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)
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)
Continue reading Ranking Marvel NOW! 40 – 26
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)
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)
Continue reading Ranking Marvel NOW! 56 – 41
It didn’t take long following Marvel’s All-New All-Different relaunch for the company to tease information regarding another “things will never be the same again” initiative. There was bound to be some fallout from last summer’s major crossover event, and the new season of books and fresh storylines was geared for a Marvel NOW! branding. No, this wasn’t the same Marvel NOW! slate that followed 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men event. This was an all-new, all-different Marvel NOW, if you will. I mean, look at that shattered and distressed NOW logo. Totally different.
In the same way that 2015’s Secret Wars set the stage for All-New All-Different universe, Civil War II was meant to segue into these Marvel NOW titles. And, in the same way that Secret Wars scheduling delays detracted from the initial ANAD offerings, major lags in CW2 meant that Marvel NOW! releases were rife with spoilers. And, sure, we Idlers bitched and moaned with the rest of the comic book community. But that didn’t mean we weren’t excited to read, rank, and review another stack of new books. In fact, the first month of this “shattered” NOW! initiative gave us some of the most promising superhero books in years.
Continue reading Marvel NOW! – The First Six Months
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
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
Edit, 4/10: This isn’t how Marvel Comics should be making the news. After all the outstanding progress and forward thinking that has become a hallmark of the company’s titles in the last few years – a number of all-female creative teams, that totally Asian Totally Awesome Hulk, Kamala Khan,
America fer crying out loud – this controversy is a major setback. And to have it take place in a relaunch of the X-Men of all things, a comic that has, for generations, stood for abolishing bigotry and promoting acceptance, is particularly disappointing. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Marvel’s –
or any comic book publisher’s – relationship with this particular artist.
As promised, Marc Guggenheim is going back to basics in X-Men: Gold #1, the first new ongoing X-book in Marvel’s ResurrXion initiative. Following the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, and, really, all the second-rate treatment given to mutants not named Deadpool over the last few years, this new team with a classic feel is just what the comics world needs right now. Kitty Pryde is back, leading a group comprised of Colossus, Storm, Rachel Grey (Prestige), Old Man Logan, and Nightcrawler. And it’s not just the team’s composition that hearkens back to the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne glory days. This is the first X-launch in years that feels like those great stories so many of us grew up with. No disrespect to Lee & Kirby, but the X-Men – as a series and as an institution – didn’t reach their full potential until that first reset in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The comic opens, appropriately, with a supervillain bout, wherein this team gets a chance to showcase its battle-tested dynamic. Also, a little reminder that Kitty Pryde, codename or not, is a legitimate badass. And then the battle segues quickly into an all-too familiar statement. What makes the X-Men heroes – perhaps even more heroic than any assemblage of Avengers or Justice Leaguers – is that these mutants have forever worked to protect and save a society that hates and fears them. It’s the enduring X-Men theme; in Guggenheim’s hands the selflessness and courage still seems fresh.
Continue reading X-Men: Gold
Marvel’s X-event this month seems to be about a lot more than a refresh on their stable of mutant books. Developing out of the ashes of Inhumans vs. X-Men, ResurrXion looks to not only provide a new publishing initiative for mutant and Inhuman books, but also to re-establish the X-Men as one of the preeminent Marvel properties. For three solid decades, beginning in the 80’s, the X-Men were arguably the most popular characters in Marvel’s catalog. But with the success of Marvel Studios, and accompanying company mandates to focus on characters developed in the Marvel-controlled MCU, the treatment of the X-books, and mutants themselves, seemed to mirror the fictional resentment and discrimination that had been a hallmark theme of mutant storylines for so many years.
Despite understanding Marvel’s inclination to increase exposure for their Marvel Studios characters, when the All-New All-Different era kicked off in 2015, we were still nonetheless a little taken aback. The Inhumans were figuratively (and somewhat literally) killing off and replacing the mutants. It was happening in the comics, and it was happening on the comic book shelves. But after force-feeding us too many unsatisfying and underdeveloped “nuHuman” characters, Marvel seemingly saw the light. Extinction averted, IvX behind us, and we’ve got a spate of new X-related releases in the coming weeks, including an exciting team series that promises to go “Back to Basics.”
But that doesn’t mean the Inhumans have been passed over; part of this ResurrXion rightly belongs to them, and a return to form works both ways. In the first of two intro issues this week, Inhumans Prime brings the focus back on the Inhuman royal family, and sets the stage for some glorious cosmic adventure.
