Marvel has been pushing its new Marvel: Now! initiative pretty hard since it was first announced at SDCC. However, what news they’ve let out has been in bits and pieces, presumably under the auspices of the “less is more” axiom. Well, we’ve decided to try to put the pieces together and provide an overview as coherently as we can for you here.
There have been two main pieces to this press release puzzle. The Promotions, a series of images with very little information, consisting of nothing more than the creative teams and a single word description, and the public relations stories on the books themselves, along with associated interviews, which reveal quite a bit more.
Some of the earliest bits we fans got were a series of images, explaining what NOW! was going to be using the creative teams with one word descriptions for the books that they were going to be doing. These were fairly easy to decipher.
Missing from these promo images are four more titles that are flying the Marvel NOW! banner, Thor: God of Thunder (as opposed to Thor: Your Neighborhood Butcher, and Thor: That Weird Guy Up The Street Who Gives Apples and Toothbrushes to Kids on Halloween) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Iron Man by Kieron Gillen and Greg Land, Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, and All-New X-Men, by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. I suppose those could have been CRASH, FERROUS , ERMAGEHRD, and WTF, AGAIN?!.
Marvel has been sending out press releases with a fervor matched only by a Twilight fan who is confronted with the fact that The Hunger Games is a better story overall, and that Katniss is a better protagonist than Bella. One after another, with a speed that is hard for to keep up with, information is being given to fans in a piecemeal manner, tidbits dropping here and there with seemingly no logic behind the way they are given. It is the same for the Marvel NOW! book press releases. Here is what we’ve gathered thus far, in the order of the above listed books.
The Marvel press release reveals that following the events of the AvX The Hulk and Bruce Banner will have merged, bringing the intelligence of Banner to the brute strength of The Hulk. According to Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, this innovative approach (ignoring, of course, the other times it has happened, most notably Peter David’s run of The Incredible Hulkin the early 90s), along with The Hulk being brought under the umbrella of S.H.I.E.L.D. will allow Waid and Yu to take the character in directions that will have fans asking ‘Why didn’t I think of that!?’.
Waid says in an interview with CBR ” The reception to our approach on “Daredevil” had a lot to do with how I’m coming at Hulk — assuming that everything we know about Hulk is still true, everything he’s been through — but, as we did with Daredevil, having Banner turn a corner and deciding to take a whole new, less “woe is me” view of his condition.
In 1962, Hulk was one of the most unique characters ever in comics because he viewed his powers as a curse, not a blessing. But that point of view is no longer unique — heck, that’s practically the emotional keynote of half the superhero books currently running. So Marvel gave their blessing to morph that attitude into something a little more heroic.”
On which villains The Hulk may be facing, Waid had this to say:
As with “Daredevil,” I want to stay away from the usual suspects for a while and shop around outside the established franchise — Frost Giants, Psycho-Man, Kang the Conqueror, Attuma. All those and more are on tap.
Marvel says about Deadpool’s relaunch, “Washington, D.C. is in turmoil when dead former U.S. Presidents – from George Washington to Gerald Ford – are resurrected and the heroes of the Marvel Universe can’t be the ones to stop them! There’s only one other person that has the reputation, skills, and plausible deniability to handle these com-monsters in chief…NOW! is the time for Deadpool!”
Executive branch zombies? Duggan explains a little more about the pitch, “It starts with a man who has decided that America has a lot of problems that can only be fixed by bringing back our former leaders, our great American Presidents. But that’s not how it works out. Once they’re back, they have a completely different idea of what they need to do and what the country needs. It’s a distasteful job having to send our presidents back, but Deadpool is up for the job and is suited for it. They’re not equal in terms of their planning, but in their own way they have returned corrupted. ”
Posehn explains why Deadpool is the right man for the job, “Deadpool is definitely the right guy, because it’s big news if the Avengers kill a President, not as big news when someone who everybody hates kills a President.”
Of course, Deadpool isn’t just known for his over-the-top ultra-violence, fans can get that in about 1000 other books on the selves. What keeps the fans coming back is the humor. How do the writers think their humor stands up? Duggan answers:
There’s stuff that makes us laugh, and it makes Marvel laugh, and Jordan laugh. We’ve definitely pushed the boundary. We’ve heard [Editor Jordan D. White] say no, but he’s always laughed when he said no, so we know we’re in the right ballpark. The no’s have been firm, but we settle on a yes that’s in the shade of the no. It’s very close to the no. We’ve been very very happy with what we’ve been able to get through.
