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Last year’s Next Big Thing panel was enormous, heralding the return of Jonathan Hickman to Marvel. This year’s panel at C2E2 was a little light in the announcements department, but was still a ton of fun.

In attendance were moderator and editor-in-chief C.B. CebulskiSkottie Young (Strange Academy), Tom BrevoortAl Ewing (Immortal Hulk), Nick Spencer (Amazing Spider-Man), and Donny Cates (Venom, Thor).

As is customary at this point, there was some heated discussion between the merits of Chicago’s own deep-dish pizza versus New York-style pizza. A video was shown featuring Marvel editorial and talent giving their own opinions to either the pleasure or anger of the crowd depending on their choice. Cates chose New York-style in the video which was met with some boos, but he claimed he prefers deep dish while in Chicago, which satisfied the crowd for now.

Cebulski then dove right into what’s coming up in Marvel’s release schedule.

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Immortal Hulk #33 by Ewing, Joe Bennett, and Nick Pitarra is actually Hulk #750, which features forty pages of story. Thirty of those are by Bennett, and ten are by Pitarra. Ewing teased that body horror is coming back to the book in a big way, and that he finally thinks he’s going to make readers vomit this time.

In issue #34, the Leader finally makes his return to the world of the Hulk. The last time we saw him was in issue #25 where he received a message from the future about Hulk, Breaker of Worlds. This issue will examine the Leader’s relationship with the Green Door.

Cebulski asked Ewing about the Alex Ross covers featured in his run. Ross’ covers tend to reflect what actually happens in the story, so does Ewing give Ross ideas of what’s going to happen down the road since these covers are done ahead of time? Ewing said that he has a road map of where the Hulk story will go but it’s not set in stone. Usually, some stories are in concrete shape when he has to give Ross a cover prompt.

Hulk #37

Finally, in issue #37, Del Fry finally comes out of the tube.

Cebulski turned to Cates, asking him about his run on Thor. Cates said that Thor is now King of Asgard, and as is the case for all kings, he’s learned that the job is terrible and you can’t make friends while trying to rule a kingdom. In other words, you have to be a jerk. In his research for Thor, he found a black hole in the Marvel Universe; we know that Galactus is the last remaining survivor from the old universe, but we don’t know what killed it. That’s how he came up with the idea of the Black Winter.

Cates said that the crown gave Thor leverage to make grand mistakes, and that he’ll need to go against his friends in order to make the right choices as king.

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Nic Klein’s art was then brought up; he’s the artist on the series, and he turns in layouts where he pencils the entire issue and fully letters it. They end up using his placements and designs; Cates said when you find a partner that great, you have to let him off the leash.

Cates ended his speech by saying that the elements he’s layering into the story will be paid off years down the road. He teased that something in Asgard, in fate, is broken and that there is something very, very wrong with Mjolnir.

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Cebulski lightly touched on Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ run on Black Panther, which will end with June’s issue #25.

Attention was then turned to Young and his then-upcoming title, Strange Academy; we at The Beat loved it. Young described the children who feature in the book as kids with roots in the Marvel Universe, but they’re all brand-new characters. He wanted to set it in the French Quarter of New Orleans because it has a really deep history of magic, mystery, and the dark arts which also lent to the freshness of the story. Young’s aim with the story was to showcase kids learning outside-the-box thinking while also learning about who and what they are, and what they’re capable of.

The series focuses on Emily Bright. She’s from the Midwest and has had a connection to magic since she was a baby. She sees Doctor Strange on television which prompts her to write a letter to him asking for help.

Spencer’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man then became the focus. Spencer promised that readers will soon find out why Kingpin is going after Boomerang, as well as what the deal is with Kindred. He’s been teased since the first issue but with issue #44, Spider-Man and Kindred will come face-to-face.

Spencer thanked everyone for supporting the book, but noticed that every reader asks him who Kindred is; they never ask him what Kindred wants. Whatever it is will change Spider-Man’s life.

Kindred isn’t the only villain Spider-Man will face shortly; Sin-Eater is back and will force Spider-Man to make impossible choices. Issue #850 has a twist that nobody will see coming, apparently.

It was then Cates’ turn again, as his run on Venom was discussed. Cates said that issue #25 is the conclusion to the “Venom Island” story he’s been doing with Mark Bagley where they’ve been torturing Eddie Brock. He said that this is the end of Phase One of his run, saying goodbye to older stories and beginning a lot of new, exciting things.

In issue #26, readers will meet a new character in Virus. He may or may not have a history with Eddie, but he’s someone who is out for Eddie’s heart: his son Dylan. The issue also reveals the Maker’s plans, his big, final plan. Perhaps… an Ultimate Plan?

Cates’ story in the Free Comic Book Day issue depicts Eddie returning from Venom Island, looking worse for the wear.

Ewing’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy was then discussed. Ewing said that the fallout of issue #2 will be felt throughout the next few issues. In issue #3, the Guardians will split into two teams: the Guardians as they appeared at the end of issue #1, and the West Coast Guardians. In issue #5, the 616 version of Moondragon returns, and issue #6 focuses on Nova, who isn’t doing too well.

The panel was capped off with a surprise appearance by Kyle Higgins (Power Rangers), where he and Cebulski announced that Ultraman is coming to Marvel. Higgins promised the series will feature everything people love about superheroes and gigantic monsters.

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And thus concluded the panel! Marvel definitely has an exciting year ahead for its characters and I’m looking forward to finally learning who the hell Kindred is. Thanks for reading!

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