“But I’ve had an amazing idea”: A Marvel NOW roundup

2598079-all_new_xmen_01_and_02_cover__by_martegracia_d5cwuqbI think this blog has made it abundantly clear that I’m not a big Marvel guy. This is the 99th post on here and not once have I written about modern Marvel, unless it was in reference to DC. That’s not because I’ve never read Marvel. My very first comic was an issue of the Fantastic Four where a pyrokinetic Nazi was gunning for the Baxter Building. Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force has been one of my favorite titles of the last 5 years. Chris Claremont’s ’70s X-Men work is the definitive book of that decade. Frank Miller became the writer he would be while redefining Daredevil. I respect Marvel but I haven’t really gotten into the House of Ideas until recently. Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men can be thanked mostly for that but a sense of journalistic responsibility, curiosity and lots of disposable income that would normally be spent on women has led me to jump into the relaunch. So, is it worth it? Is Marvel NOW a triumphant new shot in the arm or a wet fart on the bed spread? Let’s look at the first crop of new releases and see. [Note: I didn’t pick up Thor: God of Thunder. I don’t care about Thor and you can’t make me.]

Uncanny Avengers

UncannyAvengers_2_VariantManaraPICOnI don’t care about the Avengers. At all. It’s sort of the same problem I have with the Justice League. It’s a bunch of super-tough guys punching other super tough guys. Plus, I’ve always been an X-Men guy. Luckily, Uncanny Avengers has Remender at the helm and tons of mutants running around to make me care. The first issue was the very opening of Marvel NOW and although it served partially as a thesis statement for the series, it was weak and little more than a typical first issue. Lots of individual characters team up, inevitably waiting for the whole group to team up. A leader is chosen who doesn’t know if he’s capable of running the team. The enemy rises.

Luckily, the second issue, released this week, is Remender in prime form. His Red Skull is terrifying and capable, now using all the power of the deceased Charles Xavier’s brain. Rogue is a bad ass, breaking out of captivity in a brutal fight sequence. Remender has always known how to show his characters at their most violent and capable but he succeeds most when showing the icons his team could be. In issue two, Havok saves a man from Avalanche’s attacks, who suddenly finds himself overcome with the capacity for heroism in the world. It’s a moment showing the potential the mutant race can still have in the face of the new AvX racist resurgence. It’s a beautiful moment, one that legitimately gave me chills. Uncanny proved itself as the flagship title and it’s one to watch, although it may be a little tricky for readers who didn’t devour this summer’s Avengers vs. X-Men.

Rating: Buy it.

A+X

No, I couldn't find any images from A+X. Take this from a not terrible issue of AvX.

No, I couldn’t find any images from A+X. Take this from a not terrible issue of AvX.

There are inevitably those books that piggyback off major event comics. Shit, I feel like I read about 300 issues of Final Crisis, despite it being a 12 issue series. A+X is that book. Each issue has a pair of stories, written and pencilled by different people. It’s a fine idea but not one that can ever be worth $4.99 an issue.

The first issue proved that definitively, with a goofy Cable and Captain America team-up and a thoroughly inessential Hulk and Wolverine brawl. It was pointless and far too short, especially for the price tag. I picked up #2 solely for Chris Bachalo’s pencils on a Rogue/Black Widow team-up and it’s well worth the asking fee if you adore his work. The second story is a snippy, thoroughly fun conversation between Kitty Pryde and Tony Stark where Kitty continues to deal with the Brood infestation that had her out of commission back in Wolverine and the X-Men #5-7. It’s good, clean, episodic fun.

Rating: Decide whether or not it’s worth picking up for the characters, artists or writers. There’s no reason to grab every issue.

All New X-Men

anxm2Brian Michael Bendis has somehow gotten himself onto the X gig after his well received Avengers run and I couldn’t be less excited.  Bendis is a writer that feels a lot like DC’s Geoff Johns but with even less concern for fans, continuity or the characters. He’s claimed All New X-Men will be the defining X-Men book of the relaunch and if the first two issues of the series say anything, it’s that Bendis couldn’t be more wrong.

