Monthly Marvel Muster: New Beginnings and Old Biases

Monthly Marvel Muster: New Beginnings and Old Biases

Welcome to the May Monthly Marvel Muster. This month we have the beginning of War of the Realms, the reintroduction of another classic title with a decidedly modern twist, some new information about Jonathan Hickman's plans for the X-Men, and the announcement of the nonsensically-named and questionably-staffed Marvel Comics #1000. The Return of Marvel Team-Up

Welcome to the May Monthly Marvel Muster. This month we have the beginning of War of the Realms, the reintroduction of another classic title with a decidedly modern twist, some new information about Jonathan Hickman’s plans for the X-Men, and the announcement of the nonsensically-named and questionably-staffed Marvel Comics #1000.

The Return of Marvel Team-Up

Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man swing across a NYC skyline

Marvel Team-Up #1 – Cover by Stefano Caselli & Tríona Farrell

Marvel debuted only one new ongoing series in April, and in keeping with Marvel’s year-long 80th Anniversary celebration, it’s a new take on an old title, Marvel Team-Up.

Debuting in 1972, the original volume of Marvel Team-Up ran for 150 issues and seven annuals. It primarily starred Spider-Man, teamed up with a variety of characters from across the Marvel universe in short, typically single-issue, stand-alone stories. Since that volume ended in 1985, Marvel have reintroduced the title twice, but never with anything like the same success as the original.

With the new volume, Marvel are hoping to recapture the success of that original series by putting Ms. Marvel, their best-known and most-popular young hero, in the starring role. Kicking off with a three-issue story by Eve L. Ewing and Joey Vasquez, Marvel Team-Up will star Kamala Khan and a rotating but as-yet unannounced cast of other Marvel heroes. In a nod to the original series, Ewing and Vasquez’s begin the series with an entertaining accidental body-swap story starring Kamala and Peter Parker.

War of the Realms

The other big debut of April was the long-planned Asgard-centric War of the Realms event. The first two issues of War of the Realms by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman were joined in April by four tie-in series.

Written by Clint, Justin, Travis, and Griffen McElroy—the family behind the popular The Adventure Zone podcast—with art by André Lima Araújo, War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1 follows the unlikely team of Balder the Brave, Kate Bishop, Miles Morales, Doctor Druid, Wonder Man, and Deathlok 2.0 as they take a road trip across America, trying to protect Thor’s hitherto-unknown baby sister from Malekith’s forces.

The solicitation for War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1 by Matthew Rosenberg and Pere Perez promises a story lead by the former New Mutant and current Valkyrie Dani Moonstar, but in fact is mostly a series of arguments between Cyclops and Havoc, Cyclops and Hope, and Cyclops and basically every other available X-Man, with cameos from Dani at the beginning and end of the issue. Also, it’s not very good.

In War of the Realms: Punisher #1 by Gerry Duggan and Marcelo Ferreira, the Punisher faces off against Malekith’s forces. Frank Castle has had a large and remarkably well-handled role in the main War of the Realms series, so it’s unsurprising that he has his own tie-in as well.

And finally, War of the Realms: War Scrolls #1 is the first issue of the tie-in anthology series that now comes standard with all big Marvel events. The first issue features four stories, a Daredevil story by Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino, a story starring the Warriors Three by Josh Trujillo and Ricardo López Ortiz, a Wolverine and Punisher story by writer Ram V. and artist Cafu, and a Howard the Duck story by Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones.

Squirrel Girl faces off against an angry Frost Giant

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 – Cover by Erica Henderson

In addition, five ongoing series featured War of the Realms tie-in stories: Thor, Avengers, Asgardians of the Galaxy, Venom, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Notably, this is the first time The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has tied into any ongoing Marvel Event, but it’s not entirely surprising since both Loki and the the Asgardian Squirrel-God Ratatoskr have made repeat appearances in the book.

The Mini-Series Keep Coming

The mysterious Major X

Major X #1 – Cover by Rob Liefeld & Romulo Fajardo, Jr.

