Battleworld Forecast: May 2015

By Jon Durmin

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Good day and greetings you great gals and guys of the M6P Body Politic! As you may have heard the month of May is going to give birth to a broad bevy of new titles as Battleworld bounds onto the scene. Now as all you loyal readers of my rascally ramblings know I’ve had my problems with Battleworld. Nonetheless, I’m a longtime devotee of the mighty Marvel mythos so as more sage series are sent on sabbatical, I’ve been wracking my brain in an attempt to figure out how I might balance my monthly comic book budget in the season of Secret Wars from the pending publications on the horizon.  At times this avalanche of new series can seem overwhelming and perplexing to a loyal reader like me who’s come to expect a certain catalog of titles to flesh out his monthly leisure reading. M6P Editor Extrordinaire (it’s sort of like being Sorcerer Supreme . . . except not like that at all) “Jazzy” Jarid Mayo and I suspect you swell citizens of the Body Politic might be feeling the same way, and so we decided we’d do the heavy lifting for you. Yes, read on true believers as we forecast the future of your buy pile in an effort to help you prepare and prioritize the parsing of your pennies on the pioneering projects to be published by marvel in the merry month of May . . .

Secret Wars

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What we know: The core series at the center of Marvel’s new direction, the first and second issue (as well as a Free Comic Book Day offering) of this maxi-series will bookend Marvel’s May publication.

Pros: Secret Wars promises to have an epic feel and has a first class artist on board in the form of Esad Ribic. It is also the core narrative at the center of the action on the newly formed Battleworld. Secret Wars’ scribe Jonathan Hickman has promised that story points seeded throughout his entire career at Marvel will finally bear fruit.

Cons: Those same stray plot threads may be difficult for readers unfamiliar to Hickman’s previous work to catch up on, and might limit a complete appreciation of the story. Newcomers may feel a bit like they’ve begun watching a long running television serial with the last several episodes of the final season.

Should I buy it?: Anybody who has followed Hickman’s Avengers work (at least) may need to read this series if they want to see a resolution to that series. Those who have followed Hickman’s runs on Fantastic Four, SHIELD and perhaps even Secret Warriors may also find a lot to be excited about here. Other readers may be able to enjoy it, but as I said in the cons, their enjoyment may be limited by the degree of familiarity they have with Hickman’s other work.

Secret Wars: Battleworld

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What we know: A companion series to Secret Wars that will showcase off fight scenes identified as, “too big for Battleworld”.

Pros: It’s possible we may get some exciting fight scenes and the series may flesh out flashes of events we see in passing in the core Secret Wars title.

Cons: Thus far nothing solicited seems to point toward the possible pros. Furthermore, the creators attached to at least this first issue are largely untested making it difficult to recommend the series based on their track record with Marvel properties.

Should I buy it?: Maybe if a favorite character is going to be featured prominently and you’re a reader who likes to collect every appearance of a fave (take note M.O.D.O.K., Punisher, and maybe Dr. Strange fans as well as those who fondly remember the “New Fantastic Four” from 1990). Readers who enjoyed the AVX: VS companion series during Avengers Vs. X-Men or the more recent Original Sins or AXIS: Revolutions tie-ins may appreciate this book, but as with those series, the quality of the stories may vary greatly with the creative team. Based on the precedent set by the aforementioned tie-in books it seems unlikely reading SW: Battleworld will significantly impact your enjoyment or understanding of the main Secret Wars series.

Secret Wars Journal

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What we know: Another anthology series, this one featuring short stories that introduce some as yet unexplored corners of Battleworld. The first issue promises stories set in King James’ England (from 1602) and Egyptia (a reality introduced in a 1990 New Warriors story).

Pros: The series stands to give us interesting and unique short stories. The popular world of 1602 hasn’t been visited since 2005, and the lesser known Egyptia, conceived by Fabian Nicieza was a rich and distinct reality that has also lain dormant for a long time. Artists Ramon Bachs & Luca Pizzari are both skilled illustrators who have shown a lot of potential to break out as new “Young Guns” in their work published to date. Writer Prudence Shen is known for her Graphic Novel Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong published through the critically acclaimed and discerning graphic novel publisher First Second Books.

Cons: Despite the almost desperate yet sarcastic claims of the solicitations for this series it seems unlikely to have any immediate impact on the larger Battleworld/Secret Wars/Marvel saga. While Pru Shen and the artists attached to this series have shown a lot of promise writer Michael Rosenberg has no credits that I could find (a No-Prize to the reader who proves us wrong!) making it difficult to predict the quality of his contribution.

