A Marvelous Week

Spider-Man, Avengers, and X-Men Comics

This week is entirely dominated by Marvel Comics, thanks to a satirical serving of the supernatural in Uncanny Avengers Annual 1, the return of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man issue no. 1, and the newest issue of All-New X-Men, focusing on Jean Grey's continued troubles as the vessel for the all-powerful Phoenix Force. Let's take a closer look at each of these issues, and see what makes them the best new comics for the week of April 30, 2014.

Amazing Spider-Man Issue No. 1

Peter Parker Can't Not Lose

Following the conclusion of Superior Spider-Man and the conclusion of a multi-year story which saw Dr. Octopus posing as Spider-Man, Peter Parker resumes the role in this new volume of the webslinger's comic, featuring 7 different stories (plus a bonus book of Inhuman issue no. 1 included). And just in time for the new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, coming to theaters this very weekend. Huh, what a strange coincidence...

This issue starts with a brief recap of Spider-Man's origin, wherein a young Parker is bitten by a dying radioactive spider. And he was definitely probably the only one bitten by that spider. Maybe. Next, we flash-forward 13 years to see the Spider-Man of today in the middle of a battle with the deadly Menagerie. This group of villains consists of the White Rabbit, the Hippo, Panda-Mania, and Skein (formerly the Gypsy Moth). As visually interesting as these offbeat villains are, don't bet on them showing up in the movies anytime before the 17th or 18th film.

The main story, by writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos, also examines how Peter Parker readjusts to a life that Dr. Octopus has been living for him for the past several months. Parker had no consciousness to observe the changes Dr. Octopus was making at the time, like earning a PhD, starting a business, and even getting involved in a serious relationship with a woman who Peter himself had never previously met. These are all subplots continued from Superior Spider-Man, but since Parker is encountering all these situations for the first time here, new readers who are lost have the opportunity to catch up at the same time the main character does.

The other stories in this premiere issue of the latest volume of Amazing Spider-Man are all excellent, and feature a different member of Spidey's supporting cast. These include a tale featuring Electro, one with the Black Cat, and especially cool, one featuring Miguel O'Hara, the Spider-Man of the year 2099.

Uncanny Avengers Annual 1 Cover by Art Adams
Credit: Art Adams and Marvel Comics

Uncanny Avengers Annual 1

Martian Transylvania Super Hero Mutant Monster Hunter High School

The first annual for the Uncanny Avengers features the return of Mojo, an alternate-dimension demagogue who uses television to subjugate the masses through ratings dominance. And his latest plan for ratings dominance revolves around (surprise) the Avengers, although maybe not the Avengers you expect. Mojo wants to put together a show starring Supernatural Avengers, including Dr. Strange, Man-Thing, Manphibean, Blade, Satana, and Ghost Rider. Which is a pretty good lineup, but can it break $100 million in the opening weekend? Probably not, so the Mojo board of directors (which is a real thing) demand more headliners. Wolverine! Captain America! Wolverine!

Mojo then proceeds to narrate to the board what is essentially his pitch for an Avengers ratings bonanza, with the Supernatural Avengers battling the Uncanny Avengers Unity Squad. Since Mojo is narrating, captions for this story are very tongue-in-cheek, and even the dialogue of all the Uncanny Avengers Unity Squad members has a more pronounced meta-textual flair to it. Characters call extra attention to tropes and hang a lampshade on more than a few of them, such as when Wonder Man and Scarlet Witch have their on-again, off-again romance referred to as a "Sam and Diane" kind of relationship.

Fans of slight satire in their superhero adventures will find a lot to like in this annual, from regular series writer Rick Remender and special guest artist Paul Renaud, under a cover by superstar artist Art Adams. Really, all you need to know is that the title of Mojo's masterpiece of cinema is "Martian Transylvania Super Hero Mutant Monster Hunter High School," and you should have information to figure out if this story is up your alley. For those who are convinced, pick up your own copy here.

All-New X-Men Issue No. 26

Your Favorite Mutant Soap Opera

This issue of All-New X-Men is a quiet one, outside of a bear attack. And a stabbing. And the infiltration of the X-Men's secret arctic base. But still, a large chunk of this issue is focused on quiet conversations and character moments, the most prominent of which is the conversation between an adult Cyclops and a teenaged Jean Grey.

Here's a little context for that: Scott Summers and Jean Grey, a.k.a. Cyclops and Marvel Girl, were two of the original five members of the X-Men. They grew up and eventually got married. But later, there were some infidelity issues and also Jean died. Later, the original, teenaged X-Men were brought forward in time to the present, so now there are two versions of Cyclops and only one version of Jean (since the older her died). The younger Cyclops left Earth to go on adventures with his space pirate father, so now the older version of Cyclops and the younger version of Jean Grey spend a lot of time avoiding eye contact with each and breaking out into cold sweats because the whole thing is always about a minute away from becoming highly inappropriate for a whole mess of reasons.

On the other hand, the heart wants what the heart wants. Will they or won't they? If that kind of Sam and Time-displaced Diane relationship sounds appealing, then All-New X-Men is the mutant soap opera for you.

Other New Comics This Week

Dream Police, Silver Surfer, and more Avengers

There are a couple of other really good new comics that were released for this last week in April, and not all of them are from Marvel. Just most of them.

For those who can't get enough Avengers (or Spider-Man for that matter, since he's a member of the team), this week also sees the release of Avengers issue no. 28, by Jonathan Hickman and Salvador Larroca. There's also the second issue of Silver Surfer, from the team of writer Dan Slott and artist Michael Allred.

And finally, fans of "Babylon 5," Midnight Nation, or any of the other stories done by author J. Michael Straczynski, should check out the launch of his new Image comic Dream Police.