The X-Men books that didn't feature chapters of "X of Swords", which looks like it will be in the most annoying format for comic book crossover events (in which each chapter occurs in a different title, necessitating reading them all, rather than what I find preferable, a backbone mini-series, with optional tie-ins in the other books), will be getting sucked in this October.
So that means that there will be nine chapters of "X of Swords" published in October, a one-shot entitled X of Swords: Statis #1 (a cover of which is above) and the October issues of Cable, Excalibur, Hellions, Marauders, New Mutants, Wolverine, X-Force and X-Men. Whew! That's a lot of swords. Most of those books will cost you $3.99, but two of them are priced at $4.99, so if you're reading "X of Swords" in its entirety, you can expect to pay $37.91 for the privilege. For the October chapters, that is.
Amusingly, the folks who write the solicitations for the X-Men books seem to either not really know much of what will be occurring in each individual issue, or to not really care all that much about hyping it, perhaps thinking the presence of the X-Men and swords alone should suffice when it comes to getting readers and retailers excited.
So the solicits for each participating book include just three words or phrases. For example:
Descent. Penance. A legendary power reclaimed.Or:
Stealth. The power within. The burden of knowledge.And so on. They sound vaguely haiku-like, and I found myself counting syllables to see if any of them actually were haiku.
So I guess if you are scrutinizing these solicits and trying to decide if each chapter of the story is really all that necessary, um, good luck...?
There will also be a Spider-Man event launching in October, and it will be a much smaller, but somehow dumber affair. "Last Remains" will take place in Amazing Spider-Man #50, something called Amazing Spider-Man #50.LR, Amazing Spider-Man #51 and Amazing Spider-Man #51.LR. If there's a rationale for publishing four issues of ASM numbered thusly, as opposed to simply publishing two double-length issues or simply numbering the books #50-#53, I'd love to hear it.
Of the month's various variant schemes, the two most prominent ones seem to be "Timeless" variants by Alex Ross, featuring close-up head-and-bust portraits of various Marvel characters in their original costumes/designs (or, at least, the ones Ross likes the best, I guess, given that Beast is blue and furry in his), and ones by various artists in which Marvel heroes are amalgamated with Marvel's old horror characters, resulting in things like "LEGION OF X-MONSTERS HORROR VARIANT COVER BY RUSSELL DAUTERMAN" or "SPIDER-MAN VAMPIRE HUNTER VARIANT COVER BY AARON KUDER."
Unfortunately, there aren't examples of all of these horror variant covers released into the wild yet, as I'd really like to see them. And, in most cases, read a comic featuring that particular set-up, as opposed to whatever's actually going to be underneath the variant.
I'm sure writer Nick Spencer's "Last Remains" arc will be pretty good. I've certainly enjoyed all of his ASM run that I've read so far, and he's been teasing this Kindred character since the very beginning of it.
That said, a standalone story about a Spider-Man who has devoted himself to killing vampires because, I don't know, a vampire he could have stopped during a blood bank robbery but chose not to because he couldn't be bothered then goes on to kill his Uncle Ben...? Or maybe Peter Parker was bitten by a vampire, that was itself bitten by a radioactive spider...? Or maybe Blade himself gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man, the Daycrawler...? The simple phrase "Spider-Man Vampire Hunter" and Kuder's image fire my imagination in a way the solicit for the actual book does not.
I also like the way Gleason draws Spidey's head.
JASON AARON (W) • JAVIER GARRÓN (A) • Cover by MATTEO SCALERA
THE AGE OF KHONSHU COMES TO ITS THUNDEROUS CONCLUSION!
The ragtag Avengers take the fight to the power mad Khonshu, deep in the heart of New Thebes City. But which side will Moon Knight choose? And is Earth doomed either way?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
"Ragtag" is kind of a weird way to refer to this shared universe's premiere super-team, isn't it? Especially if the line-up in the book is the same one we see on the cover. Like, Blade and Ghost Rider III might not be long-time Avengers, but this team's not exactly made of Doctor Druids and Jacks of Hearts, you know?
