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Creator / Marvel MAX

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Parental Advisory. Explicit Content.

The R-rated imprint of Marvel Comics, the MAX line was introduced in 2001, and consists primarily of Darker and Edgier takes on various (and predominantly minor) Marvel characters, with a few adaptations of non-comic book properties like Max Payne 3, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. The imprint was established partially in response to the strong subject matter of the Brian Michael Bendis series Alias, and is probably best known for that, and its retellings of Squadron Supreme by J. Michael Straczynski, and The Punisher (arguably the flagship title) by Garth Ennis.

See also Epic and Icon, two similarly explicit imprints of Marvel Comics, but concentrating (mostly for Epic, entirely for Icon) on stand-alone, creator-owned works entirely unrelated to the Marvel Universe.



  • All-CGI Cartoon: The art of U.S. War Machine 2.0 was all CG.
  • Alternate Continuity: The imprint did not have any fixed policy with this. Some titles, listed under Alternate Universe below, do not share a continuity with mainstream Marvel, but others, such as Alias and Wisdom, are fully in continuity, to the point of events in them being referred to in later non-MAX titles.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • Dead of Night Featuring: Man Thing - Earth-85133
    • Deadpool MAX - set in a world where there are no actual superheroes and Deadpool is a deranged CIA assassin under the delusion that he and other characters are superheroes and supervillains.
    • The Eternal - Earth-30826
    • Foolkiller, Fury, The Punisher, Wolverine MAX and War is Hell: The First of the Phantom Eagle - Earth-200111
    • The Punisher: The End - Earth-40616
    • Starr the Slayer - Earth-555
    • Supreme Power - Earth-31916
    • U.S. War Machine and U.S. War Machine 2.0 - Earth-112001
    • X-Men: Phoenix - Legacy of Fire - Earth-2301
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: Apache Skies, Black Widow: Pale Little Spider, Dead of Night Featuring: Devil-Slayer, Foolkiller, and U.S. War Machine (if one counts War Machine as a successor to Iron Man) all starred Legacy Characters. This would have also been the case with Ant-Man, and presumably Deathlok.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: A few of the titles are kind of lacking in "mature" content, leading to the assumption that they were only tagged with MAX in an attempt to increase publicity, and interest in them. Ironically, artists who could put the Adult rating on them like Milo Manara, Mark Beachum, Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, among others were pretty much absent of the entire thing, so no, they were "Adult" titles, but not any more sexier or gorish than what was already published, hell, some were even tamer than previous stories published in regular imprints.
  • Bleached Underpants:
    • Fury: Peacemaker, a bit of a stealth prequel to Fury, was released through the Marvel Knights imprint, instead of MAX.
    • Apache Skies was preceded by Blaze of Glory, while Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather and War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle were proceeded by Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven and Where Monsters Dwell, respectively. None of these were MAX.
  • Brand Name Takeover: You'd be hard-pressed to find people who care about (or are even aware of) any of the stories besides Alias, Supreme Power or the ones written by Garth Ennis.
  • Disowned Adaptation: Writer and editor Stan Lee, who co-created many of Marvel's most famous characters, stated that he didn't understand why Marvel was creating MAX versions of the comics.
    Stan Lee: I don't know why they're doing that. I don't think that I would do those kinds of stories.
  • Gay Panic: invoked Pressure from special interest groups supposedly led to Rawhide Kid being slapped with a MAX rating due to the eponymous character being depicted as a Gay Cowboy.
  • In Name Only: A few series are only tangentially related to the older ones that they are supposedly based on. For an example, the original Zombie comics are about a business executive named Simon Garth being turned into a Voodoo Zombie by a vengeful cult. The MAX run is set in a more mundane world and is about a bank employee named Simon Garth dealing with a science-based Zombie Apocalypse (though Garth eventually does become an atypical zombie himself).
  • Superhero Horror: Terror. Inc. was a dark series set in the Marvel Universe following an immortal assassin who replaced body parts by tearing them off of other people, also allowing him to copy their abilities—something like a Body Horror version of Rogue.
  • Too Sexy for This Timeslot: invoked X-Men: Phoenix Legacy of Fire was scheduled to be a regular old Marvel release up until someone realized it was essentially softcore pornography, at which point it was bumped up to MAX.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Daniel Way was working on MAX Ant-Man and Deathlok series, but both were cancelled before publication.
    • NYX and the Frank Cho run of Shanna the She-Devil were both reportedly intended to be MAX titles before they were repositioned under other imprints.
    • James Gunn pitched a Marvel MAX revival of the Power Pack. The series would've dealt with the now-adult members of the team, who would have been screwed up due to their insane childhoods.
    • Warren Ellis worked on a Marvel MAX Satana series. Two issues were almost completed before the project was cancelled before publication, with the first issue fully illustrated and lettered. The first arc was rewritten for a different protagonist and a different publisher, becoming Strange Kiss, the Avatar Press limited series that launched Gravel. The unfinished Satana work was eventually printed as a bonus feature in Marvel's Hellstorm omnibus, revealing scenes and dialogue that were directly reused for Strange Kiss with very few changes.