For better or worse, reboots are a staple of the comic book industry. With characters who debuted decades ago, comic book companies often utilize relaunches in an attempt to breathe fresh air into their heroes. These changes often come in the form of new series or new number ones. Reboots are also usually attached to new creative terms, though this isn’t always the case. In recent years, Marvel has rebooted their comics several times. These changes often incorporate new versions of pre-existing characters or legacy heroes. Reboots are frequently used to change the pace when the company feels that a character has grown stale.
Many of these reboots have been met with mixed reactions and many fans are exhausted with Marvel’s frequent changes. But, looking beyond the past few years, Marvel has enjoyed several successful reboots. The Ultimate Universe was arguably a mixed bag but its Spider-Man line can be considered one of the best comic book runs of the 21st century, if not all time. Plenty of legacy heroes have enjoyed successful starts to their Marvel careers: Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and Robbie Reyes have all become leading heroes in their own ways. Some reboots haven’t panned out like Teenage Tony Stark and Frankencastle are two characters widely lambasted by fans. With so many reboots, which ones can be considered successful? Which ones just made things worse? We’ve made a list to answer those very questions, as we’ve decided to take a look at the best (and worst) Marvel relaunches in recent memory.
20 WORKED: DAREDEVIL (MARVEL KNIGHTS)
"Marvel Knights" may not seem like a reboot in the traditional sense. It was an imprint that, while set in Earth-616, featured stories set apart from the main continuity. "Knights" was notably successful because of two very distinct reasons. First, it revitalized Daredevil and was largely responsible for the character’s transition to the big screen in 2003.
Plus, "Knights" acted a springboard for Joe Quesada’s career. He became the Editor-in-Chief and, eventually, the Chief Creative Officer who has overseen Marvel’s recent prosperity in the comics. "Marvel Knights" has received a recent reboot of its own in recognition of its place in Marvel history.
19 MADE THINGS WORSE: "ONE MORE DAY"
“One More Day,” and the consequential “Brand New Day” storyline, is one of the most hated comic book reboots of all time. First, under the belief that Peter Parker had grown stale, the company decided to scrap his legendary marriage with Mary Jane Watson. When Aunt May’s life is in danger, Peter makes a deal with Mephisto -- the demon would heal May in exchange for Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane.
To many fans, the storyline felt like a slap in the face because it harshly erased one of the most famous love stories in all of pop culture. Thankfully, in 2018, the couple has gotten back together, so “One More Day” is a thing of the past.
18 WORKED: "AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED"
“Avengers Disassembled” is one of the most controversial storylines in recent memory. Before the Civil War era, when distrust and negativity permeated the superhero community, “Disassembled” tore the Avengers apart in a way that upset many fans. Some members of the team didn’t survive the storyline, which further displeased fans. “Disassembled” was also criticized for its continuity errors, which various lines fixed on their own.
It may sound like this reboot belongs on the other side of the list. But “Disassembled,” for better or worse, made fans care about the team again and it was a crucial step in the series of events including "Secret Invasion".
17 MADE WORSE: ALL-NEW X-MEN
Though it was a controversial storyline, Brian Michael Bendis’ “Avengers Disassembled” breathed new life into the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and made the group popular again. With the hopes that he would do the same for the X-Men, Marvel had Bendis take over the X-Men as part of the first Marvel NOW! initiative. Bendis shook things up by bringing the classic team (from the ‘60s) to the present in All-New X-Men.
Plus, with Uncanny X-Men, Bendis focused on Cyclops’ efforts to prepare for, in his mind, an inevitable war with mankind. Both of Bendis’ X-Men books got off to strong starts but ultimately tapered off. This reboot may not have made things unbearably worse but it didn’t provide long-term improvements, either.
16 WORKED: GIANT-SIZE X-MEN
The X-Men have become one of the most popular teams in comic book history. But there was a time when they were floundering. In the early ‘70s, Marvel stopped publishing new X-Men stories. Instead, they just reprinted old ones.
Thankfully, in 1975, Giant-Size X-Men #1 changed everything. The relaunch introduced new characters (like Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm) and it led to Chris Claremont’s legendary run with the team. Thanks to this reboot, the X-Men became top sellers for many years. The group’s subsequent success can’t be overstated -- it dominated the industry throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s and they’ve enjoyed prosperity at the box office, too.
