I 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.]
I 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.
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
Brian 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.
I 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.
Here’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.
The 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 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.
Hey, 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.
The 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.
So 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.