Marvel continues their new-issue rollout with seven first issues this week, plus three Secret Wars conclusions, some DC books, six indy debuts and the usual suspects. Let’s look:
The Uncanny Avengers #1 — Writer: Gerry Duggan; Art: Ryan Stegman; Colors: Richard Isanove
A couple of Avengers beginnings: New Avengers has a team run and financed by Robert DeCosta/Sunspot; he’s the new head of A.I.M. (long story), but now it stands for “Avengers Idea Mechanics,” and they have their own island off the coast of California (because that worked so well for the X-Men); the team consists of Wiccan and Hulkling from the Young Avengers, White Tiger and Power Man (the new one who can “manipulate chi,” which I think means he works at Starbucks…), Songbird from the Thunderbolts, and Squirrel Girl. Ewing’s going for a kind of weird-villain Morrison Doom Patrol tone, and to be fair we’ll have to give him a couple of issues to see how it works. The one disappointment is Squirrel Girl: Sandoval can’t figure out how to draw her very well, settling for super-exaggerrated buck teeth, and Ewing has no handle on her personality; all the lightness and charm from her own book is mostly mere silliness (it’s like back in the ’70s and ’80s when other writers tried to use Howard the Duck and only Steve Gerber could get him right). Uncanny Avengers, meanwhile, has Gerry Duggan replacing Rick Remender, and he brings in Deadpool; this causes Spider-Man to quit by page six, and Rogue to keep threatening to, but the team’s leader, Steve Rogers (still a grumpy old guy) doesn’t care; he trusts Wade, probably because he’s guaranteed to increase sales of the book. The group’s rationale now is that they’re a “unity” team, of Avengers, X-Men and Inhumans, so the Inhumans are represented by Synapse and Quicksilver, while the X-Men have Rogue and, I guess, Deadpool; what the other two members, the Human Torch and Doctor Voodoo, are doing there is unclear. Their first bad guy is a new Inhuman who can talk to the Earth/environment/Green ala Swamp Thing, and has the very Gerry Conway-ish name of The Shredded Man. Will all these disparate characters be able to work together to defeat him? Will the book decide whether it wants to be more like Deadpool, or more like an Avengers comic in tone? Given all the Avengers books out there, is there an Avengers “tone” any more? As with New Avengers, it’s going to take a couple of issues before this title’s prospects are clear.
Spider-Gwen #1 — Writer: Jason LaTour; Art: Robbi Rodriguez; Colors: Rico Renzi
A couple of Spider-books; Spider-Man 2099 sees Miguel O’Hara still trapped in current Marvel continuity, looking to get back home and trying to figure out how to change the present to give him the future he wants; it’s by the exact same creative team as the previous version, so everyone who liked that one should be a fan of this one too. Same for Spider-Gwen: Latour and Rodriguez are back as writer and artist, and the alternate-universe setup where Gwen Stacy got bit by the radioactive spider instead of Peter is still the same too; only the book’s numbering has changed, so previous fans should feel comfortable diving right back in.
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art: Valerio Schiti; Colors: Richard Isanove
Chewbacca #1 (of 5) — Writer: Gerry Duggan; Art/Colors: Phil Noto
The other Marvel debuts for the week: Captain America has a new writer/artist, and they waste no time in distancing Sam from his predecessor: he has strong political views, and a vision for the US, and speaks out about it (we aren’t told exactly what he says, but it’s presumably along the lines of “Black lives matter, and Republicans are idiots”), and as a result gets banned from S.H.I.E.L.D. and has half the country mad at him; he ends up in Arizona, coincidentally enough, fighting the racist Sons of the Serpent, who are doing a Minutemen riff at the border. All of this is talky (Spencer has a couple of pages where you can barely see the art because of all the dialogue and voice-over captions), and seems deliberately designed to make the heads of Fox News commentators explode — but good for it; it’s not boring, and it does its job of making me want to read the next issue to see where it leads. Guardians of the Galaxy, like the Spider-books, takes the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” road by bringing back the same creative team as on the previous volume, although they do shake up the Guardians themselves: Peter Quinn is now stuck running his planet, so Kitty Pryde is the new Star-Lord, and The Thing’s part of the mix too; fortunately, there’s the same space opera and fun dialogue with Rocket and Groot, so everything’s still cool (the book has a number of variant covers, but the main one, with Art Adams, is definitely the one to get, especially if you’re a Kitty or Groot fan). Speaking of space opera, there’s Chewbacca #1, which sees the Wookie on a solo mission, but stranded when his ship breaks down and he has to hang out on a backwater planet to repair it — and then he gets involved with a girl whose father is being forced to work in the mines, and… well, you can see where it’s going, but the Noto art’s pretty good, and it’s just a six-issue mini-series, so it’s worth a look.
