Marvel Comics’ celebration of 80 years in the biz continues with this excellent collection of stories from the 2010s! Since these are all from vastly different series and creative teams — featuring work from the likes of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jeff Lemire, Kieron Gillen, Dan Slott, G. Willow Wilson, Chris Samnee, Sara Pichelli, and many more — I’m going to take a look at each of these individual stories and then offer a summation on the collection at the end. With that in mind, let’s dive into Decades: Marvel in the ’10s — Legends and Legacy!
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (2011) #1 — This issue is a great way to open the collection, especially with how popular Miles Morales has (finally) become following the release of Into the Spider-Verse. This issue sees Miles a little more established in his superhero role, paving the way for some really fun action sequences. However, it’s still early enough in his career as Spidey that he’s still gripping with not really knowing what he’s doing and worried about how his parents would accept his extracurricular activities. It’s a great introduction to Miles and his dynamics for new readers. It also has an effective last panel that should hook folks who haven’t read this particular run.
Captain Marvel (2012) #1 — While it’s great to have this issue here, in which Carol mulls over whether she wants or is deserving of the mantle of Captain Marvel, it comes loaded with a lot of backstory that may be hard for newer readers to jump into. Still, the issue does a decent job of recapping Carol’s origin story and giving readers a taste of her sense of humor and just how tired she is of one jerk after another underestimating her. It’s also a great example of the kind of respect Carol commands from the other heroes of the Marvel Universe.
Iron Man (2012) #1 — This is the first issue in the collection where readers will really start to see the influence the Marvel Cinematic Universe had on its comic counterparts, rather than the other way around. Just in time to capitalize on the then-upcoming Iron Man 3, this issue kicked off a new series with a storyline that featured a very quippy Tony Stark taking on A.I.M. and the resurgence of the Extremis virus. It’s a solid issue that sums up Tony’s frame of mind as a man trying to atone for the sins of the past.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2013) #4 — Taking place during the period of time when Tony Stark was bopping around space with Peter Quill and his crew, this is another one that has a story that feels somewhat reliant on a familiarity with then-current Marvel events. Still, the character interactions — particularly a fantastic bar fight and an ill-advised hookup between two of the characters — make this one a fun inclusion that illustrates the dynamic between these characters.
Edge of Spider-Verse #2 — If they were going to include anything from the first Spider-Verse crossover, they chose the absolute perfect tie-in, since this is the issue that introduced the overnight web-slinging sensation known as Spider-Gwen! This issue is something of a modern classic, giving us a fully-formed world and origin story for this version of Gwen in a matter of pages and then dropping us into a story that shows us everything she’s about. Gorgeously illustrated and terrifically exciting, it’s the ideal tie-in story and it set the tone for what would be one of the more exciting Marvel creations of this decade.
Ms. Marvel (2014) #12 — Though this story mostly follows Loki causing trouble in the mortal world, it also acts as a fun and heartwarming introduction to Kamala Khan and her supporting cast. The fact that it also has a hilarious premise and some truly amusing action toward the end is just a plus! It’s a solid gateway into what makes this series such a delight and choosing a story with a character like Loki that fans of the movies may be more familiar with is a smart move.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #3 — A fun and somewhat sweet story from the Parker Industries era of Spidey. The Zodiac portions of the storyline are somewhat distracting from the issue’s emotional center, as are the bits involving S.H.I.E.L.D. that further illustrate some of the ways in which the comics adjusted to accommodate elements of the MCU. Still, the issue features a fun punch-up between Peter and Johnny Storm, with plenty of banter between the two frenemies and a conclusion that feels very touching, if not slightly frustrating because it all could have been avoided with a conversation. In other words, a classic Peter and Johnny story.
The Mighty Thor (2015) #5 — Jane Foster shines in this story that highlights the best of this run on the character. The battle scenes are epic and explosive, the dialogue is poetic and tragic, and Jane is awe-inspiring in her determination to never give up. It also gives readers a Loki story that is decidedly different in tone from the earlier Ms. Marvel selection. Considering the fact that this story takes place much later in this particular arc, I was at first surprised at the choice of issue. However, it really does give readers a few dark twists and a satisfying conclusion, as well as a tag that will hopefully entice folks to pick up this run before Jane Foster lifts Möjlnir on the big screen.
Black Panther (2016) #1 — Despite the fantastic artwork and dialogue, this issue’s inclusion feels like a slight misstep. Though this run on the character is worthy of this collection, this selection suffers from being divorced from the preceding storylines. There are elements here that will be familiar to fans of the films and there’s a good amount of exposition to attempt to catch readers up on the state of Wakanda, but it’s otherwise pretty hard to follow without the proper context. Still, there are a few wonderful emotional moments that are worth the more confusing aspects.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2015B) #7 — This issue shows just why Squirrel Girl’s relaunch (and re-relaunch… 2015 was a weird year at Marvel, y’all) became such a phenomenon. This issue begins with a narration from a chill, champagne-sipping Galactus and gets wackier from there, telling a Choose Your Own Adventure-style story that unfolds in the most optimistic and wonderfully Squirrel Girl way possible.
Thanos (2016) #1 — The final issue in this collection brings the big bad of the MCU front and center in a chilling tale that sees Thanos preparing to get his revenge on the whole of the Marvel Universe. This story perfectly sums up why Thanos is feared all over the cosmos, particularly in a wild action sequence that opens the issue. For anyone who wanted more of the Mad Titan and his Black Order after seeing Avengers: Endgame, this is a great place to start. It’s also a perfect button on this collection.
All in all, this is a solid collection of stories. Some of the issues suffer from not having enough lead-in, being part of a major crossover or storyline or what have you. Others are perfectly fine standalone tales. The best selections here are the ones that don’t require Wikipedia to be open, giving readers a glimpse at what makes these heroes work so well without a long and drawn-out history lesson.
As these collections have been released, it’s become more and more obvious how much modern comic books have been dominated by events and tie-ins, but Marvel in the ’10s does a pretty fantastic job of giving new readers and entry point and old readers a refresher on why they love these books in the first place.
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