Monthly Marvel Muster: What Is, What Was, What Never Will Be

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Welcome to the August edition of the Monthly Marvel Muster. This month we have a passel of new ongoings spinning out of War of the Realms, two universes’ worth of summer Annuals, and the tragic tale of the Summer Special that almost was.

New Beginnings

Marvel debuted four new comics in July, all spinning out of the War of the Realms event. Loki #1 by Daniel Kibblesmith and Oscar Bazaldua is a delightful take on everyone’s favourite God of Lies, who is now also the King of Jotunheim and liking it rather less than he might have hoped. And in Valkyrie: Jane Foster #1 by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing, and Cafu, the former Mighty Thor has taken up the Asgardian All-Weapon and stepped into the place of Asgard’s fallen Valkyries, all of whom were killed during War of the Realms.

Marvel also used War of the Realms as the opportunity to introduce a group of new Asian heroes to the Marvel Universe in War of the Realms: Agents of Atlas, and now two of those heroes are stepping into their own first English-language series.

Aero (Lei Ling) and Sword Master (Lin Lie) are new to Marvel’s English-language comics, but they’ve actually been around for over a year. Created specifically for Marvel by Chinese creative teams, Aero and Sword Master both first appeared in May 2018 in comics published on the website of Chinese tech firm NetEase. Aero #1 is a translation of the original story by Zhou Leifen and Keng, along with a new story by Greg Pak and Pop Mhan that introduces the Filipina superhero Wave. And Sword Master #1 is a translation of the original story by Shuizhu and Gunji, plus a new story by Greg Pak and Ario Anindito in which Sword Master teams up with Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi.

a young man with a glowing sword
Sword Master #1 – Cover by Gunji

Also spinning out of War of the Realms is the Frank Castle-starring mini-series Punisher Kill Krew by Gerry Duggan and Juan Ferreyra.

Mark Waid had two new mini-series in July. Waid and Javier Rodriguez started laying out the newest updated version of Marvel canon in History of the Marvel Universe #1. Apparently every Marvel hero with a military backstory who wasn’t in World War II now instead served in a long-running and entirely fictional war in an entirely fictional southeast Asian country. Also, and more importantly, Mystique and Destiny have finally actually kissed on-page.

Meanwhile, Invisible Woman #1 by Mark Waid and Mattia De Iulis is Sue Storm’s first ever solo series, which is completely ridiculous considering how long she’s been around. Also completely ridiculous: Sue’s first solo series has an entirely male creative team.

Captain Marvel looking badass
Fearless #1 – Cover by Yasmine Putri

But Mark Waid is not the only one writing Sue Storm right now. In Fearless #1 Seanan McGuire and Claire Roe are bringing Captain Marvel, Storm, and the Invisible Woman together for what’s looking to be a rather fun story. Besides the main story by McGuire and Roe, Fearless #1 also features a Millie the Model story by Leah Williams and Nina Vakueva, and a completely hilarious short by Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero starring Elsa Bloodstone and Jessica Jones.

The Fearless mini-series is notable for having an entirely female creative team, and an entirely female editorial team. If it weren’t for the tiny, inconvenient fact that Marvel’s Editor in Chief, Chief Creative Officer, President, and Executive Producer are all men, there wouldn’t be a single man listed anywhere on the credits page.

July also brought the first issue of the delightfully weird Death’s Head by Tini Howard and Kei Zama, and the latest Star Wars mini-series, Star Wars: Target Vader by Robbie Thompson and Marc Laming.

And of course Jonathan Hickman’s reboot of the X-Men line began in July with House of X #1 by Hickman and Pepe Larraz and Powers of X #1 by Hickman and R. B. Silva.

Some Endings are More Permanent Than Others

Marvel concluded six series in July, but four of them will be coming back with new names or creative teams within the next few months.

July’s Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #10 by Seanan McGuire and Takeshi Miyazawa was immediately followed by August’s Ghost-Spider #1 from the same creative team.

Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men finally wrapped up with issues #21 and 22 in July, as well as Ed Brisson and Dylan Burnett’s X-Force, but really those have both been zombie series since Jonathan Hickman’s line-wide X-Men reboot was first announced. Once House of X and Powers of X have concluded, a new X-Men #1 by Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu will be out in October, and Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s new X-Force #1 will be out in November.

Skottie Young and Nic Klein’s run on Deadpool was short, but the Merc with a Mouth will also be back in November in a new series by Kelly Thompson and Chris Bachalo that I’m incredibly excited about, for all that I’m kind of allergic to Deadpool in large doses and so probably won’t actually read it. I’m only a small-doses girl when it comes to Deadpool, but I honestly cannot think of two creators more perfect to team-up on his ongoing series than Thompson and Bachalo and I hope the series is a resounding success. Plus, with Thompson writing the stories, there’s a good chance it will be even more queer than your average Deadpool series.

Deadpool, with dozens of weapons coming at him, says "don’t worry, i’ve got this"
Deadpool #15 – Cover by Nic Klein

Two series that don’t appear to be coming back soon are Shuri by Nnedi Okorafor and Rachael Slott and The Unstoppable Wasp by Jeremy Whitley and Gurihiru. Okorafor has other writing commitments and Marvel has decided not to continue the book without her, and The Unstoppable Wasp once again failed to find a large enough audience to really break through.

The last two Age of X-Man miniseries ended in July with Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #5 by Vita Ayala and German Peralta and Age of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #5 by Tim Seeley and Salva Espin. Age of X-Man will perhaps go down in comics history as the X-Men event everyone forgot about before it was even over. I honestly feel bad for all the creators involved.

Three other miniseries ended in July as well: Marvel Rising by Nilah Magruder and Roberto Di Salvo, Age of Conan: Bêlit by Tini Howard and Kate Niemczyk, and Domino: Hotshots by Gail Simone and David Baldeon.

The Special That Never Was

When Marvel’s July solicitations were released back in April, one item stood out. Marvel Summer Special #1 promised to be a “a throwback to the knockout ’90s!”, which is to say, a new version of the classic early-’90s Marvel Swimsuit Special. There were no creators named in the solicitation, but the Ron Lim cover looked delightful.

Thing and Kate Bishop play a pool game against She-Hulk and Deadpool
Marvel Summer Special #1 – Solicited Cover by Ron Lim

And then, only a month after promising us such shameless fan-service, Marvel took it away again, pulling the issue with no explanation or indication if any of the content created for it will ever see the light of day.

And that is a tragedy.

Slap a Tag Line on it and Call it an Event

When is an Event not an Event? When it’s a bunch of random unrelated Annuals with nothing in common but a vague theme and the words “Acts of Evil” emblazoned on the covers.

She-Hulk vs. Bullseye
She-Hulk Annual #1 – Cover by Mika Andolfo

The conceit of the Acts of Evil “Event” is that they’re Annuals where heroes face off against random villains they would typically never fight, but in the last fifty years Marvel have done that exact thing in so many actual monthly comics and Event series that there’s nothing novel about the concept.

Still, some of them look like fun. July’s Ms. Marvel Annual #1 by Magdalene Visaggio and Jon Lam, in which Ms. Marvel faced off against the Super-Skrull, turned out to be kind of terrible, but I still hold out hope for Alexandra Petri and Andy MacDonald’s She-Hulk Annual #1, in which Jennifer Walters faces off against Bullseye, and Jody Houser and Geraldo Borges’s Wolverine Annual #1 which pits Wolverine against Morgan le Fay.

Okay, I Give Up

My confusion over whether or not the various Acts of Evil Annuals would have anything in common is understandable, considering Marvel’s continued insistence on publishing mini-series in which every single issue is labeled #1.

July’s Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Sun #1 by Peter David and Francesco Manna is the first of a three-issue mini-series, to be followed by Silver Surfer: The Prodigal Sun #1 in August and Guardians of the Galaxy: The Prodigal Sun #1 in September.

