Is it really a special if there's 2 of them? I don't know, but anyway, Punchy is back with some reviews of Marvel Now! relaunches.
There's plenty of Avengers, with New, Young and Arena alongside the flagship book, as well as the controversial Superior Spider-Man and also Cable & X-Force.
These reviews may not be timely, but they are awesome!
Superior Spider-Man #1-3– Alongside Avengers Arena, this is probably the most controversial Marvel Now book of them all. The set-up of the series is simple, but infuriating to many fans. Peter Parker is dead, and inside of his body is his arch-nemesis, Doctor Octopus, who has decided to be a better Spidey than Peter ever was, and one with a ruthless edge. This has caused a lot of outrage online, with fans even going as far to send death threats to Dan Slott. I myself was pretty sanguine about it, it was a pretty cool, innovative idea, and one that to me was obviously temporary. And do you know what? I was right! Every issue of this title so far has shown that Doc Ock is just this close to being discovered, and that Peter Parker will eventually find his way back. Carlie Cooper has her suspicions, and most importantly, Peter Parker’s ‘soul’ is hanging around, Obi-Wan style and commenting on and effecting what his body can do. This is a great set-up for a storyline, and it’s a lot of fun. Seeing Ock actually be a better Spider-Man is very interesting, and it’ll be fascinating to see how many of his innovations Peter will use when he returns. This book is also doing a great job at exploring the past and back-story of Otto Octavius, Slott is making me somehow care about this maniac, and because of this story, I feel that Ock has made his way back to the top spot in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, even above the Green Goblin!
Interestingly, the issue that really made me love this story wasn’t a Spider-Man comic at all, but an issue of Daredevil. In #22 of that series, Spider-Man guest-stars and helps Daredevil fight the Stilt-Man, and it’s just a riot. If you weren’t convinced, check out that issue, and I’m sure you’ll start to appreciate Superior Spider-Man for what it is, a fun, only-in-comics storyline pulled off with aplomb, and one that actually does something new with Spider-Man. That’s what we want right? New ideas? And whilst this is only temporary, it’s a hell of a ride. Ryan Stegman’s art is a good compliment to the story too, it has a level of cartooniness that suits Spider-Man, but is much harder-edged, he gets across the new Spider-Man’s viciousness.
(I don’t really want to comment on the whole ‘rape’ issue, because it’s ridiculous, you cannot apply real-world laws and morals to such obviously fictional concepts like mind-swaps. Is Psylocke a rapist too? Did she rape Angel and Fantomex? Of course not, this just smacks of the constant desire amongst some fans to be outraged and offended.)
Avengers #1-5– Jonathan Hickman is a writer I run hot and cold on, I like his ambition, but at times feel that his work is a little too soulless and focused on his epic endgames at the expense of the characters. At first glance, his run on Avengers seemed to be following that pattern, with an opening arc that contained a lot of pontificating and foreshadowing, with too many characters on the team, some of whom barely get more than one line of dialogue. After the first 3 issues I was kind of ‘meh’ on this run, the artwork from Jerome Opena was excellent, and I liked the idea of a lot of these characters being Avengers, but we didn’t really get any detail on any of them apart from Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, who, let’s face it, don’t need much more detailing. But #4 and #5 alleviated my fears a little, as Hickman decided to focus on and explore two of the new members of the team, first Hyperion and then Smasher. These issues were very strong and made me interested in both characters, which is rare for Hickman books! The idea of Smasher being a descendant of Dan Dare is especially cool to me as a British comics fan. I also find it interesting that in using Hyperion and Smasher, Hickman is taking on analogues of Superman and one of the Legion Of Super-Heroes (Smasher is Ultra Boy I think), which, along with crisis-like events in New Avengers, makes me think ‘Is Hickman doing some big, epic piss-take of DC here?’ Which would be awesome. I hope Hickman can continue to balance the large roster of characters here, his major achievement so far is to really up the scale of the Avengers, make it feel much bigger than it has before. But even with an epic scale, we need to know and care about the characters.
New Avengers #1-3– This is a strange one. I really hated #1, it was the worst of all possible Hickman books, full of stupid buzzwords and foreshadowing that filled me with hate. But after reading #2 and #3, I’ve been turned around completely. I really feel it was foolish to wait until #2 to explain exactly what was going on, they should have done a double-sized first issue or something, because if we have to wait until #2 to find out about the actual plot of the book, that’s too long. As it is, the idea of the Illuminati getting together to stop alternate universe colliding with ours is a good one, and the group of characters Hickman is using is fascinating, especially with the hatred between Namor and Black Panther and Beast’s reluctance. These characters having to deal with the possibility of destroying entire universes is also brilliant, Hickman once again bringing things up to a truly epic scale. These last 2 issues also contained two truly gob-smacking moments, firstly, the shattering of the Infinity Gems, and then the mind-wiping of Captain America, which is just fucking dark. And it gets even better when you realise that this mind-wiping was foreshadowed in Avengers #1. The connections between both Hickman books are subtle at the moment, but it’s going to be fascinating to follow them from here on out. So yeah, #1 was shit, but Hickman redeemed himself with the subsequent issues, let’s hope there’s more dark, character conflict in the future, and less gobbledygook from ‘Black Swan’. Epting’s artwork is also top-notch, he is just so damn good.
