Welcome to week two of my journey through the Top 50 Most-Wanted Omnibuses from Marvel, per an annual secret ballot conducted by major fan TigerEyes. I covered #20-16 in the last installment.
The books ranked from 15 to 1 are some of the most-consistently demanded Marvel material, although two thirds of it is already readily available in color. Particularly, this group of books shows how important cinematic depictions of the Marvel Universe have become even to long-time fans – every book corresponds to a specific screen property.
If you have any extra intelligence to add about the probable runs or opinions about the comics therein, please leave a comment! Even when it comes to X-Men, I’m far from a prohibitive expert on these books. I’d love to hear your perspective.
Want to learn more about the Marvel Omnibus editions that already exist and the issues they cover? My Marvel Omnibus & Oversized Hardcover Guide is the most comprehensive tool on the web for tracking Marvel’s hugest releases – it features every book, plus release dates, contents, and even breakdowns of $/page and what movies the books were released to support.
Last Year’s Rank: #22
Potential Contents: Ultimate Spider-Man #40-71 + Ultimate Six #1-7 (also by Bendis), which are the contents of three USM oversized hardcovers (long since out of print).
What is it? A second volume of modern, easy-to-love Spider-Man who lines up well with the new MCU screen incarnation.
Marvel has a real conundrum on their hands with their Ultimate Comics material. Or maybe they don’t.
The Ultimate line started in 2000 with Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley introducing Ultimate Spider-Man, a pretty-much-the-same-as-before take on Peter Parker simply updated by 40 years, with a less haggard Aunt May, andusing lower-case type in the word balloons.
It was wildly popular and in the following years Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates (AKA Ultimate Avengers) joined to form the core of the Ultimate Universe.
That universe is dead now. Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars killed it in the last Earth-to-Earth mashup. There were few escapees – primarily, Miles Morales – Ultimate Spider-Man. Because, you see, Ultimate Peter Parker died years before the rest of his world followed him to the grave.
Marvel doesn’t have a lot of closed loops of continuity aside from failed experiments like New Universe; pretty much everything links to something else in some way. Now, Ultimate Comics is a loop that has closed – it’s in its own little bubble. And, we don’t see Marvel reprinting a lot of other closed loop universes like New Universe – do we?
Yet, the closed loop might not be a terrible thing due to one six-letter word: Movies.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has always been closer to Ultimate Comics than their main continuity in everything from story beats to costume designs. Their new Spider-Man is more like Ultimate than regular-flavor, right down to his attractive Aunt May played by Marisa Tomei.
If a fan goes to see this upcoming Spider-Man movie and they really want to read some comics, which of the following makes sense to suggest to them?
A. Reading one of thousands of 616-continuity Spider-Man comics stretching back over fifty years with a tangled web of multiple titles and the ensuing complicated continuity?
B. A 200-issue, 14-year, single writer run on Spider-Man that tracks well to the emergence, life, and death of a wall crawler (and his replacement) that will feel ripped from the screen?
I rest my case.
Chances we see this in 2017? I will give you (not, not all of you, just the one of you) a shiny new Sacajawea $1 coin if this isn’t printed in 2017. There’s little risk to discontinuing the line after this book or any future one as long as they continue to line up with the break points in the already-established Oversize Hardcover line.
Want to read it right now? Sorry, folks – I’m still working on a guide to Ultimate Comics! [Update: It has since been launched!] You can head to The Marvel Omnibus Guide and filter for “OHCs” to see the entire line of deluxe oversized hardcovers of this material.
Last Year’s Rank: #10
Probable Contents: There are two potential sets of contents with two different rationales:
- Punisher MAX #1-30 with Born #1-4. This is the first two Complete Collection TPBs; half of Ennis’s run.
- Punisher MAX #1-36. The OHC Vol. 3 ends on #36 and Born is not integrated. However, the post-#60 material in OHC Vol. 36 is non-Ennis – so this content would likely be a series Omnibus, not an Ennis-only omnibus.
What is it? A grounded, gritty take on Punisher in his own continuity that is free of superheroics.
