Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marvel's March previews reviewed

The theme for Marvel's variants in March is something called "WOMEN OF MARVEL," but I'm not sure if that means WOMEN WHO CREATE THE COVERS OF MARVEL or WOMEN WHO ARE MARVEL CHARACTERS. The few examples I saw in the solicits for the month feature a female Marvel character by a female artist, so that doesn't really answer my question for me.

It seems to be a relatively unusual month for the publisher in that there isn't a big crossover/event series going on, at least not at a big, line-wide, status quo-altering level. There are a few little crossovers between books, but the biggest of March's seems to be one called "Black Vortex," which is written by Brian Michael Bendis and Sam Humphries and will include All-New X-Men, Guardians of The Galaxy, Guardians Team-Up, Legendary Star-Lord and Nova, and it seems to be one of those particularly annoying sorts of crossovers, in which each chapter takes place in a different book. That makes reading one of the involved titles monthly, as it or they are published, annoying, as you have to read the others as well, or just sort of muddle through, and also makes reading in trade collection difficult, as Marvel will likely collect the book like "The Trial of Jean Grey" or "Battle of The Atom," as a big, fat standalone collection of its own, and, the trade collection of, say, Guardians will appear to have holes in it.

Also, you'll notice one of those books is not quite like the other—The teenage original X-Men who have time-traveled to the present from the past sure do seem to spend a lot of time in outer space, don't they? Original Cyclops, for example, has his own monthly, set entirely in outer space.

Anyway, let's take a look at some of the noteworthy book Marvel would like us‚ and by "us" I mean "you" because there's no way I'm paying $3.99 or more for a Marvel comic book, in the month of March.


ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #12
FELIPE SMITH (w)
FELIPE SMITH (A/C)
FATAL FINISH LINE!
• What is the shocking fate of ROBBIE’S brother, GABE?
• Will Robbie finally be pushed over the edge by the evil of ELI MORROW?
• And…THE MOST UNEXPECTED GHOST RIDER EVER!!!!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hmm...it's too bad that Marvel doesn't do that "FINAL ISSUE" thing that DC does in their solicits, as I'm never entirely sure if they're canceling a book or not just by the solicits. This one seems to suggest that they are, given the "FATAL FINISH LINE!" line and the the rather finale sounding nature of a few of those bullet points.

If so, it's too bad. I really liked the first volume of this series and was looking forward to more. Of course, one of the things I liked most about that first volume was the artwork, and this is at least the third artist to draw it in it's 12-issue existence. Good thing they've all been good artists, but still, All-New Ghost Rider may have had a particular general aesthetic, but was never defined by the work and style of a signle artist.

Oh, and I hope "THE MOST UNEXPECTED GHOST RIDER EVER!!!!" isn't just Gabe in a flaming wheelchair, because I've totally been imagining that since the moment the character was first introduced.



ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1
JEFF LEMIRE (W) • RAMON PEREZ (A/C)
...
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY AFUA RICHARDSON
VARIANT COVER BY JEFF LEMIRE
...
THE AVENGING ARCHERS ARE BACK!
• Hawkeye returns in an all-new series featuring superstar writer Jeff Lemire in his Marvel debut and Eisner Award-winning artist Ramon Perez, as they bring you a fresh new look into the life of everyone’s favorite Avenger. With Kate Bishop, his trusted ward and protégé back at his side (not titles she would use), Team Hawkeye is thrown into an all new adventure spanning two generations of avenging archers. Past and present lives collide as Kate and Clint face a threat that will challenge everything they know about what it means to be Hawkeye.
• But no one puts Hawkeye in a corner.
• Hawkeye and Hawkeye take aim March 2015!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Huh. The Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye kinda lost me when it abandoned a schedule, and this is a very interesting creative team, although not interesting enough to spend $4 a month on (Also, despite the continued presence of both Hawkeyes, I can't imagine this will be much of anything like the previous Hawkeye series, aside from, you know, being about archers who like to wear purple and go by the name Hawkeye, of course).

Lemire is making his Marve debut after years of writing for DC. Lemire's a competent scripter of superhero comics, but I'm having trouble of thinking of any superhero comics I've read that didn't fall somewhere between pretty bad and rather mediocre (I think Frankenstein may have been his best, and it was just okay).

His best comics have always been the ones he writes and draws and he's not drawing this one—variant cover feature Kate Bishop aside.

