Top of the Pull List – All-New Marvel NOW! Point One
By Brian Martin | Graphic/Novels Editor Published: 01/10/2014 1:00 pm EST
Every Wednesday, there is one comic at the top of Graphic/Novels editor Brian Martin’s “pull list.” Whether it’s because the comic is consistently brilliant, it’s the beginning of a new series or run, or it’s purely a whimsical choice, one book must be read before all others. In this weekly column, Brian examines the book he’s anticipating most, why he’s looking forward to it, and, after reading it, whether or not the issue met his expectations. Expect mild spoilers!
The Book:All-New Marvel NOW! Point One (Marvel Comics, $5.99)
Why is it at the top? Despite a superb lineup of talent, Detective Comics #27 misses the top based solely (and, I’ll admit, perhaps unfairly) on the title’s previous anniversary issue, last year’s dismal Detective Comics #19. Like that title, All-New Marvel NOW! Point One also boasts a pretty hefty array of creators, and the last Marvel primer—2012’s Marvel NOW! Point One (hey, at least they’re consistent!)—was surprisingly good, featuring original stories that led in to several Marvel NOW! standouts, like Fraction and Allred’s FF and Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers. As tall an order as it might seem, this year’s new lineup of Marvel titles looks even more eclectic, and with new series like Avengers World, Ms. Marvel, and (most importantly) Silver Surfer getting teased in its pages, All-New Marvel NOW! Point One is an unlikely must-read (which Marvel is obviously banking on…I mean, have you seen that price tag??? This better be good!).
Given the anthology-meets-trailer nature of this book, I’m going to do something a little different this week. I’ll start by ranking each new series teased in this comic on a scale of 1 to 10 based on my initial anticipation for it. At the end, I’ll rate each one again, based on the effectiveness of the teaser story in All-New Marvel NOW! Point One.
Avengers World—6 (I’m enjoying Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Avengers titles, but I can’t really understand why we need another one. Yet.)
Loki: Agent of Asgard—4 (I was a big fan of Kid Loki, and I haven’t warmed up to his re-grown-up (but still a little young) version yet. Also, I’m not sure I can buy grown-up Loki as an anti-hero.)
Ms. Marvel—7 (I’m definitely curious about this book, and watching—along with everyone else—to see how authentically a Muslim American heroine is portrayed in its pages.)
Silver Surfer—10 (This one wasn’t my Most Anticipated Project of 2014 for nothing. I enjoy Dan Slott’s writing just fine, but this book had me at Michael Allred.)
All-New Invaders—3 (The Invaders have come and gone over the years, and I’m not too excited about another attempt at an ongoing series. James Robinson and the inclusion of Bucky Barnes could prove me wrong, though.)
Black Widow—5 (This one gets points for Phil Noto, but Widow is a character Marvel seems intent on giving an ongoing title to, even though they never last long.)
So how was it?All-New Marvel NOW! Point One is generally good, with a couple real standout stories that elevate the entire book and make it one of the better, if not the best, “teaser comic” Marvel has produced in recent years.
As with previous one-shots, all of the sneak peeks in this issue are loosely stitched together by means of a framing sequence. This one is unsurprisingly devoted to the guy who’s managed to become one of Marvel’s most recognized and, in more ways than one depending on who you ask, hottest characters: Loki. Each Loki bit between stories follows the trickster as he acquires a series of mystical keys for a purpose that becomes clear at the issue’s conclusion.
I’ve always liked Loki. I liked him as a subversive villain in Thor, loved him as a kid in Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers, and I really dig Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of him in the Marvel films. That said, I’m just not feeling this new take on the character. He’s got boyish good looks, a sexy personality, and is a dashing rogue—basically everything the bizarre emerging cult of Loki fangirls could possibly dream of. He’s even got an apartment (?) in Manhattan, so, you know, he can totally invite you over.
