The year is coming to an end, and I want to celebrate the stars of Marvel 2014! So here are my nominations; which one do you think takes starring role this year?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There’ll be two team nominations in this year’s set, usually meaning I can’t single out a member as better than the rest! Starring Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a rocky start – in large part because the series was effectively spinning wheels until ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier‘, when S.H.I.E.L.D. was torn apart. It was then that Season One picked up, with Brett Dalton’s too-good-to-be-true Agent Ward proving, well, too good to be true; the end of Season One fairly sizzled.
But Season Two has raised the bar, with Agent Coulson instated as Director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. remnant. Ming-Na Wen’s Agent May has proved herself of almost Avenger quality, with a Hydra agent even trying to steal her face. Adrianne Palicki and Nick Morse flourished as new agents Bobbi (Mockingbird) Morse and Lance Hunter. And even the dynamic between Iain De Caesteecker’s Fitz and Elizabeth Henstridge’s Simmons has been sparkling by the time the mid-season finale came.
The season has been helped dramatically by the twists in Chloe Bennet’s Skye, who has been revealed to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson (known as Quake). Marvel tied her mysterious origin, as well as Coulson’s resurrection, into a clever strategic move that has brought the Inhumans to the small screen.
The team are even beginning to appear in the comics, and undoubtedly the latest twists will see Quake’s future brighten!
Chris Evans’ ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier‘ was a surprising success, with Marvel Studios daring to use it to completely rewrite the shape of their cinematic universe. Captain America uncovered a conspiracy that ran to the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he ultimately made the call that S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra both had to burn.
There’s a single brilliant moment when he makes an appeal to all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents across the public address system, and we see the influence of a living legend. Even with a gun held to his head, one S.H.I.E.L.D. agent will not comply with Hydra instructions – and when asked why, he simply answers: “Captain’s orders.” That is the impact of Captain America.
In comics, Steve has had a rough year, with Rick Remender taking him to Dimension Z and ultimately ageing him. And so, Steve has handed on the torch to Sam Wilson, but it hasn’t stopped him donning armour dating from the 1990s to take part in the events of ‘AXIS‘.
Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was an unsurprising success in ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier‘. The film particularly exploited his ability to fly, with some tremendous scenes of aerial acrobatics!
In comics, Falcon’s exposure has increased dramatically. He has taken over the mantle of Captain America, with the launch of an ‘All-New Captain America‘ series. From being a second-stringer, he’s taken a central role, leading the Avengers and sharing the title role of the relaunched ‘Captain America and the Mighty Avengers‘.
But Marvel have taken an unusual step with Falcon. His run as Captain America began with the events of ‘AXIS‘, with Sam ‘inverted’ and becoming a brutal, egotistical figure. And this has been the status quo for the launch of his series!
Guardians of the Galaxy
Let’s face it, there’s no surprise that the Guardians of the Galaxy appear in this list! When Marvel announced that they were bringing the Guardians to the big screen, everybody wondered if Kevin Feige et al had lost their collective minds. But James Gunn and Nicole Perlman’s script was superb, and they got just the right actors to play the parts. Even Vin Diesel’s Groot and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket – ridiculous ideas on the face of it – were done artistically, with Rocket humanised in a touching drunken scene.
The central figure in the team was Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, but I don’t feel he should be mentioned apart from the rest of the cast, as they swam or sank together. Pratt caught the irreverent humour of the hero so well!
In comics, the Guardians have had an unsurprising renaissance, with Brian Bendis headlining the series. He started off the year by tying them in to the ‘All-New X-Men‘ in ‘The Trial of Jean Grey‘, starting a relationship between Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord that would be a key element of the ‘Legendary Star-Lord‘ series. Again, unsurprisingly, members of the Guardians in the film all seem to be getting their own series – with the exception of Groot (whose dialogue might prove a tad challenging).
Speaking of ‘All-New X-Men‘, there’s been one stand-out hero in this series this year – Jean Grey herself! Put on trial for the ‘crimes’ her future self is arguably tied to, Jean was brought before the Shi’ar and learned, to her horror, that her entire family had been executed for fear of the Phoenix. She responded with outrage, and her powers took an unexpected twist (with who knows what effect on the timeline).