Young Avengers #1– Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram is one of my favourite comics of the last decade or so, which meant that the two of them collaborating together on a Marvel teen superhero comic with elements of Phonogram should be one of the best things ever, right? Unfortunately I was kind of underwhelmed by this opening issue. Part of this is really my fault, due to my high anticipation levels for this comic, I read every interview and preview and Gillen blog-post, and by the time I actually read the comic, I already knew everything that would happen. The idea of Noh-Varr as an Alien Hipster who is into Earth-Culture like so many Americans who say stuff like ‘The original British series is soo much better’ is a great one, but in this first issue it doesn’t get much beyond what I already knew from the interviews. The conflicts between Hulkling and Wiccan were no surprise either (and it doesn’t help that I find these characters incredibly boring, although there actually being some conflict between them was welcome, I didn’t like them being portrayed as perfect gay fan-fic fodder elf-twinks).
I did like how Gillen depicted Kid Loki though, and how the character’s portrayal is ambiguous. If you didn’t know he was now old, evil Loki again, you would be none-the-wiser. The real star of this issue was McKelvie, who along with Mike Norton reached new artistic levels for me, the lines were crisp and the montagey, music-video fight scenes were awesome. So yeah, my dissatisfaction with this issue is really my fault, it’s my fault that I read Gillen use that Galadriel line multiple times in interviews, I’m sure that when things get going I’ll be fully on board with this book. But I do have one other fear, that this comic will be too closely aimed at the Tumblr-fanbase. The essay in the letters-page mentioned ‘weaponizing feel’s, which made me feel sick. I know Gillen loves his Tumblr-fans, but I don’t, and I want him to just write a comic, and not worry about pleasing people who cosplay or ship or want Hulkling and Wiccan to remain elf-twinks. Maybe this is just me being 23 and not the target audience for a teen superhero book anymore. I dunno, just please, no more feels. It’s feelings! How hard is it to type -ings!
Avengers Arena #1 and #2– From one teen superhero book to another, but Avengers Arena is definitely not aimed at the Tumblr-fanbase. In fact, it seems designed specifically to piss them off, and it has. The book is basically Battle Royale with superheroes (as the cover to #1 clearly demonstrates), as a bunch of Marvel’s teen characters are kidnapped by Arcade and forced to battle each other TO THE DEATH. It’s a cool idea, and one that for me, really works. To my eyes, characters like these are pretty much already cannon-fodder (see any Teen Titan in any DC crossover), so you may as well make a game out of it, and do something different, rather than having them be killed by a random death-ray in Age Of Ultron for a cheap shock. The artwork from Kev Walker is some of the best stuff I’ve seen from him, and Dennis Hopeless looks like a really promising writer. His dialogue is strong, and he’s managed to sketch out a few interesting new characters alongside the more established names (although they aren’t really that established). Look, I was as big a fan of The Runaways and Avengers Academy as the next guy, but I really don’t have a problem with this series, death is a part of comics (and life), and hell, in comics it’s only ever temporary. This is a new idea for superhero comics, and one that really works for me. This opinion maybe, much like my view on Young Avengers, due to my no longer being a teenager and too invested, but this is a good comic, and that’s all that matters, stop whining!
Cable And X-Force #1 and #2– Dennis Hopeless’ other Marvel Now! book, and whilst this one didn’t grab me as immediately as Avengers Arena, it’s still an intriguing series, and looks like being a decent replacement for Rick Remender’s amazing X-Force run. I didn’t read the previous Cable series, but this one has me interested in the character for the first time in a long time, and the idea of him being on his last legs is a good one. I also like how Hopeless is using Hope (Ironic considering his name), she was left in a very interesting spot after AvX, and having her appear in a lower-profile book works for me better than putting her into the Avengers or main X-Men title. I also like how the book depicts Colossus, another character who has new impetus post-AvX. The artwork from Larroca is very strong too, although I’m not a big fan of Doctor Nemesis’ new look. One question though, when did Forge come back from the dead? A comic called X-Force is never really going to be high-art (although Remender’s run almost reached that level at times), but it is going to be an action-heavy pulp-thriller, and Hopeless is delivering that.
I hope you enjoyed these reviews, it was good to get back into the groove. I'll try and come back with some reviews of the 3rd wave of Marvel Now books, including Uncanny X-Men, Nova and Guardians Of The Galaxy. I really am digging this relaunch.
You can follow me on Twitter @NiamSuggitt if you like, it's no big deal to me.