MARVEL COMICS 2018 [News Editorial]: Into the Void.

***UPDATED 3/11/18***

“Monsignor” Travis Moody

Perhaps the most rebooted Marvel title the past few years has been Captain Marvel. With a movie incarnation set for March 6 of 2019, and a Carol Danvers played by Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), there’s a reason for the persistent push. The Life of Captain Marvel is an interesting title, an origin story from Margaret Stohl and Carlos Pacheco that Marvel hopes can capture at least half the magic that Clark caught in Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu’s Superman: Birthright. I’m not exactly sure what the dichotomy is between fans clamoring for Larson’s film, and comic book readers overlooking this character. Maybe it’s because Carol was Ms. Marvel for so long? Maybe because we’ve yet to see Ms. Danvers in action on the silverscreen? With Captain Marvel comics having been pretty consistent but nothing too earth-shattering, going the origin route seems the safest, smartest bet. And that’s sort of a trend with this whole Marvel “Fresh Start”, now, isn’t it?

And then Marvel goes and announced a Sentry comic. Sentry. The fuckin’ S-E-N-T-R-Y. Manic Super-depressent-man. At least Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s creation will be in good, if not perfect hands with Jeff Lemire. If you’ve read any of the guy’s prolific work (Sweet Tooth! Animal Man! Royal City! Moon Knight! Every-thing!), you’d never question’s Lemire’s adept hand at penning psychological depth. Kudos to C.B. Cebulski and friends for going against the grain with The Sentry #1, yet being wise enough to assemble the right creators, which also includes Kim Jacinto‘s versatile linework, for the challenge. As an ol’ fan of Bob Reynolds and his good pal, The Void, around the time of Dark Avengers/Siege, this return marks one of my most anticipated Marvel Comics of 2018.

If you had to find a suitable replacement on Iron Man for Brian Michael Bendis, whose polarizing persona went up, up and away to DC Comics, you could do worse than Dan Slott. With Tony Stark: Iron Man #1, Slott respects the legacy of the Avenger and the work Slott’s predecessor had laid out before his departure; the longtime Amazing Spider-Man scribe will continue the story, but feature “hundreds” of new armors — designed by artist Valerio Schiti — readers can melt their eyes on. Having enjoyed most of Slott’s run on the webcrawler (you could argue it’s at least the best run on the character since JMS, if not longer), I’m hoping for a longer tenure on the character than Bendis–with Tony at the forefront (Riri is cool, but Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man went in an entirely different direction than its first few great issues and sort of teetered off). More importantly, the best Iron Man stories seem to focus on the many armors of Stark, and that seems to be what we’re going to get.

Last and certainly not least is the character with the next movie on the Marvel superhero slate (not quite in the MCU, mind you): Deadpool. Fan favorite cartoonist/writer Skottie Young (Rocket Raccoon) will actually pen the title, so expect some sort of Jeff Lemire antics where Young’s infamous art becomes some sort of special surprise guest. Nic Klein will draw the majority of the title. With Deadpool #1, Young promises to interweave short stories and provide–duh!–high violent antics. If you thought his run on Rocket was ridic, pretty sure you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

-Travis Moody

***From 3/7/18***

“Monsignor” Travis Moody

Literally the day after I last updated this fine column, news broke out that heralded author and Black Panther comic scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates snatched up Cap’s red-white-and-blue shield. He’s next, and I can’t believe it. In addition to some heavy paints on the cover from art god Alex Ross, Ta-Nehisi is joined by fan fav Leinil Yu. If this Captain America #1 sounds too good to be true it damn near wasn’t, Mr. Coates explained in this outstanding read via The Atlantic. Personally, I admire the writer’s guts in taking on this project, and his reasons for doing so are even better, having mentioned his estranged history with an “American Dream” not named Dusty Rhodes. Coates looks at writing Cap as a chance to explore the more traditional perspectives of “liberty and justice for all” and will ask how those ideals fit into the current landscape of society.

Read a comic book with rivetting-yet-fair political context this Independence Day.

Current Captain America writer Mark Waid seeks a “Fresh Start” of his own in the form of two Avengers solo dishes: Doctor Strange and a mini-series spotlighting Ant-Man & the Wasp. The title with a July 6th movie release date sees a permanently shrunken Scott Long needing no one but Nadia–because only a damn bee can find his tiny ant-ass, right? The 6-issue series artist Javier Garron promises page layouts that range from traditional to zany, with various speed chases, poor experiments, and heavy arguments. Jesus Saiz will join Waid on his other new title, Doctor Strange #1, a good thing since we wouldn’t ever want to confuse Stephen’s intergalactic affairs with that damn near lookalike Tony Stark. Strange seeks out the Iron Man when his usual outstanding arcane/astral connection to Earth does him in. Both titles release on June 6.

