This week saw the real first push of Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! titles, and before we begin, let’s take a moment to acknowledge just how truly stupid that name is. Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge that Marvel’s numbering system is now less system and more collage of gimmicks.
Anyways, this week saw three high-profile new series: Avengers World, Black Widow, and All-New X-Factor. Ok, so honestly, it was two high profile series and a new X-Factor. But I ended up getting them, so here’s some quickie reviews of all three.
“Avengers World #1”
Jonathan Hickman is still writing both Avengers and New Avengers, making Avengers World his third ongoing title with the franchise. If you’re wondering what sets this one apart from Avengers… well, I kinda am too after this issue. It has the same writer as Avengers, same co-writer as several issues of Avengers, and the exact same cast as Avengers. As far as I can tell, the Avengers claimed “This is our world!” somewhere in Infinity (clearly not an important point, as I forgot it) and boom: new series.
In all seriousness, if any team could pull off just straight-up having two books, it’s this 18+ large cast. I guess the series is supposed to focus more on characters who aren’t getting as much page time in the other book, and they’re not just making two teams because—I dunno, probably so they can still get in plenty of appearances from the “Movie Avengers.” It is a solidly written issue, with perfectly fine art that does its job well, though I can’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t already reading Hickman’s other titles. They really don’t provide much of a premise to the book; it really is just more adventures with the giant Hickman team. If you’re reading and enjoying Avengers, it can’t hurt to check this out and see if you like it.
“Black Widow #1”
This is the first earnest attempt at a quality Black Widow ongoing that I can remember Marvel attempting. They’ve brought in the impressive team of top-notch espionage writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto. Edmondson is best known for his Eisner-nominated Jake Ellis series over at Image. Noto didn’t gain any new fans for his recent work on Thunderbolts, but that title was a terrible fit for him, and you could tell he wasn’t interested. I’ll always admire him for his work on The Infinite Horizon, and his work is definitely back on track here.
Black Widow follows Natasha’s espionage exploits when she’s not Avenging. Edmondson brings his A-game, giving a fantastic voice to Natasha and her new supporting cast. The book clearly picks up a lot of cues from Hawkeye; the formula that made that book such a surprise success is on full display here. They even give Natasha her own equivalent of Pizza Dog. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Giving Hawkeye that clean of a break from the super-heroics in his book is why it’s his first successful ongoing, and Black Widow’s tone is unique enough that it still has his own voice. I may not follow it, as I’m kind of getting burnt out on espionage books, but I can still see how well done this book is. Along those lines, I’d also recommend it to fans of Velvet.
“All-New X-Factor #1”
I was a big fan of Peter David’s last iteration of X-Factor for a long time. I started to be less into it as the book drifted from its noir beginnings and more towards super-hero action and eventually dropped it around the time the X-Men moved to San Francisco. I guess it got kinda weird after that. Honestly, I picked this book up because Gambit and Quicksilver are two of my all-time favorite characters, and I really wanted a book with them in it. That crappy Gambit series that just got cancelled doesn’t count.
All-New X-Factor is probably the most appropriate use I’ve seen of the overused All-New prefix. Polaris is the only holdover from the last X-Factor title, and the book quickly sweeps all of the convoluted recent history of the characters under the rug. The entire concept is also different, with the new X-Factor being a corporate superteam. This corporation, Serval Industries, is run by a guy who’s being called the next Tony Stark and claims X-Factor is a non-profit branch of his corporation that exists because he “wants to help people.” Starting with the bad, that’s probably the worst part of the story. It is so blatantly obvious that there’s something shady about Serval that there’s no suspense. It’s not so much a matter of Are these guys bad? as it is So how long until they reveal it? At this point, it’d be a better twist if Serval was on the level. Also, the art isn’t bad per se, but it seems wildly uninspired and very much what Marvel’s new “house style” seems to be.
On the positivie side, apart from some clunky foreshadowing, the writing is great. It’s refreshing to see David having fun with characters, and you can tell he is because of how fun and snappy the dialogue is. It’s the kind of writing that got me hooked on the last X-Factor. A lot of exposition is done through Gambit’s interior monologues, and I think it’s David’s grasp of that character that has me sold. The book’s not perfect, and the reveal at the end was a bit of a misfire, but it was fun and does still have a lot of potential. This being the first issue, I’d recommend that you try it out now. Not only is it the most obvious of jumping on points, but there’s a sense that this series may get a bit too convoluted to just jump in later.
Jay Gabel is an avid video gamer and general nerd living in Madison, WI with a roommate and his cat. He’s an active member of Madison’s theatre community, which keeps him busy, but he likes to write about comics when he gets the time. You can (and probably should) follow him on Facebook or on Twitter under @ThunderyOyster.