Marvel NOW! Preview: Uncanny Avengers

Marvel announced the October launching initiative Marvel NOW!  Similar to last year’s New 52 from DC Comics, MN! plans to release new ongoing series and new jumping on points to many of its beloved franchises. Unlike the New 52, continuity will not be removed and the titles (about 20 or so) will be released on a weekly basis for four to five months, rather than just a single month.  DC kicked off the New 52 with its flagship title Justice League by the dream team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.  With Marvel NOW!, in the wake of the ongoing Avengers vs. X-Men event, Marvel combines the two franchises for the first time in the new series Uncanny Avengers.

UA has one of the most unusual and potentially awesome creative teams I’ve seen in a while.  The series will be written by Rick Remender, current writer of Secret Avengers and the critically acclaimed Uncanny X-Force.  With a team comprised equally of Avengers and X-Men, Remender seems to be a great pick to lead this series towards it’s October release.  Remender is joined by superstar artist John Cassaday, who worked with Avengers movie director Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men.  Remender and Cassaday also worked to redesign costumes for the key characters including Havok and Captain America.

The premise of the first arc (which is being kept mostly under wraps) involves the return of the Red Skull, or at least his mind.  His brain is preserved from WWII and put into a new body, which leads him on a new conquest: the death of all mutants.  Meanwhile, Captain America is trying to put together a team of Avengers that will better help end conflict between humans and mutants.  Though it isn’t revealed how the team comes together, the Uncanny Avengers will be composed of Captain America, Wolverine, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Thor, and team leader Havok.

Since this takes place after the massive war between the Avengers and X-Men, tensions are still running high between both teams.  Remender has commented on Thor not wanting Rogue to be a part of this unit, given her past as a villain (she’s fought the Avengers on more than one occasion).  Remender has also commented on Captain America feeling as though the Avengers haven’t done enough to help mutants through their hard times.  One member, Wolverine, will be greatly changed from the events of AVX (and the ongoing Uncanny X-Force storyline “Final Execution”) that will lead directly to the start of Uncanny Avengers.  How Havok, younger and lesser known to his older brother Cyclops, fits into the leadership role of this team remains a mystery.  Finally, Scarlet Witch will continue on her road to redemption, which won’t be easy given her villainous roles in “Avengers Dissembled” and “House of M” which caused the deaths of three Avengers and the depowering of all but 200 mutants, respectively.

I remain mildly enthusiastic about this series.  Remender has been praised for stories with high stakes and huge payoffs, so having him held this new flagship series is a smart move.  While Cassaday is set to draw this series, for how long remains a mystery (Uncanny X-Force features a growing list of rotating artists).  I really enjoyed his work on Astonishing X-Men and look forward on his take on this team of X-Avengers.  The goal of this series, uniting the Avengers and X-Men worlds, is an ambitious one, given how separated the two universe have been up until AVX.  I look forward to seeing how this dynamic duo pulls this book off when it launches in October.

TBC

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The Future of Marvel takes shape NOW!

Over a year ago, DC Comics stepped up their game with the “New 52.”  Continuity was changed, characters got major makeovers, creators took classic characters to new and interesting directions, and ever title got a new #1 and same day digital release.  Since them, they’ve given Marvel a run for its money in both units and dollars.

Ever since Marvel announced their Avengers vs. X-Men event, they promised major changes for the entire Marvel U.  This week, we finally got a glimpse of Marvel’s future with the announcement of the Marvel NOW initiative.  Through media outlets like Entertainment Weekly, Comic Book Resources, and the official Marvel Website, Marvel has announced several changes to its publishing line starting in October 2012 and ending in February 2013.

So far, four titles have been announced:   First is the flagship title, Uncanny Avengers; written by Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) and drawn by John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men), the series has stars X-Men and Avengers, with AvX fresh in everyone’s mind, taking on the Red Skull whose on a crusade to kill all mutants.

Next up is All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, New Avengers); starring the time displaced first class of X-Men: Beast, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, and for the first time in years, Jean Grey.  The team arrives in the present and are not pleased with the current state of things regarding themselves and the world.

Finally is Avengers and New Avengers, written my Johnathan Hickman (Fantastic Four).  The Jerome Opena illustrated Avengers will feature a massive 18 member roster (including Master of Kung-Fu Shang Chi) and cosmic level storylines.  It will feature multiple artists and ship on a bi-weekly schedule.  New Avengers will be drawn by Steve Epting (FF), but Marvel is keeping everything else under wraps.

While similar to DC’s “New 52,” these creative changes won’t come at the expense of continuity, though Marvel promises new titles will be new reader friendly.  One or more new series will release weekly for five months, giving creators time to wrap up ongoing  stories.  Characters will also be sporting all-new costumes to go along with this new era.

Marvel continues to tease fans leading up to Comi-Con International, where more information will be shared.  With AvX past its halfway point, the landscape of Marvel is sure to look very different in the months to come!

Avengers vs. X-Men: My Thoughts so far

Avengers vs. X-Men kicked off this month with the first two issues.  While this event had an easy hook and an ambitious creative team (five writers and three artist across three acts). I still had my doubts.  Despite some good moments and some great tie-ins (Youth in Revolt being my personal favorite) Fear Itself was probably the worst event comic I’ve ever read.  It felt unnecessary in almost every way and came out at a time where the comic book landscape was being properly tested with DC’s New 52.  It didn’t help that Marvel tried to milk the series for all it was worth with it was worth with three epilogues and two post-Fear Itself miniseries.

The good news is that Avengers vs. X-Men is off to such a promising start that it almost makes me forget about FI.  The first two issues had a real emotional core with Hope Summers, the mutant messiah and possible Phoenix host caught between two warring factions who have legitimate concerns for what her fate will mean for everyone else.  John Romita Jr. is producing some of his best work on this series, and with a book that will also feature Oliver Coipel and Andy Kubert, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Bendis on issue one really sets the stage, gathering all the necessary players in the calm before the storm.  Aaron on issue two handles his sizable cast flawlessly in the battles, accompanying banter, and moves the story along at a brisk pace.  The biweekly schedule for this book helps keep the momentum on the up and up, but it remains to be seen if the remaining ten issues can keep it going to its inevitable conclusion.

I wish Marvel had done more with Fear Itself in the long run (in terms of story and aftermath) but I don’t feel cheated (so far) with Avengers vs. X-Men.  Unlike FI, this feels like a story that needs to be told; it feels like years worth of storylines have been building towards this, and the amount of polish shows.  I do hope Marvel gives the whole “yearly event” thing a much-needed rest after this is all said and done, but so far this feels like an event worth reading for the story, as well as the spectacle.

(I’ll be back next month to share my thoughts on the next two issues of Avengers vs. X-Men)

Andrew Mathieu