We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing All-New Wolverine 19, America 2, Captain America: Steve Rogers 15, Nova 5 and Royals 1. Also, we’re discussing Hawkeye 5 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 19
Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades. When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?
Drew: All-New Wolverine has been fantastic at creating a real sense of change for its characters. Where other series might be content with a more episodic villain-of-the-month approach (or villain-of-the-arc, as the case increasingly seems to be), writer Tom Taylor has never allowed this series that kind of neutral resting place. Laura Kinney has been almost constantly on the move, with her status quo changing so often that it could hardly be called a status quo. Issue 19 illustrates this concept beautifully, establishing just what Laura’s life looks like in the wake of defeating Kimura, only to dramatically shake it up with the arrival of an alien virus.
What’s remarkable to me is how effortlessly this issue works as a jumping-on point. It’s not just the kicking off of a new arc, this is the introduction of a new Laura Kinney, complete with a new costume and a new sidekick (or, at least, a newly more official sidekick). Taylor cleverly splits the issue between introducing the threat of the virus and showing us what Laura’s new life is like. She and Gabby are still working out the kinks, but are ultimately quite effective.
Meanwhile, Riri Williams manages to divert a crashing alien spaceship to Roosevelt Island, inadvertently exposing its residents to an alien virus. The only alien on board, a little girl, utters Laura’s name before dying, drawing Laura to the scene. Outbreak control is decidedly outside of Wolverine’s wheelhouse, but she leaps in with characteristic fearlessness.
A new arc also brings a new artist, and while I’m not enamored of Laura’s new costume (what can I say? I liked seeing her in the classic Wolverine digs), Leonard Kirk paces all of the action and joke beats perfectly — both key to making this series work. It’s a solid start for an arc that just happens to double as meaningful growth for its protagonist. Who could ask for more?
Spencer: Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers is probably my favorite comic book run of the past decade, and that not only got me unreasonably excited for America, but it left me with very specific opinions on how America Chavez should be handled. I’ve been trying to put those thoughts aside and simply embrace Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones’ take on the character, but there’s one aspect of this title’s portrayal of America that simply won’t stop bothering me: she talks way too much.
The very premise of America is meant to challenge America, so it doesn’t bother me at all when the normally uber-competent hero is shown to be rash and impulsive, or completely outside of her comfort zone. What simply doesn’t ring true to me, though, is the America Chavez who keeps a running commentary of her every thought, or the America Chavez who throws around immature, rude expressions (“uhh, byeee”). America’s the strong, silent type, and the most mature member of every group she’s ever joined, and dialogue like the above doesn’t serve that aspect of her personality at all. Elsewhere, Rivera has a few instances of dialogue that feel awkward and/or too expositional, so I’m thinking this may simply be growing pains as Rivera gets used to working in the medium of comics. On a broad sense I think she has a strong handle on who America is; I just hope to see her fine-tune the details and execution a bit as time goes on.
One things this book doesn’t lack, meanwhile, is imagination — in fact, America 2 is overflowing with bizarre, wonderful ideas, characters, and scenarios, to the point where it almost worries me. Rivera and Quinones don’t leave themselves the space to actually dig into any of these concepts, meaning they essentially have to present the idea then move on to the next scene. The fact that the creative team is already picking up on threads they left hanging last issue (Imani on Maltixa, Lisa) and seeding ongoing plots for the future (the plan to “help” America) has me hopeful that all these disparate plots will eventually come together into something special, and even if they don’t, there’s plenty of joy just to be found from the sheer audacious amount of high-concept ideas alone, but there’s also the possibility of ideas getting lost in the shuffle. America is a book with plenty of heart and potential, but that often feels fractured and just ever-so-slightly off. I hope to see the creative team learn and grow along with America herself as the series continues.
Captain America: Steve Rogers 15
Ryan M: Power gained through force is inherently short-lived and facile. Without underlying ideals, a leader’s power is reliant on relative strength. In Captain America: Steve Rogers 15, writer Nick Spencer explores the idea of strength and power dynamics. Red Skull’s reign as leader of Hydra ends with his death, but Spencer seems to be suggesting that it was always meant to be temporary.
