Take 10

Take 10: New Beginnings

The Secret Cabal bids farewell to 2008 and says hello to 2009 by naming the greatest reinventions in Marvel history

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Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas. Depending on when you read this, either the hours will be dwindling down on 2008 or it will already be a memory as we welcome 2009 into existence. With a new year comes new beginnings, and thus the Secret Cabal has chosen to focus their final Take 10 of the year on the best re-launches and reinventions of Marvel franchises over the years. Happy New Year! For each entry you get the quick rundown as well as a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!

10. AVENGERS: "THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH!" It Began In: AVENGERS v1 #16 (1965) The Set Up: When founding Avengers Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and the Wasp decide to leave the team, they must seek out replacements to serve alongside Captain America. By the end of the recruiting drive, the unlikely trio of former villains Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch join Cap as the most bizarre Avengers line-up to date—though certainly not forever. Why It Makes the List: "As you'll see, so many of the entries on this list are rooted in tremendous risks being taken, and the Avengers grouping that would become affectionately known as 'Cap's Kooky Quartet' represents an early and impressive roll of the proverbial dice. The premise for the Avengers over their first 16 issues was a safe and simple one: take Marvel's most popular solo characters, put them together, and surely success would follow. But placing not just three unproven commodities but three villains on a team with Captain America, who didn't even have his own series at the time? Madness! But as would so often be the case, quality won out, and this paved the way not just for many great Avengers stories to come, but many of the ideas on this list." –Secret Cabal member Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v1 #16—The old order changeth!

9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE BURDEN OF DREAMS It Began In: CAPTAIN AMERICA v5 #31 (2008) The Set Up: In the aftermath of the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, being assassinated, his former partner, Bucky Barnes, teams with allies like the Falcon and the Black Widow to seek out the mastermind behind his mentor's death: the Red Skull. At the behest of Tony Stark and to fill a void his country can't afford to suffer, Bucky becomes the new Captain America and changes all the rules. Why It Makes the List: "Ed Brubaker has built his run working with Captain America and his world on the unthinkable from the moment he brought back Bucky, but it could be argued that inaugurating a new Captain America was even more bold than killing the original. Yes, Cap has been replaced before, but never has it truly felt permanent—and, arguably, never has it been executed with such skill. Bucky as Captain America brings an exciting and dangerous new perspective to a familiar role and has been just the latest step in revitalizing an incredible character." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA v5 #34—Bucky debuts as the new Captain America!

8. AVENGERS: HEROES RETURN It Began In: AVENGERS v3 #1 (1998) The Set Up: Writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez guide the Avengers back into the Marvel Universe after Earth's Mightiest Heroes had spent a year away as part of "Heroes Reborn." Assembling every character to ever be an Avenger, Busiek and Perez begin a classic run by pitting the group against the power of Morgan Le Fay and resurrecting Wonder Man. Why It Makes the List: "After over three decades in operation, the Avengers had lost their luster. Earth's Mightiest Heroes weren't living up to their moniker anymore, with forgettable lineups and transitory creative teams. Enter Kurt Busiek and George Perez, a writer possessed of immeasurable imagination coupled with immense respect for the team's past coupled with a legendary artist capable of drawing literally anything asked of him. Over the course of the next several years Busiek and Perez—and later other artists—would revisit the Avengers' greatest hits, from Ultron to Kang and beyond, incorporating every character to ever Assemble and making it all seem brand new again." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v3 #4—Following their battle with Morgan Le Fay, the Avengers must settle on a new roster!

7. IRON MAN: EXTREMIS It Began In: IRON MAN v4 #1 (2004) The Set Up: Spinning out of "Avengers Disassembled," writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov thrust Iron Man into the 21st century, introducing the new "Extremis" technology that upgrades Tony Stark's famous armor and provides him with a laundry list of new abilities as well as obstacles. Why It Makes the List: "For years, for a character so enmeshed with scientific advancement, Iron Man seemed to lag behind the technology of the real world, until 'Extremis.' One of the most forward-thinking writers in comic book history, Warren Ellis incorporated cutting edge science into his work on the Armored Avenger, rooting his world in realism, but bordering it with the fantastic. Adi Granov's digitally painted work on bringing Tony Stark's alter ego to life proved so influential that he would work as a designer on 2008's highly successful 'Iron Man' feature film." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: IRON MAN v4 #1—Iron Man faces a new kind of terrorist threat in the first chapter of "Extremis"!

6. THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST It Began In: IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1 (2006) The Set Up: Following years in limbo and on the periphery of the Marvel Universe, Danny Rand kicks his way back into relevance following a stint filling in for Matt Murdock as Daredevil while he served time in prison. Writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction inject a legacy aspect to the Iron Fist mythos and introduce Danny to his charismatic and mysterious predecessor, Orson Randall. Why It Makes the List: "The hallmark of any successful new beginning is not only intrigue for fans of varying familiarity, but also sense of immediacy that makes you crave the next issue, and no series better embodies this than IMMORTAL IRON FIST. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, along with stunning artist David Aja, made Iron Fist one of the most exciting characters in the Marvel Universe by simply shining a light on what had always been there: kung fu, mysticism and bad ass battles. Sure, Orson Randall is one of the decade's best new characters, but it's the very fundamentals of the Iron Fist mythos that make the series so compelling." –Secret Cabal member OneManDynasty Spotlight Comic: IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1—Danny Rand gains new insight into the legend of the Immortal Iron Fist!

