So: A bunch of new Marvel #1s, a couple of Secret Wars mini conclusions, an actual Secret Wars main-story issue, ten indy debuts, and some other stuff too. Let’s look:
A-N A-D Marvel Point One is one of those introduce-all-the-new-comics promos (although, even at 64 pages, isn’t $5.99 kind of pushing it for a book you really really want readers to buy…?), with a wrap-around story involving the older-meaner-Hulk character The Maestro and The Collector teaming up to evaluate potential combatants for the new Contest of Champions book; it’s by Al Ewing and Paco Medina, the team for that comic too, and introduces eight-page previews of five other new launches: Carnage, by Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins; Rocket Raccoon and Groot, by Skottie Young and Filipe Andrade; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., by Marc Guggenheim and German Peralta; All-New Inhumans, by Charles Soule and Stefano Caselli; and Daredevil, also by Soule and with Ron Garney on the art. Carnage establishes that ol’ Cletus is a psycho, and has the authorities enlisting Flash Thompson to track him down; if nothing else, it’s nice to see Conway writing Marvel books again. Rocket Raccoon and Groot is by the previous Rocket book’s regular creative team — which is a good thing — and has the pair on Earth during Hallowe’en. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the normal combo of comic and TV characters, with one of them seemingly a traitor (ho ho…), while the Inhumans involves Crystal dealing with more cocoons. Daredevil has the hardest job, in following the Mark Waid/Chris Samnee run, and Soule and Garney solve it by introducing a new viewpoint character, a young wannabe hero, and showing us DD through his eyes — not a bad idea, and Garney’s shadowy art, the opposite of Samnee’s sunny style, is probably a good choice too.
Avengers #0 does for the various Avengers titles what Amazing Spider-Man does for the Spidey books and A-N A-D MPO does for everyone else: its wrap-around focus is the Squadron Supreme, checking in on their competition as they plan to take over the world, and is by that new book’s team of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. The regular Avengers book is represented by a Vision and Scarlet Witch story by Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar, with the female-centric A-Force using a Captain Marvel story by G. Willow Wilson and Victor Ibanez; the New Avengers are by Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval, with Sunspot playing the Tony Stark/financier role, an interesting mix of younger characters (Squirrel Girl!) and a very interesting villain. Even more interesting is Uncanny Avengers, which is represented by a Deadpool story (so, he’s on the team?), courtesy of his regular writer Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman, while The Ultimates looks to stem out of the recent Mighty Avengers, with The Blue Marvel as a leader, flanked by Ms. America, Captain Marvel, the Black Panther and the Monica Rambeau Spectrum. That’s a lot of books, and a lot of different teams — and they all have at least a couple of intriguing characters or angles to them — so this comic definitely helps as a scorecard if you’re figuring out which books to buy
Yet another 64-page, $5.99 book, but along with offering previews this also offers the first episode of the regular Spider-Man series; that was a hit in its last volume, and Marvel has, wisely, done nothing to alter it: Slott and Camuncoli have been offering smooth, entertaining tales about Peter Parker and company for a number of years now, and this installment is no different, as Parker Industries is giving Tony Stark a run for his money (and, with Spidey installed as Parker’s “bodyguard,” the resemblance to old Iron Man books is even more pronounced). The preview stories involve Spider-Man 2099, who’s now in the regular Marvel continuity, by his longtime writer Peter David, with artist Will Sliney; Silk, by Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee; Spider-Woman (who’s six months pregnant as we first see her), by Dennis Hopeless, who made her last incarnation a hit with critics, and Javier Rodriguez; Webwarriors, which are all those alternate Spider-Men/Women versions from the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse title, including anthropomorphic swine Peter Porker, Spider-Gwen and a Spider-Man from India, doing an Exiles save-the-alternate-universes bit courtesy of Mike Costa and David Baldeon; and Miles Morales, the Adjectiveless Spider-Man who’s now also in regular continuity, by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Paco Diaz (that one ends with a reveal that will make sense to anyone who read the Secret Wars: Renew Your Vows Spider-title, proving that at least some of those books had an impact on the “real” world…) .
This book exists because of the Kabam/Marvel mobile fighting game of the same title, which has been reasonably popular (the editorial here claims it’s been downloaded 40 million times). As mostly a full-length commercial, don’t expect a deep philosophical plot; it’s the Collector and the Maestro in competition with the Grandmaster, pulling heroes both known (Iron Man, Gamora, Venom), unknown (a British Punisher; a Korean woman called the White Fox; a Frenchwoman, Guillotine, with a soul-sucking sword), and just plain silly (Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur, briefly). If you like Mortal Kombat-style, who’d-win? punch-ups, though, it fits the bill nicely.
