Marvel’s Most Experimental Comics, Ranked

Marvel has been the top name in comics for years now. However, calling them innovative in the industry would be a bit of a misnomer. While the publisher has been revolutionary several times over the years, Marvel is a superhero company, first and foremost, and has rarely moved out of that wheelhouse. That doesn’t mean they haven’t tried to experiment with their formula, though.

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Marvel has put out some rather experimental comics, testing new ideas to see just how well they’ll work. While they’re still noticeably Marvel comics, they’ve represented an attempted change to the system. Some of them have paid off and some have failed, but that’s the nature of experimentation.

10 The Silver Age Marvel Universe Introduced Interconnected Continuity To Comics & Changed The Industry Forever

Superhero comics came back in a big way in the Silver Age and Marvel wanted in on that action. Writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1 started a new Marvel Universe and subsequent releases would do something that no other comic was doing at the time: introduce continuity between titles. No other publisher had tried this before, and it changed everything.

Before this, there was no such thing as a shared universe in comics — or at least not how modern readers understand it. Those old Silver Age Marvel comics blazed a trail that recreated the comic industry, their influence inspiring the MCU decades later.

9 Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Made Daredevil Into A Noir Comic

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil is one of Marvel’s most beloved 2000s titles. However, looking back on what the book was before they took over, it’s plain to see that they made massive changes to everything about it. Daredevil had always been Marvel’s grittiest crimefighter, but even in the halcyon Frank Miller days, Daredevil was still a superhero book.

Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil went in another direction. It still had superheroes in it, obviously, but the stories were definitely noir. It was a perfect direction to take the character and remains a highwater mark in Daredevil history.

8 Marvel’s Mid-2010s Character Swaps Changed The Way The Publisher Used Legacy

The mid-2010s were an interesting time in Marvel history. Suddenly, characters like Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson, Logan, Tony Stark, and more were all put on the shelf in a variety of ways, replaced in their roles by new characters. Kamala Khan debuted as Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales was brought to the 616 Marvel Universe, and the Marvel Universe looked very different from what it once did.

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Marvel had never really embraced legacy to the same extent as their distinguished competition, so this time saw them experimenting with the way mantles like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, and others worked. Some fans loved it, others violently rebelled, but it was a welcome change to the Marvel Universe.

7 Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 Began The Hydra Cap Storyline

Marvel has always used retcons as a big part of its storytelling with varying levels of success. One of the most infamous came in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, by writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz, where the ending revealed that Steve Rogers was an agent of Hydra. This was a massive shock to fans and started the run-up to Secret Empire.

Making Steve Rogers into a member of Hydra was a bold move, one that pulled eyes to the product. Marvel doubled down on it, making claims that he had always been a member of the Hydra, which were technically true, even if the mechanism for it was a widescale reality change.

6 Removing Wolverine’s Adamantium Was A Huge Change To The Character

X Men #25, by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Andy Kubert, looked to be another X-Men vs. Magneto story, ending the “Fatal Attractions” storylines in epic fashion. However, it took a turn into shocking territory when Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton and was mindwiped in turn. Wolverine was Marvel’s most popular character and this was a massive change.

It kicked off the bone claw years, where Wolverine had to deal with being significantly weaker than ever before. It would lead into the feral Wolverine story as well, something which would shake up his status quo even more. Deciding to fundamentally change their most popular character from him at the height of his popularity from him was a gamble like few others.

5 Heroes Reborn Saw Marvel Farming Out Its Biggest Titles To Rob Liefeld & Jim Lee

The 90s were not a good time to be Marvel characters who weren’t mutants or Spider-Man. The Avengers and Fantastic Four were looked at as old-fashioned, so Marvel did something rather unprecedented, farming them out to former Marvel employees and Image founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld for Heroes Reborn.

Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Hombre de Hierro, split between Liefeld and Lee respectively, were relaunched with new number ones and sold like hotcakes. However, as time went on, things soured and the whole thing was ended after a year. Heroes Reborn is among Marvel’s most disliked comics and was an experiment that did not pay off.

Marvel’s shoddy treatment of mutants was a hot-button issue among its fans for years, but it started years before most fans began complaining about it. houseofm, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Coipel, was the first salvo in the publisher’s war against mutants, the story ending with Scarlet Witch depowering the vast majority of the mutant race.

Marvel had begun to rehabilitate its other franchises in the 2000s, so putting the X-Men on the back burner was a way to allow other books to get some spotlight. It started a disturbing trend, though, as Marvel kept pushing the mutants out of the spotlight more and more.

3 The Inhumans Comics That Started In 2015 Were A Bold New Way Of Marginalizing Mutants Because Of Film Rights

Marvel’s biggest salvo against mutants came in 2015. Since the company didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, they decided to slide the Inhumans into the X-Men’s role in the Marvel Universe. comics like Uncanny Inhumans, Inhumans, and All New Inhumans dropped, and suddenly Inhumans were everywhere mutants used to be, including in racism storylines that were once the sole providence of mutants.

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The entire experiment failed completely; fans didn’t exactly love the Inhumans and X-Men fans were vitriolic in their rage. It didn’t help that the Inhumans’ ascendance was at the cost of mutant lives in-universe—something which blurred the line between good and evil in the books.

two House Of X/Powers Of X Completely Changed The X-Men’s Status Quo

After Disney bought out 20th Century Fox, the X-Men’s film rights were safely back in Marvel’s hands and the company decided to make the mutants their top priority again. They accomplished this by bringing in superstar writer Jonathan Hickman and launching House Of X/Powers Of X, with artists Pepe Larraz and RB Silva. Those two books completely surpassed the X-Men’s status quo.

House of X/Powers of X they were game-changers in every sense of the word. They took the X-Men out of the school and the background of the Marvel Universe, giving them their own country and power like never before. An entire line of X-Men titles was launched and shot to the top of the charts.

1 Ultimate Spider-Man Launched The Ultimate Line

Marvel in the year 2000 was in a state of flux, the publisher trying to recover from the pitfalls of the 90s. Things were on an upward trend, though, and they decided to take a massive gamble. Ultimate Spider Man, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley, was a complete reboot of Spider-Man for the 21st century and launched the Ultimate line.

ultimate spider-man is one of the most important comics of the 2000s. The Ultimate line was a huge seller for the first few years of the decade, giving new readers a chance to jump into Marvel without all the continuity baggage. It was a move that paid dividends for the publisher for several years.


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