Captain America: Who Won’t Wield The Shield?

Written by Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, and Stuart Moore
Art by Mirco Pierfederici, Brendan McCarthy, and Joe Quinones
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

I appreciate that Marvel has a sense of humor about itself these days. That’s a good thing, really, it shows that they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. But of course, humor is a subjective thing, and parody doubly so. With all that in mind, I’m not entirely sure who at Marvel first thought a one-shot titled Captain America: Who Won’t Wield The Shield? was a brilliant publishing strategy. To me, more often than not it feels like a series of inside jokes rather than something that the general readership might find amusing.

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Marvelous Land of Oz #1-4

Written by Eric Shanower
Art by Scottie Young
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Growing up, I think I read L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz about 50 times each. The first and third of Baum’s Oz books, both have formed the basis for a lot of different Oz-related projects over the years. But until now, I’d never actually read the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. I knew the basics of what happened in it (thanks to Ozma of Oz, which is incidentally a top-notch book that everyone should read) but I hadn’t gotten around to reading my free copy courtesy Project Gutenberg. Fortunately for me, Marvel was happy enough with Eric Shanower and Scottie Young’s adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that they’re now publishing Shanower and Young’s The Marvelous Land of Oz, and it’s definitely the strangest of the three Oz books that I’ve come across so far. And when I say strange, I mean that I love it.

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Girl Comics #1

Written by Colleen Coover, G. Willow Wilson, Trina Robbins, Valerie D’Orazio, Lucy Knisley, Robin Furth, Devin Grayson
Art by Colleen Coover, Ming Doyle, Stephanie Buscema, Nikki Cook, Lucy Knisley, Agnes Garbowska, Emma Rios
48 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

An anthology full of creators fitting a certain demographic is hardly a new idea. We’ve had books specializing in indy comic creators, gay comics creators, and racial minority comic creators. So the idea of Girl Comics from Marvel is hardly shocking or surprising to me; while the name may be one of the less inspired (although you know exactly what you’re going to get, something that was also true with Gay Comix) I’ve generally found that anthologies of this nature for whatever reason almost always end up being slightly better than the average compilation. So for that reason alone, Girl Comics #1 was automatically going to get eyeballed by me.

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Ultimate X #1

Written by Jeph Loeb
Pencils by Arthur Adams
Inks by Mark Roslan
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

So many times, a "reset" for a line of comics feels less like something that was actually needed, and more like a chance for some new issue #1s to sell extra copies. That said, the conclusion and re-start of Marvel’s "Ultimate" line was something that I think was genuinely needed. What had started as a stripped-down, easy-to-jump-in line of titles had turned into a mish-mash of characters, continuity, and numerous deaths and resurrections. In other words, what had started as a new generation had become its parents. Ultimate X looks to be the first step towards the new "Ultimate" cleaned-decks approach, and I have to give them credit, it has potential for being just that.

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Dark X-Men #2

Written by Paul Cornell
Penciled by Leonard Kirk
Inked by Jay Leisten
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Having greatly enjoyed Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, and Jay Leisten’s collaboration on the short-lived Captain Britain and MI-13 series, it was nice to see the proverbial band get back together for Dark X-Men. What seemed like a shameless attempt to try and mix two best-selling words at Marvel ("Dark" and "X-Men") has turned out to be a pleasant surprise, almost a cross between Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts. Cornell mixes the pitiable, pathetic, and putrid characters into a dysfunctional team that in just two issues is on the verge of exploding, but in such a way that you can’t automatically assume that either they’ll get solidly back together at the conclusion, or lie scattered about in ruins. It’s strange and unpredictable, and Cornell’s clearly having a blast with the book.

Kirk and Leisten’s art is almost as I remembered it, but with some slight changes. On the bright side, they’ve still got a solid sense of layout and basic character structure. I like how Kirk never loses track of these being both superbeings and every-day people, giving them full wardrobes and every day objects. On the other hand, the number of old-looking, wrinkly faces in Dark X-Men is a little odd. I don’t recall Mimic looking like he’s in his mid-50s, so I’m not sure what’s going on here. Still, Kirk and Leisten nail the really important scenes, like a massive brain composed of the bodies of psychics, or Omega’s momentary anguish as he wonders if he’ll remember his new-found resolve.

If you’re like me, you’ve gotten sick and tired of all the various "Dark" titles being published at Marvel and are eager to see them all go away. That said? If there’s still a group of characters to return to, more Dark X-Men would be a treat if it’s Cornell, Kirk, and Leisten on board. This is more than a simple, one-note concept in their hands.

Invincible Iron Man #20

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Salvador Larroca
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel

There’s a lot of attention directed—justifiably so—towards the cover of The Invincible Iron Man #20. Redesigned by Rian Hughes, it’s eye-catching and beautiful, looking absolutely nothing like anything else on comic racks right now. But with all of the talk centered around what’s on the outside, hopefully people won’t remember what’s on the inside as well. Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca are continuing to craft a comic that enthralls, without throwing a single punch.

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Deathlok the Destroyer #1

Written by Charlie Huston
Art by Lan Medina
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Just how many times can Marvel revamp a character concept? The original Deathlok dates back to the 1970s, a cyborg warrior from the future. Since then we’ve had a new Deathlok in the early ’90s helmed by Dwayne McDuffie, Gregory Wright, and Jackson Guice (that I still remember fondly), and the late ’90s had yet another Deathlok in Marvel’s M-Tech line in a series that lasted less than a full year. But now there’s another attempt to do something with the basic character idea, under the Marvel Knights imprint. And while this Deathlok the Destroyer looks beautiful, the story itself is an unfortunate combination of predictable and slow.

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Marvels Project #1-2

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

I picked up The Marvels Project #1-2 without knowing a single thing about the comic, save its creative team. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s work on Captain America was enough of a selling point for me that a new collaboration by the pair seemed like a must-buy item. What I found was a story set in the late ’30s, as America was not yet plunged into World War II and the original Human Torch was being created. As someone whose main exposure to Marvel comics set in that era is Marvels #1, though? I’m utterly enthralled.

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Fantastic Four #570

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I can’t remember the last time I read Fantastic Four on an ongoing basis. It was probably back when Walter Simonson wrote the book, and that run ended in 1991. I’ve certainly heard good things about some of the runs over the years since then, but it hasn’t been until Jonathan Hickman took over that I’ve decided to give the title another stab. Hickman’s work on books like Pax Romana and Secret Warriors promised, if nothing else, that it wouldn’t just be more of the same old superheroics.

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Incognito #1-2

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I’m an unabashed fan of Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’s Criminal, their crime-centric from Marvel. And so, I’ll admit that for a split-second, I was a little disappointed when I heard they were temporarily setting Criminal aside so they could create Incognito, a mini-series about a former super-villain living in a witness protection program. Then I remembered that before Criminal, Brubaker and Phillips had last collaborated on Sleeper, a series about an agent in deep cover in a super-villain organization. So that’s why that disappointment only lasted a split-second, because I knew how good Sleeper was. And surprise, surprise, Incognito is well worth its delaying the next Criminal storyline.

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