If you’re a Marvel-head like me, you’ve been keeping an eye on the changes going on with Marvel’s NOW initiative. Suddenly, mutants are Avengers, Storm’s getting a mohawk and…Deadpool is punching ex-presidents in the face? What’s going on here? New York Comic Con gave Marvel a chance to showcase the best and brightest coming out of their new restructure.
For a full breakdown on the NOW initiative you can check out this Reader’s Guide, but here’s a look straight out of NYCC at some of the best Marvel has to come. We’re going to focus here on two major branches of the Marvel U: the X-Men and Avengers titles.
By now, if you’re a comic book fan, you’ve heard about the events of the Avengers vs. X-Men saga (or read one of the articles about it here or here). In the wake of the death of Professor Xavier and the incarceration of Cyclops, Captain America is making good on his promise to do his best for the mutants of the world. He wants to extend a gloved hand and offer mutants a chance to mainstream into the superhero community, and what better way than to make them Avengers? Cue the creation of Uncanny Avengers, a mixed title that will have mutants like Rogue and Havok on teams alongside Thor and Cap. The first issue launched last week and sold out of its 300,000 issue first run.
Rick Remender, headlining writer for Uncanny Avengers, spoke a little about the idea behind the book. “With the passing of Charles Xavier, Captain America sees the need to step up to the plate and do what Xavier originally planned. The reason that Xavier put these people in these costumes in the first place was to show the public mutants doing good works and that was Xavier’s point. That mandate and that mission got lost along the years as it became a survival agenda. So this is his attempt to try and step up and help the mutants. And now that the mutants are back, this is a more important mission than ever.”
So what can we expect to see in Uncanny Avengers? If you’ve read the first issue, you know that the Avengers are faced with a familiar threat in the form of the Red Skull. But what does he want with Charles Xavier’s brain, do you wonder? He’s got the body of the dead X-Leader and now he’s out to do some Frankenstein-style mad science on the most powerful telepathic brain around. Says Remender, “The Red Skull has acquired the brain of Charles Xavier. You have to imagine Prof X and the fiber of his character and what he could have done had he been evil, and what he could have done had he been the Red Skull. So it’s a bad, bad problem for the Marvel Universe.” Remender also points out that this is a storyline that won’t be ended anytime soon and will tie deeply into the histories of both Apocalypse and Kang before the end comes.
Another book to tie into the Uncanny Avengers is Cable and X-Force, written by Dennis Hopeless. Hopeless is pulling together a brand new team of characters which will include Dr. Nemesis, Domino, Colossus, and Forge in an effort to try to bring the title back to its roots under the man that arguably made it awesome back in the day: Cable. Says Hopeless, “We’re taking all the cool, big badass stuff that happened in 90’s X-Force and wrapping it around like a ‘One Last Score’ weird mutant crime story where Cable wants to retire.” For those who aren’t caught up on what Cable’s been up to, he was last seen coming back from the future to kill the Avengers in the set-up to AvX, because he knew they’d try to kill his adopted daughter, Hope. Now cured of the techno-organic virus that was killing him for years, Cable seems to want to go sip umbrella drinks after a long life of fighting, but I doubt it’ll be that easy. So how does this tie into the Uncanny Avengers? Seems whatever they do in their ‘One Last Score’ is going to turn them into fugitives, hunted by the new team. Cable just can’t seem to catch a break.
Speaking of folks who can’t catch a break, let’s talk about what Storm’s been up to lately. The events of AvX have really messed up the African queen’s life. She was married to Black Panther, but he walked away from their marriage after she backed the wrong horse in the AvX fight. With Xavier gone and the X-Men destabilized, it seems she’s undergoing a drastic lifestyle change…and a hairstyle change. That’s right: Mohawk Storm is back as we see her head over to Uncanny X-Force. The book, which focused on a wetworks team of X-Men out to do the dirty work nobody else wanted to, blossomed into one of the most powerful X-books of the last few years under the hands of Rick Remender. Now Uncanny X-Force will be headlined by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney and feature a new team including Spiral, Puck, a female Fantomex (when did that happen?!), and a mohawk-wearing Storm. Storm’s inclusion seems to be a great way to provoke a lot of conversation—and battles—over the moral issues that plague this team, and provides an interesting new dimension for her character throughout the X-books.
Storm’s not the only one facing major changes after AvX. One character that’s getting a good chance to step onto center stage in the wake of the death of Professor Xavier is Legion. Arguably the most dangerous mutant in the Marvel Universe, Legion will get his own book in X-Men Legacy, written by Si Spurrier. The book will focus on Legion’s reaction to the death of his father, Xavier, and the question of whether or not he’ll try and follow in his father’s footsteps. Of all the books in the post-AvX wake, this one has the largest opportunity to explore the personal ramifications of the events, as Legion has always been a little lost in the mutant shuffle. Will he face his inner demons to become a better man in his father’s name? It’s a book that Spurrier says will focus on family drama and growth, which sets it up as a potentially great read.
Then there’s All-New X-Men. Talk about drama: Brian Michael Bendis will be bringing over the original X-team to the current timeline, where they will face a future they never expected. With so much being said about this book, there was quite a buzz at the panel about it: three lucky fans were given a chance to take a look at the script for the book and seemed very pleased by the results. What will the young, idealistic X-characters do? What will the world do with a returned young Cyclops, when his older self is incarcerated as a supervillain? And how will they handle the return of Jean Grey in her pre-Phoenix Marvel Girl self? We’ll just have to tune in to find out.
Let’s talk a little bit about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes….
