Who is the world’s greatest detective in the Marvel Universe?

Detective Comics #572Last night during the weekly Graphic.ly video chat we discussed noir. What noir is, how it is defined or identified, what were some of our favorite instances of noir in comics and film and books, etc. etc. etc.

As these things often go, we went on a lot of off-topic tangents. At some point someone in the chat room asked us to identify the world's greatest detective in all of comic books. (Batman. Duh.) And then in the chat, someone named Audrey asked a question that threw my fellow panelists and I for a loop and derailed the entire conversation for a good twenty minutes:

Who is the world's greatest detective in the Marvel Universe?

Now think about that for a second. It's not such an easy question to answer. A lot of names were thrown around, names like Jamie Madrox and Jessicas Jones and Drew. Even Dakota North. But when we thought about it, even the characters who identified themselves as private investigators rarely acted like detectives one would classify as "world's greatest." No one really gathers evidence or lifts fingerprints. We couldn't think of anyone in the Marvel Universe who would act as a counterpart to Batman or Elongated Man or even Detective Chimp.

So what say you, iFanbase? Who is the world's greatest detective in the Marvel Universe? (And if there isn't one, why not?)


  1. Off the top of my head I’d say Daredevil. How many times have we seen DD (or even just plain ol’ Matt Murdock, for that matter) use hid ridiculously hightened senses to suss out some critical clue to break a case that has baffled the police, clearing his client or bringing a villain to justice?

    I’ve always felt like Jessica Jones acted more like a reporter than a detective, shaking down leads rather than sniffing for clues. Conversely, I’ve always seen Ben Urich as more of a detective than a reported, more focused on research, logic and evidence.

    Gotta throw Ultimate Peter Parker’s name in the ring as well, if only for his sleuthing during that first Kingpin arc in the second (?) year of Ult. Spidey.

  2. Hannibal King is damn good.

    he even has a trenchcoat

  3. @CaseyJustice  Yeah Spider-Man has a big brain on him in every universe. He was the one that sorted out the collective thing and figured out what was happening during New Avengers

  4. @CaseyJustice – I think you nailed it. Daredevil/Matt Murdock and Ben Urich are probably the two most detective-like in the Marvel U.

    Although, the argument could be made that most of the big Marvel characters put on their detective caps when the story calls for it – Cap and Falcon standing on a rooftop running surveillance, Spider-Man and his spider tracers, Wolverine sniffing (mostly, literally) out someone.

    Side note – I just picked up that pictured Detective Comics issue for $2 at a dealer show this past weekend. That’s all – just a "yay me" moment.

  5. Nick Fury?

  6. I love synchronicity! I was having this debate with myself the other day (because there’s no one around me fluent in comics enough to have this conversation, not because I’m crazy). I always wondered why Spider-Man never took more steps to be like Batman in terms of being a detective. He usually just happens to bump into a criminal, slap a Spider Tracer on him, and then follow him later. You’d think someone with that much of a guilty conscience over his Uncle Ben’s death would have tried to put a little more effort into his superhero skill set.

    Anyway, the more I thought about it, the only one who even comes close to being a detective in the Marvel Universe akin to Batman, or even Columbo, is the Punisher. He does surveillance, wire taps, pumps hoods for information/intel, follows up leads, corroborates evidence, follows money trails (something Batman should do more I think) and even goes on stake outs.  In fact any type of detective work I’ve seen depicted in fictional  entertainment "detectives" from the FBI to Kojak, I’ve seen Frank Castle do. The only area he might be lacking in would be forensic science, but even real police detectives don’t usually do it themselves; they leave it to CSI and get the results from them.  (Of course on the show CSI, the scientists take on every role from detective to SWAT trooper to sniper, especially if they’re David Carusso.)

