Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Emma Frost Cast in X-Men: First Class

Which is surprising, because it means that she'll either be appearing alongside Jean Grey for the first time in any medium since Jeff Parker's amazing Exiles (and Grant Morrison's New X-Men, of course) or appear in place of Jean. If the movie sticks to the continuity of the first trilogy of X-Men films, then we'd expect Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm to make up the main cast of the film, but the appearance of Emma Frost knocks things for six, a little. Sure, Emma appeared in Wolverine: Origins, but that film was dreadful and we were hoping it'd been struck from memory.

The film now has four cast members signed on: James McAvoy is playing Xavier - odd - while Michael Fassbender will be Magneto. Beast will appear, played by Benjamin Walker. So at least we now have some idea which direction the film is going to take in terms of storyline: Mags and Xavy teaming up then splitting apart because of their conflicting ideology. But where will Emma Frost place in all of this? As she doesn't appear in the later films, it might be that she gets killed off or removed from the playing board somehow, but what if the Hellfire Club turn up? Could we expect Sebastian Shaw and Mastermind to appear? And if so, what might that mean for the first appearance of out beloved Dazzler, and Sage? The casting really does open things up in terms of storyline - anything could spring out of this.

Interestingly, it also appears as though Banshee may turn up at some point. What role will he play, then? Are we about to see Marvel set up a Generation X movie? That would surely be the best-case scenario for the movies. Mystique also seems set to appear at some point, and Marvel wouldn't be Marvel if they didn't try to shoehorn Wolverine into the movie somewhere. It's all very interesting at the moment!

Oh, we forgot to mention: Emma Frost will be played by Alice Eve.


Sunday, 27 June 2010

New Creative Team on 'Hulk'?

We heard a rumour that there will be a new creative team writing Marvel's 'Hulk' series as of issue 25, replacing the outgoing team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. While there is nothing much to back up this claim, we're going to run with it anyway because it might mean we've got a scoop before anyone else has - and that'd make us feel just like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman when they exposed the Deepthroat scandal. Who will the new creative team be, taking the Red Hulk in a new direction once the latest confusing and incoherent Hulk crossover storyline finishes?

Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman! You heard it here first, people. Unless you heard it somewhere else and then came here afterwards to see if it was true or not.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Chaos For Chaos Wars Covers

That's more like it, Marvel! Here are the covers for issues #1 and #2 of Van Lente/Pak's 'Chaos Wars' miniseries. Ed McGuinness and Brandon Peterson draw them, respectively.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Hercules Returns to Cause Chaos

Marvel have announced their plans for Hercules/Amadeus Cho once the current 'Prince of Power' miniseries wraps up via a television show, which is good for fans of Hercules/Amadeus Cho, but bad for fans of quality images in blog posts. Because the only way to learn about this new announcement is via a video clip, sadly the only image we can show you from the upcoming miniseries is this one:

Hopefully we'll get our hands on some better pictures - a cover would be nice, Marvel - sometime next week. But hey, let's not dwell on this. Instead, we'll hit you will all the facts we know of, listed one by one.

1.) The miniseries after 'Prince of Power' will be called 'Chaos Wars'.
2.) It will be written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, and drawn by Khoi Pham.
3.) The main characters will be Amadeus Cho.... and Hercules! Yes, Hercules is coming back. Your shock at this bulletpoint may not be high, given we've already shown you an image above which prominently features Herc.
4.) The villain for this story will be Mikaboshi, in a long-gestating plotline which has been in the works ever since Incredible Hercules tied-in to the Secret Invasion event.
5.) The God-Squad will return in order to stop Mikaboshi - this time the squad will feature Silver Surfer, Thor, Sersi (from The Eternals), Venus, and Galactus!
6.) We'll also see The Incredible Hulk show up at some point, drafting in five members of his family in order to fight against Mikaboshi - who is calling himself 'The Chaos King' for the miniseries.
7.) Chaos Wars will last for five issues, starting in October.

Will Hercules hook up with Sersi, or with Venus? ... Or Thor? While that's our main question, another thing which we can't help but wonder is: will this conclude Hercules' story, or will he return to an ongoing series once 'Chaos Wars' concludes? While it may well provide a natural conclusion for the past few years of stories, we're not very willing to face a future in which we aren't provided with a monthly dose of Hercules. And they've only gotten Darkstar cameos into two issues so far! Surely they can't conclude the series without regathering all seven members of The Champions. Surely they can't!