It’ll be a “homecoming” for Ryan Ottley, whose pencilwork on Robert Kirkman’s Invincible has been nothing short of amazing (and colorist Laura Martin is no pushover either). This Spidey relaunch also gives Nick Spencer, coming off the controversial and often heavy criticized Secret Empire, a much-needed “Fresh Start”. Seeing how Amazing Spider-Man hasn’t been too plot-focused since the days of J. Michael Straczynsky and relies more on sharp dialogue and memorable characters, this could be a great fit; seek out Spencer’s surprising albeit superb take on the Superior Foes of Spider-Man (and his recent Captain America: Sam Wilson run) if you don’t believe me. The new ASM‘s synopsis promises Pete will see “a new roommate, new love interests, and a new villain.” I can see the Reddit Marvel forums going ballistic already.

-Travis Moody

***From 2/27/18***

“Monsignor” Moody

No Marvel superhero has had a fresher box office in quite some time as Black Panther, so it’s Vibranium carbon clear that the titular character will return as part of Marvel’s “Fresh Start”. The book’s current scribe, Ta-Nehisi Coates, returns alongside a new superstar artist Daniel Acuna — in this geek journalist’s humble opion, a most perfect match. Acuna’s usual grit-and-grime found in such Marvel “Knights” titles like Daredevil and New Avengers enters a whole new plateau, though: the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. That said, I’m expecting Acuna’s against-type design work and Coates’ current voice of T’Challa through this mysterious new adventure to prove a lethal combination.

Of course, Black Panther isn’t the only one set to reclaim his righteous throne. Marvel Comics goes super-retro (perhaps even inspired by Chris Hemsworth’s facial hair preference in Ragnarok) with June 13th’s Thor #1. And, again, Marvel Comics doesn’t try to do anything out of the ordinary here; Jason Aaron‘s much heralded run will not end; there’s no added subtitles (“The Mighty”, “God of Thunder”); and, arguably best of all, Aaron re-teams with Mike Del Mundo from their cult-classic Secret Wars title, Weirdworld, which was fun as Hela. Cooler, Thor #1‘s first arc draws yet another fine parallel to the Wakandan return with the Odinson finding himself on the hunt for ancient Asgardian artifacts.

So far I’m seeing a “keep it simple” trend with Marvel Comics’ major players and I’m loving it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–just clean it up. Seeing how Aaron is also writing the next Avengers title (revealed down below), it’s about time they made Thor the center of the Marvel triumvirate. Bendis’ Avengers run focused on Tony; Waid’s Avengers run centered on Steve; and, now, Aaron’s run will shine on.. Donald? That notion suitably segues into the first surprise of Marvel’s “Fresh Start” with Multiple Man. X-Factor’s Jamie Madrox returns from his Terrigen Mist death in a story written by Matthew Rosenberg, who’s made a name for himself with another returning X-character in the Phoenix Resurrection miniseries. Jamie’s comic looks to unravel the reasons how and why the hell he’s alive.

Not around for the time being is Madrox’ wife Layla Miller. That news-drop will prove upsetting for some (or many, actually), but if Peter David’s classic jaw-dropping final page reveals were any bit of inspiration to Matt, I wouldn’t count her or any of our other mutant detective pals out. Speaking of X-Factor, Multiple Man, which will have art from JLA’s Andy MacDonald, is also the first “Fresh Start” reveal that should come as a bit of a shock. While not every title in this new beginning needs to be obvious, X-Factor books have never really sold well and Jamie hasn’t been relevant for a while. Maybe that James Franco movie development has something to do with the idea?

Another man fond — or maybe NOT fond of? — of the color green is set to return, and this Hulk is also offering up some multiplying skills of his own. The Immortal Hulk (because being “Incredible” is just not enough) is a gamma vampire story without the black cloaks and sharp teeth; Al Ewing brings the horror to the Hulkverse, featuring an at-least-intriguing tale of puny death and an abominable–repeated–afterlife. That’s right; whenever Banner dies, the Hulk.. “Hulks up” and Bruce is resurrected every time the sun goes away. While the early look at Joe Bennett and Run Jose‘s sketches nevertheless look fabulous, Ewing’s idea can only go down either of two ways: incredibly great or incredibly stupid. One thing’s for sure, though: this is one bite on the neck I would never want to take.

