Comics Update 2018, Part 2 of 5: My Year in Marvel

Spider-Ham & Lockjaw!

Don’t mind me, just pandering to fellow Spider-Verse fans out there.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. Over the course of the next four entries…I’ll be sharing what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop — series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of February 2019, including lists of 2018 works that are either done or dead to me.

In tallying the figures, I was a little surprised to discover I’d tried more projects from merry Marvel than from any other company. That doesn’t mean I loved them all unconditionally, merely that so far they’ve held my attention even though I loathe crossovers and avoid team books, which tend to be their bestsellers and constitute some 80% of their lineup nowadays. With the size advantage and with Captain Marvel hitting theaters this Friday, why not let them go first.

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Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2017 Pros & Cons

Comics A-X!

All my 2017 singles divided and alphabetized from A to X but skipping V.

[WARNING: This entry turned out several leagues beyond epic-length and may be the wordiest entry in MCC history, but I wanted it out of my system, and all at once in a single-take infodump. And now it is. Mission accomplished.]

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually first on the chopping block. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

2017 certainly hasn’t been a boring year for discussions. In addition to undergoing a light-handed version of the anti-sexual harassment revolution that’s sweeping Hollywood, the comics field has seen DC’s Rebirth initiative still going strong on the learning curve from the “New 52” misfire. Meanwhile, the “Marvel Legacy” campaign — their fifth line-wide restart in eight years or so — was founded on the assumption that old folks like me and the Kids These Days are dying to watch comics regress to the ’70s and ’80s. So far they’ve been wrong and sales have nosedived on a number of titles. The cancellations that made room for this ploy have been followed in short order by still more cancellations of their usurpers. I’m still finding Marvel-labeled reading to my tastes, but I’m glad they’re not the only choices at my local comic shop.

For reference and maybe unconscious oblique insight, here’s what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop, series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of December 2017:

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Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2016 Pros & Cons

Comics 2016!

Eight comics a week times 52 weeks, plus a few extras from conventions and Free Comic Book Day…

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

Anyway: time again for another set of lists with comics in them!

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Wizard World Chicago 2016 Photos, Part 3: Marvel Comics Cosplay!

Gamora + Nebula!

Gamora and Nebula, like the Thelma and Louise of a new generation.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time of year again! Anne and I spent this weekend at Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we generally had a blast surrounded by fellow fans of comics and genre TV/movies even though parts of it resemble hard work and our feet feel battle-damaged after three days of endless walking, standing, lining up, shuffling forward in cattle-call formation, and scurrying toward exciting people and things.

In Part One, we gave you great moments in comic-con jazz hands. In Part Two, DC Comics cosplay, including a special performance by the Suicide Squad. In this chapter: it’s Marvel’s turn to represent.

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Comics Update: My 2015 Faves and My Current Lineup


After 37 years of collecting, 2015 was the year I first bought more than two Archie comics in a row. From the new Archie #1; art by Fiona Staples and Andre Szymanowicz.

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

Anyway: time again for another list of lists with comics in them!

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Comics Update: My 2014 Faves and My Current Lineup

Buffy and Giles!

One of the neatest comics moments of 2014, from Buffy Season 10. Art by Rebekah Isaacs.

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity for a long list of reasons. I started a “Best Comics of 2014” entry at the end of January, saved it and then procrastinated the heck out of it. Since my wife and I will be attending the Indiana Comic Con this weekend, comics are foremost on my mind tonight and I think I’m ready to move forward and express a thought or two. At the very least, a lot of lists are in order.

Right this way for my favorite comics of 2014, and a look at what I’m following and savoring today!

My Heroes Don’t Always Need to Be White Guys

Avengers NOW 2014!

Not nearly enough pundits are complaining about Marvel’s all-new White Power Iron Man.

For those just joining the fray: pictured above are the new incarnations of Thor and Captain America that Marvel Comics will be introducing later this year. A recently depowered Steve Rogers will be passing on the Captain America mantle to a black man, most likely his old partner the Falcon. Meanwhile, the Norse god Thor will be transferred into a female identity under as-yet-unrevealed but probably magical circumstances.