Also of interest is the presences of Ramon Perez, the artist of the excellent Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, on a monthly (one that will likely prove to be a mid-list at best monthly, and probably not worth his talents). The book should look good for as long as Perez plans to stick around, but it will look good in a completely different way than Aja and company's Hawkeye.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16.1
GERRY CONWAY (W) • CARLO BARBERI (A)
Cover by ARTHUR ADAMS
...
SPIRAL begins here!
• The underworld is in a constant flux and has been since the Kingpin got taken out at SHADOWLAND. That war is heating up and Spidey’s going to do something about it.
• But he’s not the only one-- Police Captain Yuri Watanabe is trying to curtail the madness both in her day job as a police office and as the vigilante THE WRAITH!
• Do she and Spidey play by the same rules?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


I briefly got very excited upon seeing this, as I thought Adams might be drawing the interiors as well, but he's just drawing the cover.

Now, if you look at that cover, you'll notice Tombstone, Mister Negative, Hammerhead, Black Cat and the Circus of Crime. But you will not notice the current kingpin of crime as established in the final issue of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, much of which dealt with the matter of who would ultimately control crime in New York.

That's too bad, as I wouldn't mind seeing more of...that character, and the character who legitimized his control, in other comics, even if they're not written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.


BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD #1 (of 5)
DENNIS HOPELESS (W) • TIGH WALKER (A)
Cover by PASQUAL FERRY
...
THE WORLD FAMOUS, THRILL-PACKED DISNEY ATTRACTION ROARS TO LIFE AS AN ALL-NEW MARVEL EPIC BURSTING WITH ACTION, ROMANCE, MYSTERY, AND ADVENTURE!
• Millions of fans have climbed aboard the “wildest ride in the wilderness”—and now Marvel hurtles you through the mists of time to reveal the never-before-told saga of how the dangerous gold mine of Big Thunder Mountain became the haunted legend it is today!
• Malevolent mine owner Barnabas T. Bullion is determined to shelter his teen daughter Abigail from the dangers of the Wild West, but this brave young hero has other ideas…which include robbing her own father’s mine as a masked bandit!
• Earthquakes! Floods! Dynamite-chewing goats! Can the denizens of Rainbow Ridge survive the clash between mankind’s greed and nature’s fury? And what is the protective power that dwells deep within the mysterious mountain? Surprises await you in the latest Disney Kingdoms saga by the acclaimed duo of Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman) and Tigh Walker (Avengers Undercover)!
32 PGS./All Ages …$3.99
Elements based on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad © Disney

You know what this means, right? We're one step closer to Marvel publishing a Country Bears Jamboree comic book series.


Here's a typically great Mike del Mundo cover, this one for Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldeir #6, with interior art by someone who is not Mike del Mundo.


CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #6
AL EWING (W) • LUKE ROSS (A)
COVER BY Sanford Greene
• Existential horror from beyond as CORTEX Incorporated drops the mask – and shows its true face!
• For one of the Mighty Avengers, the nightmare is starting all over again...
• Is this story even in continuity? Are YOU even in continuity? LOOK IN THE MIRROR – WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hey, that's a really great cover.


DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE - HOUSE OF CARDS #1 (of 5)
ROBIN FURTH & PETER DAVID (W) • PIOTR KOWALSKI (A)
Cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO
...
STEPHEN KING’S DARK FANTASY EPIC RETURNS—AS EDDIE DEAN COMES FACE TO FACE WITH THE GUNSLINGER!
• Eddie Dean, the troubled young man gifted with the ability to open doors to other worlds, has smuggled narcotics from Nassau to New York City, but now has to escape a packed airplane guarded by armed Custom Agents!
• How will Eddie avoid prison and yet also fulfill his contract with the dangerous mobster Balazar?
• The answer lies in Mid-World, and with a dying gunslinger named Roland!
• The second chilling chapter begins by writers Peter David (Spider-Man 2099) & Robin Furth (The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance), and artist Piotr Kowalski (Marvel Knights: Hulk)!
32 PGS./Parental Guidance …$3.99


Hey, they're still making these Dark Tower comics...? Remember when Marvel first announced these? They were supposed to be a very big deal. Then they just kinda slipped off the radar. In fact, the only reason I noticed this one among the solicits was that the series had at least one sub-title too many.


