Marvel Spotlight #3 – April 2010

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

Here we are, once again, True Believers! Better late than never, eh?

For those just joining us, welcome to Comics Bulletin's True Believer Tuesday: Marvel Spotlight (Special Wednesday Edition)! Last week, Marvel's April 2010 solicitations were released into the wild, so this week the True Believer Tuesday All-Stars are ready to highlight a few of the titles you might not have noticed, or might forget before April arrives.

So with that said, let's see what Marvel's got in store...

Art & Cover by DANIEL ACUÑA
Movie Variant also available
The deadly super-spy from IRON MAN 2, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA in her own ongoing series!
Natasha Romanoff is not a super hero. She's not psychic. She doesn't fly. And yet as the Black Widow, she manages to hold her own against a world of incredibly powerful enemies...and allies. But now someone has tried to kill Natasha...and almost succeeded. Injured gravely, almost beyond her ability to recover, Black Widow sets out to find her attacker...with no suspects and no leads. Who could be deadly enough to get the drop on Natasha? And what connections do they have to some of her closest super hero friends...? Plus, a backup detailing the deadly history of the Black Widow!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

The Black Widow looks as though she may become this year’s Deadpool: a character who has been at best a second-tier hero in the past, but who has risen to prominence somewhat thanks to her raised profile in other media (most notably the forthcoming Iron Man 2 movie).

In order to capitalise on this increase in attention, Marvel has lined up a new ongoing book for the character. Coming hot on the heels of Paul Cornell’s excellent Deadly Origin miniseries, creators Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna have a high standard to live up to, so let’s hope that they’re up to the task of picking up where Cornell and his artists leave off.

Either way, I’ll be interested to see whether the Black Widow will be able to break free of the cycle of being given just the occasional miniseries every now and again, and become a bona fide A-lister who can support her own ongoing book.
- Dave Wallace

Written by DAVID MACK
Penciled by PASCAL ALIXE
Cover by PAUL POPE
Variant Cover by DAVID MACK
FROM THE MIND OF LEGENDARY SCI-FI AUTHOR PHILIP K. DICK! Garson Poole had a pretty great life: good job, nice apartment, a sexy, flirtatious assistant. And then he wakes up in a hospital room...the doctors inform him that he's been in a car accident...and they can't treat him. Because he's a robot. Specifically, Garson is an Electric Ant, a human-like robot created and programmed to serve a specific function. But what is Garson's function? How will his friends and co-workers treat him,
knowing that he's a machine, and not a person? And how much of his world is real, and how much of it is part of his
programming? Written by Kabuki scribe David Mack and illustrated by Pascal Alixe (Eternals Annual).
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99
© and TM 2010 Laura Leslie, Isa Dick Hackett and Christopher Dick

Electric Ant is another one of those unusual projects that I like to see from Marvel and DC. The book sees writer-artist David Mack adapt the short story by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick into comic form. Having never read the original story, I’ll be buying this on the strength of Dick’s name and my general enjoyment of Mack’s artwork alone.

I can only hope that the adaptation is more satisfying than Boom! Studio’s recent take on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and that Mack is able to really put his own creative stamp on the story, rather than simply providing an illustrated version of the original text.
- Dave Wallace

Pencils and & Cover by CLASSIFIED
Steve Rogers has returned! In fact he was in such a hurry that he actually came back before the story was done! But, whatever, I'm sure no one even noticed. Anyway, Bucky Barnes is the current Captain America, and has come into his own in the role in a story Captain America editor Tom Brevoort calls "the greatest single marriage of words and pictures in the history of the English language. Suck it, rest of literature!" But will Bucky go back to being the Winter Soldier? Are there others in line? Who cares?! All we're interested in is who WON'T be holding that Vibranium laced hunk of junk and what major new Marvel event comic it leads into. Who won't wield the shield? It could be not YOU!!! (Featuring a special appearance by everybody's favorite underused character, Deadpool! At last, Deadpool! In a comic!)
32 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+...$3.99

