Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chain of Thoughts: Marvel NOW!'s Anniversary

Marvel NOW!, for me, has been more successful than DC’s New 52 which, though succeeded in rejuvenating sales, proved to be unnecessary and poorly thought out in the end.  In contrary, Marvel NOW! took what worked with the New 52 – new status quos and issue number ones – but kept the history of its continuity intact (which the New 52 didn’t , causing many problems in so many levels).

In has been a year since I wrote about my thoughts on its debut.  Now, in its anniversary, here are my thoughts about its year-long implementation: 

→ I still follow X-Men books but they don’t really get me excited about them much.  I still love the pre-X-Men Schism/Avengers vs. X-Men status quo of the X-Men, wherein all X people are united under Cyclops, over the present one.   And the time-travelling of the original X-Men to the present isn’t that thrilling as I originally thought to be.  Still, the X-Men still have their moments, but not as awesome as the Avengers’.    
→ Avengers is my most favorite Marvel NOW! title.  Jonathan Hickman has made his reputation as a talented “big-picture” kind of writer, and Avengers was a perfect avenue for his kind of writing.  He assembled the most powerful, largest, and most diverse Avengers roster ever, and put them into massive crises that are deserving of Avengers attention.  And you know what’s the best thing is?  It’s implied that they will continue to become bigger! Hickman’s expansion of the Avengers is not at all finished. 
→ With this ongoing Infinity story, Hickman transformed Marvel’s standard “superheroing” into an epic space opera (reminded me of the Thanos Imperative).  And it’s just magnificent.  Infinity’s clearly one of the best major events Marvel ever put together in the 21st Century (I still can’t get over the fact Marvel missed the opportunity to create something overwhelmingly awesome from such amazing premises as Civil War and last year’s Avengers vs. X-Men, which I had hoped would be pure greatness).  Infinity has the looks of a bona fide classic.         
→ Infinity makes up for the absolute pile of horrid crap that is Age of Ultron.  I followed AoU closely, and what a waste of my time. 
→ Hickman’s other book, New Avengers, has been great as well.  I like the previous New Avengers – the Luke Cage-led team – better, but this Illuminati/Avengers roster has been very intriguing.  However, it has never been addressed if this is an official Avengers team.  Sure, it’s made up of the Illuminati, who, with the exception of Black Bolt, have Avengers membership at some point in the past.  Still, nobody addressed them as being an “Avengers” team yet.  In fact, their secrecy and methods of manipulating and operating in the shadows makes them a team that is more of Illuminati than actual Avengers; other Avengers are not aware of their existence (after they kicked out Captain America from the team and Dr. Strange erased his mind) – they are more secret than the already clandestine Secret Avengers. 
→ But maybe, just like with the main Avengers title, Hickman is not yet done establishing this book’s foundation.  Maybe the New Avengers will only be given an official Avengers status once the Infinity event is finished (that makes sense, right?).  Man, I’m itching greatly for Black Bolt’s Avenger status to be made official already.              
→ Just like this new New Avengers, the new Secret Avengers is not an official Avengers team yet.  In fact, it’s as if they are not really an Avengers team at all, since they are under S.H.I.E.L.D. command.  Hoping this concern of establishing its official “Avengers” status is addressed soon.
→ Nick Fury, Jr. is featured in one of the Avengers’ 50th-anniversary alternate covers series being done by Daniel Acuna, so he and Phil Coulson could be “official” after all.  By the way, these Daniel Acuna covers are pretty awesome.  They are far from finished, there are still a lot of Avengers to cover (pun intended).  I can’t wait till it’s done; could become the most epic poster ever.
→ At least, both Uncanny Avengers and Avengers A.I. rosters have been given official “Avengers” status right from the start.  So no confusions there.    
→ Uncanny Avengers is okay, but it’s the Avengers book I enjoy the least.  I read it, but I’m not particularly enthusiastic about its premise, theme, and current story arc.
→ Avengers A.I. has the potential for awesomeness.  Issue 1 was so fantastic, that it hooked me easily (though it seemed it got weaker since then).  Its line-up consisting of android heroes, with Henry Pym as leader, is exciting.  The Vision could be at his most awesome yet in this book.  His “brother” Victor Mancha’s recruitment was a delightful surprise. But the most entertaining character among them, hands down, is Doombot (a Doombot reprogrammed by Pym).  As a Doombot, he basically has Dr. Doom’s personality, thus, he’s a perfect answer to the question, “What if Dr. Doom is an Avenger?”  If there is something good that came out of AoU, then that would be Avengers A.I.
 → My greatest puzzlement though is why Machine Man, who was an Avenger in the past already, is not on this Avengers A.I. team?  His absence really leaves a hole in the team that just begs the question why he is not in it.
→ Luke Cage is back into leading an independent Avengers team with this new Mighty Avengers book.  The roster, too, looks pretty cool.  And the mystery of the new Ronin’s identity (who is currently wearing a bad bootlegged Spidey Halloween costume) really adds an additional layer of excitement.  (Would love to have Daredevil back, too).      