As proof of his position, Skull explicitly cites his strength. While a respect for hierarchy is important in an evil organization, it’s that reliance on power rather than leadership that allows Cap to dispose of him in the present. Skull is now feeble. His choice to gain Steve’s allegiance through threat and intimidation seventy years ago rather than appealing to Steve’s beliefs makes him disposable. The 1945 scenes play out with Skull in a dominant position throughout. Even the use of his henchmen is more akin to giving a dog some table scraps than an act of defense.
It’s easy to root against a Nazi, especially as he threatens the modern world with nuclear war, but Spencer goes a step further here in revealing him as a man without core ideals beyond the advancement of his own power. When Steve says that, even as he had to compromise himself to serve Skull, he never stopped believing in the dream, it’s an indication that Steve remains an idealist.
What does it mean, then, when Commander Carter’s motivations are articulated with an argument that echoes Skull’s words of strength as power? It unclear what the consequences might be, but Carter is breaking protocol on several fronts. She is acting without Steve’s approval and against the council’s directive. It’s an escalation but perhaps a necessary one. Carter is addressing an enemy revitalized by new leadership and that leader is a true believer.
Spencer: When Kyle Rayner became the Green Lantern, it was after DC killed off all prior Lanterns and destroyed all established aspects of the mythology. Rayner was left to operate alone for years, but when the Lantern Corps eventually returned Kyle was immediately integrated into it and able to take advantage of being part of the Green Lantern franchise.
Something similar happened to Sam Alexander when he became Nova, but with one notable difference — every remaining aspect of the Nova Corps has only brought him pain. He’s had to collect the helmets of dead teammates, been tricked by a false father, and now Rich Rider, the only other legitimate Nova he’s ever met, has brought the monstrous forces of the Cancerverse straight to his family. It’s enough to drive Sam mad — in a devastating moment, he can’t help but wonder why everyone lies to him, a wonderful use of the character’s continuity by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez — but it’s not even the only relic of the Corps causing Sam pain in Nova 5.
The Worldmind, of course, was the sentient supercomputer in charge of the Nova Corps, comprised of all the minds and experiences of every Nova and Xandarian who has ever lived. The long history Rich and the Worldmind share make it a perfect villain for the elder Nova, but to Sam, it’s simply the history of the organization he’s dedicated himself to returning to threaten everything he’s ever cared about.
Thankfully, Loveness and Perez remind us all (through Rich) what’s really important about being a Nova.
It’s not the Corps or Xandar or the living supercomputer that make Novas special; it’s the fact that the step-up when they need to, whether it means saving the universe or simply protecting their family. That already makes Sam one hell of a Nova, no matter what the ghosts of the Corps’ past may think.
Patrick: For as much as I liked Charles Soule’s years writing for the Inhumans, his stories always had an improvisatory quality to them. Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity had established a giant cloud of terrigen floating around, transforming secret Inhumans all across the globe, and Soule reacted to that. It’s an energetic series, full of new characters and discoveries, but seldom focused enough to address a goal beyond “let’s collect these new Inhumans.” Royals writer Al Ewing picks up Soule’s toys — some of which he invented, and some of which have been in the toy box forever — and crafts a story based around his own authority. Ewing isn’t along for the ride, he is the ride.
A lot of that authority is established in the first few pages. The very first text in the issue establishes that we are five thousand years in the future, and befitting such a far flung date, nothing looks like you would expect it to. Artist Johnboy Meyers crafts a fruturescape I can only describe as The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones — a world of oddly uniform white skyscrapers that pierce the ubiquitous cloud-cover and which is navigated on pterosaur-back. It’s a bold bit of visual storytelling and Meyers’ Kirby-esque angularity sells the otherworldly quality. Mind you, it’s all a bit disorienting, and Ewing plays right into that confusion with borderline nonsense narration about “crystal towers” and “pierzoelectric vibrations” and “astral-ghost forms.” It’s not until we finally see the very aged Black Bolt that we’re able to put any of this future hoopla into perspective.
I love this design, by the way. The flowing robes and up-turned crescent moon scythe give him a Middle Eastern Grim Reaper look, but the trim on the robes still makes him definitively Black Bolt. A chyron in the next panel identifies this as “The Last Inhuman.” This is how Ewing starts the series, by asserting that he knows how this all ends. Mind you, that’s some pretty long-form storytelling he’s trying to get in front of there, so his next prediction, uttered a few pages later by The Last Inhuman himself, caries a little more urgency:
“And I alone am left to tell it. To tell of the seven who sought the secret of the odyssey. Seven went forth and only six returned….”