It is perfectly apt to have this volume tied with Ultimate Spider-Man; despite their vast differences in tone and appearance, they are both eternally popular material that lines up well with Marvel’s screen properties.
This material is penned by Garth Ennis, famous for Preacher but straight off a mature and well-received run on Punisher. Previous MAX titles like Alias, Black Widow, and Shang-Chi lived within the confines of Marvel’s Universe but were free to present Rated-R content for mature readers.
In this relaunch, the rules of engagement were significantly altered. It existed in a self-contained Ennis-verse (Earth-200111) that lacked the super heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe and progressed in real time. It even keeps up with current events, at one point making light of the Clinton’s leading a wave of gentrification into Punisher’s neighborhood.
This Frank Castle was still a Vietnam vet (as shown in the prequel series, Born) and his family still died, but instead of a sliding timeline that updated the war and made the wounds fresh Ennis’s Punisher has had nearly 30 years for them to fester. That lead to the starkest, toughest take on Punisher of all time, but it also let Ennis lean into his scummy villains – an awful murderous mobster seems a lot more scary when you don’t have Magneto and Ultron to compare him to.
This material is well-loved, as evidenced by its oversized hardcover editions spiking at the highest prices for any book of that format by Marvel. Its recent return to print as paperback Complete Collections has only slightly cooled the intensity of demand for the run in oversize format, as evidenced by the minor drop in rank from last year (before anyone knew the Complete Collections were coming).
Chances we see this in 2017? With Punisher now officially greenlit for a Netflix series, it would be a surprise to see Marvel skip this grounded, modern take on the character as an accompanying omnibus. The only other run that fits well is Rucka’s recent 616 take, which actually crosses over with Daredevil.
Want to read it right now? Grab those Complete Collections – Volume 1 and Volume 2 – while they last! Despite not being in main Marvel continuity, this run is tracked by my Punisher guide due to popular demand.
Last Year’s Rank: #28
Definite Contents: The core story is Infinity War #1-6, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #7-10, and Marvel Comics Presents #108-111.
Probable Contents: Tie-ins included Alpha Flight (1983) #110-112, Captain America (1968) #408 (B-story), Daredevil (1964) #310, Deathlok (1991) #16, Doctor Strange Sorcerer Supreme (1988) #42-47, Fantastic Four (1961) #366-370, Guardians of the Galaxy (1990) #27-29, Marc Spector: Moon Knight (1989) #41-44, The New Warriors (1990) #27, Nomad (1992) #7, Quasar (1989) #38-40, Silver Sable and the Wild Pack (1992) #4-5, Silver Surfer (1987) #67-69, Sleepwalker (1991) #18, Spider-Man (1990) #24, Wonder Man (1991) #13-14
Possible Contents: While this book would pick up Silver Surfer seamlessly from from Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath, Doctor Strange‘s series is left hanging with an awkward gap of #37-41 between the last volume and this one. While these five issues don’t tie into the the Infinity line of events at all, both Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange have many more issues from the period tied up in the Infinity events than any other title, and it could make sense to carry his line through here.
What is it? There is no action without consequences, and after Marvel’s heroes wrest control of the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos it turns out they’re in for something even worse – a doppelgänger of Wolverine. Oh, and possibly the end of Eternity.
I don’t think a single Marvel fan has a single kernel of doubt that we will see an omnibus titled Infinity War sometime before a movie of the same name drops on May 4, 2018 in exactly the same style as the Infinity Gauntlet omnibus – the main series plus all of the tie-ins.
There’s just the one teeny detail of this story probably not having anything to do with that film.
Instead, the Avengers: Infinity War movie will likely have a little more in common with the classic Infinity Gauntlet story, which is more centered on Thanos as a baddie. This story occurs in its wake. The Infinity Gauntlet is secure in the hands of the artificial being Adam Warlock, and he uses it to expunge the good and evil from his system so he can be a just holder of the universe’s ultimate power.
