Punchy's column returns for a special focussing on Marvel Comics' big relaunch, all the heavy-hitters are here, Uncanny Avengers, Iron Man, Indestructible Hulk and more!
Hi there, my name is Punchy, you may remember me from such columns as This Week In Punchy, and such internet arguments as 'Cosplayers are pathetic', 'Nobody cares about Wonder Woman' and 'Spider-Man unmasking is a good idea'.
I had to stop doing my weekly comics column a while back for 2 reasons, firstly, my Boss wasn't paying me so I didn't have any money to spend on comics, and secondly, I was kind of getting burned out on writing reviews of 15+ comics a week, no matter how small and seemingly rushed they were.
However, I did manage to scrape together enough money to buy some of the more interesting Marvel Now! titles, and I'd like to share my thoughts with you, so, time to shake off my rust, and get on with it!
TWiP Marvel Now! Special
Iron Man #1 and #2– Kieron Gillen takes over on Iron Man, and I have to admit I was just the teensiest bit disappointed with this book, it just seemed way too close in tone to what Fraction had been doing with Tony Stark, and I kind of like it when, in a relaunch, a writer takes a book and completely changes everything. This is still a sci-fi espionage kind of book, with lots of bonkers semi-real semi-comic book technology, and the same charming dude in the middle of it. There wasn’t as much Now! as I would have liked here, but it was still decent. Gillen as always has a knack for strong dialogue and for coming up with interesting new ideas. I especially liked the idea of Tony Stark shaving off his goatee and nobody recognising him, not only did it sort of make sense, but it was a cool dig at Clark Kent’s glasses.
I did feel that #2 was an improvement, I loved the cheesiness of ‘The Circle’ and that Iron Man (who has met the real King Arthur) wasn’t buying into their Arthurian pretensions. I also like how Gillen is setting this opening arc up as a series of done-in-one stories all linked by Extremis. I had initially thought that The Circle would be the big villains of the whole arc, but nope, Tony doesn’t go with their stupid code of honour and is off to do something new. Greg Land’s art is actually a really good fit for Iron Man, when most of your characters are covered head-to-toe in armour, it doesn’t matter as much that the poses are stiff, or that the facial expressions are traced from wrestling or porn, because the faces are covered. I’ve never really minded Land as much as most, but here, he’s even better, everything looks slick, modern and like real technology. I’m still not sold on the Black and Gold armour though, bring back the Red! I spoke with Gillen about this title at Thought Bubble, and I have high hopes that this one will only get better, especially when Iron Man jets off into Space.
Thor: God Of Thunder #1 and #2– Most of you will know that I’m not really a big Thor fan, I like him in the Avengers and I liked his movie, but as a solo proposition? Not so much. I read Fraction’s run because I’m a big Fraction fan, but it never really got out of second gear (apart from the awesomeness that was THE DECONSECRATOR). Jason Aaron’s new run however… these two issues may be the best Thor comics I have ever read. Aaron is one of my favourite writers at the moment, and these 2 issues of Thor are a great demonstration of how good he is at bringing, well, the Thunder. And by Thunder I mean action. Set across 3 different time periods, and featuring 3 different versions of Thor, a callous young Thor from the Viking Era, the current, superheroic Avenger Thor and a Thor from the distant future, where he is the only God left and looks a lot like his dad, Aaron is setting out to tell an epic story here, and while it’s very ambitious, I really think it will work. The first issue balances things fairly equally between the 3 Thors, whereas #2 is mostly focussed on Young Thor and it’s going to be a lot of fun to see Aaron juggle these plots. The artwork from Esad Ribic is a fantastic complement to Aaron here, he nails the epic scale of things, and his painterly style brings to mind classic fantasy art such as Frank Frazetta. This is not a superhero comic really, this is a fantasy and sci-fi story, and it’s great fun to see a comic tackle both Viking History and Far off worlds at the same time. It will be interesting to see how Iron Man showing up in #3 will effect things. I think I like this take on Thor because it’s really just about Thor, there’s no other cheesy Gods hanging around, it’s very much like those brilliant one-shots Fraction did, awesome heavy-metal fantasy. Aaron has both the writing skills and the beard to make this my kind of Thor.
Indestructible Hulk #1– Out of all of the Marvel Now! Books I have read so far, this new take on the Hulk from Mark Waid is the one that reminded me most of the Marvel Movie-Verse. Not only are Maria Hill and Phil Coulson front and centre as members of SHIELD, but this is a version of Bruce Banner a lot like Mark Ruffalo’s take in ‘The Avengers’, a Banner who is accepting of the Hulk and able to channel the Monster towards heroic ends. It’s certainly a different take on the character, and one that’s welcome, but after #1, I kind of like the idea but didn’t like the execution here as much as I expected. Waid’s dialogue was good, but I didn’t really find the fight with the Mad Thinker very engaging. I think this is one where I’ll need to read a few more issues to really love, but I trust Waid, he’s really been on a roll for the last few years. Leinil Yu’s art was brilliant, I love him, and he does a kick-ass Hulk.
