Is it me or does January always go by crazy fast? The moment the holidays are over and everything returns to a normal schedule, it feels a little like playing catch-up to all that time lost. No rest for the wicked, I guess, so here we are, putting on our dainty opera glasses to see the great stage of Marvel comics. Sure, the seating is bad and sometimes the play isn’t as great as it looked from the little glasses, but there’s no other way to see the show, folks.
It is so hard not to make a Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark joke here, I just want you all to know this.
Anyways, April! There’s Fear Itself #1, some subsequent tie-ins, a couple brand new names and titles, and the celebration of The Mighty Thor hitting the big screen next month. The hype machine is on, let’s see what’s in store for us in April 2011.
Alright, let’s just state the facts: Marvel will publish Fear Itself #1 as well as a related one-shot, mini-series and tie-in with the all-new, all-different Journey into Mystery #622. Now, we’ll get to that in a second, but let’s stay on target: Fear Itself. The Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, will discover something or someone that will bring about the personification of Fear Itself (just like the title of this comic!). Some sort of God of Fear that can weaken even the mightiest of mortals and probably ties in with all the godly action going down in the Marvel Universe. After all, Chaos War is all about the Gods’ Greatest Battles and Matt Fraction is doing some pretty awesome work in the Norse pantheon on Thor. Each of our heroes will be tested against their greatest fears by a semi-theological force/perhaps magical thing, and some may never be the same again. Not a bad concept, and I’m trying to be positive about what looks to be the return of the yearly big tent event where reading a comic becomes a checklist and customer satisfaction is low. But! The story is sound, I like the people in charge and, as of April, the regular book-to-tie-in ratio is pretty low.
There’s a main series to set you up, a weird one-shot that reprints past stories with a new framing sequence (man, these are the clip shows of comics, aren’t they? All those framing sequences need to say is that the heroes are trapped in an elevator and remember that one time…), a tie-in with a new series and a couple old standards: the “Frontline” style book of sub-stories (now called The Home Front) and a Marvel Spotlight to sell you on the whole event. I have been selling these for awhile now; Marvel Spotlight is nothing new and a mighty Marvel magazine to promote themselves in-house is not a bad idea. I just have to wonder, at $2.99, who is buying these? Do they show up on newsstands and grocery stores where people who don’t read the internet can find them? Not to take a cheap pop for the website, but we here at CBR produce fine coverage of all major comics events like this one with a variety of interviews and exclusive materials. And we offer it for free (mostly)! Personally, my store orders maybe one or two, and maybe one or two people pick them up after a few months. If anyone reading this (Hi Mom!) picks Spotlight issues up, even just once and awhile, let us know how they’re doing down in the comments.
With Fear Itself setting sail, Invincible Iron Man #503 will also tie into this fearful event, taking Iron Man back to Broxton, Oklahoma to save them from disaster and save Tony from quite possibly himself. I’m starting to get the hang of how these stories are going to go … We also have a new Thor title (I KNOW I AM SO SHOCKED) in what looks like to me a way to divert the river of stories into two separate paths. Matt Fraction will chronicle Thor’s adventures in the ‘new’ Mighty Thor #1, where he’ll keep his grand scheme into the divinely cosmic moving right along. So Thor gets maximum exposure, they’re retitling the current series Journey Into Mystery and keeping the numbering from the current Thor series. Prep your longboxes and rearrange those title dividers! Journey Into Mystery looks to be maybe a more mainstream Thor comic? One that has more ties to the big event this summer and can (once again) recap you on everything that’s happened to Thor “since he made his return to the Marvel Universe in J. Michael Straczynski’s epic run.” I do also like the name Journey Into Mystery, and I’m glad to see it being used.
