Marvel has had a pretty amazing decade. As you know, 2008 changed the company’s entire future -- this was when the first Iron Man movie premiered and kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And since then, Marvel has been absolutely dominant in movies, traditional TV shows, and even streaming media platforms. However, this particular House of Ideas was built on comics, not on movies. And even while their movies kept getting more and more successful, Marvel understood the need to keep their comics universe fresh and exciting. One of the ways they tried to do so was introducing new characters. Of course, introducing new characters to longtime fans is a really tricky proposition. Sometimes, fans are happy to see a new character, and entire franchises are built around them almost overnight. Other times, fans feel threatened by new characters, worried that the newbies will somehow hurt the stories of their favorite classic characters.
And a grim reality of introducing a new character into any comics universe is that it’s tough to do. There are simply so many characters, powers, and stories that you always run the risk of creating something that is cheap and derivative instead of innovative and original. So, how does Marvel’s ten-year report card look in the comics department? Honestly, a bit mixed. The last decade has brought us some fun and iconic characters that will one day lead movies of their own (and one of which already has). The decade has also brought us some damn forgettable heroes and villains. Want to know who’s hot and who’s not in the last ten years of Marvel? Keep reading to discover 10 Best New Marvel Characters of the Last Decade (And 10 That Fans Could Do Without)!
20 BEST: MS. MARVEL
We’ve got a lot of good characters on this list (and, yes, a lot of bad ones), but few of them are as iconic as Ms. Marvel. Not only did she take the world by storm, but this character also seems like she should be the go to case study for creating a new teenage hero.
First, she has a fun power set. And she’s hilarious as an in-universe Marvel fangirl, taking her name after Captain Marvel’s old moniker. Finally, her comic is one of the best examples of how to show a character balancing their personal life and their heroic public life. The only thing not to like is that she’s not in the MCU yet!
19 CAN DO WITHOUT: COSMIC GHOST RIDER
Like we said before, attempts to reboot or reuse classic characters don’t always work and that’s the case with the Cosmic Ghost Rider. From his origin, it’s clear that the creators were going for broke. Nonetheless, mashing two familiar things together is not the same as creating something new.
If you don’t know, Cosmic Ghost Rider is Frank Castle (Punisher) from another reality. He sold his soul to Mephisto to become Ghost Rider, but after Thanos destroyed Earth’s population, Frank joined up with Galactus for weird space adventures. It’s a neat concept, but this ended up being two great tastes that didn’t taste great together.
18 BEST: PHILIP COULSON
Fans love to bicker about who the strongest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. However, there’s no debate when it comes to who the heart and soul of the MCU is. The answer is “Philip Coulson,” and he became popular enough to eventually become a part of the mainstream comics.
The Coulson of the comics is more of a sideline character than the major player he was (and still is) in the MCU. Nonetheless, he retains plenty of charm and class. And more importantly, he continues to give us a fun “average Joe” view of the various god-like superheroes that he helps to coordinate.
17 CAN DO WITHOUT: RED HULK
Hulk is a simple character whose best stories have complexity and humanity at the heart of them. However, Marvel didn’t really get that memo when they created the character of The Red Hulk. The comics played coy initially, but eventually revealed that this mysterious new character was a Hulkified version of Bruce Banner’s old antagonist General Ross.
Sure, there were some neat storylines involving Ross having that much power. But the heart of this character conception was “what if the green one fought the red one.” When your new characters have all the depth of the second player in an old video game, then you know you have a problem.
16 BEST: AGENT VENOM
Despite having his own solo movie on the horizon, it’s tough to not think the Venom character is played out. He’s basically an evil Spider-Man with monster movie lines and the occasional penchant for brains; there’s only so many stories you can get out of a basic concept like that.
That’s why we enjoyed seeing the debut of Agent Venom. This character combines minor Peter Parker antagonist Flash Thompson, who has lost his legs in military warfare, with the Venom symbiote suit. This let Flash have a more sympathetic spotlight while casting the symbiote in a fresh and exciting new light -- something that hadn’t happened for years!
