Tag Archives: Fresh Start

Asgardians of the Galaxy

At the onset of Marvel’s current Fresh Start, the publisher made a predictably uniform push to give its marquee characters renewed rack appeal. The whole initiative kicked off with Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new volume of The Avengers and, in short order we had new #1 issues for fan-favorites like Deadpool, Venom, and Thor. From those first solicitations, there seemed to be very little “freshness” in the back-to-basics approach promised by new EIC C.B. Cebulski. Thor was a boy again; Peter Parker was a broke shmuck again. Tony Stark wasn’t dead, or in a coma, or whatever… and The Avengers looked more or less like the casual fan expected. I braced myself for a disappointing regression from the diversity, creativity, and artistic experimentation that had made Marvel stand apart from the major publishers in recent years.

Instead, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that Fresh Start, while pandering slightly to the fans who couldn’t deal with a Black Captain America or teenage girl in Iron Man armor, has been replete with some genuine excitement. Creativity preempts the same old: Mike del Mundo and Christian Ward, whose fantastic art is outside the capes ‘n tights norm, get the nod to kick off Jason Aaron’s final Thor volume. Al Ewing and Joe Bennett re-imagine Hulk as a chilling EC-inspired horror book.

Women writers take the reins on noteworthy titles: Kelly Thompson is tapped to bring back West Coast Avengers. Mariko Tamaki unveils the best Laura Kinney to date in the new X-23. And Margaret Stohl continues to orchestrate the comic book face of the MCU’s proudest new property, Captain Marvel.

Most interestingly, however, peppered among the predictable #1 issues, is a host of oddball books and unexpected revivals. Jeff Lemire is writing a great Sentry. Matthew Rosenberg is allowed to bring Multiple Man back from the dead. Cosmic Ghost Rider — maybe as odd as it gets — graduates from the pages of Donny Cates’s Thanos into his own mini. And my favorite Marvel B-lister of them all, Valkyrie, leads a marvelously unusual crew of cosmic godlings in this week’s Asgardians of the Galaxy #1.

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West Coast Avengers

I’m honestly surprised it took this long. With the whirlwind international acclaim that Marvel’s film universe has brought to this brand, making The Avengers the kind of household name a teenage me hadn’t ever even imagined, why have we waited until 2018 for the return of the title’s first spinoff? We’ve had Initiative, Academy, YoungSolo, and Spotlight. World and Secret, New and MightyAssemble and A.I. And most of that was just in the last decade. Hell, even the Great Lakes Avengers have had their own title in the interim! Finally, almost thirty-four years after Clint Barton first put out the call to assemble a California-based branch of Earth’s Mightiest, West Coast Avengers is back on the stands, courtesy of Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli.

Refreshingly, this reboot of the Hawkeye-led best-coasters seemingly has nothing to do with editorial mandates or higher-ranking media imperatives. There wasn’t an earth-shattering crossover event that necessitated a tie-in title. In fact, the impetus behind Kate Bishop’s “heroes wanted” rally is a Santa Monica infestation of a random horde of mindless landsharks. Apart from Clint Barton, AKA the original Hawkeye (who’s really more of an adorable mascot), this goofy ragtag lineup doesn’t feature a single character with an MCU counterpart. Quentin Quire, in fact, after somehow avoiding being drafted into one of the seventeen X-teams falling off the racks, gets to shackle his irascible punk apathy to the meta-fictitious fangirl enthusiasm of Gwenpool. Wonderful. You can get away with anything in the Golden State.

It might also help when you’re Kelly Thompson, and your fan-favorite Hawkeye series recently leaped over the radar and onto the Eisner list of best series nominees. I’d like to imagine the conversation went something like…

“Kelly, the world wants more Hawkeye! How do you feel about bringing back the West Coast Avengers?”

“I feel great about it! Can I pick the team?”

“Of course! So long as it has Deadpool.”

“Fuck that. Never mind.”

