Variant Cover for Amazing Spider-Man #1, out this weekFirst of all: HAPPY FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

Chicago’s entertainment expo occurred last week, and there’s much news I’m busting it into two columns. This one is all about the print medium. Tomorrow, I’ll pass along TV and movie news. But I wanted to lead off by telling you about FREE IMAGE COMICS! Or nearly free, anyway. The Web site Humble Bundle has partnered with Image to offer volumes 1 of East of West Vol. 1, Lazarus Vol. 1, Morning Glories Vol. 1, and Fatale Vol. 1 on a pay-what-you-want (minimum one cent) scale. And if you pay certain amounts, it will unlock bonus volumes of Saga, Revival, Chew and The Walking Dead. Perhaps best of all, as the consumer you get to decide how much of your money goes to the creators or to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The sale ends Tuesday, May 6. Truly an amazing deal—if you’ve ever wondered about these comics (and all of them are some of the best comics around), or if you’ve been curious to try the digital experience, this is something not to miss.

And speaking of comic books….

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 IS OUT.  The Ari Gradnov variant cover is at right.  Cool, huh?

MARVEL COMICS’ ORIGINAL SIN. The “number zero” issue came out, and it was basically a puff piece spotlighting Nova that didn’t go anywhere. Not a great beginning to Marvel’s first “event” of 2014. As you probably know, the series will be an investigation into the murder of Uatu The Watcher, which basically means that every corner of the Marvel Universe will have some “secret” revealed about it. Here’s some of the announced spin offs:

  • Daredevil #6. DD’s tie-in will reveal a secret about Matt Murdock’s mommy, Maggie the nun. I hope it is that she was one of the Nude Nuns with Guns.
  • Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm, to be written by Jason Aaron and Charles Soule, who write solo books about the title characters. Neil Gaiman’s Angela character, who recently joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, will be revealed to be Thor’s sister. Yaaaaaawn.
  • Amazing Spider-Man #4-5 will reveal that a girl was bitten by same spider who bit Peter Parker, and she’s got powers and goes by the name Silk and for some reason nobody has heard of her yet.
  • X-Men. The X-books by Brian Michael Bendis will reveal Professor X’s last will and testament.

MARVEL TRIES TO PROVE THAT IT THINKS ARTISTS MATTER. In recent years, Marvel has focused on its writers to the point of creating its own “rat pack” (which it called the Marvel Architects, consisting of Jonathan Hickman, Brian Bendis, and others). At Chicago, it announced the “Alll-New Young Guns,” a collection of newer artists. You may recall that the last set of Young Guns was way back in 2004, and it included a bunch of guys who are now “name brand” artists, like Jimmy Cheung, Olivier Copiel, David Finch, and Steve McNiven. The All-New crowd to receive exclusive Marvel deals are: Ryan Stegman, Nick Bradshaw, Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schiti, Mahmud Asrar, and David Marquez. I’m thrilled to see Pichelli in there, but Asrar is a bit of a head scratcher–Wolverine and the X-Men is not what I would call great art…

THE SPIDER-VERSE. I’m not really sure what the hell this is, but Dan Slott is writing it, Oliver Copiel’s drawing it, and it will bring together every single Marvel iteration of Spider-Man, including the one from the 1967 cartoon (which was heavily based on the Lee-Ditko versions), Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, the one who taught us how to read on the classic Electric Company PBS show from the 1970s, Miles Morales, Peter Parqhar (from Marvel 1602), a Japanese TV version, Spider-Woman, Arana, Ben Reilly, a Spider-Man from an old What If? Story, and probably lots more including some new ones. They all join forces to fight Morlun. Frankly, I don’t think I could be more excited about a comic than this one. In other Spidey news….

INFINITE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: WHO AM I? Some of you know that when Marvel puts “All-New” in front of a title it means their slapping a #1 on it. Well, when they put “Infinite” in front of it, it means it is digital only. To date, digital books are the only area where DC is fighting in a weight class far above Marvel’s. But this project sounds interesting: Dan Slott and Joshua Hale Fialkov wrote a “What If?” about Peter Parker getting amnesia and having to figure out who Spider-Man is based only on news articles and editorials by J. Jonah Jameson.

