While much of the world remained in lockdown, Marvel Unlimited, the digital comic service boasting a back-catalog heaving with thousands of books, has continued to cater for those desperate for their regular fix of entertainment.
Several new series hit Unlimited, but which of these are actually worth getting on board with? Let's find out...
Hawkeye: Freefall #1
This series comes in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, in which Clint Barton briefly became Ronin – a guise his comic book counterpart adopted early in Brian Michael Bendis' New Avengers run. Now, there's a new Ronin, a ruthless killer who the superhero community suspect might be Clint. Hawkeye denies this... so who exactly is this brutal vigilante?
Matthew Rosenberg nails Barton's distinctive humor, while Otto Schmidt's art gives the story a breathless and exciting pace. The start of a truly superb miniseries.
Star Wars (2020) #1
A new chapter unfolds in the wake of The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the best Star Wars movie ever, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
This fresh volume of the official comic series begins in the immediate aftermath of that revelation: Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father! Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz expertly fill in the gaps between Episodes V and VI, equally epic and intimate. A great return to a galaxy far, far away.
No, this isn't related to Star Wars, but its success surely owes something to the movies – namely the Infinity Stones' elevated presence in Infinity War and Endgame.
Star is a spin-off from Captain Marvel, and finds reporter, Ripley Ryan coming to grips with her incredible powerset, granted to her by the Reality Stone. Artist, Javier Pina aptly balances the fantastic with the humdrum, nicely echoing Kelly Thompson's excellent script. Thompson is really on a home run right now, and we're pleased to say there's no end in sight.
Marvel's Black Widow Prelude #1
The latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, has been delayed until at least November. Unbelievably, a Marvel movie has debuted every May since 2006 – until now.
If that fact depresses you, you can at least console yourself with this refresher course, as writer, Peter David, and artist, Carlos Villa, take into account Natasha Romanoff's MCU journey, from Iron Man 2 to Infinity War.
Marvels X #1
Earth X (1999- 2000) gave us a dystopian future where everyone had special powers... and no one was "special" anymore. It spawned a couple of sequels, but we'd not heard anything about that twisted reality since 2003.
But now, the original writers, Jim Krueger and Alex Ross return for Marvels X, a prequel about the last normal human on Earth.
Ross provides the gorgeous cover art too. Check out the video above to see him working on the new mural emblazoned on the wall of Marvel HQ.
Black Cat (2019) #8
The debut issue of this Black Cat series was one of Marvel's bestsellers. It's since settled down into a steady but interesting rhythm, slowly ramping up the tension as the Thieves Guild declares war on Felicia Hardy.
This issue has heart and humor in abundance, as the Cat teams up with the Beetle, burglar, one of Spider-Man's "superior" foes, and daughter of Tombstone. What's most impressive, however, is Dike Ruan and Annie Wu's dynamic and charming artwork.
Namora (1948) #1
Finally, take a trip back 72 years, and the early days of Marvel, known then as Timely Comics.
Namora, daughter of an Atlantean man and a woman from the surface-world, first appeared in May 1947's Marvel Mystery Comics #82, but this issue, released in August 1948, was her first dedicated title. The character has lasted, even if this series was especially short-lived. Only its first tale, The Lost City of Yucatan!, is available on Marvel Unlimited, but it's nonetheless an important time capsule.
Next: Free Comic Book Day?
Marvel has maintained a decent schedule throughout the pandemic, but Coronavirus held up Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). In August, the publisher's FCBD titles hit Unlimited, giving us a hint of what's to come for Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Venom...