The time travel storyline has gotten a lot of media attention and it’s a neat idea, particularly for fans who think Cyclops has gotten a little too violent and combative since Schism. That being said, it doesn’t really add anything to any of these characters. No one seems to act that shocked at what’s going on and nothing has happened to justify making this any more than an obligation buy when it inevitably ties into February’s Uncanny X-Men.

Rating: Decide how big of an X-fan you are before plopping down your $3.99.

Deadpool

DEADPOOL-1-BACHALO-VAR-NOW-1I was pretty excited to see Brian Posehn writing the Merc with a Mouth and the first issue may not be the strongest start but it’s probably worth sticking with. Deadpool’s been conscripted by S.H.I.E.L.D. to kill the zombified presidents resurrected by a sorcerer. It’s a premise with the great potential to be a lot of goofy fun.

The writing’s solid although it may take a little too long to bring Wade onto panel. Posehn’s writing really punny, with lots of “New Deal” and wheelchair jokes as Deadpool fights zombie FDR but it’s very cheeky and I’d rather have this any day over Cable & Deadpool.

Rating: Give it a try.

Iron Man

comic_iron_man_marvel_now_concept_artHere’s the stinker. Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man is a mess and worse, it’s a mess you’ve read before. Building off of Warren Ellis’ exceptional Extremis arc, Tony’s fighting weapons developers who are using the exceptionally dangerous bio-mechanical tech. The art is exceptionally poor, with Tony inexplicably looking Asian and scenes in the suit looking less like a drawing than poorly done cut and paste jobs from the movies.

There’s a very interesting subtext to the entire work, with Tony having to deal with the roll he played in creating the Phoenix 5 back in AvX and the place of faith in a world where he used to solely believe in science. It’s too bad Gillen doesn’t do a thing to advance the idea.

Rating: Stay the hell away.

Indestructible Hulk

indestructiblehulk1_splashpageThe Hulk was the go to hero coming out of this summer’s “Avengers” film and it was for good reason. Whedon managed to balance the dichotomy of Bruce Banner’s intelligence with the Hulk’s savagery. Mark Waid plays the same game but does it even smarter here. The stars of the book are Banner and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s head, Maria Hill, as Banner tries to find a little redemption for his actions. A scene in a diner where Hill watches the clock and panics at every moderate stressor is telling and drives the tension, while establishing both party’s feelings. She sees Banner as a time bomb that could go off at any time and Banner’s canny enough to notice. In one of the most telling lines of the issue, Banner says “Don’t think of the Hulk as a bomb. Think of him as a cannon.”

Banner’s willing to sell himself to S.H.I.E.L.D. to prove himself. He’s angry, spiteful of the attention Reed Richards and Tony Stark receive for their genius works and he wants in on it too. He’ll give himself to the feds for their resources and labs on the condition that they drop the Hulk in locations where things need smashing. It’s all waiting for that countdown until Banner goes Green and the book reflects that that nail-bitingly tense pace. The whole thing takes place in about 20 minutes and the clock is a constant, ticking away until the next  moment Banner explodes. Hopefully, we’ll be there when it does.

Rating: For the love of god, buy this book.

X-Men Legacy

50252b2fbacd9X-Men Legacy used to be the most exclusive of X-titles. Filled with characters who normally didn’t get a lot of panel time and led by Rogue, Gambit and Magneto, it was a fun book. In a weird bit of rebranding, the new Legacy focuses on Legion, the son of Charles Xavier who’s been gone from comics for quite some time. He’s an Omega level mutant and a schizophrenic, with hundreds of potential powers all fighting for control in his mind.

It’s a trippy book and with two issues already on stands, it’s one that’s sure to get stranger. Legion deals with threats imagined, perceived and all in his head and Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat make that dichotomy just as hard to understand for Legion as it is for us. It’s a canny bit of creation and a fun one to lose yourself in, even if there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot or goal for David Haller to work for.

Rating: It’s a good, totally inessential time.