There we go! Those are stakes and consequences we can understand. I didn’t even add that emphasis on “seven” above — that’s all Ewing (or possibly letterer Clayton Cowles). Now the reader is playing along: who are these seven, and what happened to one of them? The very next page shows a panel with some classic-ass Inhumans in it (Crystal, Triton, Gorgon, Karnak, Lockjaw, Medusa and Black Bolt), and I know I immediately counted them up. Seven! Ewing and Meyers are giving us enough information to start forming our own opinions about story they teased in the first five pages. When the team is finally assembled, only about half of them were in that original line-up: Crystal, Gorgon, Medusa and Black Bolt are joined by Flint, Swaim and Noh-Varr. Those last three are kind of wild cards — Marvel Boy isn’t technically Inhuman, and Iso is quick to point out that Flint is “not even a royal.”
It’s enough confidence to move this crew of seven into outer space to search for the Kree homeworld and origin of terrigen. Ewing is seemingly unsatisfied with that as a cliffhanger and instead introduces one more — Medusa says she’s dying. Now, is this like the seven Inhumans and we’re already making incorrect assumptions about what that means? Or is this our answer to the “which one doesn’t return” question?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
All-New Wolverine: I was really, really worried about Laura’s costume change, ever since I first saw it. Her first costume was bad. It simply didn’t work. I think a lot of it came down to body type, that with her slimmer body, the yellow and blue didn’t look as good. But the old costume had important thematic value. All the way back in the masterful first issue, I praised both how the blue and yellow had shown how Laura had finally become a superhero. It was an important contrast to her past, especially when combined with the fact that her X-Force colours of black and grey were shown to be such a low point.
So while black and grey looks a lot better, and the need to make it appear bullet proof gives the costume a tactile nature that is is much better than spandex, the idea of Laura going back to black and grey was worrying (interestingly, I would have been less worried if it was all black. Black has always been Laura’s colour, and it is only the addition of the grey that gives the specific X-Force meaning). I really hoped that Enemy of the State II was going to end in such a way that justified Laura going back to her lowest point.
And while that arc did so much to heal Laura, there was one big failure, one that perfectly justifies the costume change. Laura killed Kimura, and that’s changed her. She’s a killer again. She’s broken her oath, and slaughtering everyone who gets in her way. There’s a violence to her again that once, she was trying to move past. The new, post-Kimura Laura belongs in the black and grey.
Which should be interesting, when contrasted with a story not about a villain, but an outbreak. The exact sort of threat that Laura can’t murder. Hopefully this will confront her new need for violence, after Kimura’s defeat.
And honestly, this sort of threat is something more superhero books should do. It is so refreshing to have a threat like this. Alien virus is exactly the sort of thing that belongs to a superhero story, but also creates a more interesting set of challenges than assembling a bunch of people to punch.
It is also refreshing to see, instead of a typical hero, Ironheart as Laura’s ally. Laura has previously gotten help from heroes like Doctor Strange, the Wasp and Jean Grey – quite simply, most books often end up using old, established heroes for their team ups. So it is awesome to see someone so different. Especially as Riri Williams is so great.
But also, because I love that Riri gets so much effort put onto her mission. She feels like an equal partner of this first issue. We have the story of Laura summoned to deal with an alien threat somehow connected to her, but we get just as much about Riri’s efforts to save the day. Instead of being reduced to exposition justifying the set up, we get an actual story of Riri puzzling out how to stop the pod from crashing into Manhattan, and diverting it to (relatively) safer landing. Making Riri an active participant with agency in the set up of the story, instead of a prop, is great signs for later on.
Which is why I hate that I have to complain about the art again. New artist, still bad. Remember the amazing art in that first arc? That first issue was full of a dozen sensational sequences. Here, he have Laura’s face when Laura and Gabby are getting shot, and whatever is happening to her leg in the ‘Covert Action Team Attack’ page. These are full page spreads, these are supposed to be stand out pages. And I still would love a new colourist. I feel the colour palatte is wrong.
A shame, because so much of the writing is so interesting
America: I feel like I’ve been harsh on Ta-Nehisi Coates…
I mean, he’s no Chelsea Cain, but when it comes to prose writers attempts at comics, he is actually handling himself a lot better than Rivera. I feel bad for being so harsh, because I really want to like this. I love Young Avengers, I love America Chavez. But it really isn’t working.
