Today in my best-of-Marvel retrospective, we’re looking at ten mega-sized runs from Secret Invasion in 2008 to Avengers vs. X-Men in 2012 that really ought to be omnibuses.
If you want to see any of them in that mega format, perhaps they ought to be your vote in the Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus Secret Ballot – choices are due this Sunday!
However, even sans a mighty omnibus edition, all of Marvel’s modern runs are easily collected in hardcovers and trade paperbacks listed in Crushing Comics’s Guide to Collecting Marvel Comic Books, and 100% of the issues are available on Marvel Unlimited, a $10/month Netflix-for-Marvel-comics.
Whether you’re a new comics fan or a grizzled vet, read with this in mind: These potential mappings are just my own shot, and the may include errors, omissions, or choices that could be improved. That’s part of the fun, for me – it’s like playing “Fantasy Corrections Department”! If you see something fishy or have a vociferous disagreement, I’d love to know what that is via the comments, below.
Thor & Loki by Gillen & Fraction (26 projected issues)
Thor #604-614, Siege: Loki, Sift #1, New Mutants #11, Thor #615-621 & 620.1, Incredible Hercules #134 & 136-137, Wolverine vs. Thor #1-3 AKA Wolverine: Wendigo!
Thor by Matt Fraction (34 – 43 projected issues)
The Mighty Thor (2011) #1-22 & Journey Into Mystery #642-645, & Fear Itself #1-7 & 7.2 (and, optionally, Iron Man / Thor: God Complex #1-4, Warriors Three (2011) #1-4, and Thor: Truth of History)
or, in place of the two omnibuses…
Thor: Fear Itself by Gillen & Fraction (55 projected issues)
Thor #604-614, Siege: Loki, and New Mutants #11, Thor #615-621 & 620.1, The Mighty Thor (2011) #1-22 & Journey Into Mystery #642-645, & Fear Itself #1-7 & 7.2
What is it: A totally awesome and desperately-needed gap-filler between the JMS Thor Omnibus and the forthcoming Journey Into Mystery by Kieron Gillen Omnibus that explains whatever happened to Loki.
Read it now: Guide to Thor
Sorry, I’m starting today’s edition with a tricky one!
It’s a typically thankless task to follow JMS on anything, not only because he’s a strong writer but because he’s known for significantly shuffling the deck of continuity during his runs. Kieron Gillen was relatively new to Marvel when he took over from JMS on Thor, but his brief run that followed was amazing – mercilessly tying off plot thread after plot thread in novel and sometimes shocking fashions before handing the book off to Matt Fraction. Plus, it had outstanding art throughout the run.
It’s criminal that this brief run is stranded between the Thor by JMS Omnibus and the JIM by Gillen Omnibus with no oversize home. Where things get tricky is what to pair with this brief 11 issues, plus a trio of timely tie-ins. The material would make much more sense as a bridge to the Journey Into Mystery omnibus if it also included the beginning of Matt Fraction’s run on Thor, which is only 8 issues and introduces Young Loki.
That would make a tidy 22 issue book, to which you could add the Wolverine: Wendigo one-shot, and even Thor’s appearance in Incredible Hercules, since it was the only other canonical Thor of the entire period. That still makes for a slim, 26-issue, gap-filling omnibus that’s could be marketed for $75 and which would make a good read.
I am suggesting that you read exactly that.
The problem is that Fraction’s run on Thor continues directly to Mighty Thor (2011) #1-22, alongside which runs his Fear Itself #1-7 and the Thor epilogue in #7.2. The end of the Thor run crossed over into four issues of Journey Into Mystery.
That’s enough for its own 34 issue “Thor by Matt Fraction” omnibus that fits perfectly alongside the Journey Into Mystery Omnibus, and could absorb nine other contemporaneous Thor issues if need be.
The problem is that this Fraction material is okay (at best) and no one is exactly clamoring for a Fear Itself omnibus. In terms of making it sellable and relevant, it might be better to drop the Wendigo and Hercules fluff from the Gillen book and jam all of Fraction’s run into it, making one chunky omnibus with enough interesting runs to market it.
Thus, there are three possible books we could mine from this material, depending on your feelings about breaking up the Fraction run across two omnibuses.
Bottom line: If you’ve read the Thor by JMS omnibus, please read Gillen’s run as well! You will not be sorry.
