So, I’ve decided to write a (perhaps) weekly column on all the Marvel NOW! comics I read each week because…
a) A second opinion never hurts.
b) I subscribe to a great deal of the Marvel NOW! titles, with some exceptions including X-MEN titles and FANTASTIC FOUR.
c) Did I mention I’m really into Marvel NOW!?
d) I’m not caught up on my IDW, DC, and non-Marvel NOW! Marvel titles.
While Media Monster simply picks his favorite titles each month, I’ll give you a run down of what happens each issue, following it up with a mini-review of my own. Like with my previous Marvel NOW! post, I will only be discussing titles that got rebooted along with Marvel NOW! Anything started prior to that, like AVENGING SPIDER-MAN, HAWKEYE, or AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, or any books in the Ultimate Universe like SPIDER-MAN starring Miles Morales, will not be discussed.
AVENGERS #5: SUPERGUARDIAN
Following the first three-issue arc involving a creative/destructive force on Mars, Issue #4 focused a little on the aftermath; both villains and heroes racing to either quarantine or benefit from sectors of Earth hit with the evolution spawning virus from Mars. Hyperion was introduced, yet this week’s issue seems to relate little to the four that came before.
Synopsis: Like Issue #4, this issue focuses on the origin of a hero. Izzy finds a pair of glasses in a corn field in Iowa. Putting them on, she becomes a Smasher, the first human Subguardian in the history of the planet Chandilar. The story jumps around from Izzy’s first journey to Chandilar to the present where she has rallied the Avengers to help defend the planet.
Of course, the Avengers are successful and the planet is saved. Afterward, we learn (via flashback) that after she received her gift, Izzy was given an Avengers card by her grandfather who served with Captain America in his youth. Izzy is promoted to Superguardian, again, the first Earthling to ever achieve this rank. Meanwhile, the other Superguardians have come to a startling conclusion; the force they fought back was not attacking their planet, rather it was fleeing something far more terrifying and powerful.
Judgement: While AVENGERS issues 1-3 were fairly straightforward in their storytelling, issues 4 & 5 seem unnecessarily complex, almost like the writer is simply trying to imitate unconventional storytellers like Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino. I don’t like how the previous storyline was all but dropped for the issue, with the exception of a nearly pointless page on which Tony Stark interacts with Blackveil, the next evolution of man whom was a result of the incident on Mars.
AVENGERS seems to be building up to something much bigger, setting up characters like Hyperion and Superguardian Smasher Izzy, but until the fruits of Marvel NOW!’s labor are evident, I label this book my least favorite out of the titles I currently read from Marvel NOW!
Rating – DON’T READ.
THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS #1
Synopsis: The era of a brand new Defenders team has begun. Though recently rebooted in 2012 with Dr. Strange, Red She-Hulk, Namor, Silver Surfer, and Iron Fist, NOW! brings a brand new version with completely different characters, starting with Valkyrie and Misty Knight.
The action starts with Misty Knight rescuing relics that belong in a museum, Indiana Jones style (her employer Dr. Annabelle Riggs “grew up watching a lot of Indiana Jones”) from a heavily guarded ship. She’s not the only one after ancient treasures, as the ship is destroyed by an attack helicopter, but not before she escapes with a miniature statue. The helicopter baddies are able to salvage an ancient skeleton, one which will somehow bring about a massacre.
Back at the White Mountain National Forest, Annabelle Riggs (she watches Indiana Jones and shares a last name with my favorite buddy cop, I may be in love…) examines the statue at an Asgardian burial site, accidentally activating a song that awakens all the dead vikings. Misty Knight does her best to fight off the hoard but is only successful once Valkyrie arrives to help. Following their battle, Valkyrie leaves to consult the all-mother, with Misty Knight and Riggs tagging along.
Judgement: I’ve never heard of any of these characters, but so far I dig the book. Valkyrie is basically a female version of Thor; officially a Shieldmaiden, “gatherer of fallen warriors.” Misty Knight is a ninja with a bionic arm called Satan Claw, a “Stark Industries Cybernetic Replica.” And Dr. Annabelle Riggs is a lesbian, making out with Valkyrie after she is saved… so maybe she is not the girl for me after all. 😦
The action is solid, the characters interesting, and a threat looms large as the corpse secured by the villains is causing the Doommaidens to rise, which Valkyrie admits is her fault.
We’ll see where the book goes in coming months, who else joins the team, but for now my curiosity is peaked, even if I’m not one with a history for “girl power.”