The media thought these developments were so vital to our nation’s integrity that I first heard the news from morning-radio DJs while we were on vacation last week in Minneapolis. If commercial radio thinks it’s big news, then clearly it’s Big News whether I agree or not.

In what may or may not be a similarly themed development, the media was alerted today that Hollywood A-lister Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has reached a deal to star in a film based on a DC Comics character to be named later this week. All hints seem to point toward DC’s Captain Marvel, a.k.a. SHAZAM!, whose skin tone doesn’t match his. Preparing their rebuttal days in advance of the official announcement, comics fans nationwide have rushed to brainstorm their list of nonwhite DC characters that the Rock should be allowed to play. How nice of them to be so vigilant in helping the major publishers keep their cross-media adaptations demographically unmodified. And all without being asked first or getting paid for the job.

It’s my understanding that certain loud, obnoxious parties are up in arms on message boards and social media and such, because How Dare They or whatever. Fortunately these overhauls bounced harmlessly off me and my not-so-fragile peace of mind. And here’s why…

Behold the Future of Chicago Sun-Times Photojournalism

Marvel NOW!, C2E2 2013Hardly an award-winning pic, is it?

When I attended the “Marvel: From NOW! to Infinity” panel at C2E2 last April, I arrived late from another panel and found myself in the back row. I thought covering the panel from an amateur perspective might be a fun lark for one segment of the MCC readership. Unfortunately I back-burnered that part of my C2E2 experience because (a) pro comics-news sites had the panel’s announcements posted online days before I would’ve gotten around to them; and (b) my photos were rubbish.

I’d rather not imagine a world in which I might’ve had a chance of selling this reject for real American money. I enjoy seeing the work of skillful eyes and hands that justly shame me in this area. I doubt few dream of a world in which our news sites and newspapers drop several degrees in visual competence and settle for publishing any available photos to accompany their articles regardless of quality, offering whatever they can scrounge up from overworked reporters or untrained bystanders.

The Powers That Be at the Chicago Sun-Times believe so deeply in this alternate future that they’ve decided to push our timeline forward in that direction. Last week numerous sources reported the venerable institution dismissed all 28 of its staff photographers (including one Pulitzer winner) as a cost-cutting measure and announced plans to offer smartphone photography lessons to its staff reporters, who clearly had too much time on their hands and needed extra busywork to keep them from turning into total goof-offs.

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Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 2 of 3: Familiar Names and Creatures

Stjepan Sejic, Aphrodite IX

The painted dragons of Aphrodite IX. Art by Stjepan Sejic.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

More of those finished products:

Infinity (Marvel) — Fans already entrenched in current Marvel Universe continuity may enjoy this prologue to the upcoming major summer crossover event, in which an alien race that once rebuilt itself from the ground up after world-shattering decimation now finds itself entertaining a second visit from its conqueror. From a science fiction standpoint, it’s an intriguing short story even though Thanos only speaks a grand total of two words. Any first-time comic-shop visitors who know Marvel only from their movies might be disappointed that their first Marvel experience is filled with complete strangers and has virtually no Marvel heroes in it at all, save a three-panel montage at the end.

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Free Comic Book Day 2013 Results, Part 1 of 3: Familiar Names and Faces

Star Wars, Dark Horse Comics

From “The Assasination of Darth Vader” by Brian Wood and Ryan Odagawa.

As previously recounted, my wife and I had a ball on Free Comic Book Day 2013 two weeks ago. Readers flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and many of the indies.

How did the finished works do? Did they present an enjoyable, self-contained experience? Were they welcoming to new readers? Did they adhere to the old adage that every comic is someone’s first?

My reading results were as follows:

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Iron Man 3” End Credits

Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 3, Marvel Studios

Tony Stark and his sidekick, the Bot Wonder.

