So… Marvel has had kind of a terrible month in terms of PR, haven’t they? From the contents of David Gabriel’s summit with retailers, to the Anti-Semitic, Anti-Christian messages hidden in “X-Men Gold” #1, to the ongoing controversies surrounding “Secret Empire,” the comics side of the company is currently going through one of those phases where it can’t seem to do anything right. I say “phases” because it’s been in worse situations before (Anyone remember the bankruptcy?) and survived them as well. This time around, the challenge isn’t just to survive but grow its readership following whatever it has planned for the aftermath of “Secret Empire.” With most of its key titles selling at historic lows, they’ve got a lot to do in that regard. For the good of the industry too because it needs a strong Marvel -- in order to survive until Image is strong enough to take its place.
Secret Empire #7 (of 9): Speaking of Marvel’s latest event, this issue asks us to remember when “Civil War II” offered a prediction of Miles Morales killing Captain America at the Lincoln Memorial. It didn’t happen in that event, BUT COULD IT HAPPEN HERE!?!? Unless Marvel wants another media firestorm with the headline “Biracial Spider-Man Kills Nazi Captain America” then you shouldn’t bet on it.
Astonishing X-Men #1: Wait, I thought that “Weapon X” was meant to be the “X-Force” book for this latest “X-Men” relaunch? Though this series is titled “Astonishing,” it’s basically the latest iteration of the more proactive/violent X-team, as evidenced by the presence of Psylocke, Bishop, Fantomex, Archangel, Mystique (yeah, that’s going to end well), and Old Man Logan. Rogue and Gambit are also onboard, because why not. Charles Soule is writing the title with a rotating team of artists starting with Jim Cheung. The fact that this book features a rotating team has drawn some fire because it downplays the role of the artist on the book, something that also fits with Gabriel’s assertion that most artists don’t “move the needle” on books these days. Having a rotating team of artists is fine if you’re going for a series of one-off stories, but if you’re doing an ongoing story with them then it’s just going to look chaotic. That might be appropriate given that this first arc is rumored to involve the Shadow King. After that, I’m not so sure it’ll hold up.
Spider-Men II #1 (of 5): At the end of the first “Spider-Men” miniseries, Peter Parker returned to the Marvel Universe and Googled Miles Morales’ name and went, “Oh my God” at the result. Now, any logical interpretation of that scene would assume that Peter saw the 18 million results that such a search would involve and was dreading the task of sorting through them all to find Miles’ counterpart in our universe. What Bendis was likely going for in that scene was to inspire shock/surprise/dread in the reader at what Miles was like in the mainline Marvel Universe. My faith in Bendis’ long-term plotting hasn’t been that great as of late so I’m of the opinion that last scene was done more as a sequel hook for the sake of inspiring a sequel than because he had an idea about who this other Miles was. Regardless, we’re about to find out who he is courtesy of Bendis and original “Spider-Men” artist Sara Pichelli. Though his writing for most superhero titles has been very uneven as of late, Bendis still has a great handle on Miles’ adventures (the “Civil War II” tie-in issues were great) so this could turn out to be better than I’m expecting.
X-Men Gold vol. 1, X-Men Blue vol. 1, Weapon X vol. 1, Extraordinary X-Men vol. 4, Uncanny X-Men: Superior vol. 4, and All-New X-Men: Inevitable vol. 4: If you’re like me and want to follow the core “X-Men” titles then best prepare yourself for the nut-punch to your wallet Marvel will be delivering in July. Yeah, I’m probably being generous by including “Weapon X” as a core title, but half-a-dozen trade paperbacks in a month? If Marvel had any sense they would’ve put out the concluding volumes of the previous run in May leaving July free to spotlight the new titles. Oh, and the “Prime” one-shot which kicks off this new direction is being reprinted twice between the “Extraordinary” and “All-New” titles to pad out their page counts. The worst part? I’ll probably end up buying all of these after I’ve just complained about this approach. Well, not for less than 40% off cover price at least.
Star Wars: Darth Maul: When you’re doing a series about a villainous character, the easiest way to make them into a sympathetic protagonist is to put them up against someone worse than they are. That’s the approach the first “Darth Maul” miniseries took when it had the character going up against the Black Sun criminal organization way back in the day. This time around, writer Cullen Bunn appears to be going with mystery as Maul is going after a kidnapped Jedi padawan for reasons unknown. I’ll admit I’m curious about that, even if it turns out to be a swerve to allow the character to do something truly villainous at the end of the story.
The Unstoppable Wasp vol. 1: Unstoppable: Collects “All-New, All-Different Avengers” #14, and issues #1-4 of the ongoing series “specially priced” at $13. For a first volume collecting five issues, that’s not “specially priced.” Check out the first volume of nearly every Image title and you’ll see that $10 is the standard price point for this kind of thing.