There’s a movie in the pipeline, so Doc’s getting a new title, and he’s younger (without the white highlights in his hair) and more down to earth, although still recognizable. Writer Aaron gets on my good side with his first-page Steve Ditko origin collage, and then the wonderful Chris Bachalo seals the deal; Strange has always attracted A-list artists (besides Ditko, there’s been Gene Colan, Frank Brunner, Marshall Rogers, Paul Smith, and many others), and Bachalo’s fluid, detailed, otherworldy style is a perfect fit. This is a textbook example of how to deliver a first issue, too: start in the middle of a dramatic fight to demonstrate the hero’s powers, mix in background and supporting-cast details as you go, and set up a looming crisis to fuel reader interest; add in the great-looking art, and everyone who reads this initial installment should be back for issue #2.
This is another good example of delivering an effective first issue, but then you’d expect nothing less of Bendis and Marquez, who’ve worked together quite a bit. Bendis has an advantage over Aaron, in that everyone already knows Tony’s story, so he can dispense with that; he opens with action involving the villain, not the hero (Madame Masque, who’s pretty high up on the IM Rogue’s Gallery list, since of course you wouldn’t want to start with the Mandarin), covers Stark’s inevitable new cutting-edge armor, gets him on a date with a genius biophysicist to establish both his playboy and smartguy credentials, and then jets him off to Latveria, with a last-page splash that, yes, ought to bring everyone back next month too. Marquez is one of those artists who isn’t necessarily flashy, but doesn’t have a weakness: he’s good at face and figure work, at tech, and at action, and since all of those are on display here he’s got plenty to do, and does it well.
What If? Infinity: Inhumans #1 — Writer: Joshua Williamson; Art: Riley Rossmo; Colors: Iven Plascencia
Both of these books use the old Elseworlds/What If? model to look at turning points in Marvel history, although their jumping-off point here, the Jonathan Hickman Infinity, is barely two years old. Thanos imagines the purple god allying with the Avengers in that war, to predictably bad effect, while Inhumans has Black Bolt betraying the Avengers and serving Thanos, in order to save the lives of his subjects; the former has more action and familiar characters, while the latter has Riley Rossmo’s solid, sharply-designed, indy-cool art.
Secret Wars: Old Man Logan #5 (of 5) — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art: Andrea Sorrentino; Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Secret Wars: Siege #4 (0f 4) — Writer: Kieron Gillen; Art: Felipe Andrade; Colors: Rachell Rosenberg
Secret Wars: Spider Island #5 (of 5) — Writer: Christos Gage; Art: Paco Diaz; Colors: Frank D’Armata
All the Secret Wars stuff, winding down: the main series, whatever you might think of its myriad tributaries, continues to be a sprawling, impressive look at divinity, responsibility and madness (with, you know, lots of people in colorful underwear plotting against and punching one another, too), with two Reed Richardses teaming up, two Spider-Men finding the source of Doom’s power (and, thanks to Miles Morales’s absent-minded culinary habits, getting it on their side), Valeria figuring some stuff out, and the “real” Black Panther and Sub-Mariner encountering a message left behind by Doctor Strange, along with a significant gift — all drawn convincingly, but with an otherworldly undertone, by Ribic. Of the mini-series, Old Man Logan accomplishes its goal of getting its title character hooked up with the “real” Avengers, and establishing his angsty, second-chance persona; Siege has Thanos at the Source Wall, having a conversation that destroys it while dovetailing neatly into the main title’s events (although this issue’s cover, showing the Titan with an Infinity Gauntlet, never happens in the actual comic); 1602: Angela has no connection to the main story at all, but still delivers its Elizabethan faerie tale well; and Spider Island concludes its What If?-ish arc with all of its main characters (at least, the ones who aren’t dead) reasonably happy.
Paper Girls #1 — Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Art: Cliff Chiang; Colors: Matt Wilson
Of all the new indy first issues, these get special mention: Jughead because, first, Chip Zdarsky does such a good job of making its title character so relatable, one of those guys in high school who float above the fray, a couple of steps ahead of everyone else, with a zen serenity — at least, until Principle Weatherbee gets reassigned and a tough new principle arrives, one who thinks cafeteria food should be space-age, high-energy gruel and definitely not hamburgers or lasagna… which, of course, means war. Second, the art is by Erica Henderson, who also does Squirrel Girl, and she’s got such an individual, confident style, with a pinch of bigfoot humor here and a dash of realism there, that she manages to update the Riverdale crew effortlessly (we don’t even see Jug’s iconic pointy hat as unusual) and still make it clearly a comedy comic. Paper Girls, on the other hand, is more drama, but a Spielbergian suburban kids’ one, set in 1988, with its plucky tough-girl quartet of newspaper deliverers dealing with bullies and bonding, and then getting involved in an adventure that seems to involve aliens but, thanks to a last-page reveal, is something even more bizarre. Cliff Chiang’s art is solid and cinematic, with all the leads attractive in very different ways and some beautiful splash pages, while Vaughan, like he always does, delivers a relatable, emotionally-resonant fantasy tale that’s very hard to resist.
