I Want My Marvel NOW: Savage Wolverine #1, Uncanny X-Force #1, and Young Avengers #1

Cover to  Savage Wolverine  #1, art by Frank Cho. Marvel Comics.

Cover to Savage Wolverine #1, art by Frank Cho. Marvel Comics.

When I started reviewing the Marvel NOW line, I didn't realize that the branding would eventually be on every single Marvel book. In the past, I've taken on some of the existing series when they've been slapped with the NOW label, but I simply can't afford to review every single Marvel book, and what's more - the NOW on the cover doesn't really mean much for some of these books. Wolverine and the X-Men and Hawkeye were typical issues (meaning excellent and you should read them), and recent releases like Captain Marvel #9 and X-Factor #250 don't display anything beyond what they deliver on a continual basis. The bad news (which isn't that bad) is that I'll only be covering the first issues, unless a title is getting a mid-numbering kick in the pants with an all-new creative team (which happened with Avengers Assemble).

Savage Wolverine #1 is what I'd call a "vanity" title - when an editor gives a series to someone hugely popular simply because they want it. The artist plays to their artistic strengths for a couple of issues then they leave, often leaving the editor without a clear reason for the title to exist (most recent example is Avenging Spider-Man, which was borne from Joe Maduriera wanting to do Spider-Man for a month or two).

The superstar in this case is Frank Cho, who brings back Shanna the She-Devil to mix things up with Wolverine in the Savage Land. This means Cho gets to draw apemen and dinosaurs and bikini babes, but what happens when he's done with that? Where does this book go? What is its purpose? Because, right now, there's no shortage of Wolverine in the Marvel U, and with more to come at the hands of Paul Jenkins and Alan Davis, I'd hate to be the editor who already knows that Cho has scratched his Wolverine itch.

I'm just speculating here, but I would be shocked if this was Cho's book for the long haul. I'm thinking six issues, and he's gone. What's here is a fun, if not remarkable, action comic.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? We are getting to the point where there are so many good Marvel NOW books, that "fun enough" is simply not going to make my cut. Cho is a great artist, but my interest in Wolverine as a character is only as strong as the book in which he appears. Savage Wolverine is serviceable; always pretty, but not must-read entertainment. I might be too harsh on it, so try it for yourself.

Cover to  Uncanny X-Force  #1, art by Ron Garney. Marvel Comics.

Cover to Uncanny X-Force #1, art by Ron Garney. Marvel Comics.

Uncanny X-Force #1 also suffers from "why does this book exist," but offers more intrigue in its first issue than Savage Wolverine. Psylocke and Storm are tipped off by Puck that Spiral is dealing drugs to mutant ravers. Meanwhile, Bishop shows up in a scene that means next to nothing if you don't know who he is, or in my case, where he's been.

Sam Humphries pushes the envelope a bit with lots of block-censored cursing from Psylocke and the dirtiest joke I've ever read in an X-book. It's not quite MAX-level, but it gives the book a little spice on what would otherwise be Just Another X-Title. Coupled with Ron Garney, the comic captures some of the spirit from the late days of the Claremont/Silvestri Uncanny X-Men run. Some of it in a visual sense, and some of it in the way that the story doesn't make concessions for new readers at all. Plus, it stars Storm and Psylocke, and the last time I ever remember them sharing this much interaction was in the late 80s.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? I might give this a second issue, simply because the first one doesn't establish at all what the book is going to be about. I like some of these characters, and I really like Garney's art, so if the second issue doesn't gel - hey, no big loss for me.

Young Avengers #1 is the only Marvel NOW title to truly disappoint me, as I had high hopes following Allan Heinberg's initial series and the exemplary Avengers: Childrens' Crusade. I realize I set these expectations on myself, but other titles (like FF) have certainly risen to meet my enthusiasm. Young Avengers #1 (by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie) is a capable teen book, with some nice moments, and almost no real sense of drama.

Variant cover for  Young Avengers  #1, art by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Marvel Comics.

Variant cover for Young Avengers #1, art by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Marvel Comics.

Drama's important. I've mentioned before that a lack of conflict sunk Thunderbolts #1 like a stone, and Young Avengers #1 doesn't really get any until its final page. It mostly coasts by on charm. Kate Bishop, Hulkling, and Wiccan are all appealing characters, and I like spending time with them, but there's got to be a little more meat on the bone. I'm not even talking about supervillain battles; I'll take soap opera. In this issue, Hulkling has major issues with his relationship with Wiccan, but instead of this providing a thread of conflict, the matter is resolved within a page or two.

WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Maybe one more. There's room in the market for a good, old-fashioned superhero teen book right now, so it could find its place. It just needs sparks.