<i>by <a herf=http://www.twitter.com/Newsarama>Newsarama Staff</i></a> <p>Yesterday, we talked about what <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/10-things-we-like-marvel-now.html>we've enjoyed most about Marvel NOW!</a> in the first couple of months of the big relaunch initiative. <p>With 17 titles so far in the Marvel NOW! fold, not <i>every</i> reaction is going to be positive, however. So the Newsarama team gathered together again to talk about some aspects - both general and specific - that just aren't sitting right for us at this stage in the game. <p>Try to think of these as "room for improvement" notes rather than outright criticisms or nitpicks, and let us know what's not working for you so far over at our social media links. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i>
With the welcome expansion of Marvel's top tier character roster to include some pigeon-holed B-listers like Havok and Red She-Hulk, either intentionally or unintentionally they managed to squeeze out one of Marvel's classic men in Nick Fury. I'm not talking Nick Fury Jr. who's taking up roots in <B>Secret Avengers</B>, I'm talking the original Sgt. Nicholas Joseph Nick Fury. Seeing all these spin-offs of classic characters like Red She-Hulk, the new Captain Marvel, new Nova, and Miss Thing is great, but the rise of Junior over there seems to be at the expense of his old man.
<p>With a Caucasian Nick Fury showing up on the cover of <B>Ultimate Comics Ultimates</B> #22 coming in March 2013 there may be a reason we have't seen hide nor hair of the original Howling Commando, but all that's speculation and hope till we see Fury back in action.
Yes, we know we just recently once again gave you ten examples of great "heel turns," as heroes slid down the slope into villainy. But there's a part of that that makes our blood curdle, too. <p>Look, if there's a misunderstanding or an event book, it can be fun to see two of our favorite heroes battle it out for a little bit. But taking established characters like Cable and his entire X-Force team, or perhaps more poignantly his father Cyclops, and making them "fugitives on the run" can only go so far. We get that comics and Soap Operas have a lot in common, but sometimes it'd be nice to just see an extended period of Heroes being Heroes, fighting the bad guys and saving the day. Call us old-fashioned, but Cyclops blasting the High Evolutionary alongside his brother Havok would be a welcome sight to fans frustrated with him being treated as the worst thing to happen to the Marvel Universe since Dr. Doom.
Late-shipping books are something comics have had to deal with for decades, but it seems with the infrastructure and expertise of the Marvel staff we wouldn't be seeing late books pop up in just the second issue of a Marvel NOW title. But, well, here we are. <p><B>Uncanny Avengers</B> #2 was originally advertised with an on-sale date of November 14, but it wasn't until two weeks later that the book finally made it to people's hands. With the same creative team poised to do issues #3 and #4, this unsurprisingly pushes those planned releases: #3 is now advertised for January 16 (four weeks later than originally advertised) and #4 has been re-aligned for a February 20th ship date (3 weeks). But with the surprise lateness in issue #2, I wouldn't be too surprised if those revised shipping dates are still on the optimistic side. <p><B>Uncanny Avengers</B> artist John Cassaday has never been known as a quick artist nothing against him, it's just the time it takes to do the quality of work people love. But somewhere along the way, either Cassaday didn't deliver at his usual speed or Marvel had an unrealistic timetable for him to work. Back in November in an interview with <a href=http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=42249>CBR</A>, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso admitted that the schedule they had was aggressive with a noted pause before that, and knew that <B>Uncanny Avengers</B> wasn't the only project on Cassaday's plate. Why then, the unrealistic schedule? <p>Marvel's already made some new plans, turning Cassaday's originally open-ended run on <B>Uncanny Avengers</B> to just the four issues with Oliver Coipel pitching in on #5 and then Daniel Acuna taking over as the official regular artist of the book with #6. And as far as the possibility of Cassaday returning to the interiors of the book, Tom Brevoort stated bluntly in a <a href=http://blog.newsarama.com/2012/12/10/marvel-next-big-thing-new-artist-joins-uncanny-avengers/>December press call</A> that it depends on what [John] wants to do.
BUT! Outside of <i>Uncanny Avengers</i>, some titles seem to have the opposite problem. In the first two months and change of Marvel NOW! We've had four issues of <b>Iron Man</b> and <b>All-New X-Men</b>. In fact, those four issues of Tony Stark's ongoing shipped in 6 weeks. Books are coming out every two weeks, or every three weeks, or several of them have shipped with two issues in two weeks. <p>Now, if a relaunch like this is supposed to encourage lapsed readers to come back to titles or new readers to try something out, how does that kind of shipping schedule help anyone? If a new reader tries out <b>Iron Man #1</b>, having heard from friends that comics come out monthly, and comes back a month later to two more issues, doesn't that put them in danger of being put off? <p>It's a strange thing to complain about, "too much of a good thing," but it certainly makes things harder for the casual, doesn't-hit-the-comic-shop-weekly reader. Maybe Marvel's trying to encourage weekly visit behavior and pull lists, but in a time of tight budgets and holiday shopping, it puts Marvel in danger of robbing from Peter to pay Paul here.
