Marvel NOW! Brings a Stack of Firsts… Again

Ah, the first issue. Filled with so much promise, so much energy, so much hype… no wonder everyone gets excited about them. We hear about them in San Diego, on the web and, weeks, sometimes months later, we get our grubby hands on an issue, ready to start a relationship that will endure for months and years to come — if we’re lucky.

At least, that’s the dream, right? That’s what we are told, time and time again, that this first issue of whatever title, with this fantastic ground-breaking creative team, would be bring us stories featuring our favorite characters that are truly innovative, that are utterly contemporary, that will deliver the ultimate modern experience of whatever title.

And check out the 13 covers, by the way — you know you can’t stop with just one first issue!

I’m actually quite torn when it comes to first issues, as I think all modern comic book fans are. As someone who loves comics, I can’t help but want to give the first issue this incredible benefit of the doubt, you know? As jaded as I am, it’s not the new creators’ fault that the previous issues of whatever title failed to inspire my purchase. I can’t help but feel I need to give the first issue a chance, to see if I like what might happen, if the creators are doing something truly interesting and (hopefully, at least for me) unexpected with the characters and themes. I find myself drawn to the pairings of creator and artist as if they are some kind of new drink or appetizer — perhaps this will be that ultimate combination, with a creative dynamic that tells a story that will be truly, fundamentally, important.

But then, the “modern” part of me just looks at the “comic book fan” part of me and rolls his eyes. This is exactly what they want you to think he snarls. You are falling for it — have you learned nothing from Admiral Ackbar?? 

I understand what my jaded half is saying. I get it. And I admit, this recent string of first issues being produced by Marvel has really raised the levels of that internal argument by several decibels. When I look at my recent experiences with the premiere issues of All-New X-Men, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Uncanny Avengers, Indestructible Hulk and Thor: God of Thunder, I swing back and forth from feelings of self-congratulatory pride, “Look at me, I am trying all of the new Marvel books” and deep skepticism, “look at all the stupid covers — look, there are even covers that are not actually covers and people still pay for them! Why would I give a company who makes people pay for blank covers my money?”

(Yes, the blank covers are for sketches at cons but still.)

I will spare you the pricing rant, by the way. There is no way that Marvel can convince me that the books I read are worth $4 for a digital version. I am fundamentally opposed to that price point and I honestly don’t know if I will return to any of these books because of it. Oops, you almost got the rant.

So, what about these books?

Well, I know that my mention of Uncanny Avengers #1 is a little late, but hey, look who’s drawing it. (Zing! Pow! Boom!) I only bring it up because I was confused to see Cyclops in All-New X-Men moaning about all the mess he’s made when the last time I saw him he was wearing some serious red coke bottle glasses in a prison getting lectured by his brother. My days of whining about continuity are well behind me, but that struck me as particularly egregious. All-New X-Men was pretty humdrum until the end, which, being a first issue, is pretty much the name of the game, but did it draw me into the story? I don’t know. I didn’t even finish the last big event and I am already tired of the mutant in-fighting and the constant arguments about what their relations are with humans. Problem is, I like Hank McCoy, so part of me really wants to read it. But then again, the “modern” part of me knows that no matter what happens to Hank, it will turn out okay, so what’s the point? Is the journey the reward? I dunno. I’ve driven the 5 to San Francisco and back many, many times, and I can tell you, that journey? No reward.

Fantastic Four #1, like the X-Men first issue, was interesting, if only because I have been seriously out of the scene with the Richards clan. I have no idea what’s been going on, other than the kids seem to be talking a lot more and there are a ton more alien-looking beings hanging about. I suppose part of me was supposed to feel happy about seeing Bagley on a Marvel book again, but after so many years on Ultimate Spider-Man, I kind of get his art. I don’t really need to see it anymore. I thought it was interesting to see Reed dealing with that medical problem he’s got, but, again, the “modern” fan in me knows that 12 months from now everything will be fine and I will be out $50, and I am not sure if it’s worth it. But leave it to Marvel — the one thing Fantastic Four #1 did do was get me interested in FF #1 with art by Mike Allred, which means I will pick that up because I do like his art, quite a bit.