Update: we just found this:

The New Mutants Fall; snog each other a bit

Of the six X-Men titles which will be around after Second Coming - X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men and X-Factor and New X-Force - the title we've heard most about so far is Zeb Wells' New Mutants. Already announced is the news that Leonard Kirk will be taking over art duties on the title full-time, and now comes a teaser (which was actually released a few weeks ago) for the arc which will immediately follow SC: Fall of The New Mutants.

Yes, it appears as though the next story will be somehow related to the classic 'Fall of the Mutants' storyline from all those years ago in Chris Claremont's X-Men era. And the storyline also sees the return of some characters set up from just a little while ago in the series - the soldiers who are on some kind of mission to capture Magik. What state Magik will be in after Second Coming is unclear - she is currently stuck in Limbo, as part of Chris Yost's 'Hellbound' tie-in to the main event, and may well regain some more of her missing soul while there - but some preview pages have just been released for the storyline which show her looking pretty healthy. The rest of the team all seem to be fine as well, if you count Karma having a bionic leg as 'fine', and totally unconcerned about their life after Bastion.

Interestingly, the pages show Utopia being rebuilt, which means that perhaps the island isn't going to be forgotten after the big SC finishes - and also confirms the survival of several different X-Men characters such as Colossus and Rockslide and Cyclops. Which, while not that surprising, is still quite a big thing for Marvel to spoil so early on. But oh well! So the soldiers are coming for Magik, who may or may not be aware of them, while the rest of the New Mutants... hey wait, what are Dani Moonstar and Cannonball doing?

What the devil?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The End of Spider-Girl!

Spider-Girl has had more near-death experiences than any other Marvel character. No, we don't mean in-comics, either. The title span out of a one-shot appearance in about 1997/8 and lasted for over 100 issues before finally being cancelled due to declining sales. It then got itself a relaunch after phenomenal fan support meant that Marvel decided there was a market for the series after all - sadly not enough of a market, as sales dwindled again and the series was quickly cancelled for a second time. After that, the character managed somehow to cling onto life via a series of cameo appearances, appearing in back-ups and one-shots and - most notably - a web-only comic on Marvel Digital. One of their most successful and high-profile digital comics it was, too. Recently Marvel decided to give her a story in their recent 'Web of Spider-Man' series, which told a series of short stories about varying characters in the Spider-Man world. From there she was given a third chance at a series, which was changed into a four-issue limited series instead with little warning for creators Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz.
Now we've got that little history out the way, we can tell you that Spider-Girl's last stand will come in August, as 'Spider-Girl: The End!' is released, a final one-shot which will wrap up all remaining plot threads and leave the characters in a suitably climactic situation. For fans of the character this must be quite hard to take, but at least she got to last long enough for a conclusion, eh? DeFalco has said that this will almost certainly be the last story to feature 'MayDay Parker', the alternate-reality daughter of Peter Parker who leads the series. It's rather impressive that a title which on paper has so little going for it - female lead, not set in the 616 Universe, does not impact upon other titles and can't cross over with anyone - has gone on for so long.
Perhaps the good example set by Spider-Girl will lead to our dream series finally being announced: "Jeff Parker Presents: The Polaris from the most recent volume of Exiles".

Preview Pages For 'One Moment In Time'

Drawn by Joe Quesada himself, and also written by Quesada, and overseen by Quesada, 'One Moment in Time' (which spells OMIT, notably) promises to reveal all the secrets of Spider-Man's 'Brand New Day' period. Brought about by a deal he signed with the devil, Peter Parker's Aunt May was brought back from the brink of death in exchange for the dissolution of his marriage to Mary-Jane; a move which rewrote reality and left Peter free, single, and out on the town with no memories of his former life. It annoyed lots of people, but it has led to a string of great storylines by the new 'Web-Head' team of writers such as Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente, and Mark Waid. The problem, though, lies with Mary Jane. We simply don't know what she knows.... yet.

That'll be remedied by this story, according to Marvel. Just before reality got wished away, Ms Watson whispered something into the devil's ear - something which is immediately revisited in the first page of the preview. Although we have no words at the moment, it could well be that we're going to find out what she asked for, and what it means for Spider-Man as a whole. Or it could be that the page is wordless anyway, and just there as a tease. Who knows?

The other interesting page from the preview - entirely made up of artwork by Quesada, it seems, as Paolo Manuel Rivera's artwork seems to only portray the flashback scenes of Spidey (in his black suit) at his wedding to MJ. The wedding, it seems, still happened, but simply didn't end up in a marriage. That'll be the second half of the storyline, as Quesada flashes between past and present to reveal the entirety of MJ's perspective. But we digress in a highly unreadable way - the other interesting page from the preview shows the pair of MJ and Peter having a frank discussion in someone's flat, Peter drinking tea and MJ downing a bottle of wine. Is she an alcoholic now? We here at ComVan would absolutely love to see that. Anyway!
Look deeply into the cup of tea.
What is that, what do you see?
It's a sleeping Peter, happy as can be!

