Friday, December 22, 2017

Marvel's March previews reviewed

You might not be able to tell from the solicitations as announced by Marvel, but the publisher has at least started to trim their line with a handful of cancellations, few of which are all that shocking. Like, they are dropping two Avengers titles (U.S.Avengers, Uncanny Avengers) and cancelling the solo books of X-Men characters who aren't named "Wolverine" (Iceman, Jean Grey). Does this mean the publisher's recent flailing has gotten to it enough that not only have they replaced their Editor-in-Chief in maybe the most controversial hiring decisions they could have made without giving the job to Dave Sim, John Byrne or Donald Trump Jr. (just to choose three names that would be pretty shocking to named the new EIC of Marvel), but they have also decided to maybe stop flooding the market with so many books that they are competing with themselves as much as they are with DC Comics...?

Not to judge by the number of variants. And though they may have sloughed off Iceman, Jean Grey and Generation X, they still have Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Red and will be double-shipping X-Men Blue and X-Men Red. And then there's New Mutants, Cable and all the Wolverine and Deadpool material.

And sure, two of the Avengers titles are canceled, but Avengers is shipping monthly. Oh, and they are not giving up on big, crossover stories, as a new Infinity something-or-other is going on.

As for the variants being produced for this month, two of the new themes seem to be Thor-related variants and New Mutants variants, which means you will see a lot of covers featuring Thor or Dani Moonstar or whoever popping up on books that don't feature any of those characters (like Jason Pearson's cover for X-Men Gold #23, above, which I just put up there because I think it has the Demon Bear on it, and I like the phrase "Demon Bear").

Let's take a look, shall we...?

I assume that the blonde guy in white on the cover of Astonishing X-Men is Fantomex, huh? He looks super-weird to me without his mask on. I never noticed how much his costume looks a bit like a color-swapped Blackbolt costume with a coat. I don't like it. Put your mask back on, Fantomex!

As Madame Masque, Eden and a crew of misfit villains take on Hawkeye and Hawkeye with renewed vengeance, our heroes dig deep into themselves to solve the unique challenges they face. Arrows can’t solve EVERYTHING, it seems. Who knew?! When the dust settles, what will the future hold for the two Hawkeyes?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Word on the street (i.e. Twitter) is that this will be the last issue of Hawkeye; Marvel doesn't do that thing DC does where they say "FINAL ISSUE" in the solicit, likely to keep people from dropping the book (but if you already clicked on that first link, you know it has also been reported on at The Beat). For some reason, some readers tend to abandon superhero comics once they know they aren't going to be around much longer, perhaps because they feel the books won't "count," but I don't know that I ever understood such behavior. A good book is a good book.

I found the announcement a little ironic, because the same day I heard it, Good Comics For Kids published my review of Generations, which includes a Hawkeye one-shot by Hawkeye writer Kelly Thompson, and one of the values I found in that book was that it provided a nice overview of the current Marvel Universe, the past Marvel Universe and, because the individual one-shots were all written by the same writers handling the characters' ongoing series, it also provided a sort of sampler platter; that is, if you liked the Tom Taylor-scripted Wolverines chapter, there was a good chance you would like Tom Taylor's All-New Wolverine.

I liked the Hawkeyes chapter an awful lot--even if an aspect seemed to contradict elements of the other story; while reading, I wondered if the individual writers knew what Nick Spencer was writing in his chapter, which explains what the heck was going on all along--which lead me to conclude that I would probably like Thompson's Hawkeye...and now it's going away! (Well, it will exist in two or three trades for a while yet, I imagine).

That may partly be my fault. That's the downside of trade-waiting everything a publisher publishes. A factor in what Marvel decides to discontinue and what it plans to keep publishing seems to be how well the serially-published units move in the direct market, yet Marvel has made buying serially-published units in the direct market basically a sucker's game, and even if you don't mind burning $3.99 for a 20-page chunk of a story that will be available in trade as soon as that story arc is completed, just keeping up with or keeping track of the erratically released, often randomly numbered books can be hard to do (I'm actually surprised Hawkeye's final issue is so low; for whatever reason, I guess Marvel didn't use "legacy" numbering on this particular title).

Brian Hibbs recently penned--well, typed--an open letter to incoming Editor-in-Chief C.B. "Akira Yoshida" Cebulski with some suggestions on how to right their ship. You can skim the first few paragraphs, but when he gets to the point of making recommendations, I think what he says starts to be valuable. I can only speak for myself, but if you look at a random "Weekly Haul" column from like 2006 or so on my blog versus a random "Comic Shop Comics" column from the past few years, you'll see the number of Marvel comics I read weekly went from "a lot" to "maybe a trade every once in a while, if I really like the creators involved, but usually nothing at all, thanks." That is entirely attributable to the fact that I'm not going to give Marvel four bucks for 20 pages of comics cut with 12 pages of ads.

