The Fifth Color | Living in the present and looking at Marvel this week

At the end of the state of California, a comic book war rages on. Publishers large and small vie for attention, engage in one-upmanship to prove they are King of Comic-Con and that their future looks brighter than the rest. Dear Reader, I do not envy you if you attend this San Diego showdown, because it can be crowded, relentless and overwhelming as the convention seeks to consume you, mind and body; anyone who's gone can attest to how tired you can get after just one day. Thankfully, we here at the classiest and handsomest of websites have a lovely selection of all the news you'll ever need in a rush of headlines, photos and exclusive interviews.

From the very comfort of your own home, you can let Comic Con bring it's secrets to you, invite their grandstanding to your couch and comfortably choose your own King of Con without having to spend $9 on a sandwich or lose yourself in Line Purgatory.

So what else is there to say? I mean, the main site has everything covered and then some, Robot 6 is grabbing up all the tender morsels of personal moments to bring the Con to you and Twitter can keep you instantly updated to all the attention grabbing headlines as they're made. What's left, Dear Reader?

Well, there's always the present.

It's funny how comics released the week of Comic-Con probably don't get as much attention as they deserve. On one hand, some issues may need to be out in this particular week to pave the way for possible convention announcements; on the other, they could simply be filler and play little to no role in the future of their series. Hearing that a lot of major books are getting canceled can put a reader off a book, deciding to drop the title for now to wait for the brand-new No. 1 issue. We are a fickle consumer, swearing never to do this again, or else remaining steadfast to the heroes and creators that haven't let you down, depending on the very announcements at Comic-Con to judge the months ahead. For a brief moment, let's look at the present, this very week, and see what Marvel is doing for us lately.

At the top of my list is Avenging Spider-Man #9, the little team-up book that could. Not only is this the ninth installment of what could easily be considered Spider-Man Team Up, a book that does shorter story arcs and brings in a variety of characters to hang with the most profitable character at Marvel, creating more exposure and easier recommendations to new readers (again, reader solutions rather than popular solutions), but it's the first real-live appearance of Carol Danvers with her new moniker and costume and attitude. This issue is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, the same writer as the upcoming title, with Terry Dodson on art. Who we're introduced to is a very no-nonsense Carol with souped-up powers who sticks to regulations. There's a fun villain of the week, the art work is curvy and dynamic and Spider-Man is never not the star of his own show. Still, the book is a great sampler of what's ahead with Captain Marvel as well as a look at the Marvel Universe as a whole, a fun place with excitement around every turn grounded in relatable situations.

Another book to look for is Defenders #8, as it has made a full revolution in storyline intentions; from a team-based action book with secrets to a full-fledged mystic conspiracy that ties various elements of the Marvel Universe together for a ... well, I don't know. It's big and it's vast and it involves white space and mystic circuits so your guess is as good as mine. I promised I was going to give this title 12 issues before laying down any firm opinion on it, and this issue is certainly a reason why as our heroes are still sorting out a pecking order of who's on panel when to deliver the best dialogue. This may make them seem a little interchangeable at times, but the grander scope of the great Concordance Engines comes first. Laying out an actual threat big enough for Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer (and a conspicuously absent Namor), but accessible enough for Iron Fist and Red She-Hulk to make an impact is a delicate balance and sometimes the team has to take one for the focus of the story. High-adventure space-time tales are a rarity in care and detail so reading the Defenders to get to this bigger plot line has been difficult and rewarding. I'm not entirely sold but the bigger picture stuff is always fascinating.

Speaking of bigger picture stuff, Avengers vs. X-Men comes out with surprisingly little information this week, squaring off Daredevil against Psylocke with Thor and Phoenixed-out Emma Frost in the Vs. title, and just New Avengers and Wolverine and the X-Men for tie-ins. The New Avengers shows us a dark look into the kind of holding cells the captured Avengers are trapped in and Wolverine and the X-Men takes more personal time with the new Warbird and their own story than anything more connected to the larger Phoenix-y threat. Firmly in Act Two of our summer event, it's a small respite I'm sure from the in-fighting and change-ups that Act Three will surely bring.

Then there's Fantastic Four Annual #33, a story that comes from nowhere and leads to nothing. Not so say that it isn't fascinating or that it's irrelevant, but there's really no tie-in, no new series launch, no piece of the grander puzzle in this stand-alone story. Technically it's not exactly a stand-alone, Alan Davis returns to the Fantastic Four to show you a glimpse of his old title ClanDestine and I'm sure some foreknowledge would be helpful in identifying what exactly is going on as the Johnny and Ben travel through time and space with Doctor Strange to watch the strange and sad tale of a man with powers gone mad, but it's not necessary. I don't know much about ClanDestine outside of face value and rather enjoyed the out of time tale and the heart it brought to the page. In fact, it's a very old school style story, time tossed and lessons learned about responsibility and the nobility of family. Everything is vividly four-color but the story itself is shades of gray. Neat, huh?

Also, Space: Punisher #1 came out and, in direct contrast, it's everything it looks like it is on the front cover. If a schlocky '80s action movie was set in space and ripped from the pages of Heavy Metal magazine, you would have Space: Punisher. It makes little sense and you honestly won't want it to.

So yeah, take some time to enjoy the books that came out this week, folks!  Enjoy the present because Comic Con will certainly change the future.

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