TWiP! Marvel Now Special #3
I’m back, with the final part of my sporadic specials focusing on the Marvel Now relaunch. This time my all-seeing eye is cast skywards, as I take a look at both of Marvel’s big new cosmic books, Nova and Guardians Of The Galaxy. There’s also a brand new #1 for the Uncanny X-Men, and because just doing 3 comics isn’t really enough, I thought I’d mix things up and throw in a first issue from that other superhero publisher, and assess the all-new, all-dangerous Justice League Of America.
Nova #1 and #2– This book is really more of a Marvel Then than a Marvel Now, seeing as it takes place in the recent past. The new, black-helmeted Nova debuted out of nowhere during Avengers Vs X-Men, and it’s only now that we’re finding out his origin. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness team up once again, and like all of their collaborations, Nova is an enjoyable comic with fantastic art and big moments. It’s not quite as balls-out crazy as Hulk was, but the scope is big, and the comic has heart, after only 2 issues, I’m invested in Sam Alexander as a character. And all this after writing a long article about not liking teen superheroes anymore. I think the best thing about this series is how Loeb emphasises the boring, dead-end nature of Sam’s hometown, Carefree in Arizona, and how he wants to escape from it, which lends the scene where he finally does escape and flies into the air a really exciting quality. Look, I was a big fan of Richard Rider as Nova, and I would like to see him come back (or at least an explanation as to why Star-Lord is back and he isn’t), but he’s not around at the moment, so I’m giving Sam a chance. Marvel seem committed to the character (he’s in the Spider-Man cartoon) so I’m excited to see how he grows and develops, and hey, if DC can have 5 Green Lanterns, it’s only a matter of time before Marvel has 2 Novas (Novi?).
Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1 and #1– Nova’s sister title, and one of Marvel’s next wave of movies, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a title with a lot of hype behind it, and so far, I think it’s delivers. You all know I’m a big fan of Bendis, and I really enjoyed seeing him write a story in a milieu that he hasn’t really touched before, outer space. Yes, he did a lot of stuff with Skrulls, but this is new ground for him. The Point One issue was an origin story for Star-Lord, which was actually quite welcome, even though I’ve been reading about his exploits regularly since 2006 in Annihilation, I didn’t know his origin. He just showed up to fight the Annihilation Wave and was a bad-ass. Now I know his story, and it’s a familiar one sure (he’s like a Space Aquaman, which is probably not the comparison Marvel want, but hey), but it’s good to know. The actual meat of the story doesn’t begin until #1, as Star-Lord comes into conflict with his father, and we see the rest of the team in action. This is a pared-down version of the roster DnA used, but it’s a strong one, with Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and interestingly, Iron Man. This issue is basically divided into one big talky bit, and one big action bit, so far, so Bendis, but I enjoyed it a lot. The artwork from Steve McNiven was fantastic, probably the best I’ve seen from him since Wolverine: Old Man Logan. This debut issue got thing started off with a bang, and hopefully managed to introduce a whole new audience to this awesome side of the Marvel Universe without confusing them.
It seems to me like there’s a bit of a, I don’t want to say hipster backlash, because people who read Marvel Cosmic aren’t really going to be considered hip, but the reaction to these new comics is like when a small indie band you love goes mainstream. People loved the Giffen and DnA cosmic stuff because it was self-contained and small and it felt like you knew about this great comic that the rest of the idiots didn’t. And now, big guys like Loeb and Bendis have come in and changed things. But to me, these books are still strong, and I’m actually excited to see this side of Marvel play a more central role. We should be happy that people now care about Star-Lord and Drax, not angry that they aren’t our little secret. And hey, all those DnA stories still happened, the Cancerverse is mentioned in #1 of GoTG, and it looks like Bendis is planning on filling-in the gaps. Marvel Cosmic is now A-List, this is a good thing, we won!
