We’re deep into the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe, yet the publisher still has a couple of new series and crossovers to launch. This week, we’re examining the prelude to the Avengers crossover, Welcome to Pleasant Hill, and the reboot of Power Man and Iron Fist. These stories couldn’t be more different in nature– a huge event juxtaposed with a street level Defenders adventure. Without further ado, let’s kick off this week’s installment of the Marvel Rundown.
Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1
Writer: Nick Spencer Penciler: Mark Bagley Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Paul Mounts Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Have you ever eaten a delicious piece of meat and have had no idea what it actually was until you finished the meal? That’s what reading Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 feels like.
This issue is quite the departure in tone and story from the current slate of Avengers books. In fact, this comic takes a lot of risks from the opening pages that wouldn’t have the same effect if they were spoiled, so I’ll leave them out of this review. Marvel’s marketing strategy for the series should give some clues to what this comic is going to be about, and longtime fans might even glean some information from the title. Ultimately though, the less you know going into this story, the better. That said, I love the suspense Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley evoke throughout the pages of this book. Shades of ‘60s intrigue are constantly oozing from the background, and the whole thing is held together by an intriguing mystery. As writer, Spencer has chosen his point of entry for this miniseries very wisely. Because Pleasant Hill has some distance in continuity from the end of Secret Wars, it’s given invaluable room to breathe and find its own core.
Mark Bagley can be really polarizing as an artist depending on the project, but this is the most fitting project he’s worked on at Marvel in a while. Unfortunately, saying much more than that will spoil the comic as well– for now, I would like to mention that Spencer and Bagley seem to really understand the tone for the story they are trying to tell. Panels in the action scenes towards the beginning are purposefully muddy to the point where it’s hard for me to decode what is actually happening in the comic. That would be a bad thing anywhere but here. Even if you don’t appreciate that kind of oblique storytelling style, the aforementioned action scene is pretty distinctly separated from the rest of the issue.
Unfortunately, as good as Pleasant Hill‘s debut issue is, it’s ultimately going to be ancillary reading, as it serves as something of a lead in to Marvel’s next full-scale event. Plus, despite being marketed as an Avengers title, there aren’t many Avengers in this comic. Only one of them actually appears in the whole first issue! Still though, if you like good experimental superhero comics, you should definitely give the book a chance. It’ll definitely catch you by surprise…assuming Marvel’s promotional team doesn’t spoil it for you first.
Verdict: Nick Spencer cooked up something really clever here, come have a taste!
Power Man and Iron Fist #1
Writer: David Walker Artist: Sanford Greene
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge Letters & Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles
It’s been a long time since fans have seen a good comic with only Iron Fist and Power Man. Could this comic break the curse and find a compelling way to present these two characters together?
So many new Marvel books display a complete irreverence for established canon, going in and changing every character trait their heroes ever had– sometimes even turning back the clock and making them hapless rookies again! Thus, I’m happy to report that in Power Man and Iron Fist #1, writer David Walker portrays Luke and Danny like the grizzled vets they are. He’s really built off some of the history that Brian Michael Bendis established for both of them, keeping important character elements like Luke Cage’s family intact. I’m not sure I would have wanted to read a Luke Cage comic that erased his family from the canon, as that element makes him standout from a variety of heroes who are otherwise quite similar to him. Luke’s family gives him emotional charge and depth that Walker deftly brings to the fore in this issue.
Throughout the Marvel Rundown, I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I was afraid to read this comic because of it’s crazy art direction…boy was acting like a fool. Sanford Greene adds an incomprehensible amount to this issue. His wild and expressive figure work makes every moment more energetic and emotional. At a glance, you could lump this book in with the current Moss family of titles with series like Squirrel Girl, but unlike some of those series, Power Man and Iron Fist seems to have a stronger and more distinctive tone that is defined by Greene’s ability to portray a variety of interesting facial expressions.
This is a story about two down-on-their luck heroes just trying to do one last thing before they get out of the game. It’s a story told exceptionally well, and the best part of all is that it has real emotional stakes. When our heroes learn what’s going on with the villains of this story, real drama is going to transpire.
Verdict: I love the fact that I’m adding a book with Luke Cage and Danny Rand to the pull list and that you will be too!
That’s two of the best books in The All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe this week– I should be so lucky. Next week we’re going to be checking in on some of the books into later issues, be there!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics