Marvel Spotlight #1

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By Keith Dallas, Paul Brian McCoy, Jason Sacks, Dave Wallace, and Charles Webb

Welcome to the first installment of the new True Believer Tuesday: Marvel Spotlight, where each month a group of the Comics Bulletin All-Stars will take a look at Marvel's new solicitations and briefly share what looks good, bad, and ugly to them.

This month we take a look at Marvel's February 2010 line-up and see what strikes our fancy. Those books are listed below in the order they appear in the solicitations themselves, to aid you, Gentle Reader, in finding them yourselves so you can reserve (or cancel) them at your Local Comic Shop.

So, without further ado, I give you the very first True Believer Tuesday: Marvel Spotlight!

SIEGE #2 (of 4)
Pencils & Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL
The blockbuster Marvel event of the year goes full-blown carnage and madness as the biggest and most brutal battle in Marvel's history brings together heroes from all sides. Lines have been drawn, and an unlikely hero will save one Avenger, but they can't save them all.
The Siege has begun and it claims its first victim as AN AVENGER WILL DIE!!
40 PGS./Cardstock Cover/Rated T+ …$3.99

As we all know, for the past year Norman Osborn has had the keys to Marvel's kingdom. Those keys will presumably be taken away from him by the end of The Siege, effectively concluding the "Dark Reign" storyline which by now has run its course without overly straining itself. It's definitely time to establish a new status quo for the Marvel Universe. My concern about The Siege though is that I haven't been fond of any of the BIG EVENTS Bendis has written for Marvel. Not "Avengers Disassembled." Not House of M. Not Secret Invasion. My decision then to purchase The Siege falls under the category of "Fool me once, shame on Marvel; Fool me four times, I'm the stupid jackass."

The second issue of The Siege continues the story of Osborn's assault on Asgard, and I'm particularly amused by this announcement in the solicitation: "The Siege has begun and it claims its first victim as AN AVENGER WILL DIE!!" That's not my emphasis, folks; I swear Marvel provided all that capitalization. Say that sentence out loud and you can't help but feel like you're channeling the late, great movie trailer narrator Don LaFontaine.

So an Avenger will die? Really!? OH. MY. GOD. Who's going to dance with the Grim Reaper (and I don't mean Wonder Man's brother)? Let the speculation begin! Could it be Thor or Iron Man? Captain America or… *GASP* Spider-Man?

Most assuredly not. By this point, we should all recognize that BIG EVENTS use the death of an established character as a relevancy crutch. That is, the death is intended solely as a cue that we're reading something dire and permanently impactful. Of course, because the character being killed is always some forgotten, disused soul, the death inevitably comes across as gratuitous and irrelevant. Little better than the death of an anonymous "Red Shirt" on Star Trek. Case in point: The Wasp. Her death in Secret Invasion had no emotional impact since she hadn't been a featured Marvel character for years. Hell, she wasn't even a featured character in the very mini-series she died in!

So with its second issue The Siege gets its obligatory meaningless casualty out of the way. And which hero gets pulled out of the hopper, I wonder? I'm going to go with… let's see… Ms. Marvel just got canceled. So how about her? That's maybe too obvious a selection. We need someone more disused. A-ha! Tigra.

No, wait! I got it! I referenced him earlier. Wonder Man. That's my selection!

So come February we'll all witness the needless demise of Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man.

Needless, of course, unless Marvel actually presents the character's death as a logical, organic development of the story.

There I go again! "Fool me once, shame on Marvel, fool me four times…"

- Keith Dallas

Written by JEPH LOEB
Pencils & Cover by ART ADAMS
Villain Variant Cover by ART ADAMS
Special Variant by ART ADAMS
Special Variant by TBA
Spoiler Line-up Variant by ART ADAMS
Who—or what—is Ultimate X? The answers and even more secrets arrive in the all new ULTIMATE X ongoing bi-monthly series from the superstar dream team of JEPH LOEB and ART ADAMS. Wolverine is dead. Captain America is a fugitive. The Fantastic Four disbanded. Lives have been destroyed and nothing can ever be the same—is there any hope left? It all begins with a search for a brand new character whose identity will leave jaws on the floor and change the Ultimate Universe forever.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Nope, not going to get trapped in an argument about the relative quality of Jeph Loeb’s work.

