10 Best Marvel MAX Comic Books

Superhero comic books escaped the long shadow the Comics Code Authority cast by the early 90s, but still largely played to a young audience. During that period, DC Comics pioneered a mature readers line in Vertigo Comics that pushed boundaries in genre and content. Marvel MAX followed in the early 2000s, taking classic and new characters into uncharted territory for the Marvel Universe.

The best Marvel MAX comic books took established icons like The Punisher into challenging stories that later inspired his Netflix streaming series adaptation. Alias introduced another Netflix hero in Jessica Jones and provided the template for a new superhero who could have only emerged from the Marvel MAX experiment. Marvel MAX wasn’t without controversy, including criticism from Stan Lee, and the brand ended in the early 2010s.


The Hood

The Hood appears in Marvel Comics.

The Hood helped establish the imprint’s darker edge by showingcasing a violent vigilante dealing with a world cast in shadows. Writer Brian K. Vaughn from Saga and Y: The Last Man brings his inventiveness to the book, which introduces a protagonist who is very much not a hero.

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Parker Robbins steals a mystical cloak from a demon and gains supernatural powers from it. He uses these powers as much to help people as he does himself, walking a fine line between hero and villain that he continues to thread in the Marvel Universe twenty years later.


Werewolf by Night appears in Marvel Comics.

the Dead of Night banner explored the graphic horror inherent in characters like Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night Marvel Comics could only hint at when they first appeared in the 1970s, making their individual MAX mini-series among the best.

Comic book fans know Werewolf by Night played a key role in linking varied elements of the supernatural side of the Marvel Universe like Moon Knight and Blade, and Dead of Night: Werewolf by Night may offer a template for the MCU to do the same with allusions to Morbius and other characters.

Thor: Vikings

Thor: Vikings likely never inspires an MCU story, as the screen Thor leans into humor too much for the horror within this five-issue mini-series. The historical grounding and stark realism do provide readers with a unique and unexpected take on the iconic superhero, though.

Thor faces zombie Vikings from the past, some of his most powerful villains in Marvel Comics, who rampage through modern New York City. He teams with Doctor Strange to find a mystical answer to defeating the zombies after the zombies handle the Avengers.


Blade hunts vampires in Marvel MAX comics.

2002 Blade mini-series counts among the best MAX comics by borrowing some elements from the Wesley Snipes movies and recontextualizing the iconic character for a cultural moment dominated by franchises like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

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The MAX series pits Blade against new villains like The Tryk, mutated vampires somewhat inspired by those in the Blade sequels from the early 2000s but who also may play a role in live-action when Blade makes his full debut in the MCU.

Supreme Power

Comic book fans know the Squadron Supreme began life as an obvious Justice League of America homage. Supreme Powertheir Marvel MAX series, succeeds by taking up the legacy of DC Comics examinations of power in the Watchmen and other comics.

The series reboots the team for the modern-day by exploring the potential reality of superhuman beings arriving on Earth. Hyperion, a Superman homage, becomes a state-sponsored hero, not unlike Superman in The Dark Knight Returns.


Phases of the moon from Wolverine MAX #1.

Wolverine MAX gives longtime fans plenty of familiar concepts, including Logan’s ties with Japan and tendency toward violence. The series amplifies all those things, providing a take on the iconic character not unlike the one seen in Logan.

The 2012 series comes at the tail end of the MAX experiment, eschewing the early excess of some titles exhibited by simply focusing on Wolverine as a character. His capacity for violence already steered mainstream Marvel Comics in a dark direction going back to his confrontation with the Hellfire Club in Uncanny X-Men #133, one of the best Wolverine comics ever.

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider

Yelena Belova appears in Marvel MAX comics.

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider stands atop most Marvel MAX comics not so much for the way it reinterprets Natasha Romanoff, but for introducing Yelena Belova. This significant character first appears in the 2002 mini-series’ first issue.

The story pits the two Black Widows against each other, creating a foil for Natasha more than a friend or family member. The MCU version departs in some respects from the MAX one but Yelena’s foundation is laid down in this key storyline.

Fury: My War Gone By

Fury MAX my war gone by

Fury: My War Gone By takes Nick Fury back to the Cold War and explores the character’s past through a new, dark filter. Writer Garth Ennis goes back to the character’s war comic roots in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos while at the same time depicting the brutal reality of war.

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The best Marvel MAX comics use violence and adult situations to their advantage rather than simply exploit them, and while this comic garnered praise, it also spawned controversy. George Clooney dropped out of a prospective Nick Fury movie over his objections to the comic.

Punisher: Born

A Punisher skull on his Born comic.

Punisher: Born begins a long run of Marvel MAX titles and remains the best for its brutal and unflinching portrayal of Frank Castle. The mini-series revisits his origin story without any restraint, depicting his loss and revenge with equal measure.

The series, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson, examines the impact of terrible loss and violence on him over many decades. It does this by abandoning the sliding scale of Marvel Comics continuity, which at that point has already shifted Castle from a Vietnam veteran to one from the War on Terror.


Jessica Jones from the cover of Alias ​​comic book.

Alias kicked off the Marvel MAX imprint and set the tone for the stories that followed. The series also introduced an instantly iconic character in Jessica Jones, making it the best MAX had to offer and also an important book in Marvel Comics history.

The series examines difficult themes and subject matter, with a difficult character at its center. Jessica Jones remains the signature book from the Marvel MAX experiment and also directly influenced the Netflix series and may likely her potential MCU revival of her.

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