Points to Marvel for poking fun at itself.  This solicitation effectively called out: (1) their late shipping woes for Captain America: Reborn, (2) their penchant for bombastic hype, (3) their unending string of status-quo changing events, (4) and their decision to promote Deadpool EVERYWHERE.  That's a well written roast.
Unfortunately, because of the solicitation's self-mocking humor, I have no idea what this comic book is really about.  Is this a genuine follow-up to the recently released Captain America: Who Will Wield The Shield?  In that issue, Steve Rogers told Bucky that his former sidekick needs to keep on being Captain America and the issue ends with Steve at the White House where President Obama considers what new role the former Avengers should have (alas for Barack, it's too late to have Steve campaign for Ted Kennedy's vacated Senate seat).  So if this IS a follow-up, I don't fathom its necessity.  We already know who will wield the Shield.  (That would be Bucky.)  And we already know who won't wield the Shield.  (That would be everyone else.)  What's more frustrating is that the issue has no listed creative team.  If this is a genuine follow-up to Who Will Wield The Shield?, wouldn't it be written by Ed Brubaker?
This all makes me consider that Captain America: Who Won't Wield the Shield? is a parody in the tradition of What The-!?.  If this is the case, I definitely have no desire to spend four bucks on a spoof.
I guess I'll have to wait until this issue hits stores when I can flip through it and make a purchasing decision then.  I have that luxury.  Other comic book consumers, however, do not as their LCS or subscription service obligates them to pre-order (and often pre-pay) comic books months in advance.  I think Marvel would do well to remember this.  The uninformative solicitation description for this issue, while amusing, doesn't perform its function, and that of course is to hook the consumer to the product.
- Keith Dallas

Written by MARK MILLAR
Pencils & Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Villain Variant by MARC SILVESTRI
Foilogram Variant by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Some jobs are just too dirty for the Ultimates. For these, Nick Fury must gather the Avengers, a black ops team willing to do the missions that others won’t. What role will an infamous mass killer play in Fury’s plans? Find out here, as the Punisher returns to the Ultimate Universe! The blockbuster team of MARK MILLAR (ULTIMATES) and LEINIL FRANCIS YU (SECRET INVASION) presents the explosive beginning to ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Mark Millar’s return to the Ultimate characters that he created (or, at least, reinvented) in Ultimate Comics Avengers has been something of a curate’s egg so far. For every sharp idea or clever twist on established characters, there also seems to have been a mis-step or a poorly thought-out development that prevents the series from reaching the heights of his previous Ultimates collaborations with Bryan Hitch. And the chronic lateness of Carlos Pacheco’s artwork probably hasn’t helped, either.

It’s perhaps for this reason that Marvel has chosen to relaunch the book with its second arc, creating a new “#1” issue rather than simply continuing the series with issue #7 as originally planned. The presence of Leinil Yu as artist should draw a certain amount of attention to the book (in the wake of his well-received recent work on books such as Secret Invasion and Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk), and the inclusion of characters such as the Punisher, Blade and Ghost Rider in this second arc suggests that Millar might be ready to have some fun in the darker corners of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. Perhaps this will get the series back on track.
- Dave Wallace

Pencils & Cover by BRENDAN MCCARTHY
One of comics' most innovative and original voices, Brendan McCarthy, brings SPIDER-MAN: FEVER -- a truly unique and surreal story evoking the classic Silver-Age psychedelia of Steve Ditko's Dr Strange. In FEVER, Spider-Man is abducted by a depraved tribe of spider-demons to a bizarre dimension, where he is to be eaten alive. Dr. Strange goes on a perilous occult quest to rescue his friend -- and tangles with some very peculiar characters along the way...

Brendan McCarthy’s Spider-Man: Fever is one of those projects that I love to see from the Big Two: a standalone miniseries that’s completely unconnected to big “event comics” or crossovers, and which apparently exists purely to let a creator have the kind of fun that they want to have with a flagship company character.

From the art previews that I’ve seen of this book, it looks as though McCarthy is intent on channelling the spirit of Steve Ditko into his pages--and given that the book features (in addition to Spider-Man) a guest appearance from Doctor Strange, that seems perfectly fitting. This is definitely a book to look out for: let’s just hope that the writing is as good as the art.
- Dave Wallace

Brendan McCarthy! Squee! I want this now!
- Paul Brian McCoy

MARVEL ZOMBIES 5 #1 & #2 (of 5)
Penciled by KANO
Issue #2 Spoiler Variant by TBA
MACHINE MAN IS BACK! Zombies of the multiverse, watch your rotting backs! To obtain a cure for the zombie virus for Morbius the Living Vampire, Aaron Stack, Agent of ARMOR, must traverse alternate realities hunting down the plague in all its myriad forms...with a most unusual (but somehow oddly appropriate) partner! First up: in the Alterniverse known as "The Territory," the Old West never died. But when the greatest gunslingers of Marveldom -- Two-Gun Kid, Phantom Rider, Kid Colt, and many others -- rise from their graves in Boot Hill, the stage is set for a High Noon showdown with flesh-eating outlaws the likes of which you've never seen! Saddle up and ride into the tale we had to call "THE DEAD AND THE QUICK!"
32 PGS. (each)/Parental Advisory ...$3.99 (each)

I've been a Marvel Zombies fan since the first miniseries, but only really felt like the concept was reaching its full potential when Fred Van Lente took over with Marvel Zombies 3. If you're like me, you know, in your forties now, but was into Marvel comics from the time you first learned to read, then Van Lente's reference points were geeky perfection. And having always been a fan of the whole concept of alternate realities and Marvel's Old West characters, this looks like it should continue the Retro-Goodness.

