Marvel Unlimited Recommendations

I get asked for recommendations all the time by new subscribers of Marvel Unlimited. It’s a huge, sprawling, poorly curated service, and with more than 50 years of content, it can be overwhelming for even experienced readers.

Here are some of my recommendations, separated by character/team.

Hawkeye

With his only superpower being “shoots a bow,” Hawkeye was never anyone’s favorite Avenger. That is, until Matt Fraction’s brilliant 2013 series Hawkeye, which follows what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger.

Hawkeye could easily be a show on AMC. It’s down to earth, funny, and tragic. It’s the comic that pulled me back into comics, and something to be cherished — especially since it’ll soon be over.

X-Men

You may be tempted to start back with the very first issue from 1963. Avoid this temptation, as it’s not only mediocre, but lacking most of the characters you know and love.

Instead, skip straight to Giant-Size X-Men #1, which introduced fan favorites like Nightcrawler, Storm, and added Wolverine to the team. That’ll give you a bit of historical background.

From there, you could cut directly to Uncanny X-Men #94, which follows Giant-Size X-Men #1, but more importantly, is the beginning of writer Chris Claremont’s run on the series. Claremont wrote X-Men for 16 years, creating some of the most loved stories and characters.

But, it took him a while to get into the swing of things. Feel free to skip ahead to Uncanny X-Men #125, which is the start of the Proteus storyline, leading into the Dark Phoenix Saga — perhaps the greatest X-Men story ever.

From there, feel free to keep reading until Claremont leaves in the early ’90s. However, don’t be surprised to find that the quality drops significantly after his departure.

If you want just a small sample of Claremont’s genius, try Uncanny X-Men #141-142, which comprises The Days of Future Past storyline, the basis for the most recent X-Men movie. It’s only two issues, and if you don’t like DoFP, then you probably won’t enjoy X-Men.

If you want to see Claremont with almost complete creative freedom, I highly recommend the one-shot X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, where the X-Men face off against racist televangelist William Stryker. (Which was the basis for X-2. See a pattern here?) GLMK takes a frank look at the issues of race in X-Men, which is supposed to be a central theme, though often forgotten.

But let’s say you want something more modern. I can offer two suggestions: Grant Morrison’s trippy New X-Men from 2000, or Joss Whedon’s followup, 2004’s Astonishing X-Men.

I highly recommend Whedon’s run. It’s short, smartly written, and just plain fun.

Wolverine

Today, Wolverine is so popular that he is often reviled by fans, but the reason he came to be that way is Frank Miller’s 1982 limited series, simply titled Wolverine. It was the basis for the recent movie, The Wolverine, and tells the story of the burly Canadian’s travels through Japan to save the woman he loves.

Another Wolverine solo story I highly recommend is the uncannonical Old Man Logan from 2008, in which a much older, now pacifistic Wolverine, sets off on a cross country trip to save his family from the Hulk Gang. If that sounds like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, you would be right, but it’s a fun, if heartbreaking story.

Daredevil

He was always sort of a ghetto Spider-Man — and a bit of a joke. That is, until Frank Miller took over in Daredevil #168, introducing ninjas, assassin and love interest Elektra, and Daredevil’s mentor Stick. Miller took a book that was close to cancellation and turned it into one of Marvel’s most loved franchises.

Even after Miller left in 1983, Daredevil has remained one of the better-written books in the Marvel lineup.

Captain America

I’m not a huge Captain America guy, but you’d be remiss not to read Ed Brubaker’s Captain America from 2004, which includes, among other things, the Winter Soldier storyline that was the basis for this year’s hit movie.

Spider-Man

I have an uneasy relationship with everyone’s favorite wall crawler. He’s always been one of my favorite characters, but Marvel loves running him through the muck — replacing him with clones, undoing his marriage, turning him into some kind of mystical spider-demon freak, you name it.

My general advice is to stick to Spider-Man stories from the ’70s and ’80s, and completely skip the ’90s.

But one gem I particularly love is his original showdown with the alien symbiote Venom, starting in Amazing Spider-Man #299. Venom has all of Spider-Man’s powers and then some, and on top of that, he’s bigger, meaner, and scarier. Todd MacFarlane’s Venom, with his creepy smile, stalks Peter Parker’s loved ones in search of revenge.

While later artists added ridiculous flourishes like a foot-long tongue covered in green slime and multiple heads, it’s MacFarlane’s original that still gives me chills.

If you want something a bit newer, the recent The Superior Spider-Man is a lot of fun. The story is that Doc Ock has taken over Peter Parker’s body in a bid to save his own life, but in the process takes on Peter’s sense of responsibility, and he decides to become the “superior” Spider-Man that Parker could only dream of being. Imagine Spider-Man with all the sensibilities of a Venture Bros. villain, with the requisite spy robots, goon army, dirty tricks, and massive battle mechs. It’s Breaking Bad meets Spider-Man, and it’s blast to read.

Other Notes for New Readers

You might see a lot of titles under the “Ultimate” banner. Be aware that these take place in an alternate universe, as a sort of soft reboot of traditional Marvel franchises. I advise against these for new readers; while they started off well, they’ve been mishandled to the point of unreadability. Sure, there are some gems, but I’ll leave you to discover them after your feet are wet.

You might want to investigate Deadpool, who is seems to be more popular all the time. Deadpool is a violently, often comically, unstable mercenary. He’s not to every taste, but a decent place to start is the recent Deadpool series by Gerry Duggan and comedian Brian Posehn. It starts off rather schlocky, but later in, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” gains an incredible amount of depth.

That’s a decent list of where to get started. Of course, this isn’t a definitive list. I’ve missed a lot of stuff like Avengers, Iron Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy, mostly due to my X-Men bias. But regardless, this should give you a decent survey of the Marvel universe. Happy reading, True Believer!

John Roderick Reviews Michael Bublé's Latest Album

John Roderick, The Talk House:

The appeal of Sinatra/Martin/Davis Jr. in Vegas in 1965 is obvious, but their slick suits, whiskey and cigarettes can’t be divorced from the fact that they were all in their forties, they’d been through a war, they were Italians and Jews and blacks in an unintegrated country, their audience was shitfaced and angry, and there were mobsters waiting by the stage door. To whatever degree big-band music and Rat Pack culture seem suave and cool, it was a product of a pressure-cooker of violence, racism, alcohol and PTSD. Bublé wants to be suave, and his fans want a little taste of being smooth, but they simply don't have as much pain to put behind them.

If you've never listend to Roderick on the Line, you're missing out.

Joe Rogan Interviews John McAfee

John McAfee was a surprise guest on yesterday's Joe Rogan Experience podcast. For those of you not familiar with Rogan, he's a comedian, UFC commentator, conspiracy theorist, and drug enthusiast. And of course John McAfee is the anti-virus mogul currently wanted for murder in Belize.

Needless to say, it's an interesting interview. McAfee admits that he authored forum posts about drug use, but insists that they were meant as a joke. But as Rogan later remarks, "He knows way too much about drugs to have never done drugs."

Is John McAfee a drug-fueled murderer or a merry prankster persecuted by a corrupt government? We may never know the truth.

Kill Me Quick

The Economist:

"The equivalent of $1 is enough to buy four glasses of illegally brewed chang'aa—and oblivion. Some drink the local special, jet-five, so called because the fermentation of maize and sorghum is sped up with pilfered jet fuel. It can damage the brain. Elsewhere in Nairobi, chang'aa is spiked with embalming fluid from mortuaries.

The name, meaning literally “kill me quick”, is well chosen. This and other methanol-based kickers are sometimes fatal: 10ml of methanol can burn the optic nerve; 30ml can kill. Even without the kicker the brew is impure. The water is filthy with fecal matter. When police recently made some raids, decomposing rats and women's underwear were found in servings of chang'aa. But the price and the potency are more tempting than the heavily taxed bottles of beer that are the staple of richer Kenyans."

What is that you're having, a jack and coke? Martini? Wuss.

Mickey Skywalker

NBC News:

"Walt Disney Co. is buying Lucasfilm in a $4 billion deal that brings the best-selling 'Star Wars' franchise under the Disney umbrella, with plans to release Episode 7 of the long-running saga in 2015."

My first response: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

But after thinking it over, I think this is a very good thing for Star Wars fans. Disney is chock full of talent, just look at Pixar and Marvel. After years of Lucas's mishandling, this is a new hope.

At the very least, I hope we'll see HD versions of the original, unaltered trilogy. Ideally, I'd love to see a remake of the prequels with a focus on the Clone Wars, but perhaps that's too soon.

As for the new movies, I'm hoping they aren't based on the extended universe. I'd like to see something fresh, with an all-new cast, as the original cast has not aged well, to put it kindly.

Regardless, I'm expecting something great. The folks at Disney are smart, and while they know a new Star Wars film will be a cash cow, they also know that the loyalty of Star Wars fans is hanging by a thread. If they want Star Wars to be a true hundred-year franchise, they will have to deliver.

And come on, Iron Man vs. Darth Vader. How cool would that be?