What If comics are awesome, just not utilized as much as they used to be. It makes sense because anthologies, despite being a fantastic way to get into comics, meet new writers and artists and test out concepts on an open-minded audience, sadly don’t sell well in the United States. If something doesn’t sell well, we all know that means it isn’t going to last, and why spend money on a series that’s just going to be canceled in a month or less, right?
Aspersions on the comic market aside, What If comics are still nifty little treats of reading joy, and the current trend of basing them around big events makes a certain kind of sense. After all, everyone will have read the story in question, be familiar enough with how it went down and might be intrigued enough by a plot twist or two to try out the new take. So, this week we got What If … Avengers vs. X-Men #1, the first of a four-part story that promises us … well, what does it promise us? Let’s take a look at the issue and the What If? format and see what we have in store in the annals of tragedy, because SPOILERS: Almost every What If story I can think of has a “down ending,” to borrow a Clerks phrase. Join me, won’t you?
Tales to Astonish #44 hit newsstands, and our hearts, in June 1963. The cover promised us a cool, green space monster and the debut of a new character: “Meet the flying Wasp!,” we’re told and, hey, there she is flying across the front of the book in a triumphant fashion. While she may be Ant-Man’s new “partner-in-peril,” she doesn’t look too imperiled as she carries what looks like a swooning Hank Pym out of the creature’s grasp.
The Wasp rarely is the swooning, damsel in distress: She’s gone through some peril to be sure, from her personal life to her costumed adventuring career, but this woman doesn’t shirk her responsibilities or morals to cower or retire. Technically, she’s been an Avenger since the team’s inception and remains unique in the field of superheroics: while most heroes have greatness thrust upon them or fight to survive, Janet Van Dyne actively chose this life. She’s accepted herself enough to be public about being a “costumed adventurer” and is rich enough to make it her primary occupation with little to no angst about how she got to where she is today. Becoming the Wasp was a way for her to avenge her father’s death, and that may have inspired the name for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
This month is the 50th anniversary of the winsome Wasp and, while most think of her in small terms, her impact on the Marvel Universe is gigantic.
This morning I woke up to the Tumblr rumblings that Journey into Mystery would no longer be with us. Sure, it was absent from Marvel’s September solicitations, but I could kind of lie to myself and think maybe the book would skip a month, or maybe the publisher just forgot. I can lie to myself with the best of them! But sales haven’t been kind, and writer Kathryn Immonen left us a very gracious note that August’s Journey into Mystery #655 will be the final issue.
And I cannot take this lying down.
This morning, Marvel held a press call to confirm that this week’s promotion of a new team only referred to as “Mighty” would in fact be a new Mighty Avengers title, set to debut in September. Now, you’d think a new team of heroes that includes both She-Hulk (Jen Walters flavor) and Adam the Blue Marvel (lost hero of color) is and tied to Jonathan Hickman’s turn at bat in the latest event series Infinity would be pretty cool. Hickman has assembled Avengers these days for big, mind-bending reasons. These are characters who don’t get enough screen time (if any) and might not get the chance at their own solo title, so why not enjoy this young new team for a chance to see more heroes?
Shouldn’t we be grateful? Don’t we need another Avengers team? How’s that hole-in-your head collection coming?
For those who might’ve missed this 2006-2007 miniseries, Doctor Strange: The Oath is a five-issue story written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin — that pedigree alone should ensure it has a place in your long box or the handy trade paperback sits on your shelf. Vaughan’s clear, lyrical writing style is in full force, and Martin’s art is as fluid and dynamic as it’s been for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. The story delves into the occult to save Wong, who’s been stricken with a fatal disease. Not only does it have magic and mysticism, it also reminds you of Strange’s classical origin as an arrogant surgeon who had to learn humility in an area both street-level and far-flung dimensions. It also brought Night Nurse in as a strong supporting character to the good Doctor’s retinue and, as the back cover tells me, firmly establishes Doctor Strange in the Marvel Universe.
A nice idea, but it really did nothing of the sort.
This time I think I’m going to be less biased. That’s not to say I wasn’t fair to the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie; in fact, I thought it was a pretty ingenious way to honor the past while divorcing it from your present. There’s something to be said for discovering that balance between old and new, continuity and change, that’s so hard to find when adapting something as well-chronicled as Star Trek. We’re looking at years of television history, hours of movies, and shelves and shelves of novels to work into the mix, and 2009′s Star Trek managed to juggle all of that to an extent I wouldn’t have expected to work. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but it tried, and it got the heart of this new universe centered into its own final frontier.