Before seeing Iron Man 3, I’d run across the whole gamut of reactions online. Friends, acquaintances, and famous strangers I follow either thought it was Super-Hero Film of the Year or the worst travesty since Batman & Robin. I entered the theater with expectations that were high, but slightly different from the average Iron Man movie fan. I suspect most people wanted two hours of the armored Avenger punching and zapping things, with intermittent scenes of Robert Downey Jr. tossing quips like water balloons at unsuspecting characters. Fair warning up front: if you consider the hero’s costume the most important element of a Marvel movie, Iron Man 3 might seem a disappointment. For my money, despite the list of logical lapses my son and I brainstormed on our way out, so far it’s one of the most compelling films of 2013 anyway.

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Our C2E2 2012 Photo Archive, Part 2 of 3: the Marvel and DC Tributes

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

[T]he following photo collection, to be curated and presented here in three parts, was previously shared elsewhere online last year, two weeks before Midlife Crisis Crossover was born. For the sake of bringing my works under a single, unified creative banner, it’s my pleasure to present to you, the Viewers at Home, this memory parade of our second time at C2E2.

Part One focused on movie-based costumes. For this installment, our focus is the attending majority who support Marvel and/or DC Comics. Some were more inspired by Marvel films than by Marvel comics, but wouldn’t exist without the comics’ success in the first place.

In a rare moment of Big Two detente, WWII Captain America costars in his own special inter-company crossover with the grim-‘n’-gritty 1980s version of Green Arrow, the first version of the character to retire the trick arrows and fight crime using only traditional, pointy, frequently lethal arrows…except in this photo, because C2E2 has strict weapons policies. Armed WWII Cap will be fighting to defend the both of them, then.

Captain America, Green Arrow, costume, C2E2

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The Scooby-Doo/Captain Caveman Crossover That Changed My Life

Scooby-Doo 9, February 1978One of the commonest ice-breaker questions between comic book fans getting to know each other or merely shooting the breeze between major-event discussions is, “What was your first comic book?” I have faint memories of having a handful of comics before first grade, but none of them survived the innocent ravages that come with being owned by a child, even one who learned to read at preschool age.

My official answer to that question, barring those ancient entrants disqualified due to loss of existence, is the oldest surviving comic from that era remaining in my collection to this day. Pictured at left is my personal copy of Scooby-Doo #9, dated February 1979, purchased for me when I was six years old. I found a mint-condition copy posted online, CGC-rated 9.6, if you want to view the original cover in all its undamaged glory for art appreciation purposes, but the image posted here (click to enlarge!) has one unbeatable advantage: this one is mine.

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“Iron Man 3” First Trailer: Destruction, Desolation, Mandarin

The first trailer for Iron Man 3 is here at last. Writer/director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, among several other sharp action-film scripts) takes Tony Stark and friends into their explosion-filled darkest hour, while Sir Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce show up in clips full of foreboding menace.


My Plan to Save the GOP with Time Travel and Rom, Spaceknight

Depending on which polling organization you follow because of how reassuring their results are to you, the American minority that remains “undecided” in the 2012 Presidential election may presently represent as much as ten percent of the voting public. I’ve not seen any recent polls that project a double-digit breakaway lead for either of the Big Two candidates, so it’s conceivable that the contemplative 10% could make or break a political career. For the sake of unfair generalization, I’m assuming that 10% won’t eventually flock to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, or to any of the ignominious candidates from the Green, Constitution, or Justice parties. I’d never even heard of Virgil Goode, Jill Stein, or Rocky Anderson before tonight, until some online friends inspired some light reading on my end. Lord knows how many other serious candidates with more than ten supporters are out there.

The undecided have much to ponder this year. In one corner, they have the incumbent President Obama, among whose qualities is the fact that he’s not Mitt Romney. In the other corner, they have the non-incumbent Mitt Romney, whose most attractive feature seems to be that he’s not Barack Obama. For contrarians, there’s always an affable Libertarian candidate at ringside. Some people favor incumbents because they’re a safe, known quantity. Some people vote against incumbents on the principle that anything resembling lack of change is bad. If you intend to vote against someone rather than for someone, you’ll have three or more options: Not-Obama, Not-Romney, Door #3 Who’s Neither, and Messrs. and Mrs. Probably-Not-Appearing-on-Your-State’s-Ballot.