Hulk: Green & Red by Jeph Loeb (28 projected issues)
Collects Hulk (2008) #1-24, King-Size Hulk #1, Incredible Hulk #600, Wolverine #50, and Fall of the Hulks: Gamma
Red Hulk by Jeff Parker (41 projected issues)
Collects Hulk (2008) #25-57, 31.1, Venom: Circle of Four #13.1-4, and optionally Hulk vs. Dracula #1-3
What is it? An all-new, all-different Hulk gets his own relatively self-contained title to grow (though, you might know him already…)
Read it now: Guide to Hulk
In all the hubbub and oversize hardcovers around Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, and War of the Hulks, the narrative of the emergency of the Red Hulk is sometimes lost. It was a pretty big shocker a decade ago when we got a Hulk of an all-new color, and he turned out to be a canny opponent even in his Hulk form. Plus, since this run is about introducing a new character, it’s super-accessible to newer fans.
The run could easily be covered by a pair of medium-sized omnibuses. First, one of Jeph Loeb’s stronger recent Marvel runs that introduced Red Hulk. At the end of that run, Red Hulk had his “coming out” where he was introduced to the rest of the Avengers in Avengers (2010) #7. While he met the wider Marvel Universe, Jeff Parker took over for a run that quietly garnered a lot of fans, as Red Hulk got two years of his own adventures to develop his character while he was only really featured elsewhere in Avengers.
That makes for a super-fun self-contained read – great for omnibuses or a rainy day.
Dark Avengers (2009)
Dark Avengers: Dark Reign (24 projected issues, with an optional 15 to 25 additional issues)
Collects Dark Avengers (2009) #1-18 & Annual 1, Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus & Utopia, Dark Reign: The Cabal, and Uncanny X-Men (1963) #513-514.
Could also include mini-series and one-shots focusing on its primary cast from Dark Avengers: Ares #1-3, Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1-5, Dark Reign: The Goblin Legacy, and Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man #1-4, Dark Reign Files (2009) #1, Dark Reign: New Nation (2009) #1
Additionally could include key Bullseye and Moonstone stories from the period from Deadpool (2008) #10-12, and Ms. Marvel (2006) #35-41
What is it? Normal Osborn improbably winds up with the reins to the Avengers and he stocks it with a line-up of despicable villains wearing the costumes of beloved heroes.
Read it now: Guide to Thunderbolts & Dark Avengers
Here’s a thing that you don’t hear me say a whole lot: This is a Brian Bendis comic so good that it deserves recollection as an omnibus despite being available already in a perfectly serviceable pair of oversized hardcovers.
Bendi’s Dark Avengers is a villainous delight. His scenery-chewing, dialog-filled writing style fits perfectly with this bickering group of newly-minuted heroes, who can barely stop picking fights with each other long enough to get anything done. Dark Avengers is the perfect arc to fill the space between Secret Invasion and Siege, and every issue is enjoyable – including a tangle with the X-Men in Utopia.
However, this has already been collected once into two readily-available hardcovers (one of which was even marketed as an “omnibus,” though it was not really one). Do we really need to see it in hardcover again?
The case I’d make for that is that the book could also pull in the “Dark Reign” material for each of its central cast members (save for Daken, who has enough for his own omnibus). That would help expand characters like the dark versions of Hawkeye and Spider-Man, plus add a Kieron Gillen Ares mini-series and some contextual one-shots. The omnibus could even fit Bullseye and Moonstone arcs from Deadpool and Ms. Marvel and still be a manageable size.
Some readers might think all of that extra stuff dilutes Bendis’s marvelous Dark Avengers, but I feel like it fills it out and helps you to not digest it quite as quickly. This would be an odd book, but a very fun read.
Daredevil (1964) #501-512 (2009) and Shadowland (2010)
Daredevil by Andy Diggle AKA Daredevil: Shadowland (46 projected issues)
Collects Daredevil (1964) #501-512, material from #500, Dark Reign The List: Daredevil, Daredevil: After The Fall, Shadowland #1-5, and Daredevil Reborn #1-6 and 20 Shadowland tie-in issues – Shadowland: Blood on the Streets #1-4, Shadowland: Moon Knight #1-3, Shadowland: Power Man #1-4, Thunderbolts #148-149, Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #1-3, and the Shadowland one-shots Bullseye, Elektra, Ghost Rider & Spider-Man
What is it? Daredevil emerges from jail ready to make a deal with his worst enemies – The Hand! The result takes Daredevil to the scariest place he’s ever been, and it’ll take the combined efforts of all of his street-level allies to rescue him from the darkness.