Captain America will be thrown into a situation he doesn’t quite understand, without the support of the groups he’s had his entire career, according to Marvel. Scribe Rick Remender adds “This won’t be Cap getting orders and going off to serve S.H.I.E.L.D., this is going to be Steve dealing with threats he sees and at first he’s a bit reactionary. He’ll be dealing with the day-to-day and doing his normal thing and when our story opens the inciting incident will change his life so dramatically that in ten issues he’ll be an entirely different person.”
Over the years, Cap has become a sort of cipher, being nothing but the symbol that he represents, but Remender plans to bring the character of Steve Rogers back to the forefront, “He’s really lost himself to Captain America at this point and Steve Rogers the man is an afterthought.” He continues, “At a certain point the distinction between who is Steve and who is Captain America becomes blurred. To speak to that, to deal with it, half of this first story, which is 10 issues, deals with Steve growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1920’s and 30’s. We get to see what made him into this 98 pound weakling who was so committed to service and standing up to bullies. We know that point in his life when he’s the 98 pound weakling with a big heart who won’t give up and he’s going to serve, but we don’t know how a human being earns that. ”
With Arnim Zola as the main villian for the first arc, Remender describes what he likes about the character as a foil for Cap:
Given that he’s this terrible monster with no morals—he’ll torture, mutate and twist up things on his quest for knowledge—we give him a family. We give him something he cares about and is trying to move forward as well. You’ve got on one side all of these things I said, a person who’s motivated to experiment on living things just for the knowledge because that’s his passion, but you also have someone who has a family and something that he’s trying to build as well that plays at odds with Steve and it involves Steve. This draws him into the story in a reactionary way instead of him going out looking for Zola.
Marvel’s First Family is back, and on vacation? Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben pack up the kids and take the Fantasticar out for the longest road trip ever. Does this mean we can look forward to panel after panel of Franklin and Valeria asking “Are we there yet?” Editor-in-Chief Alonso doesn’t think so, “Matt [Fraction] and Mark [Bagley] are taking the world’s greatest family of science-adventurers on a road trip through every conceivable corner of the Marvel Universe. It’s a long and winding road, filled with friends and foes, both old and new, and challenges unlike anything they’ve ever faced. What doesn’t break the Richards family will only make it stronger.”
While not much has been revealed about the story yet, Matt Fraction has revealed what the writing duties on this book mean to him, ” The family unit of it all; adventure dad, adventure mom, that whole thing, when you’re a kid, is great. And The Thing. Greatest comics character of all time, or super greatest? Now I’m struck that in 102 issues, Stan and Jack pretty much built a universe. That’s a tall order, creatively, an impossibly high bar.” He continues, “I want to tackle that kind of challenge, to take on a book whose mandate, whose creative soul, means to invent wildly and with reckless abandon.”
The tone of Marvel’s flagship book is a big deal for readers, what insight can Fraction give about this?
“The Incredibles.” That “The Incredibles” was kind of the perfect modern Fantastic Four story and wasn’t a Fantastic Four story is, like, a provocation of creative war, y’know? Again, talk about impossibly high bars, but there you go. Can there be a Fantastic Four that’s wildly new, wildly inventive, and that appeals to everybody that might encounter it, regardless of their age or how many comics they’ve read? Let’s find out.
David Haller (also known as Legion) as long been the Black Sheep of the X-men family, both figuratively, and literally. The young man with a shattered personality and as many differing powers as personas is getting his own book, and learning what it is like to be integrated with society.
What will the story consist of? Alonso has this to say in the official press release, “From a windswept rehabilitation camp for damaged psychics to the horrific sci-fi prison of Legion’s own mind, readers will embark on a journey unlike anything they’ve ever experienced on an X-Men title, as Legion struggles with his tortured family legacy and bumps shoulders with characters that span the X-Men Universe. ‘Yours ain’t a life where the guy with the biggest pecs wins the day,’ Legion is told in issue #1. And truer words were never spoken.”