HOWARD THE DUCK #1
CHIP ZDARSKY (w) • JOE QUINONES (A/C)
VARIANT cover by CHIP ZDARSKY
VARIANT cover by PAUL POPE
...
• HOT off the pages of the … the post-credits scene at the … the end of a … popular movie … HOWARD THE DUCK is back! Join him as he takes on the weird cases that only a talking duck can crack as the Marvel Universe’s resident private investigator!
• Let Sex Criminals’ CHIP ZDARSKY (a writer known mostly as an artist) and JOE QUINONES (an artist known mostly as a lover) guide you through his new world as he takes on THE BLACK CAT and MYSTERIOUS FORCES FROM OUTER SPACE!
• WAUGH!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


I have pretty mixed feelings about this book, obviously, although I do like that Zdarksy-drawn cover, and I adore the work of Joe Quinones. I'm also kind of curious as to what Paul Pope's variant cover might look like, as I can't imagine a Pope-drawn Howard the Duck, really.

I don't understand why Howard is wearing pants, though. As I understood it, Marvel started putting Howard in pants after Disney made noises about suing them over the character, arguing that they own all images of cartoon and/or comic book ducks who are not wearing pants (I think that's what it boiled down to; I am not a lawyer). But since Disney now owns Marvel, can't Howard go pants-less once more?


MOON KNIGHT #13
CULLEN BUNN (w)
RON ACKINS (A)
COVER BY DECLAN SHALVEY & JORDIE BELLAIRE
NEW CREATIVE TEAM!
• CULLEN BUNN (DEADPOOL KILLOGY) and RON ACKINS (UNCANNY X-MEN SPECIAL) join JORDIE BELLAIRE on MOON KNIGHT!
• After the shocking events of MOON KNIGHT #12, Marc Spector is left picking up the pieces of what’s left of his life. Don’t miss this new exciting chapter of MOON KNIGHT!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hey look, Moon Knight, which just relaunched about a year ago under the creative team of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, is getting another new creative team, it's third so far. A trade paperback collecting the six-issue run from the previous team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, which Marvel is calling "Season Two" of the series, is included in this month's solicitations as well.

Apparently the plan going forward then is to change teams every six-issues or so, making the book not completely unlike Astonishing X-Men, which, after Joss Whedon and John Cassaday concluded their run, became a sort of anthology series, with different arcs by different high-profile creators for a bit.

No offense to Mr. Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins, the latter of who I've never actually heard of that I recall, but these teams seem to be getting less and less commanding in terms of stature and market draw, so I wonder how many more "seasons" this "show" has left...


PRINCESS LEIA #1-2 (of 5)
MARK WAID (w) • TERRY DODSON (a/C)
ISSUE #1 - Teaser Variant COVER by JOHN CASSADAY
CONNECTING VARIANT COVER C BY J. SCOTT CAMPBELL
VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
SKETCH VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
VARIANT COVER BY MARK BROOKS
YOUNG VARIANT BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
ACTION FIGURE VARIANT COVER BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
VARIANT COVER BY BILL SIENKIEWICZ
MOVIE VARIANT COVER
BLANK VARIANT COVER ALSO AVAILABLE
ISSUE #2 - VARIANT COVER BY TBA
• When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire as a Rebel spy, she never betrayed her convictions, even in the face of the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, she grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire—the destruction of the Death Star. But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains...what is a princess without a world?
• Writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and artist Terry Dodson (Avengers & X-Men: Axis, Uncanny X-Men) bring us a story of Leia’s quest to help her people and find her place in the galaxy.
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T …$3.99 (EACH)


That's it...soak it all in. Count 'em if you like. Eleven. There are 11 variant covers for the first issue of a five-issue Princess Leia miniseries.


ROCKET RACCOON #9
SKOTTIE YOUNG (W) • JACOB PARKER (A)
COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY JANET LEE
MONSTER MASH!
• In the not-so-distant future, what happens when you water Groot a little too much?
• GROOTZILLA has arrived, and he ain’t happy!
• He’s faster than a speeding Rocket, more powerful than Drax the Destroyer, and able to eat tall buildings in a single gulp!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99


Well, well, well, guess which Guardians of the Galaxy-related, space-based book isn't invited to the big, multi-book "Black Vortex" crossover story...


SPIDER-WOMAN #5
DENNIS HOPELESS (w) • JAVIER RODRIGUEZ (a/C)
VARIANT COVER BY KRIS ANKA
DESIGN VARIANT COVER BY KRIS ANKA
...
• With SPIDER-VERSE in the rear-view, Jessica strikes out to make a new life for herself.
• But she’s not going to do it alone, as she’s joined by new SPIDER-WOMAN supporting cast-mate and classic Marvel character BEN URICH!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


There was no cover image included with the solicitation for this book that ran on Comic Book Resources, but given the fact that there's a "design variant," I'm assuming this is the issue in which Spider-Woman gets her new costume.

