Forthcoming comic books: April 2011

In the first of a regular feature, Seb rounds up the forthcoming comic books on the horizon, which this month includes the latest issues of Uncanny X-Men and Action Comics...

Each month here on Den of Geek, I’ll be taking a look at the newly-released comics solicitations for upcoming months. For the uninitiated, solicitations are listings put out by the publishers, usually three months in advance, so that fans and retailers alike can get their pre-orders in in a timely fashion.

The solicitations released this last week, then, are for comics due to be published in April 2011.

Marvel Comics

It’s an especially big month for Marvel, thanks in no small part to the launch of their latest big ‘event’ comic, Fear Itself. I’m sure that at some point after the underwhelming Secret Invasion, Marvel acknowledged that readers were likely to be suffering from .event fatigue’. But it didn’t stop them foisting the (admittedly shorter) Thor-led Siege on us last year.

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This time out, rising star Matt Fraction (Casanova, Uncanny X-Men, Invincible Iron Man) gets to take the wheel, and the solicitations for Fear Itself #1 declare it to be “the biggest Marvel event since Civil War”.

Little is known about the story itself, or indeed, about Fraction’s ability to handle the sort of big crossover story that’s in recent years been the province of the likes of Bendis and Milla. But it’s got 56 pages for $3.99 in the launch issue, and art by the redoubtable Stuart Immonen, so it should at least be worth a look.

Meanwhile, subscribing to the ‘why have one event when you can have two?’ maxim, the Ultimate Universe’s Death Of Spider-Man crossover will be in full swing by the time April rolls around. The solicitation for Ultimate Spider-Man #157 reads “It is the shot heard around the world. Witness the issue comic fans be talking about all year. Leave your cynicism at the door… this is the real deal.”

This can presumably be taken to suggest that the ‘death’ itself is going to happen in this issue (although the event as a whole kicks off in February with issue #153).

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Although I’ll be buying it, I question the wisdom of this storyline. It seems counterproductive to kill off the lead of the Ultimate imprint’s only remaining good comic (if, indeed, he is really being killed at all), and it feels like the presence of Mark Millar can only dilute, rather than improve, the excellent work Brian Bendis has been doing on this title for a solid decade.

Could this turn out be the final hurrah for the Ultimate books?

It’s also a big month for Brit writer on the rise, Kieron Gillen, who takes over solo writing duties on Uncanny X-Men this month after a stint co-writing with Fraction. His first issue is Uncanny X-Men 534.1, the latest in Marvel’s run of “point one” comics, issues that are designed to drop in alongside the regularly numbered issues and serve as a good jumping on point for new readers.

It’s a nice idea in principle, even if the “.1” numbering thing is going to screw with people’s collections somewhat.

Gillen actually has three issues of Uncanny shipping this month, but #534.1 looks to be a particularly strong bet for a worthwhile read, as it’ll hopefully appeal to those not following the long-time storyline, and it’s drawn by the excellent Carlos Pacheco.

As well as those three comics, plus the latest issue of Generation Hope, Gillen and artist Doug Braithwaite also launch a new series with Journey Into Mystery #622, the comic taking over Thor‘s numbering and focusing on the character’s supporting cast, with Loki as the lead.

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This shift is partly so that Matt Fraction and Oliver Coipel can launch The Mighty Thor #1, just in time for the Thor movie. As new launches by good writers, both issues should be worth a look.


DC Comics

It’s much quieter on the DC front. The big news is that one of the longest running titles in comics’ history reaches another milestone, in the shape of Action Comics #900, meaning that, assuming the book continues at a monthly schedule, it’ll only be just over eight years away from hitting the magical #1000.

The issue itself holds some measure of excitement, as it finally features the return of Superman to the book, having been absent for two years, firstly for the New Krypton storyline, and secondly to free him up for J. Michael Straczynski’s awful (and aborted) Grounded arc in the main title.

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Writer Paul Cornell has been doing some excellent work on Action, with Lex Luthor as the star, but it’ll be a thrill to see him rewarded with a chance at writing Superman himself. The issue also sees stories from Richard Donner, David Goyer and Damon Lindelof, with DC apparently still clinging on to the antiquated notion that writers from film and TV make a comic ‘special’, simply in and of themselves.

It would have been nice to see some classic Superman creators return to the book for a landmark such as this. (I still have fond memories of Superman #400, a comic that featured an astounding array of talent.) Terrific cover by David Finch, mind.

Elsewhere at DC, the interest lies less in new monthly issues, and more in reprints, with two fantastic comics getting deluxe hardback treatment.

Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary: Batman is an absolutely fantastic one-shot story, criminally excluded from the Absolute Planetary collections. And while $22.99 is a ludicrous price for a 98-page book, the comic itself is mandatory reading for Batman fans. It doesn’t even require any knowledge of Planetary itself. It’s a standalone story that’s more about looking at the myriad different interpretations of Batman over the decades (including Adam West). Cassaday’s art, aping styles from Frank Miller to Neal Adams, has never been better.

Representing slightly better value, meanwhile, is the We3 Deluxe Edition, at $24.99 for 144 pages. But if you’ve never read it, We3 is honestly one of the most unmissable comics of the past decade, if not longer.

A tale best described as “The Incredible Journey meets The Terminator“, it’s by turns moving, visceral, heartbreaking and thrilling, with genuinely groundbreaking storytelling. And there are some who’d even call it the best thing either Grant Morrison or Frank Quitely have ever done.

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In this oversized hardcover format, Quitely’s art will look even better. Make no mistake, this comic will be a beautiful object.


Other Publishers

And finally, since Image haven’t yet published their solicitations at the time of writing, I thought I’d cast my eye elsewhere, to a company I wouldn’t normally look at. But when I saw what Bluewater, purveyors of godawful unofficial celeb biography comics, have got coming out in April, I couldn’t help but want to share it.

Yes, it’s Royal Wedding month, and that means only one thing: Bluewater are putting out The Royals: Kate Middleton & Prince William.

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This isn’t the Kate & Wills comic you may have read about in the Guardian (the one that’s been written by comics journalist and cartoonist Rich Johnston), but rather an undoubtedly typically appalling effort from the never-say-die publisher.

“This issue will show you who these people are,” says Bluewater, “giving you a closer look than those photos can ever show you. Be here for the comic event of the year.” By this, I can only assume they mean their exclusive revelation that, if the cover is anything to go by, Kate has ditched the Prince and is instead marrying Buzz Lightyear…

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