If you’re a fan of Not-Obama in general and Team Republican in particular, I believe I have an idea for you. It involves one of my childhood heroes coming to your rescue.

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“Avengers” Labor Day Weekend Re-Release: Now You Can See it More Than Once, Just Like the Old Days

"Avengers" Labor Day theater re-releaseWhen our family saw The Avengers back in May — including sticking around for the famous shawarma scene after the end credits — we exited the theater starstruck and satisfied we’d received our money’s worth tenfold. My son and I even discussed the possibility of seeing it a second time. For a teenager whose generation doesn’t appreciate the concept of TV reruns, or the nerdist notion of watching a film enough times to memorize the dialogue, a request for an immediate encore marks his highest conceivable level of praise.

Between our hectic summer schedule and my preference for experiencing the unseen over rehashing the already-seen, I demurred and procrastinated. This Labor Day weekend, Marvel Studios reminded my son of our discussion by arranging a return to wide release for The Avengers as one last attempt at usurping Titanic‘s title as the second-highest grossing film in American box office history. For the sake of father/son quality time, we went for it.

Admittedly, I was pleased to be able to watch for a few new things I missed on my first go-around: the throwaway cameo by Dollhouse‘s amazing Enver Gjokaj as a flustered policeman; the indiscernible Alexis Denisof (yay Wesley!) as Thanos’ sidekick; the exact moments in which the “ST” and the “RK” are knocked off Tony’s precious monument to himself; Thanos’ gleeful reaction to the final line of dialogue (“To challenge them is to court death” — if you know Thanos, you know that’s one of his turn-ons); and the entire mountainside chat between Thor and Loki, which was had been ruined in my first viewing by an unwelcome, well-lit distraction from an uncouth cell phone user in the audience.

I rarely see a film more than once in theaters anymore. Except for dedicated cineastes and theater employees, I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Between high ticket prices and sometimes unpleasant theater conditions, it’s become challenging enough to attract some viewers for one showing of a new film, let alone encourage repeat business. It doesn’t help that the DVD/Blu-ray versions arrive on stores shelves faster and more furiously than they used to in the old days of home video. Gone are the times of pacing back and forth, waiting anywhere from six months to several years before being allowed to purchase copies of your favorite films. Today’s accelerated distribution system makes it easier than ever to sit through the same film as many times as you’d like, in as short a time span as you’d like after release. In the final analysis, even one Blu-ray is cheaper than six full-price movie tickets. (Living near a second-run dollar might help, if you don’t mind the celluloid deterioration after all those previous months’ worth of showings.)

I can recall several instances from my moviegoing past when I took opportunities to spend too much disposable income on multiple trips to the silver screen for the sake of a single work. For nostalgic brainstorming fun, I present a montage of films I saw more than once in theaters, and the rationalizations that enabled them.

Return of the Jedi — I was 11 in 1983 and had never been allowed to see a movie twice. I saw ROTJ once and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I hadn’t seen Star Wars and had only read Donald F. Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back (a school book fair selection). While on vacation later that summer at my aunt’s place down south, we decided a movie outing was in order; our options were ROTJ again or Burt Reynolds in Stroker Ace. We won; Burt lost. Fourteen years later I also endured the 1997 “Special Edition” re-release, but I was older, less enamored, and had a hard time suppressing my snarky commentary. I’m pretty sure I had to be elbowed at least once before I shut up.