That out of the way, I think it’s interesting that Marvel has moved so quickly (what, 4 months?) after the cancellation of the previous Ultimate X-Men title. Interestingly (but not surprisingly) Loeb’s book appears to be the only one written explicitly as having consequences from “Ultimatum” with Ultimate Avengers and Spider-Man each kind of shrugging it off and moving on with the script. Given the fairly vocal rejection of “Ultimatum” it remains to be seen how much traction Marvel will be able to get from a title that has chosen to dive directly into the fallout of that plot.

Cool on Marvel for getting Art Adams on the pencils, though.

- Charles Webb

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by LUKE ROSS
Special Variant by TBA
Jefferson said the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. But who is a patriot and who is a tyrant? Is it all in the eye of the beholder? Captain America has the answer as the Cap from the 50s strikes back in TWO AMERICAS Part 2 of 4.
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Has Ed Brubaker made any wrong decisions during his epic run on Captain America? After the epic events of Reborn, "Two Americas" continues with the story of a confrontation between the modern Captain America and the Cap from the 1950s. The '50s Cap has been a recurring character in the series since the mid-'70s, always providing an interesting contrast to the modern Captain America. At different times the '50s Cap has been presented as a madman, a misguided patriot and a man with opinions that are out of fashion. Trust Brubaker to create a take on the character that presents some complex moral ambiguity, in which the reader is asked to wonder which Cap really upholds modern American values. How can you ask for a more contemporary idea to express in comics form than that? The solicit text practically screams of an interesting Glenn Beck-era subtext. It should be fascinating.

- Jason Sacks

Iron Man does battle with a hyper-intelligent space probe bent on terraforming the planet! And Tony battles Titanium Man while fielding calls for Stark International! All this and more in this all-new, all-action, all-black-and-white one-shot in the spirit of the Mighty Marvel Magazines of yore, but ALL-NOW in style! The Iron Mania never lets up for a moment over these four stories by some of Marvel's hottest writers!
48 PGS./One-Shot/Parental Advisory…$3.99

My LCS owner recently lamented the current plight of independent and self-published comic books. Even those "privileged" independent books that can satisfy Diamond Distribution's elevated revenue benchmarks have been effectively shoved off the new release shelves by the glut of material that Marvel is pushing out lately (Iron Man: Iron Protocols, anyone?). At first glance, Indomitable Iron Man Black and White #1 seems to be yet another Marvel publication apropos only of the impending Iron Man 2 movie. This issue's solicitation, however, caught my attention in its invocation of "Mighty Marvel magazines of yore." For those who don't know, throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, Marvel had a black-and-white magazine imprint that featured the work of (now legendary) comic book creators: Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, John Buscema, among many, many others.

Since these 1970s magazines didn't have to conform to the standards of the Comics Code Authority, they often presented profanity, partial nudity, and brutish depictions of violence. I wouldn't expect February's Indomitable Iron Man to push the envelope like the Marvel magazines did 30 years ago (even if comic book standards have changed dramatically in that interim). In fact, I first questioned the decision to present a colorful super-hero like Iron Man in a black-and-white comic book. It seems counter-intuitive. Then I remembered one of my favorite Marvel magazines from way-back-when: 1981's Bizarre Adventures #27 which offered three X-Men tales from the likes of Chris Claremont, John Buscema, George Perez and Dave Cockrum. If the Uncannily Guady X-Men could be successfully presented in black-and-white, why not Iron Man, especially with such fine creators as Paul Cornell and Howard Chaykin at the book's helm?

So I'm eager to give this Indomitable Iron Man one-shot a look-see come February. I'm not expecting any of the stories to influence--or even tap into--Iron Man's present continuity, but that doesn't mean the stories can't be enjoyable. Again, I'm mostly curious to see how well the multi-hued "shell head" can be adapted to a black-and-white presentation.

- Keith Dallas

Written by BRIAN REED
Penciled & Cover by SANA TAKEDA
Variant Cover by PAUL RENAUD
Over-sized final issue! It's Ms. Marvel and Mystique in a fight to the finish—and the ending will rock the world of Carol Danvers!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

After 50 issues Marvel is shutting the doors on Ms. Marvel’s solo book and I’m kind of surprised it took this long. The title has been fairly middling to bad since its beginning, with the exception of the Machine Man/Sleepwalker issues – which is kind of a sad commentary on the book.

