Weekly Comic Round-Up, January 08, 2014 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

marvel_now_1All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1
So, Marvel is starting a second phase to “Marvel Now,” and this issue basically serves as an introduction to each of the series that are being started, ranging from Ms. Marvel to Black Widow to Silver Surfer to Avengers World to Loki: Agent of Asgard (and a few others), with a loose framing device wrapping the story as we see Loki collecting a series of keys that he can use to obtain a nifty magical sword, all in service to the All-Mothers of Asgard.

This isn’t really a comic. It’s a preview guide of the various series included in the tome, and as such, it’s hard to gauge it as an actual comic.

All of which would be fine, if it weren’t for the $5.99 price tag. This isn’t a comic we should be purchasing, this is one Marvel should be including as a free digital download with the purchase of any of the Marvel titles this month.

That said, it did its job. I picked it up, and it has reinforced for me that I want to buy Ms. Marvel, and it even made me consider picking up Silver Surfer and Invaders, but I still rankle at having purchased this book when the book is mostly an advertisement and not an actual story. But with this review, hopefully you don’t make the same mistake.

Avengers_World_Vol_1_1Avengers World #1
One of the greatest side-effects of Inhumanity was that the Avengers returned to taking responsibility for the world on not just a global scale, but on an interstellar scale. “This is our world,” they told the Universe, “And it is protected.” We see the after-effects of that now, as the Avengers begin a more closely hand-in-hand relationship with SHIELD, and we see Avengers teams heading across the globe, from Madripoor to AIM Island to outer space, all coordinated by Captain America and Maria Hill.

It’s a nice global superhero, but the really notable element can be seen in the writing credits. Jonathan Hickman is no stranger to huge global stories, but often times, his characters feel like props and not people. But the writing credit for this issue isn’t just Hickman, it is Hickman/Spencer. Nick Spencer is one of the more promising newer writers in Marvel’s stable, and one who has a great ear for dialogue and character.

So, what could have been a fairly dull, paint-by-numbers “Epic” is actually a story. I have high hopes for the remainder of this series.

Cataclysm_Ultimate_Spider-Man_Vol_1_3Cataclysm_The_Ultimates'_Last_Stand_Vol_1_3Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #3 and Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand #3
I’m going to write about these two in a single entry, because they really go hand-in-hand. Ultimate Spider-Man focuses on the new “team” of heroes that includes Miles, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger, as they all collectively work to save lives in a New York City beset upon by Galactus. Along the way, they also deal with personal problems and issues, including Miles revealing his identity to his mutant-hating father, an encounter with J. Jonah Jameson, and seeing Bombshell really stepping up as a hero.

It’s a perfectly serviceable issue, but honestly could have just been another issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. It didn’t really need the Cataclysm masthead – Marvel could simply have published two issues of Ultimate Spider-Man for the past few (and next couple of) months. This doesn’t mean it’s bad – Bendis still has a great turn of phrase, and the characters all feel perfectly in-line with who we know them to be.

Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand, on the other hand, brings the whole end-of-the-world thing full circle, as Miles and Ultimate Reed Richards head through the portal to consult with the 616 version of Reed about how to stop Galactus.

This feels like an epic. We have betrayal, we have villains getting redeemed, we have cross-dimensional shenanigans and more than one case of identity confusion by machines (including one where Miles sics a horde of robots on the “Superior” Spider-Man accidentally and inwardly says “Sorry Peter,” which just made me grin.)

And the issue ends on a serious downbeat, as it should for being issue three of five.

Marvel has just announced the three Ultimate Comics lines that will exist following Cataclysm, which gives us some good idea as to how things will play out, but this is a great example of an event that feels like an event. I could have dealt without seeing Newark destroyed – too many instances of massive disasters make them feel less important, and it hasn’t been that long since Magneto flooded New York City – but I have really enjoyed this event as a whole.

Meanwhile, in A+X #16 we see a totally non-canon and pointless story involving Spider-Man (Peter) and Psylocke, along with the next part of the Cyclops/Captain America/Skrull story, Batwoman #26 gives us Kate and Bette teaming up to fight a fairly forgettable thief named The Spider, Earth-2 continues to show us a Darkseid-serving Superman conquering the world while Batman, Lois-as-Red-Tornado and others flee to create a new underground resistance movement, Revolutionary War: Alpha brings a huge cross-dimensional apocalypse to the Marvel UK heroes in a story that might resonate with fans but left a newbie totally lost, and Young Avengers #15 wraps up the series as friendships are reforged, lovers reunite or separate, and the team goes into a portal off for their next great adventure, while teen-Loki goes off to star in his own new series.