The Avengers will keep doing their thing, no Fear Itself tie-in yet, but the adjectiveless Avengers title and the Secret Avengers title will be getting Point One issues. Perhaps I still don’t have the hang of this new initiative down at Marvel editorial, but aren’t Point One issues supposed to be a way to introduce new readers to current titles? I thought every so many issues, a book was going to jump out of its regular programming and explain to me what I was reading. Like a version of the front “Previously” blurb a lot of books have, just longer and with more pictures. They’d add in a little of the future upcoming plot, and then it’s back to the show. This would have saved me $2.99 now and again, because if I’m already following a regular title, I’m good with what’s going on and can skip an explanation issue. But what if they’re just one shots? Single, self-contained stories that just aren’t written for the trade or some overarching plotline that’s been going down for months? No new status quo, just a story about heroes doing things that don’t require the past three trades to understand. Avengers #12.1 sounds like that issue: “Bendis and modern master Bryan Hitch join forces for this very special, all-new Avengers story that is not only an explosive action-packed self-contained thriller but a prologue to an Avengers saga that will rock the entire Marvel Universe next year.” If the Point One comics are just going to be a way to highlight more self-contained writing, then sign me up!
Secret Avengers #12.1, by the way, says that “THE SECRET IS OUT! Word of Steve Rogers’ clandestine operations has leaked to the world.” Now I think there was probably a “has been leaked” in the sentence above, so that means the Secret Avengers aren’t secret anymore. I smell a new title!
Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (if you’re perusing the April Solicitations with me) that there are ‘Thor Goes Hollywood’ Variant covers. Some are shown, some are not, but it looks like these are movie posters that artists are adding Thor to. Kind of cute, but then so were the Wolverine in famous works of art covers and they didn’t do too well for us. Take what you will, the Jaws one is pretty awesome.
Lastly in Avengers news, Avengers: Children’s Crusade #5 presents to me a problem with this kind of information. Clearly, that’s Jack of Hearts on the cover, which is pretty awesome and cracks my internet just slightly. The solicitation info says, “But the mysterious reappearance of the time-traveling Iron Lad unleashes Wanda’s reality-altering powers upon the timestream itself, changing the game, and the Marvel Universe, forever.” Really? I mean, really really? Not just exaggerating and hyperbole here, this series is actually going to change something for all the characters in the Marvel Universe “forever.” Forever ever? Because of its slower scheduling and the very careful, deliberate plotting of Alan Heinberg, this series almost seems like a dream, not really connected to the major titles. Then again, yeah, that’s Jack of Hearts. Maybe he’s back from the dead. Maybe that new mutant that’s showing up in Generation Hope #6, where “A new light pings into existence on Cerebra. A new mutant life is out there” means that the No More Mutants curse has been downgraded to a “they just don’t mutate as often anymore.” Maybe … all of Wanda’s crimes are being undone.
Meanwhile, Spectacular Spider-Man is getting a 1000th issue in a clear sign that people are making up numbers. The text simply tells us “Spider-Man vs. Carnage vs. Iron Man. This book is the sound of heavy metal thudding on your brain.” And they are correct. Spider-Man: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility #1 comes with the longest title I’ve seen in awhile. From the solicit info, it seems nothing more than a rom-com Spidey issue talking about all the chicks he’s got in his life in the Ultimate universe. It’s a 72-page collection of Ultimate Spider-Man #33, 97 and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1. I have no idea what the reason is behind printing not just this issue, but what might be a mini-series of reprints. And why the long title? Why isn’t it just called Ultimate Spider-Man and Friends #1? I probably just can’t think with all that heavy metal in my head.
It’s not just to have an all-ages comic for Spider-Man, because Spider-Man #13 has “a trip to England’s back country goes awry thanks to a group of Fortean researchers and reports of a raptor on the moors.” Dinosaurs! Fortean researchers!! Paul Tobin is rad.
Now, there’s tons of stuff I didn’t mention, but I’m running out of room, so let me know what I’ve missed in the comments. Do you think we should pay $1.99 for a Marvel Backlist Reading Chronology? If the Uncanny X-Men Point One issue is going to deal with their oldest enemy now living at their base, do you think Xavier might get a shout out from the bleachers? What could possibly be considered the “deepest darkest secret” from Jason Aaron’s PunisherMax that could be deeper or darker than what we’ve already seen? And how do you say that? Punishermax? Punisher-Max?
Here’s the list of Marvel’s solicitations for April 2011, guys. Have at!