Rating – MAYBE READ…
Previously: Iron Man retrieved all five missing Extremis kits, creating new foes along the way. Seeing what types of enhancements the kits resulted in, Tony Stark decided to push himself farther, designing a suit for deep space travel. So Stark set out on his intergalactic adventure, all set with a new A.I. called P.E.P.P.E.R., with all the personality traits of Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts.
Synopsis: After defending the Voldi Tear in deep space from a “predatory mechanoid pirate fleet” Tony flirts with a purple-skinned alien at the Voldi Citadel of Rapture. The two decide to retreat to her room, as it is Tony’s birthday, after all. Upon removing his armor, miss Purple-Skin vomits; facial hair is apparently a disgusting taboo in this sector.
Booted out before he even has a chance to shave, Stark is quickly arrested by the authorities for Deicide. Labeled the Godkiller, Stark is being held for killing the Void Falcon… or as we know it on Earth… The Phoenix (Iron Man had to slay the nearly unstoppable force to save the Earth in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN).
Judgement: Not a lot happens this issue. Considering this is part one of a three issue arc, I expected more to happen to Stark than a three page space fight (two of which were a splash page), some flirting, and then arrest. In fact, this issue was mostly flirting.
While it’s the 3rd worst title of the week (which also makes it the 4th best, I guess…), I still like the direction IRON MAN has taken with Marvel NOW! While still bogged down in AvX aftermath, it is interesting to see the great threat that was the Phoenix from an alien perspective. And there are some real fun moments including Tony’s STAR TREK reference where he exclaims that “the purple space girl thing has its appeal too.”
Rating – MAYBE READ…
Previously: A chain reaction of universes smashing into one another threatens the Avenger’s own version of Earth, and the only way to stop it may be to reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet. Problem is, the keeper of The Mind Gem, Charles Xavier, is dead following the events of AvX, and the location of his gem is unknown. Either the New Avengers reassemble the Gauntlet, or they will have to destroy the Earth that threatens to collide with their own.
Synopsis: Doctor Henry McCoy aka Beast received a letter following Xavier’s death. In it, there is an embedded memory that leads him to the Mind Gem (that was easy). Possessing all the gems, the New Avengers reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet (a feat that does not go unnoticed by Galactus or Thanos) and Captain America attempts to push the other Universe away from our own. He is able to slow the convergence, but when he pushes too hard the Gauntlet and all its stones shatter, lost forever. Now the New Avengers only have one hope to save their Earth, and it means destroying the other entire, populated planet that threatens to smash both worlds.
Steve Rogers aka Captain America fights the decision to build a doomsday device that would destroy the other Earth should another incursion take place, but not one other member of the New Avengers agree. In fact, to prevent his stopping them, Tony Stark has Doctor Strange erase Captain America’s memory so he has no knowledge of the universe-collapsing-apocalypse or what the New Avengers must sacrifice to save their own world.
Judgement: I love it! By far my favorite Avengers title, I love the predicament facing the New Avengers and the polarizing stance Steve Rogers takes as the team’s moral compass. The moral dilemma facing the team is gigantic, the stakes couldn’t be higher, the actions they need to take couldn’t be more extreme, and the fact this team acts in complete secrecy makes it all the more interesting. Capt. is my favorite Marvel hero, so I will mourn his hiatus from NEW AVENGERS, but I look forward to what’s to come. I only hope that one panel means we will be seeing Thanos soon.
THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN # 3: EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG
Previously: Doc Ock is living it up in Peter Parker’s body as the Superior Spider-Man, and only Peter’s ex-girlfriend/crime scene investigator Carlie Cooper suspects a thing. Peter lives on, trapped in his own brain as Otto Octavius pulls the strings, including making good with the Mayor of New York and Spider-Man’s least biggest fan, J. Jonah Jameson. Otto has also had the guts to do what Peter could never do; permanently break up with Mary Jane Watson because his being the Superior Spider-Man puts her constantly at risk.
Synopsis: Convinced he has Web Head at his beck and call, J. Jonah Jameson installs a “Spider-Signal” atop the NYPD police station. Spider-Man arrives, seemingly destroying the beacon, while still managing to play Jameson like a fiddle. Spider-Man is sent to stop the Vulture (whose mini-minions attacked Mary Jane in Issue #2), and Carlie Cooper is assigned to assist him. As her suspicions build, Doc Ock Spidey adjusts his lenses in his mask “to detect the magnetic signature that the Vulture’s wings” emit.
