All-New, All-Different Melancholia

In my tentative steps back into the steamy pool of comics, I’ve been overly cautious in what I’m picking out. Luckily, shop owners are sent stacks of freebies to hand out with each purchase, usually in the form of a Comic Shop News and some preview for a Marvel/DC release. This is especially well-timed because Marvel is in the midst of one of those line-wide relaunches of all their books they pull out every three months when they realize their sales are falling yet again, this time aping the line-wide reboots DC pulls out every other line-wide relaunch when they realize their sales are falling yet again. This time, Marvel has dubbed their relaunch “All-New, All-Different Marvel.” I think their last one was “All-New, All-Different Marvel NOW”(?), so at least they’re trimming down a bit.

In any case, the preview had 45 new-ish titles (and more to come, apparently), most shown in single image and a tagline fashion, with some creator credits. Fairly standard for an all-new-all-different direction, but it’s so massive I figured I might as well give first impressions on the thing.

The preview opens with a letter from Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. Even looking at it right now, I can’t seem to recall anything it says as it’s so drenched in pitch-speak I keep rolling my eyes back into my head.

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Next is a spread of various characters presumed to be appearing in “All-New, All-Different” Marvel. Again, fairly standard “have a bunch of poses” layout. What immediately registers when I look at this image: the four Spider-Man-themed characters, the generic guy in a suit with a gun (who I presume is the generic, inexplicably popular SHIELD agent from the Marvel movies who died, then got resurrected for the TV show), two Captains America (old one, who is now old, and new one, who was previously the Falcon), Ms. Marvel (I remember liking her comic), and a Native American depicted as every stereotype of Native Americans shy of a feather headdress. Clearly, Marvel has different definitions for “all-new” and “all-different” than the rest of the English speaking world. The Vision–the floating dude in the background wearing a cape–looks like a slightly-better-redesigned Mr. Miracle than the actual Mr. Miracle redesign from DC, at least.

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Next is yet another spread, featuring even more characters. For some reason, Iron Man is featured again and there’s two Wolverines (old one, who is now old, and new one, who is his female clone), but there is more variety! There’s Medusa, Dr. Strange carrying an axe, a gentleman in a hoodie and bandaged fists. Part of me wants to say it’s Luke Cage, but maybe I’m being dumb because no way Marvel would be so crass right??? I’m four pages into this thing and already suffering an existential crisis. Oh, and Citizen V (dude in the U.S. flag shoulder pads), who I mostly remember being the cover identity for supervillain Baron Zemo in the Kurt Busiek/Mark Bagley Thunderbolts comic–about villains pretending to be heroes in a crazy world-conquering scheme. That book was pretty rad, from what I recall.

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After this, the previews get specific, starting with Invincible Iron Man, from Brian Bendis and David Marquez. Bendis has pretty much been the headline writer at Marvel for over a decade now, and a whopping four pages are devoted to promoting this book (two for the preview image, two for concept and interior art). Iron Man, the billionaire weapons dealer who sponsors a paramilitary supergroup who act outside national and international laws, is also the popular face of the Marvel movies, so I’m guessing Marvel wants to make this their flagship book. Its tagline is “Upgrade,” which I only hear in the voice of the automated phone operator in the Mike Judge film Idiocracy.

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A-Force, from G. Willow Wilson and Victor Ibanez, is a series about an all-female Avengers team which sprang up out of the currently running superhero crossover/time waster, Secret Wars. I’ve enjoyed Wilson’s comics in the past (Air, Ms. Marvel, the reboot of the Crossgen comic Mystic, which came and went without notice), and am happy she’s found a position as a popular, influential author within one of the major publishers because it gets her consistent work. I’m also sad she’s found this position, as it means she’ll likely spend the rest of her career on boring, impersonal superhero projects. The “#1” tag here suggests this book, only two issues old so far, is already getting relaunched with a new number one, which is just precious.

All-New, All-Different Avengers, from Mark Waid, Adam Kubert, and Mahmud Asrar. Nothing really to say about this one. It exists.

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Uncanny Avengers, from Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman, also gets a two-page spread. The image from Stegman, an artist I’ve admired for his ability to scrawl personality onto his figure’s posture, is either consciously evoking the mid-90s output of Rick Leonardi and Steve Skroce or is a total rush job. The primary coloring and costume designs suggest the former, but given Marvel’s tendency towards factory farm output, I wouldn’t be surprised if this comic ends up looking like a mess.

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New Avengers, from Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval, is “holy fuck we’ve already got four Avengers comics” level meh. Al Ewing previously wrote The Mighty Avengers, which was, a) decent, and b) relaunched with a second volume (titled Captain America and the Mighty Avengers) earlier this year before being cancelled because of the reboot–which was supposedly planned in advance years ago. Now, it might look like Marvel is simply incompetent at charting their publishing schedule, but this is a feint: they know their audience (nerds) will shell out for first issues because its like a dog whistle to them.

