The upcoming “Age of Ultron” event will be serialized at a blistering pace even by Marvel’s current standards. April will be its second month and if everything goes as planned we’ll be up to issue six by the end of it. That being said, if everything does go as planned, we’ll have been treated to more issues illustrated by Bryan Hitch in these two months than we usually see from him in any given year. Hitch is illustrating the first five issues (with Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco taking over for the sixth), and I certainly hope for Marvel’s sake that they’re soliciting them now because he already has them drawn. They seem to be making an effort with the “Marvel NOW!” initiative to keep things shipping on time, though, that doesn’t seem to have worked with “Uncanny Avengers” because John Cassaday needs the extra time to make his art look so awesome. Anyway, this is further proof of the long lead time this project has had if half of the event is being drawn by Hitch. Of course, I’m sure that Jonathan Ross, British talk-show host and writer of the Hitch-illustrated “America’s Got Powers,” is seeing all this and going, “Bloody hell!” after their series has gone off the rails schedule-wise as nearly all of the artist’s work has in the past.
Thanos Rising #1 (of 5): Hyped as both the start of whatever the publisher’s initiative after “Marvel NOW!” is going to be and as something of interest to those who saw the “Avengers” movie and wondered who that grinning purple guy in the end credits was. It’s more likely to succeed due to the latter than any connection to the former, but it at least has a solid creative team in writer Jason Aaron and artist Simone Bianchi. As for what it’s about? “Thanos Rising” is a new take on his origin, which I’m admittedly not too familiar with. So if anything, I’m probably the ideal audience for this project too.
X-Men #1: Another new “X-Men” #1? Already? Seeing as how the last series ultimately fizzled due to its lack of general direction and the overall mediocrity of its stories until Brian Wood came along, he’s going to be writing this with Oliver Coipel providing the art. While I don’t need to tell you what Wood’s involvement does to my interest here, the spin on this title is that it’ll be focusing on the female members of the team. The initial lineup consists of Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke and Jubilee while the plot has them protecting an orphaned baby from alien forces who want to see it destroyed. So, you know, it’s business as usual with them.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- Evil Ground #1 (of 2): Though the series-of-miniseries chronicling the events leading up to and of the first novel wrapped up with “The Man in Black” Marvel is apparently not done publishing comics based on Stephen King’s series. Considering that the series was launched to considerable fanfare and blockbuster sales, which have fallen off to about a tenth of those numbers, I have to wonder what the incentive is to keep publishing these. That being said, this two-issue series which serves as a prequel to one of King’s stories that was adapted into comics, “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” and as a flashback to Roland’s earlier days does not immediately strike me as the way to reinvigorate the franchise. But I could be wrong.
Takio 2 GN HC: The first volume came out back in early 2011 as Bendis and Oeming’s first stab at doing an all-ages superhero title. It was apparently successful enough that an ongoing title was launched last year, which promptly crashed and burned in a spectacular fashion in the direct market. It’s failure was so sudden and dramatic that you’d think it was being done by two unknown creators rather than two established ones who have cultivated a fairly substantial audience with their other projects. This volume collects the four issues that were published before its unceremonious end and I’d say that I’d be picking it up... except for the fact that I have yet to get the first one. Clearly I’m part of the problem here. I’ll see if I can become part of the solution by the time this hits stores.
Wolverine: The Best There Is The Complete Series: This twelve-issue run from writer Charlie Huston and artist Juan Jose Ryp was widely reviled for its first half before it started approaching “readable” in its second half. Part of me is curious to see exactly what went wrong here and to observe that rise in quality myself. However, I’ve heard that if you’re looking for a “mature readers” take on Wolverine that’s actually good, you’d be better off going with...
Wolverine MAX vol. 1: Permanent Rage: While I was not impressed to hear that Jason Starr, writer of one of the worst Vertigo Crime stories in “The Chill,” was doing this, word has it that this has actually been quite good. Putting the character in the continuity-lite MAX setting has apparently had the effect of getting him back to his roots and focusing on his old-school struggles of controlling his rage and clashing within society. Much as I like the current take on the character as someone who has managed to triumph over these instincts, there’s something to be said for this kind of approach. We’ll see what kinds of dividends it pays in a couple months.
The Twelve HC: J. Michael Straczynski’s reputation has taken quite a hit since his move to DC. There’s his involvement in “Before Watchmen,” which -- regardless of what you think of the concept -- didn’t result in any decent comics and his takes on “Superman” both in the DCU in “Grounded” and in “Earth One” which can charitably be called “misguided” at best. However, before he left Marvel the man had started work on a maxi-series with artist Chris Weston about the exploits of the Golden Age Marvel heroes to fairly wide acclaim. There was a years-long gap in the serialization of these issues that led some to believe that we’d never see the title finished, but it was and now you can get it in hardcover. I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up when it comes out, but if I see it at Comic-Con...
Spider-Men: Now in softcover. For all the hoopla that came with the first ever crossover between the Ultimate and 616 Marvel Universes, it seems to have come and gone without much lasting impact. I know that I said this foretold the end of the imprint, with the worthwhile characters like Miles Morales being re-absorbed into the regular Marvel Universe, and that could happen if sales for the Ultimate imprint don’t start picking up soon. So if the whole point of this crossover was to bring some added buzz and attention to it so that this didn’t happen, then it failed. Regardless, I’m still expecting it to be a decent read given Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli’s track record with the title so far.