One of the common stories coming out of Marvel’s annus horribilis is how many comic shops experienced sharp drops in sales. Sometimes in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of dollars, but always the result of a cratering of sales regarding their Marvel product. I want to say that Marvel has been trying its best to reassure store owners that they’re going to turn things around in 2018. All I’ve seen so far in the solicitations these year is more or less a regular parade of events. The “Infinity Countdown” started last month and “The Search for Wolverine” begins here. While some of these might actually turn out to be good, what really needs to be done is to shore up the declines in the monthly titles since they’re the actual backbone of Marvel’s publishing business. The industry needs a strong Marvel -- and DC -- because without them then comic shops won’t have enough business to stay open. I’ve mentioned my hope that Image will eventually become strong enough to get past this problem, but that’s still a long way off. If Marvel’s publishing business collapses entirely then that would be a gutshot for the print comics industry.
So, what does Marvel have on offer this month to make sure that doesn’t happen?
The Hunt for Wolverine #1: Yeah, we all knew this was coming. I’d be inclined to fire off some cynical snark about this, buuuuuut it’s being written by Charles Soule. While he’s not a consistently great writer, I’ve yet to read anything from him that I’ve actively disliked. More relevant to this project is that he did a better job than I expected when it came to handling “The Death of Wolverine.” There’s also the fact that he did a really great job in walking back Matt Murdock’s public status as Daredevil to a secret identity once again. It’s a move that could’ve come off as a cheap way to bring back an old status quo, but Soule did it in a way that was very true to the character. In that something which seemed like a good thing only wound up creating more problems for the character. That appears to be the same track he’s taking here with a “terrible secret” being mentioned in connection with Wolverine’s return. I’m onboard, and while this won’t have Steve McNiven providing the art as he did for the character’s death, Dave Marquez is doing the honors here and that means this is still going to look pretty fantastic.
Captain America #700: Word is that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee will be sticking around on this title for a while longer. As a result of both the quality of their work on the title so far and rumors that Ta-Nehisi Coates needs just a little more time to get things ready for his run. I’m fine with this since Waid/Samnee is one of the only teams at Marvel that can be regularly counted upon for quality. The plot they’ve cooked up for this issue also sounds pretty interesting as Cap wakes up in a distant future and realizes that the only way to save it is to rule as its king. It sounds like they’re doing a riff on “Secret Empire” minus the whole “Secret” part. Or the whole “Taking place in the actual Marvel Universe” part as well. This also sounds like the kind of setup an old pro like Waid should have no problems subverting. As a bonus, this issue will also contain a previously unpublished and unfinished story with art from Jack Kirby with words from Waid to complete the project.
Exiles #’s 1-2: The dimension-hopping team of mutants are coming back once again. I never got onboard any of their previous incarnations so there’s no nostalgic pull for me here. It does have art from Javier Rodriguez, who has done some excellent work in the past on “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Daredevil.” Saladin Ahmed, who wrote the “Black Bolt” series (yes, “wrote;” the final issue of that series is solicited here too), is writing this. So if you liked his work on “Black Bolt” then you should probably give this a shot. Before it gets cancelled, ideally.
Domino #1: The mutant with luck-based powers who isn’t Longshot gets another miniseries. I don’t have any particularly strong attachment to her, though I’ve liked Greg Pak’s take on her as a fun-loving money-grubbing merc in the pages of “Weapon X.” What’s notable about this is that Gail Simone is writing it. This makes it her first major Marvel work in well over a decade after her stints on “Deadpool” and “Agent X.” The character is well matched to Simone’s violent, comic sensibilities even if one does wonder about the logic of launching a “Domino” ongoing in today’s market. If this is actually meant to be Marvel’s latest “miniseries disguised as an ongoing” I certainly hope that someone told Simone before she took the gig.
Invincible Iron Man #599: The solicitation text consists of two words, “Tony’s back!” He’s on the cover of the issue as well. It would appear that Bendis is putting all of his toys back on the shelf before he leaves. Whether or not this one will be in the same condition that he left is still anyone’s guess. However, if there’s one person who’s up to untangling whatever continuity issues Bendis might leave on this title in his wake, it’s incoming writer Dan Slott. After a decade of consistently good, and sometimes even great, work on Spider-Man I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Slott can do with Ol’ Shellhead.
Thanos Annual #1: So, Donny Cates’ run on “Thanos” has been going quite well from what I’ve heard. One of the standout parts of it has been the “Cosmic Ghost Rider” he’s introduced to the series. I’ve managed to remain in the dark as to the character’s identity, but he’s getting his own spotlight in this annual to show off some of the Mad Titan’s worst deeds. It’s probably not surprising that Cates will be having a hand in the writing of this annual, but it also includes work from Kieron Gillen and Al Ewing which would make it a must-read even if the rest of the issue didn’t include contributions from Christopher Hastings, Ryan North, and Katie Cook. The catch here is that this is a 40-page issue, so these six writers will likely only have six or seven pages to tell their stories. It’s still enough to really, really make me hope that this issue is included in the next “Thanos” collection.
All-New Wolverine #33: The beginning of “Old Woman Laura.” Now, the last time writer Tom Taylor took on a famous “Wolverine” story from Mark Millar, it had precious little to do with the original. That looks to change this time around if the solicitation text is any indication. Yet I’m still left wondering WHY? Why do we need this story when Taylor was doing a good enough job mining the here and now for stories about Laura Kinney as Wolverine? Why ditch all that to tell a story about another dystopian future which almost certainly won’t have the same kind of impact as the original? I want to trust Taylor on his decision to pursue this kind of story, but I’ve got some serious reservations here.
Poe Dameron #26: Aha! So that’s his plan! After four volumes writer Charles Soule has finally arrived at the events of “The Force Awakens” -- and now we get to see them from Poe’s perspective. This sounds pretty cool since anyone who’s seen the film knows that the hotshot pilot went missing for a long stretch during it. Now Soule gets to fill in the missing gap and maybe even add something substantial to the “Star Wars” mythos. I’ll admit that may be wishful thinking on my part, but we shall see.
X-Men: Revolution by Chris Claremont Omnibus: Uh… While Claremont is rightly regarded as the definitive “X-Men” writer, having built up “Uncanny” to being a juggernaut of sales and quality during the 80’s, his return at the end of the 90’s left a lot to be desired. Don’t believe me? Well, this omnibus only collects nine issues each from “Uncanny” and “X-Men” so that means the writer’s great return only lasted nine months. After that he was shuttled off to his own X-title, “X-Treme X-Men.” (Yeah, they were still shaking off the 90’s influence with that title.) This isn’t a fondly remembered period of X-history, but it still sold well and that’s why it’s being collected now.
Deadpool Classic vol. 22: Collecting “Deadpool the Duck,” “Deadpool vs. Punisher,” and “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again.” ...Weren’t the last two published last year? How the hell is any of this “Classic” at this point!?
Black Panther vol. 5: Avengers of the New World Part II: While the subtitle would indicate otherwise, this was originally solicited in single-issue form as “Klaw Stands Supreme.” Because it involves the return of T’Challa’s longtime foe Ulysses Klaw, natch. Vol. 4 was something of a step in the right direction. Now we’ll see if pitting the Panther against an actual supervillain will finally get this series to live up to its potential.