CBLDF Liberty Annual 2015 — Creators: Various
Axcend #1 — Writer/Pencils: Shane Davis; Inks: Michelle Delecki; Colors: Morry Hollowell
Codename: Baboushka #1 — Writer: Anthony Johnston; Art: Shari Chankhamma
Saints #1 — Writer: Sean Lewis; Art/Colors: Benjamin Mackey
Grumpy Cat #1 (of 3) — Creators: Various
You know, a bunch of other worthwhile stuff came out this week, but we’re already over 2,000 words, so let’s show the covers and sum each comic up in a sentence or two: Rowan’s Ruin is about an American woman who swaps homes with a British one, and then starts to get nightmares while living in it and…. well, the rest is what we’re going to find out. Mike Carey, who just finished Suicide Risk and, before that, Unwritten, is very good at Vertigo-type long-form fantasy (his 75-issue Lucifer, based on characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, is a worthy successor to it, and can hold its own with the line’s other perennial sellers like Preacher and Transmetropolitan. Go read it in trade form right now). The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Annual supports that organization’s battles against censorship and for First Amendment rights; it’s got a page from Art Spiegelman, an R. Sikoryak mashup of Dilbert and the Herman Melville novella “Bartleby the Scrivener,” some Jeffrey Brown, and contributions from Bob Fingerman, Eric Powell, Peter Bagge and Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, among many others. Consider it free with a $5 donation to the CBLDF. Axcend is a kid-plays-videogame, kid-gets-sucked-into-videogame, kids-starts-to-manifest-game-powers-in-real-life riff, with a couple of twists. Dead Vengeance is a Hallowe’en zombie-detective tale (guy wakes up in a tank of preservative where he’s a carnival sideshow attraction, and tries to find out how he “died,” while everyone remarks on how bad his now-decaying body smells); you can tell that creator Morrison grew up reading a lot of EC comics, and this is a nice seasonal tribute to them. Codename: Baboushka is a Bondish spy thriller with a female lead (the copy on the inside cover page calls her “The enigmatic heiress to a noble Russian line — socialite by day, assassin by night! Blackmailed by the US government to carry out dirty jobs even the CIA can’t sanction!,” which pretty much tells you everything you need to know). A Train Called Love is Garth Ennis (speaking of Preacher…), but is a lot closer to his cartoony, over-the-top Dicks, especially with Dos Santos’s straight-faced-but-exaggerated Jack Davis style, than to that earlier Vertigo classic. Saints is about three people who may be reincarnations of Catholic Saints Blaise, Sebastian and Lucy, and has art with a modernistic-European precision, while Grumpy Cat is… well, again, you can figure that one out (I like the way that, every so often, they draw in a cactus, to remind you it’s taking place in Arizona). Plutona is on its second issue, not its first, but its story of yet another group of Spielbergian (or, maybe, Stephen Kingian) kids who find the body of their city’s supposedly-invulnerable super-heroine lying in the woods has a twitchy energy (Lenox is like a union of Charles Burns and Andi Watson) and rings true.
Batman and Robin Eternal #1 — Writer: James Tynion IV; Pencils: Tony Daniel; Inks: Sandu Florea; Colors: Tomeu Morey
Sensation Comics #15 — Creators: Various
A trio of DCs. Telos leads directly out of Convergence (and is by its creative team), with that book’s world-ruling, ultra-powerful title character having been revealed to be a Brainiac pawn, and now being coerced by that green-hued bad guy into sneaking onto the planet Colu and switching off the artificial intelligence Computo (no, I don’t remember why…); the people who liked the mini-series should be happy to follow this too. Batman and Robin Eternal is a 26-issue weekly series modeled, naturally, on Batman Eternal, but with Bruce Wayne out of the picture in the present it uses a modern-day collection of his former sidekicks to fight a menace from Batman’s past and unravel what seems to be a shameful bat-secret buried there; Tony Daniel art, at least in this first installment, should help launch it successfully. Sensation, the digital-first Wonder Woman anthology, leads with an Adam Beechan script and art by the now-seldom-seen master Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; for readers under forty, the attraction will probably be more in the back-up, a Carla Speed McNeil ten-pager about a boy, his lion and the Amazon who helps them both, exactly the kind of quiet, unexpected, perfectly-paced gem that this platform was designed to encourage.
We Stand On Guard #4 — Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Art: Steve Skroce; Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #4 (of 4) — Creator: Eric Powell
Dark Corridor features Tommaso’s somehow-effective mix of broad cartoony style and noir plot, with characters leaping across rooftops, dodging bullets and screeching around hairpin turns in fast cars when they aren’t being beaten up, shot in the head or defenestrated; it’s energetic and fun. We Stand on Guard has the US, 100 years from now, invading Canada to deal with terrorist aggression; we see everything from the Canadian side, as Vaughan (him again) forces us to think about the ethical limits of military tactics, and why things we’ll put up with when they’re used against Middle Eastern people seem so cringe-worthy when used against our nice Caucasian neighbors to the north. Finally, The Goon concludes its most recent story, a very dark (even for it) tale that’s driven its never-exactly-cheerful title character as low as he’s ever been; will he come back, with the help of his supporting cast, and save the day? Hey, it’s a comic book — go read it and see!