It just so happens that Mile High Comics has a N.I.C.E. reserve system (it’s how I get my comics); if you subscribe to at least 5 titles, the store keep, in my cause good ole’ Lynn at the Littleton location, will pull the titles and give you a 10% discount. So, may these five (or any five of your choosing) start you on your road to comics and heroes, in this age where they dominate the silver screen.
My MARVEL NOW! picks, from fifth favorite to number one:
WARNING – POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD for the aforementioned titles.
5) SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN represents the biggest risk of MARVEL NOW!, yet it also may already be a huge cop-out, so it makes for an interesting place to start. Spider-Man was my original favorite comic book character (I have since moved on to Captain America and Batman), so his making the last possible spot on my list is necessarily a wild endorsement.
SYNOPSIS: In the final issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, a dying Doc Ock managed to switch bodies with Peter Parker. In ASM #700, Spider-Man (with Dr. Otto Octavius in his brain) fought Doctor Octopus (with Peter Parker trapped in his body) to the death. Spider-Man won, but unbeknownst to Spider-Man’s allies, it was their friend Peter Parker who died that day, not Doc Ock. Receiving all of Peter’s memories and therefore understanding his motivations, Octavius learned that with great power comes great responsibility and has rededicated his life to battle super-criminals (like his former self) as a superior Spider-Man. AS THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN!
In SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN issues 1 & 2 (as well as in DAREDEVIL #22 and AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #15) we get to watch Otto posing as Peter, and would you believe it, a mad scientist can’t always pass as a convincing wise-cracking, younger man. Many characters notice something is slightly off with everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, whether it’s his more archaic and formal sounding quips (how often did Peter say “imbecile?” Totally the language of a mad scientist) or his more aggressive, violent, spotlight-hogging style of crime fighting.
By the end of issue 1, we know that Peter Parker’s consciousness is still alive, trapped in his own brain while Otto pulls the strings. This leads me to the conclusion that the era of the Superior Spider-man will be brief, and we’ll be back to regular Peter Parker and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN before you know it.
JUDGEMENT TIME: It’s all a fun, risky twist on Spider-Man, a character who has changed/aged little in his 50 years in comics. Anyone can hop into this comic, as even a limited knowledge of the movies gives you all you need to know; Peter (well, Doc Ock as Peter) dates MJ, Doc Ock is bad, Jonah Jameson doesn’t like Spider-Man, etc. I enjoy watching the struggle between Octavius, who wants to do the minimum in a fight while being a media whore, and Peter Parker, who keeps him from leaving innocents in the line of fire and from killing his foes. We’ll see how long SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN actually lasts before Marvel goes back to AMAZING, but for now I am on board for the ride!
4) UNCANNY AVENGERS
A direct result of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, a new division of the Avengers is formed, incorporating more mutants and using a classic and strong villain, making for the most enjoyable AVENGERS title in Marvel NOW!
SYNOPSIS: Following the war between mutants and Avengers, a conflict that further eroded the public’s tolerance and trust of mutants, Captain America, leader of the Avengers, decides to create a new Avengers team led by a mutant and including more X-Men than ever before. Steve Rogers knows the people need to see mutants as heroes again, heroes who save the innocent, unlike Cyclops’ unit which still seeks nothing but the survival of mutant-kind.
Rogers puts Scott Summers aka Cyclops’ own brother, Alex Summers aka Havok in charge of the team, despite Havok & Wolverine’s better judgement. The Uncanny Avengers may not last long, as they face a threat unlike any other, Red Skull, empowered with Charles Xavier’s (Professor X) powers following his death by Cyclops hand at the crescendo of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. Red Skull has Professor X’s brain.
JUDGEMENT: One of my favorite villains now possesses the powers of one of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel Universe! I am not a huge fan of the X-Men (hence my only trying one of the many X NOW! titles; ALL NEW X-MEN), so the idea of an Avengers team loaded with mutants isn’t my favorite, but this particular storyline involving Red Skull and his plan to exterminate the last mutants makes this Avengers book my favorite of those currently released under Marvel NOW! AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS aren’t written or illustrated any worse or better, both are fine books, but I look forward most to what happens next in each issue of UNCANNY AVENGERS.
As for AVENGERS ARENA, I’ve never read it. But after one issue, YOUNG AVENGERS is my least favorite book of all the NOW! titles, and I can’t advise staying clear of that title more strongly.
SYNOPSIS: Simple. General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, now the Red Hulk as a result of his obsession with hunting Bruce Banner aka the Incredible (now Indestructible) Hulk, is putting together a team. A team of “heroes/anti-heroes” who are not afraid to get down and dirty. Thunderbolt sees the cancer of evil, the injustices even S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t touch, so he’s recruited Frank Castle aka Punisher, Elektra, Deadpool, and & Agent Venom aka Flash Thompson; those who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty… really dirty.
JUDGEMENT: Their badassery aside, THUNDERBOLTS is my favorite team-up book because the team is also the most interesting and refreshing one currently in the Marvel Universe. The Avengers aren’t anything new, and they don’t bicker as much seeing as how they have been an established team for over 40 years (sure, there was that CIVIL WAR at one point… but that’s behind them!). General Thunderbolt’s team is unpredictable due to the type of “heroes” he recruited; what’s better than an argument between smart-ass Deadpool and deadly serious Punisher?