America sounds wrong, and would sound wrong even if everythign was edited so that she wasn’t expositing every little thing. The plotting is chaotic, making everything feel confusing and meaningless. I’m not entirely sure why America chose X’andria. Is it because America thought she would challenge her? Because I think David did a better job of that last issue. Is it because America is going against Lunella’s suggestion and going for a friend? But we barely know X’andaria, and barely seen her and America together.
There are some stuff to like. Lunella’s speech, primarily, was the exact sort of thing I wanted this comic to be based around (even as I have some small disagreements with her exact arguments). But the book is disappointing
Captain America: I feel like I keep repeating myself. We have the same struggles as always. The fact that Spencer wants to save the ‘What Kobik really did’ for Secret Empire really makes the character dynamics struggle, and this issue just makes it worse by focusing on the Red Skull. Why are Steve and the Red Skull opposed? Because Kobik’s reality manipulations don’t work like they are supposed to work (Thunderbolts proves that Kobik is still pro-Skull). And it makes the character interactions messed up, because this version of Steve ROgers only works under the context of ‘reality has been manipulated’, and yet what we are presented doesn’t fit with what we have been told about the nature of the reality manipulation. Especially as we have other weirdness. Why are Sin and Crossbones on Rogers’ side? Why would they follow him, instead of the Skull?
At least this issue has an actual payoff. The payoff is muted by the fact that Steve ROgers character is a mess (he is a truly fantastic villain when doing generalised stuff like plotting a CHitauri Invasion, which is why I can’t wait for Secret Empire.But it is stuff like the Red SKull where things get weak), ruining the build up. On the other hand, what a payoff. Killing the Red SKull with a wonderfully scary twist on ‘I’m loyal to nothing except the Dream’. Steve Rogers’ character is clouded in uneccessary mystery, but despite that, it is a powerful character insight. And those tow pages of the Skull dying was just, in general incredible. Especially from the art.
And yet. Bring on Secret Empire, as I’ve still had enough of the set up.
Jessica Jones: Being an issue about Jessica trying to repair her life after the first arc, this issue is special in the way that it does something that many comics just don’t do. This is about ordinary conversation. It is about being understated, about being intimate.
It is about Jessica standing in a hallway, looking at a door, waiting. About the many silent looks between Jessica and Luke. About three people lying on a bed together.
Gaydos is amazing, creating an artistic marvel, of such intimacy, such beauty. I really loved it
Nova: I feel like to focus here was on the wrong place. It is told from the perspective of Sam, despite being the climax of Rich’s arc. It isunsurprising that you talk so much about Sam in your write up, because the issue is about him.
Which creates problems, when the climax of this issue is supposed to be that Rich realises how selfish he was. It should have been focused on Rich’s struggles with his decision, his struggles at the idea of sacrificing more (it kind of reminds me of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. ‘I made the hero play. I sacrificed my life. And it was horrible. I don’t want to continue making that sacrifice, because I know exactly how bad it is, and I know I can’t handle any more of it’. A unique approach to the cliche of heroic sacrifice)
THe best thing is, changing the focus to Rich wouldn’t hurt Sam’s story. Everything you get from Sam would still be there, as his arc is very externalised. You cans till have the fantastic page of him punching Rich. Nothign would have been lost and everything would have been gained by having Rich as the perspective character of this issue. Because we got nothing out of being in Sam’s head. But Rich’s head is everything.
Also, Cancerverse Worldmind is a fantastic turn
Royals: I am being far too generous to the Inhumans
I really want to like them. Or at least, I like them enough I want to find an Inhumans run that makes me go from ‘I love the potential’ to ‘I have a coherent take’. So, despite Ewing messing up Inhumans Prime, I gave him another chance.
And read the worst first issue since All-New All-Different Avengers. And that was truly horrid.
The biggest problem is how Ewing let’s the prologue dictate the story. Ewing wants to prime us that disaster is on the horizon, and so gives us a prophecy. ‘Seven went forth, and six returned’. This is great. Man (probably future Black Bolt) from 5000 years in the future remembers back to the events of this book and tells us what happened. This influences our opinion on every event that is going to happen.