    If I want to get nit-picky about it, while I may not read much Punisher, he’s one of the few characters I’ve ever seen in comics doing actual detective work. One of my pet peeves about Batman is that very few writers know how to show Batman as a detective. Paul Dini is one of the few, and that’s probably why I like his Batman so much. Most writers just show Batman being smart or "knowing stuff" Layla Miller style. They rarely show him putting clues together to solve a crime. He just happens to "figure out" where he needs to go next, and by chance the criminals are there. So in the sense of relying on dumb luck to bring down criminals, he’s probably closer to Spider-Man than I realized! 

  7. What’s this Graphic.ly panel thing you’re referring to?

  8. Nick Fury – the utlimate spy.

    But i don’t think Marvel has a true detective just because DC was pumping them out back in the day and Marvel took another route.


  9. @cenquist – damn you beat me too it!

  10. You just blew my mind *_*

  11. Does no one remember Detective Fantome? The French detective/ghost who was part of the French Avengersish team from the Fantastic Four story where Thing left the country during Civil War? C’mon.

     But seriously, Reed Richards.

  12. I had a pretty interesting thought of Wolverine being the World’s Greatest Detective, b/c he has amazing tracking skills, he has various tactics and stragedies in finding answers, and he is "the best there is at what he does" (sorry couldn’t resist). Also Noir seems to have more of the grand mystery conspiracy schemes to be the main story plotline & what main conspiracy has been greater in the Marvel U than the Weapon X conspiracy? Plus he does think like a Private Eye when you read the comics, best examples would be the Wolverine Noir, Some parts of Wolverine Weapon X, & also the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk story you really get inside Ultimate Wolverine’s head with his prepping of finding Hulk & his smooth way of getting passed security, fighting Hulk, it just seems a lot like a Mickey Spillane/Parker The Hunter thought process that I would read in those detective books but more of a Logan flavor to it.

  13. I really think it depends on how narrow one defines "detective." If the criteria is they have to take finger prints, notes, and have magnifying glass in their utility belt (and they have to have a utility belt), then no, I don’t think Marvel has anyone that fits that classification.So waht makes a detective: solving mysteries and crimes by addressing circumstances and evidence or declaring yourself "The World’s Greatest Detective" every few minutes?

    I do think that Peter Parker has done tons of sleuthing in his history, even doing scientific tests to figure out chemical residue, and the like. I don’t see how Jessica Jones is discounted, when Alias was about her solving cases.

     More to the point, if the question is "Does any one from Marvel come close to Batman or Ralph Dibny?"  then the answer is a resounding "No, sir!"

  14. Luke Cage and Heroes for Hire come to mind, too. Though I’d slot them in the ‘hard-boiled private investigator’ subset of the detective genre.

  15. Well, ColMichaelRossi beat me to it, regarding Heroes for Hire.

    Wasn’t Jamie Madrox a Private Eye in X-Factor for a while? Was he any good at it? I never read the book.

  16. Gotta be Reed Richards. Cosmic detective.

  17. Didn’t Sherlock Holmes show up in a Marvel book in the 1970’s (perhaps by Doug Moench)?  If so, this discussion is over.

  18. Yes, Chris, he did show up in a Marvel book in the 70’s. (Proof: http://bit.ly/cOetVW&nbsp😉  But does that count as part of the Marvel Universe?

  19. @JoshSHill – We did a Graphic.ly chat on Noir in general last night.  The question came up from Audrey Zarr a fellow Graphic.ly team member.

    We spent much longer than what we probably should have on that question, because I can’t think of a single good one.  Although we did get to coin the term "Detecting the Marvel Way" which means beating people up till you have your answers.

  20. Damn that is a good question. The Marvel universe does’nt have that many detectives in the traditional sense, they have noirish figures like daredevil and street fighters like Cage but someone who actually tracks down clues to lead to a perp is a tough one.

    But If I had to say one name I would have to say Spider-Man. He’s intelligent, he knows how to track someone, If he finds a weird chemical at a crime scene he knows how to analyze it and figure out it was a smoke bomb made by mysterio or something, and he knows where to go to get some information.

