The main reason we see so many spin-off titles in comics is because they tend to represent the safest bet of all. If you liked Title X, then it stands to reason you’ll like Title Xa, Xb, and Xc as well. This kind of approached worked really well during the 90’s (it’s how we wound up with four concurrent “Punisher” for a while) but has fallen out of favor in recent years. The cold hard truth of the market still hasn’t stopped publishers from trying to find new titles to spin off into their own mini-franchise, however. “Black Panther” is currently the main beneficiary of this kind of thinking with the first issue of “Black Panther: The Crew” debuting in these solicitations along with the latest issues of “Black Panther” proper, and “World of Wakanda.”
To Marvel’s credit, they managed to get current “Black Panther” writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to co-write the spinoff titles, so they can’t be immediately dismissed as superfluous to the main one. Yet it’s hard not to think that the only reason the latter two titles exist is because Marvel saw the over 300K sales of the first issue of “Black Panther” last year and thought that there was a giant demand for more comics about the character and his world. What it likely represented was a certain amount of pent-up fan demand after T’Challa had been without a solo title for several years, and anticipation surrounding his cinematic debut in “Captain America: Civil War.” Currently, “World of Wakanda” is outselling “Black Panther” as the latter title closes in on monthly sales that are a tenth of its debut issue. It’s all but certain the spin-off will sink below its parent title in a few months, which makes the idea of launching a second spin-off a really dubious idea at this point.
Coates has discussed his long-term plans for “Black Panther,” so I’m sure that will continue for a while. I’d like to be wrong, but I have a feeling that “World of Wakanda” and “The Crew’s” lasting contributions to the “Black Panther” mythos will mainly be in providing evidence for a time when he had three ongoing titles at once. If you think I should be wrong, then pick up a copy of all three titles when “The Crew” debuts in April.
X-Men: Blue #’s 1-2, X-Men: Gold #1, All-New Wolverine #19, Weapon X #’s 1-2: Speaking of spin-offs, “ResurrXion,” the latest re-shuffling of the “X-Men” titles kicks off in these solicitations with new names for the core titles that are specifically designed to recall the franchise’s commercial high point from the 90’s. Briefly: “Blue” is the title about the time-lost team from writer Cullen Bunn who now have Magneto as their leader, “Gold” is made up of mostly familiar faces (Kitty Pryde, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Old Man Logan, Prestige -- I said “mostly”) from Marc Guggenheim, Laura gets a new costume in “Wolverine,” and “Weapon X” is the “X-Force” surrogate book about bad mutants facing an even worse threat from the title organization, courtesy of Greg Pak. Frankly, all of this sounds fine to me. It’s just that I’m a longtime “X-Men” fan and, barring some awful creative downturn, I’ll keep reading them. As for anyone who might be interested, I’d say you can give this latest re-shuffle a pass for now.
Monsters Unleashed #1: The numbers aren’t even in for Marvel’s latest event series and they’ve already greenlit an ongoing title based on it. This does not seem particularly wise. Mainly because the appeal for the event looks to be seeing some of Marvel’s best artists tackle their monster characters. Which is good for a five-issue mini, but its appeal diminishes when it’s presented on an ongoing basis with an artist, David Baldeon, whose name doesn’t carry the same draw as, say, McNiven, Yu, or Kubert. Cullen Bunn is writing the ongoing (as well as the event), and I hope he has a solid year of stories planned for this because that’s all he’ll be likely to get.
Infamous Iron Man #7: In which Victor Von Doom meets The Maker, A.K.A. “Evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe.” Even though Bendis created this character back in “Ultimate Doomsday,” he hasn’t done anything with him since. Jonathan Hickman and Al Ewing have done an excellent job in establishing the character’s evil genius credentials over the years. This development is likely to be ignored as I’m betting Bendis is latching onto the idea of “Good Doctor Doom” vs. “Evil Reed Richards” for this story, arc, whatever it is. Not that that’s a bad idea for a story, but I’m not expecting to see a take on The Maker which lines up with what Hickman and Ewing have done with him.
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #’s 1-2 (of 5): Now here’s a fight I’d be willing to invest money in. Yes, it’s another in the endless string of “Deadpool” miniseries that Marvel loves to put out, but they’ve found a worthy foil for the character in putting him up against Frank Castle. Even when he’s put in explicitly comedic stories, Castle remains the same stoic man of few words that he is when the material he’s given is more dramatic. Pitting him against the loquacious comic hurricane that is Deadpool seems like a perfect match-up. The story may be dead simple -- they’re fighting over the fate of a minor criminal -- yet I’m sure writer Fred Van Lente will get some good material out of this.
Star Wars: Rogue One Adaptation #1 (of 6): It’s adapting the film, so I’m not interested. That is, unless it incorporates some of the numerous scenes that were said to have been left on the cutting room floor after last summer’s reshoots.
Black Panther vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet HC: Had I known this was coming (and I really should’ve realized that it was), I would’ve passed on picking up the first three paperback volumes. This edition collects the entirety of the title story and anyone interested in reading it is advised to wait for this to come out before you do. It’s a collection of a twelve-issue arc -- best read all at once than in piecemeal four-issue chunks.
Champions vol. 1: Change the World: Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos team up to unleash a new teen team on the Marvel Universe. I’m skeptical that these heroes’ plans to enact real change will come to fruition, but Waid has been writing superhero comics long enough to recognize this limitation. I’ve got a pretty good feeling he’ll find a way around it. What I’m more interested in seeing is how he’ll use Viv Vision here since her role in Tom King’s “Vision” series didn’t give any indication that she’d work particularly well in the wider Marvel Universe. Waid obviously thinks differently, and there’s some potential for family drama as Vision is currently a member of the writer’s “Avengers” team. There’s a lot of potential here, so we’ll see how much of it is realized once this volume comes out.
Jessica Jones vol. 1: Uncaged: I know I didn’t have many kind words for Bendis above, but here he’s returning to one of his biggest triumphs in the Marvel Universe with original artist Michael Gaydos. Either it’ll be a glorious achievement which shows you really can go home again, or further evidence that the writer has lost it. Mind you, this title just being “okay” or a “complete trainwreck” would both qualify as evidence of the latter. That’s just how good “Alias” was.