There are a few pages in Captain America #1 that, taken on their own, are pretty stunning. Sure, we’ve seen the “Cap riding on top of a plane” scene before, in the first issue of Civil War, but this time around, John Romita, Klaus Janson, and Dean White really come together to make the first half of the issue pretty stunning. I was at first a little dismayed that we were going for the abusive father thing, but when I see how Remender uses it to inspire Steve by witnessing his mom’s strength, facing up to the bullying, I have to admit, it gave me pause. It’s an intriguing way to look at Steve’s inner life, which I haven’t really seen all that often. Unfortunately, I found the rest of the issue both confounding (what’s with the subway?) and kind of uninspiring (I feel like I’ve been in alternate universes a lot over the past few years). Still, it was a bold opening scene, with hints of romance, the chance to see Cap act as a father figure again, and a really crazy design for Arnim Zola.

Of all the Marvel characters that I have grown up with, the one I have forsaken the most is The Hulk. As a kid, I was a huge The Incredible Hulk fan — it was one of the few comics I bought, and my brother and I broke a bed frame while playing HULK FIGHT after one of the episodes of the TV show (we would jump from one bed to another, and, with one leap, one of us was suddenly too old to be doing that). I was a huge fan, and have always considered myself a fan of the character. A fan who did not buy any of the comics, but still — a fan. (That’s not totally fair; I did buy the hardcover trade of World War Hulk. That was the last time I read that book.) So, I am still rather surprised to reveal that I quite enjoyed the preposterously-named Indestructible Hulk #1, and I think, for me, it was one of the most successful of these initial issues that I read, probably because Mark Waid, who worked his humor-filled magic on Daredevil, brought along that knowing wink with this book as well. While I am not sure that Lenil Yu is the perfect companion for this book (and I say this as a big fan of his—I see why he was picked, but Waid is best when the artist can truly “act” with his or her art, and I think Yu is more comfortable with big time, high concept, big-screen moments), I really did enjoy it quite a bit. I also appreciated that of the first issues I am discussing, this was more of a “one and done” book than the others, and didn’t rely on a crazy cliff-hanger to get things going. I think that’s a better way to go; it gives the reader a better idea of how the creators will treat the characters and stories, and, for me, actually makes me want to pick up the second issue even more than if it had ended in some nail-biting cliffhanger.

Ron already wrote about Thor: God of Thunder, so you should read his review, but suffice to say, I really enjoyed this book, and I think the creative team here is probably the most exciting of any of the issues I read. Esad Ribic’s work reminds me of a grittier Frazier Irving, and I loved how this book looks different than anything else I am reading. Aaron’s got a real handle on Thor and the whole issue, with it’s time-jumping, humor and high stakes, makes me think that this book, along with Hulk, will be one of the Marvel NOW! books I think I will keep reading.

It’s funny to read all these first issues all at once, especially since my memories of DC’s New 52 are still rather fresh in my brain. It’s interesting to see different writers take on the task of the first issue (Big time cliffhanger? Cool one and done?), and see what these artists are like as they tackle these characters and figure out how best to express the writer’s scenes. It’s the same reason why I try to eat a newly released candy bar — you know it’s gotta be pretty fresh, since it’s all new, you know?

Yes, personally, I think having 13 first issue covers is super stupid and lame, but since I am neither, I don’t buy them all, so it doesn’t matter to me. If you like all the different covers, fantastic. Good on you, but just don’t get pissed at me when you find out that Google does image searches. And yes, I understand that a lot of this first issue madness only happens because first issues sell, and yes, I can see why people would get upset because it’s so crassly commercial. But, on the other hand, if it keeps comic books creators in business, I guess I am for it.

First issues are, more than ever, the foundation of modern comics, both creatively and commercially. That’s just the time we live in — things are changing, whether we like them or not. Just like iTunes killed the album, maybe, in the age of digital comics and trades, maybe issue numbers’ days are similarly numbered. Who knows? For me, the first issue is an opportunity to give comic books another chance, and even though I didn’t have a lot of context for some of these new books, I actually didn’t mind — it was nice have a fresh start, to be honest. Will I keep reading these new stories? Not sure. I will stick with Hulk and Thor, for sure, but I’ll keep reading the reviews here and see what happens. No matter what, though — it was nice to get a chance to check in and see what was what.


