Guardians of the Galaxy

No surprise this week, folks, as Marvel rolls out a high-profile relaunch of one of the most surprisingly successful properties in comics, just a few days before the box office premiere of the new movie. All New Guardians of the Galaxy #1, by Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder, couldn’t have come at a better time, either. Not because folks need some shelf eye-candy when they peruse the new release racks after leaving the theater, or during Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, but because the last few months of Guardians has been insufferably bad. Bendis is still one of the best funnybook scribes in the business, but it’s been pretty clear where his energies have been devoted. The way he phoned in Civil War II and, especially, the last year of Guardians, makes me hope he never gets assigned to another team book or major event again. Say no, once in a while, BMB. Leave the insane capes n’ tights output to the younger set; Jeff Lemire is still hungry.

But I digress. The new book is tantalizing eye candy for both casual readers as well as longtime fans hungry for a return to form. The fact that Kuder is providing the art is almost good enough, by itself, for me to sign on for a full arc. Marvel fans may not be too familiar with his work, but his Frank Quitely-inspired artistry had been on display on various DC projects over the last few years. He’s found a welcome home on a major Marvel book, especially among those of us who wished Arthur Adams could have been doing more than just Guardians covers. There’s a mix of startling intricacy in his linework, but it’s combined with a fluid dynamism that not only complements the humor of Guardians, but also fits wonderfully with Marvel’s trippy cosmic legacy, from Steve Ditko through Jim Starlin. Also, thank you for restoring Drax and Gamora to their pre-movie designs.

Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy

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Ranking Marvel NOW! 25 – 16

25
Mighty Captain Marvel

Margaret Stohl and Ramon Rosanas

What I thought was an overt attempt at making Carol likeable again, with the forthcoming movie, may not have been necessary after all. The #CarolCorps? This is a thing? I’m fascinated. And I love space shit and bounty hunters and shapeshifters and explosions. Keep it coming! Also, don’t know where this artist came from, but he’s fantastic. – MMDG

Well, I guess I’m a Carol Danvers fan now. This book is a great introduction to the character and sells its concept exceptionally well. It has great art, the writing is slick and fun; this is just one of those solid books. – IP

First collection: Mighty Captain Marvel Vol. 1 (September)

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24
Star-Lord

Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka

This is actually a very solid book. The action is smooth, the pacing is tight, and the art pops. These solo Guardians books have been very successful. – IP

The last few Star-Lord series have been abysmal to mediocre. I’m still waiting for the definitive version of this character. Maybe Zdarsky has that in mind, or maybe this is just a shelf-filler before the movie release, but I’m interested to hang out and discover what he can do. – MMDG

First collection: Star-Lord Vol. 1: Grounded (June)

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23
Spider-Woman

Dennis Hopeless and Veronica Fish
beginning with #13

I was a little worried that this series would suffer greatly when Rodriguez went over to the Sorcerers Supreme book, especially since some of the fill-in art had been so mediocre. But not only does Veronica Fish maintain that high level Darwyn Cooke-style storytelling, form & color and elegant linework, but Hopeless’s script is as polished as ever. My only complaint is that fucking Porcupine was really starting to grow on me… – MMDG

Collection: Spider-Woman Volume 3: Scare Tactics (June)

22
Sam Wilson: Captain America

Nick Spencer and Paul Renaud
beginning with #14

Very interesting book. Politicking is becoming more and more common in comics for obvious reasons, and this issue handles it in one of the best ways. Flag-Smasher makes good points, seems to have good intentions, but is also murderous and deranged. Of course this book also deals with a certain Captain being a part of a certain multi-headed organization, which I am still unsure of, but nevertheless it makes for a fun read, and the art is clear and well colored. Overall a good book. – IP

One of the best books of the ANAD era and still one of the best books in Marvel’s stable. The topical nature of Sam Wilson’s patriotism is more pertinent than the profiling in CWII, and isn’t as blatant as Netflix’s Luke Cage. – MMDG

Collection: Captain America: Sam Wilson, Vol. 4: #TakeBackTheShield

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21
Nova

Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez

A really great surprise. Ramon Perez is a real talent, and this book looks ready to combine good Marvel cosmic drama with the kind of coming-of-age superhero stories that Marvel has been knocking out of the park in the pages of Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel. – MMDG

Nova is much more fun than I thought it would be. There’s a perfect amount of humor, the pacing is fast, and the art is lively. Overall an exceptional book. – IP

First collection: Nova Volume 1: Resurrection (August)

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20
Jessica Jones

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

The story is an intriguing mystery, and a few cameos from some great street-level heroes never hurts. Overall this feels like the exact kind of story JJ needs. I’m game. – IP