In addition to the five War of the Realms series, Marvel debuted five more mini-series in April. In Thanos #1, Tini Howard and Ariel Olivetti explore the complicated history between Thanos and his adopted daughter Gamora, who recently finally succeeded in killing him. Symbiote Spider-Man #1 by Peter David and Greg Land is a throwback to the era when Peter Parker was wearing the black suit that turned out to be Venom. And Major X #1 and #2 by Rob Liefeld and Brent Peebles are the introduction of a brand-new Liefeld-designed X-Men character. Like all the best Liefeld creations, the character design is spectacularly over-the-top, but the comic has not been well-reviewed.

And finally there are two new mini-series additions to the Star Wars line. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #1 by Ethan Sack and Will Sliney declares itself “the comic tie-in to the theme park” which is apparently a thing that Marvel and Disney think we need. Star Wars: Tie Fighter by Jody Houser and Rogê Antônio follows an “elite squadron of TIE fighter pilots […] assembled to help protect Imperial interests,” and apparently has a “sister novel series” written by Alexander Freed, Star Wars: Alphabet Squad starting in June.

Saying Goodbye Too Soon

The West Coast Avengers face down monsters in an underground cavern

West Coast Avengers #10 – Cover by Gang Hyuk Lim

Marvel only ended one series in April, but it was one of my favourites: Kelly Thompson’s gleefully over-the-top West Coast Avengers. West Coast Avengers #10 by Thompson and artist Moy R. is a delightful and incredibly queer finale that ties up the storyline neatly, but didn’t at all sate my appetite for stories about this ridiculous odd-ball team. This is the latest cancelled-too-soon Marvel series from Thompson and I’ve mourned every one.

West Coast Avengers was joined in April by the last issues of five mini-series. Avengers No Road Home by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, and Al Ewing, and Sean Izaakse and Paco Medina wrapped up with an incredibly self-referential issue #10. Winter Soldier by Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis came to a close after five issues. Greg Pak and Ario Anindito’s Weapon H storyline wrapped up with the third issue of Hulkverines. Peter David and Luca Maresca spent some time in the MCU with Spider-Man: Far From Home Prelude #2. And a full year after the movie was released, Robbie Thompson and Will Sliney’s lengthy Solo: A Star Wars Story Adaptation ended with issue #7.

Jonathan Hickman Takes Over the X-Men Universe

A geometric shape filled with iconic X-Men

House of X #2 – Cover by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia

Last month, writing about about Jonathan Hickman’s two new X-Men mini-series starting in June: House of X with Pepe Larraz and Powers of X with R.B. Silva, I said, “I hope House of X and Powers of X are the lead-in to [Hickman] taking over the franchise long-term. And if not him, someone. Anyone. Just as long as they’re still writing the X-Men in two years’ time.”

It looks like I’m getting my wish.

In an interview with comicbook.com Hickman has confirmed that he will be staying on to write the “ongoing flagship X-book” and has long-term plans for the entire X-Men line, including already-in-production new series to be announced at SDCC.

He also revealed what I’d already suspected, which is that this will be a full line-wide reboot, all the current X-books have been cancelled, and from late-July through September, House of X and Powers of X will be the only X-books being published.

I’m happy that Matthew Rosenberg’s terrible run of Uncanny X-Men is ending. I stopped reading Ed Brisson and Dylan Burnett’s X-Force after two disappointing issues. And I really just don’t care about Deadpool, but I am very much going to miss Mariko Tamaki and Diego Olortegui’s X-23 and Kelly Thompson and Oscar Bazaldua’s delightful Mr. & Mrs. X.

Marvel Comics #1000

a host of iconic characters spring forth from an open comic book

Marvel Comics #1000 – Cover by Alex Ross

The pinnacle of Marvel’s 80th Anniversary celebration, August’s Marvel Comics #1000 will feature 80 different creative teams on an 80-page comic, with each page correlating to one year in Marvel history and the overall story direction provided by Al Ewing.

The announced creative teams include some big names who’ve had a big impact on Marvel history, including Kurt Busiek, Tom Defalco and Ron Frenz, Walt Simonsen, Young Avengers creators Allan Heinberg and Tim Cheung, and the stellar Captain Marvel team of Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez. Others, like basketball star-turned comics writer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rapper Taboo have never worked for Marvel before.