Ultimates, from Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort, at first glance appears a break from the glut of Avengers titles, until you realize “Ultimates” was previously the designation given to what was essentially the Avengers in the Ultimate Universe (Marvel’s primary alternate universe Marvel for over a decade, soon to end with Secret Wars, I guess). This makes five Avengers comics for your All-New All-Different reading pleasure.

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Dr. Strange, from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, is not an Avengers title (at least I’m aware of). Aside from this, Bachalo is capable of drawing the kind of weird landscapes and mind bending page layouts which have been associated with the character from way back in the day when Steve Ditko created him.

Captain Marvel gets yet another reboot, from Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, and Kris Anka. This is the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel, previously Ms. Marvel, who has gone through three, maybe four series in the last ten years. Sensing a pattern here?

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Sam Wilson, Captain America, from Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna, follows the exploits of new Captain America (née the Falcon, a much more awesome superhero identity) as he breaks up with old Captain America, I guess?

The Totally Awesome Hulk, from Greg Pak and feminist scholar Frank Cho, has the Hulk’s face blanked out and asks “Who is the Hulk?” There’s three answers to this question: 1) the green guy who smashes shit, 2) blanking out his face is unnecessary for creating mystery, because the whole point of the Hulk is he transforms from a person into the Hulk, 3) with that haircut, it’s clearly Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.

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The Mighty Thor, from Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, is the third in a series of Thor comics written by Jason Aaron, and the second in a series about the new, female Thor. Just keep repeating “All-New, All-Different.”

Scarlet Witch, from James Robinson and Kevin Wada. Okay, maybe. I mean, not really. I’m not going to read any of these. It’s the first of these which doesn’t immediately feel familiar. How many of these have I gone through to find that feeling?

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Ms. Marvel, from G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa, is the relaunch of the new Ms. Marvel, which Wilson and Alphona started last year. I’ve already mentioned it was an enjoyable comic. Mostly because, despite clearly being set in the Marvel Universe and coming off the end of a previous crossover, it existed as its own entity with a different voice. Tied in with all the Secret Wars, universe reboot stuff…I have doubts this quality will carry forward.

Illuminati, from Josh Williamson and Shawn Crystal, uses the title of a recent, seemingly never-ending DC crossover as a tagline, which reads like poking fun at the competition. Unfortunately, this invites the comparison to Marvel’s own tendency towards seemingly never-ending crossovers.

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Hawkeye, from Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez, has turned its title character (well, one of them, anyway) into a Thor lookalike (I mean old Thor, not new Thor). So, okay?

Ant-Man, from Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas, is oh god when will this end?

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The Vision, from Tom King and Garbriel H. Walta, just stop.

Contest of Champions, from Al Ewing and Paco Medina, is named after an old crossover event, and spins out of a crossover event, and probably lays the groundwork for the next crossover event. Kill. Me.

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Amazing Spider-Man is from Dan Slott and Guiseppe Camuncoli, who was the same exact creative team on Spider-Man for the last…fuck, I don’t know how long. Words no longer mean anything. Marvel’s basically in charge of Newspeak at this point.

Carnage, from Gerry Conway (wait, really?) and Mike Perkins, has the benefit of a genuinely striking image (the titular villain’s mouth opening, revealing a mine shaft within) and an appropriate tagline. At least somebody knows what they’re doing.

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Spider-Woman, from Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez, looks to be about Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ character from Arrested Development, taking her fake pregnancy schtick into a career in super-heroics. Seriously: the only part of this woman which even looks pregnant is the belly, while the rest is the lightly-toned stick figure all superhero comics artists seem to think women should be. “All-new, all-different” “all-new all-different” “ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT”

Spider-Man, from Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli, is about new Spider-Man, imported from the Ultimate Universe I mentioned back when words may have meant things, only now in the Marvel Universe, which has been rebooted, and is written by Bendis who has been writing Ultimate Spider-Man, which this is a continuation of, for over a decade. Smell the new, feel the different.

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Spider-Gwen, from Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez, for fans of beating dead horses.

Silk, from Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee, keeps milking that Spider-Man.

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Spider-Man 2099, from Peter David and Will Sliney, takes you to the future of my indifference.

Web Warriors from Mike Costa and David Baldeon, because fuck it let’s ripoff Batman Incorporated while we’re at it.

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Daredevil, from Charles Soule and Ron Garney, exists, possibly.

Guardians of the Galaxy, from Brian Bendis and Valerio Schiti, knows you’re excited about the raccoon being in charge.

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Drax, from Cullen Bunn, CM Punk, and Ed McGuinness, sure fine.