The Superior Spider-Man heads for Vulture’s lair, Doc Ock reminiscing about their early days collaborating in the Sinister Six together. Peter Parker is literally thrown into Doc’s memory, learning he can root around in his nemesis’s mind as the mad scientist controls his body. Doc Ock Spidey tries to offer Vulture a deal, a grand sum of money which is all Vulture claimed to want in their early days; one last score to retire on. Vulture sees it as a trick and sicks his minions on Spider-Man, minions that turn out to be children! As Peter sees Otto’s memories of being beaten by his father, Superior Spider-Man goes ballistic and begins to destroy the Vulture, telling him:
“This is NOT some old conflict you’ve fought a million times… This is something NEW! EVERYTHING you know about me is WRONG! He — I always went easy on you. Fighting an OLD, pathetic senior citizen — with arms that have traded blows with THE HULK!”
Vulture realizes Spidey is for real; Doc Ock does intend to kill him. Evading Spider-Man by flying higher as the “hero” runs out of web fluid, Vulture turns the tables and threatens to break Spidey’s neck or drop him to his death.
But Superior Spider-Man reveals his true plan, blacking out his eyes (the real modifications he made in the lab) while simultaneously blasting the Vulture and himself with the Spider-Signal. Vulture is blinded and Otto uses the chance to drive him into a downward dive, right into the massive spot-light. Burned and cut to pieces, the Vulture is in critical condition, something Carlie Cooper exclaims “the Spider-Man I know would NEVER do something like this. NEVER.”
Peter thinks he’s won a small victory with Cooper’s growing suspicions but Doc Ock convinces her it was necessary, especially as previously the Vulture put her life in danger and this time he was using children. Peter begins to fear he’s lost the only ally he has as Carlie appears to be sold on Otto’s lies.
Judgement: At first, when I saw the Spider-Signal, an obvious ripoff of the Bat Signal, I was enraged. The joke about Spider-Man finding it to be a terrible idea because his villains would know his location was funny, but didn’t warrant this blatant thievery from DC (okay, so both DC and MARVEL copy each other all the time, but this time it seemed personal). The payoff more than made up for my initial negative reaction; I love that Doc Ock Spidey used it as part of his plan to critically wound an old ally/new foe.
I continue to enjoy the developments involving Peter in Otto’s head, now moving from silent observer to memory watcher. It’s fun to see the early days of Spider-Man and the Sinister Six through the villains point-of-view. And Doc Ock has become more relateable with his own troubled childhood and reaction to Vulture using children as minions. I love that Otto wanted to kill Vulture, and may yet kill or mortally wound a nemesis of Spider-Man’s in a future issue.
It doesn’t hurt that SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is perhaps my favorite comic to take in, beautifully drawn and colored in a style I love.
Rating – MUST READ!
THUNDERBOLTS #4: MASSIVE RESPONSE
Previously: Red Hulk aka Thunderbolt Ross, planned on using a confused Leader as a secret weapon to stop a mad dictator with gamma weapons holding his country Kata Jaya hostage, seeing as how the dictator is actually a puppet to Madman, Leader’s brother. Instead, Punisher executes Leader on sight, just what Deadpool told Red Hulk would happen. Elektra, meanwhile, is a captive of General Awa’s regime.
Synopsis: Ross, furious about the execution of Leader, his secret weapon, leaps off the island of Kata Jaya with Leader’s body, leaving his team on their own. Deadpool and Punisher distract the gamma infused Madman while Agent Venom rescues Elektra. Meanwhile, we learn that the cruel dictator General Awa was made the leader of kata Jaya decades ago by the US government, with the help of a pilot named Thunderbolt Ross. Having lost his allies and control of his nation to Madman, Awa kills himself, allowing Venom to rescue Elektra. Punisher is able to take down Madman with the ole’ mine-strapped-to-the-chest gag, but the issue ends with the foreboding image of Red Hulk pumping Leader full of copious amounts of gamma radiation.
Judgement: I’ve really been enjoying THUNDERBOLTS, but this issue kind of lost me. Just like this week’s AVENGERS, there was too much jumping around in time, too many flashbacks with very little payoff. Everything else was just too simple from the plot to save Elektra to the downfall of General Awa and Madman. Also, while SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN may be my favorite comic artistically, THUNDERBOLTS may be my least favorite. The covers are glorious with their red motif, while the inside is as generic as they come.
I do always enjoy Deadpool, and Punisher’s takedown of Madman, though simple, was pretty badass. And Red Hulk’s attempt to save Leader may prove to produce more interesting stories down the line with much higher stakes.
Rating – DON’T READ.
As usual, this post was much too wordy, and if I continue this column in the coming weeks, I will refine my style and structure to shorten the piece into something easier to consume. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my timely analysis of this week’s Marvel NOW! titles.
More than Nuff’ Said!