This is interesting. So Jones starts out in prison, hid her baby from Luke, and her first case involves a dimensionally displaced husband? Oh, and not even Bendis knows where the hell the FF are. – MMDG

First collection: Jessica Jones Volume 1: Uncaged! (May)

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19
Great Lakes Avengers

Zac Gorman and Will Robson

Really great comedy book here. The jokes are landing, the references, both dated and fresh, are working for me. The art is surprisingly good, and the coloring is excellent. If they can maintain the pace this first issue has then this has potential to be a fantastic series. – IP

Surprised how much I enjoyed this. A genuinely funny superhero book in the same family as Howard, Hellcat. Probably doesn’t have long-term staying power, but I’m onboard for now. – MMDG

Collection: Great Lakes Avengers: Same Old, Same Old (May)

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18
Hulk

Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon

This is really good. Tamaki is a veteran tackling (I think?) her first superhero book with aplomb, and Leon’s style is perfectly suited for a graceful beauty with ugly rage and power simmering, on the verge of eruption. There’s intriguing untapped power and energy in that linework. – MMDG

Hulk is a great restart of the She-Hulk comics I loved as a kid. This book has great art, incredible color work, and a tight script that gets directly to the point while allowing a few moments of levity. Even though the story is pretty standard for an attorney/superhero, the execution works well. I’m excited to continue reading this one. – IP

First collection: Hulk Volume 1: Deconstructed (July)

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17
Captain America: Steve Rogers

Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz
beginning with #7

Nick Spencer is the most politically savvy writer in mainstream comics. His two Cap books are some of the best things going for Marvel right now, and the social consciousness he imbues is far more significant than anything in Civil War II. – MMDG

The Steve Rogers as Hydra is rightly controversial, but I like the change of pace. This book has some good art, excellent coloring in spots, and reads like a political spy thriller. Not necessarily the best book in the Marvel NOW stable, but a very solid entry in a long line of great Captain America books. I will be reading more of this one. – IP

Collection: Captain America: Steve Rogers Volume 2: The Trial of Maria Hill

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16
Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur

Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, and Natacha Bustos
beginning with #13

I’ll admit to dropping the ball on this book the first time around. After reading the first few issues in the NOW! initiative, I had to go back and see what I was missing out on. This is the comic that you give to your kids, little cousins, nephews and nieces; the superhero antics are entertaining without dumbing down to a younger audience. It’s the kind of book that made you fall in love with comics when you were a kid, and the first few issues of this new arc are replete with equally entertaining guest appearances from The Thing to Ironheart. Get onboard. – MMDG

Collection: Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur Volume 3: The Smartest There Is (July)

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< 40 – 26 | Rankings | 15 – 6 >

Ranking Marvel NOW! 40 – 26

40
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows

Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman

So much fun! This book has everything I want from a Spider-story, slice-of-life Peter Parker mayhem, wisecracking Spider-Man, dinosaurs! Oh yeah, it also has this excellent new Spider-team consisting of the Webhead, Mary Jane, and their daughter Annie. Great writing, great art, great all-around. I loved this book, and will absolutely be reading more. – IP

I’m glad they have the Earth-2 stuff still going (been around longer than the Ultimate U!) but I’ve never been into it, and this book isn’t changing my mind. – MMDG

First collection: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 1: Brawl in the Family (June)

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39
Kingpin

Matthew Rosenberg and Ben Torres

Good, not great. Still a big fan of Rosenberg’s work, so, even though I’m not partial to the “other side of villainy” tales, I trust that this writer – especially with the titular character – can make it work. – MMDG

First collection: Kingpin Vol. 1: Born Against (September)

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Continue reading Ranking Marvel NOW! 40 – 26

Ranking Marvel NOW! 56 – 41

56
Slapstick

Fred Van Lente & Reilly Brown

There is a lengthy dinner table discussion where Slapstick talks to his entire family about how he lost his dingus. Also he lights his fart on fire. These things happen, and don’t even make me laugh. – MeanOldPig

I can’t think of a more appropriate title for the collected edition. – MMDG

First collection: Slapstick, Vol. 1: That’s Not Funny (August)

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55
Solo

Gerry Duggan, Geoffrey Thorne & Paco Diaz

This is really dumb. Why does Marvel like this Thorne guy so much? The writing is so juvenile, and I couldn’t possibly give a lesser shit about Solo. I think we’re going to see a steady decline on all the SHIELD/spy-type garbage over the next year. – MMDG

Did not enjoy this. One or two amusing puppy panels is all I can say were good about Solo. What is Marvel thinking with this one? – IP

Collection: Solo: The One-Man War on Terror (June)

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Continue reading Ranking Marvel NOW! 56 – 41

Aliens: Dead Orbit

Happy Alien Day, folks. What began in 2016 as a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of James Cameron’s Aliens (and cleverly tied to the planet name – LV-426 – from Ridley Scott’s first film), bursts to life for a second straight year. April 26 is a day to squeeze your facehugger plushy, watch the trailer for Alien: Covenant (again), and head down to your local comic shop for Dark Horse’s latest entries into this terrifying science-fiction universe. This week, James Stokoe debuts Aliens: Dead Orbit #1, a story with a familiar feel, but told with an impressively fresh style.