15 CAN DO WITHOUT: SKAAR
Giving an iconic character a child is always a tricky proposition. The trick is to create a new character that is dynamic and challenging while changing the original character in fresh ways. Unfortunately, Skaar, the son of Hulk, doesn’t really offer anything new for longtime readers of the big, green meanie.
We eventually get some okay stories with this character, like when he double crosses Norman Osborn to save Captain America. But mostly, Skaar comes across as Hulk lite -- a less compelling version of a character that already comes across as way too simple more often than he does as original or complex.
14 BEST: MISS AMERICA
While it occasionally causes grief to some people in the world, Marvel is at its best when it is trying new things. That means new and diverse characters. Not for the sake of political correctness, but for the sake of that rarest comic book feature: original storylines.
The character of Miss America is certainly diverse, both in terms of being Latin-American and being a member of the LGBTQ community. She also a fun set of powers and works well in both solo adventures and team-up stories. Ultimately, she’s helped bring us original stories and characterization in an age of countless reboots and relaunches.
13 CAN DO WITHOUT: A-BOMB
When you have a comics character that has been around for decades, it’s tricky to change them. If creators change the character too much, then fans may recoil from the unfamiliarity. But if they never change the character at all, then fans will walk away in boredom. In that sense, we understand why Marvel changed perpetual sidekick Rick Jones into a character named A-Bomb.
However, it ended up being pretty boring and uninspired. The idea of a sidekick becoming a monster character can be fun for an issue or two (just ask Jimmy Olsen). But once again, this was a “new” idea that involved jamming two old ideas together. This is basically the opposite of creativity!
12 BEST: SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
On paper, Superior Spider-Man doesn’t work. The plot is insane: it involves Peter Parker perishing and then Doctor Octopus taking over Peter’s body. Then, challenged by his ego as much as a kind of ghost of Parker, Doc Ock sets out to prove he’s a better Spider-Man than his nemesis ever was.
Against all odds, this created some amazing stories. We get to see Doc Ock stretching Peter’s life and accomplishments, both in public and as a hero, in some exciting ways. And though Doc could be overly brutal at times, we got a surprisingly complex character in which even terrible actions were motivated by an overriding urge to do good.
11 CAN DO WITHOUT: SHE-HULK (LYRA)
The newer She-Hulk (an alternate reality-hopper by the name of Lyra) has an interesting backstory. She comes from both a different place and a different time to take out iconic heroes in a warped attempt to save her own future. Overall, it’s a neat concept with a really messy execution.
This is partially because she suffers from what we call “Hulk Syndrome.” Specifically, Marvel writers seem to think the beginning and end of creating a new Hulk character is giving them a vibrant color and making them mean. It also doesn’t hurt that we end up comparing her to Jennifer Walters, the original She-Hulk, who is just a much better character.
10 BEST: KICK-ASS
Chances are that Kick-Ass isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of “newer Marvel heroes.” Nonetheless, his original comic was published by Marvel. However, he exists in a world far removed from our typical heroes, and his world felt like a breath of fresh air.
Kick-Ass himself is funny and easy to relate to, as his only discernible superpower is his ability to take a beating. He, his allies, and his enemies alike helped to skewer plenty of the tired cliches that make up the world of superhero comics. And at the end of the day, we’d like more Kick-Ass comics instead of yet another reboot or relaunch of a classic character.
9 CAN DO WITHOUT: BLUE MARVEL
Sometimes, the only problem with a new character is that it feels like we have seen it all before. This is the case with Blue Marvel, who seems like a new iteration of a very familiar character and that means that it’s tough to take his new adventures very seriously.
The character of Blue Marvel was originally modeled after Superman. And while Superman is a very iconic character, he is legendarily difficult to write for. Other Marvel homages to Superman (such as The Sentry) were also a bit dull because when it seems your character is nearly unbeatable, then there is rarely any drama in his tales.
8 BEST: SPIDER-GWEN
Several times on this list, we’ve badmouthed character designs that just mixed two old ideas together. There is always an exception to that, and here it is: when one of the characters you combine is someone that never really got much spotlight. And that’s the case with Spider-Gwen.