Secret Wars: Civil War #5 (of 5) — Writer: Charles Soule; Pencils: Leonil Francis Yu; Inks: Gerry Alanguilan; Colors: Sunny Gho and Matt Milla
Three Secret Wars series conclude: A-Force gives its mysterious new member a name — Singularity — and seems to sacrifice her for the greater good, but since she’s on the cover of the title’s return as a mainstream-Marvel book in December, there’s not much to worry about; readers who want to know whether the relaunch will be any good should be comforted by the clear, steady characterization and solid themes of this one. Civil War does exactly what we all thought it would — the Skrulls’ machinations revealed, Steve and Tony have to work together and sacrifice blahblahblah — with only the nostalgia factor of the Yu art to recommend it, while Marvel Zombies turns out to have really been about Elsa Bloodstone and her father, but because Spurrier’s made her such an intriguing and complex character, that works out fine too, even if the actual zombie count was less than some readers might have hoped.
This long-delayed series is off in its own category, so just a quick shout-out to its nostalgic WWII flashback plot, which keeps moving from one cliffhanger to the next, and is always energized by Sale’s carefully-composed, good-looking art.
Bombshells #3 — Writer: Marguerite Bennett; Art: Marguerite Savage, Garry Brown and Laura Braga; Colors: Marguerite Savage, Doug Garbark and Wendy Broome
Batman #45 — Writer: Scott Snyder; Pencils: Greg Capullo; Inks: Danny Miki; Colors: FCO Plascencia
A quartet of DC books: Lois and Clark is the most interesting, as it takes the pre-new-52, married versions of Clark and Lois last seen in Convergence and has them ending up on the regular DC Earth right about the time of the Johns/Lee Justice League #1; instead of revealing themselves, they hide out, with Clark helping the world in secret as they raise their child Jonathan, who in regular continuity is now maybe seven years old. Jurgens, who has a long relationship with these characters, is a good choice to write about them, and if you miss the “old” Superman books this should be a natural choice. Bombshells plays with the multiverse too, with its pinup-friendly WWII versions of Batwoman, Catwoman, Zatanna (with a John Constantine who’s been turned into a cigarette-smoking rabbit), Wonder Woman and Mera slowly coming together (eventually with others) to form a Nazi-fighting super-group; the various storylines let the different artists involved each contribute their own styles (much like the old All-Star Comics did with its JSA stories in the ’40s), and the result is an effective combination of retro and modern sensibilities. Batman and Robin Eternal, with its second issue, looks like it’s going to be a team-up of various male and female bat-associates (Dick Grayson, Red Robin, Jason Todd, Spoiler, Bluebird and, with this issue, the new-52 version of Cassandra Cain, just so far) as they try to unravel one of those mysterious-past-sins of the now-“dead” Batman that’s come back to haunt Gotham; Pelletier’s solid mainstream superhero chops are a good choice for rendering all the various characters and action here. Batman, meanwhile, sees Jim Gordon getting fired already — except that he doesn’t want to give up the job, so he’ll presumably end up at odds with the police instead of being sponsored by them — assuming, that is, that anyone survives the murderous machinations of Mr. Bloom.
