Marvel NOW! is not a new concept, as the name was used to jumpstart a new era of Marvel Comics after the conclusion of "Avengers vs. X-Men" in 2012. It worked out well for the publisher, leading Marvel to once again head back to the Marvel NOW! well post-"Civil War II" (technically during) as new series launch and characters are taken in different directions.
Marvel is using the branding to signify jumping on points for new readers, and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has signaled a move to a seasonal model of publishing where comic titles are relaunched with new number one issues and changes to creative teams.
We're a little over a month into Marvel NOW! 2.0, but it's never too early to take a look and see what heroes, teams, and villains are being highlighted, along with who appears to have been left in the rearview mirror. This will include series that have already begun and ones announced to appear in the coming months.
For the sake of this discussion, "winners and losers" will constitute comics that either match or exceed expectations, which will fall in the "winners" category, or our "losers," which are comics off to rocky starts, canceled series with no replacement in sight, or upcoming debuts that will need a great amount of marketing to attract new readers or sway those turned off by "Civil War II."
So let's begin with the comics and characters on the short end of the stick when it comes to fan reaction, with the largest coming from the lead-in to Marvel NOW!.
CIVIL WAR II DELAYS
The addition of an extra issue to "Civil War II" and its conclusion being pushed back to the end of December has caused the event to run concurrently with the launch of Marvel NOW!. This is the second time a Marvel event's delay has coincided with a new brand initiative, with "Secret Wars" and "All-New, All-Different Marvel" being the other instance.
For fans who like to read stories in order, this can cause frustration because they start to worry about being spoiled if they decide to read a Marvel NOW! series that takes place after the ending of "Civil War II." It's also resulted in titles like "Infamous Iron Man" and "Invincible Iron Man" having to tip-toe around the status of Tony Stark, which can have an effect on the reading experience.
This can't be the type of transition Marvel had in mind when it started down this road when CWII was announced in 2015, and while it's not the end of the world, its impact on the publisher's schedule is noticeable.
FAN REACTION TO CAPTAIN MARVEL
Carol Danvers will have a brand new ongoing series launching as part of Marvel NOW!, titled "Mighty Captain Marvel," where she is the world's most popular superhero spinning out of "Civil War II." Of course, while Captain Marvel may be popular among the citizens of the Marvel Universe for her stance supporting predictive justice, her Q-rating with readers leaves a lot to be desired. A number of fans have expressed the feeling that Carol is written out-of-character, serving the plot rather than the character's established personality, similar to the turn Tony Stark took during the original "Civil War."
As a result, "Mighty Captain Marvel" writer Margaret Stohl has a large task ahead of her to counter the residual effects of the latest superhero throw down on Carol Danvers.
DEADPOOL LINE EXPANSION
I know what you're thinking -- "If Deadpool is successful enough to spawn three ongoing series for ancillary characters, shouldn't that go down in the win column?" My original instinct was, in fact, to list this as a positive for Marvel NOW!. However, the more I thought about this, the more it dawned on me that "Foolkiller," "Slapstick" and "Solo" have little to no chance of making it to double-digit issues. This isn't a knock on the quality of the three comics, as the creative teams have been crafting compelling stories. It's just that in this day and age, where the "Nighthawk"s of the world barely reach five issues, I just don't see a bright future for these members of the Mercs for Money.
As of this writing, the only comic to have recorded sales figures is "Solo" #1, which debuted at 105 on the October 2016 sales chart with an estimated sales of 30,589. Barring the occasional outlier, comic book sales always decrease with the second issue, so it won't be long before "Solo" is hovering in the low 20,000s.
Overall, my list of Marvel NOW! "losers" is fairly minor. Now, it's time for a more positive outlook with our "winners."
One-half of the Marvel NOW! "Divided We Stand" promotional image featured young heroes stepping into the spotlight, including Riri Williams, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Totally Awesome Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Wasp (Nadia Pym), Gwenpool, America Chavez, and Hawkeye (Kate Bishop). Riri Williams made headlines when it was announced she'd be replacing Tony Stark in the pages of "Invincible Iron Man" as the new hero Ironheart. Nadia Pym debuted in "All-New, All-Different Avengers" and will have her own ongoing series, and Kate Bishop is stepping out of the shadow of Clint Barton in "Hawkeye."