Independence Day — My best friend and I caught it opening weekend at the local drive-in. With such poor radio sound, sundown not yet finished, and the experience basically held away from us at arm’s length, it was all too easy to notice all the shortcomings and tally up all the references and swipes from other, better films. Not long after, I went with family to an indoor showing with a high-quality sound system that included super-powered subwoofers. With the vibrations and the thrumming and the EXPLOSIONS in full effect, suddenly it was the Greatest Disaster Movie of All Time. ‘Twas truly a film where effects made a massive difference.

Star Trek: First Contact — Because, frankly, it was all that.

Scream and Con Air — Two separate examples of me seeing a film on my own and enjoying it so intensely that I insisted on dragging my best friend to them, so she could see what I wouldn’t shut up about. We were still in that early stage of our relationship where I had no idea that her own movie preferences weren’t identical to mine. It took me some time and a few unfortunate occurrences before I learned an important lesson, one that I still observe today now that we’re married: just because I really, really like something doesn’t mean that I’m required to subject her to it, too, especially not over her strenuous objections. Learn this and learn this well, males.

Godzilla — I was so pumped up and ready for Roland Emmerich’s surely extraordinary reboot of the Toho legend, I saw it twice on opening day. First showing: I was alone and blown away. Second showing, with my best friend: I fidgeted a little more. Third time, with my mom: glaring issues began to appear to me like a kind of unhappy magic. Fourth showing, at a dollar theater, strictly for my five-year-old son’s benefit: I laughed through most of it, but he bawled when Godzilla died. It broke my heart and his, though he calmed down when the egg hatched at the very end. Today he loathes the film, as well he should.

The entire Star Wars prequel trilogy — Six showings of The Phantom Menace, a few apiece of the other two. Star Wars fever was in full swing for us in those days, but it ebbed as the quality of each successive movie ebbed. Some of those multiple screenings were just to spend quality time with the best friend who later became my wife, but I’ll admit that six showings of TPM was far too many. By the final attempt, I found myself dozing through most of the long, long stretch in Tatooine, including some of the podrace.

X-Men — First time was on opening night while attending a St. Louis sci-fi convention whose featured guests included four cast members from Mystery Science Theater 3000. After the prologue and opening, when we MSTies all read the transitional caption, “The not-too-distant future”, this absolutely, unintentionally brought down the house. Second time was back home for the benefit of my son, who didn’t get it.

Serenity — As a huge fan of Firefly, the first showing was A+++++++ but so devastated me, I hadn’t planned to see it again. Then I became offended at the weak box office returns. I became firmly convinced that all those free advance screenings they’d held in hopes of fostering Internet buzz probably just gave several thousand freeloaders an excuse not to pay for it. So I did what I felt was my duty and saw it once more. Wash’s final scene was no easier for me to weather.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — First showing was courtesy of passes I scored to an advance sneak preview. I was so excited about the privilege of a sneak preview for such a high-profile film that I immediately went home, spent all night long writing an unpaid, pre-release, volunteer review for someone else’s gain, and went to work the next day at my actual paying job on three hours’ sleep…only to learn that the site had crashed for reasons unknown, and remained down all weekend long. Many aspects of this incident point to the myriad reasons why I don’t get to write for money. Oh, and my second showing was with family, after I slept for a couple of days first.

The Dark Knight — One mandatory normal showing, and one in IMAX just to see the difference. I was enthralled by the zillion-decibel sound system, but irritated by the switches back and forth from theatrical ratio to IMAX ratio, back and forth and back and forth, like someone playing with the “Zoom” button on a flatscreen TV. Not a fan of that jarring effect.

Toy Story 2 — Once in the original theatrical run; once in 2010 when my wife and I scored free passes to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3-D double feature. I’m no fan of 3-D, but I’ve yet to get sick and tired of either film.

Avatar — Once with my son; once as a kindness to my mom. I slept through some of the native alien-acclimatization montage, even in 3-D.

Chronicle — Because, frankly, it was all that. Ignore the denigrated “gimmick”, note the subtleties, and feel the harrowing.