Also, I was in that movie, so like I said, this time I’m going to be less biased.
I have seen Star Trek Into Darkness (no colons needed!) in the finest format I could think of: true IMAX and in real 3D. It was vivid and full of life; as the closing credits rolled and I watched the names of countless CGI artists and editing staff go by, I was once again thinking of that balance between the old and the new. The 2009 Trek brought in boatloads of new fans, a whole new generation to enjoy the adventures of the Starship Enterprise. Die-hard Trekkies and Trekkers had a breath of fresh air and something of their favorite television show back in the public eye, giving us new life and new civilizations to explore. While I’m sure there are plenty of opinionated people on the Internet that prefer one or the other, there’s been a resurgence in the Star Trek community that has benefited from Abrams’ new vision. And as I can wax rhapsodical about what the new movie means and how it will effects fans and the stories to come, it’s really important to take a moment and talk about Star Trek Into Darkness for what it is right here and now. Is this a good movie? Regardless of impact on science fiction or as a litmus test for what the Star Wars franchise is in for now that Abrams is tapped to work in a galaxy far, far away, join me as I look at what we see on screen and if it works just as well the second time around.
WARNING: SPOILERS for Star Trek Into Darkness ahead! Lots and lots of SPOILERS!! We’re talking plot, major scenes and character arcs, so for those who haven’t gotten to see the movie yet, please be warned. Everyone else? Let’s boldly go …
I don’t know much about sports. I’d like to think I’m slightly above a novice; I played sports very poorly in my younger years. As a former cheerperson for my local high school, I could tell you when players were on offense or defense. There are plenty of male sports fans in my life that I keep up on the basics (it’s Super Bowl season!) to be current with their interests. A lot of the basics were learned at my father’s knee because the people you love tend to make you care more about things you never thought you’d care about.
A few years ago, the (then) Anaheim Angels won the 2002 World Series, and my husband was ecstatic. It was like the rush and relief of the box-office success of the Avengers movie, but only for baseball. He has been a fan of the Angels since he was a kid, and had seen them through their highs and a whole lot of lows. Because the team had been a bonding point for him and his dad, they celebrated together by getting the DVD of the World Series to replay over a holiday dinner. I can barely sit through one or two pitches, but these guys pored over the games, the exclusive interviews, the documentaries and alternate camera shots. All it was missing were some deleted scenes and animatics and it could easily be mistaken for my Star Trek Blu-Ray.
On the way home from watching the World Series in hi-def with his dad, my husband lamented he’d soon be seeing a lot of “fair-weather fans,” people in Angels shirts and caps who bought them the moment the team won, then would retire them to the garage as soon as the next season rolled around. For someone who was a big fan of the Angels, it would be frustrating to see people dressed to the nines in their World Series Champs shirts who had no interest in the team unless they gained national notoriety. That lament was short-lived, as we had a friend with a San Francisco Giants devotee in their house, so the sweet taste of victory outweighed any fair-weather fan.
You can probably see where I’m going with this …
Let me explain: Young Avengers #1 came out this week, and I’d been lucky enough to see some early artwork, read some Phonogram and read some interviews with Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (man, that interviewer is so good!) in preparation for the new take on the series. After all, this is Marvel NOW! so why not get an idea of what the future will bring? While everything is certainly all-new and all-different around the House of Ideas, that doesn’t mean we’ll be in for too much of a shock as long as we follow along.
One look at all of the promotion for this book in the past few months explains the whole thing: This book will not be like anything else in the “Avengers” department. While other titles with the team name might focus on more group-based events and threats, the Young Avengers are still trying to figure out who they are before looking at what they mean together as a unit. The clean lines of the artwork suggest a more modern take on a classic teen-superhero story, the amount of detail and thought put into every fight scene and quiet character interaction — there’s just so much to see within the story and without in more of a meta fashion. Gillen and McKelvie either worked hard on making their points come across in every panel or else they are just so effortlessly cool that it dazzles nerds like me. I am amazed and bewildered by this first issue, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Issue 2.
So here I was, gentle reader, tapping away at the keyboard this morning, polishing up my thoughts on Wolverine’s current employment trajectory and comparing it to a popular comedian from the ’80s when I got a message from my distinguished colleague, Mr. Tom Bondurant.