You can see the entirety of the preview over at a proper comics website, like CBR or Newsarama.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Black Panther Animation Finally Coming to Slightly Smaller Screens Than Originally Expected

People love it when we write about the Black Panther on ComVan. Not one BP-related post has gone by without someone dropping by to offer us some exorbitant words of praise, celebration, and friendship. The last article we did got us the glittering plaudit "you're a moron" from one anonymous fan. So what better topic for discussion than the recent announcement from Marvel Animation that the long-awaited Black Panther animation from Reginald Hudlin has finally been gifted with a release date? If you want your dose of a small cartoon version of T'Challa going round punching various villains, then the wait is almost over - Episode 1 of 'Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther?' will air on June 23rd!

But not on BET. Although, given we are a British website, we don't have any idea of what BET is. Well we do, but not much. BET is the channel who were originally planning to air the series on television, in partnership with Hudlin. However, after two years of preparation and a rather shiny voice cast including Djimon Hounsou as T'Challa (perfect casting) and Carl Lumbly - the only one from Alias who never stopped being amazing, even in the final series - as Uncle S'Yan, BET have decided not to show the series. Instead, the show will air on X-Box Live and iTunes. Just like The Guild! But without that great tall bloke who steals every episode with his penny-pinching. Ooh, Vork! You're so penny-pinching!

This is a slight blow for Marvel, as BET's withdrawal means that the several years they ploughed on with the Black Panther series (going through many relaunches, event crossovers, and character cameos in the process) have resulted in a series which doesn't have much chance of reaching the general public. They were hoping that the series would be a success on TV and push the character into the A-List. Instead, they're left with a still-good animation (artwork by John Romita Jr!) which not many people will see. A massive shame for them, but in the bigger-picture it means that Hudlin may not get back to the character anytime soon. The continuation of the comic series is now almost entirely-reliant on the good sales of Doomwar - and even then, a rebranding may be in the works. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Van Lente Gets New Task(Master)

Our legacy of semi-hilarious blog titles continues. Fred Van Lente, a man who has never heard of the phrase "rest and relaxation", has been announced as the writer in charge of Marvel's latest miniseries. Recently Marvel seem to have been very happy to announce lots and lots of miniseries instead of ongoing series, but in this case perhaps their caution is warranted. Van Lente will be writing a four-issue miniseries about none other than Taskmaster, the skeleton-faced crony who was recently turned into a fully-formed character by lovely Christos Gage in his lovely 'Avengers: The Initiative' series. You might think that Taskmaster is a bit of a strange character to use as a protagonist - he's a villain, after all - and you'd be absolutely right.

But this seems less like a Taskmaster story and more like a chance for Van Lente to play around in some of his favourite villainous sandboxes. AIM, Hydra, MODOK - it looks like he'll be throwing as many radioactive people as possible at the bony one in succession, as the characters all attempt to collect a bounty placed on his head. Wait, that was bad use of pronoun. The characters will be trying to collect a bounty placed on Taskmaster's head, not Van Lente's head. Although who knows? Perhaps Fred occasionally works as a jewel thief. It wouldn't surprise us. Not one bit.

Out in September, the artwork for the series will come from former Dr Voodoo artist Jefte Paolo.

Here is Daken's New Costume

In all its.... glory?

Monday, 14 June 2010

We have literally no idea what is going on with the Hulk titles

Last we knew, there were about three or four titles within the 'Hulk' section of the Marvel Universe. Bruce Banner wasn't the Hulk anymore and chose to spend his time teaching his giant green son Skaar about how to be a good person. The Red Hulk beat up Thor and then surfed around the Cosmos on the Silver Surfer's board. She-Hulk appeared seemingly at random, fighting or getting beaten up by one or more of the following characters: Savage She-Hulk, Red Hulk, Red She-Hulk. And finally there was Rick Jones, who is now a blue monster and looks a bit like the sort of creature that lives inside your sofa. Ah, but things were so simple back then.

Now let's cut to September, as the solicits for that month have just been released by Marvel. Looking at the two titles being released, we have to say that neither of them ring any bells of recognition whatsoever.