Thus does Marvel’s The Avengers join their quasi-hallowed ranks. It didn’t need the extra cash flow nearly as much as Serenity did, but it was a pleasant use of the holiday weekend. I’m planning no more repeats this year, but Lord knows how next year’s fare will turn out. Best-case scenario: maybe Benedict Cumberbatch will give us a bravura, must-see-again-and-again performance in Star Trek II.2: the Wrath of Not-Khan.

How Will “Marvel NOW” Affect My Marvel Now?

Comics readers are well aware of Marvel Comics’ new initiative, “Marvel NOW”, which will see many of their current series ending and restarting by year’s end with new #1s. Obviously this creative/financial decision wasn’t borne in a complete vacuum, separate and unaware of DC’s New 52 relaunch stunt in 2011. However, the Marvel titles on my current pull-list number twice as many as the DC titles that were on my pull-list prior to the New 52. Marvel NOW, then, stands to have a more noticeable effect on my buying habits. This time, though, I’m not yet feeling as grumpy as I should.

One of the most important differences between the New 52 and Marvel NOW is that the latter won’t reset all histories and character developments to square one. The Marvel Universe will continue forward in time and space, though I’m sure new events will rock some foundations. Another important difference: I’m excited about a few of the new creative teams. When weighing the entertainment viability of new comics, artists’ names don’t factor into my decision-making process as heavily as they used to. I follow writers more than artists or characters nowadays. I realize a majority of fans will remain flocked around their favorite hero regardless of whether or not the creative team can form complete sentences or depict more than two facial expressions. That’s just not how I manage my buying habits anymore. I was a hardcore Spider-Man fan for all of childhood, but no way will you convince me today to buy a comic just because Spidey’s in it and no other reason.

When I perused the list of New 52 teams last year, at least two-thirds of the writers fell somewhere between “Meh” and “Who?” for me. Marvel NOW, on the other hand, has a few choice names on deck. I don’t think all the new titles and creative teams have been announced yet, but I’ve seen glimmers or promise in the announcements to date. (Mark Waid writing the Hulk? SOLD.)

As of June 2012 I was collecting five Marvel series and one miniseries. In the past two weeks I’ve added two new series to my pull-list on a probationary basis. My current Marvel monthly experience is comprised of the following titles:

Journey into Mystery: Kieron Gillen’s final issue will be October’s #645. The solicitation copy doesn’t say it’s the final issue. Either that’s an oversight or Gillen is handing the reins to someone else. I should’ve known that something would happen to the series after I went on record and proclaimed it my favorite Marvel series of the moment. The innocuously devious Kid Loki and Hela’s bitter handmaiden Leah have made a great not-couple throughout their misadventures in godhood and questing…at least until the events of #641 ended in quiet tragedy and shattered the status quo. Whenever I express happiness about a title, this is exactly what happens. Clearly I have only myself to blame for this. We’ll see what happens in the November solicitations, I suppose.

Invincible Iron Man: Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca will conclude their four-year run (or is it five?) and the series with #527. I was more blown away in the early days when Fraction brought the noise with hard-SF sensibilities and real-world tech developments that appear just about never in any other comics today. (I blame Warren Ellis for allowing other mediums to lure him away with cash and booze.) Over the last few arcs it’s become increasingly more and more about watching Tony struggle with demons he didn’t know he had, but in the context of (a) Marvel’s big crossover events, and (b) the kind of scenario I hate hate HATE where all the hero’s villains team up against him. It’s a personal pet peeve that would take too long to explain here.

That being said, it’s still above-average for super-heroics, and I like to think that the remaining issues will continue tying all those years’ worth of strands together into one neat, eye-popping bow as Tony and his amazing armored friends work up to their final showdown with the Mandarin and his Iron Man Revenge Squad. The best is yet to come, though: with Marvel NOW, the writing reins will be passed to the aforementioned Kieron Gillen. I’m pleased and thinking about camping out at my comic shop in November. (Well, not really. Still eager to see it, though.)