In the wake of the glorious success of The Avengers film, it’s clear that Marvel has its eye on how high fan expectations are for the Avengers comic lines. Their restructuring has taken that into account across all of the major Avengers books, providing enough of the world-shaking events that fans have come to love from their Avengers titles while still integrating enough of the movie world to make it accessible to those coming aboard because of the film. Their signature Avengers title seems like business as usual with a huge new story arc beginning in the new Marvel NOW relaunch. It’s the creative team helming this book that really makes you sit up and take notice, as the brilliant Jonathan Hickman will be writing the story, with Jerome Opena creating the incredible art. If the sample panels shown are any indication, this is going to be one beautiful, well-written book.
Behind the scenes of The Avengers will be events going on in the revamped New Avengers. We’re saying goodbye to the old New Avengers team, which seemed to have lost a lot of its drive in recent issues. Instead, the book will be focusing on the Marvel Illuminati—including Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and Mister Fantastic—acting behind the scenes in the Marvel universe (as they’re wont to do). This brain trust has always believed they’ve known what’s best for the people of the MU, so what kind of trouble will they get into now? With one of their number (Xavier) dead and Namor not around, the skinny at the panel is that the Brain Trust will run parallel to the Avengers storyline and the events of one will impact the other.
Speaking of impact, nothing impacts the Marvel Universe quite so much as a good death scare, and when a book puts that at its heart, it tends to get notice. Death comes Battle Royale-style to Avengers Arena, as Dennis Hopeless explained at the Avengers panel. “Basically your favorite marvel teenage superheroes are going to wake up on an island and be told that only one of them gets to leave alive. And they’re told that by Arcade of all people. The first issue is convincing them and convincing you that he means it.” Considering the history of revolving death in Marvel it might take some convincing that this isn’t just a gimmick book, but with the Marvel universe wrist-deep in teenage super-heroes, who will miss a few dying on a mysterious island? And sure, it’s totally a Hunger Games rip-off, but I’m willing to give Hopeless the benefit of the doubt to give it a shot. Except teenage drama and angst along with massive death under the evil Arcade, a villain we haven’t seen enough of in a while.
On to brighter news about teen superheroes, however! Kieran Gillan talked a little about the work he’s planning to do with Young Avengers and showcased the brand new covers to the book, including one by Scott Pilgrim artist Brian Lee O’Malley. The book is getting a brand new team, headlined by none other than Kid Loki (who is jumping over from Journey into Mystery to make way for Lady Sif – more on that later!) and will include old favorites like female Hawkeye, Wiccan and Hulkling while adding some new faces to the team. The book, Gillan explained, is more a piece about what it’s like to be eighteen in the Marvel Universe and the experiences the characters will face. He also pointed to Avengers Arena and said we might see some crossover from there, provided that any of the characters really do survive….
All of these titles are very much rooted in the comic-verse, but Marvel has not forgotten its newcomer, movie-inspired fans. In a stroke of marketing and writing brilliance, the covert-team book Secret Avengers has been retooled for the NOW initiative to showcase the SHIELD characters fans know and love from the film. The book will focus on SHIELD missions that will feature a rotating cast of characters like Nick Fury, Black Widow, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Taskmaster, Maria Hill and everybody’s favorite, Agent Coulson. Helmed by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross, the major hook for this comic line is that the missions will be so covert that the characters won’t even be allowed to remember what they’ve done once they’re completed. With the shenanigans that will cause, we can expect plenty of interesting black-ops SHIELD fun for fans of the organization.
That just about wraps up all the major events, but what else is there to look forward to? Well, we’ve got Deadpool punching dead presidents! That’s right, the new Deadpool storyline apparently has him punching Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and others in the face. Why is it happening? Who cares, it’s Deadpool and it’s funny! Helmed by Brian Posehn, Tony Moore and Gerry Duggan, the best description for Deadpool to come out of the panel sums up how to approach this series: “Deadpool’s not the hero you want, he’s the scumbag you need to go after these guys.” Just roll with it, folks, and enjoy the wacky, adorably offensive, fourth-wall breaking nonsense.
What Else To Look Forward To
Peter David talked for awhile about his work on X-Factor, including an upcoming storyline in his 150th consecutive issue, #250, in which he’ll kick off a storyline he’s been prepping for nigh on ten years called the “Hell on Earth War.” Explains David, it’s “a storyline in which all of the various hell lords that we have wandering around in the marvel universe have been waiting for this point in time, for the 7 billionth human to be born. Because at the time of the 7 billionth human all the hell lords are going to throw down on earth to be the one sole lord of the damned.” This six issue storyline will set X-Factor against every member of the Marvel Universe as their choices start resulting in, well, hell on earth.
There’s also a great opportunity for characters that don’t get the spotlight to really step out in the new Marvel NOW. The title Journey Into Mystery is getting a shake-up with the oft-overlooked but always badass Lady Sif stepping up as the main character. With Kid Loki going over to Young Avengers, Lady Sif is apparently on a mission to become a better warrior and gets her own book to do it in, as a headliner. There’s also Red She-Hulk and her adventurous attempts to outshine her Red Hulk dad, and Captain Marvel and the ongoing adventures of Carol Danvers as she adapts to her new mantle in the wonderfully written story by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
The feeling after the panels was that there’s a lot of possibilities opeining up and a lot more to offer fans thanks to the restructuring during Marvel NOW. Nobody was using the word relaunch around the panels, probably in an effort to separate the NOW event from DC’s recent New 52 complete relaunch. As Marvel’s Director of Communication Arune Singh stated, “We’re not rebooting, because nothing’s broken.” Instead, Marvel is focusing on this as a chance to tell new stories with interesting teams, featuring characters that might not have gotten the headlines they should have in the past. Will it be a success with fans? From the response at NYCC, there seems to be an enthusiastic and optimistic “wait and see” attitude. To paraphrase The X-Files, fans want to believe. Now let’s see how it goes.
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com.