In recent years, Marvel has put an emphasis on establishing new, younger versions of their legacy heroes to reflect a changing society. Marvel NOW! 2.0 is another example of these steps being taken, and the results thus far have been really encouraging.
EXPANDING THE AVENGERS LINE
When looking at the stands in your local comic store, it's not uncommon to see a high number of comics with the name "Avenger" in the title. Marvel NOW! 2.0 is no different, but what is different is the type of "Avengers" comics Marvel will be publishing in the coming months. Staples like "New Avengers" and "Mighty Avengers" are being replaced with "Champions," "Occupy Avengers" and "U.S.Avengers."
"Champions" may be one of the best team books Marvel has put out in years. The chemistry between Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ms. Marvel, Nova, Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv and Cyclops was immediately apparent, from the first page. I could sit and read an entire comic of the team sitting around a campfire getting to know one another -- which is exactly what happened in issue "Champions" #2.
"Occupy Avengers" follows Clint Barton after his acquittal on murder charges stemming from killing Bruce Banner in "Civil War II." Along for the ride is time-displaced Native American hero Red Wolf, and writer David Walker has stated the team will be rounded out by other non-superpowered individuals. This sets it apart from other teams starring Earth's Mightiest Heroes, especially when you consider the fact that this team will be taking on more personal, grounded threats rather to cosmic invasions from alien enemies.
Marvel also reached into its archives to relaunch a forgotten Avengers comic in "Great Lakes Avengers," which takes a more comedic approach to the Avengers brand. And while I've highlighted satellite titles, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how stellar Mark Waid and Mike Del Mundo's "Avengers" has been.
RESURGENCE OF THE X-MEN
Marvel's merry mutants have had a rough go of it lately, what with a poisonous cloud of Terrigen Mist roaming the Earth and killing their species. The X-Men will battle the Inhumans for survival in "Inhumans vs. X-Men," with the fallout taking place in "ResurrXion." After years of extinction-level stories, "ResurrXion" promises a bright future for the X-Men with comics such as "X-Men: Gold," "X-Men: Blue" and "Generation X," which are familiar names to long-time readers. "Jean Grey" and "Iceman" are receiving solo titles for the first time, and rounding out the new line are "Weapon X" and "Cable."
Fans have numerous conspiracy theories on Marvel de-emphasizing mutants in favor of the Inhumans, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers; this new line of comics appears to be aimed at putting an end to that type of speculation.
IMPACT OF THE MCU
Doctor Strange and Black Panther, two heroes who went decades without solo series, are now at a level of popularity that allows them to support sister titles, "Doctor Strange: Sorcerers Supreme" and "Black Panther: World of Wakanda," respectively. Thanks to their appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Sorcerer Supreme and King of Wakanda are household names, and Marvel Comics is reaping the benefits.
THE DAREDEVIL MINI-UNIVERSE
Hell's Kitchen is getting more crowded with the announcement of "Bullseye," "Elektra" and "Kingpin" forming a family of "Daredevil" titles. There was a time when Daredevil would be included under the Spider-Man office, but after kickstarting the Marvel Television phase on Netflix, the Man Without Fear sits atop his own franchise. Kingpin and Elektra made their live-action debuts in "Marvel's Daredevil," and it's got to be only a matter of time before Bullseye takes aim at our street-level heroes as well. "Iron Fist" and "Defenders" are on the Netflix horizon, which will help place more eyes on the comics containing these characters, notably "Jessica Jones" and "Power Man & Iron Fist."
Marvel NOW! may have received a smooth lead-in from "Civil War II," but it still has a chance to go down as a successful brand initiative. New heroes and teams are stepping to the forefront, franchises of old have a bright future, and new ones are being built from the ground up. All in all, not a bad start for the next phase of the Marvel Universe.