I Hate Fairyland #1 — Writer/Artist: Skottie Young; Colors: Jean Francois Beaulieu
Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf #1 (of 1) — Writer: Faith Erin Hicks; Art: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell; Colors: Maarta Laiho
Cursed Pirate Girl: 2015 Annual #1 — Creator: Jeremy Bastian
Eve: Valkyrie #1 (of 4) — Writer: Brian Wood; Art: Eduardo Francisco; Colors: Michael Atiyeh
A bunch of indy first issues — Twilight Children is the most anticipated, with its dream-combo of Hernandez story and Cooke art, and they turn out to be a good team — Cooke’s layouts, especially, aren’t that different from Beto’s, effortlessly staging the action, and both get obvious pleasure out of drawing sexy women. The plot concerns a Palomar-like town, with a Palomar-like cast of characters, dealing with a bunch of mysterious glowing balls (or, maybe, just one that keeps appearing and disappearing), but it’s only four issues, and can’t be anything other than good. I Hate Fairyland sounds like a can’t-miss prospect too: Skottie Young on a young girl drawn into an Oz-like world, except that she’s now been trying to get home for 27 years, with her body never aging but her mind getting increasingly older and more pissed, to the point that using high-tech weaponry to slaughter everybody is starting to look like a good plan. This is all written and drawn by Young with unapologetic sophomorism, so if you’re an unapologetic sophomore, or can relate to one, by all means get it. The Lumberjanes one-shot gives Faith Erin Hicks and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell 32 pages to play with the characters, and they deliver nicely: the art’s got a fairy-tale directness, just off-center enough to be eerie, and Hicks’ story makes use of that, along with getting everyone right, having a satisfying heft, and making its point gracefully. Switch is actually a Witchblade comic, filtered entirely through Sejic’s European/manga/’90s Image influences; if you’re a Witchblade fan, don’t overlook it. Cursed Pirate Girl is one of the things I love about comics: anyone can do them, and publish an obsessive, American-folk-art artifact like this, amateurish-looking but easy to fall into and get lost in. Eve: Valkyrie is women fighter pilots in space; Brian Wood, who’s been at this a long time, is smart enough to start with the title character’s current badass self in action, and then flash back to her earlier origins, and it looks like four issues should be exactly enough to tell this tale.
This one’s kind of by itself: it’s got great Jones art, although we’ve seen the alien-black-Superman plot before; at least Waid’s writing props it up enough to make it all work. There are some really good-looking panels in this comic….
Two books created by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Phonogram‘s the labor of love (which is why McKelvie’s taken time off of Wicked and the Divine for it), and it’s sleek and confident and imaginatively-told, but W&D has the advantage of a parade of talented guest artists in McKelvie’s absence; if you haven’t been following it up to now, though, good luck sorting out the sprawling, Game of Thrones-ish cast and its various intrigues.
War Stories #13 — Writer: Garth Ennis; Art: Tomas Aira; Colors: Digikore Studios
Low #10 — Writer: Rick Remender; Art: Greg Tocchini; Colors: Dave McCaig
Rebels #7 — Writer: Brian Wood; Art: Matthew Woodson; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
These are all books I’ve written about before — Goon offers a one-shot Hallowe’en story based loosely on an actual Theater Bizarre in Detroit (run by artist John Dunivant, which explains his co-credit on the comic). War Stories by Garth Ennis is, well, war stories by Garth Ennis, with this issue the first part of a look at American fighter pilots guarding bomber runs to Tokyo from Iwo Jima during, of course, WWII; what else do you need to now? Low is Rick Remender’s sf post-apocalyptic ode to hope; it will be interesting to see how Tocchini’s flowing style, so perfect for all the underwater scenes, will translate onto the blazing-white surface world when they get there. Sex Criminals takes a side-trip to spotlight yet another new character, hitting the pause button on the main story, but those are sometimes the best issues, and Fraction and Zdarsky mention in the letters page that anyone who doesn’t like it can, you know, piss off, exactly the kind of cheerful, FY attitude that makes this comic work. Rebels offers a one-shot tale about the women who fought in the Revolutionary War as toughly and bravely as the men, but ended up denied military pensions, and does its job of making history as fascinating and unexpectedly moving as its meant to be.