Saturday, September 22, 2012

Marvel NOW; my opinion, a Bit late.


It's taken me a while to voice my opinion about the Marvel's counter to DC's 52 - giving new, old, and current fans a launching pad to jump into a revitalized Marvel Universe. I have to say, given all the ways this could go down - I think Marvel is on the right track. They essentially tried to get creators on series, with a solid story in mind, and the commitment to see it through for the long haul. That sounds very promising - and helps temper some of the reaction to what they are doing with certain characters. Not everyone is coming out of Avengers vs X-Men alive, or unchanged. At the heart of the Marvel NOT-A-Reboot, but a Relaunch, is their biggest and most popular characters, the Avengers! Rick Remender, who since joining the Marvel Universe has already given us years worth of ideas and storylines, in such a short amount of time - he is being rewarded with the flagship title "Uncanny Avengers".

Hummmm.... Watch out for Spoilers down below here....


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The last issue of Avengers vs X-Men is promising to be a doozy - as Cyclops has emerged as the soul possessor of the Phoenix Force. Word is he supposedly survives - but his journey back to being a hero is going to be hard, as he'll come back with blood on his hands.


OK, basically - after the events in Avengers vs X-Men - a unity between the two groups is going to culminate. X-Men will be on Avenger teams, and Avengers might be on X-Men teams. (Or at least the Avengers might visit more often) I don't exactly know how that works, exactly - but there is an attempt to drag the isolationist mutant faction kicking and screaming into the shared Marvel Universe. One editor said this idea came about because of what he saw - a separation many fans made between the Avengers and the X-Men. They could, for all intents and purposes, be in different worlds. For a group once dedicated mutant/human relations - the X-Men have failed rather miserably. So this melding of the teams sort of sends a message, that race relations between humans and mutants is softening.


That good will won't last, though - as a digitized copy of the WWII-era Red Skull's mind will be revived, with a fresh and purer hatred for the inferior races. He is set to be the Uncanny Avengers big foe. Having seen the brilliant work Remender has done over the years on Venom, Uncanny X-Force, and Secret Avengers - this is going to be a wild ride!


So what happens to the X-Men, sans an Uncanny X-Men title? (Which could change; Marvel has been annoyingly slow in releasing info about their Comic Revival.) Well, we're getting "All Different, All New, X-Men" - by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. This isn't your usual X-Men outing, though -- the series will focus on the mysteriously time-misplaced original X-Men team, of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman! Why are they here, in this time and place? That will be answered - but the real point of these characters being here in the modern Marvel U - is that, from their perspective, the modern Marvel Universe is a post-apoclyptic world; at least in terms of what happens to their future selves. Jean Grey is dead and Cyclops went insane. Archangel has gone through deeply dark and troubling times in his life, only now to be blank slate with no memories, after being purged of the evil once inside him. Beast tried to reverse his mutation, but only made it worse - and has mutated further into his cat-like form. Iceman seems the most stable of the group, currently in a relationship with Kitty Pryde, and helping to maintain Wolverine's School -- but I think even here there will be difficulties in his past self meeting his older self.

This is such a fascinating idea that it became a must-have on my pull list for this Marvel NOW event.


As for the Avengers, as a whole? Johnathan Hickman is going to be writing three books a month (making Avenger titles nearly weekly) - writing both Avengers and New Avengers. (Why they don't just merge the two together entirely, I don't know.) Out of the two titles, New Avengers will ship once a month, Avengers will be shipping twice a month - giving us that total of 4 Avenger books, if you add in Uncanny Avengers. As you can see from the connecting covers above - it looks like Hickman is going to be covering a LOT of the Marvel Universe.


Luckily, in the face of all this new material -- a number of titles are either falling away, or becoming acceptable to pass on. I stuck it out, reading Red Hulk to it's end. I sadly won't be continuing on to the replacement title "Red She Hulk". While I don't mind Betty having her own title - its just that I had grown to like General Ross as the Hulk so much the past few years. So replacing the lead character with their daughter just isn't doing it for me. As for where the General is now -- he will be leading the Thunderbolts! Deadpool, Electra, Punisher and Venom will be following his orders. This looks very much like a copy of Uncanny X-Force; I don't think Remender is continuing to write that series, as Uncanny Avengers and other new books will demand his full attention. Same goes for Secret Avengers -- Remender isn't leaving just yet, but whoever steps in to replace Remender probably won't be enough to convince me to stay onboard.


