"Marvel Now What?!" #1 is a shocking humorous little surprise. Short story collections are always a gamble, and it's rare that they have much heft to make themselves worth the cover price. While "Marvel Now What?!" doesn't exactly have heft, it certainly has enough fun to make it worth a look.
The clear strength of the book -- from a variety of writers, artists and comedians -- is in its willingness to poke fun at Marvel. Thanks to that freedom, even though some stories are better than others, I don't think there's a single story that will fail to elicit at least a chuckle.
Skottie Young starts things off with an introduction (he also closes the book) that pokes fun at the idea of the whole "X-Babies" gimmick and how it has become his bread and butter. It's basically adorable.
The next story by Elliott Kalan and Jacob Chabot looks like a non-starter at a glance, but is actually a very funny take down of the whole "Marvel NOW!" concept and some of the silliness of comics in general. Following that is a five-page story by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, Pat Olliffee, Livesay and John Kalisz of how it was actually Doc Ock's failed stage career as "Doctor Octopuppet," that turned him to villainy. This should be canon.
Comedians Wyatt Cenac and Elliott Kalan, with Colleen Coover drawing, deliver three amusing one page stand alone stories, one of which has my favorite concept in the book: the idea that Xavier's School is actually a terrible place to get an actual education with Jean Grey proclaiming that while she learned to read minds, she never actually learned to read. Although even that concept can't beat Wolverine's declaration that "I'm the best there is at what I do. And what I do isn't Calculus" as he observes his F-minus homework assignment. They also do a story about Thor and Storm, debating how their power sets work and the hi-jinx involved in sharing power over thunder, as well as what it would be like if the characters ever got together. It's just fun stuff, pure and simple.
Watching The Watcher have an intervention and go into treatment for constantly intervening in Earth's problems is awesome, as is his discussion in group therapy about "breaking the fourth wall," but when Scott Adsit, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire give us a panel of The Watcher in treatment saying: "Sometimes...I feel like
Sara Schaefer, Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg's tale of Captain America getting "catfished" by the Red Skull is 100% adorable, and even the tales that don't quite hit it out of the park, still manage to be charming and enjoyable, largely because they feel unafraid to poke fun at themselves.
"Marvel Now What?!" #1 doesn't have the pedigree of Marvel's exceptional "Strange Tales II" from 2010/2011, but it's still refreshing to see this sense of humor from Marvel and more importantly that willingness to laugh at themselves. This isn't a book that will (or should) win any awards, but it will give any fan a good chuckle.