Marvel’s Fresh Start officially kicks off on May 2 with Avengers #1, meaning we’re only a month and change away from the publisher’s latest overhaul and numbering switch. With the launch coming soon, readers now have a much better idea of what kinds of comics they are going to be reading from The House of Ideas in 2018. But what is the overall creative direction for those comics?
For the most part, each aspect of the launch seemed to be business-as-usual until the debut of Marvel’s new Fantastic Four series.
Marvel’s First Family makes a triumphant return to publishing!
Marvel’s self-proclaimed First Family has been missing for years, but on Thursday, Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski announced the brand new series featuring writing from Dan Slott and art from Sara Pichelli. This change felt like the first time in a long time Marvel fans had positively reacted to some of the announcements from the publisher. Slott has already proven he’s had a strong handle on the Marvel heroes, writing them in various other series in the past couple of years. Artist Sara Pichelli is one of the most expressive and creative artists currently in Marvel’s list of talent.
Having an announcement received as triumphant for Marvel’s publishing line is definitely worthy of praise. It’s a strong and assertive move that shows ‘A Fresh Start’ could be a sign of a new Marvel.
The new incarnation of Fantastic Four is far out from the shelves, only featuring a tentative August release date, but starting the journey to Fantastic Four with the Chip Zdarsky and Jim Cheung Marvel Two-in-Series was a clever move for the publisher, proving long-term planning in such a manner can pay off over time. For once an in a long while, it seems the House of Ideas has found a longterm direction.
Fight a safe publishing agenda.
What about the 13 other series in Marvel’s publishing line? In case you weren’t caught up to speed on the new publishing direction, Marvel has chosen to take their core Trinity of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man and take them largely back-to-basics. Steve Rogers is Captain America, Tony Stark is Iron Man and the Odinson is Thor, making this the meat-and-potatoes relaunch readers have been requesting. If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking: “maybe the wrong readers are being listened to here.” Some moves like this are much harder to commend the publisher for even if certain fans were asking for them. For example, taking the Thor mantle away from Jane Foster and giving it back to the Odinson is the most difficult pill to swallow in all of Marvel’s ‘A Fresh Start’. It’ll be a challenge that the incredibly creative team of Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo has to overcome as Thor begins again.
Even though the publisher started off on the right foot following the public relations disaster of Secret Empire with Mark Waid’s and Chris Samnee’s incredibly pleasant and endearing story arc, Captain America has a long road to redemption. Hopefully, political commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates and Marvel veteran Leinil Yu can invigorate the hero with a sense of direction I feel Coates is capable of, but hasn’t managed to deliver in his Black Panther run.
Tony Stark is a hero few writers have been able to get a solid grip on in the past couple years, resulting in his sudden death during Civil War II. Writer Dan Slott is tackling him now, but it’s unfortunate that Marvel didn’t properly take the time to explore some of the bold ideas they recently introduced to the Iron Man character such as giving Doctor Doom the armor. Thankfully no matter where Slott takes Tony, Tony: Stark Iron Man artist Valerio Schiti will make sure the title will look gorgeous.
If any Marvel writer is able to decode the enigma of the Hulk, Al Ewing is that writer. He’s a phenomenal choice with Joe Bennett being a solid collaborator. Bruce Banner is back as The Immortal Hulk, kicking Amadeus Cho off and continuing to propagate “Fresh Start” as a more meat-and-potatoes relaunch. Taking Banner back to his days of existential crisis is a limiting concept and thus a tough one to get behind, but Ewing’s name alone makes the title worth a look.
Is The Amazing Spider-Man going to be great again?
The next cornerstone of the line I would be remiss if we didn’t cover in some form or function would have to be Nick Spencer’s and Ryan Ottley’s The Amazing Spider-Man. If the past couple of years of Marvel could be washed away and Secret Empire could be forgotten, I would have been excited by this announcement as Spencer’s work in Superior Foes of Spider-Man proved the creator could possibly be the right fit for The Amazing Spider-Man– however, we live in a post-Secret Empire world. Nick Spencer has a very public opportunity to try and redeem himself on one of the biggest titles currently being published at Marvel and he’ll need to do a lot to prove himself. I hope he and Ottley really take the time to deliver quality stories that bring Peter Parker outside of the comfortable icon status he’s achieved and into a more relatable, simple place.
One of the far less difficult gambles for Marvel, creatively, is Doctor Strange’s new ongoing series from Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz– both creators are excellent at their craft and have been turning in excellent work. I see no reason why a Doctor Strange ongoing would be an exception to the rule.
I also expect nothing less than quality from the Ant-Man and the Wasp mini-series.
While we are talking about the rest of Marvel’s oddballs, the biggest ‘WTF’ announcement is The Sentry from Jeff Lemire and Kim Jacinto. This idea has been tried again and again and I would love for Marvel to find some angle to get it to work, but much like the majority of what they are publishing right now, I’m just not sure if this is the right idea for the time.
Infinite infinity wars!
Marvel’s busy couple months don’t end with their “Fresh Start” relaunch. The publisher’s next big event, Infinity Wars, kicks off in July with Infinity Wars: Prime #1. Thus far, the event storyline has had a wild, nonsensical sense of humor combined with earth-shattering moments in Infinity Countdown. With the publisher has seeded the story in an assortment of different comics as well, I definitely expect the payoff to the fun we’ve already been having when the series debuts in July. It is disappointing to see so many heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe littering the teaser image the publisher debuted as readers are already getting an Infinity War on the big screen and could use something different when it comes to the publishing line. Hopefully, the masked character and inclusion of the newly reborn Adam Warlock are the first of many oddballs we can expect to see in the story.
When it comes to the Infinity Gems, I don’t know that readers have gotten the chance to see anything involving the gems go much further than Thanos, so this is writer Gerry Duggan’s huge chance to show readers what lies beyond and hopefully widen the scope of Marvel’s Universe in a way we haven’t seen outside the Guardians of the Galaxy in the last couple of years. There is massive potential for the overall tone and direction of the title which has already driven straight into less explored characters like Kang the Conqueror and the aforementioned Warlock. Even with the enjoyable dedication to exploring the weird, I can only hope Duggan and Deodato are reminded to keep the focus needed when the actual event debuts.
A fresh start. More of the same.
At the end of the day, I can’t help but miss the insanity of Marvel NOW!’s absurd and strange ambitions and dedication to putting some of the strangest heroes in all of Marvel’s roster to their own series ala Ironheart, America, Hawkeye, and Iceman.
While we’re on the topic of those canceled books, have you noticed we have been talking about a bunch of white guys too or it just me? Out of over a dozen series currently announced, Marvel has less than a handful of female creators working on the titles and even fewer female heroes at the forefront of the line, which is a big part of some of the criticism currently being lobbed at them. I can only hope titles from Christina Strain, Kelly Thompson, and Chelsea Cain are coming soon.