“No no no it’s fine. Any team you want. (But you’re going to have to put him in your Rogue & Gambit book…)”

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Fantastic Four #1

There may have been no release in Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative more anticipated than the return of Reed, Sue, Ben, & Johnny. After three years without a title, the book that started a superhero revolution and kicked off Marvel’s ascendancy way back in 1961, is back on the stands. Fantastic Four #1, by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli, is decades removed from the book that was proudly emblazoned with the headline “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” but the publisher, by all accounts, is finally ready to give the title a fair shot at reclaiming some its former glory.

The truth behind the FF’s lengthy hiatus may never fully be revealed. Declining sales probably factored in, and the culmination of Hickman’s Secret Wars event provided an opportunity to shelve half of the core group at the onset of the All-New All-Different era. It’s also been rumored that the terrible failure of the three 20th Century Fox feature films, one more terrible than the next, contributed to Marvel’s decision to distance itself from a series bearing that title. Considering the degree to which Marvel Studios dictates editorial decisions for the comic book lines, this wouldn’t at all be surprising. The comics play nice when the non-Disney licensees do well (Deadpool, for example), but with no opportunity at the time to correct the FF’s big-screen portrayals, Marvel may have felt like keeping this book off the stands would devalue the license for Fox, preventing them from attempting yet another brand-defaming motion picture.

All that could change, of course, if the proposed Disney-Fox merger goes through. With a few more assets to untangle, and sports-related networks to extricate, the path seems clear for Marvel’s parent company to reclaim the movie rights for what is, after Spider-Man, arguably the comic book publisher’s most important property.

The seeds were sown during last fall’s Legacy initiative. The one-shot special hinted at the group’s return, and the new Marvel Two-in-One series, by Chip Zdarsky and Jim Cheung, rehabilitated Human Torch and The Thing after lost years with various Inhuman teams or Guardians of the Galaxy respectively, and helped to remind us how much Marvel’s First Family means to all of us superhero devotees.

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Mr. and Mrs. X

Marvel’s X-family of titles experienced their own fresh start of sorts, in last year’s ResurrXion event. The publishing initiative, coming on the heels of the Inhumans vs. X-Men throwdown, seemed like a concerted effort to realign Marvel’s media focus on the mutants, and away from the Inhumans. In light of Marvel Studios’ spectacular failure at making the Inhumans live-action relevant, ResurrXion feels more like a precursor to the thorough housecleaning we’re now experiencing. I’ll read Death of the Inhumans for Cates & Olivetti, but I can’t help but cringe when I consider the editorial tantrum that seems to have started the fire.

Even when the “resurrXted” books segued into Marvel’s Legacy season, the titles felt diluted and stale. The art on some of the later X-Men: Gold and Blue books in particular was atrocious and spoke to a general apathy towards the mutant corner of the Marvel universe, something that the initiative was specifically trying to dispel.

In other words, Marvel’s current line-wide Fresh Start, now in its thirteenth week, couldn’t have come at a better time for the X-books. And the architects of a genuinely fresh approach to these titles are themselves rather new to the scene. After flexing his muscles on Phoenix Resurrection, Matthew Rosenberg continues to build his mutant cred with an excellent New Mutants series and the new Multiple Man mini. He’s poised to make a bigger dent, partnered with Greg Land, as the regular writer on Astonishing X-Men.

Mariko Tamaki, who penned an excellent She-Hulk-fronted Hulk title, is leading the charge with the new X-23 book, the first issue of which has immediately endeared me to Laura Kinney and her sister Gabby.

And then there’s Kelly Thompson. Fresh off an Eisner best-series nomination for Hawkeye, Thompson brought her brand of sharp, witty dialogue woven through a fun fast-paced caper to the Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire five-issue series. When a creator cares about certain characters as much as Thompson does these two off-again, on-again lovers, it shows. The follow-up is an X-book I had no idea I wanted to see, until I held that goofy cover in my hands. Mr. and Mrs. X #1, out this week, by Thompson and artist Oscar Bazaldua, is a welcome addition to the revitalized stable of mutant titles.