So, right, let's try to track down what exactly is meant to be going on at the moment. First off was 'Fall of The Hulks', the wikipedia summary of which makes no damn sense at all. It looks like She-Hulk got killed at some point but then came back to life, and everyone was kidnapped by Dr Doom but then they were all robots and escaped but in the end someone set off a bomb which infected all the Marvel superheroes with gamma radiation and made them hulk out. That was followed by... World War Hulks, which is going on at the moment. In WWH, they revealed the identities of both Red Hulk and She-Hulk respectively, which takes us up to the current point in time. Leonard Sampson is also involved somehow, and he's evil or heroic or something.

Here is a cover for The Incredible Hulk's September issue:

So... how are we going to get from the events happening right now to a comic of Iron Man punching a Hulk?? Red Hulk seems to have vanished entirely from the promotional material, while She-Hulk is now alive and walking around - whilst Savage She-Hulk has vanished. And who the heck is that bald green guy supposed to be? You take your eye of a franchise for six piffling months, and look what happens...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

For The Discussion of Winter Guard #1

Something you may not have realised is that this blog is named after the Russian character ‘Vanguard’, a member of The Winter Guard who habitually carried around a big hammer and sickle in what was one of the most over-literal translations of communism in the history of comic-books. He had a big blue cloak and ginger hair, but didn’t care less about the fact that it made him look exceedingly silly. Indeed, the majority of non-American characters in the Marvel Universe are silly in some way or another, which is why they appealed so much to us as we came into the genre. In recent years Marvel have been trying to consolidate their Universe so that we don’t just get an NYC-orientated view of the World: the X-Men were moved across country to the West Coast, while the 50-State Initiative idea made sure that all the US states got some team to look after them, thus making for a more inclusive atmosphere for readers. And further abroad, Paul Cornell has remade the British contingent of heroes and provided make-overs for established characters like Captain Britain, Meggan, and Black Knight; while Chris Claremont did some worrying things with the Japanese team, ‘Big Hero 6’ and Dan Slott established a Chinese team of heroes over in Mighty Avengers.

Overall though, the Marvel Universe is split into three different countries: the USA, the UK, and Russia. Yes, Russia. Probably as a result of the Cold War, Russia have had a lasting impact on the Marvel Universe as a whole – most notably with The Black Widow, but also with The Winter Guard/The Soviet Super-Soviets. There have always been Russian characters in comics, although it’s only recently that they’ve stopped being evil (hello, Crimson Dynamos!) and become recognised as their own heroic force. A lot of that was due to Vanguard, Darkstar, and Ursa Major, three characters whose ability to cross over into other titles meant that they created a wave of support amongst fans living in Russia and elsewhere. They were in Iron Man titles, Hulk titles, Captain America and ROM… Bill Mantlo probably did more for Russian comics than any other writer, all things considered.

Which is our lengthy way of entering into a review of Darkstar & The Winter Guard #1, the continuation of David Gallaher’s attempt to bring Russia into the modern age of Marvel. While Paul Cornell decided to establish ‘MI13’, in which the various British superheroes decided to group together in order to protect the country with the backing of their public and politicians; Gallaher goes a slightly different route. The Russians are so keen on establishing their heroes as invulnerable that their state-sanctioned ‘Winter Guard’ are all part of a deal in which whenever one of the team dies, they are replaced by an doppelganger. So when the original Darkstar was killed off by Grant Morrison, Russia replaced her with another girl who pretended to be her – and the same is true of the other characters, such as Crimson Dynamo, who is now a woman pretending to be a man. The Red Guardian is a human brain transplanted into a robotic body, while poor old Ursa Major is the only original member of the team to remain.

The issue is focused on this concept, and as such is most rewarding for long-term fans of the characters. Gallaher has an encyclopaedic knowledge of these characters – to the extent where he has been spotted correcting Marvel handbooks, updating Wikipedia and Comicvine, making sure that everything is up-to-date and accurate. Having him in charge of the series is essential, as without that wide knowledge of the characters the concept would fall apart. As it is, Gallaher is able to work the politics of the storyline through the differing perspectives of the characters – seeing Vanguard leave the team after his sister is killed and replaced is far more satisfying when you know that he was killed once, but came back to life. Watching characters like Fantasma and Powersurge (yes, Powersurge!) return at varying points across the story is fantastically rewarding for the readers, and the way Gallaher slowly reveals a backstory to the history of the Guard as a whole means that the storyline feels important and concrete. Gallaher is taking characters who were victimised by major events like House of M or aborted storylines and making sense of them all – streamlining the entirety of Russia into one coherent narrative. And for the most part, he does a superb job of it.

