Marvel goes for broke with a significant shift in its universe and a series of new titles.
NOW ... this is what I call Marvel! Having played second fiddle to DC Comics for a whole year, the House of Ideas is back with a vengeance. While their “Distinguished Competition” utilised the Flashpoint alternate-reality event to spin off a roster of 52 new titles, Marvel is going for broke with Marvel Now!
Its chief creative officer Joe Quesada insists Now! is not a reboot, but a “shifting” of the Marvel Universe following the events of the recently concluded Avengers Vs X-Men (AVX) mega-event. The changes will go beyond merely cosmetic (i.e. new costumes) and will also include shifts in the status quo, revised alter-egos, new creative teams and so on.
Last month’s Uncanny Avengers was just the tip of the iceberg, as the subsequent offerings pave the way towards a brighter future for the Marvel Universe. Besides the titles featured here, there are also new #1s for other characters such as Iron Man and Deadpool.
All New X-Men #1 Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Stuart Immonen
JEAN Grey returns (for the umpteenth time!) together with the original X-Men! No, it’s neither a hoax nor a “What if…?” story, and there is definitely no cloning involved. Falling back on the old time-travel option, Beast deduces that the only way to undo the damaged caused by Cyclops during AVX is to get the latter’s younger self to correct his future self.
While confusing initially, the sight of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s pioneering Children of the Atom team dispelled whatever concerns I had about this blast-from-the-past escapade.
Being a huge fan of the original X-Men (thanks to the Cyclops and Jean romance, as well as the cool dark blue duds), I am all for this X-citing “old meets new” event. The inevitable showdown between the younger Cyclops and today’s “Leader of Mutants” Cyclops should hog the limelight for a good dozen issues, but what’s equally intriguing is how Jean adapts to her new surroundings, particularly when coming to terms with eventualities in her “future” such as her role as Dark Phoenix, her “relationship” with Wolverine, and also Cyclops’ current squeeze, Emma Frost!
Fantastic Four #1 Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Mark Bagley
WHEN Reed Richards mutters “Uh-oh”, you know the outcome has to be something cataclysmic or fatal. After all, it is pretty unusual for one of comics’ brainiest personas to be so dumbstruck. The premise for this relaunch has Reed discovering that the cosmic powers which gave him his stretching abilities are also gradually killing him and the rest of the Fantastic Four.
With no known cure existing in this universe, Reed has only one option left – look for it in the Unknown Universes. This prompts a year-long space journey (although factoring in time travel, Mr Fantastic estimates the trip will only take four “real time” minutes, which ties in to the developments in spin-off title FF #1).
I have high hopes for this title, thanks to Fraction’s past track record in revolutionizing Iron Man. Further enhancing the issue is the presence of Bagley, who is known for delivering gradually improving long runs – case in point, his
Ultimate Spider-Man stint. FF #1 Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Mike Allred
FF stands for the Future Foundation – where Reed Richards hopes to nurture the next generation of creative minds to ensure a better tomorrow.
The Fantastic Four have to leave Earth on a trip that will take all of four minutes, and not willing to leave Earth unprotected even for that short period of time, each of them chooses a replacement to take their place at the FF for that period.
Reed opts for an unorthodox replacement in Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant Man, whose credentials as an engineer, nanotech specialist and part-time superhero makes him a suitable choice.
However, his character is blemished by the fact that he is an ex-convict and currently, a grieving father (his daughter was killed by Dr Doom).
The latter development is what got me hooked on this title – imagine the potential of Scott utilizing a dozen creative young minds to avenge his daughter’s death! Hopefully, Fraction shares the same wavelength as I do.
The other members of this quartet are Medusa (Sue’s choice), She-Hulk (The Thing’s choice), and new character “Miss Thing” (a regular human and ex-model chosen by Johnny Storm, because she just happened to be the girl he was bedding at the time). On paper, this may appear to be the most distasteful FF team since Herbie the Robot was inducted, but I do sense that there will be some surprises in store!
Captain America #1 Writer: Rick Remender Artists: John Romita Jr and Klaus Janson
THIS is the sixth Cap title relaunch I have gone through, and I would have given it a miss if not for Romita Jr’s presence. While most reboots have centred on the Red Skull, this time we get the debut of the Green Skull instead.
This first issue also headlines perennial Cap villain Arnim Zola, who abducts the hero to Dimension Z to fulfil his plan of cloning a son.
If you use Ed Brubaker’s run as a benchmark, then this premiere issue is definitely not of the same calibre. But there is one positive note – namely, a breakthrough in the Steve Rogers-Sharon Carter romance. The ball is now in Steve’s court, and it’ll be interesting to see how extreme a status change Remender gives to the couple.
Janson’s inks also help to provide better finishing to Romita Jr’s art, especially when compared to the latter’s work on AVX.
X-Men Legacy #1 Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Tan Eng Huat
IT is great to see fellow Malaysian Tan Eng Huat add another mainstream feather to his cap, on a title that features the homecoming of Legion (a.k.a. David Haller, or Charles Xavier Jr.). After decades of being stereotyped as the misguided one (he did ignite the Age of Apocalypse after all), Legion is now undergoing psychic rehabilitation and preparing to fight his father’s cause... that is, before finding out about Xavier’s death (AVX #11).
Besides having to come to terms with the devastating news, Legion also has to deal with the multiple personalities entrapped in his psyche.
Unfortunately, Legion is not exactly a character who grows on you, and I found this a confusing read because of the constant switching between reality and Legion’s psyche.
Thor, God of Thunder #1 Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Esad Ribic
THREE Thors for the price of one! The present-day Thor joins forces with a younger Mjolnir-less version and an elderly Odin-like version to fight a common enemy – the God Butcher!
Aaron serves up a thought-provoking tale that bridges myth and superheroics, as Thor grapples with the differences between being worshipped as a superhero and as a god.
The premise is built on the notion that even immortals can die. Thor comes across a series of “god killings” during his past and present adventures, and discovers that the killer is none other than a demigod who is hell-bent on killing other immortals across the nine realms. I bought this for Esad Ribic’s art and he is truly in his element in bringing the thunder!
Indestructible Hulk #1 Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Leinil Yu
THE transition from “Incredible” to “Indestructible” starts here, and the first status change involves the Green Goliath becoming an agent of SHIELD! Fed up with being stereotyped as a force of destruction, Bruce Banner decides to utilize his brains and brawn for a greater cause.
To do this, however, he needs direction and resources that only SHIELD can provide. Hence, Banner approaches the agency’s director Maria Hill for a job, and his “audition” sees him going up against the Mad Thinker.
As with his work on Daredevil, Waid focuses on Hulk and Banner’s strong points while piggybacking on tried-and-tested plots. Leinil’s work here is simply stunning, further cementing his status as one of Marvel’s must watch artists.
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