Dissecting Marvel NOW!

I’ve held off on weighing in on Marvel NOW!, the publisher’s latest initiative to move comics off the shelves, due to a lack of information and overall interest. However, as news has slowly trickled out my interest has increased. This week’s announcements have put my interest into overdrive. So now, I’m going to give my thoughts on the Marvel NOW! books we know about, and speculated on the ones we don’t.

For those who don’t know, Marvel NOW! is a publishing initiative launching after Avengers vs. X-Men. There are new books launching, as well as older books relaunching with a new #1. The whole thing kicks off in October, with new books coming in the months to follow. Let’s start by looking at Marvel NOW! Point One. Similar to last year’s Point One issue, this over-sized one shot will feature several short stories by different creative teams that will act as previews for various books and story lines coming soon. The cover features the new Nick Fury Jr. throwing five dossiers featuring different Marvel characters. The characters are (left to right); Image #1: Loki, Wiccan of the Young Avengers, and Miss America. Image #2: Starlord, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Image #3: Cable, future son of Cyclops. Image #4: Ant-Man. Image #5: Nova, member of an intergalactic police force.

Now, let’s look at the solicitation for the issue.

Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Sketch Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Variant Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG

There’s a lot to be inferred based on the creative talent listed here and the characters shown on the cover of the issue. First up, we see that Kieron Gillen is listed as a writer. Gillen has been writing Loki for nearly 2 years in Journey into mystery. Could it be that he will continue to write the character in a new book featuring Young Avenger Wiccan and Miss America? Second, Brian Michael Bendis is currently reintroducing Starlord and the Guardians of the Galaxy in his Avengers Assemble book. With the Guardians of the Galaxy movie in the pipeline and Bendis’ role as a key architect of the Marvel U, it’s extremely probable that we could be seeing a GotG book from him. Since it’s been revealed that Ant Man will be in Matt Fraction and Michael Allred’s new FF series, it can be inferred that this is what Fraction’s portion of the Point One book will focus on. Likewise, it’s expected that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness will be handling Nova, as they did in the last Point One issue, and that a new Nova series by the duo might follow. This leaves writers Nick Spencer and Dennis Hopeless unaccounted for, as well as Cable. Again this is all speculation, but if it turns out to be true, I would definitely be interested in the Loki and Nova books, as well as the aforementioned FF.

Now let’s look at the original slate of books.

Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and John Cassaday

This is a really weird book. A core team of Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, and Havok is nothing less than eclectic. This book is billed as the flagship book of Marvel NOW! so it’s probably worth checking out. I love Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, but this book looks to strike a very different tone. This book, the only one of the original four announced to have a set release date, is coming in October. Click here for an interview with Remender about the series.

Avengers by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña

This book should be a must by for me as I love the work of both creators involved. However, the book will feature a large cast of 18 characters, ship biweekly, and carry a $3.99 an issue price tag. These factors make the book a much harder sell for me than it would be otherwise. Click here for an interview with Hickman discussing Avengers and New Avengers.

New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting

This is definitely a book I question the necessity of. With Hickman’s normal Avengers shipping twice a month already, what place could New Avengers have? Hickman has said that the premise of the book isn’t quite what one might expect, and that once you see it, it will all make sense. Still, color me skeptical.

All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immomen

This strange new book is Bendis’ grand entrance into the X-books. The hook? The original five X-Men, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Ice Man, time-travel to the present day Marvel Universe and they don’t like what they see. It’s definitely an interesting premise, just with all the possible character interactions, but I’m tentatively uninterested. Click here for an interview with Bendis regarding the book.

Since the original announcement, Marvel has revealed eight more books arriving in the month of November. Those books are:

Iron Man by Keiron Gillen and Greg Land

Current Uncanny X-Men collaborators are moving over to Iron Man. This is one big stinking pile of meh for me. Keiron Gillen is a really capable writer, but Iron Man just doesn’t interest me much and gah Greg Land art. I like the new suit though. Click here for an interview with Gillen regarding Iron Man.

Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

This one is actually pretty interesting. Aaron is planning on telling a Thor story across three different eras; thousands of years in the past, the present day, and a Dark Knight Returns-esque future. Overall the book sounds like it will be pretty self-contained from the rest of the Marvel U, at least initially. This is an intriguing idea, but probably not worth $3.99. Click here for an interview with Aaron regarding Thor.

Indestructible Hulk by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

Here’s a winner in my book. Mark “I’m and industry legend and I just won three Eisners” Waid is making his mark on Marvel’s emerald giant. I missed the boat on Waid’s Daredevil, which is heralded my many as the best superhero comic currently published. I wont make that mistake again. This is at least a first issue purchase. Click here for an interview with Waid and Yu regarding the Hulk.