5. NEW AVENGERS It Began In: NEW AVENGERS #1 (2004) The Set Up: With the Avengers disbanded following the tragic events of "Avengers Disassembled," no group of heroes stands ready when a super villain breakout at the Raft throws New York City into chaos. Destiny brings together Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Wolverine to stem the chaos, and in the aftermath, they elect to form a new team of Avengers. Why It Makes the List: "The New Avengers were like nothing that had ever been seen before. For years, fans of Earth's Mightiest Heroes had grown comfortable with a shifting but familiar team of heroes led by Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. The idea of adding headliners like Spider-Man and Wolverine as well as long shots like Luke Cage and Spider-Woman to a group that retained only Cap and Shellhead from the good ol' days seemed unthinkable. But it happened—and it worked. Writer Brian Michael Bendis, aided at first by artist David Finch, took a risky prospect and made it into not only one of Marvel's most exciting series, but its most successful as well." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: NEW AVENGERS #1—There's a breakout at the Raft, Spider-Man is way outnumbered and there are no Avengers to be found!

4. X-MEN: MUTANT GENESIS It Began In: X-MEN v2 #1, X-FORCE v1 #1, X-FACTOR v1 #71, UNCANNY X-MEN #281 (1991) The Set Up: After teaming to defeat the Shadow King and liberate Muir Island, the newly reunited X-Men, joined by their founding members and mentor Professor X for the first time in years, re-organize into Blue and Gold strike teams to better deal with a variety of mutant threats. Meanwhile, Cable transforms the New Mutants into the X-Force paramilitary squad while the U.S. government sponsors a new X-Factor led by Havok. Why It Makes the List: "In sports, fans have 'their' teams, a group of players that will always be seen as favorites because they were there when the fan discovered the sport. For many X-Men fans—this one included—this era is where 'their' teams were defined. The X-Men Blue Team was led by Cyclops and had all those hot, new characters like Gambit and Rogue. The Gold Team was led by Storm and had a bit more edge, with newcomers like Bishop and darkened versions of old heroes like Archangel. The government had a mutant team, X-Factor, led by Havok and featuring an eclectic group of characters. Cable's X-Force team personified the 1990's and brought widescreen action to the X-Universe. This is the era where anything could happen and it did." –OneManDynasty Spotlight Comic: X-MEN v2 #1—Magneto has returned, and Cyclops' newly formed X-Men Blue Team must stop him from laying waste to Genosha!

3. DAREDEVIL: GUARDIAN DEVIL It Began In: DAREDEVIL v2 #1 (1998) The Set Up: On the heels of the character's previous series being cancelled, future Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada brought Daredevil into his Marvel Knights imprint, recruiting popular filmmaker Kevin Smith to write the first arc of a new DAREDEVIL book while he provided the visuals. Why It Makes the List: "Decades removed from his Frank Miller-fueled glory days, Daredevil was crying out for a fresh start in 1998. Joe Quesada and Kevin Smith took bold risks in their 'Guardian Devil' storyline—killing longtime supporting cast members and in general approaching the Man Without Fear from a more adult direction—but their love for the character, regardless of how badly they tortured him, showed through. Ultimately, their gamble paid off, as Daredevil's ongoing series has now spent over a decade as one of the most critically-acclaimed comics around, shepherded by top tier talent like Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: DAREDEVIL v2 #1—"Guardian Devil" begins as a familiar face shatters Matt Murdock's life with shocking revelations!

2. THE PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK FRANK It Began In: THE PUNISHER v3 #1 (2000) The Set Up: Following a decade of wandering aimlessly through overexposure, clichéd storylines, and poorly-received re-launches, Frank Castle got a new lease on life thanks to writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon's 12-issue opus. Why It Makes the List: "Wielding dark humor like an AK and introducing popular adversaries for their protagonist like Ma Gnucci and the Russian, Ennis and Dillon got the Punisher back on target after years of shooting blanks. For the next eight years, Ennis would continue to redefine Frank Castle and not just restore him to the prominence he had enjoyed in years past, but arguably eclipse it. While the Punisher started out as an intriguing figure on the fringe of the Marvel Universe and exploded in popularity based more on style than substance in the 90's, "Welcome Back Frank" was the first story that really made Frank Castle a credible leading man and something different from everything else being offered." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: THE PUNISHER v4 #20—Garth Ennis guides Frank Castle into another brutal adventure!

1. THE ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT X-MEN It Began In: GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975) The Set Up: After the original X-Men get captured by Krakoa the Living Island and only Cyclops escapes, Professor X must recruit a new team comprised of future fan favorites like Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine to rescue his students. In the aftermath of the mission, the old school squad—again, save for Cyclops—decide to retire while most of the newbies opt to stick around. Why It Makes the List: "Prior to 1975, were the black sheep of the Marvel family who couldn't keep an ongoing series afloat. But then along came 'Deadly Genesis,' writer Len Wein—followed immediately by Chris Claremont—and artist Dave Cockrum—followed a bit later by John Byrne—and magic happened. It was truly lightning in a bottle as Wolverine and friends captured the imagination of fans everywhere, changing the face of how serial comics were done and becoming Marvel's most popular franchise. Without question, no re-launch in comics has ever been more successful." –Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1—The cavalry comes to the rescue as Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and more lead the charge to save the original X-Men from Krakoa! Check out the official Marvel Shop for the best mighty Marvel merchandise!

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