Continue reading ResurrXion: Inhumans Prime
In this new heroic age of superpowered entertainment, I’ve begrudgingly accepted the fact that Hollywood is now driving the bus. Characters I’ve known and loved for decades have undergone some subtle and some not-so-subtle transformations in recent years, as the origin stories and personality traits developed onscreen work to inform their comic book identities. I’ve made peace with it. I like this world we’re living in, and I appreciate the fact that, given movies like this month’s Logan, folks are finally starting to realize that “superhero” isn’t a genre unto itself. Superpowers are a tool, not unlike science-fiction tropes or fantasy archetypes, that are being used to tell lots of different stories and to explore many different themes. It’s a fun time to be a comic book fan.
And I appreciate the fact that so many of Netflix’s MCU shows have been so damn good that we expect big things from their new Iron Fist series. But what happens when the show doesn’t live up to expectations? If Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange had been lousy, would Marvel have yanked Jason Aaron from the monthly series? Would we never have seen the development of the recent Sorcerers Supreme comic? And if Netflix’s Fist ends up being as bad as the critics seems to indicate (and as at least one Idler has attested), will the new Iron Fist comic by Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins suffer neglect and early cancellation?
Hopefully not. Whatever this comic is, and whatever editorial or departmental mandates it’s trying to fulfill, it’s first and foremost a gritty, kung-fu slugfest. And so long as that’s the case, I’m interested.
Continue reading Iron Fist
Last week I referenced Jeff Lemire’s afterword to Royal City wherein the prolific creator discusses being inspired by the current Golden Age of Television. I didn’t think of it at the time, probably because comics already has a definitive “Golden Age,” but it’s hard to discount what’s happening in the world of comics lately. The taking-comics-seriously tipping point may have been Spiegelman’s Maus and the British invasion/Vertigo revolution, but it’s been a slow climb to legitimacy since then. No doubt, part of that has been due to the fact that the “less serious” side of comics, the world of superheroes and escapist sci-fi, has taken the entertainment world by storm. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a welcome development, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to live in an era in which my neighborhood theater is pre-selling tickets to a Guardians of the Galaxy blockbuster and Daredevil is a high-budget television show. But this brave new Hollywood has only served to strengthen the unfortunate impression that comic books are synonymous with super-powers.
But I digress. My point is, we could be looking at another Golden Age of Comics, one that has nothing to do with capes & tights, alternate dimensions, or talking animals.
This week, Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins debut Grass Kings #1 from Boom! Studios. If Lemire’s book said Bloodline to me, then this one screams True Detective. The story is set in a trailer park community on the shores of an unnamed lake, a lake that has borne witness, over the centuries, to generations of violence, sacrifice, and upheaval. This is no ordinary community however: “The Grass Kingdom” claims complete autonomy over the rest of the United States, and woe is any rascally kid who risks sneaking in from a neighboring town to spy on those “squatters” on their “stolen land.”
Continue reading Grass Kings
Jeff Lemire already dominates the comic book shelves. Whether it’s his outstanding creator-owned series for Image and Dark Horse, his superhero work for Marvel and Valiant, or the bookcase full of Vertigo trades and original graphic novels, the indefatigable Lemire already has your attention. And deservedly so. But his new Image book may deserve the most attention of all. Royal City is at once a return to the comics work that first introduced us to Lemire almost a decade ago, and, at the same time, something unlike anything he’s done before.
Like the graphic novels that comprised his Essex County trilogy, beginning with 2008’s Tales from the Farm, Lemire’s new book is a realistic family drama set in smalltown North America. Unlike those singular, well-defined stories, however, Royal City is an ongoing title, a format that lends itself to longer “seasons,” if you will, and an opportunity to fully explore the Pike family and the human tremors that epicenter from the titular town. In his afterword, in fact, Lemire mentions being inspired by this Golden Age of Television. And I have to say, the first thing I thought of after reading this first issue was Netflix’s Bloodline. There’s a shaky familiarity to every tense exchange, every terse comment, like the way you’re afraid of a Eugene O’Neill play because of the truths it uncovers.
The inciting event, family patriarch Peter’s stroke, brings the three siblings and their associated baggage into focus. Patrick returns from the big city, where he’s a novelist struggling against writer’s block; Tara is a real estate developer looking to turn the city’s manufacturing center into a resort community; and Richard works at the aforementioned factory – or would work, if he was ever sober. And then there’s one more sibling, Tommy, who moves through the narrative as a haunting memory unique to each family member.
Continue reading Royal City