And of late, it does look like the Thunderbolts are in over their heads. The first issue was a fantastic recruiting montage, more-or-less, and things have only gotten dicier in Thunderbolt’s first mission to liberate a small nation dying under a tyrant. A tyrant with ties to one of Hulk’s greatest adversaries…
2) CAPTAIN AMERICA
SYNOPSIS: The man out of time is now displaced again, this time in “Dimension Z,” that of Capt.’s nemesis Arnim Zola. Falling into a trap, Steve Rogers escapes Zola’s lair and city with a baby, leaving him lost in a deadly, alien wilderness where he must ensure his survival as well as that of the mysterious child.
JUDGEMENT: Captain America is my favorite Marvel superhero. That alone does not earn this book a spot on my top five Marvel NOW! titles, as again, like with UNCANNY AVENGERS and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, the story is just so goddamn good and fresh.
After losing everyone he knew once, when frozen during WWII and awakened in modern times, Captain America now faces a similar tragedy as he has no way to escape Dimension Z. My mind was blown when I read the first page of CAPTAIN AMERICA issue #2 on which was written over black, “One Year Later.” One assumes time moves faster in the Z Dimension, as it is unlikely Captain America can simply be absent from the Marvel Universe for such an extended period of time (where would the Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, and New Avengers be without him?), so what does this mean for Steve Rogers? I know he ages slower than average man due to his cell regeneration courtesy of the Super Soldier Serum, but if left in the Z Dimension long enough, will Rogers age faster relative to his friends and allies in the real world? Will he fall victim to the trials of age before he can escape in fighting shape?
It is fun to see Captain America in more of a THE ROAD-esque survival story, using his shield to build fires rather than fight. Fighting he does still, but a maskless, bearded Steve Rogers is definitely something new to look forward to every issue. And what’s the deal with the child? He came from Zola’s lab… is Captain America ensuring the survival of friend or foe?
Hiring a comedian to write DEADPOOL was a brilliant move. You’ve seen Brian Posehn on THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM, HUMAN GIANT, and JUST SHOOT ME!, but now he’s filling the Merc with the Mouth’s… well… mouth.
SYNOPSIS: By far, the most outlandish storyline of Marvel NOW! (even more so than the literally outlandish Dimension Z adventures of Captain America), here we have a plot befitting only of Deadpool. Someone has raised all the late US Presidents from beyond the grave, and they want their country back!
Captain America beheads Truman in the first issue and S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly decides they don’t want their most American hero killing US presidents (undead or not) on the 10 o’clock news. They need a “hero” with less prestige, one that isn’t meant to inspire hope among mortals like us. Just like the Thunderbolts, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs Deadpool. Besides, Wade Wilson is Canadian.
JUDGEMENT: AMAZING! Perhaps the best comic I have ever read. The humor is off the charts, from covers featuring Deadpool shooting a giant green monster spitting cats and cash to honest-to-God ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT references, “Illusions, Michael!” One of my favorite moments is Deadpool’s fantasy of Marvel’s sexiest to most powerful women (Susan Storm to She-Hulk) fighting over him, after he is shot in the head by Abraham Lincoln.
One of my favorite updates from pre-NOW! DEADPOOL is that the Regeneratin’ Degenerate hasn’t talked to himself lately, instead he’s been talking to the ghost of Benjamin Franklin (a ghost who must constantly remind the Canadian he was never a US President). Think of it as Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) switching out his skull for John Hamish Watson (Martin Freeman) on SHERLOCK.
Don’t fear Deadpool fans, as Wade has already surmised that when Franklin leaves, he’ll again be stuck talking to himself. He still breaks the fourth wall and talks to us, something he tells his S.H.I.E.L.D. handler that he cannot explain in “one panel.” And he even gets help from Doctor Strange in the form of a President-zombie-slaying-sword. How badass is that?
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, UNCANNY AVENGERS, THUNDERBOLTS, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and DEADPOOL may be the cream of the crop, but don’t discount some of the other titles.
AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS are great fun, even overlapping a wee bit in events. For example, the focus of NEW AVENGERS is that different universes are colliding, causing different Earths to smash into eachother in a sort of chain reaction. While not a major plot point in AVENGERS, the character Hyperion’s origin involves his being stranded in nothingness after failing to keep his Earth from colliding with another.
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. No longer fighting his affliction, Dr. Bruce Banner has decided to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.: they finance his work and he lets them “aim” the Hulk at trouble spots like a WMD.
IRON MAN is tracking down five lost Extremis kits to make sure their power doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, creating new and future enemies in the process.
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER actually tells the tale of three Thors, young and brash Thor, present day Thor, and thousands of years in the future Thor, the one-armed King of Asgard. All deal with the God Butcher who has a personal vendetta with the God.
SAVAGE WOLVERINE, though only one issue in, is classic Wolvie, going berserk and takin’ no names in the Savage Land.
Finally, there are still a few titles yet to drop that I am greatly anticipating:
NOVA – The preview in MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE suggests a fun book with a young-Peter Parker-esque hero learning the ropes. Like I said, reminds me of Parker’s high school days.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – As Marvel prepares for their GUARDIANS film in 2014 as part of the AVENGERS INITIATIVE: PHASE TWO, we’re finally getting a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY book. Bring on Rocket Raccoon!
SECRET AVENGERS – More focused than the old version of SECRET AVENGERS, Marvel NOW! shifts the title on S.H.I.E.L.D. Think of it as the adventures of Agent Phil Coulson, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Max Fury. Secret Agent stuff!
THANOS RISING – The origin of AVENGERS 2’s main baddie revealed. Only a mini-series, but exciting none-the-less as Thanos’ big screen debut looms in 2015.
AGE OF ULTRON – The first Marvel NOW! event. Bring on the ultimate Avengers nemesis, Ultron! My personal preference for the villain that should round out the AVENGERS trilogy.
Happy reading, true believers. More than ‘Nuff Said!