King Thor (or Thor by Jason Aaron vol. 16)
Seven years. That’s how long Jason Aaron has been writing “Thor.” It’s a virtual eternity in this comics marketplace where a creative team is kicked to the curb if their series doesn’t hit the ground running. Aaron’s work on “Thor” has been consistently good to the point that he’s had successful runs with three regular artists -- Esad Ribic, Russell Dauterman, and Mike Del Mundo -- and been through enough relaunches that he can lay claim to writing four different “Thor #1” issues. Six, if you count the first issues of the “Secret Wars: Thors” and this final miniseries.
“King Thor” is the writer’s bid to show us how the saga of Thor finally ends. He’s getting around that tricky business of making it stick in the present continuity by focusing on the last days of Old King Thor in the far future. He’s someone whose toughness is equaled only by his stubbornness, which has allowed him to survive battles against a necrotized Galactus, a phoenix-empowered Wolverine, and a Doctor Doom who became living god. Now he faces his biggest challenge yet: Taking on his brother Loki who has been empowered by All-Black the Necrosword *guitar squeal*.
While it’s certainly possible that the final go-round in this blood feud could end with one or both brothers dead, my gut feeling is that Aaron’s got one good twist in store for us here. I just hope it isn’t the return of a certain villain from his run that I’ve already been spoiled for. Still, with Ribic returning to pencil the majority of this, I’m expecting nothing less than greatness as Aaron brings down the curtain on one of the longest and best runs in modern superhero comics.
Wolverine #1: The only surprising thing about this solicitation is that it took until the second wave of “Dawn of X” titles to arrive. It’s been a while since Logan has headlined his own title, but it hasn’t felt that way thanks to quality stand-ins like “All-New Wolverine” and “Old Man Logan.” This new ongoing is from Benjamin Percy who wrote the Wolverine podcast adaptation “The Long Night,” had an acclaimed run on DC’s “Green Arrow,” and is also currently writing the latest incarnation of “X-Force.” With a resume like that, I’m sure he’ll deliver something readable at the very least. On board to reassure older fans is Adam Kubert, who has a long history drawing “Wolverine” comics, and Viktor Bogdanovic, making what I believe is his Marvel debut.
X-Men/Fantastic Four #’s 1&2 (of 4, of course): The last time the X-Men and Fantastic Four teamed up in a miniseries like this it was for “X4” which was “produced” by Pat Lee and Dreamwave Studios. While I never read it, Paul O’Brien of “The X-Axis” did (as it is his duty) and his thoughts on it made the comic sound like it was roughly on par with some of the worst of Chuck Austen’s “Uncanny X-Men” run. This time around things are looking much better because we’ve got Chip Zdarsky writing, Terry Dodson, providing the art, and a good reason for this story to happen: All of the world’s mutants have gathered on Krakoa save one. Franklin Richards. Now the X-Men are going to push the issue with the Fantastic Four and things are going to get ugly. Mind you, this is before Doctor Doom’s inevitable involvement occurs.
Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1: This is being billed as the first of five essential X-Men-related one-shots designed to spotlight some of Marvel’s best artists. That it’s being illustrated by Russell Dauterman makes a good case for the “best artists” part of that equation. But is it really essential? Seeing as how this is being written by the current mastermind of all things X-related, Jonathan Hickman, it’s a pretty safe bet that it is. As for the story: Storm is in danger and Jean and Emma have to team up to get her out of it. Considering that the last time these two psychics teamed up had them doing a deep dive into the mind of a comatose Professor X, and utterly failing to work together, Storm may want to see if she can save herself rather than wait for this kind of help.
Falcon and Winter Soldier #1 (of 5): You know, there’s going to be a new series featuring these two characters on Disney+ later this year. Just wanted to point that out.
Gwen Stacy #1 (of 5): Uh… okay. Look, I’ve got a lot of time for Christos Gage when he takes on a Spider-related assignment after his contributions to Dan Slott’s lengthy run, the recent PS4 “Spider-Man” videogame, and the first volume of “Superior Spider-Man.” Even with all that going for him, I’m still feeling deeply skeptical about this miniseries. I mean, it’s all about what she was up to before she got involved with Spider-Man and that seems like a really obscure bit of continuity to go digging into in this day and age. Gage may have a really good angle on this, but I really can’t get interested in a miniseries about the secret history of a character who was long dead before I was even born.
