The Marvel universe is a mind-boggling place. Even if you choose to only follow the adventures of one or two favourite characters, you quickly get bogged down with figuring out which title to buy, and which crossovers you need to pick up to understand anything at all, and it’s all so confusing and annoying that it can seem far easier to just ignore the monthly titles entirely and just pick up a trade paperback every so often. (Not that even that will help you if you decide, as I foolishly did, to wade into the tangled web of Civil War…) Marvel’s writers and artists seem to cycle around so often nowadays that it’s also hard to find a comic you’ll actually want to keep buying – Heroes for Hire started off great, for example, and then Zeb bloody Wells took over and it turned into unreadable crap. It’s all very depressing.
However, there is one safe haven. One comic line that is fun and exciting, featuring satisyingly self-contained adventures that feel like comic book adventures rather than a particularly distressing issue of the Daily Mail. And that safe haven is Marvel Adventures.
That was a hell of an establishing gambit, but I really can’t stress enough how refreshing Marvel Adventures is when you’re starting to feel exhausted at the very idea of how the Brand New Day Spider-Man retcon is going to affect, well, everything ever. I fell in love with Marvel Adventures when I saw how adorably awesome the Black Cat was in the Marvel Adventures universe – issue 14 couldn’t come any more highly recommended, it’s brilliant. (Even though it was written by Zeb Wells. I know, I know.) The new issue, #35, is also wonderful. Basically, it’s about everyone’s favourite Spider-Man villain, Venom, turning over a new leaf and trying out to become Spider-Man’s sidekick, fighting evil in the guise of Venom: Lethal Protector!
Hijinks, as you might imagine, ensue. Since this is only a single issue I’m talking about, I won’t ruin the plot too much for you – it’s just awesome. As awesome as you would imagine Venom being Spider-Man’s sidekick would be. What could go wrong? Well… pretty much everything. For Spidey, anyway. For me, this was endless amounts of awesome. Did I say it was awesome? It’s awesome.
The art in these comics is great. The overly-cutesy, cartoony art doesn’t work with every Marvel comic – Punisher War Journal looks ridiculous lately, and there was a whole run of Wolverine during Civil War where Humberto Ramos just doodled a load of ridiculous crap that suggested he’d never seen a human being before, let alone the inside of an art class, but Marvel Adventures Spider-Man generally looks good. It’s cute, but not anime-style cute; it’s cartoony without making people look like they’re built of Lego. It’s generally the kind of art you expect to find in a comic book; maybe not up to Alex Ross’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous standards, but aesthetically pleasing in its own way. Because Marvel Adventures is an all-ages title, you don’t get any of the gratuitous sexual violence that seems to be seeping into the adult-oriented comics; just a fun, silly, comic book romp.
I’m probably not the most typical comic book reader, but I love this title and hope it never, ever goes away.
(If that’s not enough awesome for you, it also has the added bonus of a Mini Marvels page at the end, which is almost always the best part of any modern Marvel comic.)