Mike Romo is an actor living and working in Los Angeles, CA


  1. I think for me, the impetus going into this relaunch and buying some of these titles is because I want to have in my collection “a complete run” of single issues.

    My collection is still pretty new, compared to some posters here and I’ve yet to really acquire the kind of run you can point to and say: that is 10 years worth of stories right there.

    I had a friend who got into Bendis’ Avengers, New Avengers just as they were coming out, and as much as I wanted to read those books, I never wanted to just jump into such a monumental run. I’ll be picking up a lot of these books and waiting to see which seems the most like a classic, long-lasting run, and those are the titles I’ll likely stick with.

    I noticed you didn’t mention X-Men Legacy #1. That really seems to be one of the love-it-or-hate-it titles of the relaunch, which is a shame, because even if it doesn’t “matter” it terms of X-continuity, I thought it was one of the most interesting #1’s of the NOW relaunch so far.

    • I know collecting is kind of a weird impulse to deconstruct, so don’t take this as criticism. I’m just curious if you would continue to buy a comic because it was part of a long run, regardless of whether you enjoyed it.

      I understand wanting to have the complete set of something, but I would rather have 4, 6, 12, etc. issues of a great story rather than have a complete set just to have it. But maybe that’s just me.

    • Should be “complete set of a creator’s run just to have it.” on that second paragraph.

    • That’s a great question, and I don’t mind you asking it because I tend to deconstruct my own buying habits on a regular basis. The answer, I think, is no. I wouldn’t keep reading a series over the long-term just to have a complete set.

      Case in point: Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. I’ve been reading this book since it came out, but have been consistently disappointed by it for the past 4-5 months. The reason I decided to keep reading it was because of the upcoming Rotworld crossover w/ Swamp Thing. Well, that happened (or is happening), and in my opinion, the book hasn’t gotten any better.

      The collector in me says “keep buying it until the crossover is done,” and fair enough, I don’t really like quitting a story in the middle of an arc, but my enjoyment level of that title is so low right now that I am only buying the next two issues or so to finish the arc and then I’ll be dropping it.

      And to your second point, yes, I absolutely would not keep buying a title irregardless of the creative team. The creative team is everything to me, writer and artist combined. This is why Marvel, DC, and even Valiant’s reliance on fill-in artists irks me. I didn’t buy into a particular creative team just to have some shitty fill-in artist or “co-plotter” finish the job.

    • I completely understand the single run collection sentiment. Being a new collector all it’s been so hard to resist buying all the MarvelNOW #1’s for the sole reason that I might miss the next big thing. Trades on the run are fine, but there IS something special about having those single issues. Now, sure I’ve bought a couple of them simply because of the creative team, characters, concept i.e. Deadpool All New X-men and FF, but it’s hard to skip on the other ones. I’m more a “fanboy” than a collector and have a deep admiration for comic books and all the characters, but when I don’t have Snyder’s and Capullo’s Batman #1 first print, I become just as irked as I would be if the title became stale.
      I’m excited for MarvelNOW, as a fan and as a collector. Lot of opportunity to find and own that great complete run of singles.

    • The problem with ditching a run when in it gets stale for a moment is that it might get really cool again. I thought very briefly about dropping x force after the dark angel saga when they did that whole captain britain story. I sucked it up and shelled out 4 a pop and that story arc, while boring and sloppy, dovetailed into some really cool moments for x force.

      Another shitty part about collecting the whole run is when you hear its getting cancelled and there is no sensible closing point in sight. Happened to me with Black Panther:Man Without Fear. (to hell with your qualms with that title, it ruled) I love that run but don’t have the last 2 issues because I feared the let down of the end. And when DC cut off Red Robin for the new 52. I had to get some dumbass rushed story about Red Robin getting revenge on a Captain Boomerang recently returned from the dead. Should have been an epic, got one issue.