-Travis Moody

From 2/20/18

“Monsignor” Travis Moody

This morning, Marvel Comics Publishing hit the restart button again. Call it a reboot, redo, reload, relaunch, reconfingure, refresh, whatever.. however.. you like. Either way, it’s quite clear that Marvel–the Comics, you know, the actual effing comics–had to do something. The comics line has been getting its ass handed to them by DC Comics’ phenomenal near 2-year Rebirth run, and the whole LGBT-pushed comics of the past year or so have sadly underperformed. But at least this New Beginning feels free of cheap gimmicks under new Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski‘s watch. Gone are the slogans. Gone are the marketing ploys. Gone, more specifically, are the “Marvel NOW! (As in NOW! Not yesterday, 23-years ago, or 3-seconds ago.. NOW!)”, “All-New (seriously All-New, not Old, but New! I swear), All-Different (seriously Different, not Same, but Different! I swear)” or “Marvel (we’re gonna have confuseshit math stuff all over the damn comic to try and appease to.. way too many people) Legacy” taglines.

Watch the teaser trailer for this “fresh start” right here…

That’s not to say all of the Marvel Comics in the past couple of years have been bad. Many of the breakout characters that went on to become mainstream superheroes, like Netflix icon Jessica Jones and future animated Spidey film star Miles Morales (thanks, BMB!) will still share headlines with the usual Avengers and X-Men; to no surprise, Ant-Man & The Wasp get a huge push and Worthy Thor has golden arms (U-God!) and a new golden Mjolnir (Rinlojm?).

Kudos to Marvel for taking every hero that is, to use some wrestling terminology, “over with the company”; thank you for not trying to push any agendas, sociopolitical or otherwise, or pushing unheralded characters down the throats of every reader (see: Inhumans). If we somehow come across a diamond-in-the-rough like Doreen Allene Green or Gwenpool, all the better. Maybe Marvel has also finally recognized the majority of their comic-buying audience (yeah, old ass white guys still living in their mom’s basement) and realized that movies don’t sell comics. Sadly, both notions are what they are.

While you can bet there’s still plenty of announcements to come from C.B. & Friends, here’s my take on some of the comics announced today…

How do you give a stagnant comics line a swift kick in the tighty-whitey? You start from the top. The Avengers, to this day, are still the cream of the Marvel crop, and it isn’t beyond NASA to give nerds a brand-new, ultra blockbuster Avengers #1 comic. The book’s writer Jason Aaron has, inarguably, held down the House That Stan & Jack Built; he’s provided words to the most consistent Avengers character run these past few years with God of Thunder and The Mighty Thor, and he’s even written some of the better Avengers-related comics/comic events during that same timeframe (i.e. Doctor Strange, Marvel Legacy #1). Artist Ed McGuinness has large, eye-popping linework that’s more than suitable for all the big battles and even bigger egos that often take place in an Avengers book, too.

Avengers #1 carefully pushes the most popular MCU heroes not named Spider-Man to the forefront, such as Doc Strange, Black Panther, and the one-year-from-now-stardom of Captain Marvel, along with the O.G. trinity of Thor/Cap/IM and two surprises: She-Hulk and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star, Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes. Expect new events and battles of yesteryear involving the Dark Celestials and the Avengers of 1,000,000 B.C. to stir much of Aaron’s drink. This one’s a no-brainer.

While we’re not exactly sure how much influnce Marvel Studios has had with the Tom Hardy-starred Venom film, it looks like the Comics department is going with the push anyway.

With Thanos scribe Donny Cates and ASM: Renew Your Vows artist Ryan Stegman at the healm, Venom #1 looks to keep it simple: a far more reluctant than usual Eddie Brock and his “little friend” take on an ancient threat. Gone is the symbiote searching for a new host; gone are the 319 Venoms and 237 Carnages that ran amuck in the most recent Venom funnybooks (i.e. Inc.). Stegman is a Spider-Man fan favorite and Cates had a solid 2017 (the Doctor Strange comic is still as zany as ever). While I wasn’t so thrilled watching the recent movie teaser, a steady Venom comic might just make this 30th Anniversary a pretty damn good time.

I’ll have more on Marvel’s “Fresh Start” in the days to come.

-Travis Moody

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