Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Beginnings - All-New Marvel Now Point One

It's almost becoming traditional to start the year with a review of a Marvel Point One issue. The big question each year is what is it going to be all about? Followed by musing on whether they will make good on these initial short stores. There are still some unresolved ideas from last year's Point One after all.

This year's issue is a sneak peek at the following:

  • Loki: Agent of Asgard (Ewing and Garbett)
  • Ms Marvel (Wilson and Alphona)
  • Silver Surfer (Slott and Allred)
  • All New Invaders (Robinson and Pugh)
  • Black Widow (Edmonson and Noto)
  • Avengers World (Hickman and Spencer)

Following a similar vein to last year, all of the different titles follow a thread headed up by a main character who this time around is a slightly older Loki. This may catch some people off guard to begin with as he has aged since his rebirth in Journey into Mystery (circa Fear Itself) as a relative child. Now we have early twenties Loki following recent events in Young Avengers.

Loki is chasing down a number of mystical keys which are spread across the universe. When all are possessed, they will open a secret casket containing an incredibly powerful weapon – Gram, the sword of Sigurd – which in his normal egotistical way is only fitting for him as an Agent of Asgard. What he will do with it in the series we don’t know but will be interesting to see.

Moving through the comic chronologically we have another restart of Silver Surfer from Dan Slott. As mini stories go it’s a standalone to give a basic introduction to Norrin Radd and Dawn as they visit a planet in time for a celestial event. What is meant to be a treat is somewhat tainted by the Surfer's presence as all perceive him as the Herald for Galactus rather than someone taking a trip to see things. There is a lot of levity in the story and some jokes – occasionally a bit hammy – to keep things moving along. The artwork though didn’t really hit it with me as Michael Allred’s work isn’t my particular taste (but I know Ben is delighted to see Allred on a book that he feels finally fits the artist's style).

The All-New Invaders is pure set up for the series. After seeing the Red Skull lose yet another key – a point which I think is more used as a reminder that he now has the late Professor X’s brain more than a main story point – the Kree Empire becomes the narrator. Highlighting the need for power and as such chasing the “God’s Whisper,” Tanulth the Pursuer is set upon Namor, Bucky and Jim Hammond, the original android Human Torch.

Each of these three hold a key element to the God Whisper which has kept them youthful, enabling James Robinson to put the team back together. It’s also made the three of them targets for the Kree Empire. There is nothing much given here as to where this can really go, but for the time being we know who's involved and that it has great visuals.

Predator is all about the now more prominent Natasha Romanov with Black Widow getting a solo title. Beginning as an introspective piece, very much like the recent Origin II, we see Black Widow in a frozen wasteland facing the end of her life. Looking at who she is and where she has been - whilst tied into her current predicament - explores more about her than the recent films have managed to do. There is no doubt about it - she’s cold, calculated and deadly. My concern is that this could be a fairly basic premise of her having contracts to complete and how she goes about it. Hopefully not. Artistically though this is a lovely looking piece - I'm hoping that Phil Noto remains on it and we see more of his work in the future too.

Veering away from the idea of Loki and ultimate mischievous power, we are shown a new Ms Marvel. Now this is a brand new character and this is echoed by characters in the comic when people in the street also question which one she is. As well as establishing this character Marvel are trying to cross more boundaries here. Kamala Kahn, a young Pakistani Muslim with all the usual problems of a girl her age. Very reminiscent of a young Peter Parker, I feel.

Again visually this is a lovely looking comic and I liked Adrian Alphona’s work. Along with almost educational depiction of traditional Pakistani attire, it’s a good all round read. Potentially aimed at a slightly younger market as well, it could certainly capture a new reader grouping.

Finally an amalgamation of two stories opens us up to the precursor to Avengers World (also released this week). On one hand we have what is intended to be a covert operation with Sunspot and Cannonball. AIM have retroactively engineered a serum from Bruce Banner which can temporarily transform you into a Hulk. Dangerous stuff in the wrong hands really, hence the operation. Things don’t necessarily go to plan though. The other side of things is a negotiation between Maria Hill and Captain America, where an awkward alliance between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers is forged. Two teams working together adding force when Maria needs it with all the intel and secrets opened up when Cap asks. An interesting combination for the future and something previous Directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. have strived for on a number of occasions. Although not a groundbreaking story it does hold up for something very good indeed. How far it goes is yet to be seen though.

From this Point One issue I have to say that Avengers World is the title that has piqued my interest the most closely followed by Loki: Agent of Asgard. That said the remaining do seem to be quite strong, despite my misgivings regarding Allred's artwork. There was a little overshadowing of it all though, with teasers for the Watcher's chalk outline and blood stains building anticipation for the Original Sin event later this year, but that is in itself a good bit of marketing. Which titles will survive or fall remains to be seen.

Matt Puddy is looking forward to next week's Deadpool parody of Kirkman's finest zombies...

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