15 MADE WORSE: ULTIMATE X-MEN
The Ultimate Universe gets a lot of love but its X-Men line is widely viewed as the weakest of its various products. As with the Spider-Man and Ultimates series, the X-Men were modernized so new readers could easily connect with them. The X-Men didn’t quite deliver on this goal; instead, the team looked, and felt, like a personification of the worst of ‘90s comics. The series decreased in quality over the years but, in some way, shape for form, it still managed to last quite a while.
Ultimate X-Men coincided with the team’s newfound cinematic success; the series launched in 2001 and X-Men came out in 2000. But the films received much more fanfare than their counterparts in the comics.
14 WORKED: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the most beloved runs in recent memory. It launched the success of the Ultimate Universe and wound up giving fans Miles Morales. More than the other Ultimate series, Spider-Man perfectly carried out the goal of refreshing a classic character and bringing them into the 21st century.
Here, Peter Parker was a high school student, dealing with realistic problems that many readers could easily sympathize with. Adult Peter Parker is a fascinating, layered character but many fans appreciated a return to basics. The series offered new takes on classic heroes and villains alike and Ultimate Spider-Man was a game-changer in the best way.
13 MADE WORSE: ULTIMATES
It may seem odd to list Ultimates here. After all, the series inspired the MCU’s version of the Avengers, from the team itself to the general foundation of the in-story universe. At first, Ultimates was widely praised because it set the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in a realistic, modern day setting and took a dark, gritty approach to these characters. But, over time, some critics felt the series’s cynicism went too far; some of Marvel’s most legendary heroes became flat characters trapped in cycles of gratuitous violence.
The series also utilized romance in some questionable ways. In hindsight, Ultimates is disappointing because it started on such a strong note and ended on one that was hard to swallow.
12 WORKED: ROBBIE REYES
Casual fans may not realize it but, at times, Ghost Rider has been one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe. But, in the 2010s, the hero’s fame had faded a bit. So, when a new Rider debuted in 2014, no one could have predicted how quickly he would catch on.
Robbie Reyes offers a fresh, new take on the Rider’s mythos; he’s a high school student who drives a muscle car. He eventually bonds with the spirit of a despicable criminal, which is another departure from the Rider’s classic backstory. Reyes has appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he’s an Avenger now. Clearly, Reyes is going places.
11 MADE WORSE: VENOM (LEE PRICE)
As evidenced by the success of his first solo movie, Venom is a very popular character. In recent years, the anti-hero/villain has found himself at the center of the Marvel Universe and he even received a series of events ("Venomverse" and "Venomized".) But, as recently as 2016, the character received a reboot displeased many fans.
After a successful run with Flash Thompson as Agent Venom, the symbiote bonded with Lee Price, a criminal worse than Eddie Brock on his worst day. The stark shift from Thompson to Price didn’t pan out, which is why the latter’s run as Venom was short-lived.
10 WORKED: MS. MARVEL (KAMALA KHAN)
Of all the characters Marvel has introduced in recent years, Kamala Khan is one of the most groundbreaking. Khan was the first Muslim character to headline a series and the first volume won an Eisner Award. As a result, Khan has achieved an incredible amount of success in a short period of time. Khan is the fourth character to carry the Ms. Marvel mantle but her debut marked a noticeable shift from Carol Danvers’ run with the name.
Khan has already served with the Avengers and she founded the Champions with other peers. The sky’s the limit for Khan’s future success and a rumored MCU debut would rocket her success to new heights.
9 MADE WORSE: FANTASTIC FOUR (HEROES REBORN)
As with other reboots, in "Heroes Reborn", Marvel tried to modernize its classic heroes so they would be more relevant in the present day. For the Fantastic Four, a team that debuted in 1961, this idea, on paper, made a lot of sense. The world of the ‘90s was drastically different than the one the team was created to live in.
"Reborn" rewrote and updated the team’s origins (Ben Grimm fought in the Gulf War and the Storm siblings were given a logical reason to be on the fateful trip to space). This version of the team wasn’t bad but it didn’t feel like the classic version fans loved, either.
8 WORKED: SPIDER-MAN (MILES MORALES)
In terms of impressive new characters, if anyone could outrank Khan, it’d be Miles Morales. The success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse proves that fans love this webslinger who debuted in the Ultimate Universe. Like Khan, Morales is notable because he led the charge to incorporate more diversity at Marvel.
