Graphic novels today are more diverse and have more variety than ever. The following titles and series explore classic characters in new ways, or completely reinvent them for a new generation. While I like the classic Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain Marvel, I love their newest versions!
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis
Miles Morales is a half Puerto Rican, half African-American thirteen-year-old from Brooklyn. On the day he wins the lottery for the last spot in the Brooklyn Visions Academy, his life changes forever when he is bitten by a mutated spider while visiting his Uncle Aaron. What Miles did not know is that his uncle is actually the villain known as the Prowler, who has stolen a safe from Norman Osborne, a.k.a. the Green Goblin. When he stole the safe, the escaped lab spider stowed away in his bag, and now we have a new Spider-Man, with different powers than Peter Parker. What is great about this series is that it is an alternate universe Spider-Man story with a more modern struggle of how to be a hero at so young an age. Here, Peter Parker died in his teens in a fight with the Green Goblin, and Miles has to make a series of choices to become the new Spider-Man, which is full of difficult encounters with Parker’s remaining family and friends, the Avengers, his uncle, and his father, who laments and fears the world of superheroes. When you have no close role models, and the only other Spider-Man you could learn from is dead, who do you turn to?
Wonder Women: Blood by Brian Azzarello
The New 52 series from DC Comics was a reboot of all their 52 titles, and Wonder Woman herself goes through quite a few changes with this title. Wonder Woman, who prefers to be called Diana, is in self-exile from Paradise Island because her mythical birth out of clay isolates her from her fellow Amazons. However, she is soon drawn into a battle with all the Greek gods over the throne of Olympus, because Zeus has gone missing. As Diana fights to preserve the life the mortal woman Zola, pregnant with Zeus’ child, many of the gods conspire to kill them or aid them in a epic series of battles and revelations about Diana’s true parentage, and true power. This series is a stellar new beginning for the character, where we get to meet the woman behind the goddess-like hero.
Kamala Khan is a Pakistani Muslim American who loves video games, writes Avengers fan-fiction, and worships Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel). When the Terrigen mists envelop her home, Jersey City, Kamala emerges with strange superpowers. While in the mist, Kamala had a vision where Ms. Marvel asked what she wanted in life, to which Kamala stated she wanted to be her. She emerged looking exactly like the blonde Ms. Marvel, classic costume and all. Kamala’s journey as a superhero is tested not only by her teenage angst, her family, her faith, and her friends, but also by half-man, half-cockatiel clone of Thomas Edison and the Secret Wars that threaten to destroy the entire Marvel Universe. Needless to say, this series has it all: humor, drama, a fascinating heroine, a relatable coming-of-age story, plus numerous cameos by Marvel characters such as Wolverine, Loki, Captain America and many more!
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar
What if, instead of landing in a field in Smallville, Kansas and adopted by Martha and Jonathan Kent, Kal-El landed on a collective farm in the Soviet Union and was raised by Joseph Stalin? The result is this utterly fascinating exploration of Superman’s character if he had grown up very differently. As Superman comes into his own power, his desire is to make the world a communist utopia means controlling it with an iron fist. The Superman here is not only powerful, but a genius, and under his rule there is no poverty or crime. Only the United States resists his attempts to conquer, lead by Lex Luthor, who considers him the perfect adversary and resists him to the last, even as the United States is sunk into chaos when the whole world is against it. This book also has spectacular alternate versions of Wonder Woman, a communist sympathizer, and Batman, a Russian orphan who leads the resistance against Superman's utopia. This title has a twist at the end that you won’t see coming, but will amaze and delight you once it is revealed.
In Queen Elizabeth’s court in the year 1602, the Queen is concerned about the strange natural phenomena in her kingdom, such as earthquakes in York and blood red skies over London. The superstitious might think the world was ending, so the queen summons her two advisors, Doctor Stephen Strange, master of the Queen’s medicines, and Sir Nicholas Fury, the Queen’s intelligencer of plots and counterplots. What is this strange version of the past that features characters such as the Fantastick, Count Otto Von Doom the Handsome, a young man with the wings of an angel, and a bald man named Carlos Javier, who can speak into the minds of others? When the entire Marvel Universe crashes into the past, all universes could be destroyed, so Doctor Strange, Sir Nicholas, the Inquisition and the Templars band together to solve the mystery of how this came to be, and how to save the world. Entertainment Weekly says “1602 is a triumph. The Marvel universe hasn't been this engrossing in ages.” I couldn’t agree more, as Gaiman has woven a story truly worthy of the Marvel legacy and made it shine in the distant past.