It’s great to see the characters return, but of course there is a big difference between a good memory and a good use of continuity. Anyone can make reference to old stories and look like they are continuing the story of characters – Morrison was notably good at this during New X-Men, referencing characters he killed off whilst portraying them in out of character ways – but here Gallaher makes sure to only include characters that fit into his central concept. Key Russian characters like Blind Faith and Perun are thus-far absent, whilst his use of Fantasma and Vanguard, Starlight and Powersurge is rooted rigidly to the narrative. We’re not phrasing this very well. Basically, the new concept flows out of the old concept of the team, and creates a dynamic which feels completely organic and pushes forward the Russian characters into a more powerful creative direction. To do this we get more pages of political discussion that we do any fighting, although a short, crisp fight scene between The Guard and Krang at the start of the issue provides Gallaher with plenty of opportunity to hurl one-liners around with wild abandon. The solicitation completely threw us, here, as we thought Krang was going to be the main villain of the story – not so, as he is swiftly dispatched by Ursa Major and then vanishes.

The concept is a strong one, which means that Gallaher can focus on fleshing out his new characters without having to bash the readers round the head with the ‘legacy’ idea. Both The Crimson Dynamo and Darkstar were created by Gallaher and Steve Ellis in their previous ‘Hulk: Winter Guard’ one-shot, and here they get sorely-needed characterisation to individualise them. Ursa Major is portrayed as the veteran character who has seen it all before, and as such gives the team a sense of power which would otherwise be missing. Without at least one original member on the team, the final cliffhanger (the return of the Protectorate) would have fallen flat. As it is, we now get the excitement of seeing Ursa Major on opposing sides to his old teammembers, even though neither of them are particularly in the wrong. Again, it’s this filtering of the storyline through the characters which provides much of the excitement in the storyline. While it’s kinda interesting to have a new team fight an established team, it’s far more interesting to have former friends standing on opposing sides.

We’re not really reviewing the issue here, as such, you may have noticed. Well, that’s because we’re not very talented writers. But hopefully you’re getting an idea of the overall storyline and style here. Gallaher is essentially using the DC template of legacy heroes but focused solely on this small base of Russian characters. As a result, we get a lot more tension out of the story, because anyone could die at any point. Unlike the US heroes who have merchandise and film rights, the Winter Guard are still relatively unknown characters whom Gallaher can mutilate as he sees fit. Anything could happen to them – and did, but you’d have to have picked up the previous one-shot in order to realise that. The team do a good job here of making the story accessible – Gallaher gets the team introduction across at the same time as he introduces the main concept of the Winter Guard as a whole, which leaves him more space for the personality-driven scenes. There is far more talking here than fighting, but that setup means we have a second issue which seems like it can’t move but for story elements and payoffs. While there is a lot of setup in this issue, things do feel like they are moving forward. The overall story of Marvel’s Russian characters is changing, and the end result will serve to push them into a wider audience.

Let’s not forget the rest of the creative team here: Steve Ellis goes for a more refined and straightforward look here than his sketchy and kinetic previous work with the one-shot, which means that the fight scenes are not quite as madcap. His use of perspective and facial emotion during the downtime moments of the storyline are superb, and the fact he can convey emotions coming from a giant bear, a robot, and a robot suit is exceptional – in particular the sequence between the new Darkstar and Ursa Major stands out as a great moment. He perfectly captures the feeling of the dialogue, and you can see just how close his working relationship with Gallaher is. They have a great synergy, as the art complements the dialogue without overshadowing anything. The fight scenes and scenes where The Guard are celebrated by their public have a suitably epic feel, but at the same time the characters always seem slightly overshadowed by the wide open spaces of Russia. We’re imagining that this is a deliberate move, in order to impose the idea of the overpowering nature of the Russian state, but even if not… it still looks great. The colouring from Val Staples also deserves mention, managing not to be too grey. Whenever people usually depict Russia in comics, everything is grey and white, but here there is a powerful sense of vibrancy as the colours pop off the page. Staples appears to have particular fun in depicting Starlight’s shiny hair.

Hmm. Not a great review, this! But at least we’ve managed to get a few ideas off our heads which seem worthy of further discussion. We enjoyed the issue so much that we couldn’t bear to look at things critically. You won’t see us arguing the small points or bits which we liked best or worst. Sure there are some niggly things about Krang’s depiction here, but really the meat of the story comes from the personalities of the various characters, all of whom come across as completely different and individual. The goal is to make sure that the characters are defined and brought into a modern age of comics – that goal has been achieved. No matter what happens for the rest of this mini or for the Guard in later years – the creative team have managed to establish the characters and team for later writers to use. No more are they bit-players or relegated to cameo appearances – they’ve finally reached a level which equals that of the X-Men or Avengers. They are, ironically, now their own team. We’ll have to wait and see if they can do the same thing in-universe.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

It's 'The X-Men Are Vampires' Week!

