This week’s Marvel Rundown is ringing in the new year with some new beginnings. First, for the first time in nearly a decade, the writing reins for the god of thunder are in new hands. Donny Cates and artists Nic Klein and Matthew Wilson have taken over the ongoing adventures of Thor following writer Jason Aaron‘s landmark run. Does their first issue bode well for the future of the new Allfather?

Next, Clint Barton is back in a new solo adventure, and he’s taking on a new iteration of an identity he originated: Ronin! Does the avenging archer’s newest outing, Hawkeye: Freefall #1, hit the bullseye?

Then, the period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is explored in the newly-relaunched Star Wars ongoing series! After the overwhelming success of the initial series, can Marvel strike gold again?

We’ve got reviews and discussion for those titles, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new releases from the House of Ideas, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Thor #1
Thor #1

Thor #1

Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Nic Klein
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Olivier Coipel

Joe Grunenwald: The god of thunder is now the king of Asgard! The new creative team of Donny Cates, Nic Klein, and Matthew Wilson are here to make their mark on Thor. Friends, what did you think of their first issue on the series?

Samantha Puc: This left me so cold.

Chloe Maveal: To summarize, I got to the end and said “Huh. Yup. That was a Thor comic.” I think the most exciting part was the colors from Matthew Wilson to honest.

Puc: Wilson’s colors are fantastic as usual, and I liked Nic Klein’s art, but the writing not so much.

Maveal: We’re of the same mindset here, Sam.

Puc: Joe, what did you think?

Grunenwald: This book felt kind of scattered to me. It’s hard to come onto a title following a run as long and lauded as Jason Aaron and his various artistic collaborators’ was. I think, in the shadow of that run, Cates, Klein, and co. acquitted themselves as well as they could. The first handful of pages felt like a tonal continuation of Aaron’s run. And then Galactus came crashing into Asgard and it became absolutely a Donny Cates comic, at least in my mind.

Puc: My frustration is that this first issue read very much like Cates was telling me the story and not showing me — which is a feat, considering that comics is primarily a visual medium. And maybe this is just me, but his letter at the end turned me off even more.

Grunenwald: Oh yeah, it’s exposition city in this issue.

Maveal: That’s the vibe I got, too, Joe. Everything urgent and extreme seems jarring and unnecessary. And I agree with you as well, Sam. There was a LOT of exposition and little visual impact from it.

Hussein Wasiti:: Just jumping in, but this is another one of those “Blank is Coming” debut issues from Cates. Knull in his Venom series, and now this Black Winter business.

Grunenwald: I appreciate the creative team bringing in characters like Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and others from the larger Marvel U. Thor has felt somewhat siloed off for a few years, which worked great for the stories Aaron and Co. were telling, but I respect that Cates is doing his own thing. I agree with you, Hussein (welcome to the Rundown, by the way!), that it’s very much in the mold of previous Cates stories.

Wasiti: Glad to be here! This also feels more like a continuation of Cates’ previous cosmic stuff like Cosmic Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer: Black and less like a proper debut of a brand-new story. That black gunk killing the World Tree is definitely falling into the symbiote/black void stuff I’ve been reading for a nearly two years at this point.

Puc: I went into this issue ready for a new take on Thor and a new era for the character but… yeah. This just kind of flops.

Grunenwald: I’m very hot and cold on the Donny Cates comics I’ve read at this point. I really enjoyed Death of the Inhumans, but Venom didn’t do anything for me, and Absolute Carnage was overall kind of a boring mess. I’m open to seeing what he does with Thor beyond this first issue, but I’m largely with you all that it didn’t grab me the way I want a first issue to. That said, I did enjoy Klein and Wilson’s art quite a bit.

Maveal: The saving grace for me was the colors. The linework itself was entirely fine, but the vibrancy and smoothness of everything was what caught my eye more than anything else.

Puc: Applause is due for Joe Sabino as well for not making all that text look as crowded as it is.

Wasiti: Klein and Wilson are the stars of this issue for me. Klein’s depiction of this new Asgard feels elegant, extremely Nordic, but also grounded and real. His depiction of Mjolnir as this heavy, vibrating weapon later in the issue sealed the deal for me. He brought everything to life in a new way and it doesn’t hurt to have the best colourist alive working on this book. And I agree with you Sam, Sabino is a treasure.

