Looking at the solicitations isn't what it used to be, folks. We work with such a strange system already, trying to see into the future of three months from now and what we'll like then, and the recent shift from paragraphs to bullet points just brings home the futility of it all. Who are the solicitations for? The readers, looking to get an idea of what's to come with their favorite characters and titles so they can plan accordingly? Are they for the retailers, who have to pore over these lists and cover images, and figure out what people are going to want casually versus regularly? And what if, say, a month from now, a writer or artist has a better chance to tell you more about their book and reveal something the solicits couldn't tell you? What if a book you see now just doesn't make it to the print and we're left with an echo of what could have been? This information can change with a story edit or a creative team switch-up. How do we handle this information anymore?
Well, hopefully I can take a look at what July means for Marvel and for you, the consumer. Gird your loins, Gentle Reader, and let's look at what the House of Ideas wants you to know about Comic-Con Month, also known as 'July'.
WARNING: Since Avengers vs. X-Men #2 came out this week, I might drop a few spoilers for that when talking about what that book might become later on. Also, I make an educated guess about a [REDACTED] name, so that means I also read Wolverine & the X-Men #9. Grab your copies and read along!
Okay, so an idea of what I mean by all this confusion and ennui in regards to the solicitations really hit home at THE PUNISHER #13, where the only information given to entice one into ordering/buying this issue are three sad little bullet points. The first "Fight or Flight continues!" means that this is another part of an ongoing story arc; if you're already reading the book, this will continue. Next, "A friend switches sides." feels pretty generic. In this issue, there is a conflict! Lastly, "Cole becomes the hunted!" only means anything if, again, you've been reading the book and know that Cole is the Punisher's ... well, protege is too strong a word, so I guess shadow is probably best.
But what does this mean, as a whole? I don't think it's terribly enticing to readers or encouraging to retailers. They could have done a bit more to punch it up, even if it's just repeating things that the regular reader might already know. Even a "From the hit team of Greg Rucka and breakout artist, Marco Checchetto!" would do as far as reminding you why you might want to look forward to this book in July. Maybe a pull quote from a reviewer somewhere telling potential readers and fans alike that this series is the most action-packed drama that Frank Castle has faced yet in full view of the Marvel Universe. Okay, it's not great, but it's a start. I know there's a lot of titles coming out every month and you can't love all your children equally, but you can at least try. Make me want to read and/or order the Punisher every single month, you guys. I know you can do it.
Okay, enough of that, now on to the special children: Avengers vs X-Men will be over half way done in July and since there is no mention of a crispy fried planet, I'm assuming that the Phoenix takes its sweet time resolving its need to destroy Earth while the Avengers and X-Men keep slugging it out. I really hope there's more tactics and objectives in later issues because Round Two was like throwing all your action figures in a box and shaking them up really, really hard. Sure, some of them collided in interesting fashions but I really didn't feel like the purpose of their argument, whether or not Hope gets to stay with the X-Men or go with the Avengers, was the issue they were throwing all those punches for. And, here we are in July, and there seems to be little to no mention of Hope or the Phoenix. There will be a fracture in the X-Men's alliance, an invasion of Wakanda by Namor (whaaaaat?) and possibly some magical shenanigans with a declaration of "No More Avengers!" The premise isn't the point, the title of the book is and the Avengers will be versus-ing the X-Men for as long as 12 issues will allow.
Also, to get out my booking hat, AvX: Vs #4 (of 6) will highlight a fight between "Thor vs. [CLASSIFIED] by Kaare Andrews". After reading this week's Wolverine and the X-Men #7, I think it's safe to say that the God of Thunder will be going toe-to-toe with Gladiator. Fight night, folks!
The rest of the tie-in books (remember: anything that has 'X-Men' or 'Avengers' on the cover ties into Avengers vs. X-Men!) are highlighting a bunch of inter-personal threats rather than the opposing team. UNCANNY X-MEN #15 & 16 have the X-Men moving against Sinister, which makes sense in that Sinsiter has always had that Jean/Scott OTP and with the Phoenix force growing near he might have a stake in the fight. WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #13 bring back the Shi’Ar Death Commandos, which is a nice nod to the 'End of Greys' storyline from way back in 2006 where the Shi'ar Death Squad came and murdered the entire Grey family and put a fancier brand on Rachel's back. So... there's that. AVENGERS #28 heralds "The last stand of the Red Hulk...?", so Parker Hulk fans take note! X-MEN LEGACY #270 has another face-off between Rogue and Ms. Marvel, which given the rise of the new Captain Marvel could get really interesting, despite the more personal problem between the two being a storyline I could have sworn was resolved ages ago.
