So here we are, looking ahead to August. The confetti and streamers from what will probably be the most successful year of Marvel films to date (three summer movies released consecutively helps!) will be quietly swept up, the San Diego Comic Con will have probably released tantalizing footage of the next year's main event, the Avengers movie and oh, yeah. Something something comics something.
Looking to my extensive notes, I have dusted off the leather tomes of yesteryear and found that 2010 wasn't half as lively as this year is shaping up to be. Sure, it was a month of endings and beginnings, plus vampires were everywhere and Shadowland was just kicking out the jams in all its mini-series glory but ... looking back now, maybe it's the nostalgia that keeps me from thinking better of the books that came out in August last year. Maybe it's because I already know what became of each ending or beginning, how important vampires turned out to be and that yes, the Cable & the New Mutants: X-Force HC was a clue that Nate Summers was going to bow out at the end of Second Coming (man, Second Coming was last year? It feels like it's been longer than that...).
With that in mind, can I tell you how excited I am for Fear Itself #5? Come look ahead at August and see what Marvel has in store after their banner year in film.
I'm not joking by the way. I have not an ounce of sarcasm in my soul when I tell you that FEAR ITSELF #5 (of 7) sounds awesome. From the solicitation: The blockbuster Marvel event of the year continues! Thor. Hulk. Thing. The fight to end all fights. And while it rages, the Serpent's forces deal Captain America a blow not even he can withstand.
I fully admit my mark status but doesn't that just sound rad right off the bat? Thor. Hulk. Thing. I know all of these people and I know they are all going to do something cool. Just like the beautiful simplicity that was World War Hulk, we know there's going to be a fight and that it is going to be against the strongest people on the planet (we also know the fight'll probably be in New York City, but that's another story). There are consequences for these actions, but for now, sit back and enjoy Stuart Immonen drawing the ever loving bejezus out of this fight.
Meanwhile, 23 other books will be vying for that Event book dollar; one may be of these is a sourcebook, another is a poster book of just art from the event thus far, but a lot of these are actual titles that have joined in the fight, going so far as to take two issues this month from their run to talk Fear Itself. Thunderbolts and Avengers Academy are really hanging in there for the long haul and, in a way, this makes sense. Thunderbolts has a major team member on opposing side and the book has been so clear in bolstering each and every one of these dangerous teammate. I am totally excited to get to see how the Thunderbolts react to the Juggernaut's new form, if not calculate ways for them to take advantage of the situation. The solicitation for THUNDERBOLTS #161 & #162 uses this brilliant line: "the worst threats of a lost age will face the worst threats of today" and if that doesn't pique some interest, I need to go back to the dictionary and find out what 'pique' and 'interest' mean.
The only thing I have to say about the Avengers Academy daring-do of jumping two issues in this month would be that it is simply an amazing series. Back when it was Avengers: the Imitative, they always had a solid tie-in to events like these and from World War Hulk and Secret Invasion and Siege, the new characters and young heroes always found themselves working harder than they ever had before in the face of threats that Iron Man and Thor were having problems with. From the solicit for AVENGERS ACADEMY #17 & #18: "Trapped in the Infinite Mansion with murderous demigods, the heroes-in-training of Avengers Academy must do the unthinkable...or die!" Now past experience with the writer, the characters and the title as whole tell me this is a threat I can believe in.
As for the other tie-in books with Fear Itself, it's a hodgepodge. You could probably take or leave half of them if not more, just depending on what characters you're interested in and how far the writers want to take this idea. AVENGERS #16 promises romance between Spider-Woman and Hawkeye and NEW AVENGERS #15 promises Die Hard with Squirrel Girl as she protects the baby under her care. Nitpicky, sure, but with this issue and the Avengers, it seems almost like Bendis is taking a break from following the action of Fear Itself to just take a breather on the couch. And that's cool and all, but other issues seem to be going that extra mile to include the event at hand.
Take HERC #6, where "Depowered, abandoned by those closest to him and cast away in a twisted, nightmarish version of his new home of Brooklyn, Hercules prepares for to make his stand against Kyknos, son of his immortal enemy Ares, and Hecate, the villainous goddess of witchcraft. Will strength and heart alone be enough to overcome his seemingly insurmountable obstacles, or will this be the final, fatal trial of Hercules?" The general idea and danger at hand seem not only like a great Hercules story, but a great reflection of Fear Itself. Yeah, it doesn't have the Serpent's followers or any of the Hammer threats in here, but it has a man at his worst facing a great fear. That's kind of what I expected, some sort of big summer trails where all the heroes would have to face some crazy fear and be tested to see how they do.