Except there are problems. The first problem is that future Black Bolt’s actions feel very unmotivated. As a five page prologue, it doesn’t tall a good story. There is so much mystery, we don’t know why he is doing anything. His actions are disconnected from character. You could have easily done something like have Black Bolt do a small ritual, treat it like a recurring activity he does. That he’s putting flowers on the grave. Instead, we are lacking far too much information. It honestly feels unnatural, like he’s saying the line because that is what he has to say.
But the real problem is that instead of letting those words haunt the narrative, somehow, it feels like everyone knows what Black Bolt is going to say in 5000 years. Everyone treats this quest as the most dangerous thing ever, because… I dunno. The Inhumans live in a universe where space travel is easy. Where characters throughout the Marvel Universe frequently fly all around space with no problems. Hell, the Inhumans themselves have flown to Hala before, and ruled the Kree Empire for a time. So, can anyone explain why this trip is dangerous? Noh-Var, do you want to say anything? Or are you just going to meaningless allude to danger despite not suggesting a single thing that would require it. I mean, we are talking about people who are essentially superheroes. What makes this more dangerous than any other superhero story?
If Noh-Var had given some concrete details, this doom and gloom would feel reasonable. Instead, characters are dooming and glooming simply because Ewing has established the trip is going to be dangerous, and therefore everyone needs to treat it like a death sentence. Nothing Noh-var says makes things sound worse than your average superhero story, but we are treated to two pages of ‘generic pre-suicide mission scenes’
And on Noh-Var’s communication problems, why didn’t he just tell the Inhumans the secret? Why do they need to go to Hala? Why couldn’t Noh-Var just test whether he is right and then just tell them? And if it is absolutely necessary to go to Hala, why couldn’t Noh-Var tell them the ultimate goal? You could have used ignorance. Noh-Var knew Of the Secret, but never needed to know the specific details back in his old universe. Instead, we have more unmotivated character action.
So yeah, everyone’s actions are unmotivated. We have a prologue that doesn’t even pretend it is anything but exposition. A bunch of characters unmotivatedly panicking about a mission that Ewing has made no attempt to truly justify why they would feel this way. And that is on top of Ewing’s usual problems with character. Maybe this book would be more interesting if Ewing cared more about introducing Swain’s psychology than her powers? Because honestly, her powers are the least important thing to introduce in this comic. That piece of exposition can be held back. But instead, we have a classic Ewing ensemble, where characters are defined more by their powers and historical trivia than they are by their personalities, psychologies and emotional headspace.
But that isn’t the only problem. The most interesting ideas in the IvX fallout was the transition that Inhuman society is going through, from royal rule to democracy. It is such a good idea, that it is tragic that there isn’t a book about that. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by a book called Royals, but this book treats the idea as something laughable. It treats the woman whose job it is to lead Inhuman society into a democratic future as beneath respect. Iso is treated as someone whose opinion is beneath respect, a woman to be entirely ignored, while everyone fawns over the Royal family, constantly saying my Queen, my Queen. Hell, look at the art. Iso gets prominence in panels when she is gushing to Medua, but when she dares interject, she is either depicted as small and insignificant, or in the back of the head. The implication is clear. She is not important.
Iso doesn’t make it much better. Her very introduction is showing reverence to Medusa, to putting herself beneath Medusa. To be shown as beneath the Royal Family, despite being the ruler of Attilan. And when everyone is ignoring her authority in the debate, her argument is literally ‘you are the Royal Family’. Iso isn’t asking for their skills to help her govern, or because they are valued contributors. She frames their importance due to an inherent value of being Royal. So yeah, not only is the Inhuman line ignoring the common Inhuman to focus on the Royal Family, but Royals wants to make clear that this is important, because the Royal Family is above the common chaff.
And then there is the art. Full of hard angles to the point where everything, especially hair, looks hilarious spiky. A coherent aesthetic, but an ugly one, and one that doesn’t suggest high hopes for a quest style narrative. Not the art for the sort of narrative about the constant journey forward, and the diverse challenges met during the quest.
Though the problems aren’t just aesthetic. Look at that last page. Medusa is finally admitting out loud, in a room full of her crew, that she’s dying. And yet, the art does everything to hide that most important fact.
