By Jon Durmin
Buenos Dias Body Politic! With July we’ve got quite a nostalgia front coming in. That’s right we’ll have ’90s creators revisiting ’90s concepts on multiple new series mixed with a scattering of revival of Marvel’s most well-loved event series ever, and an effort to make good on one of their most well loathed. All this, plus occasional villainy and despotism in your July Battleworld Forecast!
What we know: Back, back we travel to a world where the premature death of Charles Xavier has led Magneto to pioneer the dream of Human & Mutant coexistence in homage to his deceased friend. A dystopian nightmare. An age of Apocalypse.
Pros: There’s something a bit meta-textually wonderful about this series being a part of the Secret Wars publishing line-up. After all, 1995’s Age of Apocalypse event was the original proving ground for the idea of a franchise-wide [temporary] replacement of multiple series with skewed, alternate versions of teams and characters. With Secret Wars we have this very experiment applied the entirety of Marvel’s publishing line. To top it off Fabian Nicieza, one of the architects of the original AoA is finally returning to Marvel to write this series. On art duty Gerardo Sandoval’s illustrative stylings are extraordinarily evocative of the design sense and dynamism of the original AoA’s chief designer, Joe Madureria.
Cons: While AoA may tickle the nostalgia circuits of readers who have been with the X-Men since the early ’90s, the premise hasn’t been frequently revisited, and it may simply baffle readers too new to the franchise, or too young to have explored the lengthy canon of the original AoA-verse.
What we know: The bosses of Mondo-City have decided it’s time to extend their laws to their neighbors in Yinsen City. As Dystopia eats Utopia, it’s up to Dr. Faiza Hussain, the Captain Britain of Yinsen City, to assemble a group of Defenders against this hostile takeover.
Pros: Al Ewing (w) and legendary artist Alan Davis (a) have proven their ability to play together well on the recent Ultron Unlimited Avengers mini-series. In his work there and on series like Mighty Avengers and Loki: Agent of Asgard Ewing has displayed a great talent for presenting straightforward, skillfully crafted superhero fare that seamlessly mixes traditional and modern storytelling. Davis has become a master visual narrator whose ability to communicate both mood and action through his illustrations has only improved over the decades (Editor’s Note: Pfffft, I wish Jon would stop talking up Alan Davis so much. I just don’t get why people like his art. Bah humbug! – Jarid). At only two issues, this may also be lowest financial commitment to date of any of the Secret Wars season releases. The team of Captain Britain (Faiza Hussain), Spider-Hero (Hobie “Prowler” Brown), White Tiger, She-Hulk and Kid Rescue gives some diverse heroes often relegated to the back benches the opportunity to shine. The series also includes ample homages to the British sci-fi comics explosion of the ’70s and ’80s (Judge Dredd anyone?) which may excite fans of that tradition.
Cons: As nice as it is that the two issues of this series make for a low commitment they also don’t leave a lot of room for story. Historically both Davis and Ewing have shown a capacity to make efficient use of their page space to tell a tale, but if they can’t deliver this time readers may feel distinctly cheated. Readers who aren’t already invested in the members of the team or who dismiss them as D-listers may have trouble caring about the series as well. (Editor’s Note: And Alan Davis. BIG con right there Jon. You can have that one on the house. I mean Clan Destine? It doesn’t even make sense! – Jarid).
Should I buy it?: If you’ve got a fondness for straightforward superhero fare, British Sci-Fi comics, Alan Davis’ work, Al Ewing’s work, and any of the characters on the team absolutely. The team members (four women with different racial backgrounds and an African-American man all of varying ages) assembled here may actually be the most diverse collection of characters in a Secret Wars release, but readers excited about diversity in comics may miss out on this with so much more promotion around diversity having already been paid towards the (arguably less diverse) A-Force. Readers for whom that’s important will be scrambling for back-issues if they miss out, and will be better off to commit to it as it’s released in July & August. (Editor’s Note: or don’t. Even though I’ll still read it because I’m addicted to Marvel like a bad drug and I have to read everything with Secret Wars written on the cover.– Jarid).
What we know: In the region of Battleworld known as The Warzone the Superhero Civil War between the pro-SHRA initiative of Tony “Iron Man” Stark and the anti-Reg Secret Avengers following Steven “Captain America” Rogers didn’t end at the Battle of New York. Here the war has raged on for years with America split between citizens who side with General Roger’s in the west of “The Blue” and those loyal to President Stark’s Iron in the east and the war’s not going to cool off in this series.
Pros: The preview pages and design samples for this series from the increasingly talented Lenil Yu may be the premiere art of the summer. It seems appropriate then that his talents have been recruited to this title that revisits what may be the most well regarded in continuity event series of Marvel’s (or any publisher’s) history printing comics. With well-regarded turns on Thunderbolts, She-Hulk, Death of Wolverine, and the follow-up Wolverines weekly series, not to mention his recent success as the revitalizing force behind the Inhumans franchise, Charles Soule should be considered top talent as well here.