She hails from a different universe in which Gwen Stacey got spider powers and is driven by her own trauma -- the passing away of Peter Parker. Everything about the character is fun, from her design to her dialogue. Mostly, though, we’re excited to see Gwen Stacey given new life (quite literally) as something other than a victim.
7 CAN DO WITHOUT: RED SHE-HULK
Red She-Hulk feels like the creative teams at Marvel had a grim bet among themselves. How could they top how bad and intellectually bankrupt the Red Hulk was? By doubling down and adding some more cliches... and that may as well be how Red She-Hulk was born.
She is Hulk’s resurrected former wife, Betty Ross. She is brainwashed and turned into a villain before later becoming a hero. Overall, her character is a series of missed opportunities: she doesn’t really add anything new to the comics she is in, and her character begins and ends as a derivative version of better characters.
6 BEST: GWENPOOL
Gwenpool is a character that manages to do two impossible things at once. First, she shows how a silly joke concept (that started by asking “what if Gwen Stacey was Deadpool?”) can lead to a fun, ongoing character arc. Second, she shows that it is still possible to find fun and unique variations on the otherwise oversaturated Deadpool.
A friendly retcon reassured us that this wasn’t actually Gwen Stacey, but someone actually named “Gwen Poole.” Despite not having any real powers, Gwenpool mostly exists to poke fun at the Marvel universe and serve as a fun audience surrogate for comics readers.
5 CAN DO WITHOUT: SILK
It seems relatively difficult to add new characters to the Spider-Man universe. This is because despite a world of limitless comic possibilities, it seems like most “new” characters are just a weird new flavor of Spider-Man. Even when the character is written well, their design seems a bit tired and played out.
This is the case with Silk. She has some interesting history with cool characters like Ezekiel, and we’re rooting for her when she tries to find her family. But her origin story is literally “she ALSO got bit by the radioactive spider,” and most of her powers are just variants of Spider-Man’s powers. Overall, she just feels like more of the same.
4 BEST: IRONHEART
Ironheart is another character that shouldn’t work, and she has certainly been a controversial figure, with much of the comics world divided over Iron Man’s role being played by a young black woman. However, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the character as a bit of an audience stand-in.
She is basically an in-universe Iron Man fangirl, to the extent that she uses her genius and builds working armor. Her stories involve a lot of drama because she is trying to carry on the Iron Man legacy while also pursuing an education and worrying about her mother. Long story short? She is “the next generation” done right in the comics world.
3 CAN DO WITHOUT: ALPHA
Some of the characters on this list are examples of character ideas that were bad from the beginning. Others started as good ideas that simply got muddled in the execution, and the Spider-Man universe character of Alpha is one that falls into this second camp.
He’s got a fun “meta” story, as he gets his powers from Peter Parker’s “Parker Particles.” The idea that he has a bunch of abilities but can only use one at a time is kind of neat. However, it feels like his every story involves being angry, screwing up, or being manipulated. Sorry, Alpha -- reading your stories is just kind of depressing!
2 BEST: NOVA (SAM ALEXANDER)
Part of what makes Nova work as a character is that he fits the hero’s journey mold so well. He thought he was an ordinary kid with an ordinary life, but one day finds out his dad was a member of the Nova Corps. Furthermore, he finds out that wearing his dad’s helmet gives him access to great powers.
And with great powers... heck, you know the rest. Pretty soon, Nova is hanging with the Guardians of the Galaxy, joining the New Warriors, and saving Earth from alien attacks. Overall, he provides a fun, modernized version of the character who believes he has a moral duty to save lives with his new powers.
1 CAN DO WITHOUT: WHITE TIGER (AVA AYALA)
When you’re doing a new character that is basically the same as the old character in terms of powers, abilities, and appearance, you’re already on thin ice. At this point, it’s vitally important that this character have a backstory and ongoing adventures that help them stand out from their history. Unfortunately, the latest White Tiger does not have these things.
She wears tiger gauntlets that give her speed, strength, and various acrobatic abilities and... that’s it. There is not much to her characterization aside from “wants to be a major hero.” It’s telling that most of her better stories involve her teaming up with other heroes. That makes her an interesting garnish, but not an interesting standalone hero.