Marvel have decided that they absolutely love the idea of putting out daily teasers connected to their big storylines. After they did it for 'X-Men' by Victor Gischler and 'Shadowland' by Andy Diggle, they've decided to do it again. For 'X-Men' by Victor Gischler and 'Shadowland' by Andy Diggle. Whilst the Shadowland teasers so far seem to focus on the idea that we're essentially going to be seeing Daredevil turn into a villain, , the X-Men teasers all have one common goal: in establishing Gischler's series as True Blood in comic-book form. The teasers for this week have so far focused on different relationships within the X-Men, portraying one of the couple as a vampire and the other half as a victim.

The artwork, drawn by the unstoppable Mike Mayhew, shows both Cyclops/Emma Frost and Gambit/Rogue, with Emma and Gambit being the vampires in both of these cases. And can you imagine just how greasy it would feel like if Gambit bit you? That man hasn't had a wash in twenty years. Marvel have shown a short preview for the series without any words, and it seems as though Jubilee will be infected by vampire blood she was hit with during a suicide bombing in San Francisco - and from her it must spread to the others (if this is the case). The storyline, which seems to be the only one planned for the fledgling series, has been in for a bit of criticism from fans and, well, critics, recently. The X-Men Vs Vampires thing we're fine with, but the series doesn't so far have a reason for existing beyond that. There is no defined cast, no ongoing storyline or sub-plots to build on... at the moment, it looks as though this could have all been done within a miniseries. We'll have to wait and see what happens, though - this wouldn't be the first time Gischler has taken on a limping premise and made it thoroughly worthwhile.

It's "Daredevil is Evil" Week!

Marvel have decided that they absolutely love the idea of putting out daily teasers connected to their big storylines. After they did it for 'X-Men' by Victor Gischler and 'Shadowland' by Andy Diggle, they've decided to do it again. For 'X-Men' by Victor Gischler and 'Shadowland' by Andy Diggle. Whilst the X-Men teasers so far seem to focus on the idea that we're essentially going to be seeing True Blood in comic-book form, the Shadowland teasers all have one common goal: in establishing Daredevil as a villain. The first teaser was a simple look at Daredevil in close-up, grinning maliciously. The second one however, is far more interesting, because it basically tells us for certain what the final beat of the first issue will be. We're only making inferences so don't trust this to be a spoiler, but here's what teaser 2 looks like.

Pretty blatant, no? Obviously Elektra is wearing Daredevil's costume, and is going around killing people while the real Matt Murdock enjoys a cheeky martini in Hawaii. Look at the sash on 'his' leg - that's blates Elektra! Which asks the question: who is 'Bullseye'? We're going to have to go with the obscure 1970's character 'Swarm', here.

Wolverine #1 Preview: Gold Sunglasses!

We never knew that you could get sunglasses which had gold lenses, but in the first few preview pages for Jason Aaron's upcoming 'Wolverine #1' that's exactly what we're being treated to, courtesy of artist Renato Guedes. They are, needless to say, the coolest. Now who knows if they were specified in the script of simply added by Guedes as he went about creating the character who wears them - a character who gets stabbed and possibly killed by a soulless Wolverine who has been possessed by demons and his spirit sent down to hell by an unknown enemy, by the way - but they really do stand out as something worth discussing.

The frames themselves are made of actual gold, specially crafted by goldsmiths from the Orient in order to complement and enhance the lenses, which have also been tinted gold. The result is a one-way lense which hides your eyes from the World whilst allowing you to see everything through a gold-tinted perspective. Truly glasses which any budding corporate villain will appreciate as a must-have accessory for being murdered this Autumn. The rest of his ensemble isn't too bad either, with a snappy red tie and orange shirt combination which only the extremely rich could ever get away with, all topped off with a smart suit and cowboy hat. If there is only one thing which will get you to read this storyline - coming in September - then let it be the man wearing Gold Sunglasses. Wolverine may be mass-murdering hundreds of faceless goons this year, but none have the sheer magnetism of golden sunglasses guy. Top work from all involved!