Cons: All the love there is for the original Civil War event may prove a double-edged sword for a creative team seeking to satisfy fan expectations. A lot of people recall the original fondly, and there are almost as many different imagined continuations of the story as there are fans who read it. Those readers that can’t let go of their version of “what should have happened next” may find enjoying this book challenging even with top talent like Soule and Yu delivering the content.
Should I buy it?: Marvel seems to have made an effort to invest a greater concentration of “proven” talent on this series than on almost any other book launching this summer (Thors, Old Man Logan and Secret Wars being the arguable exceptions). If that doesn’t suggest something about the importance and expectations they have for the series as a reader-pleasing component of the Secret Wars line-up I don’t know what does. So should you buy it? Check your opinion of, “what should happen” and then, yes, probably.
What we know: In the sector of Battleworld known as the Hydra Empire one man alone stands to challenge the Fascist regime of the Master. With red, white and blue shield in hand Ian Rogers, Nomad stands against this not-so-secret empire.
Pros: Writer Rick Remender’s sole contribution to the Battleworld/Secret Wars publishing landscape carries forward key elements of his work on the Captain America and All-New Captain America series of the last few years, with his creation Nomad (Ian Rogers) stepping into the spotlight. Remender’s previous collaboration with artist Roland Boschi (Winter Soldier: The Bitter March) proved their ability to weave their talents together seamlessly to produce tense, emotion driven spy thrillers, and that seems to be what’s on deck with this series.
Cons: Hydra has never been more popular than it was following last summer’s release in theaters of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If the momentum of fan interest in the despotic secret society hasn’t sustained itself through the last 12 months the audience here might not be terribly large. Readers who haven’t followed the through-line of Remender’s work with Captain America from the launch of Marvel NOW! to All-New Captain America may not see much reason to care about the Ian Rogers character in the first place, and even less so during Secret Wars.
Should I buy it?: Remender fans will have no other opportunities to support his Marvel work as Remender announced he’s taking a sabatical and should plan to buy the first two issues this month – especially those readers who have thrilled to his Captain America related work. Based on the previous collaborations of this writer and artist it may not be out of order to expect spy action that evokes the recent Daniel Craig – James Bond films, so if that’s your cup of tea this may be a good investment as well.
What we know: On Battleworld the Red Skull is believed dead, but his vile legend persists. Magneto, Electro, Moonstone, Lady Deathstrike, and Jack O’Lantern make up a veritable suicide squad commanded by James “Winter Soldier” Barnes on a mission of redemption south of the SHIELD to settle the matter of the Skull’s death once and for all.
Pros: Since the release of X-Men: First Class in 2011 the number of comics fans keen for tales of Magneto hunting Nazis has exploded, and the audience for that has remained strong. With the villains acting as hero trope at its center this series seems as close as we’re going to get to a Thunderbolts-style series during Secret Wars. For creators Joshua Williamson (w) and Luca Pizzari (a) this is their second collaboration in Battle World after a strong start with a story featuring the Moon Knight and X-Men of Egyptia in Secret Wars Journal #1, and they seem intent on carrying that momentum forward with this 3 issue mini-series.
Cons: Williamson and Pizzari are still relative Marvel newcomers, and fan response to their first outing (the aforementioned SWJ tale) was somewhat polarized between those who loved their work and those that loathed it.
Should I buy it?: If you thrill to tales of bad guys going up against someone or something even worse (e.g. The Dirty Dozen, Thunderbolts, etc) then Red Skull should be right up your alley. Those for whom Williamson and Pizzari’s previous collaboration clicked may want to try this book out too.
Secret Wars: Official Guide to the Marvel Multiverse #1
What we know: This official guide is a primer to the people, places and events at the heart of Secret Wars.
Pros: All the handy information you need about story points you might have missed and characters (or versions of characters) you might not yet know in a double-sized (probably ad-free) $4.99 guidebook. This may be very convenient, especially for newer readers. It’s also possible that the characters and concepts noted in this handy mag may provide clues on to who and what may be most notable during the remainder of Secret Wars . . . and beyond.
Cons: There are multiple wiki’s out there with this kind of information, begging the question of the necessity of Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style publications in the age of digital and mobile information.
Should I buy it?: There’s a type of fan that eats this sort of thing up; that likes to have a reference text for their fandom (author’s note: I’ve been known to be that fan Me too! -Jarid). If you like having a hard-copy reference for your comics it may be worth picking up. Alternately, the fan who is on a hiatus from reading anything save [perhaps] the core Secret Wars title until things “count” again might find this a valuable reference piece for getting an idea of what they’re missing, and what to expect going forward.
