Based on this month's round of solicitations, Marvel's "Fresh Start" looks to be anything but fresh, with a few titles being relaunched with new #1s and/or new titles, and with the usual suspects handling the writing.
In a few cases, like that of Iron Man and The Hulk, the original version of the characters are reclaiming the starring roles of their books. Of course, in doing them more or less all-at-once like this, it looks like in the short period of just a few months, Marvel is jettisoning all the characters who aren't white, male characters created somewhere between 1941 and the 1960s.
So in last month's solicitations male Thor reclaimed his book from female Thor. The last issue of Spider-Man, starring Miles Morales, is scheduled, leaving Peter Parker as the only Spider-Man with his own book (Not counting clones, of course). Previously, Captain America Sam Wilson resumed his Falcon code name and costume, so that the one and only Captain America is white dude Steve Rogers. Now we see that Ironheart Riri Williams has surrendered the starring role in the Iron Man comic book to Tony Stark, who will be starring in the new Tony Stark: Iron Man, and Amadeus Cho's Totally Awesome Hulk/Incredible Hulk is off the schedule, but it looks like Bruce Banner and the original Incredible Hulk are back in The Immortal Hulk.
Aside from the retreat from recent years' diversification through legacy characters--something that was, perhaps, inevitable, but doing it all at once like this can't help but make it look and feel reactionary, rather than part of the inevitable ebb and flow of superhero comic tropes--and the same old bylines being assigned different books, there isn't really anything new in here. Perhaps most emblematic of the staleness of Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a new Sentry ongoing series.
That's right, The Sentry! Conceived as a Miracleman/Marvelman-esque Superman analogue and originally appearing in a 2000 miniseries, the character was originally sold by then-EIC Joe Quesada with a dumb-ass, goofy stunt, in which Marvel claimed he was actually a character created by Stan Lee in the 1960s, but lost and only just recently rediscovered (that marketing accompanied an aspect of the character's shtick, as, like DC's Triumph, he was forgotten by all the other characters in his superhero shared-setting universe).
Brian Michael Bendis sucked him up into his New Avengers, and Bendis was the main caretaker of the character until some baffling stories, like how The Sentry was Moses or something, and then he turned into a crab and died in the pages of Siege, perhaps the worst comic ever written by a talented comics writer.
The new series starring The Sentry, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities, will be written by Jeff Lemire, who has been writing Moon Knight, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities.
So, yeah: "Fresh."
It is, of course, possible that Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a very gradual thing, and that lots of new, exciting, actually-fresh comics are set to start in the future, like, maybe in July. But for now? The line looks an awful lot like it did this winter, only with fewer good comics being published, starring fewer diverse, new or interesting characters. That, and there are some awfully alarming trends, like a huge emphasis on comics starring Wolverine--not All-New Wolverine Laura Kinney, whose book is canceled, but on-his-way-back-to-life OG Wolverine, Logan, whose the focus of a whole suite of miniseries.
Anyway, let's take a look at Marvel's June offerings, shall we...?
MARK WAID (W)
JAVIER GARRON (A)
CoverS by DAVID NAKAYAMA
A NEW SERIES FROM MARK WAID & JAVIER GARRON!
Wasp was just trying to help Ant-Man get home to Earth to see his daughter…but a little problem got in the way. Very little. Subatomic, in fact, as Scott Lang was lost in the vast spaces between atoms! Now, Nadia is his only hope of rescue…if only he would listen long enough for her to save them! From master storyteller Mark Waid (CAPTAIN AMERICA, CHAMPIONS) and Marvel Young Gun artist Javier Garrón (SECRET WARRIORS, STAR-LORD) comes a story of a big journey getting smaller all the time!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)
This is Mark Waid, so it should be pretty well written. The impetus for the miniseries is almost certainly the fact that a movie with this exact same title will be released in theaters this July. It may be worth noting that this Wasp is a completely different Wasp than the one who will be in the film. Both Wasps are the daughters of Hank Pym, but Nadia is a lot different than the film's Hope.
JIM ZUB (W)
SEAN IZAAKSE (A)
Cover by STEFANO CASELLI
The Champions vs. Alpha Flight? Ms. Marvel vs. Captain Marvel?
Saving the north just got a whole lot more complicated…
Plus…Nova no more?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
I always kinda liked the idea of Alpha Flight, although I found them to be a more fun group before Carol Danvers took over their team, turned them all into Republicans and enlisted her in her weird space army.
The Nova/Puck match-up looks pretty great on that cover.
