By Jon Durmin
A Knight, a lord, two ladies and a god? Something about this week’s new Marvel series’ reminds me of a trip to the Renaissance Fair. Lo, yon olde heroes hath sojourned unto strange horizons in these volumes. It’s also worth noting that we’ve got no team books premiering this week, and all three of our series headlined by women feature the same creative teams as before Secret Wars.
What we know: For the first time ever Dane Whitman, the Black Knight of the Marvel Universe headlines his own series. Prepare for swords and sorcery as the Black Knight brings his justice to Weirdworld. Why has this one-time anchor of the Avengers found his way to this strange land of the fantastic? What role could the addictive nature of his Ebony Blade have played in his exile from Earth.
Pros: Frank Tieri has proven his ability to tell tales of conflict and intrigue in his runs on Wolverine and New Exclaibur where Black Knight was a core member of the cast. Luca Pizzari’s pencils were a highlight of the Secret Wars Journal anthology series. Transplanting a superheroic character with a dark streak like the Black Knight into the fantasy environs of Weirdworld is inspired in that it taps into not one, but two fictional niches that seem a bit underexplored in the current publishing environment.
Cons: Released early last week, the first few preview pages of the series seem to undermine solicitations that indicate a darker tone for this series with a first-person narrative that seems humor infused. It’s not that Tieri can’t pull this off (he can), nor that it’s inappropriate to the character’s sense of humor (he’s got a history of being quite sardonic), but if the rest of the plot doesn’t cater well to the sword & sorcery genre feel that is being promoted it may not find its audience in a timely fashion. For a book featuring a character who hasn’t made regular appearances since the mid-1990s in a genre that doesn’t have a guaranteed fan base, time may not be a luxury the series can afford.
The Mighty Thor
What we know: What’s new is old is new in this revival of the saga of Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor under the creative guidance of Jason Aaron and Russel Dauterman.
Pros: Hey fans of Thor by Jason Aaron & Russel Dauterman! You’ve got your book back!
Cons: There is insufficient information here to indicate whether there’s anything new or different about this book to attract new readers. In light of this Marvel will have to rely on the existing fan-base and critical acclaim for the creative team’s previous works as the basis for sales. With nearly negligible promotion of this relaunch it seems like Marvel’s marketing department is doing just that.
What we know: Imminently cosplay-able fan-favorite Kamala Khan is back in action with creative team G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona also returning.
Pros: Wilson and Alphona have a proven record of critical success with this series and character that justifies their return to the title. The addition of Takeshi Miyazawa (who filled in once before) to the art team seems like a wise move to alleviate some of the production pressure on Alphona and please fans of their collaboration on the Runaways. The illustrators’ similar styles will allow for easy transition between their work, even within the same issue.
Cons: There’s nothing all new, or all different to be found here. This is fine if you’re a die-hard fan of the pre-Secret Wars run of this series, but provides nothing to bait new readers. Solicitations are making ado about Kamala’s adjustment to her new celebrity status as an Avenger, but anybody who read All-New, All-Different Avengers earlier this month knows that, this is also a major focus of Mark Waid’s spin on that series which may make this series seem less essential for all but the most die-hard Kamala Khan fans. There’s also a risk posed for this character in being the exclusive province of a set creative team; carrying forward with Wilson and Alphona (and Miyazawa) may please the core fan-base, but if at some point in the future they depart, the longer these creators are on the series the more difficult it will be for their successors to please those same fans.
What we know: If you’re looking for all new and all different, this might be the title for you! Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman, is back but her costume doesn’t fit quite as it once did because Jess is pregnant – VERY pregnant. Who’s the proud papa of this pre-parturient spider-baby?
Pros: Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez are back on their pre-Secret Wars collaboration. Both have earned strong followings for their Marvel work over the last few years. Their work with Spider-Woman is no exception so this should excite fans of their previous run. As a returning creative team the argument could be made that they have won the effort to reimagine an all-new, all-different status quo for the character under their stewardship in a way that truly fits the bill. This move may provide something to excite existing fans and entice new ones.
Cons: While some fans may be excited, the all-new hook of Jessica being pregnant (and, presumably soon, a new parent) may have impacts on the character and the direction of her stories which are unappealing to some of her fan-base. Given Hopeless’s record writing stories about younger characters in series’ like Avengers Arena and Avengers Undercover readers may be on edge out of concern for Ms. Drew’s forthcoming neonatal side-kick.
What we know: This series looks back on Peter Quill’s origins, and how a vengeful dreamer of the stars became a lord among them.
Pros: Writer Sam Humphries cut his teeth on Peter Quill writing the Battleworld mini-series Starlord and Kitty Pryde, and his return to the character may please fans of that title. Javier Garron, along for the ride on art duty, has proven his aptitude for tales of space-faring adventure and piracy in the pages of the recent Cyclops solo-series. Setting this title in Quill’s past will allow Humphries to explore the character’s history without running into interference from the storylines of other writers.
Cons: Simultaneously, Humphries will have to tread carefully to avoid the fabrication of story content that contradicts Star Lord’s established origins. If executed improperly this is the sort of thing that can rapidly annihilate a potential foundational readership. In all, setting this series in the past is a gamble; the best or the flat-out worst direction that could be taken with this character.