Now, I will admit that the Distinguished Competition has given this month an air of finality. So many No. 1 issues, what could possibly come next? Tonight there will be drinks raised high and hands shaken to a job well done as their Wrap Party ends this publishing month at Golden Apple Comics. And it does seem a little final, doesn't it?
It's the perfect mood for looking ahead to December, where the last of the Marvel books published this year will leave 2011 not with a bang or a whimper, but with a dawn of things to come. I'm not saying it's a very big dawn or a brilliant one either; right now, I will full admit things look kind of so-so for December at Marvel ...
... then again, I have been wrong before, so let's take a look at December's books, shall we?
The twice-a-month rally continues as December will see 11 comics give us two issues in 31 days; they're mostly X-Men titles (Uncanny X-Force, X-Factor, X-23 and technically Deadpool) with a few Spider-Man books (The Amazing Spider-Man, Venom, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man) and random guys (Hulk, Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive, Kick-Ass 2) in the mix for good measure. I'm still not sure how I feel about this because The Amazing Spider-Man has been twice (even three times!) a month before now and it really hasn't slowed the momentum or been complained about where I work (Metro Entertainment, Santa Barbara's best in comics, toys, games and more! /end cheap plug). If anything it's welcome as the "Spider-Island" story is moving briskly enough to start a few readers thinking about a pull list or special orders of the entire storyline. But that might just be the quality of the work rather than the gratification of having two issues a month, so the debate continues. If you have a preference, go ahead and leave it in the comments below, but I am thrilled to get two issues of Uncanny X-Force a month.
The other twice-a-month book I didn't mention was Fear Itself: The Fearless, which will be just shy of the middle of its miniseries, cleaning up the long-term weaponry hauled out in Fear Itself. This and Battle Scars are specifically set in a post-Fear Itself universe, and handling the fallout of the big event. So, instead of throwing a banner on some books and anchoring the writers and artists into a "Heroic Age" or "Aftersmash," Marvel has continued the party over in the next room and left the rest of the hotel of comics to sleep peacefully into the night. Not a bad idea, but I can't trust on them selling well, especially not twice-a-month for The Fearless. Hrm.
Speaking of extra titles I'm not sure will sell well, we have two oversized issues coming out to tell young and old alike all about the Defenders, from a rockin' recollection of their first adventures to a rollicking roll call of past members and enemies. Oh, and then there's the new book Defenders #1, which will probably have very little to do with any of the above. I can see how publishing some history and cast lists might psych up a reader for, say, the Avengers, where their main motivation hasn't changed much over the years, but the Defenders are crazy-unique in their place in the Marvel Universe. Funny, intellectual, a secret love letter to the Blue Oyster Cult, the Defenders are a pretty awesome book and have their highs and lows just like any well loved published entertainment. I would think again -- this is surely why I don't work for Marvel -- that one would want to let a new book stand alone and show off whatever new take Matt Fraction and friends are doing with it. Maybe the history and cast lists can come after it's a hit as people start to look for more things that say "Defenders" on them. Maybe it can all show up the month before, giving the curious and the well-read time to digest the fact that there's a new team due to debut. It just seems like a foot bullet to have two oversized books at $5.99 and $4.99 show up in the same month as your big debut. Then again, that's why they publish the books and I just sell 'em.
This, of course, would not be the end of Marvel's 2011 if we didn't get to see just a taste of the exciting new future that is The Avengers: X-Sanction #1 (of 4)! Cable is back, guns are huge, and apparently he has to "wipe the Avengers from the pages of history!" And we quote: "How has Cable been reborn? Where has he been since Second Coming? And what dark event has driven him to destroy the Avengers? The answers are just the tip of an iceberg that threatens to smash the Marvel Universe to smithereens!" Man, some guys really bring their A-game to these solicitations, don't they? I've read that like five times and I'm still super-excited when I get to "smithereens"! Those aforementioned smithereens are the start of the next big change in the Marvel Universe, plus Joe Quesada will be whipping up some variant covers to the book, ensuring it as a must-read this December. It does make me wonder, though: Norman Osborn seems to have a new team of "Avengers," Wonder Man's "Revengers" wanted to disband everyone and now Cable is back to wipe the Avengers from history itself? This is not a good time to be an Avenger.
The holiday season rolls along with Deadpool MAX X-Mas Special #1 takes over the Punisher niche of highly violent yuletide stories that are deliciously offensive. The Marvel Holiday Special 2011 will collect a variety of digital stories that debuted this year just in time for a stocking stuffer, and the Art of Marvel Studios hardcover slipcase is the big ticket item that you can delight True Believers and Movie Fans with at the same time. Well, maybe not all of them, as the $150 price tag is crazy steep for the younger set. So what do you get the kids this Christmas? Why, The Muppets Presents: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson, the previously-at-BOOM!-now-at-Marvel reprint! Yay!
Me? Why, I'll just be settling for a new X-Club series with Simon Spurrier and the Avengers: West Coast Avengers -- Lost in Space-Time premiere hardcover. One has done nothing but delight me at every one-shot and limited series during major events and Mr. Spurrier does a great job at making science adventurous and funny in the midst of a lot of mutant angst and greater drama. The other is a book where Hank Pym attempts suicide and is stopped by a Catholic superheroine, and where Mockingbird threatens her marriage by letting a man fall to his death when ... oh, just read it.
And read the rest of the December solicitations here and let us all know what you're looking forward to. Merry future Christmas to all!