Writer Spurrior on the challenges writing such a tortured character, “The real trick with this brand new start was to find a way to rationalize—and, yes, visualize—David’s mental condition, so it’s not just this Deus Ex Machina to be deployed whenever we need a problem or a solution. If we’ve done it right—and I think we have—it should provide just as much drama, conflict, action and explodo as the more classical “external” adventures our guy is off having at the same time.”
How will the creative team handle the different shifts in personality that are bound to come from such a character? Spurrior again:
“Split personalities” risks being a bit of a daft concept at the best of times, but when you start having to invent “rules” for how the control mechanism works it gets super-wordy and gobbles up real estate on the page. So we’ve spent a long time coming up with something very visual which we can show rather than explain; something very simple but beautifully weird and full of all the same narrative stakes—Life and Death! Empathetic characters! Goals! Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’Roll!—as we’ll be getting in the “outside” world.
With the Fantastic Four off on National Lampoon’s Galactic Vacation, what about Earth? Who will protect the planet from forces wanting to conquer or destroy it? Well, who besides The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Uncanny Avengers, The All-New X-Men, The Indestructible Hulk, and the Power Rangers (wait, one of those isn’t right)?
Alonso has this to say on the topic, “Someone’s got to guard the fort, and Reed’s handpicked replacement team — courtesy of Matt and Mike’s unique creative synergy – is truly fantastic in its own right. Facing a relentless siege of villains with bones to pick, this team quickly realizes that the best defense against certain, uhm, Doom, is a good offense.”
Mike Allred is no stranger to working with oddball characters, here is what he had to say on working with Reed Richard’s hand picked B-Team, ” When I was approached with a project starring one of my all-time favorite, and vastly under-rated, characters, Ant-Man, I leapt out of my shoes. Literally. Those shoes are ruined now. Ant-Man has been there from the beginning. One of the very first Marvel heroes, folks; I think the first or second behind the Fantastic Four. Most people don’t know that.
Then add claiming the Baxter Building with my fave Marvel lady, Medusa, big and sexy She-Hulk, and one of the cleverest creations in recent memory, Miss Thing—now I’m almost out of my skin. Fortunately that’s just a figure of speech. I’m still tucked nicely away into my skin.”
Not many details are known about what the new book’s story will be, but one thing is evident, writer Matt Fraction’s excitement about the project:
“The FF is a chance to radically remix and reinvent the familiar aspects of the Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation into something all new and wild. Standing on its own but interlinked with Fantastic Four, the all-new FF will be doing things the Fantastic Four could only dream of before.”
Here is what we know about this title (other than it having the least needed subtitle of all time): the creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic will be crafting a story that takes place in three different eras, ” a sort of “Year One” story with a young Thor; focus on present-day Thor who is of course the great hero of the Avengers; and then also do kind of a far-future,Dark Knight Returns sort of story” says Aaron in an interview with Newsarama. The first story arc with be about 5 issues, and the overlying foe will be a new villain known as “The God Butcher”.
Arron tells a bit more about his experience writing the book, “I think this is a different kind of story than I’ve done before. It’s certainly different than the other stuff that I’m doing right now. It’s very different from Hulk, and Wolverine and the X-Men. I never walk into a project saying, “I want to strike exactly this kind of tone.” It all just kind of happens as I work on what the story is going to be. Thor has developed into a much darker book than what I’m doing on Wolverine and the X-Men, but it’s still balanced with all sorts of fantasy trappings, and the kind of things that come with Thor’s world — there are flying horses, and magic weapons, and references to trolls and dragons and all that sort of stuff. But in terms of tone, this is probably about as straight and serious a Marvel book as I’ve done.”
Wait? Magic weapons? Surely those are just for his allies and enemies, right? Not according to perhaps the most telling part of the official Marvel press release:
An all-new direction! All-new threats! All-new weapons! This is Thor NOW!
In many ways Iron Man has always been about a very smart, very flawed man in a very expensive suit. But mostly it’s been about the suit. Writer Kieron Gillen plans on taking this and developing both the man and the suit. Gone is the same suit for every mission, gone is the man who just rushes around trying to fix every problem in a reactionary method, and gone, thank the Lords of Kobol, are over reaching story arcs.