I never thought her original costume was all that great—not unlike Spider-Man's, there's nothing really spidery about it, and the armpit web-wings always struck me as weird—but, also like Spider-Man's, the primary colors and all-around strangeness of the look eventually wins one over.

While looking at Spider-Woman's original and new costume earlier in the week, I did notice that the original costume looked infinitely better as originally drawn, and doesn't fare very well in more modern times, when she seemed to be wearing red and yellow body paint, and artists typically drew her so you could see her muscles, belly button, veins and labia threw her costume (But never her nipples! Superheroes don't have nipples!). Additionally, red and yellow tend to look...wrong in a lot of 21st century Marvel comics, particularly of the espionage-style comics Spider-Woman tended to be featured so prominently in during the last decade and a half or so.

Not that bad, really.

Aaa! Bad! Bad!

The new costume looks...well, it's okay. It doesn't knock my socks off, and looks a little derivative of Batgirl's new look, and costume updates that Mockingbird and Ms./Captain Marvel Carol Danvers have received in the recent past. It's not as distinct a look, but it is a more practical and realistic look, and one that Hollywood costume designers will have an easier time adapting into live-action films or TV shows.

I do find it remarkable that Ms. Marvel has gone this long—37 years or so?—without a costume update. That is crazy in the world of superhero comics. Ancient, stalwart characters like Captain America, Namor, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have their costumes change more frequently than that, despite the fact that we tend to think of them as change-less in an abstract sense (Granted, with Superman and Batman especially, the changes are usually just tweaks or temporary ones—an yellow oval that comes than goes, etc).

I think that's probably attributable to the fact that while Spider-Woman's been around a long time now, she hasn't been a high-profile enough of a character that she's been in the public eye in a starring capacity long enough for anyone to really notice/care what she was wearing.

By the way, I think this is officially the longest I've spent thinking about Spider-Woman in my whole life.


STAR WARS LEGENDS EPIC COLLECTION: THE EMPIRE VOL. 1 TPB
Written by JOHN OSTRANDER, RANDY STRADLEY, HADEN BLACKMAN & ALEXANDER FREED
Penciled by LUKE ROSS, DOUGLAS WHEATLEY, JIM HALL, CHRIS SCALF, MARCO CASTIELLO, ANDREA CHELLA & RICK LEONARDI
Cover by LUKE ROSS
Let the dark times begin! Marvel welcomes Star Wars to the Epic Collection program, with this first volume of a series focused on the years following STAR WARS: EPISODE III — REVENGE OF THE SITH! After the Clone Wars’ end, the Republic has fallen and Palpatine exerts his ruthless grip on his new Galactic Empire. Now, the few Jedi that remain must decide whether to hold true to their faith, or abandon it completely in the face of a brutal purge — one carried out by the new Dark Lord of the Sith: Darth Vader! Collecting STAR WARS: REPUBLIC #78-80, STAR WARS: PURGE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — SECONDS TO DIE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE HIDDEN BLADE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE TYRANT’S FIST #1-2, STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND #1-5 and STAR WARS: DARK TIMES #1-5.
440 PGS./Rated T …$34.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9398-2
Star Wars © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. Text and illustrations for Star Wars are © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.


Hmmm...well, it looks like Marvel will be collecting and re-publishing Dark Horse Comics-produced material after all. That's a really good thing, as there are a lot of very good comics produced by Dark Horse featuring the Star Wars characters and universe (I haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm reviewing very many of them, but I've been reading them like crazy of late).

I assume it's also good for the creators involved, who presumably reap some royalties from these new editions as well. Just looking at that list of creators, I see some I like a whole lot, including John Ostrander, Douglas Wheatley, and Rick Leonardi.

I don't know if this is the ideal, or even one of the better ways to collect Star Wars comics, but, at this point, Dark Horse's Star Wars line has grown so large and so unwieldy, I've basically just picked points at random and started reading, generally just gravitating toward a character or concept I like or a creator or creative team I like.