Want to read it? Guide to Daredevil
Let me get my constant caveat on this run out of the way: THESE COMICS WERE NOT BAD. THEY WERE NOT BAD. THEY WERE ACTUALLY QUITE ENJOYABLE.
Here’s the deal – Daredevil had just emerged from nearly a decade largely under the authorship of Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker, who each wrote a message mega-arc for Matt Murdock. Both were wonderfully noir, critically lauded, fan beloved, and quite good. (Well, I don’t think the Bendis one was good, but I’m willing to accept that I’m in the minority here).
Andy Diggle had the thankless job of picking up from Brubaker, who somehow made a great show of sending Daredevil to jail. How do you top that? By showing that Daredevil is so ready to rid New York of bad influences that he’d partner with The Hand to do it!
That’s a fantastic premise and the story really holds up well. As the well-meaning Daredevil descends into demonic possession that makes his name literal, a number of street-level heroes gather to try to pull him out of darkness. That leads to some fantastic turns from Misty Knight, Coleen Wing, and Moon Knight, among others.
It also bridges directly from the end of Ed Brubaker’s run to the beginning of Mark Waid’s, which would give us very nearly a 15-year streak of Daredevil stories in omnibus, save for a few non-Bendis arcs from before Brubaker took over.
Don’t take my word for it – read it yourself!
Avengers Academy (2010)
Avengers Academy by Christos Gage (2010 – 2012) (42 issues)
Collects Avengers Academy #1-39 & 14.1, Avengers Academy Giant Size, and material from Enter the Heroic Age
What is it? The Avengers take in a class of young heroes with major PTSD from Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign, but are they trying to rehabilitate the kids or keep them from harming themselves and others?
Want to read it? Guide to Young Avengers
Avengers Academy was a little series that could, starting with an all-new cast, getting very little acclaim or critical attention, yet churning out over 40 issues of high-quality comic stories penned by a single author.
That author was Christos Gage, who perforeds the ultimate parlor trick if inventing an almost entirely new team while making it seem like they were all rooted in the expansive Dark Reign era (during which you’d be forgiven if you missed them). It’s one of those comics where you’ll find yourself checking and double-checking to be sure these characters don’t have any prior history that you somehow missed.
The mission statement and the cast get somewhat watered down in the second semester, which is interrupted by Avengers vs. X-Men, but that comes with the positive of X-23 joining the cast to continue her own long-running arc – an interesting contrast to the briefer development of the cast of Academy
Even if there was no break-out star from this run, it would be a pity for it to be forgotten. With the Avengers Academy game a digital hit and young versions of heroes being very on-trend, you should absolutely go back to read or revisit this often-ignored series.
Secret Avengers (2010)
Secret Avengers by Brubaker, Ellis, & Remender (40 projected issues)
Collects Secret Avengers #1-37, 12.1, 21.1 and Fear Itself: Black Widow
What is it? A stealthier take on Avengers who deal with major problems before they explode written by three of the best authors in comics and featuring a rotating cast of your favorite B-list team members.
Read it now: Guide to Secret Warriors & Secret Avengers
Marvel doesn’t have the best track record with series that pass through multiple hands in recent years – usually the arrival of a new author with a good story arc will spin off a new volume!
That wasn’t the case for Secret Avengers, which was wildly different and wildly fun under the pens of three different writers. Ed Brubaker envisioned Steve Rogers using the team to solve intractable mysteries, while Ellis used it to tell one-shot stories with randomized casts, and Remender used it as more of an Avengers B-team with their own massive problems.
In every run it made for compelling reading. Maybe that’s because it was such a contrast to the Bendis years of New and Mighty Avengers, which was a lot of talk but also a lot of the team lacking agency as it was beset with incoming threads. Secret Avengers could instead have re-used the old title Force Works in that it’s a much more proactive title, although their force tends to be a little more covert than overt.
Boasting a cast anchored by Captain America and then Hawkeye, and supporting players including Black Widow, Moon Knight, and Ant-Man (though, not Scott Lang), this title holds interest for both longtime readers and casual browsers alike.
Amazing Spider-Man (1963) – Big Time (2011 to 2013)
Spider-Man: Big Time by Dan Slott, Vol. 1 (33 projected issues, with an optional 4 – 24 additional issues)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #648-676 & 654.1, Amazing Spider-Man: Infested #1, FCBD 2011, and Spider-Island: Deadly Foes #1.