Uncanny Avengers #1 and #2– The flag-ship book of Marvel Now! is a simple idea really, people enjoyed the Avengers and the X-Men separately, and they also enjoyed them fighting each other, so why not smoosh them together? Yeah, sure, Wolverine, Beast and Storm have all been Avengers before, but this book is a much bigger scale of combining the two franchises, and I’m very excited at seeing how this one develops. I actually thought #1 started a bit slowly, with a bit too much talking, but when the action began, things picked up a lot. John Cassaday gets a lot of criticism these days, but I still think he’s great, and he delivered in these 2 issues. So far, the best thing about this book so far was the bat-shit insane last page to #1, with Red Skull holding Professor X’s brain and ranting, it was just such a great ‘only in comics’ moment, and it brought a big grin to my face. I’m also enjoying some characters who have been off to the side for a while getting a lot of focus, putting Havok in such a big book is a great move, and while I know Rogue has been front-and-centre in one minor X-Book or another for the last few years, she hasn’t been a big presence in Uncanny X-Men for what seems like forever, so her big role in #2 was cool. It was also interesting to see Scarlet Witch back in the thick of things. And Remender, as we’ve seen in X-Force, can write the hell out of Wolverine. So far, this is big, widescreen super-heroics at it’s best, there’s a brilliantly evil villain with big plans, there’s strong heroes, and there are emotional stakes. I think we’ve only scratched the surface here, and if Remender does even half as good with this Uncanny group as he did with Uncanny X-Force, then I have high hopes.
Fantastic Four #1 and FF #1– Matt Fraction takes the reigns of the Fantastic Four franchise over from Jonathan Hickman, and already, after only 2 issues, I already prefer this take to Hickman’s. We all know that Hickman is a great ideas guy, but his writing of characters and of the smaller moments was a bit lacking (he has gotten better though), which is why seeing a writer like Fraction, who is good at characterisation take on these ideas and run with them is so cool. All the stuff from Hickman’s run is here, like the Future Foundation kids and Johnny Storm’s Negative Zone space-ship and Black Bolt multiple wives is still here, but it all feels so much warmer and more fun. Out of the two #1s I think I preferred Fantastic Four, but they were both excellent. I’m a huge fan of Allred’s art, and his work in FF was brilliant, his Thing looked so Kirby-esque, and his She-Hulk was awesome. Bagley was good too, he’s just so perfect for superhero comics. I also think that the weird team Fraction has assembled for FF is very interesting, I can’t wait to see more of Ant-Man. I think that the real meat of this story won’t really start until the second issues, when the Fantastic Four begin their travels, but I’m very excited. I think this run will actually make me appreciate Hickman’s even more, it’s cool to see that modern creators can really contribute to the Marvel Universe now, what Hickman did with the FF has had a lasting impact, so even if I didn’t wholly love the run itself, it’s given others like Fraction a lot to play with.
All-New X-Men #1 and #2– Brian Michael Bendis has sadly left the Avengers franchise after 8 years of service, but his jump over to the X-Men looks to not only have reinvigorated his writing, but also the X-Franchise. Yes, the idea behind this arc is kind of dumb, the past X-Men coming to the future, but Bendis makes it work, and these 2 opening issues are just a pure delight. It’s just so much fun to see the contrast between the original team of idealistic young kids in yellow and blue spandex and the current, grim world they inhabit. The panels with Iceman screaming at himself were just hilarious. But Bendis also nails the sad side of this, particularly with the characters of Cyclops and Jean Grey, it’s going to be interesting to see how they are effected by everything. Stuart Immonen’s art was just as brilliant as usual, I genuinely think he is Bendis’ best collaborator, whether on this title, or Ultimate Spider-Man or Avengers. I also dug how the Past X-Men were wearing suits and ties like it was actually the 1960s for them, when it was probably like 1998. The non-time travel stuff was also interesting, we were treated to two vintage scenes of teenagers discovering they are mutants (I didn’t realise how much I missed them after M-Day) and Cyclops’ new role as a Mutant Revolutionary is just awesome, I can’t wait for him to appear in #3 and Uncanny X-Men by Bendis and Bachalo should be awesome. The future of Beast is also interesting, is he actually going to die, or will Bendis finally do what needs to be done and bring back Monkey Beast? So yeah, this is a silly concept being done right, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So there! I guess it's pretty obvious that my view of Marvel Now! is very positive, every series I've read so far has been highly enjoyable, and whilst a few, like Hulk and Iron Man didn't knock me out straight away, there's enough there to keep me interested.
It looks like my monetary problems will be ending soon, which is cool, so I may be able to get back to doing a regular column in a bit, but if not, I'll probably pop back in with a look at some of the other Marvel Now! #1s that tickle my fancy. Avengers Arena! Cable & X-Force! Superior Spider-Man! All of those uncontroversial comics.
Oh yeah, follow me on Twitter @niamsuggitt if you want, I'll say stupid stuff about comics and sport and the world around me.
Written or Contributed by Niam Suggitt
READ THIS ARTICLE ON THE FRONT PAGE, HUMANS!