Deadpool by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan and Tony Moore

I’ve never heard of either of the writers, apparently they’re comedians. Deadpool is often played for slapstick humor, so you can probably guess how this is going to go. If that’s your thing, go for it. I bet the Tony Moore art will look nice. Click here for an interview with the creative team discussing Deadpool.

Fantastic Four by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley

Fraction has some pretty big shoes to fill coming in after Jonathan Hickman’s incredible run on Marvel’s First Family. However, based on what he has planned for the series, it could be a lot of fun. Pitching the book as a family field trip through time and space, Fraction hopes to make the book more all-ages friendly. He goes on to describe the book as “the Pixar version of Fantastic Four.” As long as we get the outlandish ideas and incredible scale that a book about these characters deserves, I’m all for it. Also, I really like Bagley’s rendition of the team’s new costumes.

FF by Matt Fraction and Michael Allred

All right, this is the money beat. While the Fantastic Four are adventuring in the main book, they leave behind a handpicked team of heroes in their place. The team includes Ant-Man, Medusa (Queen of the Inhumans and wife of Blackbolt), She-Hulk, and Ms. Thing, a new character. While the concept and the team are intriguing enough, it’s the art by Allred that make this book a must buy for me. It’s unclear what role the Future Foundation characters introduced by Hickman will play in this book, but their inclusion would just be icing on the cake. This is currently my most anticipated Marvel NOW! book. Click here for an interview with Fraction discussing Fantastic Four and FF.

Captain America by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.

I’m definitely not a big Captain America fan. I’ve tried reading Brubaker’s critically lauded run but I couldn’t get into it. I also think Captain America is one of the weaker Marvel movies (second only to Iron Man 2). That said, I’m a big fan of the creative team here, and Remender’s pitch is pretty interesting. Shying away from the WWII rooted nature of Brubaker’s run, Remender will instead tell stories centered around the time before Steve Rogers was Captain America, tying things in to present day events. The first villains to be featured are the classic Arnim Zola and the Green Skull, a new character who wants to turn humanity into plant food. The “sci-fi, pulp fantasy” angle could be really interesting. I’m going to wait and see on this one. Click here for an interview with Remender regarding Cap.

X-Men Legacy by Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat

The last of the recent batch of new books to be announced is a relaunched X-Men Legacy book. This incarnation of the series will focus on the mutant Legion, son of Charles Xavier and wielder of multiple psychic powers spread across multiple personalities. Writer Si Spurrier has stated that this is not a “team” book in the traditional sense and will focus mostly on establishing Legion as a character. With really almost no information to go on (this book seems to be based heavily on major events coming at the end of AvX, so hush hush) it’s hard to tell what this book will be like. I do love the cover image, and that $2.99 price tag is pretty sweet. I just wonder if he’ll keep the giant mohawk/flat-top hair style. Click here for an interview with Spurrier regarding X-Men Legacy.

What else do we know?

Rather than revealing all their books and plans at once, as DC did with the New 52, Marvel is releasing information piecemeal. This is likely because, unlike DC, Marvel is rolling out its new initiative over the course of a few months. The earliest reports indicated that the launch would include around 20 titles. We now have confirmation of 12 titles. Of those 12 titles, only4 are at the $2.99 price point. All titles will include Marvel AR functionality, and $3.99 titles will continue to offer a free digital copy. Surprisingly, Deadpool, a $2.99 book, will also include a digital copy. Other $2.99 books, Fantastic Four, FF, and X-Men Legacy, are not indicated as including the digital copies. I believe that Marvel should include a free digital copy regardless of price point. The extra dollar could go towards more content, not a digital copy that some may not even want. Marvel and DC have both been a little erratic in their marketing of digital comics, but that’s a topic for a different time. If marvel is going to include digital copies with some books, they should include them with all. If that means all books have to cost $3.99, so be it. While they have not completely held the line at $2.99, DC’s price point consistency is a major draw.

With Marvel NOW!, the company is reshuffling creative teams and restructuring book lines. This restructuring leaves several seemingly redundant books, especially in the Avengers and X-Men lines. I already questioned the need for a new “New Avengers” book, but books current books like Secret Avengers, X-Men, and Astonishing X-Men are really kind of superfluous at this point. With around 6 Avengers books and 7 X-books, it might be a good idea to use this opportunity to trim a little more fat.

All in all I would say that so far there is something for everyone in Marvel NOW!. While the initiative doesn’t excite me nearly as much as the New 52 did, the concept seems a little stronger while being far less gutsy. Keep checking back here for more info, and if you’re a Marvel fan or just interested in getting into comic books, look out for Marvel NOW! in October.

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