February's Issue Ones Part 1

Did this last month, and I think it was a worthwhile exercise. What new series or mini-series started in the past month, and are they worth your attention? I can at least speak to the ones I sampled.
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona for Marvel. Striking a blow for diversity, Marvel isn't just publishing another female-led book, but one about a Muslim teenage girl from Jersey. Kamala Khan's family and friends are a quickly mix of the modern and more traditional Muslims, and of course, older-generation Americans. The fairly large cast is introduced efficiently, and each character is worthy of our attention. I found this world, and it main character, so utterly charming and original that I could frankly have done without the superheroic elements. Which at this point, are pretty spare, though Kamala's Avengers fanfic is hilarious. The way she becomes Ms. Marvel is, at of the first issue, a big question mark, owing more to Billy Batson than Carol Danvers, and here's hoping her superhero identity has some other colors to it. It would be a shame if Marvel's new minority hero couldn't be a VISIBLE minority, because that's important too.
Keep reading? Lovely story and art, I hope this goes on for a very long time.
Undertow by Steve Orlando and Artyom Trakhanov for Image. Aw, I really wanted to like this. Water-breathing Atlanteans exploring Lands filled with strange beasts and primitive humans certainly had potential, and I so like the art. I just couldn't make myself care about the story. The names, history, tech and locations are fantastical and hard to remember, and it doesn't help that the time frame seems to jump around. And yet, for all the fantasy, the characters talk in a modern style (PG-13) and about modern things like they were proper 21st-century humans. It doesn't quite work as "humanoids are the same whatever the time or place", not when the art seems to tell a totally different story. And what's with the white lettering on pale or busy backgrounds?
Keep reading? Sorry, but no. Left me confused and apathetic.
She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido for Marvel. Daredevil recently lost his ability to practice law, which I thought made the superhero littoral poorer for it. But it seems there was a plan all along. The new She-Hulk book very much puts lawyering at the forefront, with superheroics as colorful background. That's a great take. I'm a big fan of Pulido's, and while he's not an obvious choice for She-Hulk, his lack of cheesecake demonstrates Marvel's commitment to taking the character seriously and courting a more mature reader who will appreciate the research and thought Soule puts into his legal shenanigans, and the charm that befits a character fresh off Allred's FF.
Keep reading? I'm a big She-Hulk fan (though can you believe I haven't read the Slott series yet?), so this is a no-brainer.
The Mercenary Sea by Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds for Image. A high adventure book set in the South Seas in 1938, it takes it design cues and tropes from matinée cinema, though the art has a slick designed look notable for being entirely done digitally. Sometimes I like it (the color palettes, the silhouettes) and sometimes I don't (the out of focus backgrounds that give panels the feel of repurposed animation cels). I'm as ambivalent about the story. On the one hand, I like this kind of thing - I thought Half Past Danger was great, for example - but we perhaps meet too many characters on this first outing, and move around the setting, trying to show too much, while doing too little. Maybe the second issue will use all this set-up to move the plot in a more focused direction.
Keep reading? Borderline.
New Warriors by Christopher Yost and Marcus To for Marvel. I basically followed Yost, the Scarlet Spider and Aracely to this book, hoping for the best. Perhaps an Avengers Academy or Young Avengers vibe. I did not quite get the "best" I was hoping for, but what I got wasn't bad either. Obviously, the Scarlet Spider stuff is keen (yes, that's sort of a pun, just not a good one), and I do like the mix of old and new members. I especially like Sun Girl, and Kid Nova could be fun as well. Speedball and Justice get some nice moments, even if I wish they'd stop referencing the old Civil War catastrophe even if it's to put it behind them. How about just ignoring it instead? There was certainly some fun to be had - the banter, blasts from the past like Salem's Seven and Hybrid - but no one could accuse the series of moving particularly fast. It's become one of my pet peeves that team books should start some time before the group is assembled and spend an inordinate amount of time (basically, more than one issue) getting the team together. Because that happens way too much these days, and in the New Warriors' case, they're not even all in the U.S.A. Let's get a move on, can't we?
Keep reading? Yes, despite the slow plotting, it's the kind of light-hearted fun I like to see in a team book and I was already invested in the surprisingly entertaining Scarlet Spider title.
Turok - Dinosaur Hunter by Greg Pak and Mirko Colak for Dynamite. I read most of the Valiant books back in the day, but never any issue of Turok Dinosaur Hunter. Is the new series from Dynamite's Gold Key label any good? According to my research, Greg Pak seems to be taking his cue from the Acclaim version of the franchise (and thus the video game version), with an anything goes approach to what might be tossed into the Native American setting from across time. That's fine, and less limiting than a simple Lost Land of dinosaurs (the original Dell/Gold Key premise, later picked up by Valiant) and more iconic than the biomechanical dinos of Valiant's later postapocalyptic setting. Regardless, Turok is portrayed as a tortured loner, more at home in nature than in the tribe, and given every incentive to hate the company of other human beings. It's a dark story, low on verbiage but with solid art to compensate. I think you feel for the guy by the end, and might return to see just how crazy things get for him.
Keep reading? It's earned a second issue. I'm hoping Dynamite's Gold Key properties will attract as much talent as the pure Valiant stuff that once shared their universe.