But this hero is even more significant because he replaced Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, one of the most famous characters in comic book history. Morales quickly became a fan-favorite character and he’s only become more popular since joining the main Marvel Universe. Morales is also a founder of the Champions and many fans can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
7 MADE WORSE: BEN REILLY (SPIDER-MAN)
Ben Reilly has always been a divisive character. When Marvel introduced him in the “Clone Saga,” Reilly replaced Peter Parker, an iconic hero. Rather than just replacing him, though, Reilly was supposed to be the actual Peter Parker; his predecessor was supposedly the actual clone. But this was the “Clone Saga,” an event widely criticized for its faulty storytelling.
The event quickly spiraled out of control and repeatedly puzzled fans. From here on out, Reilly, who served as the true Spider-Man for a while before Parker’s return, will always be associated with the “Clone Saga,”which is why he can be considered an unsuccessful reboot.
6 WORKED: AGENT VENOM
Agent Venom is one of the most successful reboots the symbiote-based character has received in years. Flash Thompson debuted as the new Venom in 2011 and fans quickly invested in this new version of a popular antihero. Thompson’s relationship with the suit added some new twists to the dynamic: he couldn’t wear it for more than two days in a row, otherwise the symbiote would take over and hurt people.
Agent Venom touched most corners of the Marvel Universe -- he served with the (Secret) Avengers and also teamed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Thompson went on to fight under the Agent Anti-Venom alias but this run as a hero, on Earth and in space, was beloved by many fans.
5 MADE WORSE: FRANKEN-CASTLE
The Punisher just can’t catch a break. Frank Castle has enjoyed some lengthy highs but, when the character struggles to sell, Marvel has resorted to some drastic measures to make fans care again. Franken-Castle is one of the most extreme reboots in recent memory. In 2009, after Daken takes the Punisher down, Castle was brought back to “life” by Morbius in the hopes that the new creature would help the Legion of Monsters rise to power.
Franken-Castle didn’t serve the Legion, though. He went back to punishing criminals and seeking revenge on his enemy and in this case, Daken was his target. In hindsight, the whole run was bizarre and it hurt Castle’s image.
4 WORKED: INFAMOUS IRON MAN
Infamous Iron Man was one of the best parts of Marvel NOW! 2.0. Plenty of characters have worn Iron Man’s armor over the years but this series gave notorious villain Victor Von Doom a chance to be a hero. Naturally, when Doom’s former rivals learned of his new path, they didn't trust him.
Subsequently, Doom’s internal conflicts, in addition to these external challenges, made Infamous Iron Man a hit. It’s disappointing that Tony Stark’s return spelled the end of Doom’s run in the role because many fans want to see more of the former villain’s version of the Armored Avenger.
3 MADE WORSE: TEENAGE TONY
Even when he’s saving the world, Tony Stark can be a little obnoxious and egotistical. Stark is a dynamic man who continues to charge but this part of his personality is rather stubborn. That being said, this complexity makes him such a compelling character.
Unfortunately, in “The Crossing,” Marvel stripped those layers away when it replaced Stark with a teenaged version of himself. Rather than producing a lighter version of Iron Man, Stark’s younger self was even more insufferable. Teenage Tony didn’t last long, as he fell, like many others, at the hands of Onslaught. Still, the decision to get swap the characters in the first place was quite questionable.
2 WORKED: HAWKEYE
Ask any Marvel fan for their recommendation for the best series of the last decade and most of them would include Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye at or near the top of the list. Fraction’s take on Clint Barton perfectly struck a balance between an emphasis on the character’s beloved sense of humor, and heartfelt emotional stories. The series gave Barton the spotlight just in time for his surge in popularity after his role in Avengers (2012.)
Fraction’s Hawkeye also made Kate Bishop a fan-favorite character. Fans equally adored Bishop’s relationship with Barton and her merits as an individual. The success of this series launched Bishop’s career and she now leads the West Coast Avengers.
1 MADE WORSE: PUNISHER: PURGATORY
The Punisher’s mission, more often than not, is all about vengeance. At best, Frank Castle wants to protect people from experiencing the horrible losses that derailed his life. At worst, Castle seeks to mercilessly punish criminals because he’s driven by a quest for revenge. This juxtaposition is one of the best parts about the character and he’s not meant to be viewed as an inherently “good guy.”
But, in Punisher: Purgatory, Castle was rewritten as an angel, a being who is often viewed as a symbol of virtue and purity. By changing the character so drastically, Marvel hoped to revitalize the character. Instead, they produced an iteration of Castle that fans, to this day, deplore.