  21. Ben Urich I would have to say is the greatest detective in the marvel universe

  22. Kraven has all the manhunter (Pun!) skills neccessary except he doesn’t actually solve crimes.

  23. Pete Wisdom.

    Ok, I really just want to see an excaliber noir comic.

  24. Reed Richards was my first thought, as well. 

  25. Wasn’t the X-Men’s Bishop a policeman/detective before he went all crazy?

  26. I just reread Morrison’s New X-men run.  Bishop and Sage describe themselves as mutant detctives.  They are called in to solve the murder of Emma Frost.  Personally, I like this aspect of Bishop much more than the never stopping time traveling villian that he plays in the Cable/Hope Summers storyline.

  27. Um…has no one said X-Factor? The only actual detectives in the Marvel U?

  28. From what I remember in the Madrox mini, it’s admittedly been a while since I read it, Jamie Madrox was supposed to be a pretty good detective. I think one of his dupes was supposed to be the ‘greatest detective in the world’, even mentioned Batman I believe. Of course he’s not really in the same league as Batman or Dibny but I don’t think anyone in the Marvel Universe is. 

  29. Bishop was an ill-defined law enforcement officer from the future, and since the early 2000s was crafted into being a real detective. I want to say it started with X-Treme X-Men, but I’m not sure. But it did spill over into "District X" and "District M" which did feature Bishop in a more traditional "Beat Cop/Detective" storyline. It was one of the first times I recalled seeing a *detective* in Marvel. (And as someone mentioned above, Morrison cast Bishop and Sage into being "Mutant Detectives, solving mutant crimes" which worked well, even incorporating some of the sexual tension Claremont laid over in X-Treme X-Men.) 

    Madrox is also clearly a detective, and probably would be the "greatest detective" at Marvel purely for being one of the few, and the only one to keep his schtick. At various times Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Reed Richards and a few others have been given the "magic/street/science detective" angle but not really that long. 

    Oh, and Ben Urich is good too. And…. Cat…. Cat…. Hmmm… I forget her name but she was the star of the DEADLINE miniseries, which was pretty good. She was then used in THE PULSE with Jessica Jones. Journalists, I know, but the three closest characters to "regular" detectives in Marvel.

    Worst Detective? Sally "You’re not American if you don’t post regularly on YouTube" Flyod. 

  30. Wow this question has really got me scratching my brain.  Punisher is a good answer, at least pre Frankenisation.  He’s certainly the closest to a kind of modern detective, like those we see on The Wire, The Shield etc, he does like to shake down the odd snitch.  I seem to remember Night Thrasher back in the early New Warriors days being a bit of a young Batman parallel.  In that respect Moon Knight was always the Batman equivalent – but I still don’t think of him as a detective, he’s a mercenary by trade.  I think I’m stumped…

  31. Dakota North

    Jamie Maddox and Current Xfactor

    Ben Urich

    Jessica Drew(Spiderwoman)


    Aaron Kearse and Catherine Gray of the FBI Mutant Task force

    and the most interesting man in the Marvel Universe, Rick Jones. 


    The thing is, detectives tends to be relagated to people without the powers and abilities of superheroes.  Does Captain America do a lot of detective work? Or Iron Man?  Not generally, they either have tools to do it or call on people like Shield to do the leg work. The few exceptions are kind of exceptions to prove the rule.   

    Jessica Drew took up detective work after loosing her powers.  it is in that mode we saw her during the Wolverine series.  After regaining her powers, no more detective work for her. 

    Daredevil is a lawer in Hell’s Kitchen and up until recently had no one to turn to for doing the leg work for him.  He did it himself. 

     Xfactor as a detective agency is even with in it’s own structure, seen as an oddity.  I  happen to think it is a cool notion, but even in the early issues of the comic there was a sort of admission this is odd.  


    Everyone else is for the most part, ordinary people living in a superhero world trying to figure out whats going on.  They are the sort of folks the heroes turn too for answers or the folks who confront the heroes and villains with truths they don’t want to hear. 


