Conan: Serpent War #’s 1&2 (of 4)
This doesn’t get the “Above-the-Board” spot for what it is. As a B-list event featuring Conan, fellow Robert E. Howard creations Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes (and also Moon Knight because why not), with Jim Zub writing and Scot Eaton and Stephen Segovia illustrating, I’m sure it’ll be fine. No, I’m putting it here because its very existence has tickled the conspiracy theory section of my brain. Simply because I’m amazed to see how fully Marvel has embraced Conan after re-acquiring him. Not only is he headlining multiple titles, but he’s also on the “Savage Avengers” team and now the focus of this miniseries crossover. So how’d we get to this point and why is Conan Productions cool with this kind of exposure for their title character?
The answer may be more straightforward than you think. You see, with Conan running around the Marvel Universe it kind of makes him a de facto Marvel Character. And wouldn’t you know that Marvel Characters are the foundation of the most popular film franchise going right now. Yeah, I think Conan Properties is trying to re-start the character’s feature film prospects by buddying up with Marvel. Letting the company use the character in their comics is just the first step.
Sure, I could be completely off base here and Conan Properties may just see any exposure as good exposure for the character. However if “Phase 5” teases a mysterious barbarian-type character joining the “Avengers” then I just want you all to know that I called it first.
Incoming #1: Billed as the closing chapter to Marvel’s 80th year, this 96-page $10 one-shot promises a murder mystery that will connect all the dots of 2019 and send us into 2020 at full speed! Sounds cool, much better than what it actually is. That would be a big ol’ collection of teasers for stories to come in the following year from the people who will be telling them. It’s the only reason I can see for the likes of Al Ewing, Chip Zdarsky, Dan Slott, Jonathan Hickman, Kelly Thompson, Greg Pak, Matthew Rosenberg, AND MORE to be contributing to this issue. My bet is that this will be something to be filed under, “Fun but inessential.”
Annihilation: Scourge -- Nova, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Fantastic Four, & Omega: Okay, so this isn’t a major event that’s going to span many months and titles. Just a six-week spread (the “Alpha” issue was featured last month) of one-shots showing how various characters are going to handle the threat posed by Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave. I liked the two “Annihilation” events well enough, but if I want to relive their glory days then I can just go re-read them. Even if original co-writer Dan Abnett is writing the “Silver Surfer” one-shot and there’s some residual curiosity from Jonathan Hickman’s “Fantastic Four” run to see how Johnny Storm handles meeting up with his old buddy Annihilus.
Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme #1: I don’t know if the subtitle is only for the cover of the first issue, the title of the first arc, or a permanent thing, but I don’t care. I’m just glad to see that Mark Waid’s time with Stephen Strange isn’t over yet. Even better is that he’s being partnered with “Doctor Aphra” and “Black Panther” artist Kev Walker, so the book will continue to look awesome! As for the story, the “Surgeon Supreme” business is because Strange’s hands have been healed! Now he can finally get back to the business of saving lives like he used to. But what’s going to happen when the responsibilities of being the Sorcerer Supreme conflict with those of a surgeon? My guess is that it’ll send Strange down a dark path that no hero in the Marvel Universe likes to contemplate: Asking advice from Spider-Man.
Also being offered this month is Doctor Strange vol. 4: The Choice which is said to feature one of the best issues in Waid’s run. All I know about it is that it involves the Doctor barging into a couple’s home to prevent some kind of magical invasion. Also included is the anthology annual featuring stories from Tini Howard and Pornsak Pichetshote. This isn’t the only notable collection from Waid this month as his Invisible Woman miniseries with artist Mattia De Iulis hits paperback as well. Years ago Susan Storm undertook a secret mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. and now she has to rescue her former partner from certain death. It sounds pretty straightforward, except Waid is the kind of guy to have realized that and cooked up some twist to catch you off guard.
Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (of 5): I think the series-of-miniseries approach that Marvel is taking with this title is the right way to go. After all, there’s no telling exactly when the fanbase for this character will wake up and go, “Man, what were we thinking” and drop this title harder than an Image title during the 90’s comic crash. At least this new miniseries sounds fun: The law has finally caught up to the time-traveling, cosmically powered, and spirit-of-vengeance-fueled version of Frank Castle and put him into a cosmic jail. But is he locked up with the inmates, or are they locked up with him? Spoiler: It’s the latter. Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Scott Hepburn are on hand to bring the crazy while the character’s creators, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, provide a back-up story to let you know they haven’t forgotten about him.