Captain America

CaptainAmerica_1_PICONHey, it’s more Remender! And it’s pretty good! Remender’s delving into why Rogers keeps taking up the shield and taking down threats. It’s a neat set-up with Remender showing Cap’s early life, with an abusive father and a mother who keeps getting back up.

The issue tries to set “getting back up” as a tone but it never really manages it. Cap ends up getting thrown into an alternate dimension with a cloned kid Arnim Zola wants. It loses it’s way when it gets to the plot but an initial set piece where Cap fights a group of hippy bio terrorists is electric, kinetic, Kirby-esque fun.

Rating: It’s just ok, but I’m sticking around.

Fantastic Four

FANTASTIC_FOUR_1_BAGSVARIANT_Edit_3The First Family has lost some of it’s teeth in recent years. Reed’s become less of an insular genius and become a caring and respectful father. Johnny Storm has become woefully less obnoxious. Marvel seems to want to wipe away Sue’s perceived or actualized infidelities. The Fantastic Four has instead become a true, caring family and it’s certainly interesting in a different way. There are absolutes here. Love, compassion, respect, doing what’s best; these are the things that define Reed’s family now.

Except he’s still lying. After an injury reveals he may be dying, Reed gathers the family together for a multi-dimensional trip. Claiming it to be educational, Reed’s desperate to stay alive and hopefully prevent his family from succumbing to the same subatomic degeneration he is.

Fraction brings a lot of Silver Age wonder to the first issue, with HERBIE, Mom-Bots, fighting dinosaurs and space restaurants orbiting over warring aliens. It all has a pleasant charm and these are characters you desperately want to hang out with.

Rating: As friendly for new readers as it is for long time Baxter Building tenants. Check it out.

FF

FF_1_Preview001f-730x365So here’s the different take on the First Family. As Reed and company head off into hyperspace, recruitments are needed to hold down the fort while they’re gone. The set up is neat but the execution is a little weak. Readers are guided through the FF kids talking about what the foundation means to them, while each member of the Fantastic Four picks their replacement. All of those replacements speak to something essential about them in a small way. Reed picks Scott Lang, the second Ant Man, hoping to get him out of the depression he’s been in since Dr. Doom killed his daughter during The Children’s Crusade. Lang is clearly going to become the focus of the series and writer Matt Fraction has said Lang hopes to hunt down the man who murdered his daughter.

Sue also gets a great moment as she ponders her marital woes with Medusa. Both have found their lives changed by relationships and it’s clear they have problems with the way those relationships have defined their existence. It’s a neat moment, filled with unspoken truths. Johnny similarly has a great moment with his girlfriend, Darla Deering, as he asks her to take his place.

There’s a real Wolverine and the X-Men vibe to this book that’ll keep me interested for a few issues and the simple, cartoony pencilling really makes the book pop. It’s not a perfect start but it’s worth waiting to see what will develop.

Rating: You’re not missing much if you leave this one on the shelf but if you’re picking up Fantastic Four, you might as well give this one a look.

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3 thoughts on ““But I’ve had an amazing idea”: A Marvel NOW roundup

  1. It’s funny how many of these I disagree with you on. First off, Thor God of Thunder is one of the absolute best Now! titles. A cool premise, interesting takes on Thor in three different periods of his life, exciting action, and some very good art. Even if you don’t care about Thor, the book is legitimately good, and you should at least check it out. (Also, I hate Wolverine and the X-Men. Hate it. So the fact that you name-dropped it as getting you back into Marvel maddens me. )

    I’m not completely on board with UA yet. I do like the concept. I like the Red Skull. Issue two did some good stuff with him, Wanda and Rogue. But there’s something that feels like it’s holding me back. (I’m also extremely disappointed with the lack of diversity on the book. The villains are more diverse, and they’re led by a freaking Nazi! Remender seems to have a problem when it comes to making his team books all white people.)

    A+X is, obviously, completely skippable. The Widow/Rogue segment was bad on every level – the writing, the plot, the art, everything.

