Marvel’s 2016-2017 publishing initiative kicked off this week: a new slate of books for a new era, albeit with old branding. I have less of a problem with the re-hashing of the Marvel NOW! label than I do with the name itself. Reminds me too much of a gawdawful series of pop music compilations. “NOW that’s what I call superheroes!” I also don’t mind that we’re starting the new cycle before the end of Civil War II. As we all remember, the same thing happened last year when the first All New All Different Marvel titles debuted before Secret Wars had a chance to wrap. There has been enough foreshadowing, as well as plenty of hints in press releases and solicitations, so that we have a general idea as to what the fallout looks like. Just, you know… let’s try to avoid any overt spoilers, yeah?
Week 1 slaps the NOWness on two new ongoing titles, one mini-series, and two continuing series. Foremost among these releases, with seeming significance for Marvel’s heroic youth movement, is Champions #1 by Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, and Victor Olazaba. Casual comic book fans unfamiliar with the new Spider-Man, unaware of Kamala Khan, or confused by a Hulk with a faux-hawk, may let this one slip by. And that would be a huge mistake.
Not to be confused with the goofy-ass, Los Angeles-based Champions of the 70’s, this new group is composed entirely of superheroes who still can’t legally vote. But these aren’t clumsy Xavier recruits, or even reckless New Warriors for that matter. Three of the most prominent members – Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, and Nova – were full-fledged Avengers until very recently. Disillusioned by the events of Civil War II, they’ve quit the team and, together with other fledgling heroes, some of whom were profoundly affected by the conflict in other ways, these Champions are all about restoring the ideals of superheroism. The suggestion is that the gods-among-us have spent so much time above the clouds, battling similarly empowered villains with entire worlds at stake, that they’ve lost sight of the human element. Yes, Kamala, I would like to know who’s supposed to repair that guy’s crushed food truck.
Mark Waid’s recent run on the ANAD Avengers book was met with mixed reviews and, whether you liked it or not (I did), there’s no arguing that the guy knows how to script a team book. This first issue nails the ensemble dynamic on not one, but two action sequences. And the character interactions, between human rockets and seismic slaps, are perfectly paced. Seeing the group go to Vision’s house in order to ask if his daughter can come out and play is heartwarming. Ramos and Olazabal, who did fine work on Amazing Spider-Man, may be hitting their stride. The features are less exaggerated, without sacrificing the fun and fluidity that is the hallmark of their artistic collaboration. Also – and all due respect to Adrian Alphona – but these guys may have been born to draw Ms. Marvel.
There’s still some confusion floating around, stemming largely from the fact that Civil War II is still unfolding. And new readers that might be thrown by this cast of characters will likely be truly puzzled by all the other junior hero cameos, like Ironheart and Moon Girl. But this is a fantastic book to open the season, and, with any luck, even those casual fans will dive in and embrace what Marvel is working on this year. Tell a friend.
Genndy Tartakovsky, best known for his animation work on series like Samurai Jack and movies like Hotel Transylvania, may be the biggest and most pleasant surprise on the NOW release shelf this week. Cage #1 is the first issue of a mini-series written and illustrated by Tartakovsky, featuring a classic Luke Cage, right down to the chain belt and afro. The series was no doubt conceived and orchestrated in order to coincide with last weekend’s release of Netflix’s Luke Cage, but this is not exactly Mike Colter’s 21st century portrayal.
The tribute to Marvel of the 1970’s even goes beyond the jive-talking, thug-punching titular character. Many of us remember those sweet Spalding ads on the back covers of our four-color floppies.
Another Netflix series bearing the NOW brand this week is Jessica Jones #1, the new ongoing by the team that first brought Jessica to life in Alias, Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos. When last we left Jessica… well, we thought we left her on a rooftop chatting with Miles Morales in Spider-Man #8. But clearly some things have gone awry since then. This series opens with Jessica being released from prison, and she also, somewhere along the way, seems to have put her daughter into hiding. Yeah – Luke Cage’s kid. And he would like to know where she is.
But this being an Alias series, we need some cases and some mysteries! And the first one is genius. In another human-level perspective on the crazy cosmic panoply of dimensions that is common theater for the capes n’ tights crowd, an exasperated wife needs Jessica to investigate her husband. He might be insane, or he might be a disjointed casualty of the post-Secret Wars universal re-set. Either way, Jessica’s got a gig. And we’re off to a great start on a new series.
DC Rebirth: Week 20
I’ve been a fan of Cyborg since the first Murakami Teen Titans cartoon, but I’ve been really interested in learning more about him since he’s become part of the more racially diverse Justice League. John Semper, Jr. does a fair job laying out the background of Cyborg in the Rebirth issue, but it doesn’t really make the character interesting. For a guy who is supposed to be a former high school athelete, the son of super geniuses, and 1/2 orphan, he doesn’t really have a unique voice. He quips with Malware (a pretty decent DC robot villain name, to be sure) in the same voice that any Silver Age hero would, using typical phrases like “waltz right in here” and “ugly mug.” Even in the cartoon, Cyborg’s dialogue gave you a sense that he was an individual, coming from a place where the other heroes had not. Though it lacks character nuance, the main plot seems cool. The singularity, where man and machine are hardly distinguishable, is a trope I’m usually into, particularly in the era of technology we live in now. I like that Semper is trying to link all the cyber-mechanical humanoid characters, which could make for some fun cameos and fights. However, DC’s recent cancellation of the Cyborg film makes me question their committment to advancing this character’s popularity. Semper’s got a couple of cool blocks, but my money says he won’t stack them up into anything really amazing. Paul Pelletier does a serviceable job with the drawings, but nothing is blowing me away. He seems to be in the same wheelhouse as Bagley, who is again serviceable, but not really the kind of jaw-dropping art that could be in a book that features a bunch of mech stuff. Get a manga artist in there or something! – tyrannoflores