New Marvel NOW books! Have we been pleased enough with the comics to call this publishing initiative a success? Because I totally did in the Year-End wrap-up. I hope that's okay with you.
Hawkeye #6, like Wolverine and the X-Men #19, is part of a regular run, but the first issue to bear the Marvel NOW branding, hoping to entice new readers. Fraction has designed the book well, keeping it accessible at any time, so if anything, #6 is a litmus test for whether or not you're down for what the book is serving every month.
This issue serves up a "week in the life" story that finds archer Clint Barton struggling with setting up his home entertainment system, trying to get the cable working in his brownstone, and fending off dimwitted Russian mobsters (ones that he'd pissed off in the first issue by purchasing the apartment building they regularly used for tenant shakedowns).
I sort of still can't get over the fact that Marvel publishes a book like Hawkeye. Artist David Aja is playing around with sequential art; I'd say experimenting, but he's displaying such a mastery over how to construct panel-to-panel sequences on a page, I don't think it's an experiment. Hawkeye is not a book to read digitally - there's too much work that goes into creating each page as its own composition (#6 features a sequence that's laid out like a side-scrolling video game). Reading the book one word balloon at a time, as digital demands that you do, does an injustice to what Fraction and Aja are creating.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Darn tootin'.
I found New Avengers #1 to be almost hilariously snooty, and it wasn't helped by four all-black splash pages used to create "TA-DAH" cinematic breathers from the action. In the first issue, Black Panther runs afoul of some mysterious new baddies (named Black Swan and Manifold) mucking about with cosmos, and is forced against his better judgment to call on the help of his old "Illuminati" buddies (Namor, Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt).
It may set up a team book, but it's really all T'Challa the Black Panther's show. I liked it marginally better than Jonathan Hickman's adjective-less Avengers book, because it felt a bit more dense. And I'm still trying to figure out if I like Hickman's approach to comics or not. The writer may mistake inflated importance for character stakes; I'm not quite sure just yet. New Avengers #1 is almost so pretentious that it goes beyond pretense and comes right back around to being fun.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? As harshly critical as I sound, I think the book is still of interest. I was out of comics while Marvel was pushing the Illuminati storyline, and while I think it's out of character for some of these heroes to believe that they control the fate of the Marvel U, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in seeing where this goes. Just, please, no more all-black pages.
As conflicted as I am about Hickman, I've fast become a Joe Keatinge fan (thanks to his inventive work with Ross Campbell on Image's Glory). Morbius the Living Vampire #1 is the least Earth-shattering of the Marvel NOW line-up, more in keeping with the kind of street-level Marvel Universe we used to see on a regular basis in books like Bill Mantlo's Cloak and Dagger. It's a nice change of pace to the rest of the line.
The title picks up with Michael Morbius, a brilliant doctor turned scientific vampire (a small distinction from a supernatural vampire, but an important one), trying to settle down and find his way in Brownsville, a craphole run by punk rock thugs straight out of an 80's comic. Keatinge and artist Rich Elson lay out the ground rules for the anti-hero (long a C-list member of Spidey's rogues), and infuse the book with a refreshing sense of humor that isn't going for big laughs but a sardonic tone.
Elson's art fits well for this kind of throwback, bearing some influence from early John Byrne instead of going all-out horror comic with the visuals. Morbius is the kind of low-key funky book that I typically enjoy (I think I would write comics like this if afforded the chance), and the kind that typically gets canned in less than a year. But, hey, if Hawkeye can find its audience, then maybe Morbius can too. I think if you came of age on Marvel in the 80's, there's a lot to like here. It's certainly not like any of the other Marvel NOW books, that's for sure.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? "Hell Yeah" to use a Keatinge-ism. The writer is still feeling his oats as a pro, and there's going to be great things from him down the line. I want to be the Keatinge Hipster who points to Morbius in five years and says, "I was reading him from way back." I suspect Morbius is my kinda fun. Guess I'll find out!