    ANXM is off to an OK start, but it needs a lot more character focus going forward. The way the characters have been reacting hasn’t bothered me, but I want more than just their shock.

    Deadpool is annoying me. I’m tired of Deadpool the Clown. That’s all he’s been for years, outside of Remender’s brilliant use of the character in UXF. I want a writer who will do in Deadpool’s own ongoing what Remender did in UXF. I want a Deadpool whose humour is a coping mechanism to hide how miserable he is. A Deadpool who mixes the comedy with genuine pathos. I don’t think Posehn and Duggan understand how tragic a character Deadpool is supposed to be. They want “OMG he’s so wacky and random and CA-RAAAZZYYYYYYY LOLOLOL!!!1one”. And that completely misses the entire point of the character.

    Iron Man has one of the best writers I’ve come across. Gillen’s run on JiM deserves to have scholarly papers written about its brilliance. But Greg Land is perhaps the absolute worst artist in comics today. His faces are often positively Lovecraftian. The second issue of the series is mostly armour, and it’s much, much better than the first.

    Hulk is good. But it’s good by ignoring years of character development, and that disappoints me. I’m just hoping Waid remembers that the Hulk is actually fairly intelligent. He hasn’t been “Hulk smash” in a long, long time. Waid’s Daredevil has been brilliant, one of Marvel’s best books, but making the Hulk stupid again would be the quickest way to make me turn on this title entirely.

    Legacy is middling. And Legion’s Scottish accent infuriates me, because he shouldn’t have one. At all.

    Captain America is good. Should be a very good series.

    Fantastic Four is cool. It’s off to an interesting start. Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men run was bad, but he’s done plenty of good stuff, so I’m expecting big stuff here.

    FF is Matt Fraction and Mike Allred. How can it not be great? This is going to be an awesome series. Probably better than the main Fantastic Four book.

    • I think you make some good points there. I’ll respond to a couple of them.

      I think Waid’s Hulk isn’t so much the “Hulk smash” character you’re claiming he will become. Waid’s focused on the rage and violence intrinsic to the Hulk I think as a way to separate Banner and his alter-ego. I think it remains to be seen whether he develops a new character or something we’re familiar with.

      As far as diversity in Uncanny Avengers, I think you have an interesting point. Remender doesn’t have the best track record of diversity but I think he’s written well rounded women in the past. That being said, the cast of Uncanny Avengers reflects a Marvel mandate more than Remender’s choices. It’s clear there are characters, namely Scarlet Witch and Rogue, that Marvel wants to elevate into main players in the universe. More than anything, I think that reflects a mandate than anything else.

      Also, I may be totally off, but I seem to remember Legion growing up in Scotland. The accent is certainly a little overwritten but it’s not to the point of being distracting. I’m a little too wrapped up in the art work and clever visual devices to be too bothered.

      And frankly, I’m a little curious as to what you don’t like about Wolverine and the X-Men. I don’t think it’s a perfect book and it’s gone steadily down hill since issue #18 but I think it’s a solid book that acknowledges the style and story structure of the Silver Age while embracing the last 25 years of X-Men history.

      • Legion is apparently Scottish in X-Men Evolution, but in the comics, he was only brought there as a teenager, after he woke up from the coma the eruption of his powers put him in.

        I find WatXM is shallow and too focused on being silly over being legitimately good. It lacks focus, aside from the Angel one a couple issue ago. That was a solid, character-focused issue, and probably the best of the series (not counting the one drawn by Mike Allred, because that was drawn by Mike Allred and was thus automatically great). And then Aaron immediately abandoned that to go back to shallow, gag-a-panel stuff. Also, the Hellfire Brats are awful characters, and Aaron’s continued use of them drags the whole series down. It doesn’t help WatXM’s case that Uncanny X-Menw as, until recently, being written by the brilliant Kieron Gillen, one of the best comic book writers ever, and he was doing awesome stuff on that book, combining real characterization with much cleverer humour and a great villain in the best Sinister ever. So, yeah, I just think WatXM has been a huge waste of time.

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