Grunenwald: I may have audibly groaned when Cosmic Ghost Rider showed up. Like, ‘Oh, still with this guy’

Wasiti: My eyeroll was felt across all the realms.

Grunenwald: I’m intrigued by Mjolnir feeling heavier to Thor. That’s a thing that interests me and I hope it pays off well.

Maveal: The idea that Thor is struggling with Mjolnir isn’t really something new either though. Maybe there will be an interesting reason as to why, but that sort of feels like another “Huh. This again, then” moment.

Grunenwald: That is totally fair.

Puc: That was the only thing that really grabbed me! But then all the narration following Loki’s observation made it feel less interesting. I’m really not trying to rag on Cates, but I was just so disappointed by this. I’m cool with revisiting old themes in new ways but this doesn’t seem to do that.

Grunenwald: Is there anything else you all want to add, or are we ready for our verdicts?

Wasiti: I will say that despite my nags I think I did like this more than you guys. The retreads bug me but I have faith that Cates will stray from his formula and deliver something fresh, and the art was just near perfection for me.

Grunenwald: I thought it was fine. I don’t know that I have the same faith you do, Hussein. But it was fine. It was, as Chloe said earlier, a Thor comic.

Puc: Given the price point of single issue Marvel comics, “fine” isn’t enough reason for me to pick this up at my local comic shop. Thor #1 gets a big ol’ SKIP from me.

Maveal: Looks like I’ll just lie back and think of Midgard as we get thrown into another Totes Xtreme Thor Doing Cosmic Thor Stuff story. It’s a SKIP from me as well.

Grunenwald: This book features an okay script elevated by some solid linework and exceptional colors. I think it’s a decent entry point for people who were intimidated by an eight-year Thor run. I don’t know that it’ll make anyone a Thor fan overnight, but it’s at least enough to get you in the door. Again, “fine.” This is a BROWSE for me.

Wasiti: I’m giving this a BROWSE. There’s enough here to get me interested in a second issue, and I completely agree with you, Joe. Readers who felt intimidated by Aaron’s huge run might find a lot to like here.

Final Verdict: Thor #1 gets a SKIP verdict from Samantha and Chloe, and a BROWSE verdict from Joe and Hussein!

Thor #1
From Thor #1

Hawkeye: Freefall #1

Hawkeye: Freefall #1

Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Otto Schmidt
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Kim Jacinto & Tamra Bonvillain
Reviewed by Hussein Wasiti

Hawkeye: Freefall #1 is a strange book. The first half or so provides some fairly fresh commentary on the class and power dynamics between villains and their henchmen. Clint Barton stops The Hood’s nefarious schemes, but The Hood gets away scot-free while his goons are stuck in jail since they can’t afford bail. It’s a really remarkable and strong section that won me over very quickly, but soon after the book just falls back into this old, recycled plot about a hero dealing with a mysterious person taking up the mantle of an old persona. And surprise, this new Ronin is better at his job than Clint ever was.

Fortunately, the humour helps balance everything out. This is a pretty funny comic, and as expected much of the humour taps into Clint’s status as a superhero and an Avenger, or rather how people don’t take him seriously as either of those. Matthew Rosenberg’s characterisation of Clint is pretty sharp and in line with more recent depictions of the character as a competent but goofy guy.

If there’s anything positive to take away from this issue, it’s that more people will be exposed to Otto Schmidt’s incredible artwork. He made a name for himself with his recent Green Arrow run over at DC, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. He colours his own art, which results in some supremely beautiful pages. The conversation between Hawkeye and The Hood in The Hood’s limo is this gorgeously-rendered sequence, with Clint’s surrounding purple hues contrasted strongly by The Hood’s striking red cape. Schmidt is fantastic and here’s hoping that we see more of his work in the future following his run on this book.

Final Verdict: The plotting is so-so, but this book gave me a few hearty chuckles and the art is pretty spectacular. It remains charming despite its flaws, so I’m giving this a STRONG BROWSE.

From Hawkeye: Freefall #1

Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1

Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Jesus Saiz
Colored by Arif Prianto
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by R.B. Silva

Samantha Puc: I’ve often wondered about the period of time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so I was very excited to jump into Star Wars #1. Charles Soule is an incredible writer who understands the value of both immediate and longterm payoff, which is evident even in this 40-page issue; he’s a perfect fit for this story and I’m so glad he’s driving the narrative voice for Leia, Luke, Lando, Chewbacca, and the Rebellion. Likewise, the art by Jesus Saiz is appropriately cinematic and Arif Prianto‘s colors feel like Star Wars, which makes the whole comic feel like a natural part of the ‘verse.