Uncanny X-Men #1, #2 and #3– Back down to Earth now, as Bendis launches another book, but this isn’t something out there, it’s the biggest thing there is, the Uncanny X-Men. Spinning out of the excellent All-New X-Men, this series follows Cyclops’ side of the Mutant Divide, as he attempts to lead a Mutant Revolution, and really, I’m just loving everything X-Men and everything Cyclops these days. The character is just so good, so conflicted, and just this close to going full-out villain. Plus, he has an awesome new costume with an awesome X-shaped visor. Heck, all the characters in this book have cool new costumes. Chris Bachalo has outdone himself here, and it’s no wonder he gets picked to launch new X-Books all the time, he may be up there with Byrne and Lee as definitive X-Men artists. There’s a lot going on in these opening 3 issues, and it’s all very interesting. The team dynamics in this book are very fractured, almost all of the characters don’t get along, and with the added drama that none of their mutant powers are working properly, there’s dysfunction that has a purpose for once. But it’s not all schemes and dark stuff, as Bendis finds time for some humour in the new students at his secret underground school (how awesome was the cut-out in #2, I love stuff like that). There are only 4 students so far, but it’s going to be interesting to see how many more they recruit, and how it stacks up with the Jean Grey school. I think my favourite of these 3 opening issues was the third, where Cyclops stands up to the Avengers and just comes across as the biggest bad-ass. I know some fans don’t like Cyke’s heel turn, but I love it. Wolverine is no longer the coolest X-Man. I also love the revolutionary iconography Bendis has introduced, the Shephard Fairey style picture of Cyclops, the ‘X’ hand-gesture, it’s very interesting. It seems to me that the switch from A to X has reinvigorated Bendis, both this title and All-New are must-read titles that sparkle with energy and excitement. I haven’t been this pumped about the X-Men since Whedon.
Justice League Of America #1 and #2– When the thing that generates the most discussion about your big new JLA comic is the variant covers, you know you’ve got a problem. That said, the newest incarnation of the Justice League isn’t that bad, although it has problems for sure. The opening issue is basically one big conversation between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller, and it kind of drags, with them discussing at length each member of the team. It was interesting seeing the new takes on characters like Stargirl (who is now superhero Taylor Swift), Katana and Vibe, but it just took too long to get going. I will say that #2 gave me probably the first time I have ever actually liked Hawkman, when he said ‘It’s not my blood’, that was hardcore. But I still hate him overall, stupid fucking Hawkman. The concept of a team put together specifically to combat the real Justice League is a good one in principle, but I can’t help but think the pay-off will end up being a long-time coming and a disappointment. But that’s only my gut-feeling, it could end up being awesome. I do think that Green Arrow’s status as a member of the team who isn’t matched up with a JLer is interesting, he should be an interesting wildcard. The artwork from David Finch was his typical strong stuff, although Catwoman’s cleavage was pretty ridiculous. The back-up story by Matt Kindt and Scott Clark (who sadly died recently, was this his last work?) was good, Martian Manhunter is an interesting character who was kind of screwed by the New 52, he was on Stormwatch and then left and now this. It’s certainly different to see him as a slightly sinister character rather than a loveable Oreo-eating guy, but he’s probably the character in this book I’m the most interested in. So yeah, this book has gotten off to an OK start at best. It annoys me to see DC fumble like this all the time, it’s always one step forward, two back. Johns has been doing really well with Aquaman and Green Lantern lately, I want to see this reach that level.
(Oh, and as for the variant cover, I picked up the Illinois one, because my relatives in America live there and it’s the state I’ve visited the most, and it also has a bad-ass Eagle on it.)
So there you have it, pretty comprehensive I think you’ll agree. My favourite out of these 4 books is most definitely Uncanny X-Men, Bendis is kicking arse with the Merry Mutants (sorry, they don’t like being called that any more, do they Havok?).
And now it’s time for a big announcement! Starting next week, the This Week In Punchy columns will back as a regular weekly feature! Oooh yeah. I’m not reading as many comics as I was before, but I assure you the quality will remain at the same mediocre level! So join me next week for a look at Andy Diggle’s first issue of Action Comics, where we can see if we dodged a bullet or are left asking what might have been, along with a new creative team for Swamp Thing, Walt Simonson drawing the Hulk, more cosmic goodness with Thanos Rising and yet more Bendis X-Men. It’s gonna be fun.
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