Marc Buxton graded the first wave of Marvel Now! books. Now, he looks ahead with a prognosis for each of the new announced titles coming in the months ahead, in alphabetical order, each day this week.
By MARC BUXTON
The first wave of Marvel Now! books was certainly a success on many levels. A-list creators jumping from title to title, ending long runs and beginning new ones, shaking up the established status quo by bringing unexpected twists to readers who may have grown a bit complacent.
The first grouping of titles was mostly top creators on major characters. Books like the X-Men, Avengers, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man saw major creative changes as long-time creators left and new ones took over to give each franchise a fresh new start.
The second wave of Marvel Now! involves some exciting new talent that will try and bring Marvel’s second-tier characters into the same rarified air as Marvel’s icons. Most of these characters have had multiple title opportunities, all of which have been canceled in the past, but these characters have not been given the solo spotlight in this particular era of comics history.
These new books can be used as research and development for future film and television projects, and while the often insular and myopic direct market has failed to support these titles in the past, Marvel has a vast and new online audience attracted by film and television that may be curious enough to support these books and characters.
Energy and diversity is the order of the day for the second wave of Marvel Now!, dubbed the All-New Marvel Now! Let’s take a look at the prognosis for each book’s chances at success:
All-New Ghost Rider. Writer: Felipe Smith. Artist: Tradd Moore. In recent decades, Ghost Rider has failed to gain support despite brilliant runs by Garth Ennis and Jason Aaron. Maybe the Nicolas Cage films have soured the fan base on the Spirit of Vengeance, but with their new digital audience in place, Marvel is willing to give it another try.
This time Johnny Blaze and Daniel Ketch will be left behind as this new series focuses on Robbie Reyes, an angry street kid. Once again Marvel, wisely, goes for diversity with a new character, but the big change is that this Ghost Rider will tool around in a hell-spawned car rather than his signature motorcycle.
Trying to gain new readership by appealing to the Fast & Furious street-racing culture is an interesting move that may have this Ghost Rider finally win the race. After Cage sullied the name Ghost Rider for moviegoers, might this title be Marvel’s attempt to distance themselves from Johnny Blaze in case they get the film rights back?
Prognosis: The new angle sounds interesting, but a brand-new character combined with an unproven creative team is worrying. This concept is way more suited for film, which may be just the direction Marvel hopes it all goes. Begins in March.
All-New Invaders. Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Steve Pugh The Invaders is a book that fans seem to think they want but never come out in droves to support. Tales of the World War II-era heroes are always heavy with nostalgic resonance, and James Robinson is the perfect writer to tap into that tone while not losing relevancy.
This time around, the Invaders — Captain America, Namor, the original Human Torch, and the Winter Soldier — team up in the modern day to take on the Kree the way they once took on the Third Reich. The core concept is sound and after Robinson kicked many types of ass on the similarly themed Earth 2 for DC, this book has success written all over it.
Prognosis: Marvel has a bit of trouble launching new team books in the direct market, but online sales should help as this book could piggyback the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” film. After seeing the original Torch for a second in the first Cap movie, fans have been clamoring to see Marvel’s original super team on page or screen. Begins in January.
All-New X-Factor: Writer: Peter David, Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico. The Little Title That Could, Peter David’s X-Factor, gets a new lease on life thanks to the All-New Marvel Now!
X-Factor has been delighting loyal fans for years, with David’s unique blend of drama and humor, and now David will have a whole new cast to play with. This one should appeal to the direct market, as seasoned readers know just how deftly David crafts his characters. The writer has written amazing versions of Polaris and Quicksilver in past X-Factor runs, and this book will be a great parking place for these underutilized characters. Add Gambit to the mix, a character that David should absolutely nail, and you have a critical darling on your hands.
Prognosis: Fans that find it will love it, but it’s not the flashiest of titles. Sales will be middling but solid, just like David’s X-Factor has always been. Begins in January.
Avengers Undercover: Writer: Dennis Hopeless. Artist: Kev Walker. Avengers Arena polarized comic fans, with grumpy Internet tirades bemoaning murder porn and accusations of ripping off the Hunger Games without a single panel being read. Those critics missed out because Hopeless and Walker’s book about teenage survival and the nature of death and heroism has been one of Marvel’s most harrowing and compelling reads of the past year.
This time, Hopeless and Walker take the Arena kids off Arcade’s Murderworld to infiltrate the Masters of Evil. The loyal Wednesday warrior might have condemned the title for being a Hunger Games riff, but that is what may appeal to a new reader who stumbles across the book digitally.
Prognosis: If the same audience open-minded enough to support Arena carries over to the new book, a middling success is assured. Hopeless and Walker now have a year of stories under the belt with these characters, so fans of the Runaways and Avengers Academy take note: They are not dead, they are thriving in this promising title. Begins in March.
Avengers World. Writers: Nick Spencer and Jonathan Hickman. Artist: Stefano Caselli. Thanks to Jonathan Hickman’s epic run on Avengers, the team has grown exponentially, bringing in heroes like Hyperion, Smasher, Captain Universe, Nightmask, Starbrand, and old fan-favorites like Cannonball and Sunspot. Avengers World promises to be the place to explore these new characters and will continue to spotlight the classic Avengers to create a new dynamic.
The films will be the place exclusively for the big guns, but the comics, particularly Avengers World, promise to bring in diversity and new ideas. As any reader of Superior Foes of Spider-Man knows, Nick Spencer is terrific at establishing three-dimensional characters and motivations. These two writers and the great Stefano Caselli’s never-muddled style should usher in a great new era for the Avengers.
Prognosis: What better way to expose new, diverse characters to a new fan base than have them rub shoulders with gods? The book is about to go global as the status of Marvel’s Africa, Europe, and Asia will all be explored in this title. Begins in January.
NEXT: Black Widow to Iron Patriot
THEN: Loki to Punisher
THEN: Secret Avengers to X-Force
THEN: The rebrands — All New X-Men to Winter Soldier