Marvel Month in (P)review: May/June 2008

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"Marvel Month in (P)review" highlights the Marvel Comics' month that was and previews the Marvel Comics' month that will be. This month's column features exclusive previews of Ultimate Origins #1, Wolverine #66, and Immortal Iron Fist #16 and Thor: Ages of Thunder - Reign of Blood #1.



Secret Invasion #2 hit the stands in May, and reactions to the issue were decidedly more mixed than they were for the first issue. Whilst the series opener delivered much in the way of "big" moments and Skrull reveals, the second issue was far less exciting and revelatory, boiling down to little more than a big fight in the Savage Land between a group of superheroes who may or may not be Skrulls.
The tie-in issues of the Avengers titles fared slightly better, with a Sentry story in Mighty Avengers #14 providing a decent final twist, and an enjoyable enough vignette involving Spider-Man, Shanna and Ka-Zar in the Savage Land in New Avengers #41, but there's still a sense that we're waiting for the event to kick into high gear.


Now this is how you do a first issue. Introducing his characters quickly, Captain Britain and MI:13 writer Paul Cornell throws us straight into the heart of a massive conflict as the Skrull invasion hits Britain. An interesting cast, winning humour, some solid action sequences and a great cliffhanger all add up to a highly entertaining opener. I can't wait to read the next issue.


The question of whether the world needs a second Iron Man title was answered convincingly by this opening issue, casting Tony Stark in a more traditional superhero role than he's been playing in the espionage thriller that the Knaufs have been providing in the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. book. Fraction's imaginative plot makes the story instantly compelling, and Salvador Larocca's slick artwork makes the book rather pretty to look at, too. This is starting to look like a great year for Iron Man.


Fantastic Four #557 saw Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch wrap up their first four-issue arc with a conclusion that many readers found a little too convenient and brief to be really successful. The character work was stronger, however, and the tease of Dr. Doom's appearance in the next arc promises to give the book a stronger villain than the robot "CAP" proved to be, but the jury's still out on whether this is going to go down as one of the better runs in the book's history.

newuniversal: SHOCKFRONT #1

Warren Ellis' return to the newuniversal universe was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst it was nice to see the series start up again, the long delay between the last issue and this new mini didn't serve the book well, exacerbating the problems that some readers have had with the measured pacing of Ellis' writing. Some familiar characters from the previous series were joined by some brand new faces, and although I'm still interested to see where the book is going, I can't shake the feeling that it would have been nice to see the book consolidate some of the pre-existing plotlines before throwing so many new elements into the mix.


Secret Invasion #3 is due to arrive in shops tomorrow, bringing the next chapter of Bendis' epic, years-in-the-making storyline closer to its climax. The issue's covers hint at the long-awaited return of Nick Fury and an intimate encounter between Spider-Woman and Tony Stark, but it's impossible to guess exactly where the book is going next.
Mighty Avengers #15 and New Avengers #42 continue to provide back-up stories to flesh out the plot points that the main series doesn't have room for, acting as an appendix of sorts to the main event. Although these stories haven't been absolutely consistent in terms of quality, they're still arguably providing the most interesting issues of the entire event, going back to earlier elements of Bendis' Avengers run and showing how certain elements of past issues play into the current storyline.

Years ago, in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #3, Brian Michael Bendis wrote a scene in which Bruce Banner hints to a young Peter Parker that there is some kind of sinister conspiracy underpinning the entire Ultimate Universe. Now, in Ultimate Origins Bendis finally gets the chance to deliver on the promise of those hints, tying together the history of the Ultimate Universe and revealing exactly how everything is connected. I've read the first issue, and whilst it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for, I'm still interested to see how Bendis is going to create historical links between the many different characters and concepts of the Ultimate Universe without undermining them in the present day.

Mark Millar reunites with his Civil War collaborator Steve McNiven for "Old Man Logan," an epic story set in a possible future of the Marvel Universe in which a terrible event eradicated almost all of the superheroes. The setup (in which an older Wolverine teams up with an aged Hawkeye for a ride across post-apocalyptic America) sounds like an enjoyable mix of Mad Max and Easy Rider, and the recent hints that this story is going to somehow tie into Millar's Fantastic Four run and his 1985 miniseries make me eager to read more. Plus, with McNiven on art duties, you know it'll look good.

That sound you hear is thousands of Immortal Iron Fist fans weeping in unison. Yes, issue #16 will be the last issue of the book to be handled by the creative team that made the series new such a hit, with Matt Fraction and David Aja providing a story that promises to bridge the gap between the Brubaker/Fraction run on the title and the new era of the book under Duane Swierczynski. It'll be a bittersweet issue for many readers, but let's enjoy it whilst we can, and try to remain open-minded about the possibility that the book will continue to be a great read under the new creative team.

Pages from Immortal Iron Fist #16

After the last Thor one-shot from Matt Fraction, many readers are eagerly awaiting this second dip into the legendary history of Asgard. If Fraction can manage to recapture the mythical quality that was evident in the first one-shot, and can maintain the unusual yet compelling characterisation of his lead as a grumpy, selfish, hot-headed brat, this should be an equally satisfying issue.

Pages from Thor: Ages of Thunder Reign of Blood #1

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