I do really like Dark Horse's Omnibus collection format, which curates related series together for a reader. That's how I read Dark Times, which I liked a whole lot, and Ostrander and Jan Duursema's Quinlan Vos comics (Star Wars Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi in Darkness). I've also read the original Marvel Comics in Dark Horse Omnibus collection, and Shadows of The Empire and Early Victories in that format. Crimson Saga and The Thrawn Trilogy also come in big, multi-series collections, although those were just nice, big, huge collections of those series of miniseries and not, in fact, omnibi (Anyway, here's a pretty good list on Comics Alliance; personally, I tend to look for stuff with Ostrander and Duursema's names attached, and/or Darth Vader and Empire shit going on in it).

I'm really very confused as to what's going on with Star Wars "Expanded Universe" continuity now. I know the next round of films will ignore everything not in the first six films, as they pretty much have to, but I'm less sure about Marvel's comics—are they going to ignore the "EU" canon as well? The fact that they're publishing collections like this makes me think they're not, but I don't know. It's not like it would be unusual for Marvel to publish a brand-name franchise with multiple canons, you know?

I'm glad they're collecting Dark Horse's comics. I have no idea how to go about doing so myself, so I'm glad that's not my job to figure out. I'd probably still recommend to anyone at all curious about Star Wars comics to check out their libraries and/or start snapping up Dark Horse trades in shops and book stores now while they're still there though, as Marvel is not exactly known for their robust, logical backlist of books and trades.


THOR #6
JASON AARON (W) • RUSSELL DAUTERMAN (A/C)
INHUMANS 50TH ANNIVERSARY VARIANT COVER BY LADRÖNN
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY STEPHANIE HANS
WHO IS THOR?
• That’s the question on everyone’s lips. Most especially Prince Odinson of Asgard. This issue, he starts to narrow down the list of suspects.
• Meanwhile, tensions continue to flare between the All-Mother and All-Father, Malekith forges his most dangerous pact yet, and Thor prepares to face her greatest challenge!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


A friend of mine picked up this series based in part around the hype of who the new, lady Thor was, and she was disappointed that the first issue didn't say who the new Thor was. I flipped through her issue, looking to see who the new Thor was too, and was also disappointed. I imagine disappointment and frustration would have been common emotions in anyone who plunked down $4 just to read 20 pages that told them only what they already fucking knew for months—there's a new person with the powers of Thor, and that person is a lady.

So here's the solicit for March's sixth issue, and it says that Thor "starts to narrow down the list of suspects." Starts! So you'd be out $24 and be a 120-pages into this fucking comic before they even start to narrow down the list of suspects...?

Yeesh. This could be one of the best comics on the stands, and it would probably still be enraging simply for the disconnect between marketing and execution. The hook is, "Hey, check out this new Lady Thor!" and the story is "Who is this Lady Thor? We can't tell you for, like seven months...maybe a year."


THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #3
RYAN NORTH (W) • ERICA HENDERSON (A/C)
VARIANT COVER BY JILL THOMPSON
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY TBA
• Time is running out, and the only way for Squirrel Girl to stop Galactus is to get to the moon... you know, somehow??
• See the unveiling of Squirrel Girl’s new Flying Squirrel Suit... that she maaaaybe borrowed from Iron Man.
• Also, the final face-off with Galactus! ON THE MOON.


I laughed when I saw that this issue would have a "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variant cover by an artist to be announced, as I imagined Marvel editors scrambling around to find a female artist to draw a cover for them and thinking, "Oh man, we already assigned covers to the, like, six artists who work for us! Now what?" If the "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variants are variants drawn by artists who are women, and not just covers featuring images of Marvel characters who are women.

Then I went back and looked at the cover and laughed again, because that little squirrel has a little space helmet on, and that' s adorable


UNCANNY X-MEN #33
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (w) • CHRIS BACHALO (a/C)
Cover by KRIS ANKA
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY STACEY LEE
• While things continue to heat up for the Summers family, Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin take on an assignment neither of them either thought they would tackle—is this uncharted territory for these two veteran X-Women?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


So I have no idea what's going on in this issue, or how all those Marvel monsters might tie in to whatever Bendis is up to with the X-Men now, but that sure looks awesome.

2 comments:

Czobit said...

I agree with you re: Lemire and superhero comics.

His best work in that genre, I would say, was his run on Animal Man. Everything else was forgettable.

I hope he breaks again with the trend on Hawkeye, but I'll wait for the trade to find out.

Saint Godard said...

Moon Knight changeover #3:

Was really enjoying the present run, too. Am I going to have to give up on Marvel keeping a creative team on anything I enjoy?

Quoth Kirby, "Comics will break your heart."