There were a few titles in the Marvel NOW line-up that I was looking forward to more than most. Three of those series are now here - a new direction for Journey Into Mystery, with Sif as the lead, Mark Waid's Indestructible Hulk series and FF, my most anticipated series since its announcement. Also released was Remender/Romita's Captain America #1, ending Ed Brubaker's lengthy run with the character. The report card so far for Marvel NOW is wholly positive, with only one real stinker in the bunch (A+X). Even the books I'm not interested in, like Red She-Hulk, have been capable action-adventure tales, and I'm rooting for weird stuff like X-Men Legacy to find its audience, even if that audience isn't me. Let's dig into the new books...
Before the Thor movie, I didn't know much about Sif, but Jamie Alexander made a big impression in the role. After the Thor movie, I dived head first into Walt Simonson's run on the book, and got to know all of the characters that inhabit Thor's world including Sif, and found it interesting that Marvel had been sitting on a female superhero with real breakout stay potential for several decades. Journey Into Mystery had been young Loki's book, but with that character moving over to Young Avengers, it freed up the title for a new star.
Sif is doing a little soul-searching and identity-hunting in the first issue, an interesting way for readers to find out more about her (as she finds out more about herself and what defines her). It feels a little more modest in scope than some of the more "widescreen" Marvel NOW titles, which might be why it didn't relaunch with a new #1 issue, Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti are doing a respectable job here, but I think it might work better if you're already a big fan of Marvel's Asgardian world.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Journey Into Mystery #646 is a solid fantasy adventure book, and I wish it all the best. Budgets, however, are limited, and it won't be making my pull list. (Side note: Marvel, please ditch the Asgardian font. Please. It's almost unreadable.)
Indestructible Hulk #1 is good but not "instant classic" good; not in the way that Mark Waid came on to Daredevil and knocked out a home run. Part of the problem is that the first issue is almost all hook - it's basically the pitch for the new direction - and if you'd read any of the press that Waid did before its release, there aren't really any surprises beyond that. Because of that, I'm not going to get into the specifics of the new direction here, but I will say that it's a clever way of making the more savage Hulk as close to an actual hero as possible without ever betraying the character. It's good, and if Hulk has never quite been your cup of tea, there might be enough of a new direction here to draw you in.
Lenil Yu is an undisputed superstar artist, and his work is typically impressive on a technical level, but there are little things about the team of Waid and Yu that feel at odds with each other. There's a long sequence in a busy diner, where the bustle of the patrons and the constant ticking of a clock are supposed to create the tension that Maria Hill feels while talking to Bruce Banner. Instead the panels feel oddly unrelated to each other. It's just a drawing of a clock; it's just a drawing of someone bumping into someone. The creative team members are both skilled, but almost seem to be playing against each others' strengths. The big Hulk action scenes do fare better than the more dramatic moments.
This might be corrected as they learn to play together better, or they may just be a mismatch, and if so, it's not so out of whack that it ruins the book.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Yes. I've been a Hulk fan for years, and a Waid fan for a few years less than that. Besides, I have to come back, because now that the hook is established, I want to see where this thing goes.
I found myself so put off by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.'s Captain America #1 that I actually had to read it twice just to re-evaluate what it was that had stuck in my craw. I'm all for Kirby homage, but Cap seemed to borrow some of the nonsensical nature of those 70's comics as well.
This gets into some specifics that some might label as spoilers, so skip a couple of paragraphs if it's a concern. Captain America and Sharon Carter get dressed for a fancy birthday event, but the fancy birthday event turns out to be Carter putting Cap on a mystery subway train that SHIELD has been monitoring. Cap is immediately captured and whisked away to another dimension and experimented on by Arnim Zola. He escapes Zola (and Cap has his costume and shield - I guess it was under his clothes), steals both Zola's infant son from a test tube and a plane, that Cap then immediately crashes. Tune in next month.
Why did they get dressed up fancy just to put Cap on a train to another dimension? Why would Cap even get on that train like no big deal without any theory at all as to where it went or what it was? Was Arnim Zola just hoping that one day Captain America would get on board his special train or was it a total surprise? Why would Cap snatch a baby? Are these questions that will be answered over time, or is the book just kind of ludicrous in its plotting?
Look, sometimes comics are more than the sum of their parts, and I get that. Captain America might even be that, because my reaction was more befuddlement than anything else. Cap's staccato inner monologue captions reminded me of Frank Miller and Romita's art has more of a painterly look to it than I've seen before (though I'm not a fan of the mask's chinstrap. Chinstraps are comics' new shoulder pads), so I acknowledge that there is something worthwhile here. I guess you either buy into all of it and ride along, or you let the book's seeming lack of logic keep you at arm's length.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? I have no idea. I'm going to be gauging public reactions to future issues, because I can appreciate what Remender/Romita were going for, but I just couldn't get into it. Not in the way that I'd hoped.
Meanwhile, FF #1 was exactly what I was hoping for (FF is short for Future Foundation, Reed Richards' quasi-school for the young and brilliant). If you've been following Matt Fraction's Hawkeye series, this is in that ballpark, tonally. The first issue is all characterization and set-up, devoid of any action set pieces, and relies heavily on the talking head interviews that Brian Michael Bendis likes to use a lot, but I loved it. Fraction and artist Mike Allred are going to win over a lot of new fans if the series delivers on the promise of the debut issue.
We get to meet the kids and the new adult leaders of the FF (the Scott Lang Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk, and Johnny Storm's latest squeeze - though she's not Ms. Thing yet even though she's pictured that way on the cover). Scott Lang was the star of one of the first comic books I ever remember reading (it was an issue of Marvel Premiere) and She-Hulk is one of my favorite Marvel characters of all-time. I'm also an Allred fan from way back during his very first Madman mini-series. I have tendency to like lighter, more character-driven books, so I am primed to love this. I am the target audience for this book, and love it I did.
WILL I BE BACK FOR MORE? Yes. I could very well have a new favorite book soon, folks.