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Captain America #1 by Coates & Yu

As much as I enjoyed Mark Waid’s post-Secret Empire run on Captain America, the entire arc felt like it was doing its best to avoid dealing with the fallout from Nick Spencer’s subversive epic. Initially, Waid’s book, launched under the Legacy trade dress, took the form of a Steve Rogers road trip, an effort to reconnect with a country that had been torn apart after Red Skull successfully re-wired Captain America’s reality to create a bastion of fascism and a conquering leader of Hydra. Then, before that reflective journey could really get going, Cap was frozen (again) and awakened in a future U.S. similarly gripped by an oppressive authoritarian regime. It’s almost as if the editors asked Waid to reinvent Empire, but with Steve now as the savior, rather than the enslaver. And when that little escapade had concluded, we got a few more fill-in issues featuring yet another far-flung future America, this time under the control of the Kree, and with Rogers’s descendants cast as the heroic protagonists.

We expected Marvel to put some distance between “Captain Hydra” and the relaunch, but avoiding a storyline that was so clearly part of Marvel continuity began to feel somewhat cowardly.

Secret Empire #1 (2017)

Everything about Secret Empirefrom its fomenting lead-in story in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America, released during the summer of 2016, and the eventual event series, which premiered in 2017, feels like a dark fairy tale of the Trump Era. And, as such, maybe it would have been better received, and, indeed, more impactful, had it been a self-contained “Elseworlds” type story.

Don’t get me wrong — I applaud Spencer and Marvel for boldly following through with such a politically charged story. The problem arises when the comics introduce themes of external forces manipulating our democracy, denials of freedoms, and paralyzing social divisions directly into the mainstream Marvel universe, but then seemingly ignore the repercussions.

Enter Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu. Uniting the acclaimed political writer and author of the inspired new Black Panther series with the artist responsible for Secret Invasion seems to be, on the surface, a pretty clear indication that the series was finally ready to address the ominous overtures of last summer’s crossover event. And this first chapter of “Winter in America” does not disappoint.

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Multiple Man #1

I’ve become a big fan of Matthew Rosenberg in recent years, and was thrilled when he started doing work for Marvel. In the process I have also become appreciative of the publisher’s technique for breaking in new writers; a number of entertaining and well-received mini series (including New Mutants: Dead Souls and Phoenix Resurrection) followed by a toes-in-the-water mixed bag of runs on some fringe monthlies (like Punisher and Secret Warriors) before he gets to cut loose on a high profile series. Later this month, Rosenberg joins veteran artist Greg Land as the creative team for a new era of Astonishing X-Men. And anyone who’s read the aforementioned mutant books can see that the guy is an adept student of X-history; I’m expecting to break out the Marvel Universe Guide To… with his very first issue.

But before that drops, we’re treated to an unexpected “Fresh Start” mini-series. Similar to the Quicksilver: No Surrender mini, which didn’t seem like it needed to exist (and hasn’t changed my mind over the course of two issues), Multiple Man #1, by Rosenberg and Andy MacDonald, has taken a character very few of us expected to hear from again so soon (or maybe even had forgotten had been killed off), and made him the focus of a thoroughly entertaining Madrox mystery. Continue reading Multiple Man #1

Amazing Spider-Man #801

It’s been a helluva run, Dan Slott. Amazing Spider-Man #801 marks the end of the Spider-scribe’s more than ten-year run on Marvel’s flagship title. This issue’s heartfelt farewell, beautifully illustrated by Marcos Martín, is at once a stirring self-contained story, rich with the character elements that have made Spider-Man so beloved for generations; as well as a sly bookend to an epic tenure that began with the first “Brand New Day” issue back in 2008.