      Ups and Downs to trying to snag those really giant runs. Look for the sure things. Scott Snyder, Brian K Vaughn, Ed Brubaker. Those dudes stick to a title for a while.

  2. You were prophetic in your earlier description of Marvel Now…the perfect jumping off point. I have picked up a couple #1’s and more or less enjoyed them. I have also read with pleasure the many favorable reviews of the effort. Once Remender’s run on X Force concludes, my return to buying Marvel comics on a weekly basis will come to an end as well. I left comics in disgust when Cyclops turned into Apocalypse, and leave again now that he’s turned into Magneto. This time, though, its a much happier departure. I am just not interested in investing the time and energy in the long unfolding of new stories. I will pick up the good one’s down the road in trade, and follow along with the general goings on via the site.

  3. “But then again, the “modern” part of me knows that no matter what happens to Hank, it will turn out okay, so what’s the point? Is the journey the reward? I dunno.”

    Mike, could you clarify this for me? Are you speaking directly to your affinity to Hank or are you talking about all characters you enjoy? Because if it’s the latter, that type of ennui confuses me a tad simply because I would argue that the journey of reading comics (and experiencing stories in any medium really) is absolutely the point. Or perhaps you are saying you’re just looking for new journeys with new characters, not established IPs that cannot by their nature every really change to much.

  4. Marvel had one shot at getting me sold on their new NOW initiative and that was Uncanny Avengers, while not a terrible comic, it didn’t feel like world building to me. And I think that for me get behind this initiative they needed to build a better world for stories for me to come along. As such I’m treating the NOW line much like I did DC’s relaunch, I’m just flat out ignoring it, with the each publishers back catalog of old issues growing rapidly I’m just reading old favorites and arcs I never really checked out before. I’m still reading a lot of indie titles, and I think this is a good thing, I’m coming to realize that as I get older I don’t want straight up serialized stories, I want longer form narratives and complete thoughts. And like books I can just pick up what sounds interesting after the fact and I don’t need to be enthralled in the messy continuities that are always changing. And much like mike says I can’t feature spending $4 on a comic consistently though I hold true to that on both digital and floppies. Luckily I will always have sites like this one that can tell me when something interesting is happening.

  5. To me this has all sort of fallen into a pattern.

    10 Hype
    20 Crossover or Big Event
    30 New Creative Teams
    40 Goto 10

    The new number 1 is meaningless unless you are a cataloguer and once a character has been shredded for a big event I don’t look back until that character hits the discount bins. No sense getting excited about what are in effect just team change ups.

  6. I know I’d be much more likely to enjoy more comics if they were stories that were contained in some measure; describing every new thing that happens as a change to the status quo that will be dragged out until people beg gets pretty old. When you look at a lot of the best stories of all time, a lot of them have “a definitive end” as a common feature. I look forward to the next issue of a comic much more if the last one was just a great issue, and the cliffhangers themselves start to seem like a silly marketing trick after a while. That being said, I’m enjoying more of the Marvel Now stuff than I thought I would, but I had pretty low hopes. So far I’ll be getting more of 4 of the 11 issues I’ve tried so far.

  7. “I’ve driven the 5 to San Francisco and back many, many times, and I can tell you, that journey? No reward.”

  8. I both love and hate #1’s. Iove them because they are a great jumping on point but I hate them because writers don’t really write them correctly. Take All-New X-Men for example. Issue #1 felt like a prequel, or a 0 issue. Issue #2 felt more like what issue #1 should have been. IMO, the two should have been combined into one longer issue. In fact, I believe most #1’s should be much larger, like Annual-sized.

  9. The beginning of the end for me…

    I’m getting a dozen titles or so by direct subscription.

    The two I buy at retail now I both expect to end sometime next year.

    I can see “not buying at retail” becoming “letting subscriptions lapse” as well.

    So far I’m underwhelmed by the relaunch.

    I plan on jumping off the 4-dollars-for-20-pages-three-times-a-month machine.

    Thankfully I get close to 44% off most titles.

    The hype and anticipation is leaving me pretty cold when the actual issues arrive.

    Back to the public library and some other publishers.