Some books succeed on this threat, others just kind of take the moment to catch a little spotlight. Remember, while 23 books may seem like a lot, it's just your regular pull titles that you'll have to worry about. Hang in there, True Believers and at lest we're not reading Flashpoint (cheap shot!).
Anyway, while the world turns on the crashing doom of fear, you'll be marking off yet another major event happening this month! Hoorah? AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #667 is the official kick-off to the Spider-Island Super Bowl event that has everyone in New York City getting a crack at Peter Parker's super-powers. Personally, I know why I can't muster up any interest in this: it's timing (shouldn't Spider-Man be over a barrel in Fear Itself and dead in the Ultimates? What Spider-Crisis am I facing now?). If this had just been put out in some time when Spider-Man isn't already getting a great deal of attention from some other thing, I would have enjoyed the idea of a city of Spider-Persons, but right now it's almost like he's the on the X-Men's modus operandi, living in his own little world that no one gets to react to but him. Still, new issues of Cloak and Dagger, Spider-Girl and Shang-Chi are always a huge bonus. For those of you playing at home, August will have 9 books for you to collect and trade coming in at 7 titles and 2 reprints of older material with new framing sequences.
The Ultimate Universe is getting yet another refreshed reboot restarted into something more manageable for readers and writers alike, I'm sure. The interesting thing is that not only do I see the ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE #1 (of 4) generating some huge buzz based on tantalizing movie moments, but that ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #1 is written by Jonathan Hickman. Hickman, in my mind, writes some of the best organization framework int he Marvel U right now. He is a man of many mysteries who can show you the inner workings of societies and groups that get the mind churning over how it al fits together. The Ultimate universe has been our unofficial/official movie comics, so seeing Hickman here just shows me that the Avengers movie is going to have a lot of intrigue. I know everyone's read a lof of Ultimate Comics Ultimates 2 and 3 and Ultimate Comics New Ultimates and Ultimate Comics Ultimate Ultimates Ultimatuum but let Jonthan Hickman Esad Ribic sweep all that cynicism under the rug and keep an eye out for this #1.
Man, looking at the solicitation for INCREDIBLE HULKS #635, all I can say is Greg Pak has had that book for a long time. He's taken the Hulk on a wide variety of adventures and battles, less interpersonal and more cosmically scaled, fighting things that the Hulk simply can't smash and must grow and adapt into or against. Love 'em or hate 'em, the man has moved mountains and to see his full run end will be one of those books you might pick up even if you haven't been following the series. After all, he's going to have to put all the toys back in some sort of order for the next writer to pick up and play with, so it'll be neat to see the way the story falls out. My hats off to you, Mr. Pak.
And I put my hate right back on for THE PUNISHER #1 & 2 by Greg Rucka and 'neo-superstar artist Marco Checchetto' (can he see the Matrix?), not to mention SECRET AVENGERS #16 with Warren FREAKIN' Ellis and Jamie McKelvie. See? As the good EiC taketh away, he giveth too and I am very excited to see these books hit the stands in August. Awesome line from The Punisher's solicitation? "...but can he survive the darkness stored in his own arsenal?" Oooh, gives me chills.
Oh, hey, down here by the X-Books, here's something that illustrates my point a little better about Spider-Man: X-MEN #15.1 guest stars the 'new Ghost Rider', which might be a little odd for a band of mutants also fighting it out amongst themselves on a island off the other coast. From the solicit: "When a medicine woman is at death’s door, the demons she has been containing for decades are looking forward to their freedom. Good news… the X-Men are on the scene. Bad news…these demons are out of our mutant super heroes’ league. It would be nice to have help from Ghost Rider, but is this new Spirit of Vengeance friend or foe?" Sure, it's a Point One so it's supposed to be self-contained, but it tells me little if I want to be reading about the actual X-Men and seemingly more about the new Ghost Rider. Suspension if disbelief is one thing, working out your own personal character continuity is another, but the X-Men have been working on thier own set of problems for so long, to see them show up for more than just a day trip into New York after they worked SO HARD to get them in NYC, it's awkward.
The rest is cake, my friends. Here is a full list of August 2011 Solicitations from Marvel Comics, so tell me what you're looking forward to. Me, I'll be saving my pennies now for that glorious X-STATIX OMNIBUS HC. $125? Totally worth it for this ahead of its time series. There's an upcoming article for you all! Excelsior!