Daredevil: Unaffected by Marvel NOW. Mark Waid and his rotating artists (all ranging from above-average to brilliant) will be allowed to continue uninterrupted with their portrayal of the most optimistic Man Without Fear I’ve ever seen. In a hobby with so many sullen, grimacing heroes, the new Matt Murdock borders on revolutionary.

Venom: Current symbiote host Flash Thompson has become my go-to when I want a sullen, grimacing antihero. Though the series is presently mid-transition as outgoing writer Rick Remender passes the torch to Cullen Bunn, so far it hasn’t lost its stride. It’s been alternately inspiring and tragic to follow Flash’s struggles with his family, his new Avengers teammates, and his general unease with super-powered heroics after losing his legs at war. The original Eddie Brock version was anathema to me, too emblematic of all that went wrong with Marvel in the 1990s, but I’ve been surprised at the damage control this series has managed so far. This is especially unusual for me because I’m otherwise not too keen on antiheroes anymore.

Venom won’t be a Marvel NOW do-over, but there is a crossover on the way that threatens my reading pleasure called “Minimum Carnage”. The concept sounds cute (Venom Goes to the Microverse), but I’m leery after my disappointment with comics crossovers in general and last year’s unwanted “Circle of Four” six-part fiasco in particular. I’ll give it a chance, but my expectations are low.

Dark Avengers: Someone felt my rollicking Thunderbolts saga had to be refitted with some other team’s name in order for it to continue. The team had already been split in twain for the last several months — one half in the present carrying on the good fight, the other half traveling uncontrollably backwards through time. The present-day good-guys half has now been usurped by the return of the government-run Dark Avengers, populated by members I don’t recognize and don’t feel like looking up. Since this technically already relaunched while retaining the original Thunderbolts numbering, Marvel NOW apparently won’t be intruding here. I’m still debating whether or not I’ll be standing by this till then to confirm if it does.

Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers’ promotion from Ms. Marvel to full-fledged captain is a demotion from her previous rank of colonel in her military career, but the new series, which just launched in July, is a step up from what few Ms. Marvel comics I’ve sampled before now. I only bought #1 because I sort-of distantly know one of the four fan artists who contributed pin-ups on the back page, but the comic itself ended up commanding my attention, too, with a lead character who’s strong-willed without being hateful, fiercely independent without being an angry loner (some male heroes should try this sometime), and mostly avoiding the kind of embarrassing fan-service art and costuming that precludes me from buying most other super-heroine titles. Great start.

Hawkeye: The arrogant archer’s new solo series kicked off this week under the reunited Iron Fist team of Matt Fraction and David Aja. I’m a little underwhelmed at Hawkeye playing the same kind of ill-fitting urban-hero premise that previously sank Herc and Black Panther. I’m even less impressed that the denouement in the first issue involved Our Hero saving the day with lots of Avengers cash. If only the White Tiger had been a multimillionaire, perhaps Marvel editors could have tuned that instrument a little more finely, instead of trying to turn established heroes into their answer to Batman. On the plus side, I do love the Daredevil: Born Again look, Fractions’s typically sharp dialogue, and Hawkeye’s new canine pal. #2 might be worth a look-see.

The Muppets: I know it’s only a four-issue miniseries and not remotely connected to Earth-616. I don’t care. Marvel is supplying me with more Roger Langridge funnies. I doubt we’ll see more Muppet work from him ever again, so I’m savoring this while I can and mentioning it to anyone who’ll listen.

…and that’s it. Initial prognosis: Marvel NOW may not hurt me after all. Its timing may coincide with other changes in my buying habits, though. Reply hazy, try again later.

This PR stunt might rock my world more uncomfortably if I were following more Avengers or X-Men titles. Luckily I’m not. The short answers about that are: I’ve never been enthusiastic about paying four bucks a pop for multiple Avengers titles per month; and I pretty much gave up on any hope of returning to full-time X-fandom sometime back in the late ’80s while Chris Claremont was still at the helm.

(I’ll admit I was tempted to see how Kieron Gillen might play in the X-Men sandbox. I resisted the temptation anyway.)

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