A hybrid Tony Stark/Thor standing amid rubble with the sky burning behind him
Secret Warps: Iron Hammer Annual #1 – Cover by Carlos Gomez and Edgar Delgado

And to add to the confusion, the Warp World introduced in the Infinity Wars Event returned in July for a weekly series of Annuals, only these ones actually were part of the same story. Secret Warps: Soldier Supreme Annual #1, Secret Warps: Weapon Hex Annual #1, Secret Warps: Ghost-Panther Annual #1, Secret Warps: Arachknight Annual #1, and Secret Warps: Iron Hammer Annual #1 all feature an overarching story by Al Ewing with art duties split between Carlos Gomez and Carlos Villa. Plus there’s a bonus one-shot by a different creative team, including a Soldier Supreme story by Mark Waid and Alex Lins and a Ghost Panther story by Daniel Kibblesmith, writer of the new Loki series, with artist Ig Guara.

One More Event of Summer

Summer is Event Comics season, and Marvel have one more for us before the summer’s over: Absolute Carnage by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman.

A sadistic serial killer bonded with the symbiote offspring of Venom, Cletus Kasady is one of the Marvel Universe’s most lethal and irredeemable villains. He’s also more of a non-stop body horror trope than even Venom, which is to say, 1000% not my thing at all.

Captain Marvel vs. an evil red tentacled cat
Absolute Carnage: Captain Marvel #1 – Cover by David Nakayama

That said, Marvel have managed to produce one Absolute Carnage one-shot I want to read: Absolute Carnage: Captain Marvel #1 by Emily Ryan Lerner and Andrea Broccardo in which Carol Danvers has to fight the “Carnagized” version of her already-dangerous alien cat, Chewie.

Cates and Stegman’s five issue Absolute Carnage mini-series will be joined by four three-issue series: Absolute Carnage Vs. Deadpool by Frank Tieri and Marcelo Ferreira, Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors by Frank Tieri and Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales by Saladin Ahmed and Federico Vincentini, and Absolute Carnage: Scream by Cullen Bunn and Gerardo Sandoval. There will also be a variety of one-shots including the aformentioned Captain Marvel one-shot, Absolute Carnage: Avengers by Leah Williams and Salvador Larroca, and the fabulously titled Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance by Ed Brisson and Juan Frigeri.


Fearless #1

Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Carmen Carnero (artist), Janice Chiang (letterer), Seanan McGuire (writer), Claire Roe (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Kelly Thompson (writer), Nina Vakueva (color artist), Leah Williams (writer), Stacie Zucker (design)
July 24, 2019

Captain Marvel looking badass
Fearless #1 – Cover by Yasmine Putri

In a step up from years of “The Women of Marvel” panels at cons, we’ve now advanced to the women of Marvel mini-series. The first issue in a four-issue mini-series, Fearless #1 has an entirely female creative team, and an entirely female editorial team. And, to the shock of probably absolutely no one who reads this site, it’s a pretty great comic because the women of Marvel are really talented.

The issue opens with the first part of “Campfire Song” by Seanan McGuire, Claire Roe, and Rachelle Rosenberg, in which Carol Danvers, Sue Storm, and the X-Man Storm are all separately preparing to give keynote speeches at a leadership conference at a girls’ camp. It’s hard to tell precisely where the story is headed at this point, but McGuire writes all three characters well, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she writes them all together. There’s a lot to love about Roe’s art, with clean lines and interesting layouts, but at times I find the characters’ faces a little too three-dimensional. It reminds me of computer animation and lands in the Uncanny Valley. And I’m really not fond of how she draws Sue Storm.

Leah Williams, Nina Vakueva, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s “Style High Club” is a Millie the Model story, which is something I am completely delighted to see in 2019. Once one of Marvel’s most popular humor series, Millie the Model ran for 207 issues between 1945 and 1973 before basically dropping off the face of the planet except for a handful of appearances every decade or so.

“Style High Club” is a frothy, lightweight delight. The story is sweet, funny, and low-stakes; in just eleven pages it introduced the distinctive characters, made me care about them, and got me to smile. Nina Vakueva’s art is fresh and light, but grounded in solid layouts and great details of movement and clothing, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s colours add an almost airbrushed soft-focus feel that’s perfect for the subject.