Should I buy it?: As a stand-alone series this book may prove worthwhile. As event companion series go it seems much closer to the venerated Civil War: Frontline than the more forgettable AvX: Vs. Just remember to go in without expectations for the quality of the product and recognize that with multiple stories per issue the overall quality each month may be mixed. Readers who only care about whether a series “counts” may be able to save their money on this one.

A-Force

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What we know: An all-female team of Avengers protects the island of Arcadia, the small corner of their home that remains on Battleworld, standing “shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde.”

Pros: Co-authored by G.Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet with art by Jorge Molina this series creative team packs a lot of relatively fresh star power.  The all-female cast of heroes (and largely female creative team) pushes to further develop the diversity of representation in Marvel’s publishing line, something many fans (including me) are firmly in support of.

Cons: The premise as described in interviews leaves a lot of ambiguity as to the actual content or direction of the series beyond featuring a lot of female superheroes. This may mean there are big things behind the cover that would be spoiled by giving us more, or it may mean that the premise doesn’t have much depth beyond putting Marvel’s roster of superwomen on display.

Should I buy it?: Fans of Wilson’s work on Ms. Marvel and elsewhere should definitely hop on board with issue one. Others may want to wait until initial (hopefully spoiler free) reviews hit and the actual mission statement of the comic the web to make a decision on whether to make this series a regular part of their monthly purchases.

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars

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What we know: This flashback story tells the retconned tale of Deadpool’s involvement in the original (1984) Secret Wars series.

Pros: Cullen Bunn is attached to write and has turned out some strong work over the last several years at Marvel, including ample work with the Merc with a Mouth and a recent highly acclaimed run on Magneto. The series promises a sideways look at the original Jim Shooter penned Secret Wars story.

Cons: The series doesn’t promise much to readers outside of the core Deadpool fan base.

Should I buy it?: Do you like Deadpool? Buy this book. Otherwise you may want to look elsewhere.

Inferno

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What we know: Set in a Manhattan overrun five years earlier by demons under the command of Goblin Queen Madeline Pryor, the series focuses on a team of X-Men headed by Colossus intent on rescuing his sister, Illyana “Magik” Rasputin from the Inferno. But does Illyana want to be saved or has she embraced the Darkchilde as she and her brother always feared she would?

Pros: A return to the well regarded Inferno story and setting may please many fans familiar with the event. Writer Dennis Hopeless has done some very highly regarded work for Marvel including a proven track record with featured characters Boom-Boom, Colossus and Domino in the Marvel NOW! title Cable and X-Force. Javier Garron’s previewed art for the series looks strong thus far.

Cons: As well regarded as Inferno is the story is over twenty years old and the actual story doesn’t appear to be available in any in-print collected editions which may make it difficult for readers who aren’t already familiar with the event to get up to speed. Even though Hopeless has a strong fan base for his work with Colossus, Domino and Boom-Boom we don’t know if these will be the same versions of the characters he’s worked with in the past or an alternate reality iteration of them, and if the latter is true some of those same fans may feel betrayed.

Should I buy it?: The pros here are strong pros, but the cons reflect uncertainties about these same predicted positives. Personally, I’ll be giving this series at least an issue or two to prove itself based on the cast of characters (those mentioned above, the original X-Factor, and Nightcrawler have been confirmed), my own familiarity with the original Inferno event and Hopeless’ strong and growing reputation as a great writer who balances tense plot elements with strong character dynamics.

Infinity Gauntlet

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What we know: A family of Nova Corps members struggles to survive a post-apocalyptic environment overrun by giant bugs. Also Starlord, Thanos and an incomplete Infinity Gauntlet may show up eventually.

Pros:  This series seems to be blending superhero themes and representation with family dynamics, space opera and survival drama into a wholly unique premise. The focus character is an adolescent black girl (N.B. there’s been no confirmation as to whether the main characters are actually from Earth yet) furthering Marvel’s mission of embracing line-wide representation and diversity.

Cons: Fans of the current Nova Sam Alexander (and perhaps even more-so those still holding out for original Nova Richard Rider) may be disappointed to see a title featuring the Nova concept without the hero they know.

Should I buy it?: Touted as setting the stage for the future of Marvel’s cosmic books this series may be the book of choice for fans of Marvel’s classic cosmic fare. Fans of post-apocalyptic survival tales may also find something to love here. Thanos’ primacy on the first issue’s cover may mean this book is tied more closely to Secret Wars than initial solicitations suggest. If any of that piques your interest you may want to make this title a priority.

Inhumans: Attillan Rising

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What we know: In this tale of rebellion and intrigue husband and wife King Black Bolt and Queen Medusa of the Inhuman royal family are cast in conflict in this third series in Charles Soule’s Inhumans saga.