Further word on the street indicates that while Thompson's Hawkeye is ending, she's got a something new that she is excited about coming up in 2018. My first and best guess would have been a return of Lady Hawkguy Kate Bishop's original super-team, Young Avengers. Of course, the current Champions book kind of already fulfills the Young Avengers team's niche, and I'm not sure there's a reason for a Young Avengers book co-existing alongside Champions and a Runaways revival. That's a lot of teen superhero books for Marvel at this moment in time.

A friend suggesting that Thompson may end up on Jessica Jones, and while I was hoping for Chelsea Cain, Thompson seems like a pretty good fit for that character, too, so I would be totally okay with that.

Infinity Countdown Part 1
The Saga of the Infinity Stones begins!
As the Infinity Stones reappear around the cosmos, the ultimate race for power is on!! Battles will be fought, blood will be spilled, lives will be lost… all as the greatest cosmic heroes and villains vie for possession of the Power Stone, towering over a remote asteroid, somehow grown to the size of a building. Watch as the path to Infinity opens before your eyes and the END lies near…
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

So for a second there I thought this was an image of Thanos symbolically crushing all of these various characters in his gauntlet-clad fist, but now I see they are actually all crawling out of the gems. That's not a bad image, and I love Bradshaw's style. I am assuming that is the old, not-Old-Man-Logan Logan, who seems to have come back to life in the pages of Secret Empire (waiting on the trade, so I'm not entirely up to speed yet). Hopefully he puts some spandex on or something, at least a leather jacket, because that outfit doesn't really go with anything else in that image...

Looks like Thor forgot to put her shirt on under her armor on this variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705.

If you consult this other variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705, you'll see that she usually wears a shirt under her breast plate, so her midriff isn't actually exposed as it is on the above cover.
What could have happened to it? Did she just forget to put it on? Or is she changing her costume?  Well, if you consult this other other variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705, you'll see that she spends at least part of the issue on fire... perhaps it just burned off...?

As the creators of Jessica Jones leave her to an all-new team next issue, they bid her farewell with one last very special, fully painted story — a truly incredible tale that no one ever gets to see. Be here for an unforgettable issue that ties threads together from all over the amazing Marvel Universe.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

See? As mentioned earlier Jessica Jones is getting a new, non-Bendis writer...and a new, non-Gaydos artist. If Marvel asked me to pick the new team, I would have chosen Chelsea Cain and either GURIHIRU or Brittney Williams--let's have a cute, cartoony Jessica Jones!--but they did not ask me.

Daniel Kibblesmith (W) • Carlos Villa (A)
Lockjaw and his hapless recruit D-Man end up in the prehistoric Savage Land! And Zabu, the last living sabretooth tiger, is not happy about it. But there’s no time to mark territory — a puppy is in danger, and Lockjaw will need Ka-Zar and Zabu’s help to find it! Who’s after Lockjaw’s lost siblings? And can D-Man get over his D-pression long enough to help?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

I was going to say that I bet Zabu is pissed that Ka-Zar is hanging out with a dog now, but then I remembered Lockjaw and Zabu are pals from their time on the Pet Avengers, and thus he's probably cool with Ka-Zar hanging out with this particular dog.

Peter Parker, his sister (?) Teresa and J. Jonah Jameson take a trip back in time! The massive events of issue #300 presented them with a problem so huge that the only solution is way back in the past. The biggest challenge here won’t be keeping Jameson from changing the future, but it’s up there!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

As I learned last week, this is a good comic and I liked it a lot. I see Zdarsky's Howard The Duck partner is Joe Quinones will be joining him on this title, which is welcome news. Adam Kubert draw most of the issues in the trade I had just read, and while he did a pretty good job, Quinones' style is better suited to the type of humorous storytelling Zdarsky is doing here than Kubert's style is.

This is my favorite Venom image of all time. It was drawn by Sam Kieth for a 2003 Venom series, and reappears in this month's solicitations because Marvel's True Believers reprints this month are all Venom focused. So that appears on True Believers: Venom--Shiver #1. If you're going to give Venom a long tongue, give him a ridiculous, even ludicrously long tongue, I say.

AWOL Part 1
The Weapon X Program has done it again! At the cost of their own destruction, they’ve completed their biggest and possibly most dangerous experiment yet… With the strength of the Hulk and the rage and claws of Wolverine comes WEAPON H!
It’s been some time since Weapon H escaped and destroyed his creators. Now, our hero is on the run, as he tries to escape his mysterious past and seclude himself from the rest of society. But when a new kind of Wendigo threatens the lives of others, will Weapon H be able to shirk his responsibility? Does any of his humanity remain? Only the creative team of Greg Pak (INCREDIBLE HULK) and Cory Smith (X-MEN BLUE) can give you the answers!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Hmm, "the strength of the Hulk and the rage and claws of Wolverine," huh? I think they should have gone ahead and given Weapon H here the hair of Wolverine, too. I don' t much care for his standard military cut here, and it's not really that distinct; he just looks a bit like the Gray Hulk with Wolverine claws. Give him sideburns and a Wolfman-like pointy hair though and you've got something.

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