– Fresh off the canceled X-23 (as well as the BLACK WIDOW mini series from last year), writer Majorie Liu has been announced as the next writer of ASTONISHING X-MEN in March 2012. That is when the arc by Greg Pak (INCREDIBLE HULK) should wrap up. Mike Perkins will provide the art for her run, which is described as “open ended”. ASTONISHING X-MEN is something of a strange book on the line-up. Originally launched by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday as a headliner series, it was often late in publication and took some 3-4 years to wrap up a 25 issue run. After that, the series abandoned any pretense of being a core “continuity” series like UNCANNY X-MEN or X-MEN: LEGACY are and has simply shifted into the generic X-Men title that often gets “big name” writers aboard it for runs where they can do their own thing without much editorial interference; Warren Ellis, Christos Gage, Daniel Way, and the aforementioned Pak have all contributed since. In a “Next Big Thing” conference call with Newsarama (http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-next-big-thing-reveal-111212.html), Liu announces her roster for her run as containing Wolverine, Warbird, Northstar, Iceman, Gambit, and Cecilia Reyes. Perkins was excited to be working on Iceman, while Liu – like most X-fangirls it seems – revealed her adoration for Gambit (who she made a supporting character in X-23). The villains at least for the immediate arc are the Marauders, with Vanisher and Chimera alongside them as well. While the Vanisher had become an ally of sorts for X-Force lately, he was nearly killed and considered M.I.A. during SECOND COMING, which is as good a reason as any to become a villain again. Editors Nick Lowe and Jeanine Schafer promised a lot of interpersonal bits as well as explosive action. Despite a tenuous reason to exist, ASTONISHING X-MEN still sells in the Top 65 most months, which is better than X-23 did. While Wolverine and Gambit appearing in multiple team books is no surprise, suddenly Iceman will be in three titles (this, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, and X-MEN: LEGACY). Wouldn’t it be amazing if he actually did something relevant in one of them? Worth noting that the Warbird present is not Ms. Marvel, who used to use that alias, but a new Shi’ar heroine from WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN. Northstar will be “living in New York with his boyfriend”, and it is curious how this plays off the ALPHA FLIGHT mini series which is wrapping up that also features Northstar with his boyfriend, albeit in his native Canada.
– Marvel planned an internet press conference event last Wednesday to announce their “big thing” for 2012, only for them to leak it a day early as being a 12-13 part AVENGERS VS. X-MEN maxi-series written by Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, and Jonathan Hickman (http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/marvel-news-12-6-11-extra-avengers-vs-x-men-12-event-bendis-leaves-avengers). The conference had some bluster from writers and editors such as “there’s never been an Avengers vs. X-Men super blow out”, which is simply not true (http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/all-the-other-times-the-avengers-fought-the-x-men-1965-2003-picture). Editor Nick Lowe calls it “the biggest fight you’ve ever seen”. In finer details (http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-avengers-vs-xmen-event-111207.html), AVENGERS: X-SANCTION by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness which debuts tomorrow is stated as a “prelude” to this series, with Cable’s actions being crucial to the larger event. Both Hope and Scarlet Witch will be key characters to this story, and elements of this will be lifted from prior events such as HOUSE OF M from 2005, or CIVIL WAR from 2006-2007. Each issue is geared towards a particular writer’s strengths and preferences, but will all connect together as a whole (“Brian [Bendis] wrote the first issue, Jason [Aaron] wrote the second, and so forth”). Wolverine and Storm, who are both Avengers, will be said to be “a major factor” in the event; curiously, less is said of Beast, who is also an Avenger now (SECRET AVENGERS). Brubaker is chomping at the bit to pit Cyclops against Captain America, and sees them as two sides of the same coin in many ways. Fraction insists that Hawkeye will also play a large role. The series will consist of 12 bi-weekly issues and a #0 issue drawn by Frank Cho in March. The 12 issue series will be divided into three acts, with John Romita Jr. drawing the first, Oliver Coipel will draw the second, and the third will be handled by Adam Kubert. Editor in chief Axel Alonso also states that Nova will be included in this event as well, and the only major Avengers title that won’t cross over with this series is Bendis’ AVENGERS ASSEMBLE with Mark Bagley, which is intended for movie audiences. The tie-ins will be “limited to the Avengers titles and X-Men titles”, which is a curious thing to say is that both franchises combined consist of roughly a dozen ongoing titles – many of whom may be double shipping. This week, the cover and solicitation for AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0 was revealed, and it will in fact be co-written by Bendis and Aaron, with art by Cho (http://www.newsarama.com/comics/avengers-vs-xmen-0-cover-111213.html). After all the buzz of DC’s New 52, some have criticized Marvel of offering “more of the same” as a response; few things live up to that criticism than this series, written by the same five writers who have basically been running the Marvel Universe at large for 3-6 years. Bendis has written half of the “annual events” Marvel has had since 2004, and Fraction just wrapped up the most recent one. Yet with DC’s dominance over Marvel in units and dollars accomplished by a razor thin margin last month, Marvel’s strategy may actually succeed, despite itself.