“Why is Marvel releasing solicits Friday afternoon, like the Pentagon doing a big document-dump?” he asked via Twitter, causing me to drop everything and run to my favorite and most trusted news source, this very website. Lo and behold, Tom was right, and Marvel’s solicitations for April had gone up just in time for the weekend. Normally, these are released in a timely fashion, as we comic book fans and retailers have a rhythm worked out for peculiar way we look forward to, order and then receive comics. Having these guys show up on a Friday and, more telling, having them seemingly reiterate information we learned throughout the week feels as if that rhythm is mutating somehow — that we might get previews for events in a different way and that Marvel promotions might be delivered to us differently in the months to come. This could either be the herald of a new way to talk about our future in our present about comics that have come out in the past, like trades or reprints, or it could be a very busy week at the Bullpen and they only got this list out today.
Either way, April is waiting. Read on!
There’s something both cathartic and self-indulgent about New Year’s resolutions. On one hand, you’re revealing to the world all your shortcomings, announcing how bad you’ve been at everything for a whole year past and telling everyone you can find about how this year, you’re going to change so much about you. That method rarely works out.
On the other hand, this is also a great way to look forward to the future. After all, it’s a new start, a brand-new year with all sorts of possibilities and you’re going to do your best at making things better. You have a list!
So while I may feel a little self-conscious about posting these every year, I like to think that reading over what I hope 2013 brings might give you, Dear Reader, some idea of what you’d like to see in the coming months as well. And while you don’t have to wear your shortcomings on your sleeve, we all can at least face front and do our part. Right? Right.
There’s a professional wrestler named Cody Rhodes. His family has been in the wrestling business for longer than he’s been alive, his father being the legendary Dusty Rhodes and his brother the offbeat Golddust, both working for the WWE. Following family tradition, he’s a fantastic wrestler, absolutely charming and has only recently gotten the crowd’s attention through a horrible-looking mustache.
Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.
As I said, Cody Rhodes is fantastic. He’s worked with legends, played mostly heel roles and tried to work the crowd against him. He even had a stint with a Doctor Doom-esque look, complete with mask, dark hood, minions and a hatred for the ugliness of WWE fans. I thought it compelling, at least, but most crowds seemed to find it lukewarm at best. He brought a sense of prestige back to the Intercontinental Title; it’s already moved on and stagnated once more. Nothing seems to stick with a guy who has so much going for him … until this mustache. After some time off for an injury, he returned to a tag-team partnership with — gracious, just look at it. It’s horrible. It’s laughable. Patchy in places, it just doesn’t fit his face quite right, making him look less like Tom Selleck and more like a guy with candy in his unmarked van. The very night he returned, the audience seemed to wake up. A spontaneous chant of “Co-dy’s mus-tache!” broke out and has followed him since. Other wrestlers can poke fun at it, he can be angry and indignant about it, bad guy wrestlers can support this horrible decision and somewhere down the line, there can be a “Mustache Match” or something where the thing is removed and we have story line closure.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Superior Spider-Man is Cody Rhodes’ mustache.
Confused? Read on!
WARNING: We’ll be talking extensively about The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 as well, so grab your copies and read along!
In just three months, we will be pretty entrenched into the new NOW! of Marvel. So far, so good, right? Can’t say that they’ve all been hits, but considering the alternative (*cough*reboot*cough*), I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
Will this be an era that’s looked back at as a radical change in publishing and a landmark era of storytelling for Marvel? I get the feeling that a lot of people are hoping so, most of them in marketing. This is a fresh face for the Marvel brand, and we should be looking at a moment that will be well-documented by journalists, historians and (more importantly to the layman) comic book price guides. Sadly, my precognitive powers are only available in March solicitations, so let’s look at those and see what NOW! will look like then. Or THEN! I’m not sure.
First, let’s talk about the trades. I rarely get to do so because they’re always at the bottom and there’s normally a huge amount of comics to sort through and events to define before we reach the reasonable road of the trade paperback. But in March, Marvel NOW! will officially be the final status quo on the shelves, so we’ll begin a steady stream of trades for major titles in hardcover and softcover format.s The first volumes of Uncanny Avengers, Iron Man and Avengers will be out in hardcover, with Fantastic Four, Red She-Hulk and X-Men: Legacy getting softcover editions; I think the change in format probably has to do with the price of the original issues.
Marvel NOW! is not half bad! In fact, from this new vantage point where we’ve mostly seen the first major debuts roll out through November, I can say that it’s a bigger success than the Heroic Age. There’s been some significant changes to theme and tone of our superheroes while still leaving continuity intact and everyone recognizable to the public. Everything that happened in the past few months of comics has carried over into the NOW!, we’re just looking at it with a new style, a fresh coat of paint and, of course, oodles of variant covers.