Pros: Written by the author of the other titles in the Inhumans line this series promises to be relevant to fans of those series. The premise is also defined as distinctive enough that familiarity with the rest of the line may not be required to enjoy the series.

Cons: Depending on how Soule opens the series and the expectations he has for his readers those expecting to jump on with the series may find themselves investing some time and money in reviewing collections of the previous two series to get up to speed.

Should I buy it?: If you’re interested in building your familiarity with the Inhumans in the lead-up to their cinematic debut, or have followed and enjoyed Soule’s previous Inhumans work, absolutely. The rebellion in this story has been described as akin to real-world conflicts like the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the guerilla war of the French resistance during World War II, so fans of narratives about underdogs may also want to give the first issue a chance.

Master of Kung Fu

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What we know: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu wanders the mystic city of K’un Lun commonly associated with Iron Fist.

Pros: A new series exploring the mythic/historic martial arts genre

Cons: Described in solicits as featuring a Shang-Chi who is “drunken, drop-out failure” this iteration of the character seems to bear little resemblance beyond a name and an affectation for martial arts to the classic version of Shang-Chi, nor the character as depicted in more recent Avengers comics.  All indications point toward the character being treated far less seriously than in the past. Fans of Iron Fist may be disappointed to note that the story of K’un-Lun will be continuing even as the Iron Fist: The Living Weapon ongoing series ends this month.

Should I buy it?: If you’re a fan of Kung Fu camp (or just camp) by all means give this series a chance. If you’re somehow invested in the K’un Lun mythos but [somehow] don’t actually care about the story of Danny “Iron Fist” Rand, you may find something of interest here too. Longtime fans of Shang- Chi and/or Iron Fist should approach this series very cautiously.

M.O.D.O.K. Assassin

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What we know: In the casual-murder friendly Battleworld territory Killville M.O.D.O.K. is the greatest assassin in all the land.

Pros: It’s about a fan-favorite character being written by fan-favorite writer Chris Yost.

Cons: Look . . . it’s a book about a giant head with robotic limbs that flies around murdering people and he’s the good-guy. Perhaps it’s unfair of me, but that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that we’ll see much in the way of character development or nuanced plot.

Should I buy it?: This book looks like a mad-cap, fast paced exercise in ultra-violence bathed in all the humor that’s inescapable when dealing with a character as absurd looking as M.O.D.O.K. In other words it sounds like a series for a Deadpool’s, Deadpool. If any of that is your bailiwick give this book a shot.

Old Man Logan

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What we know: This series picks up where Mark Millar’s Wolverine: Old Man Logan tale set in the decrepit environs of Earth-90210 left off.

Pros: An all-star creative team is on board for this with longtime Marvel superstar Brian Michael Bendis writing the story and rising-star Andrea Sorrentino handling the art. A return to one of the most well received alternate universe stories presented in the history of comics. The first series to feature a version of Wolverine since last year’s Death of Wolverine series.

Cons: Bendis is known more for tight one-on-one, rat-a-tat character interactions (and he does that better than almost anybody), but not for the action-not-dialogue driven spaghetti-western feel of Millar and collaborator Steve McNiven’s work on the original Old Man Logan. Balancing fan expectations for Bendis’ own distinct authorial style and recollections of the original story may be a difficult feat to pull off.

Should I buy it?: If you’re a Bendis fan this may be the book to follow since he seems to be wrapping up all other series he’s been writing since Marvel NOW! launched a few years ago, and the only other title he’s working on is the Ultimate End mini-series.

Secret Wars 2099

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What we know: In this miniseries by 2099 writer extraordinaire Peter David we’ll be introduced to the 2099 corner of Battleworld and the Alechemex owned Avengers of that territory.

Pros: The creative team of David and artist Will Sliney will provide continuity between the ending Spider-Man 2099 series for fans of that series in this new tale. The Avengers concept has yet to be addressed in the 2099 world. Fans of the old 2099 books fondly remember the excitement of seeing classic characters reimagined for this dystopian setting.

Cons: Despite the involvement of David and Sliney there hasn’t yet been any indication that Spider-Man 2099 Miguel O’Hara will be featured in this series at all, something that may rub fans of Miguel’s sizable fan-base the wrong way.

Should I buy it?: Even with uncertainties about Miguel’s inclusion in the title if you’re a fan of the Spider-Man 2099 character, the current ongoing series, the 2099 concept in particular, dystopian fiction in general, or Peter David you owe it to yourself to give this series a chance. In fact, based on the high quality David and Sliney have delivered on Spider-Man 2099 thus far this may be a book to try out for anybody looking for something new out of Battleworld.