Remember when it used to be a running joke that Wolverine's mutant power was the ability to appear in so many different comics as once? Well, although Marvel NOW! is leaving that part of the character's appeal intact - He'll have six ongoing titles to star in on a regular basis (<em>Wolverine</em>, <em>Savage Wolverine</em>, <em>Wolverine and the X-Men</em>, <em>Avengers</em>, <em>Uncanny Avengers</em> and <em>All-New X-Men</em>) - it <em>is</em> spreading that ability to other characters. Iron Man, for example, who will have five regular titles by March: <em>Iron Man</em>, <em>Avengers</em>, <em>New Avengers</em>, <em>Avengers Assemble</em> and <em>Guardians of The Galaxy</em>. Captain America, too, is going to be getting around, what with <em>Captain America</em>, <em>Avengers</em>, <em>New Avengers</em>, <em>Uncanny Avengers</em> and <em>Avengers Assemble</em>. Suddenly, Thor - who "only" appears in <em>Thor</em>, <em>Avengers</em>, <em>Uncanny Avengers</em> and <em>Avengers Assemble</em> - seems to be slacking. <p>Pity poor Spider-Man; once Marvel's most popular (and omnipresent) character, now he's only regularly appearing in three titles simultaneously (<em>Superior Spider-Man</em>, <em>Avenging Spider-Man</em> and <em>Avengers</em>). That's just as many as Captain Marvel (<em>Captain Marvel</em>, <em>Avengers</em> and <em>Avengers Assemble</em>), and, really, Spidey? That's hardly even trying these days. <p>With the Marvel Universe filled with <em>so</em> many wonderful characters, couldn't we see a little less of the big names, and have a little bit more variety in the line-up of Marvel's team books? Come on, people: Black Talon is just waiting for the high-profile gig that has eluded him for so long.
While we were thrilled for creative shake-ups and writers returning to Marvel after long stints away, either in indie work or over at DC, it does seem odd to us that there are no real "new" creators on these big, high-profile launches. <p>While DC continues to use the New 52 as a testing ground for writers like Justin Jordan, Charles Soule, and James Tynion IV, Marvel seems content to stick with the writers who have been working for them already. Granted, guys like Bunn and Hopeless are definitely getting some new, higher-profile work, but it still seems like a missed opportunity to get some real, new voices in the mix. <p>Maybe for Marvel NOW! Phase 2?
And speaking of New... of the eighteen titles bearing the "Marvel NOW!" banner in December 2012, only one is a wholly new concept with one other as arguable. <p><b>Avengers Arena</b> is definitely something that hasn't been done at Marvel before, at least not as anything more than a single storyline. Of course it's a take on other stories from books and films, but it's still something new to Marvel Comics, and thus refreshing. While a solo mutant having a book is nothing new, <b>X-Men Legacy</b> is also definitely trying something different. Other than those, we have a whole mess of Avengers solo books, two in the Fantastic family, and a handful of new Avengers and X-Men team books. <p>When you have a lot of press and attention, why not try something <i>new</i>? There's an argument to be made in favor of getting the proven concepts off the ground first (with things like <i>Fearless Defenders</i> on the way later), sure, but it would've been nice to see a few more all-new, all-different ideas in the early mix.
By March, there will be seventeen ongoing solo series set in the Marvel Universe published by Marvel Comics (Meaning, no Ultimate, Max or animated series tie-ins). Only one of them will feature a non-caucasian lead character... possibly (It's unclear whether the Sam Alexander who appears in the <em>Ultimate Spider-Man</em> cartoon and is hispanic is the same character/ethnicity as the one who'll be appearing in the <em>Nova</em> comic launching in January, but let's give Marvel the benefit of the doubt). <p>While Marvel has at least slightly taken the opportunity offered by Marvel NOW! to tackle its lack of gender parity (more on that in a moment) with the placement of Red She-Hulk and Sif into their own titles, it has seemingly shied away from doing the same for race, somewhat surprisingly. It's not as if Marvel doesn't have high-profile African American (or, in the case of some characters, just <em>African</em>) characters who have enough appeal to carry their own series, especially when you consider some other candidates who have been given the chance to do so lately, unless you genuinely want to try and make the argument that Morbius The Living Vampire or Scarlet Spider have larger fanbases than Luke Cage, Storm or the Black Panther. <p>One of the things that DC did right with their New 52 line was make an effort to create a more diverse line in terms of both gender and race, and widen their appeal beyond the generic stereotype of the white, male comic book fan. With one month of Marvel NOW! launches left to announce, it feels a little too late for Marvel to be able to make the same claim, sadly.
So, DC Comics gets a lot of guff for its lack of prominently featured female characters in the New 52, but they currently have <i>Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman,</i> and <i>Sword of Sorcery</i> all as solo titles starring a woman, not to mention <i>Birds of Prey</i>. <p>Meanwhile, Marvel currently has <b>Red She-Hulk</b>, <b>Journey Into Mystery</b> (starring Sif) and <b>Captain Marvel</b>, the latter of which is not actually included in the Marvel NOW! initiative. <p>In February, the all-female team of <b>Fearless Defenders</b> will also launch, but that's still a four book to seven direct comparison., though Marvel is only publishing 48 ongoings that month. Any way you slice it, the fairer sex is simply underrepresented in mainstream comics, and that's something we'd like to see change; if not NOW! then when?
Graeme wrote about this <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-now-continuity-glitches.html>at length</a> but we thought it should be mentioned again here, as it's really our #1 issue with Marvel NOW! so far. <p>Marvel, if you're going to launch a whole bunch of Number 1, all-new, first issues in a short amount of time, presumably you want a whole bunch of people to be trying those for the first time (or at least first time in awhile). Having a fluid continuity is necessary for comic books, sure; Captain America obviously can't be on two Avengers teams and in another dimension all simultaneously without a little bending. <p>The problem here, though, is Marvel NOW! seems to bend forward and backward and left and right all at the same time, with characters in and out of new costumes (Cap), one character now being replaced altogether but still appearing in new team books (Spidey), and cities being destroyed in one issue, only to be standing strong in another the same week. <p>If a bunch of #1s isn't the time to clear up and tighten up your continuity, then it probably just isn't going to happen. As Graeme said in his larger piece, the smart thing to do is just not care so much and enjoy the stories as they come, but it's still something to strive toward.