I certainly know I won't be reading X-Force, which is morphing into two different titles. One has already been revealed - showing Cable, Domino, Colossus, Forge, and Doctor Nemesis - all of them apparently are wanted fugitives on the lamb. The inclusion of Doctor Nemesis is very intriguing - as he brings his own brand of insane science to the table. But thats not enough to entice me to read the series. This, actually, isn't the main X-Force book! This book will be titled "Cable and X-Force", written by Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca.

The main title, Uncanny X-Force, sounds even worse! Written by Sam Humphries, with art by Ron Garney, the title will focus on Psylocke, with Storm, Puck, and Spiral. What is this title going to be, rehab for assassins? Storm has had her dark moments, but she isn't a killer. I don't know anything about Puck, and Spiral is.... just a... just a weird weird choice to put on a team book. I like Ron Garney's art - but this is a sinking ship if ever I saw one.

Journey Into Mystery has been getting treated to a grand finale, in a 6-issue crossover with Thor called "Everything Burns!". It made me initially think Loki would be returning to adulthood at the end. A new Journey Into Mystery will feature the Lady Sif as the starring character.


Loki, specifically young Loki, will not be disappearing! He will be appearing in Young Avengers; written by Kieron Gillen. I have to say, I'm tempted to read this book simply because it continues young Loki's story -- but that doesn't seem to be enough of a reason to read this title.


As for Thor? This one really surprised me - for both its depth and shocking surprises - as we see a tale of 3 Thors. One, the young God in his petulant youth. Two, the modern-day heroic Avenger. Finally, the third Thor, will focus on an elderly Thor, Lord of Asgard, facing the threat of a God-Slaying menace. It looks like it is going to be EPIC! Jason Aaron is known for creating intricate working worlds, while never loosing a step in making it a fun and engaging world while he's at it. Combine that with Esad Ribic (who does the art on the covers, and from the Loki Mini-Series), and this could be one of the best books of Marvel NOW's entire launch. I'll even forgive the somewhat blatant copying of Dan Jurgan's run on Thor, also featuring an elder Thor, Lord of Asgard, and the God-Slaying Menace who seeks to destroy him. When I saw the similarities in the plot, instead of feeling like it was a re-tread - I got all the more excited! The only question, though, is how Ribic will be on art. If I'm not mistaken, I believe I recall that Ribic has a less-painted style of drawing, which might not be as pretty as the covers - but still looks great, and might be more do-able for a monthly series.


Rick Remender's other Marvel NOW title is Captain America - with John Romita Jr on art; this looks like it's going to be an incredible jaunt through time for the Captain. You see, the opening storyline is called "Dimension Z" - where Cap is somewhere in the future (or another dimension) - fighting against Armin Zola. (Who I'm guessing is going to be the villain in the next Cap movie). Even with Remender on the title, I was planning to skip this book. But then this promo was released! (Above) Showing Captain America, fighting in a war-torn world - no doubt rallying and fighting for truth, justice and the American way. (And other such stuff). This actually struck me as reminiscent of Jack Kirby's rejected proposal, of Captain America being brought into the future, where he would have to struggle to raise hope in the people, among action and sci-fi weirdness. That rejected idea eventually became O.M.A.C.! So wether this is trying to harken back to that brilliant idea of Kirby's or not, I'll be signing up for the 10-issue Dimension Z storyline!


Deadpool -- this is a title I wanted to high-light, mainly because of the hilarious cover - of Wade Wilson fighting a giant Godzilla, who appears to be spewing cats out of his mouth. It just looks awesome! What doesn't look awesome, though, are the creators attached to the title. Not that I dislike any of them -- its just that I simply don't know who they are?! I tried for a while to jump back on the cult-favorite Deadpool  bandwagon - but was sorely disappointed at the sometime anemic humor and storytelling of Daniel Way; he had some very good moments writing the character - but his tenure on the title lasted way too long, and it showed! So I'm in no rush to try an un-tested new Deadpool series; even if theres a cat-spewing Godzilla.


