while skipping any ties to war that would date it. It still manages to keep some moral ambiguity as well, as the villains in the origin (A.I.M., replacing the warlords in the previous incarnations of the origin) are using Stark’s patents to create villainous superweapons. Highly, highly recommended and the first two digests just came out last week, so you have no excuse for not reading this.

MA - SM

Marvel Adventures – Spider-Man
Fred Van Lente, Cory Hamscher

It’s hard to read this title without immediately comparing it to Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man. The titles have a lot of overlap, and to be quite honest, this book isn’t as good as USM. It suffers quite a bit by being the “other teenage Peter Parker book” but there’s quite a bit going on in it that recommends it. It has the humor that you want in a good Spider-Man comic, including my favorite page in a Marvel Adventures title (the Goom page linked above). Marvel Adventures – Spider-Man is still worth reading, and worth picking up if you want a good, light-hearted Spider-Man story every month.

2 Comments »

  1. They’ve also got Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes coming up, which will work like Marvel Team-Up. Paul Tobin is on the first four issues, but the different MA writers tend to rotate titles.

    The best part about the MA done-in-one stories are the insane premises that get pulled out. Three words: Everyone. Is. MODOK.

    Comment by HitTheTargets — February 29, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

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    Comment by Jokes for Kids — September 7, 2011 @ 8:38 am

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