In many ways, Brian Bendis’ ‘All-New X-Men‘ has been Jean’s ongoing story, and she played a central role in Mike Carey Original Graphic Novel, ‘No More Humans‘. She’s undeniably one of Marvel’s favourite characters at the moment.
The character of the new Miss Marvel, crafted by G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, and Steve Wacker, has been a monumental success. The ‘Miss Marvel‘ series launched in February 2014, charting the adventures of a young Muslim American who had gained super-powers; although it followed the mould of Spider-Man in many respects, the series’ careful depiction of Miss Marvel’s ethnicity has gained critical respect. It remains the only series to consistently perform better in digital than in paper format, perhaps indicating that a very different generation has embraced Kamala Khan.
When all else is forgotten in 2014, I suspect that this character will remain; one who is introducing new readers to the comics, and establishing herself a solid base for the future. It says everything that G. Willow Wilson has now signed an exclusivity contract with Marvel, and was part of their December retreat.
In the cinematic universe, Samuel Lee Jackson’s Nick Fury made some tough calls in ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier‘. After an attempted assassination, he went into deep cover, and played a key role in Captain America’s plan to bring down S.H.I.E.L.D. He then turned up in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘ to kick off everything that would be central to Season Two, instating Clark Gregg’s Coulson as the new Director.
But in the comics, Nick’s life has taken an unexpected twist. The heart of Jason Aaron’s ‘Original Sin‘ event was the revelation that, for decades, Nick Fury has been ‘The Man on the Wall’, a last desperate defender of the Earth. He’s cut a swathe through demons and Elder Gods, with living planets and underground creatures alike falling prey to his marksmanship. It’s been possibly one of the most dramatic rewritings of Marvel history in decades, although it fits admirably well (not least in providing context for the Skrulls’ ‘Nick Fury obsession’ in ‘Secret Invasion‘).
With Dan Slott preparing for his ‘Spider-Verse‘ event, Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi were given the honour of putting together ‘Edge of Spider-Verse #2‘. This series explored different realities, and in this case took us to a world where the radioactive spider had bitten Gwen Stacy. The issue was perfectly crafted, with a lot of subtle in-jokes and tremendously effective writing that created a three-dimensional character.
Unsurprisingly, the issue was a hit, and social media alone went wild. Somewhat wisely, Marvel are ensuring that Spider-Gwen (as Twitter dubbed her) is a constant presence in ‘Spider-Verse‘, and 2015 will see a ‘Spider-Gwen‘ series.
2014 was the year when Thor’s status quo changed dramatically as a result of the events of ‘Original Sin‘. The ‘Original Sin: Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm‘ miniseries brought the titular characters to the realisation that they had a sister – Angela, who had been brought into the Marvel Universe in ‘Age of Ultron‘. And then, in the climax of ‘Original Sin‘, Nick Fury whispered a secret to Thor. We still don’t know what it is, but that secret immediately rendered Thor unworthy to wield Mjolnir.
But Mjolnir has found a new master – or rather, a mistress, as a mysterious woman has taken ownership of the powers of Thor. This new Thor blazes her trail through Jason Aaron’s excellent ‘Thor‘ series, while the former God of Thunder treads a path towards the future Aaron has given us glimpses of in the past.
In common with most of Fox’s movies, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine took centre stage, as he took the place of Kitty Pryde in ‘Days of Future Past‘. For many X-Men fans, Jackman has become the very image of Wolverine, and he was unsurprisingly excellent in his role – which effectively rebooted the whole film franchise!
But in the comics, Wolverine’s had a much tougher year. Paul Cornell’s stories stripped him of his healing factor, and it ultimately fell to Charles Soule to write the ‘Death of Wolverine‘ miniseries. Yes, poor Logan has died, and the X-Men books have been rocked by his death. That being said, Marvel have used the death as an opportunity to launch a massive number of spin-off series, so Logan’s legacy is alive and well.
So – who gets your vote as YOUR star of Marvel 2014?