The book opens on a desolate Weiland-Yutani space station, and a familiar, eerie whirring of electronic circuits. A flashback sequence begins to tell the story of how this station ended up with just one, haggard occupant. Its crew had gone to investigate a freighter, dead in orbit around the gas giant, resulting in all the usual Alien tropes. What the hell happened here? Where is everyone? What burned through this bulkhead..?! And before issue one concludes, it’s clear that the acid-blooded predator responsible is back on the station, and one poor bastard has his work cut out for him.

Continue reading Aliens: Dead Orbit

Batman #21

It’s been a year since DC Rebirth #1 and the reveal of The Comedian’s button and the revelation of The Watchman universe now bleeding into the DC universe. There hasn’t been much since that issue explaining how this happened. Batman #21 kicks off a four-part crossover with The Flash where hopefully questions are answered. This issue goes by quickly – so quick it only takes a minute to read….

1:00 – That’s Saturn Girl from the Legion of Superheroes watching a hockey game inside Arkham Asylum.

0:59 – Saturn Girl is from the future. But what future?

0:58 – Obviously she’s from the future where this hockey player dies in a fight.

0:57 – Saturn girl realizes what “timeline” she is in by watching this hockey game and freaks out!

0:56 – Saturn Girl is figuratively looking down and screaming “save us!” and the answer she receives is a gravelly, whispered voice saying, “No.”

0:55 – Batman has a lot of monitors.

Continue reading Batman #21

Secret Empire

Marvel has never shied away from political commentary in its comics, or in its other media offerings, it seems. Did everyone catch Hydra second-in-command Fitz on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last week, telling a conference room of fascist operatives to get out there and “make our society great again”? And even if Ms. Marvel couldn’t get Clinton elected, and the company has problems keeping closed-minded agendas out of the very comics that speak to acceptance, the effort has always been there, and, in recent years, creators have been encouraged to address social concerns more than ever before. Regardless, Marvel probably didn’t anticipate the controversy or severe reader backlash after Nick Spencer dropped that bomb in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 last year.

Out of context it does sound pretty crazy. Captain America, bastion of freedom and liberty, literally covered in the g-d American flag, reveals that he’s actually been a Hydra sleeper agent all these many years, working to subvert the U.S. from the inside. This is the same Hydra that, depending on your comic book history source, had direct affiliation with the Nazis. So yeah, that seemed bad. But obviously the guy is telling a story, and Nick Spencer, as demonstrated by his work in the Sam Wilson series, is as socially conscious and politically savvy as they come. Let the book run its course, people!

The course has included Red Skull machinations, a sentient cosmic cube named Kobik, and one terribly ominous Ulysses prophecy. It’s been a wild ride thus far. And in this week’s kickoff to Marvel’s major summer event, Secret Empire #0, by Spencer, Rod Reis, and Daniel Acuña, things get even wilder.

Continue reading Secret Empire

Black Panther & The Crew

Both Marvel and DC have engaged a number of prominent novelists and screenwriters over the last few years, giving these writers their first opportunity to pilot a monthly comic book series. Invariably, every one of them opens a press conference or interview with the same caveat: I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love comics and I love these characters. It’s been hit or miss for the most part; comics is its own storytelling medium, and it often takes time for a writer to ably adapt his or her voice to accommodate the differences. But once in a great while, an author really figures things out. No growing pains, no collaboration difficulties, and no real sense of inexperience. A year ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took the reins of a heralded Black Panther relaunch and delivered one of the best superhero comics on the shelf. But he hasn’t stopped there: there’s an entire corner of the Marvel Universe that has expanded and thrived under his direction. First with a further exploration of Panther‘s supporting cast members and Wakandan folklore in World of Wakanda, and now, this week, Coates flexes his muscles beyond the homeland in Black Panther & The Crew #1.

Inspired by the orignal “Crew” story from Christopher Priest’s Panther run, Coates has partnered with Yona Harvey (another esteemed writer from a different medium quickly proving her mettle in the comics biz) and veteran artist Butch Guice to showcase street-level superheroics in a very different jungle: New York City.

Continue reading Black Panther & The Crew

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