Hummm... Deadpool vs a Zombie Richard Nixon does sounds fun, though.


Another title I'm not getting is A + X - a team-up title, ala the A vs X mini-series, running alongside Avengers  vs X-Men. Each issue will feature a 10 page story, with an Avenger and X-Man teaming up. They do bring onboard great artists - but I simply can't recommend this title in any way - given the $4 cost, and the stingy premium on page-count Marvel is clinging to these days. Reduced from 22, to 20 pages - comic writers have thankfully adapted, squeezing more content into the reduced space. Having a story worth telling in 10-pages would be challenging for any writer; so I'm not interested to see if someone hit the bulls-eye, and managed a good story in those 10 pages, or if it failed and made the $4 price even more insulting. In A vs X - the context of the two characters fighting against one another removes a lot of supposition from the plot - and gives you just the battle. Maybe I'm wrong - maybe more pages will be in each issue. Still, it's an utter pass for me.


This is the one title I'm very conflicted about! I dropped the Fantastic Four, early during Johnathan Hickman's run - but was able to play catch-up when I excitedly saw the epic scope of the tale he was telling. I'd really like to continue reading the Fantastic Four, especially with Mark Bagley on art. I could deal with Matt Fraction writing the book -- science fiction always seems more like his wheelhouse. Right away there is also a dramatic change to the status quo - as the team will be going off into the vast reaches of space, into the unknown. (Cue Star Trek music) I'm absolutely sure the team will return to Earth eventually - but meanwhile...


A substitute FF will stand in for the the Family while they are gone. Ant-Man, Medusa, and She-Hulk (green) will maintain things in their stead. Matt Faction is also writing - with the stellar and quirky art of Michael Allred. Wait -- who's that rounding out the 4th member of the team? Sharon Ventura?!?? For those who don't know, and those like me who want to forget, Sharon Ventura was for a while She-Thing - a woman who gained the powers of the Thing. I know, I know! Do we have to go over the looks vs substance drama, but this time with a woman as the human piece of concrete?! I simply have never liked the character. Here, it appears she has lost their She-Thing powers -- but is using an old robotic Thing suit, which Ben used on occasion, when he was temporarily cured, but still wanted to help in fights. I get it; this is going to be a quirky weird title. I'm just not coming along; and in fact is pushing me away from even reading the regular Fantastic Four book; with the same writer, the two titles are bound to combine sooner or later.


Guardians of the Galaxy is the one new title I'll be picking up based purely on the creator's past work: Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Also, I really enjoyed the Guardian's appearance in Avengers Assemble -- Rocket Raccoon seems like a character Bendis was born to write! There, of course, is also the announced movie, which looks like it is going to be awesome! I usually shun space books, especially those in the Marvel Universe. Nothing against the far reaches of space - I've been a fan of Star Trek all my life. Yet even at its best moments, looking over and seeing what was going on in the various Annihilation-Conquest-WarofKings-whatever space-themed books looked impenetrable. All the wonders of the cosmos might sound like a great backdrop for a series, but - without a connection to central cast, it just feels too large to ever be emotionally invested in. (At least thats what it felt like for me.) Here, focusing on the Guardians themselves, we are being given that core cast - with entry characters like Star Lord, who I read about a bit during a long-time-ago Thanos mini-series, or Rocket Raccoon - who was a nice addition to the Marvel vs Capcom roster. I even caught up and learned who Groot is! (I didn't know, despite him telling you his name all the time. "I am Groot!") Long term, and with the movie coming up to support it - Bendis' titles are usually a good bet to invest in for the long haul.

So - that's my take on Marvel NOW! I hope I picked a good selection of series to get -- I'm using this revival as an opportunity to consolidate my comic purchases. The $4 price tag on certain titles, though, make it harder to sign up for certain titles. I like Marvel's AR and Free Digital Copy, to add value to the issues - but with double shipping months still on the table, sticking with Marvel will have to be a calculated bet. At least in one area I'm positive I'll be pleased: the content. This looks like a supremely solid line-up, and I have very high hopes for it.

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