KELLY THOMPSON (W) • ELENA CASAGRANDE (A)
Cover by ADAM HUGHES
VARIANT COVER BY MATTIA DE IULIS - MAR200920
VARIANT COVER BY J. SCOTT CAMPBELL - JAN209095
VIRGIN VARIANT COVER BY J. SCOTT CAMPBELL - JAN209095
VARIANT COVER BY TAKASHI OKAZAKI - MAR200919
BLACK WIDOW TIMELESS VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
TOMB OF BLACK WIDOW HORROR VARIANT COVER BY Joshua “Sway” Swaby
VARIANT COVER BY TBA
WIDOW NO MORE?
Something is very wrong with Natasha Romanoff: she’s…happy?! Retirement definitely agrees with the world’s deadliest woman as she revels in the perfect life she never even dreamed she could have. But scratch the surface of that perfect life and you’ll find something very strange…and a woman like Nat just can’t help but scratch.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Order using APR200992
Yeesh. The sexism at the Big Two runs so fucking deep.
So here's a new comic book starring Black Widow, probably Marvel's most prominent female superhero thanks to Scarlett Johansson's decade of playing her in somewhere in the neighborhood of eight films now, with an excellent creative team pairing a female writer with a female artist. And three of the book's eight covers are by dudes who look like they went through a checklist of sexist tropes for female heroes on superhero comics when planning what to submit.
There's J. Scott Campbell, perhaps the most notorious of this genre, doing his standard Barbie doll-figured woman standing on her tippy-toes pose, but making sure to include a "brokeback" pose as well. It's 2020. Has he never seen people complaining about brokeback posing online, and thought, "Hey, they have a point! Most human spines don't work that way normally and, for those women who can achieve that pose, it takes quite a bit of effort and is anything but natural!" Alternately, did no editor look at this and say, "Nice work J., but would you mind altering it so we can only see one of her breasts in profile? Thanks!"
Meanwhile, Adan Hughes, another artists who seems to have abandoned comics-drawing for cover work, is somewhat famous/infamous for his high-quality cheesecake art. His particular contribution is the strongest of the three, with a nice composition showing the character in different bits of action, but one of those bits includes Black Widow all tits out...for action!
Okazaki, whose work I'm not familiar with, also draws the character in her most generic, default sexy mode, with her catsuit zipped down beneath her breasts.
I don't mind exploitative comics art at all, but this doesn't seem like the right place for it, not unless Thompson and Casagrande are going in a very different direction for the character than expected.
At any rate, I find it incredibly depressing that Marvel needs eight different covers for this book, and they've doled six of them out to dudes (there are two versions of Campbell's cover listed), two of whom are notorious for their sexy lady cover drawings, and they hired no women for any of those covers (Unless "TBA" ends up being a woman, I guess). At the very least, it would be nice if one of those covers were by Casagrande, so people could get an idea of what her work on the title might look like before they pre-order it.
Like, I know what her art style is from seeing her draw other stuff, but I still have no idea what her Black Widow looks like. I only know that Hughes still likes drawing boobs, and Campbell is still drawing female characters wearing invisible high-heels, posing like their bones were made of rubber, and not much bothering to do anything else with the cover (This is, after al,l basically just a single figure floating in space, a logo and altered photograph background dropped in).
Written by ALAN ZELENETZ
Penciled by VARIOUS
Cover by MICHAEL KALUTA
In the proud tradition of THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, this comprehensive compendium of Conan characters – first published in 1986 – offers a detailed guide to the many heroes and villains featured in Marvel’s classic Conan comics! And with the 50th anniversary of Conan’s comic debut upon us, what better time to revisit this fact-filled handbook? Experience the A to Z of Conan’s savage world, filled with illustrations from some of the greatest talents of the era – including the legendary John Buscema! Don’t miss this indispensable reference tool for everyone’s favorite Cimmerian and his fearsome foes, allies including Valeria and Bêlit, and the many realms of the Hyborian Age! Reprinting HANDBOOK OF THE CONAN UNIVERSE #1.
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99
Goddam, now that's a cover!