These sorts of wishes never turn out so well for the wisher. Warlock’s evil self, AKA Magus, immediately sets about subjugating the personification of Eternity and unleashing evil doppelgängers of all of the heroes Marvel had always wished they had an extra copy of. Hilarity and much pointless bashing ensues until the final act, where Thanos kinda sorta almost turns out to be a good guy – or, at least, not the most terrible guy.
It’s just a question of if we get it ahead of the Marvel movie of the same name or if it’s held back until then. Based on the major jump in placement from last year without any changes in publishing to prompt it, sounds like fans are hungry to see the Omnibus sooner than that.
Chances we see this in 2017? With the film arriving on the early side of 2018, I could see Marvel dropping this in time for the 2017 holidays where it can rack up massive sales without spoiling much of anything about the film.
Want to read it right now? Head to the Guide to Marvel Universe Events for the current collection information of this story.
Last Year’s Rank: #30
Possible contents: Fantastic Four #286, Avengers #263, X-Factor #1-32 + Ann 1-3.
What is it? The original five X-Men get the band back together when Jean Grey mysteriously returns to life, but given the current political climate they think the best way to help other mutants is to pretend to be mutant hunters themselves. Their new life is interrupted by the machinations of a shadowy figure that turns out to be Apocalypse!
X-Factor is having a stellar year on the survey this year, with three total appearances! Heck, that makes it one of the most popular titles, alongside Spider-Man and Iron Man.
This run, in particular, is one of the greatest gainers on the survey. Some of that can be chalked up to typical X-Fan completionism, but these early X-Factor stories possess some blockbuster moments thanks to several issues with the spousal super-team of Louise Simonson and Walter Simonson behind the wheel.
First things first: It’s ludicrous that X-Factor #1-8 have never been printed in color (except for a few collections including #1 or 6, Apocalypse’s debut). They are the second-oldest X-Men issues never to see color reprint (and, given today’s Marvel Masterworks news, likely now the oldest issues).
Secondly, there is a spectacular set of mythology around Jean Grey’s return that I cannot possibly summarize here other than to say that it was thought up by fan-turned writer Kurt Busiek and until that plot was worked out her spot was originally filled by Dazzler.
Next, there’s Apocalypse. The shadowy figure originally hinted at by writer Bob Layton in the first few issues of the series was originally going to be The Owl – yes, the one from Daredevil. Not so fearsome. When Louise Simonson took over for Layton in a pinch on the issue #6 reveal of the mastermind, she had artist Jackson Guice design the villain destined to go down as the X-Men’s most epic and unrepentant foe (and star of this year’s X-Men film).
Not only does Simonson introduce Apocalypse, she puts the team through a Wagnerian struggle leading to their confrontation that included the crippling of Angel and the betrayal of Cameron Hodge – a pair of plot points that would continue to pay off for decades to come. When Angel returns to the scene as a metal-winged Horseman of Death as drawn by Walt Simonson it is legitimately the most chilling turn of X-Men villainy since Dark Phoenix.
Now you really want to buy this book, right? Well, this volume has a thorny problem, because #9-11 and 18-30 are already covered by existing oversized X-Men editions. (Hopefully, so will #12-17 and Annual 2, if we get #16 from this list.)
Knowing that the primary market for this book is insane X-Men fans like me who likely have those books already, would Marvel double-dip quite so hard on already collected material? Would we get a smaller OHC of just #1 through 8 or 11 or 17? It could happen, but without the grand finale of the Fall of the Mutants confrontation with Apocalypse and its denouement the story simply doesn’t have the same impact.
The bigger question is this: does the X-Factor name and the original X-Men cast have the ability to move an Omnibus volume, or would it languish?
Chances we see this in 2017? Marvel scheduled a trade paperback of the first portion of this gap to release alongside X-Men: Apocalypse and then cancelled at the last minute. Many fans think that means we’ll get something superior in its place. Whether that is an omnibus, an Epic Collection line, or an integration of this material with other omnibuses, I think it’s on the brink of occurring.
Want to read it right now? The X-Factor Guide can help you find portions of this run in both oversize and standard size permutations.