Thursday, May 1, 2014

What’s All This Then?: All-New Marvel Now!

What's All This Then? will be an ongoing article series on COMICS!!  Yes..the one thing we clearly love and has fueled our childhood imaginations, yet something we don't often cover due to time constraints and lack of man power. Welp, now Andrew O'Brien steps in to fill those super hero buccaneer boots! We start with a little dissection of Marvel's love affair with #1 issues...

A little over a year ago Marvel launched their massive publishing event Marvel NOW! and it was heralded as one of Marvel’s best ideas since Civil War. Essentially, it was just a shuffle of their creative deck. They had some creators on long-standing runs, such as Bendis’s 200+ issue Avengers run and Brubaker’s 7 or so year Captain America run, who were ready to move on and let other people take over these characters. This sparked controversy because, to do this, Marvel was going to “cancel” over half of their titles and relaunch them just like another superhero comic company who shall not be named (but may have characters whose names rhyme with Cooperman and Fratman). Marvel, prepared for this comparison, stated that Marvel NOW! was merely putting fresh new creators on their beloved titles with complete and utter respect for the continuity that came before. As luck would have it, Marvel has a cornucopia of fantastic talent and ever since Marvel NOW! launched, books like Hickman’s Avengers, Bendis’s All-New X-Men, and Slott’s Superior Spider-Man have stood strong on the top 20 in comics sales.

So what’s All-NEW Marvel NOW!? Since their first relaunch event was so successful, Marvel is attempting to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle again. This time around, they’re taking more risks by focusing on elevating their B-list characters with inspired creative teams. This movement also focuses on the "Marvel Knights" with Daredevil, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist and The Punisher getting relaunches. They’re also focusing on a stronger solo female force with Black Widow, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Elektra, and Ms. Marvel getting new #1’s as well. The number 1 seems to be the primary focus of All-New Marvel NOW! although with three types of #1 books put out throughout the four or so months of this push it can get confusing. Three types? Yes, faithful reader, there are three types of #1’s in All-New Marvel NOW!. 

(Note: The type of #1 does not correlate with the quality of the book)

1. True #1- These are titles with completely new creative teams with an overall different take on the characters in their book. For example Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’s "The Punisher" is a true #1 because it is radically different from Rucka’s acclaimed Punisher run from a year or so back in that Frank has moved out to L.A. and is entrenched in a twisty-turny drug war and he’s also hunted by a mysterious group who I won’t reveal here. Other True #1s include "Moon Knight", "Fantastic Four", "New Warrior"s and most of the titles I mentioned before when I spoke about the "Marvel Knights" and female focus, but not all…

2. False #1s- These are titles they relaunched that could’ve easily just been the next issue of the series, but since the comics industry is #1 crazy, they decided to make this new story arc a completely new volume of the series. For example, "Daredevil" #1 is the exact same (all be it great) creative team as Daredevil #36. All that changed is Matt Murdock has moved to San Francisco for reasons explained in #36. Other examples of this blatant disregard for numbers are "Captain Marvel" #1 (changed the artist), "Wolverine" #1 (changed the artist), and "Hulk" #1 (changed the artist). I’m not a huge fan of this trend where Marvel seem to be committing to the Mignola style of comics which is “new story arc, new book”. Mignola famously does this with Hellboy, and it works for that series, but I think a character like Spider-Man can sustain sales numbers whether he’s on issue 1 or 732. But at the same time they aren’t following the Hellboy paradigm. What do I mean? Well…


3. Bulls@$t #1s- There are several books from Marvel NOW! that Marvel doesn’t want to restart for some reason, yet they still want them to ride the All-New Marvel NOW! wave, so they plaster a big #1 on the cover, with the ACTUAL number in the bottom right hand corner. A prime example; "Uncanny Avengers" #18 is labeled "Uncanny Avengers" #18.NOW/#1 or some silliness like that because Marvel doesn’t want to restart the title, but they still want people to think that it’s a #1. I don’t like this trick. Marvel, if you’re going to commit to “new story arc, new book”, then commit. It’s even less consistent than I’m making it out to be. Like I said with the False #1s, most of them were restarted seemingly because of an artist change. Well "New Avengers" #16.NOW (/THEN hey lookatusbeatDCsomemore.1) has Rags Morales on art which is a brand new artist, but Marvel keeps the numbers going. I don’t know why, but my guess is that with Brand-New All-New Marvel NOW! 2.0 (or whatever it’ll be called) they’ll probably just relaunch the book with Hickman and fill-in-the blank artist. 

And that’s All-New Marvel NOW!. In this writer’s humble opinion, I think the whole #1 craze is kind of silly and you shouldn’t really worry about numbers. You can pretty much pick up any issue of a comic and understand what’s going on fairly quickly, and if you can’t, Marvel is nice enough to have a “Previously in” page in the beginning of their books. So go out to your local comic shop and  pay no attention to numbers. If you’re sitting there looking for recommendations, I personally like "The Punisher", "Moon Knight", "Inhuman", and "All-New X-Factor" (on the True #1 list), but you also can’t go wrong with "Daredevil", "Uncanny Avengers", "New Warriors", "She-Hulk" or "Silver Surfer". Actually ...screw it. So far, All-New Marvel NOW! has been pretty damn good. Using the #1 bait is completely unnecessary. Marvel has shown that B-list and C-list characters can shine under new light and emerge as the great characters. Sorry to all you cynics, but I just couldn’t end negatively. The endless #1 parade is annoying, but quality wins out over cheap gimmicks in the end.

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