MARK WAID (W) • NEAL ADAMS (A/C)
Without Galactus, there’s only one way the Fantastic Four can hope to stall the threat of Antithesis –
by absorbing the Power Cosmic to multiply their abilities a thousandfold!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99
Hey look, Neal Adams gave Johnny Storm one of those head-sock things that Gambit, Booster Gold and sometimes Cyclops wear. I hate those things! has one of those I hate...! There are of course, worse forms of headgear a superhero could be forced to wear, though. Like, for example, a tiara. Or...fake antennae...?
IRON MAN #2
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL (W) • CAFU (A/C) • Cover by ALEX ROSS
IRON MAN-THING HORROR VARIANT COVER BY MATTIA DE IULIS
TONY HAS COMPANY...AND HIS NAME IS KORVAC!
Tony Stark continues to roughly dismantle the fancy, shiny and sophisticated ways of his past…but the world doesn’t seem quite convinced that he’s changed his rich guy tune. As Iron Man, he takes the fight to the streets, looking to sacrifice himself on the altar of super heroism again and again—first with Arcade and Absorbing Man then with medical vigilante Cardiac—all in hope of redemption in the eyes of the public. Only trouble is he might get himself killed in the process, and there are still plenty of people in line with an ax to grind. Old friends like HELLCAT try to help him find peace of mind and speak truth to his stubborn god complex, but lurking on the horizon is a threat Tony—and indeed the entire cosmos—hasn’t seen in years…KORVAC…yet another guy who believes he’s smarter than the rest of the universe.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Here's a good example of a horror variant that looks more compelling than the comic its covering. While I think Arcade is funny and I generally like Hellcat, nothing in this solicitation really interests me enough to get excited about another new run on an Iron Man comic. But "Iron Man-Thing"...? That's a comic book I'd pre-order in a heartbeat!
Gene Luen Yang (W) • DIKE RUAN & PHILIP TAN (A) • Cover by PHILIP TAN
Variant Cover by MARCUS TO
THE HITS KEEP ON COMING!
Shang-Chi may have finally met his match in the form of this strange new assailant,
Sister Hammer – BUT WHO IS SHE REALLY? Find out in this shocking reunion!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Two graphic novels by Gene Luen Yang have come out so far this year. One, which he both wrote and drew, is Dragon Hoops, and it's easily one of the best comics I've read this year. The other, which he wrote while the art team of Gurihiru drew the art, is Superman Smashes the Klan, one of the better Superman stories I've read this year...or any other. And then there's...this.
While never a top-tier character, Shang-Chi is nevertheless probably Marvel's most popular character of Asian descent, and if America every elects a new government that actually cares to combat the coronavirus pandemic and we get back to the point where there are movies again, the character is poised for the sort of profile boost that Black Panther got when his movie came out (That's Marvel's plan, anyway).
So this project is a very good idea for Marvel to pursue, and it's easy to see why the character would interest Yang, given how it checks the boxes of some subject matter present in so much of his previous work. But man, it's weird to think of Yang as both the guy who made Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes The Klan and the guy writing a comic book where a sketchily-drawn has a mouthful of viscous saliva, '90s-style on the cover, you know...? (I like Marcus To's variant cover much, much more.)
When the first issue of the series was solicited, I was a little disappointed that Yang would be writing and Jim Cheung would be handling the art. Cheung's a solid enough super-comics artist, but I don't like his art nearly as much as I like that of most of the other artists Yang has collaborated with in the past or, come to think of it, Yang himself. But I like Cheung's art a whole heck of a lot more than I like Tan, who seems to be drawing the cover as well as some of the interior art in this second issue. (I didn't recognize Dike Ruan by name, but Googling him, his style seems to be very much in keeping with the modern Marvel/DC super-comic genre style.)
I'm not sure why this book has two different art teams consisting of at least three different artists in just the first two issues; I suppose the plan could be to have a different artist/art team on each issue either for some sort of story-telling reason or to share Yang's spotlight with as many artists of Asian descent as possible, but it sure gives me a sinking a feeling...