Where Monsters Dwell

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What we know: Garth Ennis, the modern master of the war comics genre, returns to Marvel in this series about World War I adventure hero the Phantom Eagle as he pits the machine guns of his biplane against the terrifying power of a land populated by dinosaurs.

Pros: Garth Ennis is coming back to Marvel to do what he does best, write war comics. All preview material indicates a blend of that with a high-adventure pulp feel that is unavailable right now in any other major comics publications.

Cons: The human soldiers vs. dinosaurs concept isn’t exactly anything new, and hasn’t been much of a winner in the past for Different Companies. Ennis’ dark, gallows sense of humor may not jive with the expectations of fans of the more campy and goofy humor in may recent series (I’m thinking of Squirrel Girl and Rocket Racoon and Wolverine and the X-Men in particular here).

Should I buy it?: Ennis fans should definitely pick this up to celebrate his return to Marvel. If the kooky concept piques your interest and/or you have ever wanted to try out a war comic this book may click for you as well (just bear in mind that if there are any gags they’ll be more like those of Inglorius Basterds than Big Hero 6).

Planet Hulk

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What we know: Armed with his trademark shield and what appears to be Thor Odinson’s axe Jarnbjorn, Steve “Captain America” Rogers teams up with semi-intelligent mutant tyranosaurus rex Devil Dinosaur to battle the wild hulks of “Green Land” in this series named after Greg Pak’s modern classic Planet Hulk story.

Pros: This series gives us a sort of a revival of the barbarian sword-and-sorcery genre rarely seen at Marvel since the loss of the Conan the Barbarian license decades ago. There’s something endearingly self-aware about a comic that teams Jack “King” Kirby’s first creation for Marvel (Captain America) with his final creation for Marvel (Devil Dinosaur).

Cons: Given the characters aged and depowered status over the last several months in the Marvel ongoing series, this barbarian Captain America may not be the same Steve Rogers whose adventures fans have become invested in during the past 74 years. A personal con for this book is that I’ve been excited for the premise of many of writer Sam Humpheries earlier Marvel work, only to be disappointed with the execution (Avengers AI, Uncanny X-Force Vol. 2, etc).

Should I buy it?: Fans of classic Conan comics (and the like), Sam Humphries, and classic Kirby craziness may want to give this series a look. Humpheries has set forward a lot of inspired concepts for Marvel already, and if this is where he finds his niche those who passed up the opportunity to check the series out on the ground floor may be scrambling desperately through the back issue-bins.

Spider-Verse

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What we know: Picking up where the recent Spider-line (pun intended) event left off, this book features a team of Multiversal Spider-heroes.

Pros: Promises to provide ongoing adventures for a group of some fan favorite reimaginings of Marvel’s most well-known character.

Cons: Little has been said about this series and that may not bode well for its appeal outside of fans of the Spider-Verse event.

Should I buy it?: Fans of Spider-Verse should probably give this title a chance. There’s not enough known about the series to recommend it for other readers yet.

Ultimate End

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What we know: The Ultimate Universe (Universe/Earth-1610) is facing destruction!

Pros: If you want to see how the Ultimate U is going to be concluded and the fate of the Ultimate heroes this is the place. The series will be produced by the acclaimed creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley who launched the Ultimate Universe 15 years ago.

Cons: The series will be pulling together loose threads from the Ultimate line and this may limit its accessibility to those who haven’t followed the line. The principal focus also appears to be Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales who is rumored to have his story continue on Battleworld and this may mean Ultimate U fans hoping for an end to their favorite character’s saga may not actually get it.

Should I buy it?: If you’re a die-hard fan of the Ultimate Marvel line in general and want to see how it all ends, possibly. If you love Miles Morales and want to see how he makes his likely journey to Battleworld, definitely. If you’re not terribly keen on either the Ultimate U or Miles, you can probably sit this one out.

Last Days Titles

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Not a single series, but the ongoing series Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, Loki: Agent of Asgard, and Magneto all launch into stories exploring their final hours on Earth-616 in stories penned by their regular creative teams. Followers of these series may want to stick with these stories through the end to see who makes it to Battleworld.

Unofficially Involved

Though not officially cited as a direct part of Secret Wars or the new Battleworld stories some titles do seem to be connected to the event. May’s Avengers World seems to take place in the lead up to Secret Wars or in between issues of the series with Namor the Sub-Mariner facing off against Thanos and the rest of the Cabal.

We sure hope this has been helpful Body Politic. Look back in about 30 for another forecast as we look ahead to new patterns falling over Battleworld in June.