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Debuting in 2001, Marvel’s MAX line was an attempt to draw a clear line between its vaguely older-teen comics and distinctly “adult” titles featuring some of the well, edgier, characters from its library. The imprint largely excelled at that, with the flagship Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, and Garth Ennis’ takes on Nick Fury and the Punisher. However, in recent years it’s become a shadow of its former self, existing solely to carry Ennis’ recent return to Fury, and the noble but ill-fitting Wolverine MAX. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a revival.
In today’s Six by 6, I look at six characters that straddle the fence separating “popular” from “popular enough to carry their own series in the long-term” that would do well to take a trip to the MAX line. Some are no-brainers, while others might surprise you.
He’s had two movies and almost a dozen attempts at an ongoing series, but the motorcycle-riding Spirit of Vengeance has had a bumpy ride when it comes maintaining a title. He’s popular enough, no doubt — everyone from ardent comic fans to tattoo-clad bikers know who this one-time Midnight Son is — but for one reason or another he’s seldom been able to translate that into long-term success. Maybe it’s the magical element to his story, or perhaps it’s because a Ghost Rider toy line could never be seen in the hands of a 6-year-old. Whatever thre reason, maybe Marvel should stop shoving a Ghost Rider-shaped peg into a X-Men-shaped hole and instead embrace the differences — and the possibilities — a Ghost Rider series would be in an “adults only” environment.
Imagine a Ghost Rider MAX book barreling down the road of biker bad-asses tread by the successful Sons of Anarchy, taking one of the various men or women who’ve been called Ghost Rider and casting their die squarely in the dark side. In recent years the best take on the Spirit of Vengeance has been by Jason Aaron, but even he was trapped by the superheroes around the character. This needs something fresh, by creators with an already well-known track record or a fresh new face with a killer pitch and something to prove.
Stephen Strange seems perpetually on the tongue of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige in terms of characters he wants to see on the big screen, but there hasn’t been a modern definitive take on the character in decades. What this surgeon-turned-Sorcerer Supreme needs is an “Extremis”-style reboot a la Iron Man, taking the core of the character and updating it for the modern age. Magic’s a hard thing to adapt — be it in comics or movies — but if Harry Potter can do it, so can Marvel.
For many, Cable is the face of the excess of Marvel in the ’90s, but beneath that stereotyping lay an excellent character with an array of motivations. Although lately he’d played second fiddle to his adoptive daughter Hope and a reconstituted X-Force, a solo Cable MAX title could be a great place to do a smart, adult time-travel story a la Looper. Despite knowing his birth parents and where he is in his elder years, we’ve been privy to surprisingly little about Nathan Summers’ formative years. A Cable MAX book could potentially even be in-continuity to show him becoming the man he is today.