Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 1: The Final Gauntlet
There were a few things that I was considering for this spot. However, I’d either just mentioned them a few months ago or was planning on issuing a backhanded recommendation, which would defeat the purpose of the whole thing. So I settled on this (latest) first volume of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Why? Because it comes to us from writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw -- the team supreme who gave us “Thanos Wins.” That final arc of the “Thanos” series may not have lent itself to being easily followed up on, outside of “Cosmic Ghost Rider,” but giving Cates and Shaw the reins of Marvel’s premier cosmic team strikes me as a smart move all around. What’ve they got in store for this first arc? Thanos may be dead, yet his legacy lives on as someone is destined to become the new Thanos! This leads to not just the Black Order becoming involved, but a new group called the Dark Guardians as well. It sounds like a lot to take in, except that I’m sure Cates and Shaw have a plan which involves thriving on all the crazy I’m expecting them to have stuffed into this first volume.
House of X #1 (of 6) & Powers of X #1 (of 6): Okay, Jonathan Hickman is back at Marvel and he’s writing two X-Men miniseries. Two miniseries that are promised as being the next milestone moment in the franchise’s comic history after “Giant-Size X-Men #1,” “X-Men #1” (that’d be the “X-Men #1” from Chris Claremont & Jim Lee), “The Age of Apocalypse,” and “New X-Men.” While Hickman has shown that he can do great work within the confines of the Marvel Universe, I’ve got one big reservation with how Marvel is pushing these two miniseries as an event which will influence all “X-Men” comics going forward.
That would be the fact that Hickman is writing two miniseries and not an ongoing series. I’ve no doubt that the writer has all sorts of fascinating ideas and retcons set for reveal in them. However, by placing them in two miniseries Hickman is effectively going, “Here they are, now feel free to use them all as you see fit.” So either the ideas and retcons here are going to be widely adopted by all the writers that follow or simply ignored because of how they were presented. I think the latter is more likely since it’s one thing for a writer to introduce new stuff to a franchise and another for them to stick around and show everyone how it’s meant to work. Writers today are still picking over the ideas from Claremont and Grant Morrison in their runs because they invested the necessary effort to show that they could work. Will Hickman inspire other writers to do the same in the course of just two miniseries? While I’m expecting to be entertained by what he’s going to give us, my gut says otherwise.
History of the Marvel Universe #1 (of 6): Mark Waid details the history of the Marvel Universe with artist Javier Rodriguez? Sold! Yeah, this “History of the Marvel Universe” will only be canon until the next time Marvel decides to do one of these miniseries. Getting Waid and Rodriguez to do this at least gives me the hope that this version will still be worth re-reading when that happens.
War of the Realms: Omega #1: It’s an epilogue issue which also sets up the new series that are spinning out from this event. So get ready for “Valkyrie” from Jason Aaron and Al Ewing, and artist Cafu, wherein Jane Foster discovers her new status quo! Witness the latest attempt to give “Loki” an ongoing series, this time from “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “Deadpool vs. Black Panther” writer Daniel Kibblesmith and Oscar Bazaluda. Thrill to Gerry Duggan and Juan Ferreyra’s “Punisher Kill Krew” as we get a fantasy-themed take on everyone’s favorite murderous vigilante. Of the three, “Valkyrie” sounds most promising since it has Aaron and Ewing continuing Jane’s story.
Invisible Woman #1 (of 5): It feels kind of random that Susan Storm is finally getting her first miniseries after half a century, but I’m not going to complain too much since it’s coming from Mark Waid and “Jessica Jones” artist Mattia De Iulis. The solicitation also sets up an interesting story about the modern-day fallout Sue is experiencing after the time she undertook an espionage mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. I’d be deeply unsurprised to learn that Waid has been wanting to tell a spy story involving the Invisible Woman for a long time now. I’m onboard with this to see if it winds up being worth the wait.
Giant-Sized X-Statix #1: The good news is that this comes to us from the original creative team of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred. The bad news is that it’s not clear if this is going to be a simple one-off issue to gauge interest in an “X-Statix” comeback or the actual prelude to a new miniseries/ongoing. While I wouldn’t say no to the latter, I’d be happier with the former. The final issue of “X-Statix” was a blood-drenched, bullet-riddled ode to not overstaying your welcome so the team’s absence from the MCU has been fitting. Still, with Milligan writing things, my guess is that the story here is probably going to show us what an exercise in nostalgia looks like after it has been dipped in acid.
Thor #15: Whoa! I thought that after “War of the Realms” we’d be back to normal service on “Thor” for a while before Jason Aaron decided to wrap things up. That’s not the case as this issue is advertised as being the start of his final arc on the series! It’ll be interesting to see how, or even if he can top himself after this huge event, but after all the great “Thor” stories the writer has delivered over the years I certainly wouldn’t bet against him at this point.
Amazing Spider-Man #26: In which Spidey fulfills his destiny and joins the team of villains he was always meant to. That’s right, he’s joining the Superior Foes of Spider-Man in this issue! I know what you’re thinking, “How is that possible when we learned that four of them are currently LMDs who can’t sing?” I’m sure Nick Spencer has an answer for that. Also, while original “Superior Foes” artist Steve Lieber is now busy with the adventures of Jimmy Olsen at DC, he’s got a sterling replacement in Kev Walker.