Machine Man is one of those characters that was just waiting for the right venue in which to truly shine, and thanks to the Warren Ellis' re-imagining from the pages of Nextwave, he's finally gotten his chance. The beer-swilling, human-hating version of the character is the perfect fit for Van Lente's Marvel Zombie approach, so this is one mini that I'm really looking forward to.
- Paul Brian McCoy

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Historical Variant by DUSTIN WEAVER
Black & White Issue Variant also available
Leonardo Da Vinci was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So was Issac Newton. So were Imhotep and Zhang Heng and Galileo and many other geniuses throughout time. They were the first heroes to defeat Galactus and the Brood and turn Celestials back. They saved the world long before Captain America or Iron Man were ever born, but what does this mean to our heroes of today? What does this mean to Nick Fury? Do not miss this Marvel Comics masterpiece that fans will be talking about for decades to come. All the insanity is courtesy of JONATHAN HICKMAN (FANTASTIC FOUR, SECRET WARRIORS, Nightly News) and DUSTIN WEAVER (X-MEN).
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

In my opinion, Jonathan Hickman is the best new writer working at Marvel. What he's doing with Secret Warriors is great and I look forward to every new issue to see just how immense his plans are for Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos.

So when I heard that he was going to be writing a series that explored the mythology of S.H.I.E.L.D. down through the ages, I was practically giddy. And this is it! I can't help but wonder, though, just how much of this material was originally planned for use in Secret Warriors, but then got cut when the series streamlined.

It doesn't really matter to me one way or the other, as I'm looking forward to this story however Hickman manages gets it on the page.

And HOLY CRAP! Have you seen the art by Dustin Weaver? It's amazing! I'm already salivating over the eventual hardcover collection.
- Paul Brian McCoy

Written by DON McGREGOR
Cover by GIL KANE
Collected for the first time ever, the MARVEL MASTERWORKS bring you the ground-breaking, trend-setting Black Panther from JUNGLE ACTION! In 1973 comics' first African super hero took the headlining slot in an ambitious ongoing series, beginning a 13-issue epic unprecedented in its time. Writer Don McGregor teamed with artists Rich Buckler and Billy Graham to tell "Panther's Rage," a story so huge it ranges across the savannah, into the deepest jungles and up to the snow-topped mountains of Wakanda. Over its course McGregor & Co. would define T'Challa, give full depth and life to the Wakandas and their culture, while pitting the Panther against the murderous Erik Killmonger for control of the kingdom. Not one to rest on his laurels, McGregor then set out to raise the bar once again, sending T'Challa to the American South to investigate the murder of Angela Lynne and its connection to the Klan and the history of the Soul Strangler. A challenging storyline by a challenging storyteller, you'll read it and so much more in this much anticipated hardcover classic!
Collecting JUNGLE ACTION #6-24.
352 PGS./All Ages ...$64.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4198-3

352 PGS./All Ages ...$64.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4199-0

Wow oh wow oh wow!

Finally we get a Masterworks reprinting of one of the greatest Marvel storylines from the 1970s, Don McGregor's brilliant Black Panther comics from Jungle Action #6-24. I wrote about the first story in this collection as part of the very first FOOM column back in September, but here in this book we get the full run of McGregor's masterful comic story, including his controversial story "The Panther vs. the Klan," which was unfortunately cut short in 1976 when Jack Kirby returned to Marvel and spun the Panther into his own title.

It's amazing to me that these stories have never been reprinted, but perhaps Marvel was just saving these comics for the deluxe presentation they deserve. You're not going to find any comics that are more powerful, thoughtful and moving. There are so many intense scenes of true heroism in this book. Just wait till you see the Panther wrestle a rhino for some gorgeous Gil Kane artwork and some truly remarkable valor. And the Klan storyline contains a scene with the Panther caught in a fire that's amazingly powerful.

The book is a bit expensive at $65, but this is truly intense stuff that is absolutely worth the money. Besides, you can buy it for cheaper online, and the book is 352 pages, and, best of all, Don McGregor will be writing a new intro for the book. McGregor's writing is always thoughtful and passionate; no doubt he'll give us many behind-the-scenes stories of the making of these stories. If you want to read some of the very best comics that Marvel released in the '70s, you must buy this book.

I'm sure I don't deserve it, but I'll take credit for getting these books Masterworked when I said at the end of my essay, "Hey Marvel, are you listening? This would be a great addition to the Masterworks line!"
- Jason Sacks

Well, True Believers, it's time to pack up and call it a day, once again. But don't worry. We'll be back next month with more Marvel Spotlight!


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