There is a great balance here between character-focused scenes and high-intensity action. The stakes are already so high, and Soule somehow manages to increase them without straying from movie canon, but we get lots of moments to breathe with the characters and empathize with them, which is so important. Too often, “epic” stories lose the thread because they focus too much on the battles and not enough on the characters participating in them. Luckily, that isn’t the case with Star Wars #1. I was invested in this period of time before diving into this debut, but now I’m even more invested and very much looking forward to seeing where the series goes next.

No matter your knowledge of Star Wars canon, I think this is a fine jumping on point. Thus, it gets a solid BUY from me!

Joe Grunenwald: The period of time between the end of The Empire Strikes Back and the beginning of Return of the Jedi is one that’s not been explored in-depth before. The now-non-canonical Steve Perry-written novel Shadows of the Empire may be the most notable example. Marvel has set out to right that wrong with the newly-relaunched Star Wars series. Charles Soule and Jesus Saiz’s first issue on the series actually begins between scenes before the end of Empire, filling in a gap that I’d never really considered but that, in hindsight, is ripe for fleshing out.

Soule is no stranger to Marvel’s Star Wars comics, having written the Poe Dameron ongoing series for several years, and his first issue on the flagship title brings in a pair of characters very important to that previous series, while still keeping the focus firmly on the core group of characters from the original trilogy. His script captures their voices well, and he manages to pack a lot of setup into the first issue without it feeling boring or exposition-heavy.

Saiz and colorist Arif Prianto render the likenesses of the characters excellently without their work appearing overly static or photo-referenced. Likewise, space-set battle sequences read well, conveying the energy of a dog fight and the scope of the action. These are two qualities that have been lacking in some previous Star Wars artists’ work, and I’m glad to see it’s not a problem for this new team.

Overall, this newest Star Wars #1 is a satisfying and intriguing introduction to the series. I’m excited to see what Soule, Saiz, and co. have in store for future stories, but if the level of craft on display in this debut issue is any indication, the series is in good hands. You’ll want to BUY this book if you’re looking for a fix of classic Star Wars.

Final Verdict: Star Wars #1 gets a unanimous BUY from Samantha and Joe!

From Star Wars #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • Daredevil #16
    • Is anyone surprised that Chip Zdarsky is still killing it on this series? Well, you shouldn’t be. And on a NCBD week where this could have easily been a filler issue of no substance and been totally fine, the story is as tense (and horny) as ever. Honestly the writing is even the icing on the cake, though, after looking at Jorge Fornés‘ pages here. The backdrops alone on several of the pages are enough to make a reader look twice. — CM
  • Doctor Doom #4

    • Every week I expect that this book is going to drop some bomb that’ll make me go off it (in the same way so many Marvel titles have recently), and yet it just keeps getting better. Christopher Cantwell is weaving some serious existential-crisis magic in these pages and watching Doom try to navigate that is continuing be nothing short of lyrical and intense. — CM
  • Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble #3
    • With just one issue left in the Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble mini-series, Mariko Tamaki and Gurihiru are going all out. If you thought this story couldn’t get any more absurd, you’d be wrong; if you thought it couldn’t get any more delightful, you’d also be wrong! I haven’t had this much fun reading a comic in quite some time and I’m loving every last panel. If you need a good chuckle, be sure to pick this up and revel in the nonsense, which is perfectly executed in every way. — SP
  • Tarot #1
    • The latest team-up of the Avengers and Defenders gets off to an interesting start in Tarot #1. Writer Alan Davis and artists Paul Renaud and Paul Mounts throw readers a real curveball during the first scene that’s delightfully bonkers, and raises a lot of questions that will need to be addressed later in the series. After that moment of insanity, though, the rest of the issue is a somewhat run-of-the-mill super-team meet-up, with what appears to be a common threat bringing them together and a twist at the end placing them in opposition. If future issues of this series lean into the insanity of the opening scene and less into the tropes of the latter portion of the issue, it could end up being a lot of fun. — JG

Next week, make way for Star!