– Last week, ahead of their official solicitations for February 2013, Marvel released two teasers for new “Marvel NOW!” launches to come out that month. The riddle of course was what they could be. The easy guess for one of them stands revealed; Brian M. Bendis and Chris Bachelo will be the new creative team for a relaunch of UNCANNY X-MEN. It would mark the second time the iconic series has seen a fresh #1 issue within three years. The series springs forth from the end of AVX: CONSEQUENCES #5 and feature the team of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik and Magneto seeking to recruit new mutants and perform necessary (if not often unpleasant) missions for the safety of the mutant community. Bendis denied it being a “flagship” title (despite the fact that he’s often been one of Marvel’s hottest writers since 2004) as well as it being DARK AVENGERS, which was a series about villains. A “new chapter” will begin for Magneto while Cyclops seeks to be training new mutant students for more inevitable conflict. The end of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN at the very least ended the “M-Day” subplot of there being NO new mutant characters allowed, which halted the premise of the X-Men dead for roughly seven years. Bendis seems to be capitalizing on the end of that, promising new mutant characters here and in ALL-NEW X-MEN as well.
The more interesting announcement was of FEARLESS DEFENDERS by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Will Sliney. It is unofficially a relaunch of DEFENDERS a mere three months after the Matt Fraction incarnation of this series was canceled for low sales. It is promised as an “all-female team” which boasts a roster which will include Valkyrie (a longtime Defender/Secret Avenger), Misty Knight (Daughters of the Dragon/Heroes for Hire), and Dani Moonstar/Mirage (New Mutants/X-Men). Bunn promises to feature more lessor known characters and that Valkyrie and Misty would both lead the team. It is notable for not only being a team book starring only heroines, but that two out of the first three are ladies of color. This premise is similar to an all-ladies book pitched by Marjorie Liu in the past, which was declined. Considering that the DEFENDERS franchise hasn’t been terribly successful since the early 80’s, it is interesting that Marvel has become committed to this series for two straight years.
– Due to massive hype and a lot of variant covers, UNCANNY AVENGERS #1 was the top selling book of October 2012 with a tally of 303,722 copies sold. AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #12 also sold over 171,000 copies and remains one of Marvel’s best selling events in years. Marvel owned 14 of the top 25 sellers that month as well as the dollar and unit share over DC for the first time in a couple of months.
– Casting continues on the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series to be directed by Joss Whedon (as well as co-written alongside his brother and Maurissa Tancharoen). Two British actors Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker have been cast as agents Gemma Simmons and Leo Fitz, respectively. They join Ming-Na and Clark Gregg reprising his role as Phil Coulson. To date none of these agents are actual Marvel characters but are original characters for the series.
– Kieron Gillen has teased the long term developments of his new IRON MAN series, stating that he plans to have Iron Man venture into space in conjunction with his placement in the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series. He intends to rebuild Iron Man from the ground up and play with the aspect of him having broader adventures in a new frontier. One should expect some unresolved subplots from Gillen’s canceled S.W.O.R.D. series to arise.
– Dennis Hopeless also answered more questions about the upcoming AVENGERS ARENA series he is launching from the ashes of AVENGERS ACADEMY alongside artist Kev Walker. The series premise remains that Arcade has trapped 15 teenage characters (and Darkhawk) upon a new “Murderworld” island to force them to fight to the death or die. The series will see the introduction of new characters from an academy of teenage heroes run by Captain Britain in England; one of them is an incarnation of Deathlok which is a 14 year old girl. Each issue follows the P.O.V. of one character and Hopeless claims that he sees death as “a big emotional part of life” and denies using it as a “cheap” story device. The reason why the series is an ongoing is that it will be a slow build towards some of these characters shifting towards becoming more brutal with their surroundings (or not). He professes some fondness for Darkhawk and Hazmat. Regardless, this is an acknowledgement of some of the outraged reaction that the small but vocal fanbases for these characters have. It is a shame that newer Marvel characters seem to be geared towards grind-house style plots; one hopes that Hopeless can defy those odds. The fact that Hopeless easily rattles off a half dozen other stories which this series is ripping off is a sign things may not be terribly original.