Marvel’s rolling “Fresh Start” initiative has reached many of its major titles in recent weeks, relaunching them with first issues and new setups. Some new elements are obviously inspired by the movies, but we can also see Marvel correcting what it sees as mistakes. With “spoiler warning” fully in effect, here we go:
“Amazing Spider-Man” No. 1: This is the third first issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” in four years (and sixth overall), so that isn’t cause for much excitement. But it does dump a lot of what has happened in recent years and races as fast as it can to the past. New writer Nick Spencer is following an acclaimed, eight-year run by writer Dan Slott, whose tenure thrilled some and horrified others. Under Slott, Peter Parker became a wealthy mogul in the Tony Stark vein, the CEO of an international tech company. Part of that was due to Otto Octavius — you know, Dr. Octopus — taking over Parker’s body for several years as the “Superior Spider-Man.”
Slott erased much of that by the time he left the book. Spencer is finishing the job. In a story titled “Back to Basics” (naturally), Peter Parker is once again broke and forced to share an apartment with two other 20-somethings. But he isn’t an anonymous schlub anymore: He is actively hated by most of the planet for the failure of his Apple-like products. The good news is that the worst should be over, and now Spencer can tell his old-fashioned Spider-Man stories the way he wants to. And new artist Ryan Ottley (“Invincible”) is well-suited for Peter Parker scenes and Spider action, despite my visceral dislike of how he draws teeth.
“Black Panther” No. 1: “Black Panther” really isn’t one of Marvel’s major books — it’s never been a big seller, even with acclaimed writer Ta-Nahesi Coates writing the current series. But the movie has elevated T’Challa to the A-list, so the comic book’s relaunch deserves some mention. But there’s not a lot to say. “Black Panther” No. 1 opens with a huge mystery: A man who looks, acts and talks a lot like T’Challa, but has a different name, awakens as a slave for aliens in an off-world vibranium mine in the far future. Well, that’s what it looks like, anyway. Unraveling this mystery is the book’s point, and for now, any comment would be pure speculation.
“Captain America” No. 1: Boy, did this book need help. New writer Coates does his best in this first issue, but there’s a lot of ugly to deal with. First, previous writer Spencer (see “Amazing Spider-Man” above) wrote one of Marvel’s most hated “events” last summer, one in which history was subtly altered so that Steve Rogers has always been a Hydra sleeper agent, who comes out of the closet (so to speak) and takes over the world. A fascist Captain America infuriated a lot of readers, especially given current political trends, and while history was eventually returned to normal, nobody in the Marvel Universe or our own has forgotten. He also addresses the Spencer mess. He shows that a lot of people don’t trust Captain America anymore, which is a sad legacy of Captain Hydra. But he is dealing with it, and apparently in a fairly hopeful way (which a “Captain America” book should be). And rather than pretend that fascism in the comics doesn’t reflect the real world, at least on some level, he embraces the comparisons.