In case you can’t tell, I’m getting a bit of a “fan service” vibe from all of this. Thanks to Hiddleston (and probably Joss Whedon), Loki has become to the 2010s what Gambit was to the 1990s—the bad boy you want to date (but would never want to introduce to your parents). Marvel clearly knows that there’s a rabid audience out there for a portrayal like this, and I can’t knock them for delivering on it. And it’s not necessarily bad, per se, it just isn’t my cup of tea.
Speaking of the Marvel films, this comic was very clearly designed to be inviting to moviegoers. The framing sequence for the Black Widow scene is a particularly good example of this, as a history between Loki and Coulson is hinted at and a sly reference is made to the “red” in Widow’s “ledger.” It’s all handled in a way that should satisfy both comic readers and movie fans—something Marvel is really getting good at.
The Silver Surfer story was first up after the Loki interlude, and it was predictably gorgeous to look at. With the addition of Dawn Greenwood, and the characterization of the surfer’s board as a sentient being, it feels like Marvel is trying to turn this series into their version of Doctor Who. Still, the gags work quite well (the “Harold” bit is funny), and Allred’s art keeps things from feeling too derivative. I’m interested to see where this goes (and exactly how Dawn came to be the Surfer’s “companion”).
The Ms. Marvel sequence sets a fun tone, and integrates the cultural and religious diversity of the character without being too heavy-handed (I think I may have just made an accidental pun there). It all feels like it might be a little too juvenile for my tastes, which I’m honestly happy to report. Unlike many of today’s comics, this feels like a series aimed squarely at teens, with peppy dialogue and a light manga-inspired flavor. I hope it finds its audience.
The Invaders pages don’t really give us much of a look at the team, but they do provide the impetus for its eventual re-formation, which is probably more important at this stage. The thought of seeing the Invaders yet again isn’t all that appealing to me, but this story plants a few seeds that are interesting.
Similarly, the Avengers World teaser manages to explain that title’s objective. The story features some exposition between Captain America and Maria Hill establishing the status quo intercut with Cannonball and Sunspot’s infiltration of an AIM compound (and a funny callback to Avengers #11). It’s a little disposable, I guess, but it’s fun.
The Black Widow story, however, may be the best of the bunch. It’s incredibly tight and efficient, setting the tone of the new series and concisely delivering its mission statement, while letting Phil Noto’s always-impressive artwork do most of the talking. If All-New Marvel NOW! Point One didn’t cost so much, I’d say this was worth the price of admission alone.
So, here’s how everything stands in the wake of this one-shot:
Avengers World—6.5 (Just a tad more interested now, if only because I have a clearer idea of what will separate this title from the regular Avengers comic.)
Loki: Agent of Asgard—3 (This one loses a little ground. I just don’t think this title is going to be for me. Congratulations to all the Tom Hiddleston fangirls out there, though. Marvel’s got you covered.)
Ms. Marvel—7 (I feel better about the character’s portrayal, but there might be just a little too much “teen speak” for me, and the footnotes explaining Muslim culture feel a bit inorganic. But hey, I guess that’s how comics have always done it before.)
Silver Surfer—9 (I’m still all over this one, but the Doctor Who vibe I got from everything makes me a little worried that it might be a tad less original than I had hoped.)
All-New Invaders—4 (Slight improvement here, if only because the reveal of who the “invaders” actually are was clever. This might be one to watch from a distance before going all-in.)
Black Widow—9 (And here’s the real winner in this comic. Terrific art, spot-on characterization, and a story that actually stands entirely on its own. You’ve roped me in, Black Widow. Just take my money!)
Overall, All-New Marvel NOW! Point One is worth at least a look. You might find that some of the stories that didn’t work so well for me are more to your liking. But there is no denying: That Black Widow story will knock your socks off.
Brian L. Martin is an educator, writer, and amateur curmudgeon. An avid fan of novels, movies, and beer, he would much rather spend his time reading comics, a lifelong love since receiving a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man # 242 from Spider-Man himself in 1983. His favorite books include The Grapes of Wrath, Siddhartha, and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which is heavy enough to be considered the only real defense weapon he has in his home. He currently lives with his wife in Uppsala, Sweden.