A total disaster, and yet another Ewing book that has gone wrong (though to be fair to his other books,New Avengers and Ultiamtes have never been this bad). I’m actually at the point I’m scared to reread Loki: Agent of Asgard. What a disaster
I don’t know if this helps, but Loki: Agent of Asgard was actually the series that got me picking up Ewing books in the first place. It’s got the right tone and a tight little cast of characters. I would definitely recommend it.
I’ve read it before and really enjoyed it, with only minor problems. From the way I remember it, best Ewing book by far. Just really worried I let nostalgia for Gillen’s work on Loki and a wish for the run to be a suitable climax to Gillen’s work influence that opinion.
It just gets hard to imagine Ewing writing the Loki I remember, especially after an issue like this
Separately, I want to give a different perspective on Royals: but first and foremost, I have to say that I must eat my words regarding the art. I have been badmouthing the look of the promo material for this book and criticizing Meyers’s art style, but in fact I was swept up in its dynamism and stylish excess. Say what you will about this book, it knows what it’s going for and it’s going for it extremely hard. I think this quality is what I like so much about Ewing’s writing – he’s extremely self-assured and willing to go to great depths in pursuit of an idea. I agree that some of of the script in this issue was clunky, and I wouldn’t rank it among Ewing’s best work, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the art, and I’m so ready for the Inhumans to extricate themselves somewhat from the mess of continuity that they’ve been tied up in back on earth, that I’ve got to say I’m much more confident about this series going forward than I was before reading it
I actually agree that the art knows what it is going for. I just think that it was the wrong art style. I originally wanted to discuss what I thought would be a better fit, but struggled to come up with exactly what it would be. 90s throwback, maybe? A character like Cable could be a good fit. But trying to use this art style for this sort of comic ended up, to me, an ugly comic.
As someone who doesn’t like Ewing’s work, I actually agree with you on his strengths. The great thing about New Avengers, Ultimates and USAvengers is Ewing’s willingness to commit to his ideas. My problems lie with the fact that the final product’s plotting always feels far too convenient, and that his character work always feels superficial (I’ll repeat what I said above about how his characters are defined more by their powers and historical trivia than they are by their personalities, psychologies and emotional headspaces)
In fact, one major criticism I have with this issue is that I think it lacks Ewing’s great strength. There honestly isn’t much in the way of a great idea here. Just a basic ‘Fellowship go off on a quest’. I think think there were many ways that Ewing could have done interesting things with the Inhumans, either on Earth or in space. I just don’t think Ewing found that great idea.
Which is a real shame, especially in an issue with so, so many other problems
I have similar thought’s about America so I only need to rehash quickly: She’s such a great character and as a staunch supporter of increased non-straight-white-male representation in comics, there’s a lot to like about this book. But the writing. Ugh. The writing.
I, your intrepid internet commenter, believe I have the solution Marvel is looking for: in older comics it wasn’t uncommon to see in the issue credits something like, “Story by Creator X, dialogue by Creator Y.” Marvel should return to this system, pairing inexperienced, underrepresented authors with established comic book talent: let the newcomer dictate the plot, character arcs, tone, etc – it’s still their book. But turn the actual, panel-to-panel dialogue over to some old pro or reliable stalwart. After a time, of course, creators could graduate to writing dialogue themselves, just them a chance to practice first! If books like Black Panther, America, and World of Wakanda would have been written this way I strongly suspect they would all be received more warmly by the comics community. Best of all, they could call it Marvel Team-Up!
I’ve also thought of the idea of doing a ‘Story by X, Script by Y’ as a solution. It would help with things like how to balance the needs of comics being a visual medium (which is honestly where I feel a lot of the dialogue issues come from) or the unique demands of monthly serialisation. But there are problems.
Firstly, it isn’t the best solution to the lack of non-straight-white-male creators if you import people like Coates, Rivera and Gay, only to not allow them to write scripts. Ultimately, you then have white men writing all the scripts (you could find a a diverse writer for the script portion, of course, but if there were enough writers in the comics industry for that to be feasible, the industry wouldn’t be importing these writers in the first place).
Secondly, everyone that Marvel are hiring are professional writers, who have done great jobs in their own fields. I don’t think it is a good idea to go to professional writers and ask them to work on a comic, but don’t give them control over the script. While Coates is a special case, Gay and Rivera are both novelists, who have received some acclaim for their work. Considering they are professional writers of fiction, how happy do you think they will be with the idea of giving up creative control?
