Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Non-Superhero Comics

Marvel is known for their superheroes. Teams like the Avengers and the X-Men are staples of the Marvel canon with a wealth of books related to each group on the go at all times, Spider-Man and his associates are everywhere, and a flurry of other superfolks--heroes, villains, or ambiguous types working alone or in teams--round out the stable.

Y’all know I love me some superheroes, but many of the comics readers I talk to on Twitter or elsewhere disagree. They’re iffy on the whole costume-and-powers thing, or they prefer fantasy to science fiction, or they’re confused by the continuity and have no idea where to start.

Marvel, alas, isn't exactly brimming with books for these sorts of readers, but I've uncovered a few titles that may be of interest. I offer 'em up to you now.

Outright Non-Superhero Titles

Cover of Mystic #1, featuring two pale-skinned girls in fighting stances.

MYSTIC: THE TENTH APPRENTICE by G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez

An out-and-out secondary world fantasy miniseries about two childhood friends who find themselves on opposite sides of a class-driven magical conflict. It’s a CrossGen book that sits outside Marvel continuity, and it’s fab. I wish it were a full series with seventy-five issues and counting.

An ongoing MYSTIC series did predate this one, but Marvel didn't revive it when they purchased CrossGen's stock and it's out of print due to the company's bankruptcy.

Cover of Strange, featuring a pale-skinned man with a dark goatee. He holds a glowing device.

DOCTOR STRANGE: BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS by J. Michael Straczynski, Samm Barnes, and Brandon Peterson

Doctor Strange is an established part of Marvel continuity, but this miniseries is far more concerned with his magic than with the superheroes he sometimes teams up with. It’s contemporary fantasy and makes a great introduction for anyone curious about the character (which was me a couple months back).


Cover of X-Men Fairy Tales #1, featuring a boy in feudal Japanese dress. He has one glowing red eye. Behind him are a blue ape, a large white dog, a large bird in flight, and an old man.

X-MEN FAIRY TALES by C.B. Cebulski and Sana Takeda

Fans of the X-Men will recognize the characters in this four-issue miniseries as well as the bare bones of each story, but the tales themselves are pure fantasy and divorced from the established continuity. That makes this miniseries a nice pick for people who simply enjoy fairy tales.

Cover of Marvels, featuring Spider-Man dangling upside down as he takes a photograph through a window.

MARVELS by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

Okay, so MARVELS is very much concerned with superheroes, but it’s not really about them. Instead, Busiek and Ross explore how the existence of superpowered individuals impacts the average person on the street. It’s deeply affecting stuff, and a great book for either established fans of superheroic shenanigans or for people who just aren’t sure what all the fuss is about and want to approach it from a different angle.

Less Superheroic Superheroes:

Cover of She-Hulk: Law and Disorder, featuring a green-skinned woman in a black suit peering abashedly around a crumbling white wall. Her shadow strikes a wrestler's pose behind her.

SHE-HULK by Charles Soule and Javier Pullido

Jennifer Walters is a green giantess with super strength. She’s also a fiercely talented lawyer, and this sadly short-lived series gives far more weight to her law practice than to her superheroic antics. It’s fascinating and I wish it were still going strong with no end in sight.

Cover art for Ms Marvel, featuring a brown-skinned girl making a fist.
MS MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Kamala Khan, uberfan of Captain Marvel, must figure out how to balance her newly acquired superpowers with her life as a Muslim-American teenager in New Jersey. She’s part of continuity, but she’s new enough to the whole superhero schtick that she’s a great pick for anyone who's interested in easing their way into the genre.

Cover art for L.A. Woman, featuring a woman's profile in red and gold vectors.

HAWKEYE by Matt Fraction and David Aja et al

The two Hawkeyes--Clint Barton and Kate Bishop (light of my heart, breath in my lungs)--don’t have superpowers. They’re just really, really good at firing arrows into things and/or people. This comic follows their adventures when they’re not being superheroes. Mostly. Sometimes the day job creeps in. It’s my favourite.

What are your favourite non-superheroic Marvel comics?


  1. Oh, things to check out for sure!

  2. I think I want to try She-Hulk - as per usual, you've made it sound irresistible.

    1. I really think it'll be your kind of thing, Ana.

  3. Marvels! I love Marvels. The part with Gwen Stacy is soooo devastating. And, you are not the first to recommend She-Hulk with me, so I'll have to check that out too.

    1. Jenny, you must read SHE-HULK as soon as you possibly can. It's so wonderfully unexpected and legal.