Rosenberg’s colouring on “Campfire Song” is good without standing out, but the depth of detail she brings to the colour work on “Style High Club” is incredible. From hazy backgrounds to model-perfect makeup to the perfect reflected glow of stage lights, every panel just shines.

The issue closes out with a completely hilarious three-page story, “Unusual Suspects” by Kelly Thompson, Carmen Carnero, and Tamra Bonvillain. Carnero and Bonvillain’s perfect, just slightly over-the-top noir-style art and colours totally sell the story and make the last-page reveal even more delightful.

Death’s Head #1

Tini Howard (writer), Travis Lanham (letterer), Felipe Sobreiro (colorist), Kei Zama (artist)
July 31, 2019

An 80s-style cyborg playing death metal
Death’s Head #1 – Cover by Nick Roche and Felipe Sobreiro

I finished Death’s Head #1, set it down, and said, “I have absolutely no idea what I just read, but it was a fucking delight!” And I stand by that assessment. As someone with absolutely zero previous knowledge of Death’s Head, I spent probably half of this issue flipping back and forth going, “wait, what now?”

Death’s Head is an android intergalactic bounty hunter from an alternate future timeline. Due to an employment dispute he gets thrown into a “displacement chamber” and ends up powered down and in pieces in a dumpster on earth. When he powers back up and discovers he is now being used as an amp for a punk band, he is less than impressed. Fortunately, Young Avengers Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman are at the show, and Billy ends up teleporting a once-again depowered Death’s Head to their apartment bathroom.

And that’s the straightforward bit of the story. From there things get really weird.

Kei Zama and Felipe Sobreiro’s art is as discordant and jarring as the story itself. I think in a different story I might find Zama’s art over-exaggerated and Sobreiro’s colour story off-putting, but that’s actually what makes them work so perfectly for this particular story. Death’s Head is a discordant and jarring character. He’s an amp at a punk show. He’s distorted feedback over the normal background music of the Marvel Universe. Everything about Zama and Sobreiro’s art and Tini Howard’s writing emphasizes the ways Death’s Head doesn’t fit into the world we expect to be reading about.

I still have absolutely no idea what I read, but I’m definitely sticking around for part two.

Loki #1

Oscar Bazaldua (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), David Curiel (color artist), Daniel Kibblesmith (writer)
July 17, 2019

Loki walks across the Rainbow Bridge, swinging Mjolnir
Loki #1 – Cover by Ozgur Yiildirim

In the aftermath of War of the Realms, charming trickster anti-hero Loki is back. Which I love, because charming trickster anti-hero Loki is absolutely my favourite Loki; as a straight-up villain I find him terribly boring.

Fortunately, Daniel Kibblesmith seems to share my taste in Lokis.

This book owes a lot in tone and characterization to Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery, as does any comic about Loki written this decade, but I’m also reminded of Loki as the God of Stories in Al Ewing’s sadly underappreciated Loki: Agent of Asgard. Like Gillen and Ewing, Kibblesmith seems to have a good handle on Loki’s chaotic trickster energy, and so far I’m really enjoying his take on Loki and Thor’s relationship. Also, it’s possible he wrote this entire issue as an excuse to make a really terrible Frosty the Snowman joke, and really that’s the kind of writer Loki deserves.

Bazaldua and Curiel’s art is a bit less to my tastes. It’s teetering on the edge of the Uncanny Valley a bit; everything’s a little too glossy, a little too perfectly defined, both too real and too clearly fake at the same time. Especially during the climactic battle with Nightmare, the colours are so oversaturated that they obscure the details of the linework. I’ve enjoyed Bazaldua’s art in the past, so hopefully the art will become more to my tastes as he settles into the book and he and Curiel settle into working together.

Cat Meier

Cat Meier

Cat is a queer, poly fangirl. She is an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, comics, queer and/or historical romance novels, and fanfic. An American import to Canada, Cat is working on becoming as Canadian as possible under the circumstances.