I Want My Marvel NOW: Iron Man #1, Deadpool #1, and A+X #1

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I'm giving each of the Marvel NOW books a fair shake; I reviewed the first two here (Uncanny Avengers #1 and Red She-Hulk #58), and so far so good. "So far so good" is typically the case at Marvel these days - nothing is ever truly god-awful, though some books are better than others. Since I've gotten back into collecting on a regular basis (2010), Marvel's stuff across the board has been, at the very least, enthusiastic. What I mean is, no one seems to be just phoning it in. That effort is appreciated, even when some of the individual titles aren't my cup of tea. I could do without invasive cross-over events spilling into my monthlies, but that's pretty much the nature of the beast at this point. I've never collected Iron Man on a monthly basis, and I think my interest in the title was at its highest in the late 80's, during the Micheline/Bright storyline that introduced a new gold and red armor after a few years of silver and red. There's a part of me, the Avengers fan part, that always hopes that Iron Man will hook me, but so far I've remained unhooked.

Iron Man #1 from Kieron Gillen and Greg Land is no exception. There seems to be a concerted effort from Marvel to Robert-Downey-Jr-ize the character of Tony Stark, making sure that Iron Man's dialogue sounds like things Downey would say. It's not nearly as noticeable as DC's effort to Ryan-Reynolds-ize Hal Jordan, mostly because Stark isn't so far removed from Downey as Jordan is from Reynolds (Hal was never a smartmouth). At any rate, this is the quick-witted playboy that fans expect from the Iron Man films, right down to the snappy patter with Pepper Potts. For those coming in for the first time from the movies, the rhythms of the book will feel comfortable.

What won't be so welcoming is the book's reliance on prior knowledge of the Extremis storyline from a few years ago. Strangely, Iron Man #1 is another Marvel NOW book (like Uncanny Avengers) that doesn't provide as clean a jump-on point as advertised. You can follow its storyline with the context provided, but there's definitely a feeling that you're missing something as you read.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? No...however, try it - you might like it. I don't really care what happens next, but Gillen's writing is respectable and Land draws a cool Iron Man (the black and gold armor looks pretty good in action). There's just nothing about this new direction that feels like a new direction.

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Deadpool is another character whose books I'll dip into sporadically, but never monthly. Last thing I read was the David Lapham and Kyle Baker MAX run, which should've been a homerun for me, considering that I love both of those creators, but I dropped it after the initial issues, and I literally have no recollection of why. I can't even remember what the storyline was.

I liked Deadpool #1. I expected comedians Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan to write a funny line or two for the "merc with a mouth," but I don't think I expected the plotting itself to feel so assured. Posehn and Duggan do write some funny stuff here, but it's as well-paced and inventive as any Marvel book written by a veteran writer. What felt like a bit of a gimmick - two well-known fringe comics on a fringe title with a popular fringe character - is actually the real deal. It's a funny action book, fully comfortable with the trappings of the Marvel U, while skirting the edge between ridiculous and cool.

They're helped by artist Tony Moore, whose work here is more comfortable than ever before, as if this is exactly the thing he's been waiting his entire career to draw. It's not even that it's technically his best artwork; it's that the energy of the work is at a higher level than he's ever displayed. Moore is getting off on this, and you can tell.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Yes. I'm not committing it to the old pull list just yet, but it's so close. At the very least, I'll be completing this first arc, and we'll see where it goes from there. I'd recommend this if you were a fan of the old DeMatteis/Giffen Justice League.

Deadpool #1 also contains the only Marvel AR stuff yet that fulfills the promise of the smart phone application. If you've been curious about the app, this is the best book to try it out. Scanning certain AR-marked panels with my phone revealed a video interview with Brian Posehn and a cheap, weird puppet show that explained the origin of Deadpool. More stuff like this, Marvel; less stuff like narrated word balloons or videos of unlettered pages.

A+X is supposed to be a team-up book featuring an Avengers cast member and an X-Men cast member, but considering how Marvel has blurred the line between the two teams, this may as well be called Marvel Universe. I think the only character ineligible from appearing is Man-Thing, though somebody probably made him an honorary Avenger at some point. Who knows.

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The first issue has two stories - one with Captain America and Cable, from Dan Slott and Ron Garney, and one with Hulk and Wolverine, from Jeph Loeb and Dale Keown. My cover for #1 has Spider-Man and Green Goblin on it, characters who aren't even mentioned inside. At any rate, it was interesting to see the evolution of two artists whose work I've enjoyed in the past. Garney seems to have become a more comfortable cartoonist, while Keown, who only draws sequential pages once in a blue moon, seems to have regressed. There's a stiffness to the work that reminded me a lot of Brandon Peterson's first Jim Lee knock-off X-Men stuff. Beyond his initial Incredible Hulk run, Keown has never shown much interest in producing monthly work, and I've always wondered how his art would've evolved if he was more dedicated to craft. His lack of output in the past twenty years is comics' loss.

Slott's story reads like a back-up tale that's been tucked away in a drawer for use in a book that was running late. It's readable, diverting, and brief. Loeb's story stinks, especially in the dialogue department. Hulk says things like,  "I'm punching you back to wherever you came from!" while Wolverine busts out a late-90's "Whatever" in the middle of a fight. In it, modern Wolverine and Hulk fight Old Man Logan and Maestro until those two baddies disappear. Then there's a last panel reveal, with a "The End...for now!" caption, that may or may not be addressed in the next issue. A+X is the worst of the new Marvel NOW books so far, and its thin concept and thinner stories place its head directly on the cancellation chopping block right from the start.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? This is a loaded question. No, definitely not monthly. Sometimes I do get suckered in with the right mix of characters, so it's entirely possible I might pick up another issue someday. Out of all the titles so far, though, this is the one I'd tell people to skip entirely.