→ I also like reading the new Young Avengers because of Kid Loki and… hmmm… Yeah.  Just because of Kid Loki.  I am also fond of Emma Bishop, but I enjoy her character more in Hawkeye.
→ Just like last year, Hawkeye remains a fantastic book. 
A+X is a delight.  An Avenger and an X-Man team up in a bite-size adventure that usually concludes in a few pages.  With comic storylines dragging on for several issues, this kind of story format is very much welcome.  And most of the stories and team-ups so far in this book are very entertaining, magnificently tackling the chemistry and interaction between the two featured characters.  Oftentimes, though, the X-Man half of the team-up is someone that also has Avengers membership (e.g. Wolverine, Beast, Rogue, etc.), which is kind of cheating.
→ I am so glad that there’s a new ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy series.  It’s one (the original team was okay, but it was the second incarnation, founded by Star-Lord, of the GotG that I really love) of the most dynamic and entertaining super-teams in Marvel.  The current line-up has the core team of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and – new member – Iron Man.  However, with the revival of the team come three critical mysteries that haven’t been answered yet: a) How come Drax the Destroyer is alive when he was killed during the Thanos Imperative event?  How was he resurrected?; b) How did Star-Lord and Thanos escape Cancerverse?  And if those two escaped, what happened to Nova, who had been trapped with them during the end of the Thanos Imperative?; and c) What happened to the other members?  Why aren’t they on this team anymore?  There is a need to address these questions, and it should be done soon.  Also, I hope former members – especially Astro, Bug, Mantis, and Major Victory – will return to the team in the future.       
→ Now, that we are on the topic of the cosmic aspect of the Marvel U, I would also like to raise the question why the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t part of the Avengers’ Infinity event?  It’s the kind of galactic threat that compels them to nose around the front lines.  And what happened to the Annihilators?  Sure, Gladiator and Ronan the Accuser are in Infinity, but where are the rest of the Annihilators?  Isn’t this the whole premise of the team?  To be the “big guns” that Star-Lord’s GotG had been not?   Why are they absent?
→ Moreover, what is the purpose of Iron Man’s inclusion to the GotG?  The most logical reason is, for the sake of the GotG film’s benefit, they intend to put Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man into the movie line-up.  If so, that would have been pure genius.  It would not only relevantly connect the GotG film to the rest of Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it would also provide the movie a familiar face for the movie goers (since not all are familiar of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which is generally unpopular among non-comic book fans, while Iron Man is now an iconic movie icon).  But there were no such happening during the movie’s production.  What then is the purpose of this Iron Man’s membership?!  It’s a clear missed opportunity.
→ Obviously, the part of Marvel NOW! I hated the most is Superior Spider-Man.  It affected me so much that it compelled me to write several times about it.  This SpOck (Spider-Ock) concept utterly crapped on everything Spider-Man represents.  The worse thing is, I still follow the book since it’s very entertaining.  And the worst thing is SpOck will probably go on for a very long time since the book enjoys solid sales.  Ugh.  I rather have a regular Scarlet Spider book (which is going to be cancelled, which is just sad) than SpOck.
→ Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara) is now stranded in the present time.  Then, the Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales) is crossing over to Earth-616 (the main Marvel continuity).  It seems that Earth-1610 (the Ultimate Universe) is coming to an end in the hands of Earth-616’s Galactus and Miles will be the only survivor.  So, with those two joining SpOck and Scarlet Spider, the Marvel U is getting crowded with Spider-Men, but with the only Spider-Man that matters missing: Peter Parker the Amazing Spider-Man.
→ At least, Marvel has some flashback mini-series featuring Peter for this year, like Marvel Knights, and those Amazing Spider-Man 700-point-somethings.  But it’s not the same thing as having him alive for real.        
→ The new status-quo for the Hulk could be the best ever done for the character so far.  Hulk serves as a WMD for S.H.I.E.L.D., and in return, his alter ego, Bruce Banner, gets funding, a lab, and assistants to pursue his scientific interests.  Good deal.  Smart concept.
→ The new Thunderbolts team, made up of Red Hulk, Venom, the Punisher, Elektra, and Deadpool (with Red Leader and Mercy tagging along) is a lot of fun.  Honestly, I enjoy reading the Thunderbolts more than the X-Men these days.  The T-Bolts are just second to the Avengers on teams to watch out for.  Third is GotG.  (Yep, that’s how far the X-Men fell from my favor, considering that I hold the belief that they are the greatest superhero team ever).  
→ Marvel NOW! is not quite over.  Now, Marvel has an All-New Marvel NOW! set for its second year run.  But there’s no particular announcement of its details that compels me enough to rant about. 
→  It seems that Marvel is trying to forcibly shove the Inhumans down our throats.   
→ To summarize: best thing about Marvel NOW!? Avengers!  The worst thing? SpOck (and, maybe, Avengers Arena as close second).

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