Marvel NOW! Point One #1

"Marvel NOW! Point One" #1 is less of a massive jumping on point and more of a sampler of series to come. A Nick Fury cover and through-line helps add some organization to collection of disparate characters.

The Fury through-line opens the issue with the newer Nick Fury and his compatriots Maria Hill and Phil Coulson interrogating a man who claims to be from the future. That guy spent a day disrupting the New York Stock Exchange simply so he could talk to Fury. Nick Spencer's characterization of the trio of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents doesn't stray too far from the personalities those characters project in the film franchise, which makes this issue seem like an attractive comic book for new readers to pick up. That story functions as a framing sequence, adding padding to more interesting tales from characters that have little to absolutely no connection. Luke Ross' art for that piece is solid and detailed, with earthy coloring from Lee Loughridge. The duo blend nicely to deliver art that is unobtrusive and flexible, further contributing to my assessment of the story being padding, especially as it is paced out and played between heavier tales.

Star-Lord's origin is the first of the samplers to complete its eight-page story. At no point does Brian Michael Bendis refer to young Peter Quill as Star-Lord, but the story is strong enough to be compelling without any dazzling superheroics. The alien attack is heartbreaking and definitive for young Quill, and still memorable at the end of this issue thanks largely to Steve McNiven's gorgeously detailed artwork. The story doesn't do much to really sell the concept or characters of the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy" series, but it is a nice insert for this anthology.

The downer of Peter Quill's story is balanced out by high-flying (literally) action from the new Nova. Nothing is revealed in this eight-page story from Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness, but the duo present a high-octane, gloriously animated spectacle for a fan-favorite brand that is going to have to act quickly to win readers over. McGuiness' art is as bombastic as ever and fits quite nicely in this story of the re-imagined human rocket. I was set to declare the Quill story my favorite, but Nova jumped in and snatched that label away. If this sample can be taken as a preview of what is to come from Loeb and McGuiness, this series is going to be summer special effects movie-type popcorn entertainment.

The check-in with Fury and company tosses the next preview over to Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie for an odd conversation between Loki and Miss America on Earth-212. This "Young Avengers" story features some good art and a scene-stealing appearance from Kid Loki. My expectations of that series were non-existent (as in I have no intention of getting it) but after reading this, I'll at least look through the first issue.

Written by Matt Fraction with art from Mike Allred, the Ant-Man adventure has me both heartbroken and worried. Scott Lang was once a very balanced hero, now I fear what he's about to become. Allred and Fraction pack a surprise into this story, but not before having some fun with Ant-Man and his powers. As one of the central characters for "FF," Ant-Man has a weary road in front of him, which I hope is more like this story than not.

Forge has never thrilled me and his metaphorical adventure in this comic is lackluster. Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta have their work cut out for them in the new X-Force title. I'm none too keen on any of the characters represented there and this story did nothing to sway me. Walta's art fits the bizarre landscape of Forge's wackiness, but that same wackiness just left me unsure what it was Hopeless was going for or what I may have missed.

Unfortunately, this book just doesn't quite mesh. The individual stories are fun, and some of them border on compelling, but they are just too widely scattered in focus, character and setting for "Marvel NOW! Point One" #1 to be anything other than an anthology of pieces. Some of those pieces bring lots of promise; others need a bit more oomph. This much is true though; there are some fun ideas and stories coming up in this Marvel NOW! initiative.

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