  32. Red Hulk. 

  33. Aw come on, everybody knows it’s Deadpool.  He figured out he was in a comic book – that’s the greatest mystery solved of any comic book character. 🙂

  34. Horn Head (DD)

  35. Dai Thomas!


  36. Doctor Strange is a supernatural detective in a good portion of his stories and has excellent deduction skills.

  37. This is a great question. I would have to say Jamie Madrox. Spider-Man has said numerous times he is NOT a good detective. What he does is more scientific research than putting clues together to figure something out in a Holmes like way.

  38. Madrox is my man!

  39. The first name that came to mind was Reed Richards but maybe that’s cuz im staring at the latest FF issue right now. Also Wolverine would get a nod cuz of the super senses but he’d need a brain like Beast to back him up….

     How about Rocket Raccoon??? I’m picturing a sketch of him with a rocket launcher strapped to his back looking through a magnifying glass and i laughed out louad

  40. Bishop before they ruined the character.  District X was damn good I thought.  The case could be made for the Beast when he is written correctly.  Think Gil Grissom as a comparison.  I guess Jessica Drew would be up there as well.

  41. DD- he can hear when you’re lying and take on mobs of Nijas!!(badass)

  42. This made me remember what ever did happen to Hannibal King? 

  43. Maddrox

  44. I’m surprised no one mentioned Jessica Jones.  She was the star of a dectective comic book (Alias) set in the Marvel Universe, no? And, if I recall, she solved some cases too.  You can cast my vote for her!

  45. Now, I’m an idiot.  I just read the comments and not Conor’s initial post.  I bow to his superior intellect and blush shamefully at my own snarkiness.

    In all seriousness, what about Dr. Strange?  He’s sort of a mystic detective…

  46. Gots to be Howard the Duck fo’ sho’.

  47. I stand by my thought of Ben Urich from last night. I know he’s a reporter, but he does some investigating. Maybe Wolverine, granted he uses his knows to sniff out clues, and then guts people, but in the Marvel universe, he may be it. 

  48. Stephen Strange is my vote right out of the gate but I gotta say trobinson79 has a point Deadpool  did acknowledge the 4th dimension

  49. What about Blade? Vampire Hunter, he IMO is right up there with Hannibal King, Luke Cage and Daredevil. Done right DD is the Paul Drake to Matt’s Perry Mason.

    But any fan of Master of Kung-Fu would have to argue Clive Reston and he gets my vote.

    Clive Reston is the Marvel Universe’s ‘Greatest Detective".

  50. The MAX Frank Castle is kind of a sleuth.  He always knows where to find his targets, and how to infiltrate and decimate them.  He’s a bit of a PI.  But you know, a lunatic, too.

  51. After reading Spidey #627 I’m inclined to go with Spidey as the ace Marvel sleuth. He’s street level. Smart, Science brain. Plus he can hack security cams.

  52. The more I think about this, the more I think one of us should start working on a pitch this very minute.

  53. blancodiablo: You, sir, are AWESOME.

    Dai Thomas, indeed. 


  54. Iron Fist. For reals.

  55. First thing that jumped to my mind was Spider Man.

  56. nick fury !

  57. Reed Richards

  58. This temporarily blew my mind. It seems like a gaping hole in Marvel’s compendium of curios. I thought of Rick Jones, Stephen Strange, even Man-Thing. But the characters that could be said to have detective-like qualities are essentially something else in nature – sorcerer, mystical nexus, superhero sidekick, adventurer, and so on. I think you have to look back to some of the early Timely characters like The Angel and The Phantom Eagle, but even those have more in common with Captain America.

    Is it because Marvel’s raison detre is making the ordinary extraordinary and detectives were either too common or too iconic to get into the canon? Or was it because there were already so many detective stories in pulp novels and other publications back in the early years of Marvel?

  59. Jeph Loeb.

  60. I’ll toss Black Panther into the discussion, at least the Christopher Priest version. He tackled some pretty puzzling mysteries during that run, and outwitted the likes of Mephisto and Nightmare in the process.

  61. Doctor Strange

  62. Groot