Thursday, November 19, 2015

All-New, All-Different Marvel Point One #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Beyond carrying the most complicated title and numbering of any issue in the history of comic books, this issue itself is a confusing and jumbled mess.

In theory, this issue is supposed to shepherd us into the "All-New, All-Different" era of Marvel.  "Secret Wars" has ended (even though we're nowhere near that actually happening in reality) and, if I understand correctly from the solicitations, eight months have passed.  This issue is supposed to get us excited about this new status quo, but reads more like an extended preview of the "Contest of Champions" series.  (I really find it hard to believe that this series is going to last more than 15 issues, tops.)

It doesn't help that the issue starts awkwardly, with the unseen narrator setting the scene for us by intoning:  "hanging by a thread at the farthest edge of all that is, the broken shell of what was once God Doom's reality...the Battlerealm."  Now, we all pretty much knew that Doom wasn't going to win "Secret Wars."  As such, it's not really all that surprising that his "reality" has been reduced to two coliseums floating on the edge of reality.  The surprising part is that the narrator, eventually revealed as Maestro, remembers that era.  It's a reminder that we still have no idea what this new post-"Secret Wars" status quo actually is.  Maestro refers to the "Omniverse," implying that Marvel's Multiverse no longer exists.  However, even that assertion appears dubious, since Maestro's opponent in Battlerealm -- the Collector -- is apparently choosing his champions from "his" version of Earth.

This contest is the framing device for the issue:  we learn that Maestro has to select five champions to act on his behalf against the Collector's champions.  His first option is Carnage, and we're accordingly given an introduction to Gerry Conway's "Carnage" series.  Talk about a dud.  If you read my reviews of the "Spiral" story that ran through "Amazing Spider-Man," you'll know that I heart Conway.  But, he seems to have lost his way with words here, using a cumbersome and repetitive first-person narration that makes you think that Cletus Kasady is more a brain-damaged child than a symbiote-possessed sociopath.  (He spends the entire issue telling us that he's not lazy, insisting that he only sleeps a few hours a night since he spends so much time killing people.  Seriously.  That's it.)  We also have a "Rocket Raccoon & Groot" story that feels like the editors forget to include the ending.  (Did the shape-shifter control the minds of the trick-or-treaters, or were they also shapeshifters?  Like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.)

On the plus side, the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." story is probably the best of the bunch, with Guggenheim really nailing the tension that makes for a good spy story.  That said, something about it still feels like it's meant to supplement the TV show; if you're not watching it, it doesn't feel like this story is for you.  Also, the "All-New Inhumans" story isn't bad, per se, but I refuse to indulge Marvel's attempts to force me to care about the Inhumans.

Finally, we're treated to the introduction of Soule's new sidekick for Daredevil.  The idea isn't bad, but the introduction is rushed, relying on excessive exposition and narration that weigh down the story.  The segment reads like the first few pages of "Daredevil" #1, and, if it is, I'm surprised that Soule didn't take his time in establishing the sidekick's past.  Instead, the kid might as well have turned to the reader, broken the fourth wall, and told us what we needed to know.  It would've been more intellectually honest that way.  Moreover, the political overtones -- the sidekick is an illegal Chinese immigrant -- make for a tricky dance, since Soule will always run the risk of falling too heavily on the side of liberal moralizing.  That already happens here, in no small part due to the rushed first-person narration.

In other words, take a pass on this one.  Unlike previous "Point One" issues, nothing here makes for required reading (or reading that you likely won't see in the titles themselves), particularly not at the $5.99 price tag.

* (one of five stars)

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