The attempt to rehabilitate Carol Danvers post “House of M’’ has been something of a failure. Writer Brian Reed gave the character a mandate to attempt to live up to the alternate universe version of herself and become the most respected superhero in the Marvel Universe, but this part of the plot seems to have been ignored or dropped completely. Initially, it felt like Marvel was going for a slightly more mainstream version of the Luna Brothers’ Ultra with the added element of a heroine who was also a government-sanctioned superhero.

David Brothers over at the 4th Letter blog takes the character down a notch in the context of the “heroes don’t kill” argument: at once Reed characterizes Ms. Marvel as smug, hypocritical, and wholly sympathetic. These traits might work if she was an antihero but Marvel has tried to position her squarely as a duty-bound hero. This seeming schizophrenia has left the character fairly hard to read – not just in her home book but in every subsequent appearance over the last four years.

More problematic still has been the Wonder Woman-izing (circa 2005 or so) of Ms. Marvel. During that period, the Wondy title was going through a series of writers attempting to answer the question “Who is Wonder Woman” through a series of weird events and revisions. There, the attempt was to define the character in terms of her plots without any real feel for who Wonder Woman was outside of the events. Similarly, Carol Danvers has had little of an inner life beyond whatever Civil-Secret-Dark events have intruded upon her book. Reed seemed to think that revising the origin or (briefly) killing her off would be a means of fleshing out the character but instead it just showed how inessential and unformed she was.

So after 50 issues, I, for one, won’t be eulogizing this title.

- Charles Webb

Cover by MIKE McKONE
Broken, savage and at his lowest, Frank Castle lurks in dark places, hunted by pitiless assassins and their mysterious leader Hellsgaard. Who is this giant skull-faced behemoth and why does he relentlessly slaughter the grotesque? Find out in this haunting tale of pulp dread painted in ghoulish detail by Eisner award winner Dan Brereton. In order to protect those who kept him alive, The Punisher is in for the bloodiest, down and dirty, gutter fight of his life -- get your tickets now.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$2.99

I know there are a lot of Punisher purists out there who are disgusted and heart-broken by what Rick Remender has done to their wittle Fwanky with this arc, but so long as there is a MAX version of Frank, I don't care if they make the 616 Punisher wear a tutu so long as it's in the service of a good story. And this is looking like a fantastic story!

Tony Moore's art is just as much a draw as Remender's scripts for me, and I can't wait to see just how crazy this story gets. Any fans of Fear Agent should also take note, as this continues the new tradition of Fear Agent creative teams working on Punisher (Jerome Opena did the art for Remender's opening arc, if you remember).

After wading through the slow decline of Fraction's Punisher War Journal, it's good to see Frank's adventures in the mainstream Marvel Universe becoming more and more satisfyingly disturbed and insane.

- Paul Brian McCoy

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
It's the action-packed and twist-filled finale of THE SINNERS as TRACY LAWLESS finds himself trapped between hardened killers who want to torture and kill him, and a tough Military Investigator who wants to bring him back to the Army in chains.
All the intrigue you've come to expect from Criminal, plus more exclusive back-up features and interviews.
40 PGS/Mature Content/No ads…. $3.50

After a period of absence due to Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s collaboration on Incognito, Criminal returned with a vengeance last month with the first issue of “The Sinners”. After such a compelling setup, I’m sure I’ll be equally intrigued to see how this none-more-noir story is brought to a close.

- Dave Wallace

Written by ROY THOMAS
The Marvel Masterworks bring you the original be-all, end-all Avengers event—Kree/Skrull War—in the march up to Avengers #100! Caught in the crossfire, Earth has become the staging ground for a conflict of star-spanning proportions! For those eternal intergalactic enemies, the merciless Kree and the shape-changing Skrulls, have gone to war, and our planet is situated on the front lines! Can Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, bring about an end to the fighting before humanity becomes a casualty of war? And what good are even a dozen super-powered champions against the vast military machines of two of the great empires of the cosmos? The key to victory lies with the expatriate Kree Captain Mar-Vell and his human host, honorary Avenger Rick Jones! And because one super-saga wasn't enough, we'll wrap it up with a three-part classic that assembles every Avenger from day one against the combined threat of Ares and the Enchantress in Avengers #100. Written by fan-favorite Roy Thomas and featuring the trend-setting artwork of Neal Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith, there's no disputing the fact they're Marvel Masterworks one and all! Collecting THE AVENGERS #89-100
304 PGS./All Ages …$54.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3331-5