MARK WAID (W)
JESúS SAIZ (A/C)
BLANK VARIANT COVER ALSO AVAILABLE
NEW SPELLS, ALLIES & ENEMIES IN THIS NEW SERIES FROM MARK WAID & JESUS SAIZ!
SORCERER SUPREME…OF THE GALAXY!
The Eye of Agamotto is closed! Doctor Stephen Strange has lost his connection to the Earth’s arcane power, and he can’t wait to recover while nightmares press against the seams of our reality. Tony Stark offers a 21st-century solution: When astral travel fails, try astronautical travel. Enter Doctor Strange: Space-Explorer Supreme! New spells, allies and enemies – new and old – await Strange beyond the stars, along with corners and secrets of the Marvel Universe seen here for the first time! Space is endless, but time is short. After years of threats, Stephen’s bill for magic use is coming due – who will come to collect?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Here, for example, is a not very fresh fresh start, even though I imagine the book will pretty great. Mark Waid, who has written Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, The Champions, Black Widow and Captain America in the past few years, and had a promising-looking, short stint on the Doctor Strange character in 2010, will be the new writer the the newly relaunched Doctor Strange. Again, no knock on Waid, who is good at this stuff, but he's not exactly a bold choice.
The new direction seems to be pretty similar to the new direction of Black Panther: He's going to space.
This is the cover of Marvel Rising: Alpha #1, written by Devin Grayson, and drawn by someone who is not Gurihiru.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG (W)
ANDY MACDONALD (A)
Cover by MARCOS MARTIN
MATTHEW ROSENBERG & ANDY MACDONALD BRING MULTIPLE MAN BACK FROM THE DEAD…SORT OF…MAYBE?
A handful of people’s favorite X-Man – Jamie Madrox – was alive for a while. Then he was dead. Now he’s not. But he will be again if he doesn’t kill himself trying to make sure he doesn’t die. It makes sense when you read it. Trust us. In his fight to not die, Jamie has stumbled across a threat even greater than his own death, but fixing it might make it worse. Can he save the world from himself?
On top of all that, the X-Men are mad at him now, and a mysterious new group of foes is after him, too. We can’t tell you who they are, but they’re pretty great.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Peter David has done some pretty great stuff with the Multiple Man character in the past, a mutant with an interesting enough super-power and divorced enough from the core X-Men goings-on that he can make for a fairly reliable lead character. That is, unlike most X-person solo series, a Multiple Man monthly wouldn't necessarily seem dead on announcement. Of course, this series is being pre-canceled, as it is a minniseries.
I'm not overly familiar with the work of the creators, but I do like cover artist Marcos Martin a whole lot!
JEFF LEMIRE (W)
KIM JACINTO (A)
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
THE GOLDEN GUARDIAN IS BACK! FRESH FROM THE PAGES OF DOCTOR STRANGE…
…but is that really such a good thing?
The greatest hero that the Marvel Universe ever forgot has returned! The Sentry – shining sentinel with the power of a thousand exploding suns – is back from the dead, but his troubled mind is far from finding peace. By day, he trudges through a mundane life as Bob Reynolds; at night, the Sentry soars across a gleaming, perfect skyline. But how much of the Sentry’s dual existence is real? And what of his dark other self, the Void?
Jeff Lemire (MOON KNIGHT, Black Hammer) returns to Marvel and unites with Kim Jacinto (AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER) for this mind-bending series that will shake the Sentry, and the Marvel Universe, to its foundations.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Why...? Seriously, why?!
JASON AARON (W) MIKE DEL MUNDO & CHRISTIAN WARD (A)
Cover by MIKE DEL MUNDO
JASON AARON & MIKE DEL MUNDO TAKE THE PRINCE OF ASGARD IN A WHOLE NEW DIRECTION!
Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.
56 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99
I wonder just how many times Jason Aaron has written Thor comics with a "#1" attached to them at this point. I feel like it has to be at least a half-dozen times. Don't get me wrong, he seems to be rather good at it. I've liked all the Thor comics by Jason Aaron I've read. It just seems like he keeps relaunching the book over and over and, again, is perhaps the least fresh choice to give Thor a fresh start.
Oh, and in my criticism of Marvel's whole "fresh start" thing, I neglected to mention that they are re-employing the "Young Gun" artist strategy, which is something from, what, late 2004 or so...? Mike Del Mundo is a weird artist to assign that designation too. I have no idea how old he is, and I'm not about to look up his age, but he's been working for Marvel for years now, and has had several very high-profile gigs for the publisher. So, even in a metaphorical sense, his career with the publisher hardly seems "young"...