For more complete coverage of the period (and to add something beyond the Complete Collections), this book could also collect non-Slott material from Spectacular Spider-Man #1000, Amazing Spider-Man Annual 38, Deadpool Annual (2011) 1, and Incredible Hulks Annual 1.
(It could also add some or all of the remaining contents of the Spider-Island OHCs, Venom #6-9, Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive (2011) #524, Herc (2011) #7-8, and the following Spider-Island branded series and one-shots: Cloak & Dagger (2011) #1-3, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (2011) #1-3, Heroes For Hire (2011) #1, I Love New York City (2011) #1, Spider-Woman (2011) #1, The Amazing Spider-Girl (2011) #1-3, The Avengers (2011) #1,)
Spider-Man: Big Time by Dan Slott, Vol. 2 (31 issues, with an optional 18 – 22 additional issues)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #677-697, 679.1; Daredevil (2011) #8; Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth #1; Avenging Spider-Man #8 & 11, and Alpha: Big Time #1-5
For more complete coverage of the period (and to add something beyond the Complete Collections, this book could also collect non-Slott material from Avenging Spider-Man (2012) #1-7, 9-10, 12-15 & Annual 1 and a crossover with Daredevil #11 and Punisher #10, plus Amazing Spider-Man Annual 39, Spider-Man vs. Vampires, and Bendis mini-series Spider-Men #1-4.
What is it?: Spider-Man gets fun and “BIG” again in this run-up to Superior Spider-Man.
Read it now: Guide to Spider-Man
Dan Slott took over a bi-weekly Amazing Spider-Man all on his own after a writer-go-round in the prior period. At this point, the book was far enough away from “One Moment In Time” that fans seemed to be creeping back to the wall-crawlers book.
Slott did a remarkable thing on this run – he made Spider-Man fun again without making Peter Parker an unchanging cartoon version of himself. Slott’s Parker has an emotional and professional arc that sees him maturing and changing without aging his character or alienating the reader. A lot of it just feels right.
That’s cast against a backdrop of one huge story after another, including the Spider-event Spider-Island, the major arc Ends of the Earth, and the action leading up to Superior Spider-Man!
Marvel certainly chose some killer omnibuses to pair with their new MCU Spider-Man movie, but I can’t help but think that finally getting started with collecting the Slott era would please a lot of fans and sell a lot of copies – just as they did with Ed Brubaker’s (much shorter) in-progress run on Captain America. Even if Slott’s grand finish is a long ways off, there’s still at least another two omnibuses of material to collect after Superior.
If you’re starting your own Spider-Read, you can begin a bit before this with the “Brand New Day” era, which sets up this status quo. It’s just not my top pick for an omnibus.
Punisher (2011) & Punisher War Zone (2012)
Punisher by Greg Rucka (collects 24 to 26 projected issues)
Punisher (2011) #1-16 & Punisher: War Zone #1-5, a crossover with Daredevil #11 and Avenging Spider-Man #6, and material from Spider-Island: I Love New York City (maybe adding the non-Rucka Punisher: The Trial Of The Punisher (2013) #1-2)
What is it? A back-to-basics Punisher is back in New York to tangle with mob before his violet tactics tactics run afoul of The Avengers.
Read it now: Guide to Punisher
Fan consensus has solidified around the fact that this is one of the best and most-self-contained runs of in-continuity Punisher in Marvel’s arsenal, so its puzzling why they didn’t move forward with an omnibus to match the upcoming Netflix Punisher show.
It also boasts an incredibly creator pedigree – written by Greg Rucka, who has a golden touch with big two properties, and drawn by Marco Checchetto, who lends the book a tremendously cinematic pop. He’s one of my favorite artists in Marvel’s stable, and it’s taken another half-decade for him to get the recognition he’s always deserved with him now on a Star Wars title.
Rucka didn’t do anything especially different with Punisher to create this great run – he’s got guns, he’s in New York, and he’s mowing down criminals. The difference is that Rucka connects it to something a bit larger, which eventually finds him at odds with the Avengers.
Given the high sales Marvel sees every time they schlep one of their out-of-continuity “vs the Marvel Universe” types of books, I’m not sure how they could possibly go wrong by marketing this Rucka run that ends with a throw-down against the film cast of The Avengers. And you certainly cannot go wrong by reading it.