304 PGS./All Ages…$54.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3332-2

This collection reprints The Avengers #89-100, the famous Kree-Skrull War saga. The Kree-Skrull War is one of the greatest Marvel continued stories of all time, a real classic that has become a touchstone for so many big Marvel events – not least Secret Invasion. During this era, Roy Thomas was doing some of his most articulate writing for such great artists as Neal Adams, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema and Sal Buscema. In these books, Adams delivers some of his most dynamic artwork, while Windsor-Smith delivers three absolutely gorgeous issues, and the Buscema brothers create some of the most thrilling art of their career. This is the kind of book for which the Marvel Masterworks series was created. The Marvel Masterworks is the most successful reprint project in comics of all time. Marvel has produced over 130 different Masterworks collections, reprinting nearly every significant comic of the '60s, while making significant dents into the '40s, 50s and '70s. This book will be one of the crown jewels of that outstanding line.

- Jason Sacks

The critically acclaimed, award-winning creative team of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark continue their take on one of comics' most enduring legends! Featuring the threats of the Owl, the Kingpin, Lady Bullseye, and the Hand, plus Matt's unlikely new ally, the Black Tarantula! With one of the most surprising endings in Daredevil's history! Collecting DAREDEVIL (1998) #106-119 & #500, DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 and BLOOD OF THE TARANTULA.
464 PGS./Rated T+ …$75.00
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4520-2

The appearance of this second Brubaker/Lark/Gaudiano Daredevil omnibus on Marvel’s shipping schedule was a very pleasant surprise indeed. In conjunction with the first two Bendis/Maleev omnibuses (the second of which is due to ship next month) and the first Brubaker/Lark/Gaudiano omnibus, the publication of this volume will mean that we have a huge chunk of some of the best superhero comics of the decade collected together in four glorious oversized hardcovers.

Whilst Brubaker’s Daredevil swansong wasn’t his finest hour, there’s more than enough good stuff in here to make up for the slightly rushed ending, including the excellent “Cruel and Unusual” arc, the enjoyable “Lady Bullseye” saga, and the superlative standalone issue #116: a real high-point for the series and its creators. The omnibus is also due to include the Daredevil annual and the “Blood of the Tarantula” one-shot, both of which were published concurrently with Brubaker’s run. I look forward to rereading them.

- Dave Wallace

Witness the classic and tragic end of one of the greatest heroes of all time, Mar-Vell of the Kree, who became the Earth hero Captain Marvel! After dozens of battles on Earth and across space, and with the power of his Nega-bands and his all-knowing Cosmic Awareness, can Mar-Vell fare well in his battles with Nitro (the exploding villain who later sparked Marvel's super hero Civil War), the death-defying Stellarax and the seemingly dead Thanos? Guest-starring Rick Jones, Drax the Destroyer, Starfox and all your favorite Earth heroes! Collecting CAPTAIN MARVEL (1968) #34, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (1979) #1-2 and MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #1: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL.
128 PGS./Rated A …$24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4627-8
Trim size: standard

128 PGS./Rated A …$24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4628-5

To coincide with the ending of Ms. Marvel this month, Marvel is finally providing us old folks with a hardcover edition of the first Marvel Graphic Novel, the out-of-print The Death of Captain Marvel. Now, other printings of this story are available, at a price, with the most affordable version being the 2001 TPB, The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, which collects Jim Starlin's entire Captain Marvel run along with the graphic novel. For those of you without a Hardcover Fetish, I'd recommend going that route.

But I've been waiting for a nice, durable edition of this story for a long time. As a bonus, Marvel's also throwing in the story from Captain Marvel #34, where, after a battle with Nitro, Mar-Vell is exposed to the nerve gas that would eventually cause the cancer that kills him. This issue is plotted by Starlin and scripted by Steve Englehart.

Also included is the story that introduced Mar-Vell to the Eternal, Elysius, the love of his life. The Marvel Spotlight issues are not in The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, and are by the creative team of Doug Moench and Pat Broderick. I've never read them, and look forward to seeing how they add to the Captain Marvel story, overall.

- Paul Brian McCoy

And there you have it, True Believers! Some highs, some lows, but always entertaining choices of what to look out for in February, 2010 from Marvel. Keep your eyes peeled come February to find out if these books lived up to their hype or crashed and burned.

And now, we leave you, Dear Reader, but never fear! We'll be back next month with yet another look at Marvel's solicitations, this time for March, 2010. Until then, be sure to return each week and check out all the Marvel opinions, history, and reviews that your little hearts could crave, on Comics Bulletin's True Believer Tuesday!


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