What we know: South of “the Shield” of Battleworld the teeming hordes of the Marvel Zombies, the Ultron Perfection and the Annihilation Wave rampage against one-another. They test the limits of pushing north into the civilized, Doom honoring nations. There’s a motley crew of the defenders of order who stand on the Shield against these legion ravagers.
Pros: Last month I mentioned how Future Imperfect is THE book for Peter David fans. Well Siege seems to be THE book for Kieron Gillen fans. Boasting a cast that includes Battleworld versions of Abigail Brand, Leah Shieldman, Miss America Chavez, Kate Bishop, Scott Summers clones produced by Mr. Sinister, and Unit, Gillen will be pulling together figures from his work on Marvel titles like S.W.O.R.D., Journey Into Mystery, Young Avengers, and Uncanny X-Men. It’s a bit of a celebration of the intersection of all things Marvel and all things Gillen which should delight fans of his previous work. Penciller Filipe Andrade’s style is both simple and highly expressive which may help to carry the story forward, and aid in reader identification with the harried characters. Oh, and calling all Kang fans; if the Conqueror is on your Battleworld-wishlist this is the place to see him in action.
Cons: The strong appeal to Gillen’s fans (toward whom this series seems targeted) of this assembly of characters may intimidate, seem perplexing to, or simply not interest readers who aren’t invested in his previous Marvel work. Andrade’s style is highly distinct and may put off readers with whom it doesn’t click quickly.
Should I buy it?: If you enjoy anything (or better-yet everything) that Gillen has written for Marvel it’s probably worth a shot. Also, Kang fans . . . we’re on month 3 of Secret Wars and this looks like it’s going to be it for you.
What we know: In this world where the Spider-Queen has crushed Peter Parker to dominate Manhattan, her Spider-Island. The only hope to save the isle from skittering subjugation lies in the hands of Flash “Agent Venom” Thompson, and his rag-tag band of monstrous renegades. Plus! in a companion feature it’s the return of fan-favorite “Mayday” Parker, AKA the swinging Spider-Girl!
Pros: The Spider-Girl feature should delight that characters very devoted fan-base, especially since Marvel has recruited the creative team of Tom De Falco, Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema long associated with the character back for this new story. Christos Gage is quite familiar with the whole Spider-Island premise and is known for his work writing high-stakes scenarios on books like World War Hulk: X-Men and Avengers Academy. His collaborator Paco Diaz has a style that is well suited to the contorted kinetic action fans have come to expect in their Spidey series.
Cons: While Gage is known for writing high-stakes scenarios many of his past series have existed on the periphery of larger events. For the reader that wants stories that “count” that reputation (whether it’s true in this case or not, and we won’t know until that first issue is on the shelves) may deter readers for whom that’s a qualification for investing their time and money. This concern goes double for the Spider-Girl feature.
Should I buy it?: If you are fond of the Agent Venom/Flash Thompson or DeFalco’s Spider-Girl this series deserves a chance to prove itself to you in July. In fact if you’re a Spider-Girl fan definitely buy up this series that may have seemed like an impossibility since the character last swung off into the sunset. Fans of underdog and revolution-style stories may find appeal in the main Spider-Island feature as well, even if they don’t know the character yet.
Last Days & What’s old is new! (Anthology Books)
There are no new additions to the Last Days line-up this month, meaning those series that are still running are almost at an end. In fact, those following the Punishing crusade of Frank Castle should know that this month sees his quest at an end.
Bear in mind when budgeting for your July comics that ONLY ONE issue of the core Secret Wars series is coming out this much. If you’ve been following it, now might be a time to check out a series or anthology book you didn’t pick-up right away.
Over in Secret Wars Journal #3 laugh off your rage Mr. Show alum and current star of Comedy Bang Bang Scott Aukerman as he and artist RB Silva tell a tale of psychiatric superman Doc Samson in a Sisyphean struggle to soothe the scorching spirits of the gamma-gonzo gaggle of Greenland. Then Frank Tieri returns to Marvel to collaborate with Richard Isanove on a murder mystery featuring the Marvel Noir Wolverine.
Secret Wars: Battleworld #3 treats us to a Wolverine story of their own with a tale of a James “Logan” Howlett who has found inner peace, running afoul of a horde of his inter-dimensional counterparts that are snarling, feral, manimals. In the Valley of Doom, Deadpool 1872 decides he needs a new steed to ride the west, and looks to tame the local Devil Dinosaur. But the excitement doesn’t stop there, as SWB ups the ante with a third story! That’s right true believers, beware the battle of the Ant-Men! Stories will be illustrated by Paul Pope, Logan Faerber, and Aaron Conley with Ryan Ferrier and Ivan Brandon handling the scripts (creator-story assignations have not been made in solicits).