The Marvel Comics Universe is about to get a major overhaul. Every summer, Marvel launches a story that ties all of its flagship books together – and in 2012, the Marvel superheroes are embroiled in the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict, which sees the two iconic superteams battling it out. It’s been a geek-pleaser storyline, but the aftermath is looking far more interesting: EW has dropped the exclusive that Marvel will be shuffling their characters and their creative teams, as part of an initiative that has officially been dubbed “Marvel NOW!”
Marvel NOW! will introduce new titles and re-fashion old ones; among some of the more intriguing books in the lineup will be Uncanny Avengers, which will be the first official blending of the X-Men and Avengers into one team. Scroll down to learn more about this bold new rollout – and what it may have to do with Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In an interview with EW, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso made sure to differentiate Marvel NOW! from competitor DC Comics’ total reboot of their universe with the “New 52″ initiative. For one thing, there will not be a sudden halt to the old universe followed by a hard push into the new one – the new relaunches will be unveiled a month at a time. Said Alonso:
“This ain’t a reboot. It’s a new beginning…I feel that it’s a much more humane approach for retailers and fans to tell them: ‘Look. In the months of October through February, every week you can go into a comic book store and find a few new jumping-on points for the Marvel Universe, a place you’re going to like visiting. Or revisiting.”
For a sneak peek at the upcoming Marvel NOW! Universe, check out this artwork by Marvel CEO Joe Quesada, which contains plenty of interesting hints and teases:
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A few of the Easter eggs in the image:
- Thor has swords
- Cable has an eye-patch
- Hulk has space armor (and a robo-orb)
- Nick Fury is Ultimate Universe Nick Fury [Correction: Apparently that's Fury's illegitimate son(???)]
- Cyclops has a new uniform and eye-beam
- Fantastic Four member Sue Richards is out on her own (for once)
- Iron Man has new armor
- Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) is back to land of the living
- Rocket Raccoon and Nova – characters rumored for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie Marvel is developing – are (literally) being brought front and center
For details on the more cryptic elements of this picture, check out the interviews with the Marvel creative team on the following pages – and find out about the new books they will be launching. Needless to say, there are some big surprises in store…
All-New X-Men (November)
Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis will take lead on a new X-Men comic – titled All-New X-Men - which will be drawn by Stuart Immomen (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers). The bold new story will see the original 1960s X-Men team – Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) – transported through time into the modern Marvel Universe. The young chipper X-Men will have to face the harsh reality of their contemporary selves, and the darker, more complex world of the Marvel Universe.
Said Bendis (to EW):
I wanted to make sure I had a take that was unique…It was about the original X-Men. If they saw what the Marvel universe was now…well, it’s so much worse than the Days of Future Past that they’re always worried about. This would scare the crap out of them… No Danger Room, no imaginary story. This is actually happening… Here’s the big question that the original X-Men are gonna be faced with: We’re gonna grow up, and this is what we’re going to get? That is not acceptable.”
Though, with Jean Grey having been dead some eight years now in the comics, young Marvel Girl will have another head trip altogether to deal with:
“It’s the one thing X-Men fans have always asked for is: They want Jean Grey back. But they want Jean Grey. Not reincarnated Jean, or the ghost of Jean. Well, you’re getting Jean back. And Jean is gonna be looking at a world that rattles her.”
Having successfully made Spider-Man and The Avengers relevant and engaging superheroes for modern times, Bendis is no doubt about to work similar magic on the X-Men. The premise alone brings lots of intrigue – and lets face it, scaling the X-Men down to a more simple form like their original roster wouldn’t be a bad thing. That garden has grown a lot of weeds…
Uncanny Avengers (October)
Uncanny X-Force has been one of my favorite (read: only) X-Men titles to read in the last few years, and the writing of Rick Remender has a lot to do with that. Remender will be taking on the MASSIVE challenge of trying to bring the worlds of the X-Men (mutant heroes feared and hated by society) and The Avengers (Heroes adored by society) into one book… Uncanny Avengers. Luckily, he will be aided by John Cassaday, the man whose illustrations helped turn Avengers director Joss Whedon’s run on the Astonishing X-Men comic book into such a fantastic experience.