– In more announcements of stories launching in March 2012, writer Dan Slott revealed his next huge AMAZING SPIDER-MAN arc in the spring, which is called ENDS OF THE EARTH and will have Spider-Man and his allies battle the most ambitious plan of the Sinister Six yet (http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-next-big-thing-reveal-111213.html). Unlike this summer’s SPIDER-ISLAND, this arc will be exclusively contained in ASM with no crossovers or tie-in’s; likely because many titles will be gearing up for AVENGERS VS. X-MEN about that time. The arc begins in ASM #682 and will resolve by the iconic 700th issue. Slott states that because Ock is dying and only has weeks to live, he is making his ploy to take over the world. While the current Sinister Six includes Ock alongside Sandman, Mysterio, Chameleon, Rhino, and Electro, although Slott teases that the roster could change by the end. This story has been rumbling along in various subplots going back to the first issue of BIG TIME last November to even an issue of AVENGERS ACADEMY. Furthermore, “you will see a major Spidey character, sometime adversary, who will be showing up”, which hints at Morbius, who in SPIDER-ISLAND was revealed as Horizon Lab’s silent partner. Spidey will also utilize new technology against the Six, in particular a “new suit” just in time for more video games. Slott also claims that Carlie Cooper will continue to aid Spidey on cases, which will be awkward since they are ex’s, and that there will be a Lizard story in time for Sony’s next film next year. Editor Steve Wacker notes that the motivation for why many of Spidey’s “big” villains were left off the table for the past year or so was to make it an event to see them teamed up again. Stefano Caselli, one of ASM’s rotation of artists, will draw the first and last two issues of the arc; presumably Humberto Ramos will handle the two in the middle. Given the success of SPIDER-ISLAND this year and the far more bloated nature of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, it appears that Slott will once again offer a better alternative on ASM.
– In the wave of Marvel’s massive cancellation spree at the end of November, many critics online took pause that with the end of GHOST RIDER and X-23, Marvel would have NO ongoing series with a female lead on the title. Whether DC is sexist or not, they have six of them within their New 52. Marvel’s #2 Tom Brevoort responded to this on Formspring and laid the blame at the feet of readers who did not support Marvel’s prior attempts to sell solo heroine titles like X-23 (http://www.formspring.me/TomBrevoort/q/267546667664812640) – “If all of the fans crying for more series with female leads from all of the companies had supported all the ones that were done in the past, this circumstance wouldn’t exist”. This was covered in several websites run by female fans, such as The Beat (http://www.comicsbeat.com/2011/12/07/tom-brevoort-on-marvels-distaff-dearth/), DC Women Kicking Ass (http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/13878069506/marvelblame), and The Mary Sue (http://www.themarysue.com/marvel-tom-brevoort-female-characters/). The consensus? Marvel (and DC) don’t do enough to promote many of those titles and grow their female audience. Perhaps the tale of “X-MEN EVOLUTION” fits here. In 1999, Marvel and Kid’s WB teamed up to produce a new X-Men cartoon to debut in 2000, only months after Fox’s “X-MEN” film hit theaters. The result was a series of production compromises between both powerhouses. Kid’s WB wanted it to be a show with teenage stars based around high school, while Marvel insisted that certain characters like Wolverine and Storm not be teenagers. Both sides were reportedly irritated at some of these compromises, with the network being the most stern on the debut season. The result? The show ran for 52 episodes across 4 seasons, and while it did well on the network among the usual “target audience” of 10-21 year old boys and men, it actually proved to be especially popular among girls. The reason should be obvious. Half the series’ cast were female characters, and most of them were written well; Rogue in particular. Result? Both companies punted rather than capitalize. After episode 52 in 2003, the show vanished with a whimper from the airwaves. DVD releases were and are still rare as neither side wanted to split profits. An obligatory tie-in comic by Devin Grayson and UDON Studios came and went with little promotion. Marvel has been airing the series for free via their website and YouTube channel for years, but it may be too little, too late. Given how many people were inspired by the X-Men cartoon of the 90’s on FoxKids, some could argue the fumble with the female audience which wasn’t expected is a microcosm of the problem. Editors usually claim it is more effective to promote things that are “sure bets” to make them bigger successes, rather than focus on unfounded territory. The unwillingness to explore new territory instead of selling to the same “sold” audiences is perhaps a dilemma both Marvel and DC have failed to respond to. Marvel’s problem also comes from not having a comparable heroine to pit against DC’s Wonder Woman as an iconic solo heroine; their best recent examples have been Storm, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel (the latter have had long runs in recent memory). When will Marvel give another gal a shot? Stay tuned.
Last Week’s Marvel Comics News – http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/marvel-comics-news-12-6-11-phoenix-returns-striker-is-outed-more & http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/marvel-news-12-6-11-extra-avengers-vs-x-men-12-event-bendis-leaves-avengers
This Week’s DC Comics News – http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/dc-comics-news-12-13-11-r-i-p-jerry-robinson-dc-wins-november-more
This Week’s Indie Comics News – http://lodeplus.com/comic-books-in-new-york/indie-comics-news-12-12-11-valiant-returns-bkv-s-saga-comixology-update-more