I'll be back next week with another half dozen titles, but don't be shy about giving your own opinions in the comments section.


Jayunderscorezero said...

I couldn't stand this She-Hulk but that's probably because I'm *directly* comparing it with Slott's run and in particular his first issue and take on super-lawyering. I highly recommend checking that out.

Is that really Kaine in the New Warriors?

Jayunderscorezero said...

And blow me down, I didn't clock that that Ms Marvel cover was a Supergirl #1 reference.

snell said...

I think that Kamala's origin was a POV version of the Terrigen mists/cocooning that's been going on throughout the Marvel Universe these days, making it a stealth Inhumanity tie-in...

Siskoid said...

Jay: I'm planning to! This summer maybe. I should be getting more free time soon.

Snell: Thanks, buddy. I can always count on you to follow the crossover events we both hate.

Anonymous said...

Based on everything I've heard, I've instructed my comic shop to pull "Ms. Marvel" and "She-Hulk" for me in perpetuity. Even if "Ms. Marvel" weren't a quality comic by all accounts, I'd buy it just because a book like that deserves support. And I tend to shy away from She-Hulk because it strays into the cheesecake so often, but with this team -- Charles Soule (who apparently can do no wrong) and Pulido (whose style is completely wrong for cheesecake, unless you get turned on by "Gil Thorp" comic strips, in which case God bless and forgive you) -- I have to be totally supportive of this too.

Some portion of the comics I buy each month go to other people, and I think both these comics are going to go to a lesbian mom with a nine-year-old daughter. Seems like these comics would be ideal for a young girl trying to figure out who she is and whose ass needs to be kicked.

Siskoid said...

I think you've got that just right, Anon.

Tim Knight said...

Agree wholeheartedly with about about Ms Marvel.

I wasn't going to pick it up (dismissing it as another kidification of an established character), but then I read that latest Marvel 'taster' comic and was hooked.

Really enjoyed the "truthfulness" of the first issue. It felt honest and sincere, and was, basically, hugely adorable.

Interested to see how this character develops.

Michael May said...

Your thoughts on Undertow and Mercenary Sea mirror mine really closely. I want to like Undertow so much that I'll give it a second issue, but I completely agree about the flaws you point out.

Mercenary Sea is easier to like, but like you I hope to see a stronger story taking shape in the next issue.

I think I liked Turok more than you did. Pak did a great job of making me like the main character while also giving him flaws. I've only read a couple of previous versions, but he was so sufferingly noble in those that I had a hard time connecting to him.

Siskoid said...

I think I might have undersold it. I did like it a lot, just wasn't effusive about it when it came time to write that short review.


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