Marvel puts its best foot forward with a collection of sneak peeks into recently- and soon-to-be launched titles. This issue could very well have been titled "Marvel New Comics Sampler" since that is essentially what this issue is. The stories here all weigh in evenly at eight pages apiece, and for the most part are tackled by the creative teams assigned to the book being previewed.
The exception to that is the Black Widow story, which is the only story to tie in to a book already in progress. The others all have ties to new books that haven't started yet (or, in the case of "Atlas," started this week). Kelly Sue DeConnick writes the Black Widow here, and she does a good job of writing a story that feels like a "typical" (if such a thing exists) Black Widow story.
Jeff Parker checks in with two stories -- Atlas and Thunderbolts -- and continues to make a case for larger, higher profile assignments as he takes what could be throwaway stories and fills them with character. Gage's Reptil adventure is a good first hook for this book although the character has one of the goofiest powers I've read in a while -- why just part of a dino? McCann's Hawkeye and Mockingbird story has some pizzazz, and will definitely inspire me to check out the debut of that series, but it's no great shakes.
Unfortunately, most of this book feels typical. Sure, there are little beats that may be hints of further developments down the line, but not one of these stories ends with a rush out you door and wait for the next issue moment. There are no stunning cliffhangers here, just set-up stories.
McKone delivers some very strong art, but the coloring from Cox makes the story a lot darker than it truly needs to be. At first blush, Hardman and Caracuzzo seem like an odd pairing, but Caracuzzo's more cartoon-inspired style works for the flashback Atlas scenes. McKelvie's Black Widow story is technically sound, and easy to navigate. For a spy story, that fits in nicely. The Lopezes' Hawkeye art is clean and fresh, seemingly inspired by McKone, but lighter in line and shadow. Walker's Thunderbolts, on the other hand, is far from light, and serves the setting of the Raft quite nicely. His characters are distinct and dark, with power seething in the expressions and body language.
Based solely on what I saw in this issue, my interests in these new titles from Marvel weigh in like this: "Hawkeye & Mockingbird," "Avengers Academy," "Atlas," "Thunderbolts," and "Black Widow." Some of the stories lead directly into their respective series, but the Black Widow story jumps to the side of the issue it directs us to, carrying nothing from "Black Widow" #2, but directing us to "Black Widow" #3. If I knew #3 would pick up directly from here, I would be more inclined to move it up in my list. Oddly enough, however, I am already reading "Black Widow."
I'm interested to see how these new titles fare among readers and reviewers alike. This issue is not must-read stuff, but if you're teased by advance solicits and want to get some idea of what's going to be worthy of your hard earned cash, this issue is a good, affordable sampler.