Some comics are too big, hypeworthy or insane for one reviewer to cover. Which is why we have Real Talk, an outlet for a group of reviewers to tackle a comic together and either come to a consensus or verbally arm wrestle until there’s nothing left to say.
Steve Morris: The Point One Initiative is no longer a way to sell an extra comic of already-popular books under the pretence that people need a “jump on” issue in order to start on a series. Marvel seem to have realized that the premise doesn’t really function the way they wanted it to, which means now they use the title for an annual anthology which collects five or six short stories at a time. With a short framing sequence to justify their stories, they then tease several upcoming books via short stories from the creative teams involved. This year, that means Brian Michael Bendis on a Guardians of the Galaxy prologue, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie preluding Young Avengers, and Dennis Hopeless fixing Forge — along with three other pieces.
To get a proper look at the book, I roped in Natalie Parker to tackle half the stories, while I took on the other three. Because I’m LAZY. Whatever, you guys.
The opening sequence is set in the newly revamped offices of SHIELD, which are now home to Maria Hill, Nick Fury Jr. and Phil Coulson. The latter two were introduced during the Battlescars miniseries from Marvel — it didn’t sell too well, because Marvel hid their involvement until the end. But the framing sequence introduces a time-traveling character who wants to talk to the trio, which leads into the stories. This story, by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross, also works as a prelude to their upcoming Secret Avengers series. It’s a reasonable framing sequence, if a little bland. Coulson and Fury Jr. don’t come across as particularly interesting, whilst a final action sequence is somewhat messily rendered by Ross. But the framing sequence leads into the other stories, so…
Natalie Parker: First up from my trio is Star Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Of the three, it’s definitely the thinnest on story, but that works. It’s a classic simple hook; jumping 20 years back in time, we’re shown a teenage boy who stands up for others when no one else will and the single mother that loves him. Of course they’re immediately beset by tragedy (evil space assassins!), there are non-revelations about the boy’s father (he’s from space!) and a plot to end a bloodline is revealed. Finish with a giant explosion in which a house is obliterated. Simple, but well done, and I’ll come back for more.
Next up is Nova in “Diamondhead” by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness and… ugh. I’d like to be positive about this, but I just can’t manage it. Ed McGuinness’ artwork is great; he’s perfectly matched for a young teen or all-ages title and compliments are also due to Marte Gracia’s vibrant colors. However, Loeb’s all-new teen Nova is a thoroughly and utterly obnoxious little twerp. I found myself hoping that the dense villain of the piece would actually kill him after just eight pages of exposure. Pre-pubescent boys will probably love him, though. My condolences, fans of Richard Rider; his legacy probably doesn’t deserve this.
Last one for me, it’s Miss America (and Kid Loki!) in “The New World” by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie. I’m not really going to be able to keep up an air of impartiality about this because oh my word I love this title more than I love air and it’s not even out yet. We’re shown a dimension-hopping Miss America Chavez, out to find herself. However, in true “getting the band together” style, Loki finds her first and presents her with a proposition — DESTROY WICCAN FOR THE GOOD OF REALITY. While many readers might find themselves instantly agreeing, our heroine puts the young god through a window and gives him a warning. The whole thing finishes with a beautifully simple in-universe advert, of a similar style to one the creative pair produced in the run up to Phonogram: The Singles Club, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it guerilla-posted on city centre streets over the next few weeks. I can’t wait for January.
Steve: Guys, don’t worry! I’m back. Steve is here. You’re safe. The next story is teasing Matt Fraction and Mike Allred’s FF, of which we knew very little. We knew the team were Scott Lang, She-Hulk, Medusa and Miss Thing, but what was their purpose and what was going to happen in the book? Fraction answers with one of the most satisfying stories he’s written at Marvel, which focuses on Scott Lang and his recent return back to the Marvel Universe. If you missed The Children’s Crusade — which you really should make sure to miss, because it was AWFUL — then this gets you up to speed, and it seems clear that Fraction is drawing on his own experience as a father for this story. It’s neatly done, with a nice final page which made me realize how much I’d missed Scott Lang. Which, odd. Allred is, as ever, masterful in his work, with Laura Allred providing striking colors, as ever.
The final story comes from Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, trailing Cable & X-Force. Again, this was a book which seemed promising despite having an evident truckload of secrets we were not yet privy to. Hopeless dedicates his eight pages to poor lost Forge, taking the Ellis-stricken character and fixing him, in body and mind. It all leads into a last page which left me very excited for the future of the series. Hopeless writes an almost impossible sequence — a six-page soliloquy given by a crazy person as he runs about a post-apocalyptic landscape. And he nails it, delivering a fun, silly Forge who looks like a great addition to the team. Walta’s art perfectly fits the tone — shame he won’t be drawing the main title. Actually, shame he still doesn’t have an ongoing. He’s one of Marvel’s best artists.
So there we go! A few duds, one thump, but on the whole — a rather promising teaser for Marvel NOW! Excited?
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet’s 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He’s on Team X-Men, you guys.
Bisexual Valkyrie, in exile from her beloved homeland of Yorkshire, watches over the Manchester cityscape. Not actually a supervillain, despite living above a hat museum. Lover of cinema, comics, posh coffee, very small lop-eared bunnies and Swedish Electronica. Would marry Jamie McKelvie’s artwork, if such a thing were legal in Britain.