Returning comics reader Matt Alexander joins us to look at the first six months of Marvel NOW!, covering the (other half of) entire line.
Restored, remastered, re-edited, and reprinted edition of Giant Size (Vol.1) #28, with its canonical posting date intact.
- Matt Alexander: (twitter) CEO of NEED and Foremost (fancy things at surprisingly not-fancy prices), but more importantly, the Bond villain at the heart of BONANZA and its forebear, Bionic
Recommended Work by Jim Cheung: Avengers: The Children's Crusade
- This Heroic Age-era work is one of the highest-profle early bits of work from Cheung, and it truly shows him off at his best in a rather important story that re-introduced The Scarlet Witch and the Young Avengers to the Marvel U. (Amazon/ComiXology)
- Each issue features an Avenger and an X-Person teaming up. John calls it the dud of the line, I keep forgetting it exists.
Captain America (2013)
- Cap goes to investigate something weird and finds himself in the clutches of Arnim Zola in a place called Dimension Z, where he is trapped for a long time. This one turned John off early on, and I was shaky on it for a bit, but it's really followed through as we approach the end of its second arc. This is the first time John Romita Jr has drawn Captain America's standalone title, and the funky weirdness of this story's setting and themes, rooted per Remender in the funky weirdness of 1970's Cap stories, has been a welcome and unexpected take following a legendarily great run from Ed Brubaker.
Iron Man (2013)
- I like Kieron Gillen as a writer, but I'm almost out of goodwill. The Secret Origin of Tony Stark storyline doesn't fill me with fanboy rage like it has so many, but rather, I feel deflated by a story that does not grab me at all anymore. I enjoyed bits of the Extremis-infused first arc, which is less Gillen's fault in terms of timing than Marvel's movie release schedule.
Indestructible Hulk (2013)
- Mark Waid's Hulk book had its hook spoiled by the nature of modern marketing.Bruce Banner is tired of running, and offers Maria Hill the Hulk's services as a tactical WMD in exchange for the budget, staff, and infrastructure that Banner needs to make things that will actually improve the planet. So far, the run has toyed with time travel, which results in a lovely short arc drawn by Walt Simonson. John has been not-in-love with it, even though he loves Waid's Daredevil run among many other solid books over the last couple decades.
Thor: God of Thunder (2013)
- John and I are crazy in love with this book's look, just as much as we dig the setup that finds Thor in three different time periods fighting a shadowy Butcher of the Gods. Esad Ribic's art is gorgeous, Jason Aaron's writing is dark, passionate, and barbaric in the best meanings of all those words. This is one of the best of the best. I plan to keep my original issues and buy the eventual big, thick Omnibus Edition of this run.
- Spider-Man teams up with various people, and like John says, the writing is good, but you're motivated to buy month-to-month based on who is guest-starring more than you are because you want to read every issue. Christopher Yost is consistently solid on the script, and hopefully he will get the chance to fully gets his hands into shaping the book with it "refreshing" with a new title and #1 issue as Superior Spider-Man Team-Up.
Cable and X-Force
- Cable ended AvX no longer infected with the Techno-Organic Virus that has plagued him since his first appearance in the Marvel U. Hope Summers was sent to live with a host family. Written by Friend-Of-The-Show Dennis Hopeless and launched the same week as Avengers Arena, this is more in keeping with the "classic" X-Force style of an outlaw/renegade ragtag group doing good stuff in rough-around-the-edges ways.
- Cable's recent recovery has resulted in his powers no longer being focused on keeping something at bay. As a result, he's now having visions and nightmares of future impending doom. If you hate Cable, that's a tough barrel to get over.
- The book has found its protagonists constantly on the run, and has done a good job being its own thing, with occasional guest appearances from Cyclops, X-Men, Avengers, and others. That connective tissue doesn't make it impossible to get into as a new reader.
Uncanny X-Force (2013)
- The second volume of the version of X-Force known as something of an "X-Men: Black Ops Murder Squad" is a little uncertain of to me in terms of what it wants to be. Is it a continuation/re-casting of the Wolverine-led team under the guidance of Psylocke and Storm? Is it a halfway house for the fringe, bordering-on-villain characters like Spiral, Cluster, and Bishop...where X-Men-to-be get rehabilitated?
- The most recent arc was effectively a French heist movie romance, featuring Psylocke and The Fantomex Trio. I enjoyed it, and it had hints of the throughline begun with Bishop's violent return to the present, but I worry about myself and others dropping it before it fully defines itself.
Journey Into Mystery
- According to John, the most significant (Sifnificant?) thing about this one is that the NOW! relaunch of it found its focus shifted to Lady Sif. I'm a big fan of Kathryn Immonen's writing, back from when I read her work in the final volume of Runaways.
- I've never really gotten into the whole Red Hulk/Red She-Hulk thing at all. Betty Ross/Banner became a She-Hulk at some point, she has a big-ass sword, and so on and so forth. John has told me off the air that he really wishes She-Hulk "prime" had her own series. This one has been critically-acclaimed, but has never caught my interest. None of us are reading it.
Morbius: The Living Vampire (2013)
- For one reason or another, Marvel has never gotten much traction with their guy-who-made-himself-a-vampire character in his own series. None of us have been hooked on this one, nor have friends who have been hooked on it. To me, Marvel NOW!'s compelling nature comes predominantly from each new take or twist on existing characters having the imperative of answering the question, "Why now?". It's apparently well-written, but I lacked any sense of urgency seeking it out.
- John is 100% right about Cullen Bunn's protein-and-startch-rich writing on this action book, where longtime Defender Valkyrie must recruit a team of her own Shieldmaidens. They must fend off a squad of Doom Maidens intent on destroying everything in sight.
