Thursday, 25 October 2012

New Beginnings - Marvel Now Point One

Being completely honest, after last year's Point One I found myself cautiously opening the cover and working my way through the issue even though other people were quite excited about it. Last year’s issue was a mixed bag so is this year going to be the same?

Essentially this issue is following the same format as the last and throughout the issue there is a main thread headed up by the newly minted Agents Nick Fury Jr. and Phil Coulson, as introduced in the recent Battle Scars miniseries that followed Fear Itself. Marvel have completely embraced Samuel L Jackson's movie depiction of Fury, though one wonders why they couldn't have just had the Ultimate universe version return with Peter Parker after his little sojourn there in Spider-Men. Ho hum.

Wrapped around this story are five other tales to tempt you featuring Star- Lord, Nova, Miss America and Kid Loki, Ant-Man and finally Forge. Between them there are some heavy hitting names on both the writing and artistic fronts too.

Nick Spencer’s interwoven tale of Nick Fury ultimately sets up his forthcoming Secret Avengers relaunch, but here the writing is designed to be used a vehicle to flow between the other storylines. Each final panel or frame through the issue almost seamlessly leads into the next chapter, starting with into Brian Michael Bendis’s Star-Lord.

Although the transition isn’t announced the change in artwork to Steve McNiven makes it very clear indeed. With far more definition and detail and a much more homely palate to it, the story takes us back to the beginnings of Star-Lord from before he even knew who, or what he is. It's an action-filled story which has a large number of attributes which will later come into play such as the discovery of an alien gun and the large spaceship encroaching the house. It's all a teaser for this creative team's upcoming relaunch of Guardians Of The Galaxy. It's almost enough, but it was only through looking up the character that more and more of it made sense. Perhaps a little too subtle for me on this occasion but this could be a very interesting title.

In contrast to the linking between the first two stories, Nova comes crashing in with a short called “Diamondhead”. Now this was the story that completely failed for me. In last year's Point One, Nova was the harbinger for Pheonix which sparked off the AvX arc we have recently been reading. This year it lives or dies on it's own merits. With Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness on board I thought all would be good, but the story had no depth to it at all. I would consider the story teenage at best - ready made for the pre-teen market. There are elements of Ben 10 from the names, bold lined artwork and to a degree the dialogue too. Although I wouldn’t say it would put me off the upcoming new Nova title completely, it hasn’t really sparked my enthusiasm for it, and makes me think of TV's the Super Hero Squad rather than the much loved DnA run with Richard Rider.

After a very quick interlude with more of Fury's interrogation of a man from the future, we are led almost by the nose to a parallel world with Miss America being courted by Loki into the Young Avengers.

Written by Keiron Gillen this is quite a fun little tongue-in-cheek tale. This is to be expected from the God of Mischief so it’s quite fitting. It is also a tale of possibly the worst interview or headhunting application in history with a very young Loki trying to tempt Miss America to join his new team. It works as both a teaser and a trailer to the new Young Avengers comics from the Phonogram creators, and the final page flyer gives you clues to the rest of Loki’s team as well. In typical Loki fashion you can’t trust the reasoning behind him but you hope it’s for the better good. Pencilled by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton it is very easy on the eye. There is detail where needed but nothing extra to confuse or distract, making for a fun and relaxed read.

Matt Fraction is up next with an Ant-Man teaser for his upcoming FF comic. We are given a very brief history and waypoints of Ant-Man and his personal struggles of recent years. This intense sorrow is counterbalanced with a light hearted tale of super hero vandalism. Now in the past I have really liked Fraction’s work on Iron Man but something about this didn’t grab me. Although this was an introduction for me and gave me food for thought on the motivation of our hero, it almost wasn’t enough of a teaser. The character didn’t resonate with me.

I also had an issue with the artwork which I found very basic and dated. The husband and wife combination of Michael and Laura Allred have given us the panels for the story and you can see how they’ve worked a lot in indie comics as the influence really comes through. This will work fantastically well in some places but I didn’t think it fit here. X-Statik fans should probably give this a go, but I'll be wary.

After another Fury interlude we come on to what I would say is the best story in the whole book, focusing on Forge. Written by Dennis Hopeless this is a tale of a madman quite literally rebuilding himself from the inside out. With slightly schizophrenic tendencies and a little craziness thrown in there is a certain quirky appeal to it, without the wisecracks of someone like Deadpool.

We see Forge moving through a changing landscape which turns out to be the environment being mirrored in his mind as he fixes his own brain. Once he is set on the straight and narrow the voices don’t seem to stop until we realise another protagonist has enter the frame. Having helped Forge fix himself, Cable is now looking for help in return to restore his frail limbs. With Hope having healed him at the end of X-Sanction, Cable is free of the techno-organic virus that plagued him from childhood, but the once infected arm is now withered and useless. This precursor to Cable & The X Force really works and the forthcoming comic looks stunning based on the cover for issue #1 alone. I am hoping that Gabriel Hernandez Walta stays as the artist on the issues as - although it’s not as clean as other artists - it has a resounding feeling to it that is “right” for the story.

The issues finishes with the culmination of the Nick Fury storyline where it is revealed that our mysterious stranger from the future isn’t all that he seems. Intrigue is further created by the uttering of a subliminal codeword and a body-swapping assassin, ultimately leading to Maria Hill telling Fury and Coulson that it is time to look into the Avengers Initiative.

As a Point One issue this is definitely a bit of a rollercoaster but I have to say it has certainly got my interest on some of the titles and it's a real improvement over last year's fare.

Matt Puddy is finally gearing up to go SNIKT!

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