Spider-Man #4 (of 5): Ok, so it turns out that some misdirection was involved in the marketing of this miniseries written by J.J. Abrams -- but mostly his son Henry -- with art from Sara Pichelli. This series about Spider-Man? It’s not Peter Parker in the title role or set in the present day. No, it’s set in a future where Peter’s son Ben has assumed the mantle. That’s actually a lot more interesting to consider than a miniseries mostly written by J.J.’s son and it makes me think that Marvel was banking on the skepticism expressed by many people after the initial announcement. With everyone’s expectations lowered, that first issue twist would actually stand a good chance of impressing more people when it was finally announced/leaked. Well done, sirs. It makes me look forward to “The Rise of Skywalker” that much more.
Wait, you want to know if this twist makes me want to buy this “Spider-Man” miniseries when it’s collected? Well… it’s a “Spider-Man” miniseries, set in the future, featuring Peter’s son. Flip a coin, I guess.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #40: This is part 4 of “A Rogue’s End” and the solicitation text promises us the sight of Vader hunting Aphra through an ancient temple and only one of them getting out alive. Sounds kind of final, doesn’t it? Well a quick look over at Amazon has “Doctor Aphra” vol. 7 collecting issues #37-40 and Annual #3. So unless this is getting the same treatment between volumes that “Doctor Strange” is, then this looks like the last we’ll see of Chelli Aphra’s regular adventures for a while.
Absolute Carnage: Cletus Kasady and Carnage are back and looking to take out everyone who’s ever come into contact with a symbiote. Which… is a very long list in the Marvel Universe. Standing in his way are (naturally) Venom and Spider-Man along with whatever superheroes they’ve managed to rope into their plan. Best of luck to them. While this is currently Marvel’s big event, it’s basically the stealth third volume of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom” series. So I’ll be picking it up for sure. Less certain is whether or not I’ll do a podcast on it…
Oh, and also shipping this month are collections of the various “Absolute Carnage” tie-in miniseries and one-shots. The only ones I had any real interest in were the ones for titles that I read which were being written by their regular writers. Which means the “Immortal Hulk” one-shot and the “Miles Morales” three-parter. They’re being collected in Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales and Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk and Other Tales, respectively. Here’s where I’d bemoan the fact that these issues aren’t being collected together… except that I realize I can just wait for a digital sale and buy them individually on the cheap.
Valkyrie: Jane Foster vol. 1: Okay, so she’s not going to be Thor again (for a while). But she’s getting a new ongoing series written by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing with art by CAFU! That’s good, right? I’d like to think so, even if Aaron and Ewing seem a bit overstretched between their many commitments in the Marvel Universe. Still, they did good work together on “The Tenth Realm,” the story that revealed Angela was a sister to Thor and Loki in what was essentially vol. 1.5 of the latter’s “Agent of Asgard” series.
X-Statix: The Complete Collection vol. 1: Milligan and Allred’s subversively anarchic take on mutants and celebrity culture, with a large helping of “Suicide Squad” thrown in for good measure gets a “lot of issues in one softcover” treatment. It’s another case of “If you haven’t bought it before now…” but with something extra thrown in. This collection may be the first time that “Brotherhood” #9 is being included in an “X-Force”/”X-Statix” paperback. I’m not sure this is a good thing since the title’s main selling point was that it was being written by a mystery writer known as “X.” In actuality, this was veteran Marvel writer Howard Mackie whose reputation had tanked so badly by the early aughts writing stuff like “Mutant X” -- where Cap blows up the moon at the end in a fit of roid rage -- that he was considered commercial poison. The “X” gimmick was a way for him to get around that via his friends in editorial… except “Brotherhood” wound up being a big commercial and critical failure and the last comic Mackie wrote at Marvel.
That’s all ancient history, but why is issue #9 of “Brotherhood” being collected here? Well, that’s because it’s the issue where the hapless mutant revolutionaries decide to make their boldest statement: By kidnapping “X-Force’s” mascot Doop! Which… really doesn’t make a lot of in-universe sense once you think about it. So if anyone does pick up this collection, please let me know how bad this issue actually is.