Story styles and artistic choices come and go, and while we might love a particular run or artist team, we have to adapt and move into more modern and evolving ideas for the Marvel Universe. Sure, I’m not too on board with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy series because I really enjoyed their previous iteration, but if you look at the last series, it was a far cry from what it was when it started. Why not give the new book a chance and see if it can hook me in all over again? Losing Peter Parker as Spider-Man (for a while) is a big deal, but why not watch just to see how Dan Slott pulls this whole thing off? Change is good is what I’m trying to say, and Marvel NOW!, while still essentially the same heroes and villains we know and love, is also a lot of change.
It’s weird to think that Brian Michael Bendis pretty much set the Avengers for the modern era. Yes, great storytellers had come before to establish what we all know and love about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but Bendis really did blow all that up and rebuilt Marvel’s premier super-team from the ground up. From Stark Tower to the essential leadership of Captain America and Iron Man to who’s on the roster and why, to endless, endless lunches, most new comic readers know of the Avengers through Bendis’ work. He’s the man who made us read the book, for better or for worse and for six years, he’s been the bottom line in Earth’s Mightiest Heroism. It’s a really tough act to follow, but if anyone is going to make us say “Bendis who?” in the next few months, it’s Jonathan Hickman. Starting from the first issue (on sale this week!), there’s a stage being set that will change the way we view the Avengers and their place in the grand scheme of the universe.
But who are the Avengers? What does it mean to join their ranks? How is it that, within the confines of a single issue, we’ve learned the essential secret to this new NOW! series? Click on, Dear Reader, and I will explain.
WARNING: I’ll be talking about the contents of Avengers #1, but you still probably want to read Avengers #1 and see for yourself if any of my theories match up. So grab a copy and read along!
Now that more books are out and more of the lineup is being revealed, letting us know what’s in store, we’re in a better position to understand Marvel NOW! This week was a big one as All-New X-Men hit the stands with Fantastic Four, Thor: God of Thunder and the possibly underrated X-Men Legacy. The two X-books are important. and I might talk a little about the books as we go along, but the reason why is because, before today, I had no idea what on Earth Marvel’s Merry Mutants were going to be doing. We knew the school was intact, but … that was it? What about this semi-villain team that Scott’s in? He seems to want mutant unity, but has he crossed the line into superiority? Is he just the bad guy now or are we getting two “social justice” stories, two ways of handling the issue of being hated and feared? We may not have gotten all the answers, but there’s a lot more to go on than what we had by the end of AvX: Consequences.
We’re going to be waist deep in Marvel NOW! by the end of the month, so the questions about the new landscape can be more specific instead of just “Wait and see the first issue!” Looking at the solicitations, we start to put what we’re seeing this month with what will be happening three months from now and, like focusing a telescope, stories and characters are becoming more clear.
Despite being in a better position, there’s still going to be a lot of questions and some I’d even like ot pose to you, Dear Reader, as we take a stroll through February 2013 and see what Marvel will be putting to the printed page. Let’s take a look!
I’ll be honest, part of me really wants to curl up in a blanket with a pint of ice cream and bemoan the loss of Avengers Academy, whose final issue came out this week. That Avengers Arena ad in the back the book was a kick in the pants, wasn’t it? It’s sad to think the little book that could, one of the best all-ages titles on the stands, has ended and we may not see its like again in the foreseeable future. It’s wasn’t a top-selling title but what it lacked in sales it made up for in heartening and brilliant content. Again, I could foist my woes upon you, Dear Reader, but we are trying to live in the NOW (which is a little like the present but just a scooch toward the future), so let’s set aside our sadness and look at a new development this week.
Cullen Bunn will be bringing us the Fearless Defenders in 2013, a team book centered around Valkyrie creating a new team of eight Valkyrior (a cooler way of saying Valkyries) out of existing (and possibly new) Marvel heroines. It’s been a fantastic concept for a team book since Mr. Bunn previewed it in Fear Itself: The Fearless, and I’m happy to see that there was enough interest (from we, the fans) and support (from they, the editorial staff) to see this idea hit print. It’s a cool premise, we’ll see a lot of characters we honestly don’t normally get to and there’s a great overarching purpose to the book to keep it from getting stale.
However, especially in today’s Avengers-rich environment, why would they call it the Fearless Defenders? Just because Valkyrie leads a team? Why not call it the Fearless Avengers and loop it all together? I can’t be the only one who likes the name Lady Liberators, right? What will make this team a Defenders title? I have a few ideas.
WARNING: I’ll be talking about the end of Matt Fraction’s Defenders #12 in vague terms, but there might be a spoiler or two dropped without warning. Be prepared!