DAN SLOTT (W)
VALERIO SCHITI (A)
Cover by ALEXANDER LOZANO
VARIANT COVER BY ADI GRANOV
VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
VARIANT COVER BY DAVID AJA
CONNECTING PARTY VARIANT BY KAARE ANDREWS (3 OF 3)
BLANK VARIANT COVER ALSO AVAILABLE
TAKE FLIGHT WITH DAN SLOTT & VALERIO SCHITI!
From the cusp of tomorrow’s dreams to the forefront of imagination, one man always soars on the cutting edge of adventure! You know his name. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And Iron Man…is an idea. Always changing. Always evolving. An idea without limit! Take wing with DAN SLOTT (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Valerio Schiti (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) as they propel the ultimate Self-Made Hero to new heights of inventiveness!
Tony Stark is Iron Man. The future is now. Strap in!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99
In recent years, Dan Slott temporarily turned Spider-Man into Iron Man--right down to the superhero identity posing in public as the bodyguard of the wealthy industrialist identity--so why not write the genuine article? Slott is something of a special case for the publisher, I imagine, as he's been writing Spider-Man for pretty much ever now, and had to move on eventually, but they have to find something for him to do, right? So why not Iron Man? But, once again, here's a new series launched by a guy who has been writing for Marvel for pretty much ever. Fresh!
Oh, and I generally take out the part where the variant covers are listed, but I left them in above to show just how heavily they are relying on variants to goose sales. Now, the five listed above might seem like an excessive amount of variant covers, but you haven't seen anything yet! There are so many goddam variants for this issue that the variants get their own solicit!
Check it out:
TONY STARK: IRON MAN #1
MANY ARMORS OF IRON MAN COVERS BY ALEXANDER LOZANO AND VALERIO SCHITI:
ADI ARMOR VARIANT COVER
BLACK AND GOLD ARMOR VARIANT COVER
CLASSIC ARMOR VARIANT COVER
FRACTION/SALVA ARMOR VARIANT COVER
GUARDIANS SPACE ARMOR VARIANT COVER
HEROES REBORN ARMOR VARIANT COVER
HEROES REBORN/KURT ARMOR VARIANT COVER
HULKBUSTER ARMOR VARIANT COVER
IRON MAN 2020 ARMOR VARIANT COVER
MARQUEZ ARMOR VARIANT COVER
MODULAR ARMOR VARIANT COVER
NOSE ARMOR VARIANT COVER
ORIGINAL ARMOR VARIANT COVER
SILVER CENTURION ARMOR VARIANT COVER
SPACE ARMOR VARIANT COVER
STEALTH ARMOR VARIANT COVER
SUPERIOR IRON MAN ARMOR VARIANT COVER
THORBUSTER ARMOR VARIANT COVER
UNDERSEA ARMOR VARIANT COVER
WAR MACHINE STARK ARMOR VARIANT COVER
As for those "Many Armors of Iron Man" variants, a few examples are given, and I guess they are just the same picture of Tony Stark thinking over and over again, with a different suit of armor appearing in his imagination:
Nnedi Okorafor (W)
ALBERTO JIMÉNEZ ALBURQUERQUE (A)
Cover by Terry Dodson
PART ONE OF A THREE-PART STORY THAT SEES THE DORA MILAJE TEAM UP WITH THE MARVEL U!
The blockbuster Black Panther film has everyone talking about Wakanda’s best warriors, the fierce Dora Milaje! Now witness the Dora outside of Wakanda – and in Spider-Man’s world! When the Dora catch wind of a Wakandan threat causing trouble in New York, they’ll leap into action – with or without their king. Don’t miss Okoye, Ayo and Aneka on a globe-trotting mission to protect the realm at any cost. WAKANDA FOREVER starts here!
40 PGS./ one-shot /Rated T …$4.99
This is interesting. Marvel saw they had something of a hit on their hands with the first few issues of Ta-Nehesi Coates' Black Panther--which is also being relaunched with a new #1--and immediately overextended the franchise, launching two other Black Panther books that were canceled immediately. Now that the film has made several kajillion dollars, it seems safe to try extending the brand a bit again, and here they are using the Dora Milaje. I'm actually a little surprised that Shuri isn't getting her own title or miniseries, but then, Movie Shuri and Comic Book Shuri are pretty different.
I love that it is described as a "one-shot," but is also "PART ONE OF A THREE-PART STORY."