Marvel’s announcements were the talk of the recently-concluded New York Comic Con.
Soon, Marvel will be the only major comics publisher headquartered in New York with DC’s impending move next year to Burbank, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that the most recent New York Comic Con had all the atmosphere of a Marvel “house” show. There were announcements for a couple of new events, a bunch of new series headlined by female characters, and Marvel dipping its toe into the weekly comic waters.
The convention saw Marvel showcase two projects geared specifically for the growing on-demand streaming video market. There was the debut of the first trailer for the Playstation Network’s Powers (set to launch December 2014), based on the superheroes-meets-police procedural comic of the same name created by writer Brian Michael Bendis (Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man) and artist Michael Avon Oeming (The Victories, The Mice Templar). Originally published by Image Comics, the trailer’s reveal coincides with the tenth anniversary of the comic’s move to Marvel’s creator-owned Icon imprint. The Powers series will be Sony’s first step in producing original Playstation Network programming (the first episode will be free to all Playstation Network members while the entire series will be available to view only for Playstation Plus subscribers). Needless to say, there’s a lot more than just Marvel’s fortunes riding on the show’s success.
Con attendees also got an early look at official images from the upcoming Daredevil series set to launch on Netflix in May 2015. Based on some of the images displayed, it seems like the series, at least in terms of the protagonist’s costume design, is influenced by the 1993 miniseries Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, by Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr.
For traditional television, there was a panel with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Clark Gregg and lead Marvel Television executive Jeph Loeb where the duo discussed the future direction Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, addressed some of the show’s common criticisms, and even talked a bit about the Captain America: The First Avenger television spin-off Agent Carter (set to debut January 2015 on ABC).
But in what many may have found a refreshing reversal of recent comics convention trends, it was the comics that were under the spotlight for most of NYCC weekend. There were panels on the Avengers & X-Men: AXIS and Edge of Spider-Verse events currently running through Marvel’s flagship titles but much of the buzz was around the new series Marvel has lined up for next year.
It remains to be seen what will come out of the AXIS event but spinning out of Spider-Verse will be a couple of new ongoing titles featuring recently-introduced female leads: Silk by writer Robbie Thompson (of TV’s Supernatural fame) and artist Stacey Lee, and Spider-Gwen by Jason Latour (Southern Bastards, Wolverine and the X-Men) and Robbi Rodriguez (FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Hazed). These two titles will join other new Spider-Verse-affiliated titles such as the currently ongoing Spider-Man 2099 series by the original Spider-Man 2099 team of Peter David and Rick Leonardi, the previously announced Spider-Woman series by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Greg Land set to launch next month, the Scarlet Spiders series revealed during the San Diego Comic Con, next month’s two-part Spider-Verse comics anthology, and the upcoming Spider-Verse Team-up miniseries. Both the Silk and Spider-Gwen titles are expected to debut on February 2015.
Other new Marvel series announced during NYCC include Gamora (tentatively scheduled for “Spring 2015”) written by Guardians of the Galaxy screenwriter Nicole Perlman, the 1950s-set miniseries Operation S.I.N. (scheduled for January 2015) by writer Kathyrn Immonen (Heralds, Wolverine and Jubilee) and artist Rich Ellis (Memorial), and Ant-Man (scheduled for January 2015) by writer Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Secret Avengers) and artist Ramon Rosanas (The Age of Sentry, Night of the Living Deadpool).
Marvel also revealed its plans to publish in Spring 2015 comics adaptations of the popular Maximum Ride YA fantasy novels by James Patterson. Distinct from the OEL manga adaptations currently published by Yen Press, the first of these adaptations will be the Maximum Ride: First Flight five-issue miniseries with Marguerite Bennett (Butterfly) handling the writing chores and Alex Sanchez (Katana, Star Wars: The Old Republic) on illustrations. An addition to the new Marvel Star Wars line was announced with Star Wars: Kanan, which will explore the eponymous Jedi’s origins and life prior to his appearance in the new Star Wars Rebels animated series. The first arc will be written by Star Wars Rebels executive producer Greg Weisman and feature art by Spanish artist Pepe Larraz (The Mighty Thor, Wolverine & The X-Men). A new creative team for Hawkeye was also announced: writer Jeff Lemire and artist Ramon K. Pérez have a tough act to follow after the critically-acclaimed Matt Fraction/David Aja run on the title, but with two Eisner Awards, two Shuster Awards, an Alex Award, and a Doug Wright Award between them, they certainly have the collective résumé to earn the trust of even the most ardent fans of Fraction and Aja’s work on Hawkeye.