Simply by virtue of his time on the title, Slott deserves to be counted among a handful of great writers who have taken ol’ Webhead on his share of some of the more memorable storylines in comic book history. Personally, I grew up during the DeFalco/Michelinie era. So between following conflicts with Hobgoblins, Gang Wars, and symbiotes, I caught up on the original Stan Lee, Ditko, and Romita issues, themselves some of the single most influential superhero comics ever created. And it is, of course, with a certain reverence that we look back on those formative experiences; to this day, I count David Michelinie among the top five Amazing Spider-Man writers of all time. So what of the generation that has grown up with Dan Slott’s ASM? A lot has happened to Peter over the last decade, from Doc Ock to Parker Industries, and this run will undoubtedly be special for a great number of young comic book fans. I think, however, that as we gain a little distance and perspective, we’ll all truly appreciate where Slott’s oeuvre fits in with some of these all-time great runs. Continue reading Amazing Spider-Man #801

The Immortal Hulk #1

The Hulk has always been a character that I’ve been iffy on. While I’ve enjoyed the acclaimed runs from Peter David and Greg Pak, they never fully got me onboard with the character. The truly horrifying nature of being turned into a rage-filled monster never hit home with me with in those runs.

Enter Al Ewing. I don’t know why I’ve never seen Hulk tackled from a horror perspective. It seems like the most obvious connection in the world, and that is exactly what Ewing manages to do with his debut issue on The Immortal Hulk. The sense of looming dread that hangs over this book feels more in line with an EC Comic than a traditional Marvel book. The Hulk truly feels like a scary otherworldly force that is here to judge humankind. He’s not just a dumb big brute but rather the best authority on the evils of the everyday person.

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Black Panther #1

Another “Fresh Start” from the House of Ideas this week and, as with Aaron & McGuiness’s Avengers relaunch, the new Black Panther from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña addresses teasers previewed in last fall’s Marvel Legacy one-shot. In this case, we had all been scratching our heads regarding that glimpse at a futuristic Panther planet somewhen and somewhere. It was just a single page, but it left us with a host of questions. The first issue of this arc, “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda,” answers plenty of them (right away, actually), and it raises quite a few more.

That preview page returns — the first page in this comic — this time with narration explaining that a small group of Wakandans left Earth some two thousand years ago to colonize a planet on the far reaches of the cosmos. Millennia later, these colonists’ warlike tendencies have put them at the center of an empire spanning five galaxies.

So that’s all pretty awesome. And a new mystery immediately comes into focus when T’Challa makes an appearance, with no memory of who he is or how he got there, working as one of the mind-wiped “Nameless” mining slaves. Also… Nakia! And M’Baku! And vague recollections of a certain silver-haired goddess who once shared the king’s bed.

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Venom #1

Week two of Marvel’s fanfare-minimized “Fresh Start” continues with the release of Venom #1, by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman. Everyone’s favorite symbiote has been riding a tidal wave of media buzz in recent months, primarily centered on the character’s 30th anniversary and the forthcoming movie. And while it’s a little difficult for me to understand Venom’s massive appeal (I admit I am equally dumbfounded as to why Deadpool is so popular), I can fully appreciate that an attention-grabbing title like this allows the publisher to attach first-rate talent to its series reboot. Case in point, rising star Cates, and the immensely talented Stegman.

For an absent reader like myself, I’m even more appreciative of the fact that this creative team is circling back to a few Venom fundamentals while still moving forward with their own unique addition to the symbiote mythos. After sojourns with Mac Gargan and Flash Thompson (and who knows who the hell else during that Venom, Inc. event), the original alien is back with Eddie Brock, and he has that “Lethal Protector” mindset that seems to align directly with Tom Hardy’s portrayal later this year. But what I really dig is the idea that Cates & Stegman have seemingly readdressed the enigma of the symbiote, and its connection to some sort of ancient evil, lurking for centuries. Everything about the recent Klyntar background revelations, whether from Guardians of the Galaxy or Venom: Space Knight just felt wholly uninspired and, frankly, seemed to detract from the mysterious nature of this character’s alien origins.

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