Basically, the gist of Uncanny Avengers is that Captain America realizes he’s never done enough for mutant rights, and (presumably) tries to correct that error with a merged squad. Names being dropped include Cap, Thor and Wolverine, but Remender hinted at Cyclops’ brother, Havok, being a second-tier player they’re looking at moving to the forefront:
“Havok’s always been the black sheep rock-and-roller of the Summers family. He can’t do that anymore. You’re going to see Havok become one of the biggest players in the Marvel Universe.”
A similar tactic worked for DC Comics and Green Lantern when writer Geoff Johns took over the book in the early 2000s; in my personal geek opinion, Havok has been a underserved and undervalued character for a long time. Good to see him moving up.
In a further twist, the merging of the two teams will also mean new and different threats from old foes. Remender claims that Uncanny Avengers will start off by exploring what happens when Red Skull decides to go all Nazi on mutants everywhere:
“In 1943, Arnim Zola, who was this bio-fanatic engineer, recorded the Red Skull’s consciousness, and set it to wake up 70 years later. So the Red Skull [in Uncanny] is right out of 1943-44. Prime Nazi scumbag. In his mind, he’s taking that vitriol and hate and Nazi horror and methodology, and pointing it at the mutant species… I’m not just smashing the heroes together, I’m smashing the villains together. It becomes something unlike anything we’ve ever seen, with stakes that are so huge, it takes a team comprised of the best Avengers and the best X-Men to go take care of it.”
On paper this reads as one of those ‘Duh!’ moments – as in, why did it take so long for us all to realize this would be a potentially awesome move? The various team combinations (drawing from the extensive roster pools of both the X-Men and Avengers) are virtually limitless; the amount of new character dynamics and relationships will be refreshing, and it’s just going to be awesome to see these teams fighting together.
Now, if only we could see it in a movie… (But since two separate movie studios own the respective teams, it remains, for now, wishful thinking.)
Jonathan Hickman made Fantastic Four relevant again, and brought a unique storytelling style to the superhero blueprint. So far, he’s not talking much about his new Avengers, only to say that:
- The book will be bi-monthly.
- It will feature both popular and lesser-known characters.
- Shang-Chi, the master of Kung Fu, may be one character.
- Hickman has much love for the cosmic storylines like the Kree/Skrull War or Avengers Forever (my fav).
The writer also plans to keep the roster very full:
“It’s not six Avengers, it’s 18 or more… “The obvious solution is for the heroes to become something bigger and larger, a more appropriate response to an ever more dangerous time.”
With the Avengers film being such a big success, it’s curious to hear that the new Avengers volume could veer so far away from the original roster. Then again, longtime readers remember what Brian Michael Bendis did with New Avengers in the mid-2000s; he essentially introduced an assortment of superheroes that had never really been paired – some popular (Wolverine, Spider-Man), some lesser-known (Luke Cage, Spider-Woman): the results were pretty spectacular. Hopefully Hickman’s experiment yields similar results.
Marvel NOW!: Implications for Marvel Movies
As Disney/Marvel continue to expand their superhero brand, it’s apparent that they are literally expanding their superhero brand, by finding a way to shuffle characters so that certain ones get more exposure (See: Rocket Raccoon). The name of the game for both Disney/Marvel and DCE/Warner Bros. has been how to maximize the profitability of these superhero universes – meaning capitalizing on more than just the big two or three most popular characters. Because Rocket Raccoon plush toys would definitely sell with the juice box crowd…
As for what this NOW! relaunch means, as far as Marvel Movies go: Aside from the Rocket Raccoon example, I wouldn’t put too much stock in seeing an Avengers/X-Men movie. Unless Fox and Disney/Marvel have some back room deal none of us know about, it won’t be happening anytime soon while each respective studio is making money off their own franchise. The Avengers is setting box office records, and Fox got enough out of X-Men: First Class to start work on a sequel. So again, an onscreen merger is unlikely at this point.
Still, for longtime comic book fans this is big, crazy, exciting news – let us know how you feel about it in the comment section below.
Be Sure to check back to Screen Rant’s Comic-Con Coverage Page for the latest news about what’s going on with Marvel NOW! – and all the juicy things we learn while our reporters are scouring the halls of the ‘Con.
The 2012 San Diego Comic-Con takes place between July 11 – 15th, in San Diego, California.