NEW BIG GUY & RUSTY THE ROBOT. In our first non-Marvel story (told you there was tons of Marvel news!), a new installment of Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s terrific “Rusty Robot” series will appear in an upcoming issue of Dark Horse Presents, which will be a 48-page anthology comic priced at five bucks. Other stories announced by Dark Horse include new tales of several great indie books including David Mack’s, “Kabuki;” new “Resident Alien” stories; Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s “Action Philosophers” (an absolutely brilliant book that I used to teach philosophy to my 11-year old); and Shannon Wheeler’s “Too Much Coffee Man,” among many others.

SEPTEMBER 2014 IS “FUTURE’S END.” It’s basically DC’s “new 41.” DC will publish 41 new books that take place 5 years in the future (i.e., five years after … what? I still can’t figure out all the timing and continuity issues) with 3D covers and all kinds of gimmicks. Solicited titles include Grayson #1 (he’s basically Winter Soldier now), a Batgirl that is actually a Bane-girl, and a Batwoman who is a vampire. All this in five years? DC WTF?

MARVEL’S 100TH ANNIVERSARY. Speaking of books that take place in the future, Marvel is set to launch a bunch of “What If?” style books looking at what Marvel will look like when it hits age 100 in 2061. It’s an interesting idea: Rather than reboot the universe in the future or assume that all the current heroes are dead and their children are running around, the concept recognizes that characters don’t truly age in the Marvel universe so many of the same ones will still be running around, but they will have gone through about 50 more years of stories. There will be a Guardians of the Galaxy comic by Andy Lanning and Ron Marz, and we’re promised a symbiote-covered Kingpin and a Silver Galactus. The celebration will be five issues over five weeks.


  • NEW AVENGERS. Jonathan Hickman’s run, in which multiple parallel Earths move towards our own, offers the opportunity for so much fun, different takes on alt-U Avengers. Sadly, it’s been too heavy to be fun; too wordy to be cool; and too complicated to be clear. The story seems to lack a center, and is devoid of joy. I’m terribly disappointed by this. And also that Hickman announced he will stay with the title until the middle of 2015.
  • EMPIRE OF THE DEAD: ACT TWO. The Marvel miniseries written by George A. Romero, creator of Night/Dawn/Day/Land of the Dead and the man widely recognized as the creator of the zombie, has done well enough to garner a sequel, coming in September, with artist Dalibor Talajic. I’ve found the comic quite good—and a good companion for the things Romero was building to in his zombie movies
  • DAREDEVIL: ROAD WARRIOR. Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s four-issue “infinite” digital comic will come out in print in July as Daredevil #0.1. It tells the story of DD’s trip across the country to relocate from Hell’s Kitchen to San Francisco. It was a really neat self-contained story by the team who brought us Irredeemable, probably one of the best non-Marvel superhero comics of the past ten years.
  • THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE. A book by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, which follows on Paul Cornell’s Savage Wolverine story (in which he lost his healing factor). Why isn’t Paul Cornell writing it? Presumably because Marvel didn’t want him to. Marvel sure seems to love Charles Soule these days. This seems like a throw-away book. They’re not fooling anyone that Wolverine will be dead for any length of time.
  • LEGENDARY STARLORD. The Guardians of the Galaxy will get a solo book by Sam Humphries and drawn by the great Paco Medina.
  • ROCKET RACCOON. Another Guardian will get a solo book, which will be written and drawn by the brilliant Skottie Young. I’m very excited for this one—if nothing else, the visuals will be extraordinary.
  • STORM. The X-woman will also get a solo book, by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez. I thought Pak had gone over to DC…Guess that love affair is over. It’s worth noting the large number of female-focused books out these days. Just five years ago, it was hard find even one Marvel book starring a female. I blame Kelley Sue DeConnick’s incredible ability to market her Captain Marvel title.

SUPERMAN. Let’s end with news about the first superhero ever. Most of the Superman news had to do with the Doomsday event. DC is trying very hard to tell us that this isn’t simply a new version of the old 52 Doomsday story, but they aren’t being very convincing. Still, Superman #32 will have John Romita, Jr.’s debut as a DC artist, which is a pretty big deal. Both Romita Sr. and Jr. have pretty much been as synonymous with Marvel as Stan Lee.

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