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #6: The main plot has something going on with a secret cache of S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment and the Agents racing Deadpool to get to it first. I don’t care about any of that. What blew my mind was to see this issue promising the return of the Livewires.
I can see all of you out there going, “Who?” Let me explain.
Back when the manga boom was in full swing and Marvel was making their own kind of half-assed attempts to cater to it, one of the titles that came out of it was a six-issue miniseries called “Livewires.” It was about six androids with their own distinct personalities taking on the results of secret programs gone wrong in the science-y underbelly of the Marvel Universe. The reason I checked out this miniseries, and the reason it turned out to be very good, was because it was written by Adam Warren of “Empowered” fame. He also provided the layouts with Rick Mays delivering the finished art.
While I and a few others really liked it, the miniseries essentially came and went without anyone taking notice. Until now, that is, with Jim Zub making a play at bringing them back. I guess I’m going to have to buy this series now to see how that goes. Which is convenient because the first volume of this series is also mentioned in these solicitations. Oh, and speaking of Zub…
Conan the Barbarian #13: He’s the new writer on the main ongoing “Conan” title. Given his affinity for the character, I think he’ll do just fine. That said, a year after Marvel launched two ongoing “Conan” titles and a series of miniseries, only the main ongoing is featured in these solicitations. The “Savage Sword” anthology looks to have given way to mini-events like “Serpent Crown” and this month’s “Battle for the Serpent Crown” while the occasional miniseries looks to be on hiatus for now. The overall outlook for the Cimmerian at Marvel doesn’t look to be as dire as I was fearing, though I can’t bring myself to say that he’s really thriving here right now.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #1: *sighs* Okay, look: I realize that Greg Pak deserved something after his run on “Star Wars” wound up lasting all of eight issues. But this? Another “Darth Vader” series? To Marvel’s credit, they at least realize that series about the most infamous Dark Lord of the Sith are best served with a finite length. Either five or six issues, or 25 if a writer has several stories to tell. This latest “Darth Vader” series is following the same approach as the relaunched “Star Wars” title and will be telling stories about the title character in the wake of “The Empire Strikes Back.” I can’t say that’s an immediately appealing setup for me since I never really had any questions regarding what he was up to after the movie. However, Pak is a good writer and he may have hit upon an approach that could work: Vader losing his cool and looking to take out his anger on anyone who may have had a hand in warping his son’s mind to the point where Luke would refuse his father’s offer to rule the galaxy by his side. I’m curious to see where that leads. Even if it’s just to see Vader wreak bloody havoc across the galaxy.
Star Wars vol. 13: I had thought that Pak’s brief run on “Star Wars” would be collected in one volume. Goes to show what I know. Why would Marvel do that when they can split it in two and deliver a volume with the final three issues padded out with a one-shot of other stories. That would be the “Empire Ascendant” issue, which will be featuring work from Charles Soule and Si Spurrier, and it may also be the last time we see the latter writing about Doctor Aphra. So I guess I can’t complain about this too much.
Fantastic Four vol. 4: Point of Origin: Just wanted to say that it’s nice to see a volume of Dan Slott’s run on “Fantastic Four” with a decent issue count. This is after vols. 1 & 2 only collected the first five issues of Slott’s run between them. Vol. 3 collected #’s 6-11 and vol. 4 is the beefiest yet, giving us #’s 12-18. It’s a trend I hope to see continue for future volumes.
Conan the Barbarian vol. 2: The Life and Death of Conan Book Two: Yeah, I’m also looking forward to Zub’s run on “Conan” to see if he can deliver more than what Jason Aaron has given us so far. Which would be “Conan’s Greatest Hits” along with a side of the writer’s own. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it was just a little… uninspired. Still, there’s reason to look forward to “Book Two” as Conan will finally have a face-to-face encounter with someone who has shaped his very being: His god, Crom.
X-Men Milestones: Messiah Complex: “Messiah Complex” is old enough to qualify as a “Milestones” read? That can’t be. I mean, I’ve talked about it on the podcast, and… God I feel old.