It's a new day and a new dawn for CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, with Carol Danvers as you have never seen her before: in pants! Uniform aside, I am really excited to see this book hit the stands and to see that the solicitation copy seems to be just as excited as well; bullet points include "Ace pilot. Legendary Avenger. 100% pure bad-a$$." and "Carol Danvers has a new name, a new mission …and all the power she needs to make her life a living hell." and "Guest starring Captain America." I think the idea is sound, I know enough about the character (she's bad-a$$!) and the guest star (it's Captain America) to make some orders and add this to my pull. Sure, calling her Earth's Mightiest Hero is a bit much but, ever since House of M, Marvel has really pushed to put Carol Danvers in the biggest spotlight they can. They did this by adding in this byline to say that she was or wants to be the world's best hero, but perhaps some baby steps are in order? I think it puts too much pressure on a book that already has to fight uphill for survival, so please pre-order Captain Marvel and cut her some slack. She's with Spider-Man in AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #9! Get that one if you're still iffy on the new look or change in character. No one's saying you have to buy everything, just give it a chance and maybe we'll see more like it. Money changes minds at Marvel, True Believers.
On the Spider-Front, we have SPIDER-MEN #3 (of 5), the finally revealed cross-over between the 616-Peter Parker and the Ultimate Universe's own Miles Morales. There's more at the mothership, so give the whole article a read and settle in for some fun. I think they've wanted to have an Ultimate/616 crossover for awhile and I'm glad that Miles Morales is the guy to help get it done. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #689 is going to have a J. Scott Campbell cover so plan accordingly, retailers! Oh man, maybe it's just my store but J. Scott Campbell covers emit a pheromone that causes an undying love for them in our customers. Sure, it'll be a 'Lizard' variant rather than a 'hot Black Cat' but I think the pheromone will still work. Inside the issue, we'll have "Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Curt Connors, and the Lizard. The stars of this summer’s big blockbuster movie are right here!" 'Just like in the movie' isn't all that much of a selling point considering the two worlds are so vastly different between the screen and the page, but the title has been solid Spider-Man stories under Dan Slott. So the idea of tying in a major movie character appearance into the ongoing series is another method of Marvel's Merry Marketing Machine that makes all the characters you see relevant to one another. The book reflects the movie which reflects the TV show and so on. Sure, it might not be the same premise or storyline, but you can count on characters acting and having the same motivations across the board, and that's hard work.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #14 just says "CAP MUST GRAPPLE WITH THE REALITY OF THE NEW SCOURGE’S TRUE IDENTITY!" and that's it. I'm not sure WHY WE'RE YELLING but if I thought The Punisher was getting the short end of the solicitation stick, I think this one takes the cake. Then again, Greg Rucka's Punisher is an entirely new series, while Ed Brubaker has been bringing the goods on Captain America for seven years (holy cats!). By this point, I think the Captain America title has sort of earned a short blurb while newer series should have more to say, even if it's a little redundant. Once you hit a certain number of issues and have been on CNN and earned a credibility with the readers and retailers, then marketing really doesn't need to say anything more with Captain America than ED BRUBAKER TELLS YOU MORE STORIES!
FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33 is bringing back ClanDestine, which could be hit or miss, considering the annual will be written by Alan Davis. Don't get me wrong, it will be fantastic to see those characters in the original creator's hands again for one more story, but the Fantastic Four has been such a tight piece of literature, with each story so carefully crafted from the next, that a detour back to a different style and era of comics might not be the best Fantastic Four story they can tell right now. The good news is that it's an annual, so we can enjoy the story outside Hickman's megaverse, and that's probably the best of both worlds.
Let's see, what else is a quick hit? X-TREME X-MEN #1 brings back a fantastic idea (traveling the multiverse with unique versions of fan favorite characters) and a terrible title (X-Treme, really?) all in one go. UNCANNY X-FORCE #27 & 28 promise to bring in a new member and if they lose Fantomex I will be beside myself. SCARLET SPIDER #7 will bring more secrets and lies, all "building to the biggest Scarlet Spider story yet." I always pictured the Web of Spider-Man to be more detective-y and hard bitten, so the Scarlet Spider is a great way to get to those stories but keep Peter from getting too wildly portrayed between titles. Powers surprises me with POWERS: FBI #1, a "new chapter of the Eisner Award-winning POWERS that sends Deena Pilgrim into the big leagues!" Mostly, I forgot that the original Powers series hadn't ended, but it's nice to know they're still thinking about the title. WINTER SOLDIER #8 promises "Bucky vs. Black Widow," "Old enemies resurfacing with new codenames," and our favorite "And nothing will ever be the same." I think Yelena Belova's coming back, don't you?
It's a beautiful day and I'm sure you've got places to be, so take a look for yourself at Marvel's Solicitations for July 2012 and let us know what you're looking forward to. Excelsior!