And for every imported diverse hire that hasn’t worked out, we get writers like Chelsea Cain and Genevieve Valentine who excel (and Christy Marx, who also did good work). Considering that Cain and Valentine’s work on Mockingbird and Catwoman was so good that they were writing some of the best comics being released, it would be unfair to rob them of the opportunity to write scripts and release some of the best comics on the market. We can say that Black Panther, America and World of Wakanda would be recieved more warmly with this strategy, but I doubt that Mockingbird and Catwoman would be.
And while we can discuss training these writers so that they can eventually write scripts themselves, the big problem is that the best way to learn is… writing scripts. I don’t think it would be easy to find alternative ways to help these writers practice, that Marvel could easily afford.
Honestly, my solution is good editors. If Marvel wishes to keep doing this, they need to get their best editors on the books, and give the editors the time to act as a coach. Start work on the book a little earlier, and use the editor as a mentor, guiding the writer so that they adapt to the medium better. It won’t be a magic solution, but that’s exactly the role an editor should be playing in any book. Doing what is necessary to help the writer achieve their vision as successfully as possible. So just acknowledge that an imported writer is likely to require a lot of help from an editor, and plan that in. Best thing? It won’t affect writers like Valentine and Cain. If the imported writer sends a script in of that high quality, the editor’s job is already mostly done
Thanks for this very thoughtful reply! I think you’re right on all accounts, and I certainly agree that these are all barriers to pulling such a thing off successfully. Perhaps it could be more effective and fair to creators as part of an anthology series instead of whole runs. Writing teams could be handed a single issue as more of a dry run for a whole series. That’s partly where my idea to call it Marvel Team-Up came from, since I think if you lean into the thing as an explicit strategy instead of using it as a behind the scenes tactic it could counterbalance some of the things you point out, like the perception of authors not being allowed to write scripts. Also, there would be a more of a chance for that writer to course-correct after a single issue – thanks to better editorial supervision – than in the middle of a series or arc.
It is a shame that anthology series can’t really survive in the current market. Because that solution would be really great. Sadly, anthologies only get the chance to exist during events. But they would be a fantastic tool. Civil War II: Choosing Sides was actually pretty good. Not every story was great, but there were enough good stuff that I was pleasantly surprised.
But Marvel should invest in anthology books a bit more when it comes to importing writers. I know Jeremy Whitley, who is currently doing great work with Unstoppable Wasp, got his start at Marvel doing anthology stuff. Did a Misty Knight/Iron Fist story for Secret Love, a story about War Machine’s funeral for Civil War II: Choosing Sides (if you want a great America Chavez story, read the second issue. Does a great two page story about America and Kate Bishop), and a Kate Bishop story for that Year of Marvels thing. Consistently did great work, then got the chance to write Wasp while doing Monsters Unleashed tie ins.
The problem, of course, was that Whitley was an established comics voice, with acclaim for his Princeless series and work on books like My Little Pony, who got the opportunity to use those anthologies as a path to writing an actual book.
As much as I love Whitley’s anthology work, Marvel probably should have used those as ways to help train up writers like Rivera. Instead of Marvel’s admirable approach of ‘We want to find an acclaimed Latina lesbian writer to write America Chavez’, maybe Marvel should be scouting out for writers of all backgrounds and asking how interested they would be to do some work for Marvel. Get them to work in the anthology books to build the specific talents that comics writing needs in a low risk environment. Then, when they are ready, give them an ongoing. And again, this solution would work well with writers like Chelsea Cain and Genevieve Valentine. Because Cain’s Jessica Jones story for Civil War II: Choosing Sides was fantastic.
Maybe there would be problems with the practicality of scouting talent like this – it is much easier to look at a book like Catwoman, Black Panther or America and know the exact sort of writer you want to find than to try and create a large stable of novelists interested in writing comics while balancing the fact that not all of them can write ongoings. And it would likely be much harder to get and train up someone as exciting as Ta-Nehisi Coates
But a combination of a greater emphasis on anthologies and strong editorial guidance would be the best solution. Hell, a stronger emphasis on anthologies would be one of the best ways to help introduce new, diverse voices in general, regardless of their background.
Also, this has done a great job in reminding me just how much I love Valentine, from her Catwoman, to her essays, to her award show dress breakdowns. I need to read her novels, and I really wish she was writing comics outside of Xena and a single issue of the clusterfuck that is the current Detective Comics