Black Widow Gains New Creative Team

Duane Swierczynski, a name that by now you'll be well familiar with on this site, has been announced as the new writer for Marvel's 'Black Widow' series. He'll take over the reigns from Marjorie Liu, whose current workload of around fourteen novels a year as well as Marvel's Dark Wolverine and X-23 series simply doesn't allow for a third title in the schedule. A shame, as we haven't really been able to see what Liu's plans for the spy also known as Natasha Romanov yet over the course of the two issues she has so far written. She'll make it to issue six, concluding the current storyline before the changeover happens in September - a move which heralds Marvel's first creative takeover of a title in a long time.

Swierczynski is widely held as the assassin's choice of writer, having previously worked on Cable and currently on a series of Deadpool stories for Marvel. On top of that, he also brings with him a novelist's perspective on storytelling, having written several novels in which bad things happen to nice people. As Liu leaves, so will current artist Daniel Acuna - and replacing him for this one will be Manuel Garcia. If that name sounds familiar, it's likely because he was one of the artists for Marvel's best-ever series, 'Mystique'. So again, we have an artist who knows how to do espionage stories.

The series will be, really, receiving a mini-relaunch with the arrival of the new creative team - the first story is self-contained, as are more first stories written nowadays for a series, due to Marvel's somewhat violent cancellation policy. What we know about the series at the moment is that the political aspects of the characters will be heightened, and a new character called Nick Crane will be introduced. A journalist looking into the death of his high-profile senator father, Nick will be getting involved with the Widow in order to find out what's really happened. Hopefully he'll have thin spectacles, a trenchcoat that doesn't fit him, and a pencil rammed between his ear and temple at all times.

We're really looking forward to this series, not least because there's always the off-chance that it might cross over with The Winter Guard at some point. Spy stories are oddly lacking from Marvel at the moment, despite the presence of Ed Brubaker as one of the main creators in the Marvel Offices. What we could really do with is an ex-KGB operative with a hair lip and a broken arm who issues orders over an intercom to a series of drunks and philanderers, and operates a shady casino somewhere in the backlands of Los Angeles, a wretched hive of scum and villai... no, wait, that's Star Wars.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Doomwar #5: Enter War Machine

The last time we wrote an article that mentioned Doomwar, Jonathan Maberry himself popped over to correct us for being a bit mean about it.

Which. Was. AMAZING.

So in the vague hope of getting him to come back, we've decided to write a little bit about the preview pages for the penultimate issue of the miniseries, which focus on Dr Doom attempting to outwit T'Challa - The Black Panther - and Reed Richards simultaneously. Doomwar itself has been rather well recieved by the critics, which is a massive surprise when you consider that fact that for years the Black Panther series has been reviled by critics and audiences worldwide. For the longest time, the series has been obsessed with race to the point that it has turned off all but the hardcore fans, as the stories were blatantly rigged in order to draw as many of Marvel's black characters as possible into one place. Instead of being a series about the main character, or about the rogue nation of Wakanda, which Panther rules as King; the series was about racial politics but had no sense of subtlety or tact. Storm was drafted over from the X-Men series and relegated to a supporting player in the book, as she was married off to the main character with little reason for it apart from the colour of her skin. It was a rather blatant editorial decision, which has left many X-Men fans vowing hatred against the Black Panther series as a result.

So with all that going on, it was never going to be a particularly easy job to make the character and the series seem like it had a reason to exist beyond racial demographics. Come Doomwar, we have Storm in prison and T'Challa no longer Black Panther, and exiled from his own country. It looks as though some serious things are about to happen to Wakanda as a whole (which has up to this point been portrayed as an inward, xenophobic, and rather nasty civilisation) and to T'Challa. Which is wonderful news! This whole thing has needed such a shakeup for years, without getting it. We need a reason for Storm to be in love with her husband, instead of just having it outright stated repeatedly. We need to see some sort of growth in Wakanda. We need to see T'Challa not be an invincible superhuman all the time. We need Scot Eaton to always use this particular art style, because it looks AMAZING.

Instead of seeing Luke Cage and The Falcon turn up for no reason (although there is ALWAYS a reason to include the Falcon in your story. ALWAYS.) in the story, we've seen the X-Men and The Fantastic Four and most recently Deadpool turn up, as the series starts to connect with the rest of the Marvel Universe in a constructive way for the first time in what seems like forever. The interesting part though, is that the guest-stars are still continuing to appear even five issues into the six-issue miniseries. In this preview you'll see that War Machine shows up to rescue Storm (who still appears to be a damsel in distress, even though she is by miles the strongest character in the story) from a giant frog monster thingy. What interests us about this is how War Machine is slowly becoming the newest big-name character in the Marvel Universe. The last few characters we've had who were like this were Emma Frost and Deadpool - now it looks to be War Machine. Again, this comes from the movies more than anything else, but it's fascinating to see how War Machine appears in the story instead of Iron Man. They're basically the same figure in terms of abilities, but here we've got Rhodes instead of Stark.

