Thursday, July 17, 2014

As the Faces of the Big 3 Change, Marvel Announces Avengers NOW!

The face of Marvel's team of heroes looks set to undergo some huge changes this winter.

Marvel made a lot of news the other day when they announced that beginning this November, Jason Aaron would be writing a new Thor title featuring a female Thor. They made news again last night announcing that Sam Wilson would be taking on the mantle of Captain America and that an Extremis-hyped Tony Stark would become the Superior Iron Man in November. With the uncertain future of Bruce Banner/the Hulk given the damage done to him in Mark Waid's recent run and the impending doom of the multiverse, the future of the Avengers was left up in the air. Now, Marvel has announced the third wave of its Marvel NOW initiative which began in 2012 and it seems to set the future of the Marvel Universe on the shoulders of a new cast of Avengers.

For those of you who aren't huge comic fans, the line in that picture is as follows:
Top (L to R): Medusa (Queen of the Inhumans), Scarlet Witch, Superior Iron Man (Tony Stark), Doctor Strange, Ant-Man (Scott Lang)
Bottom (L to R): The Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes), Angela (recently revealed  Thor (unknown identity) Captain America (Sam Wilson), Inferno (Dante, a new Inhuman from the Terrigen bomb and the main character in Charles Soule's Inhuman), Deathlok (Henry Hayes)

Could that group, or at least several of the members of it make up the new team of post-Hickman Avengers?  I can imagine quite a few of them joining up and, before going further, I should say that rumors have Quicksilver joining the team as well. That having been said, the group above may not all be members of the Avengers, but several of them are getting their own titles as early as November.

Deathlok, a longtime Marvel character reintroduced through Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will be getting his own solo series, written by up and comer Nathan Edmonson (The Punisher, Black Widow), in October. This version of Deathlok is Henry Hayes, a medic who is unaware of his missions as his mind is wiped after each one. Edmonson is a wonderful writer and his work on The Punisher has been excellent. I've been less of a fan of his Black Widow series, but the last 2 issues have picked up the pace.

The Winter Soldier will also get a #1 this October. The new series will spin directly out of the events of Original Sin and find Bucky as an interstellar assassin filling the long-standing role of Nick Fury. Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, written by Ales Kot (Secret Avengers) will find Bucky filling the role of a Cosmic James Bond.

While Marvel has already announced those two titles and made them available for pre-order, along with Aaron's new Thor #1, we also have strong reason to believe that several of the other characters in the photo above will be getting their own solo series as well. You can expect Angela, Doctor Strange and Ant-Man possibly from some of Marvel's great young writers, among the 10 new titles expected to be a part of the Avengers NOW! phase. The Scarlet Witch has been playing a key role in Rick Remender's Uncanny Avengers and Medusa has taken the spotlight in Inhuman in the absence of her husband, Black Bolt, but it's not certain that either of the characters will be given her own series.

If you've been paying attention in the past, you've likely noticed a growing synergy between Marvel comics and Marvel Studios. Guardians of the Galaxy was given a new series, penned by Marvel legend Brian Michael Bendis, right about the time production of the film began and The Winter Soldier reemergence as an active player in the comics came just in time for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With that in mind, it's no surprise that we'll see Scott Lang and Stephen Strange get new solo titles (especially not after the work that the Sorcerer Supreme has been doing in New Avengers and Original Sin) but what about some of the others? My advice is to pay attention to the writers put on these new projects and see if some of them might not be properties Marvel is looking to develop for the big screen. For my part, I'd love to see Angela involved in the MCU, whether it be in the Thor series or as a member of the Cosmic community that will start to take form in Guardians of the Galaxy. Keep in mind that Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey, Jr. are nearing the end of their contracts and while there are hundreds of stories out there to adapt, it certainly won't hurt to have new stories in which readers are currently invested to be adapted either.

The idea of Sam Wilson as Captain America is SOLID GOLD as far as I'm concerned. Steve Rogers and Thor will still be around and eventually they'll return to their original places, but these moves, while risky, show the type of creativity still alive at The House of Ideas. There is a LOT going on in the future of Marvel comics and if you haven't been reading, I'd encourage you to think about picking up some of the newer titles. Marvel has identified some great young writers and given new life to some characters. I'm sure the Avengers NOW! initiative will feature some interesting stuff as well. With Jonathan Hickman's 3-year run on the Avengers coming to a close, it'll be interesting to see what writer lands the new gig and who will be making up the new collection of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.