Howard the Duck, from Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones, admits Marvel has a problem with “(Yes, again.)” under the title. Whether it’s the problem of constantly relaunching titles within months of starting them or the problem of Marvel loving to stick it to Steve Gerber (or Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko, or Marv Wolfman, or etc. etc.), it doesn’t say. Doesn’t matter, because ironic flippancy in corporate comics is bullshit and you all know it.

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Nova, from Sean Ryan and Cory Smith, with Humberto Ramos on cover art–which reminds me: a lot of these books announce cover artists (Marcos Martin, for example) way more exciting than the interior artists. Which is baffling.

Star-Lord from Sam Humphries, either doesn’t have an artist yet, or is someone so forgettable they simply put cover artist Dave Johnson over their name. Which has to hurt.

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Venom: Spaceknight, from Robbie Thompson and Ariel Olivetti, will probably manage some of Marvel’s I.P.

Howling Commandos of SHIELD, from Frank Barbiere and Brent Schoonover, will ditto.

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Agents of SHIELD, from Marc Guggenheim and Mike Norton, all something all something. Image at least attempts a Jim Steranko pop art thing, I guess?

Uncanny Inhumans, from Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, is rumored a part of Disney/Marvel’s attempt to replace the “Uncanny” X-Men (which Fox owns the film rights to) with the Inhumans (which Disney/Marvel own film rights to). Nothing else to add there.

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Karnak, from Warren Ellis and Gerardo Zaffino, not sure if this is going to be the Inhumans’ Wolverine or if Ms. Marvel (who is at least partly Inhuman…oh god, that sounds horrible when said out loud) is. I mean, the latter already appears everywhere, whereas Karnak…? Warren Ellis is writing though, so it’ll probably be self-consciously weird.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, from Marguerite Bennett, Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans, is Marvel sticking it to Todd McFarlane, one of the guys who left Marvel to found Image Comics and make demonic looking toys. Angela was a character created by Neil Gaiman for McFarlane’s comic Spawn. The two had a legal dispute, ending with Gaiman owning the Angela character. He then turned around and gave it to Marvel because why not? Gaiman’s wife, singer Amanda Palmer, also got into hot water when she tried to pull some bullshit on her successfully Kickstarted tour where she would “pay” local musicians who performed with her in, and I quote, “merchandise, gratitude, beer, high-fives, and hugs.” If there’s one thing true across all entertainment industries: someone is always going to screw you over.

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Squadron Supreme, from James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, has a tagline saying the titular super-team will “do ANYTHING to protect” this world. Curious if the “anything” means anything besides committing acts of depraved violence “anything” usually means.

Extraordinary X-Men, from Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos (hey, one of the cover artists is actually drawing the comic itself!). Guess the X-Men aren’t going away entirely…

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Uncanny X-Men, from Cullen Bunn and Greg Land. But with creative teams like this, they’ll wish they were.

All-New X-Men, from Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley, is another “wow, really?” entry. A continuation of a Brian Bendis comic about the original X-Men being time-warped to the present and staying there because why not? Maybe why this is still happening was resolved at some point, but I don’t care.

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Old Man Logan, from Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, is about old Wolverine, who died last year (I think?), but is now alive and old. Something to do with an alternate universe version brought in to the main universe (see also: Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man) which for some reason gets fans aroused?

All-New Wolverine, from Tom Taylor and David Lopez, starring new Wolverine, previously X-23. I don’t wanna know what’s going on with her belt.

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Concluding, with relief, there’s Deadpool, from Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne. It’s still around because somebody keeps pulling the Deadpool lever at the factory. This, despite the character not really being all that interesting since Cable & Deadpool ended in 2008.

Oh, in case you thought this was the end, there’s also a series of advertisements for Secret Wars tie-ins, but why subject myself or the imaginary people reading this to any further indignity?

What have we learned from this endeavor? Apparently you can do the same things you’ve always done and call it “all-new, all-different.” Have the same people writing or drawing your books you’ve had doing so for over a decade and few will care. You can have five Avengers comics (not counting those of individual members), four Spider-Man comics, three Spider-Women , three X-Men comics, two Wolverines, and two SHIELDs–and these aren’t even all the books to be announced!–and no one in the decision making process will even make a face about it. Marvel still gets its rocks off at the expense various writers and artists, because the audience doesn’t care so long as they keep churning out product. That they’ll victory lap over having “diverse” characters while still hiring the same pool of white people to make the comics–and still relying on racial caricatures for the characters themselves. That fan-fiction premises made canon excites nerds and that excitement is monetized by figurative sharks who channel your clicks into ad revenue.

In short, we’ve learned nothing. This is an exercise in futility. Life and the universe are meaningless. Turn the computer off, find your closest loved one, hold them tight. Let them know they mean everything to you, because this shit here? It’s not worth it and never was.

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