Out of all of these, I think that Star Wars: Kanan will have the longest run, primarily because of the strength of the Star Wars brand and the existing TV tie-in. Given how last year’s All-New Marvel NOW! launches panned out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spider-Gwen, Silk, and Spider-Woman lasting around a year before being canceled or radically retooled. Ant-Man‘s survival may very well be contingent on how the Ant-Man film (scheduled for a Summer 2015 release after a particularly difficult gestation period) performs at the box-office, but I can’t see it making it past the end of 2015. Operation S.I.N. is a miniseries, but I can imagine it existing in some form or another beyond the initial five issues seeing as how it ties into the Agent Carter TV series—events portrayed in the comic will apparently figure significantly in the show’s major mid-season storyline. Lemire and Pérez on Hawkeye might last awhile, but given Marvel’s recent history of shaking up creative teams or canceling books at the merest hint of sales decline, it’s hard to envision them staying on the title past 24 issues. Marvel’s Maximum Ride is in a curious position because fellow Hachette Book Group-affiliate Yen Press already publishes its own series of officially-licensed OEL manga adaptations of the novels—Yen Press has already released eight Maximum Ride volumes, with at least two more scheduled to come out. I don’t know if Marvel’s version of Maximum Ride will be able to find an audience in an environment where the novels and the OEL manga adaptation are already pretty entrenched.
One newly-announced Marvel title I can confidently predict as lasting awhile just because Marvel has so much staked on its success is Marvel’s first weekly series, Wolverines (January 2015) by writers Charles Soule (Death of Wolverine, She-Hulk) and Ray Fawkes (Batman Eternal, The People Inside) and artist Nick Bradshaw (Danger Girl: Body Shots, Guardians of the Galaxy). The series will follow a team consisting of X-23 and members of Wolverine’s rogues gallery such as Daken, Sabretooth, and Mystique as they investigate the circumstances around Wolverine’s death. It doesn’t sound interesting to me in the least. I’m not happy that Marvel is venturing into weekly comics territory. I can’t stand that DC is running so many weekly titles series—I’ve already written at length about why I think they hurt comics sales and reader loyalty in the long-term—and now Marvel is going to be doing it as well.
Another thing I’m not too high on are constant events and crossovers and Marvel continues churning them out: Black Vortex (February 2015) is built around a Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men crossover that will also tie into Captain Marvel, Legendary Star-Lord, Cyclops, Nova, and a number of other as-yet unrevealed titles. Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic will be doing a new, year-long Secret Wars event beginning May 2015. And the Monday after NYCC, Marvel teased the Summer 2015 return of the event no one wanted to see the publisher revisit, Civil War.
All in all, there wasn’t much to generate excitement for me out of this year’s NYCC. In fact, the biggest news for me personally was the announcement of a new Sixth Gun miniseries from Oni Press, featuring one of my favorite supporting characters from the ongoing Sixth Gun comic.
From Marvel, whose stable of characters I’m personally fond of, I was hoping for more. None of the new titles, as revealed, strike me as books that will last for the long-term, especially considering Marvel’s quick trigger on cancellations lately. And while I am impressed that Marvel has responded to the call for more titles featuring female protagonists and female comics creators, for some reason, I don’t think any of them have that “it” factor that helped turn G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel into one of this year’s breakout titles. Is a comic featuring “Spider-Gwen” really the best Marvel can do when faced with the challenge of creating more superhero titles with female leads?
I recently signed up for the Marvel Unlimited app, which means I only need to read 15 or so books a year to justify the subscription cost, with everything I read beyond those 15 titles essentially being free. I don’t really care if Marvel Unlimited’s offerings are six months or more behind the newest titles on offer on comiXology or in brick-and-mortar retail, because they’re books I wouldn’t have bought anyway. From the looks of it, all of the new Marvel series revealed at NYCC will be “wait for the app” reads for me.