The Fifth Color | Marvel in May 2012: Comics and a movie

Ah, the movie month of May! That lovely little month where everyone goes to the theaters to see the summer blockbuster season kick off! And here we are folks, just three months away from the Avengers, a movie even five years ago I thought couldn't be made. Can you believe that Marvel Comics, a nigh-bankrupt company at the end of the 1990s, branched out into their own movie studio and not only made millions off of lesser-known characters such as Iron Man and Thor, but gathered them all together into one big film that's one of the most anticipated movies of the summer? Really! Think about it for a moment and raise a glass to the folks at the House of Ideas because man. You've come along way, baby.

Anyhoo, back to the comics.

Looking over the Marvel solicitations for May 2012, they might seem kind of sparse, but do not let first glances deceive you. Sure, there's not a lot of all-new books, AvX rolls along from its big debut last month and things seem kind of quiet on the western front, so to speak. But there is a lot of weird, fun and thoughtful issues headed out this merry month of May, and some stuff might even pass you by.

So what are we going to pick up as we beat a path to our local comic shop, whipped into a comic book-buying frenzy by the pageantry and action presented on the silver screen? Let's take a look!

Last month I noted how the X-Men probably won't be given the fairest of shakes considering they're not the team with the movie and the publicity this year, but the X-Books got another dog in the fight from Christos Gage and Rafa Sandoval's X-Men Legacy! In X-MEN LEGACY #266 & 267, the Avengers will be securing the Jean Grey School, much to the dismay of Rogue's team of X-Men. In fact, the X-Men still seem to be fighting the Avengers (and in Wolverine and the X-Men's case) themselves as Marvel's merry mutants aren't the merriest bunch to get a long with these days. Over in Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers and Avengers Academy, Earth's Mightiest Heroes will be taking to space to fight the Phoenix threat head on, we'll learn more about Danny Rand's perplexing connection to the Phoenix Force and oh yeah, Captain Marvel will be reborn!

For real this time, it's not a Skrull thinking he's Captain Marvel! Perhaps I call truth too soon and this could all be a big huge swerve in the storyline, but the good Captain will return in SECRET AVENGERS #27, Rick Remender's book, and we're asked in the solicitation "Who is Minister Marvel and why has he drawn the Phoenix to the Kree homeworld?" That sounds like we're getting back into War of Kings territory with Ronan the Accuser and the Inhumans, so my personal interest is piqued for sure.

For as much shade I throw at AvX, I don't hate the books. After all, it's hard to judge something by two or three bullet points and a cover image. What seems like video game actions combo'd with a storyline that I had honestly thought we were going to put to bed with House of M could actually open up into a larger and more momentous threat that everyone understands from the X-Men's sorted history being opposed by debatably the greatest collection of heroes our tiny planet has to offer. I may not enjoy the way the story is being sold, but I can't pass judgment on something unseen. We'll see. April's going to be a fun month, folks.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Marvel Comics, there are three new books hitting the shelves for those lured in by the siren song of the silver screen: the first is MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS: THE AVENGERS INITIATIVE, a prequel one-shot by Fred Van Lente and Ron Lim. Called the "The perfect introduction to The Avengers movie coming out in May 2012!", it also combines with THE AVENGERS: BLACK WIDOW STRIKES #1 & 2 (of 3), a "hard-hitting espionage adventure set between the events of IRON MAN 2 and MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS!" Now I always thought the Ultimate universe was the de facto playground for the Marvel movieverse. The Ultimates was sold quite often in the store as "what the Avengers would look like if they ever made it into a movie." The idea that a line of comics could come out that specifically hinged on what was presented in theaters is difficult to juggle; on one hand you don't want to segregate readers lest they think they're not buying "the real comics," on the other you have pop culture saturated interest that Thor should look like Chris Hemsworth. It's interesting to think about.

One last note for the Avengers, then I swear I'll talk about everyone else, but there will be a weekly HULK SMASH AVENGERS series, "A five-part, weekly punch-fest that explores the ever-evolving relationship between the Gamma Goliath and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!" There's a host of different writers and artists each taking on a particular era of the Hulk and the Avengers and hey! Fights! Looks like issue 4 will have Mr. Fixit facing the West Coast Avengers, they have a reasonable $2.99 price tag and the Wasp is mentioned in four out of five books, so I'm sold.

Speaking of being sold, I wish I could simply post pictures sometimes and leave things wordless in my reviews of solicitations.  Considering how little we know of a book before it hits the stands, secret plot twists, creative team shuffling and just a general sense of overwhelm when looking at the comic stands sometimes, I'd just like to give a shout out to all the hard work it takes to make a really inventive and motivating cover image.   If I can get back on my soapbox one last time, I think one of the best things that PunisherMAX had going for it was the Dave Johnson covers who brought stark and stylish images that just pop out from the rest of the pack.  This month, it's hard to get better than ol' Dino-Cap from CAPTAIN AMERICA AND HAWKEYE #631 up there, but it's also super hard to scroll past INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #516 or ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #10.

FANTASTIC FOUR #605.1 is promising the "Secret History of the Fantastic Four" and while I would normally just sort of incline my head at the Fantastic Four Season One HC and move along, it's Jonathan Hickman that actually has me crazy excited for new news about the first flight of the Fantastic Four. His grand design on the title has been amazing to watch unfold and incredibly complex, so going back to the beginning makes sense in a book that has been so much about high minded science and generational heroism.

Journey into Mystery and New Mutants crossover for the moth of May, giving us the "Exiled" storyline in EXILED #1, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #637 & 638 and NEW MUTANTS #42 & #43. You can learn more about the details in heir own words here, but let it be said that short, one month only, limited title crossovers are absolutely genius and should be used more often. Well, not too often, but you get the idea. The Omega Effect is another good example we haven't read yet, but I think mini-events to round out obvious character interaction make the Marvel Universe so complete. Yeah, it's stretching the imagination to think that Wolverine runs a covert ops team, a school for mutants and hangs with the Avengers, but it doesn't seem that far off to say, have him cross paths with the Punisher and take off when the objective is done. Exposure versus purpose, I guess.

"In the wake of World War II, Fury is fast running out of battles to fight. But the world’s superpowers are gearing up for a new kind of war and they’ll need a man like Fury to win it." From the minds of Garth FREAKIN' Ennis and Goran Parlov, we bring to you, oh beloved reader, FURY MAX #1 & 2. My heart rests easy.

In more age-appropriate news, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming are starting up a Taiko ongoing series! I loved their first outing in hardcover and loved the story of these super-powered sisters, but it was a lot to ask people to take a chance on considering the hardcover was 96 pages and $9.99. For example, Bone vol. 1 is 144 pages and Amulet (another popular Scholastic graphic novel for kids) is 192 pages and they're both $10.99. Stuff like that really matters to parents, so now that TAKIO #1 is here, with its comfortable 40pg/$3.95 price point, it will be a lot easier for people to take another look at this truly fun story.

There's still so much to mention but I'm running out of space! Is AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: PARALLEL LIVES #1 a way to appease the One More Day dark gods, feasting on our tears as we read this classic Mary Jane and Peter Parker tale from 1989? Who on Earth wanted a collection of X-MEN: OPERATION ZERO TOLERANCE?  In Hardcover no less??  Will ASTONISHING X-MEN #50 really be "the most talked about moment of the year!"? Please take a tour of Marvel Comics's Solicitations for May 2012 and leave a comment about what you're looking forward to in this, Our Blockbuster Year.

In the words of MARVEL ZOMBIES Destroy! 1 & 2 (of 5) by Frank Marraffino & Mirco Pierfederici, "SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS! NAZI ZOMBIES!"

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