Marvel Month in (P)review highlights the Marvel Comics’ month that was and previews the Marvel Comics’ month that will be. This month’s column features previews of Wolverine: Weapon X #1 and Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #4!
New Avengers #51 saw Brian Michael Bendis kick off a new story arc in which Dr. Strange embarked on a quest to find a new Sorcerer Supreme – and in which (in a rather surprising move) Spider Man revealed his secret identity to his teammates.
The presence of Chris Bachalo as artist kicked things up a notch on the visual front, with some fantastic panels of Dormammu, the Hood, and Strange himself. The result was one of the best issues of the book in a long time, with plenty of interesting ideas that should easily be able to sustain the story.
I’m wary of being so positive about the first issue of a New Avengers arc, as experience has taught me that these things rarely end as well as they begin, and story elements that seem promising rarely live up to their full potential. However, this issue is a surprisingly enjoyable read that’s elevated by Bachalo’s great visuals. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually interested in seeing where a New Avengers arc is headed.
Wolverine‘s shipping schedule over the last nine months can at best be described as spotty, but luckily the plot of Mark Millar’s future-set “Old Man Logan” is straightforward enough that it isn’t hard to get your bearings, despite the extended wait between issues. This story has nominally revolved around Wolverine assisting Hawkeye by making a journey to deliver a mysterious package, but it’s really been an excuse for Millar and his artist, Steve McNiven, to explore their vision of a dystopian America of the future in which the supervillains won.
This issue threw out yet more imaginative concepts (a Venom-enhanced T-Rex; an elderly Emma Frost who projects a psychic vision of her younger self; the big reveal of Hawkeye’s secret cargo) whilst also moving us closer to Millar’s endgame, which will presumably involve the President of this future U.S.A., whose identity was also revealed this issue. I look forward to seeing how the story wraps up over the next couple of issues.
This issue of Daredevil was the first to be released since Marvel announced the news that Ed Brubaker will be leaving the book in a few issues’ time. Perhaps that overshadowed my enjoyment of the issue a little, because I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t quite up to the standard of previous issues (especially the fantastic issue #116). The plot moved a little too slowly, and not very much happened to push the story forward here, making it feel more like a recap issue than anything else.
The final few pages showed a little more potential than the rest of the book, however, setting up a new wrinkle in the relationship between the Kingpin and Daredevil that should make the next few issues interesting. Ultimately, a middling issue of Daredevil is still better than most superhero books on the stands at the moment — I just hope that things pick up a little bit over the next couple of months so that Brubaker can leave the book on a high.
The concluding issue of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Scotland-set horror story provided a decent payoff for the setup of issue #564, introducing the horrific Lovecraftian monster of Iarmailt in all its glory before giving the Fantastic Four the opportunity to rescue Valeria from its clutches. Even if it’s not going to set the world alight, it was a fun enough romp with a monster-story vibe that was quite reminiscent of the early issues of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four. An enjoyable way to spend an issue, even if it does feel like an appetiser for the really good stuff that’s yet to come in Millar and Hitch’s final arc (which is tantalisingly teased at the end of this issue).
I’ve been lukewarm on the whole “Dark Reign” event, so the news that Elektra was going to get her own tie-in series didn’t particularly excite me (especially given the way in which her Skrull-related story was fumbled in the tie-in Avengers issue that explained how she was replaced).
However, Zeb Wells and Clay Mann turned in a first issue that took the concept of a weakened Elektra in H.A.M.M.E.R. custody and turned it into a taut, suspenseful thriller which demonstrated Elektra’s strength as a character whilst keeping her silent throughout almost the entire issue. This is some of the best writing of the character since Miller originally created her, and Clay Mann is definitely an artist to watch.
CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI:13 #12
Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain & MI-13 kicked off the “Vampire State” arc in earnest last month, setting up several interesting plot points that hold a lot of potential, and establishing Dracula as a severe threat to the security of the British Isles. This issue promises to explore Spitfire’s forced allegiance to the vampire overlord, Blade’s reaction to Dracula’s challenge, Faiza’s emergence as a new superhero, and Pete Wisdom’s solution to the problem of sleeper vampire agents in his midst. This is shaping up to be the book’s most enjoyable arc yet.
DAREDEVIL: NOIR #1
The title of Daredevil: Noir can’t help but feel like a tautology. Matt Murdock’s solo title has been characterised by its noir sensibilities for many years now, so a second Noir title seems somewhat redundant. However, Alexander Irvine’s new miniseries promises to take the character to some interesting new places, transplanting him back in time to 1920s/30s New York, giving him a new job, and immersing him even more fully in a world that’s built around crime noir story tropes. The preview art by Tom Coker looks great, and the placement of Daredevil into the “noir” universe seems like a far more natural fit than the previous Noir mini-series (which featured the X-Men and Spider-Man). I look forward to seeing what Irvine does with the character. More Daredevil is never a bad thing.
WOLVERINE: WEAPON X#1
Hot writer Jason Aaron launches a new Wolverine ongoing this month, and one that’s being mooted as the new solo title for the character once “Old Man Logan” wraps up and the regular Wolverine book switches its focus to Daken, Logan’s son.
Although I wonder how much more can be said about Wolverine’s Weapon X days, Aaron’s work has been recommended to me several times in the past, so I’ll be checking this issue out on the strength of his name alone. Let’s not forget that the now-overexposed character of Wolverine has provided top creators like Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith with some great storytelling opportunities in the past. Hopefully Aaron will be another name to add to that list.
DARK REIGN: HAWKEYE #1
Another month, another new “Dark Reign” tie-in. Hot on the heels of Dark Reign: Elektra, this series focuses on another Daredevil supporting character: Bullseye, the expert assassin who has taken over the role of Hawkeye in Norman Osborn’s new team of Dark Avengers.
Since Bullseye has always been something of an enigma in Daredevil, I’m looking forward to seeing what Andy Diggle does with him in his own dedicated title, and whether we’ll get any hints of how the writer plans to handle Daredevil himself when he takes over that book.
ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS. HULK #4
Returning to a regular schedule for its final issues, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #4 promises a three-way face-off between the two titular characters and She-Hulk, who made her Ultimate Universe debut last issue. It’ll be interesting to see how Lindelof handles this new version of the character, and how well she fits into a story that has so far been an enjoyable, over-the-top romp with an inventive use of flashbacks and some great art from Leinil Yu and Dave McCaig.
TIMESTORM 2009/2099 #1
Although I was never a fan of the original 2099 line, I’m curious about what this new series has to offer. The 2099 universe is one that I’m surprised to see Marvel revisit, but one that is ripe for reinvention. Writer Brian Reed has talked about his intentions for the new book being to update the concept of the Marvel Universe a century into the future (or 90 years in the future now, I guess) with some slightly more up-to-date ideas about the prevalence of corporate influences on our day-to-day lives, and the introduction of an interesting concept which casts superheroes as company mascots rather than independent characters in their own right. I look forward to seeing how well these ideas are brought to the page.