Marvel has continued to slowly leak out their new lineup. This has led to some strain, seeing as how some titles are canceling and restarting, but others are not. Regardless, here are 3 more entries into the Marvel NOW experiment.
AVENGERS ARENA #1 (and #2)
If you've seen or read Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, then you understand the tone and plot of Avengers Arena. The old students from the Avengers Academy and a few other young Marvel heroes are dropped into an arena to fight to the death by the before-now-nearly-harmless Arcade. He truly created a Murderworld. Even though the plot is fairly well-trod, the first issue was very well done. The art by Kev Walker was engaging and Dennis Hopeless' story was smart in focusing only on one or two of the dozen characters introduced. He makes clear that the ante is high by killing off someone you care about before the end of the book. I was very excited to see what would happen next.
I did pick up the second issue and it shifted focus to another character and the story was just plain boring. Unlike the first issue which was lean and filled with tension and action, the second one was way too cramped with words and backstory of a character I did not connect with. I may pick up issue three, but I'm ambivalent now.
3 out of 5 stars.
CABLE AND X-FORCE #1
This series has a decent amount of potential. Cable, the original found of X-Force, is back leading a mutant strike team of Colossus, Forge, Domino, and Dr. Nemesis. The story is told both in the present and in flashback. The present begins with Cable and his team being confronted by The Uncanny Avengers after it appears that this X-Force has killed a number of civilians. Normally this could simply be dismissed as a misunderstanding trope that will easily get resolved down the road.
But Hopeless (who writes this book too) smartly sets up a situation where it seems very possible that this group did exactly what they are accused of. In the flashback, Hope Summers tracks down her adoptive father Cable as he is assembling his team. But he also suffers from horrible headaches that give him visions of disasters to come. It would appear that Cable's new group is designed to be a strike-force that would do the unthinkable, even sacrifice innocents Jack Bower style, for the "greater good." I don't know if that is the case yet, but it is nice to be unsure, and Hopeless deserves credit for this.
Salvador Larroca's art is good and his depictions of desperate action sequences are quite exciting.
I am not hooked, but I am intrigued.
3 out of 5 stars.
The original Thunderbolts were a group of villains posing as heroes to gain the public's trust. In this incarnation, the darker elements the Marvel Heroes are assembled into a group of brutal vigilantes led by Thunderbolt Ross (which gives the title some sense) aka the Red Hulk. In the first issue he travels from place to place recruiting those popular characters who don't mind killing: Deadpool, Elektra, Mercy, Venom, and the Punisher.
One of the big boosts to this book is Steve Dillon's art. For me, I cannot help but associate him with the highly successful Garth Ennis run on The Punisher. Seeing his oddly clean lines automatically sets the tone for me for some ultra violence. And the book is violent, definitely not for children. But the book is actually quite good.
The intriguing idea set up by Daniel Way is that General Ross realizes that we have these highly powered or highly trained killers in the Marvel Universe who act out of a perverted sense of vengeance. Ross' principle is that if he can use his skills as a tactician, he can channel this awesome killing power for the greater good against evil despots, drug kingpins, human traffickers, etc.
If this gets too dark, it may become too much for me, but for now, I'm very much enjoying the bloody thrills.
4 out of 5 stars.