It’s no secret that 2015 will be the year of the been-there-done-that, as we see revivals of: Planet Hulk, Inhumans: Attilan Rising, Civil War, House of M, Age of Ultron (versus Marvel Zombies), Secret Wars (which seems to be the one to rule them all), Armor Wars, Infinity Gauntlet, Days of Future Past (retitled Years of Future Past), Future: Imperfect (Peter David and George Perez’s excellent Hulk story), and Old Man Logan.
All in the summer of 2015. Axel Alonso has assured Marvelites that there will be no reboot a la DC’s “New 52,” but we’ve also been told that we’ll see changes beyond the scope of any we’ve seen before, with long-term implications. Oh, and Beyonder (architect of the original Secret Wars) is involved.
But we’ve also been told that we’ll get “Ultimate Universe: The End.” All I can say to that is: “It’s about time.” The Ultimates started strong, with an absolutely brilliant reboot of Spider-Man and a terrific blockbuster series of Ultimates comics (volumes one and two). Then Jeph Loeb came along and it all turned to shit. Fast.
Well, not all of it. Ultimate Spider-Man has never really lost its shine and quality. Brian Michael Bendis even made sure to kill off Peter Parker when the book was getting stale, and the Miles Morales story has been terrific. (Despite the recent arc which is reviving Peter Parker—the jury is out on that.) In fact, Ultimate Spider-Man is the most consistently good Marvel title since…Amazing Spider-Man. Hmmm.
If they’re ending the Ultimate Universe, that’s a good idea. The whole point of the Ultimates was that things would matter and the books would take risks, but they got so popular that they stopped taking risks and stopped mattering.
So, what else happened over the past few weeks?
MARVEL’S PHASE 3 MOVIE SLATE! Not to be outdone by DC’s major announcements, Marvel dropped some bombs. Here’s what we can expect to see in the coming years:
- JAMES BROWN IS BLACK PANTHER. Specifically, Chadwick Boseman. He’ll first appear in Captain America 3: Civil War in 2016, and then a solo film the following year. There’s only been a few black lead characters in superhero movies: Blade, of course, was the best. Then there was Spawn, Hancock, Catwoman, and Blankman.
- A MARVEL WOMAN! Captain Marvel will be the first Marvel Studios woman to get her own movie, in 2018. Too bad it’s this one. I would have loved a Ms. Marvel movie about the new, Muslim character whose comic book is easily one of the best of the year. Like Black Panther, there have only been a handful of female-fronted comic book movies in the past. Elektra, Supergirl, and Catwoman. All were terrible.
- THOR: RAGNAROK. This one could be good if they base it on Walt Simonson’s story and have Executioner wielding M16s. Thor 2 was not a good film, at least by Marvel Studios standards.
- INHUMANS. Also in 2018. This will probably be the Marvel Studios version of the X-Men, since they don’t have the rights to mutants.
- BENEDICT STRANGE. Dr. Strange will be played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a 2016 solo film.
- CAPTAIN AMERICA VS. IRON MAN. Captain America 3 will indeed be based on Marvel’s Civil War ,and will feature Robert Downey Jr.
- AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. A two-part movie, released in May 2018 and May 2019. How annoying to have to wait…
STATIC SHOCK GETS A TV DEAL. The African-American DC character who seems vaguely like Black Lightning only with a less-cool name and a less-cool costume will be featured in some kind of live-action “project,” the exact nature of which (and where it will air) is unknown. It will be written, produced, and directed by Reggie Hudlin, who wrote a great Black Panther arc about ten years ago, and who also was the head of Black Entertainment Television.
CONSTANTINE. I have to say, I enjoyed the premier episode of this show, based on the DC character who starred in the longest running Vertigo comic of all time, Hellblazer. I wasn’t a big fan of the comic—horror really isn’t my cup of tea—so I can’t say how faithful it is as an adaptation, but it seems like a good show. So far. Based on one episode. Plus, it had a cameo by Dr. Fate’s helmet!
CRIMINAL MOVES TO IMAGE. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have created the best (not “some of” the best, the best, period) noir comics of all time. Incognito. Sleeper. Scene of the Crime. The current ongoing series Fatale and The Fade Out. And, of course, their masterpiece: Criminal. The Criminal books were published under Marvel’s Icon imprint, which distributes creator-owned content. Recently, the team signed an exclusive deal with Image Comics to produce whatever they want, and now they’ve announced that the next Criminal installment will be part of that deal. Marvel’s Icon publishing line has become increasingly thin, and this has to be a huge blow. Particularly as other great creators like Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, J. Michael “JMS” Straczynski and others have made the move over to Image. Icon used to a be a way for Marvel to keep these creators close and incentivize their corporate work—now, it seems, Image can provide similar publicity and distribution without making the creators work on superhero titles.
PUNISHER CANCELLED…AGAIN. Marvel keeps cancelling perfectly good Punisher books. Greg Rucka’s run was terrific, but got canned. Now, Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads run is also ending. I’m not a huge fan of the current Punisher title, but it isn’t awful. Anyway, it’s ending and we’re being promised that the character will undergo a major change. Really? Punisher is the one character whose appeal is based on the fact that he never changes. Anyway, another reboot series (with a #1, of course) will appear next year. We’re also promised a new PunisherMAX. The MAX Punisher books can be summarized as: Garth Ennis’ stuff (the greatest Punisher stories ever told, and some of the best comics ever written, period); Jason Aaron’s MAX book (quite excellent); and everything else (crap). Let’s hope the new one is a good one, because a good Punisher MAX is some of the best comics ever.
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL. She gets her own comic in January 2015, even as Marvel cancels She-Hulk—a book that has slowly become one of my favorites. If this book is taken seriously, it’s easy to see a novelty character in a quality book. As I said, She-Hulk is great. But if it’s treated as a joke, like Rocket Raccoon’s book, it will quickly become boring and pointless.
NO BLOW JOBS FOR STEVE JOBS. Ales Kot and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz’s Image Comic, Zero, recently featured a somewhat explicit oral sex scene, and as a result Apple refused to carry it in their comic book store. More censorship from Apple—and its odd, because Zero is a war comic that has shown very explicit violent—as Kot himself tweeted: “ZERO #11 is my first comic book to be rejected by Apple — apparently dead children and horrific brutality are okay but oral sex a no-no.” Well, maybe this will help sales. It’s a very different, very interesting comic book.