“The first five issues will be single stories that will share [both] a defining motif and a plot,” says Gillen in an interview with Marvel, “But it will be Iron Man facing new instances of technology and each is basically a new villain. Each issue will illuminate something about Tony and they’re all very different. Issue two is a lot like the Bruce Lee Kung-Fu Island story; it’s like a joust, it’s all about the knight imagery, essentially going to a tournament. Issue three is like a ninja story, Tony Stark trying to be a full-on stealth master, issue four is a horror story and issue five is something a little more romantic and scientific but I’m going to keep that one under wraps.”
On the armor, Gillen had this to say, “As opposed to doing the [morphing] armor, he’s doing precision-based tech. He’ll have to switch out arms and legs. His argument being that you can get more kick out of a specific tool and the theme [of it will] be about making choices and living with it. It will be like choosing a specific suit for a specific mission, taking a certain arm configuration and taking a different piece off. There will be a lot of changes in the armor throughout the series; in the first five issues there will be a different armor every issue.”
Gillen seems to have the perfect attitude coming into a project like this:
The best thing about the character is the character. I just want to do a lot of new things and Iron Man is all about invention.
Since this book is born directly from events at the end of AvX, much of its story is being kept under wraps. The first book to be released for the relauch, Uncanny Avengers is what some fans would see as the logical progression after AvX, a team blended from both groups. Consisting of Captain America, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Thor, and being led by Havok, this team will be the public face of integration of humans and mutants.
However, things won’t be so well-defined at the start. Remender on the forming of the team, “The team itself really isn’t even created until halfway through the first year. It’s still chaos. I didn’t want it to just be like “And now everybody shakes hands and hugs!” There’s still a really good arc of these things kind of coalescing and cooking into a soufflé of A and X.”
This book, above all else will be a team book, and why these particular characters come together. The most obvious reason is, of course, a common foe, which in this case will be the Red Skull. Though it won’t be The Red Skull we are used to seeing, Remender again, “This Red Skull is a digital recording that Arnim Zola took during the middle of World War II and saved it with a machine that can create a clone that was basically in a bunker. Red Skull said “Create a duplicate of me that will wake up in 70 or 80 years when everybody has forgotten what I’ve done, and the world won’t be out hunting me anymore.” And so this Red Skull, he woke up however many months or years back from now, and he’s a Red Skull taken directly out of World War II. The Red Skull we’ve seen as he grew and progressed in the Marvel Universe, that guy died. This guy is almost a reset of The Red Skull, and that works really well for the analogy with civil rights stuff.”
But why The Red Skull? Again, very few actual details are to be had, but Remender did have this to say
There are things happening in the Marvel universe at the end of AvX that lead somebody like The Red Skull to seeing a reason for doing away with the mutants, and that’s a plot that we’ve obviously seen many, many times. Somebody wants to kill off the mutants, the mutants are chased and killed off. I can’t tell you the specifics of what makes this different because it’s all pinned on the end of AvX, but it’s a very clean motive that he has.
As sketchy as details are for Uncanny Avengers, at least there are details. We only really know two things about All-New X-men.
1) These are the X-Men from early in their careers. How early? Bendis isn’t telling, only letting us know, “Yes, you’ll see in the book when exactly we grabbed them. I wanted them at the start when they aren’t as powerful as they become, but also when they’re focused on being a team. I didn’t want Jean to have her telepathy yet because she only had telekinesis at first. If she could read everyone’s minds it would take away [something]. It’s a very specific moment. [They are wearing the] original costumes and the fun is that, as X-Men fans, we know that they weren’t long for those costumes.”
So Pre-individual costumes. That put’s these X-Men coming from some point before Uncanny X-Men #39, unless he counts the minor redesign that Jean Grey did in #27. Either way, very early in their careers.
2) Bendis is in this for the long haul. “I have an idea in front of me that has already given me a notebook full of ideas with which to write. That’s what a good run starts from and it feels really good. If the audience participates accordingly, then I will hunker down for longer. I’m also under contract for a while so I have to write something. I want to do an X-run. There’s something nice about knowing that I can’t beat Chris Claremont’s record [of 16 years writing the X-Men], so I can relax.”
This book will be a game changer for the mutant community, and, I for one am looking forward to this reintroduction of characters that I fell in love with so long ago.
What are your thoughts on the Marvel NOW! relaunch? Are their books that excite you more than the others? Is there a title that you are just dreading? Let us know in the comments below!