- We meet a brand-new character, Dr. Annabelle Riggs. She's an interesting "everyperson" for the audience to identify with, and is the rare new female comics character who doesn't have to dress like a pinup as part of her introduction. She's a breath of fresh air.
- In the first six-issue arc, the Fearless Defenders gain Misty Knight, Dani Moonstar, and Hippolyta, aka Warrior Woman, who can be thought of as a gleefully violent cross between Red Sonja and Wonder Woman.
- Since the recording of this episode, I've read all seven issues of it. Fearless Defenders now falls easily in my top ten (and possibly top five) Marvel NOW! books, and joins few others as one I save for the bottom of my reading stack. The best are best read last.
- [2015 editor's note: Sadly, it only lasted to 12 issues total]
- General Thunderbolt "Red Hulk" Ross puts together a team including The Punisher, Elektra, Deadpool, and Venom to do something no other team is capable o--sorry, have you fallen asleep yet? John and I found this one DOA in its first issue, which was effectively a 24-page telling of what you see on the cover, but with really nothing of consequence happening. The first issue squanders an enormous opportunity to (as I put it earlier) explain why on God's green Earth anyone gives a shit about reading this story.
Savage Wolverine (2013)
- Mentioned in Part 1 briefly by Matt, a great "jump on, jump off" anthology-ish Wolverine book for people who like the character and want to pick and choose arcs by creators they love or not have to follow a serialized, longform story to read fresh new stories about the SniktMaster General.
- Unlike Superior Spider-Man Team-Up/Avenging Spider-Man, your interest doesn't have to follow which characters guest-star.
- A crazy alien(?) gun thing does some crazy stuff and tons of people die. We first see Wolverine all beaten up in an...intense...way. He has to save a kid from his crazy dad who has the crazy gun thing. Logan has to figure out what it all means and where the threat is really coming from as quickly as he can, and he can't trust anyone.
- There are heaps of classic Wolverine-esque story elements throughout. There's some connective tissue in plot points and themes to the new The Wolverine movie (which I really really enjoyed).
- I was sold on this book the moment they announced Paul Cornell as the writer. He did a particularly great run of Captain Britain and MI-13 a while back that I really enjoyed. I didn't expect to dig what I was looking at when I started the MI-13 title (collected in TPBs, by the way), and I think the reaction I've seen for his initial arc for this story will find people similarly eating crow.
- Wolverine enters the second arc without his healing factor, something that allegedly plays heavily in the upcoming X-mega-event Battle of the Atom. This is a claws-out, brutal story from issue #1, and I'm on-board. Cornell does his homework, and it's shown thus far.
Superior Spider-Man* (2013)
- We will double back on this one in its own featured episode, which will almost certainly (according to Arune at Marvel) feature an interview with Dan Slott. Doc Ock in Spider-Man's body means villains lose parts of their anatomy, senses, and even lives. Spider-Ock is amassing an arsenal and an army...but he isn't the only one doing so.
- This longform storyline has been assailed for being nothing about who Peter Parker is, but for me, it's been a fantastic, unpredictable "dark and weird" story about the world without the Spider-Man we know.
- The Nova Corps are the intergalactic cops who are always on call and who come from planets all over the galaxy. Sound a bit like Green Lantern? There are only so many ways you can describe "space cop force". They're different takes on the same general concept, and it's possible to be a fan of both (I am).
- We meet a new Nova, the son of a previous one who has gone MIA, whether simply missing or, as we assume, killed in action. Rocket Raccoon and Gamora make an early cameo, fastening this book in the same orbit as Guardians of the Galaxy without requiring you to read both books.
- The absent, alcoholic father is often assailed as a common daddy issues story archetype, but unfortunately, it's all too common, which is why people relate to these stories. "Oh brother, why do we need another origin story?" Well, this is really supposed to be a Nova clear of all previous continuity, but as the series progresses, it layers in everything that has come before in a way that does not make the story less accessible if this is one's first Nova.
- Just-broken-as-of-this-episode's-original-posting news: friend-of-the-show and fan-favorite writer Gerry Duggan takes over writing this one in November 2013!
Guardians of the Galaxy (2013)
- Matt, as a new reader, has latched on to this one enthusiastically and a half.
- John is less than enthused about the revised characterization of Rocket Raccoon.
- GotG is a space romp that has been nicely designed to exist out in its own near-Earth orbit alongside all the terrestrial stuff.
Age of Ultron (2013)
- This one will be addressed in another episode relatively soon, possibly dealing with Marvel Crossovers in general.
- [2015 editor's note: it would take two years for us to cover crossovers in-depth, and resulted in an 8-episode (plus tie-ins) deep-dive on the entire history of DC and Marvel crossover events]
- This has almost no direct implications on the Avengers-centric Infinity crossover event.
- Even if you don't want to read the whole thing, Mark Waid's outstanding Age of Ultron "10AI" is effectively a new telling of Hank Pym's origin, and it's magnificent, with little to none of the brain-twisting multi-threaded quantum reality stuff.
Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences
- If you want a quick way into NOW! without reading the whole of AvX, this works as a stopgap.
- I can't believe we forgot this one. Friends-of-the-show Brian & Gerry were my first featured guests on the old, interviews-only version of the show on 5by5, wayyyy back in episode #1.
- Each volume of the collected series really works solidly to jump on, but they're all good and all well worth your real American (or other) Dollars.
- In the first arc, SHIELD needs someone disreputable to take care of a ton of raised undead POTUSes.
- The writing is so snappy and smart, you could enjoy this even if you hate America or Presidents or good comics.