War Machine is also a part of Ed Brubaker's critically-acclaimed 'Secret Avangers' series, and has just started to recur in Matt Fraction's 'Invincible Iron Man'. After years of being a B-List character, relegated to brilliant appearances in Dan Slott and Hunky Christos Gage's 'Avengers: The Initiative', it appears as though finally we're seeing the character come into his own. Which makes it a shame that his own ongoing series - by Greg Pak - was cancelled so soon. But mark our words - it looks for sure that he'll be getting some more stories in the months to come. Mark them! And isn't it great that War Machine can turn up in Doomwar, even though he's performing a rescue which makes Storm look bad, but he can turn up and it doesn't look like the title is 'collecting' Black characters? That's progression! Hopefully it'll continue.

The Invincible Iron Gamble

Matt Fraction must be close to a nervous breakdown at the moment, having written 80 pages of script for June's 'Invincible Iron Man Annual 1', which is released right at the end of this month. It's not only a big issue though - it's also a 'big issue'. Hah! See what we did there? Well not yet you haven't, but maybe in a year you'll reread this piece and think "wow, how clever".

Marvel have decided to release the issue simultaneously into print and digital stores, meaning that people will be able to buy the issue online the same day that the issue becomes available in stores. This is a pretty revolutionary move in a way, because it means that Marvel will be able to test their audiences. If readers decide not to go into the shops, but just buy the issues online - well, then Marvel have essentially made their fans lazier, but haven't made a loss (in fact, due to the pricing of the issue - which online is going to be split into three parts - they may make a profit in this scenario, depending on if the online pieces combined cost more than the paper version). If, however, this results in the fans who always used the shops going to the shops, but an increase in digital sales from fans who don't have a local comic-book shop and choose to buy online - well, Marvel will have just solidified an online audience. Nobody else has done that yet, if you discount internet-only strips like Achewood or Penny Arcade. Marvel could, theoretically, increase sales across the board if digital comics makes Iron Man available for a larger audience.

And it's not a coincidence that Iron Man is the hero chosen for this possibly landmark release. The star of a megabudget big film, Robert Downey Jr. has singlehandedly proven that Tony Stark is an interesting, populist character who can cross over to a mass market. With the release of this issue, Marvel could well be doing something even more clever than the digital release thingy: they could be promoting the third Iron Man film. Fraction's issue, drawn by Carmine di Giandomenico, features the return of The Mandarin to the Marvel Universe after several years out of the spotlight. The Mandarin is possibly the most famous of all Iron Man's villains, which makes this annual somewhat suspicious. Fraction is not only going to tell a story about The Mandarin in the issue - he's also going to provide a complete origin story for the character, and establish him completely as a mainstream character. With Iron Man 3 in the very basic planning stages, would it be too much to assume that this annual may be providing the scriptwriters with the basics they need to add The Mandarin to their story, as the main villain?

Exciting speculation!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

100th Post Spectacular! -- Fantasma??

The big news this week is obviously the release of Darkstar & The Winter Guard #1, written by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis. Marvel have not released any lettered preview pages for the issue, choosing instead to rely on the fact that millions of people worldwide are already craving the issue enough that they don't need to see pages in order to start salivating. Most comics do need to try and excite people with a sneak preview of the first six or seven pages - in the case of Darkstar & The Winter Guard #1 (which we shall be reviewing as soon as it arrives, by the way) all it takes are the masterful pencils of Steve Ellis to make people weak at the knees. And Marvel know this, evident with today's release of several more pages from the issue. One page in particular strikes our interest:

FANTASMA! The most glamorous and feisty member of the Winter Guard, Fantasma has long been one of our favourites. We've clamoured for her return ina highly degrading manner, which makes these two panels so much more terrifying for us. What's happened to her? Is she weak, tired, ill, or dying? Why is she grapsing onto Dimitri so hard? What is going on here?!?! If she dies, we shall curse the name Gallaher as we fall into our early shock-induced graves. But, we'll probably revive and then renounce the curse just before issue 2 is released. At any rate, it's very clear that Russia is very troubled at the moment, and the truth behind The Winter Guard is starting to struggle free.

And what a fabulous outfit. No wonder Dimitri looks so startled. Issue #1 is either out now, or out tomorrow, depending on where you live - shock your LCS and insist on twenty copies!