They are, as the above list suggests, overwhelmingly white and almost entirely male. WWAC’s own Kat Overland made some excellent, and incredibly depressing illustrative graphs. Of particular note: there are more men born in Spain in the announced list than there are total women. Seriously.

More pages will be written by Al Ewing than there are announced female creators.

Look, I love Al Ewing; he’s genuinely one of my favourite writers working in comics today, but this is some serious bullshit. If Marvel wanted to focus on creators with a big impact on Marvel history, where on that list is Louise Simonson? Ann Nocenti? Marjorie Liu?

Kelly Thompson is writing a page, but what about Mariko Tamaki whose great run of X-23 just got cancelled to make way for Jonathan Hickman’s new X-Men? Where’s Roxane Gay? What about Leah Williams, who absolutely has what it takes to be Marvel’s next big star if they give her the chance? Where’s Sara Pichelli? Stephanie Hans?

This project had the opportunity to be a true celebration of Marvel’s history. Instead, it’s looking like it’ll be a complete train-wreck, as pointless and divorced from the reality of comics in the 21st century as that completely contrived and non-sensical name. Marvel Comics #1000 isn’t the 1000th issue of anything. When asked, Marvel Executive Vice President Tom Brevoort described the numbering as “a symbolic thing.”

As near as I can tell, the only thing Marvel Comics #1000 is symbolic of is the incredibly sorry state of mainstream comics publishing in 2019.

Best of the Month

Marvel Team-Up #1

Clayton Cowles (letterer and production), Eve L. Ewing (writer), Felipe Sobreiro (color artist), Joey Vazquez (artist)
April 3, 2019

I love short stand-alone stories, I love team-up stories, and I love stories that successfully play with storytelling forms. This comic is all three, and it is a delight!

Marvel Team-Up #1 is written in a flip-book format where you can flip the book over and read the same story from two different perspectives, until they meet in a literal explosion in the middle of the book.

Start at one end and read about Peter Parker attending the Empire State University Technology and Innovation Expo to introduce a presentation by his old friend Dr. Yesenia Rosario, who he met when they both were high school students competing in the Tri-State Ultra Mega Science Fair. Start at the other end and read about Kamala Khan attending the Expo on an academic field trip, also there to see Dr. Rosario, who is a Coles Academic High School Alumni.

Wherever you start, the end is the same: a villainous attack, two heroes, an explosion, and what promises to be a highly entertaining body-swap. (I also love body-swap stories. Really, this comic might as well have been written just for me.)

Ewing has a great feel for the characters, especially Kamala, and I really appreciated that her story hinges on the fact that Dr. Rosario has active plans to destroy her life’s work if there’s any chance of it being misused.

Vazquez’s art is clean, expressive, and easy to follow. That last part is particularly important in a book with multiple changes in orientation and point of view. And I want to call out Sobreiro’s skill at colouring a wide variety of skin tones and making them all distinct and naturalistic.

West Coast Avengers #10

Joe Caramagna (letterer), Tríona Farrell (color artist), Moy R. (artist), Kelly Thompson (writer)
April 17, 2019

This entire book was incredibly fun, incredibly meta, and incredibly queer, and this tragically final issue doubled down on all three of those. Concluding the story that began in her Kate Bishop-starring run of Hawkeye, Thompson has built Kate Bishop and Clint Barton a solid west coast found family, and when Kate is asked to choose between the West Coast Avengers and her long-thought-dead mother, her choice is immediate. “You’re my family,” she tells Clint. “All of you.”

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this team is made up entirely of heroes who are all either canonically queer or frequently read as queer, and Thompson has great fun playing with that spoken and unspoken queerness. One of the conceits of the series has been that the team were being sponsored by a Real World-style Reality show, complete with filmed candid post-mission Q&As. Those have been a great way to follow Quentin Quire and Gwenpool’s ridiculously delightful developing relationship, and in this issue, they’re the catalyst for the hilarious reveal that no, Kate Bishop has not ever dated anyone who is 100% straight.

This book has gone through a number of artists, but Moy R. does a nice job of keeping in the feel and style of the previous artists on the book, with the help of Tríona Farrell’s strong, vivid colors.

Cat Meier
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