The Fifth Color | Fast forward to Marvel comics in April 2013

So here I was, gentle reader, tapping away at the keyboard this morning, polishing up my thoughts on Wolverine's current employment trajectory and comparing it to a popular comedian from the '80s when I got a message from my distinguished colleague, Mr. Tom Bondurant.

"Why is Marvel releasing solicits Friday afternoon, like the Pentagon doing a big document-dump?" he asked via Twitter, causing me to drop everything and run to my favorite and most trusted news source, this very website. Lo and behold, Tom was right, and Marvel's solicitations for April had gone up just in time for the weekend. Normally, these are released in a timely fashion, as we comic book fans and retailers have a rhythm worked out for peculiar way we look forward to, order and then receive comics. Having these guys show up on a Friday and, more telling, having them seemingly reiterate information we learned throughout the week feels as if that rhythm is mutating somehow -- that we might get previews for events in a different way and that Marvel promotions might be delivered to us differently in the months to come. This could either be the herald of a new way to talk about our future in our present about comics that have come out in the past, like trades or reprints, or it could be a very busy week at the Bullpen and they only got this list out today.

Either way, April is waiting. Read on!

First off, I think I've figured out why so many titles doubled up over the winter. Marvel NOW! was dead set on becoming the new standard as quickly and as painlessly as possible while still preserving the previous guard's finished storylines and heartfelt goodbyes. They wanted the torch passed as efficiently as possible, but only so many new titles were coming out in a given month. The more issues a new Marvel NOW! book could put out, the more they seemed like the status quo. The sooner the first issue could follow the last issue, the smoother the transition could be. For the most part, I think it worked. Yeah, a heads up would have been nice, but I think I get the reasoning behind it. I say this because it seems as if the biweekly issues have slowed down some. April has eight doubled-up titles, so take "slowed down" with a grain of salt, but major books are no longer carrying the heavy load (All-New X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder are single issues this month, for example), and smaller titles that might need a push are getting two chances for your dollar (such as Gambit or Venom). I don't know for sure whether I'm right or wrong on this but it's food for thought.

Back to the books! A title getting three issues this month instead of the four I expected is AGE OF ULTRON which will run all the way up to the sixth issue of this 10-issue series before hitting us with something that, of course, will break the Internet and all of God's creations in half, raining down fire and chaos from the heavens. Just as the Mayans predicted.

From the solicitation:

• The heroes take the fight to Ultron...with a near-broken Captain America taking the lead!• Meanwhile, Wolverine takes it upon himself to make one of the most controversial decisions in the history of Marvel comics......and you'll never believe who goes along with him!

Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section of what truly is the most 'controversial decision' in the history of Marvel Comics' would actually be, but I'll give you a hint: the solicit for one of the tie-ins tells us it has to do with time travel. Doesn't it always? From WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #27: "Wolverine and the Invisible Woman find themselves in the Avengers' past!" Hrm. My guess is that Wolverine decides to kill Hank Pym so that Ultron is never created. The ol' "Go back in time and kill Hitler" conundrum. Mind you, he could also go back in time and stop Hank from creating Ultron, but killing Hank seems like a more Wolverine-y decision. We'll see in a few months.

Also in the tie-in section of your Age of Ultron freezer will be ULTRON #1, a book with a writer to be announced later and art by Amilcar Pinna. While the art looks exciting enough, this book will surprisingly center around the lost but not forgotten character of Victor Mancha, my favorite Runaway and creation of Ultron himself. Now, it's a one-shot, but it'll be a nice touch in the middle of a larger event story line to remember the little people and side characters that connect to such an awesome villain as Ultron.

Meanwhile, back in the rest of the Marvel Universe, we have variant covers to contend with. Now, I'm not sure how I feel on variant covers just yet. As a fan, it can get pretty frustrating to miss out on some cool artwork or fascinating series because there's a one in fifty chance you'll get to see it in person. As a retailer, I hate the damned things because it keeps me from giving my customers what they want. No one likes to disappoint a customer (or at least they shouldn't) so sometimes my store is left with 88 copies of one comic to sell that elusive variant to the consummate collector. Let me put it to you this way: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #2 is going to have a variant cover by superstar artist Joe Madureira. People love this guy at my store and gleefully gobble up whatever he has time to put on to paper, so this should be a win-win, right? A more tricky to order second issue bolstered by the opportunity for some rare art? Sadly, I have no idea what the ratio is on that cover and if a ratio would matter at all. Maybe for every six copies we ordered of Nova, we'll get a chance to order the Joe Mad cover for Guardians of the Galaxy #2. Maybe the two other variant covers for this issue (by Paolo Rivera and Joe Quesada) will be in the lower-ratio numbers and force us to order up more than we can handle. Maybe the issue will come out and no one but cover collectors will want it. Maybe aliens. I have no idea. Smarter people than I have talked extensively on the subject, so please listen to them for a classier debate on variants and how much they suck and/or blow, but for now, know that they aren't going away.

Back to the content inside the books. THANOS RISING #1 (OF 5) by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi comes out this month (oh, and with a variant by Marko Djurdjevic -- wait, what?) promising to usher us into the Next Big Thing and most likely kick us off into some sweet pre-Avengers 2 buzz on who the Mad Titan is and what he might want cinematically later on. The creative team looks pretty sweet and it's about time we got more Thanos material to digest for anticipatory fans and curious movie-goers can share together.

X-MEN #1 was announced earlier this week as an all-women team of mutants by Brian Wood and Olivier Copiel, the full solicitation tells us what these women will be committing their time towards:

An old enemy shows up at the X-Men's door, seeking asylum from an ancient evil come back to earth. Meanwhile, Jubilee has come home, and she's brought with her an orphaned baby who might hold the key to the earth's survival...or its destruction. Against a backdrop of what seems like an alien invasion and an eons-spanning war between brother and sister, Storm steps up and puts together a team to protect the child and stop a new threat that could destroy all life on earth!

Ah, babies. Is there anything they can't portend?

If an all-women team would come naturally from anywhere in the Marvel U, it's the X-Men. They are a naturally matriarchal group with the majority of their drama and success coming from strong female leads. Everyone remembers "The Dark Phoenix Saga," after all. At the same time, is "X-Women" too patronizing? Most female-led books don't have a very female-emblazoned title (Defenders and Captain Marvel being gender-neutral). Then again, Red She-Hulk sort of bucks the system on that one. I still wonder if that's a factor when setting up these new books with an emphasis on women and what that means for the comic buying public.

Otherwise, there's still a lot to see and talk about in the full solicitation list. IRON MAN #8 will continue to be the only books with ramifications of actions taken during AvX that are NOT about Cyclops. DARK AVENGERS #189 warns us that the penultimate chapter of dark heroics is here and makes me wonder if that's a subtle hint towards cancellation. WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #28 has an amazing looking cover that tells me nothing about the contents of the books (sadly, no Death Dealers appear in this issue). And the final issue of the Astonishing X-Men/Age of Apocalypse/X-Treme X-Men crossover event, X-TERMINATION #2, reminds us that it always ends with Omnipotent Jean Grey. There's a lot to see and do in April, so take a look at the Marvel solicitations and tell us what you're looking forward to! Excelsior.

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