All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1

It's tricky to rank something like "All-New Marvel NOW! Point One" #1. This $5.99 whopper isn't really a single issue, or even a single story; it's a collection of six zero-issue-ish vignettes, meant to demonstrate that the corresponding #1s will be (or are) worthwhile. In that regard, it's a pretty rousing success -- but as with anything done a la anthology, some of the pieces work better than others.

Similar to its 2013 predecessor, there are some attempts to provide common threads. Al Ewing's "Loki: Agent of Asgard" story bookends the issue and splits up the other five stories, occasionally transitioning from one to the next with a nod to thematic continuity. Ewing's is, fittingly, the cleverest of the stories, and it pays winking tribute to its predecessors in Gillen's "Journey Into Mystery" run and the cinematic universe. Ewing's also already playing with Loki's sincerity, adding intrigue to what could've been a gimmicky key collecting plot. From the dialogue to the structure to the tone, I could go on. Just put this one on your pull list already.

The Silver Surfer story, "Girl on Board," features the Allreds being iconically Allreds, which is a recommendation in itself. Writer Dan Slott brings Norrin and Dawn Greenwood to the ocean planet Nautikos for its centennial Festival of Light. Their adventure there is quirky and enjoyable, and the Allreds inject the Surfer's smallest, least cosmic gestures with poignancy. Bonus: they draw the most adorable stingrays ever.

"Garden State of Mind," starring the new Ms. Marvel, has me ridiculously excited for this series. In Kamala Khan, G. Willow Wilson has made a hero worth watching. Kamala is loveably nerdy and exuberant, accenting her own heroics with "Skadoosh" (yes, that's dialogue, not sound effects) and assigning her outfits "+5 to dexterity" or "+5 to bling." Her liveliness, her mix of self-deprecation and self-assuredness, and the fact that she's a Jersey City superhero with headquarters in a Circle Q...it all won me over. Plus, Adrian Alphona's light inks and Ian Herring's colors create warm and whimsical panels that are perfect for a teenage polymorph. This was a real delight in a real short space. I can't wait for Issue #1.

The "Avengers World" installment, "Short Term Fixes," lines up Maria Hill and Captain America's shaky alliance between S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers. Cannonball and Sunspot are off adventuring in the background, and watching them problem solve between Hill and Cap's tense negotiations is pretty fun. Still, this story felt, on the whole, like another average Avengers title. I appreciate the premise, and the execution was on par, but it did feel like something I'd seen before.

"To Tame the Very Gods," from All-New Invaders, consists almost entirely of exposition, so it's handily the dullest story here. That's not to say it's bad; it's just a very average set-up-the-backstory piece. The series' team of Cap, Bucky, Namor and the Human Torch should be a wild ride, so I'll still check it out, but this story didn't do anything to sell itself aside from introducing Tanalth the Pursuer -- she looks like a stone-cold badass, and her costume design is very Kirby.

The Black Widow piece was gorgeous. Phil Noto's art is atmospheric and intense, and he dramatically switches his whole approach to colors between snowy scenes and urban action scenes. It's jarring and beautiful. Edmondson retreads familiar ground for Black Widow -- atonement, existential self-examination -- but there's an edge of slyness to her self-examination that's refreshing rather than depressing. I actually read Issue #1 on the same day, so it may have biased me, but I'm looking forward to this series.

The real downside to All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1 is price. If you only want a head start on one or two of these series, you still have to pay for all the others. $5.99 is pah-retty steep for 8 pages, even if they were the best 8 pages you read all year. Especially since some have the potential to repeat in Issue #1, figure out how much it's worth to you before taking a look (or wait for it to go on sale.)

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