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A Medley of Marvellous Marvel Comics

I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of reading flimsies for a number of titles and, since that puts in the position of getting a number of Issue 1s, I’ve decided to start giving some advice out about what to look out for in your local comics shop. This first post will cover a number of Marvel titles, followed next week by a DC & Dark Horse post and a graphic novel review or two. So without further preamble… under fold, Black Widow #1; Loki: Agent of Asgard #1; Magneto #1; Moon Knight #1; Ms Marvel #1; Winter Soldier #1 and more besides!Avengers Undercover #1 (Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker, Jean-Francois Beaulieu)

After the success of the Hunger Games, Marvel introduced Avengers Arena – somewhere between the Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Unfortunately, I’ve not read that series. Even more unfortunately, this series follows on from it in the most clunky way; “some time later” combines with appalling depictions of PTSD and stress-based responses, and a set of brutally annoying characters, to give us a cast we thoroughly don’t care about. Whilst the art is good, it’s let down by the writing, and that, for this reader, is a real problem.

Black Widow #1 (Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto)

Black Widow is a character it is very easy to get wrong; over-sexualised, under-characterised, or with stories that are less interested in her than the men around her. Edmondson manages to avoid these traps, but in favour of another one; a six-page mission, followed by a two-page interlude and another, unrelated nine-page mission and ending with three pages of epilogue, it feels like the comic is searching around for its soul. The two missions are both terribly action-oriented, missing the point that Natasha Romanova is a superspy; and they don’t go anywhere. As a first issue, I’ve got no reason to pick up, and no interest in picking up, the second; there doesn’t seem to be any arc to get interested in.

Captain Marvel #1 (Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez)

Captain Marvel has, over DeConnick’s run, gone through the wars in a truly brutal way. She’s also found some magnificent allies, and lost her memories… that’s where this issue picks up her story. Captain Marvel and her amazing sidekid Lieutenant Trouble are still dealing with the aftermath of previous events, including everyone’s concern about Carol Danvers’ abilities and stability; this combines with a very human characterisation to give us some of the best comics writing I’ve ever read as DeConnick goes from strength to strength, moving from brilliant idea to brilliant idea by way of stunning writing. Plus of course, Lt Trouble is absolutely brilliant, and impossible not to love! If you’re not reading Captain Marvel, you’re missing out on possibly the best comic of the day!

All-New Invaders #1 (James Robinson, Steve Pugh, Guru-eFX)

The Invaders were Marvel’s war heroes; Captain America and Bucky Barnes, the Human Torch and Toro, and Namor. Now, something is drawing them all back together, and this opening issue manages to excellently do exactly that; it sets up the further events of the series whilst also itself being a compelling piece of writing, with chronological and geographical variance, fascinating characterisation especially of Jim Hammond, and what looks to develop as a double-chronology, one in the present and one in WW2. Fantastic work!

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 (Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Nolan Woodard)

Loki is, since Tom Hiddleston’s performances in Avengers and Thor 2: The Dark World, one of the most popular and heart-throb characters of the Marvel Universe. As a result, he’s gotten his own title; and on the first page, he stabs Thor through the heart. It’s a brilliant opening to a wonderful issue; jumping around chronologically, setting up what looks to be an incredible arc flowing through playing with comics history and the Marvel canon, Ewing keeps the reader on their toes, and makes Loki a charismatic, fun character. There’s ideas of narrative as power, of the importance of story, of the role of Trickster… and much more; the whole becomes a beautiful opening issue whose followup I picked up the day it came out.

Magneto #1 (Cullen Bunn, Gabriel Hernandez Walta)

Magneto is a hard character to get a hold on; he’s become increasingly complicated over the years, from a relatively simple villain through all the way to joining the heroic mutants on the X-Men team, before returning to mutant supremacist politics. In this, his solo title, Erik Lensher is a vigilante-style character, with some fascinatingly well-written introspection. However, much of it feels like introspection we’ve seen before, largely from Wolverine; and whilst the antiheroic Magneto has the potential to grow in fascinating directions, this is not a comic I feel the need to keep following month-on-month.

Moon Knight #1 (Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey)

Warren Ellis. Writing a rebooted Moon Knight. Honestly, there’s an extent to which I don’t actually need to add more to this; inevitably Moon Knight is a fantastic vehicle for Ellis’ political bent, whilst also providing an outlet for his crime fiction predilection on display in works such as Gun Machine and Gravel. The chronology and cosmology of Ellis’ Moon Knight are dipped into, tasters for the reader which will presumably be unfolded in future issues, whilst the artwork makes wonderful use of the brilliant white of Moon Knight’s costume against gloomy backgrounds; he stands out beautifully from the pages around him, as Ellis’ writing makes him stand out from the world. Brilliant writing, and I urgently desire the next instalment!

Ms Marvel #1 (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring)

The new Muslim Ms Marvel created by Wilson is a character we get a very strong handle on in this first issue. Fan-fiction writing (about the Avengers. Yes, in the MarvelU, there is Avengers fanfic), devout Muslim, coming from a strong family displaying a variety of Muslim life, idolising Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel… Kamala is a fantastically written character, and this issue is little more than a study in that character, the origin story of the new Ms Marvel; Wilson chooses to allow her story to unfold slowly, this whole issue setting up Kamala’s family and her life, and give her the powers of Ms Marvel. I look forward to #2 next week!

Secret Avengers #1 (Ales Kot, Michael Walsh, Matthew Wilson)

Secret Avengers continues to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it series. The attempt at spy-thriller action continues to be very patchy, the refusal to actually tell a story in favour of telling bits that slowly theoretically build up into a complete work remains frustrating, and the overwhelming desire – through Agent Coulson and Nick Fury Jr – to tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including renaming War Machine Iron Patriot!) all really get in the way of actually good-quality story-telling. The fact is that Secret Avengers has great potential, and has in the past had some fantastic moments (Warren Ellis’ run, for instance), but this iteration remains… subpar and eminently avoidable.

Winter Soldier #1 (Rick Remender, Roland Bosch, Chris Chuckry)

The Winter Soldier is, of course, best known from Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run, specifically #1-7, and the upcoming film based on that run, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Remender’s title aims to fill in some of the time between 1945 and Brubaker’s run; we follow two S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents on a recovery mission that rapidly goes awry, as the Winter Soldier intercepts them and makes life… difficult. The noirish style (emphasised by the cover) and the rather 1960s sensibilities of the art are presumably intentional, drawing on the setting of the comic; however, as a whole the comic simply draws out too long, setting up a story without itself being a story, and getting too wrapped up in its faux-1960s stylings. After a few raves, it is sad to say, I am ending on a review that can be summarised with a bit of a meh.

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