Star Wars #’s 68 & 69: Two issues to ring in the new creative team of writer Greg Pak and artist Phil Noto. Both are veterans of “Star Wars” at Marvel with the former writing several “Age of” one-shots and the latter handling the “Chewbacca” miniseries and the first year of “Poe Dameron.” Their opening arc is called “Rebels and Rogues” and deals with a three-pronged plan to keep the Empire from finding out about the new Rebel base. The three prongs of said plan consist of Luke and R2, Leia and Han, and Chewbacca and Threepio. I’m sure nothing is going to go wrong here…
Star Wars: Target Vader #1 (of 6): Further confirmation that the future of “Darth Vader” comics at Marvel involves a series of miniseries rather than a new ongoing. This new mini from writer Robbie Thompson and artist Marc Laming has the Sith Lord investigating a criminal syndicate that has been causing trouble for the Empire. What he doesn’t know is that a group of the toughest bounty hunters around has been assembled to take Vader out once and for all. The solicitation text makes special mention of the fact that the team is led by “fallen Imperial officer Beilert Valance” which is a name that is going to make most “Star Wars” fans go “Who?” According to the Wookiepedia, Valance was a recurring cyborg antagonist in Marvel’s original “Star Wars” series. He’s also due to make an appearance in the upcoming 108th issue of the series due to be published in May. I’ll admit this he’s kind of an obscure character to revive, but I’ll reserve judgement on this until after I read this story in collected form.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #4 (of 5): I was planning on giving this miniseries based on the upcoming theme park expansion at Disneyland a pass because I didn’t think its origin promised much. Then we get to the solicitation text for this issue and I find out that the heist at the heart of the series is based off one of Doctor Aphra’s old scores from 30 years ago. Now I’m interested in what this series has to offer. All it had to do was just show some acceptance of “Star Wars’” most morally flexible archaeologist.
War of the Realms: I’ve talked about this event series enough that it should be obvious why I’m mentioning it again here. What surprises me is that it’s getting a paperback edition first instead of a hardcover one. I’d have sprung for the hardcover because I’ve really been looking forward to this story for a while. Here’s hoping it actually delivers on my hopes of seeing Thor stomp on Malekith’s face to end the war. Collects the six-issue event series as well as the above-mentioned “HERE’S A BUNCH OF TRAILERS FOR NEW SERIES SPINNING OFF FROM THIS EVENT! PLEASE BUY THEM!” “Omega” issue.
Amazing Spider-Man: Hunted: In which Kraven the Hunter makes his move. He’s been hanging around the fringes of the current “Amazing” series and it’s safe to assume he doesn’t have anything nice planed for the Wall-Crawler. This is a pricey collection at $40, but it collects eight issues of the regular series plus four of the “Hunted” tie-in one-shots. I’m fine with that, but what’s less clear is whether or not this is actually “Vol. 4” in the current “Amazing” series. I say this because Amazon has vol. 4 collecting issues 16-20, which is only part of the event. Meanwhile, vol. 5 is set to collect issues 24-28 which is perfect if the “Hunted” collection is mean to be the real vol. 4. I’m assuming it is and the solicitations will reflect that as it gets closer to release.
Black Panther Book 7: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part Two: After the previous volume had writer Ta-Nehisi Coates finally hitting his stride on this series, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where he goes with this new take on T’Challa’s adventures. Kev Walker is in for Daniel Acuna this time around, but that’s just giving us a different kind of good art to take in. Better still is that Jen Bartel will be back for another issue and, while this one won’t be a spotlight on N’Jadaka, this one promises to tell us just how T’Challa wound up in the Empire in the first place. Should be great.
Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men & NextGen: The first collections for the latest “X-Men” event start rolling out. If you’re interested in following the whole thing, there will be six in all. No sign of an omnibus edition for the event. Yet. That said, if you’re just looking to follow the critical path through the event, you can probably just get away with reading the “Marvelous X-Men” collection. That’s because it contains the “Alpha” and “Omega” issues for the event and the “NextGen” collection doesn’t. This means that after you read “Marvelous X-Men” you should’ve enjoyed yourself so much that you’ll want to go out and read the other collections to see how they tie into the main story. We’ll see how well that works in a few months…
Star Wars: Darth Vader -- Dark Visions: Kieron Gillen and Charles Soule both found ways to tell stories about Vader that put him in circumstances where he struggled yet managed to preserve his indomitable appeal. Writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum has found a different way to tell stories about this character: Tell them from the perspectives of the minor figures he meets in the course of doing his job. So we get to see Vader from the perspective of the inhabitants of worlds he liberates for the Empire, an Imperial office about to pay the price of failure, someone who has lost their heart to the Sith Lord, and a very unlucky X-Wing pilot. I’m onboard with this setup, and the fact that we’re getting different artists with each issue, including the likes of Paolo Villanelli and David Lopez, sounds like a plus too.
Star Wars vol. 11: The Scourging of Shu-Torun: Not just Kieron Gillen’s last “Star Wars” comic, but his last comic for Marvel for the foreseeable future. We’ll still be getting a lot from him elsewhere, with projects like “Die” at Image, “Once and Future” at Boom, and “Peter Cannon” over at Dynamite. It’s just that this feels like the end of an era here. And what a way to go out if the setup for this story is any indication. Usually we’re in the position of seeing the Rebellion as the group that’s fighting against injustice in the galaxy. Here, they’re out for some payback and to send a message to those who would double-cross them like Queen Trios of Shu-Torun did. It’s a setup that puts Luke, Han, and especially Leia in some murky, morally questionable waters. While these waters may clear up by the end of the story, the setup for “The Scourging of Shu-Torun” really stands out from the rest of Marvel’s “Star Wars” comics because of its moral ambiguity.