By: Various.  (Seriously….it’s half the creative talent at Marvel)

The Story: Marvel teases what is to come in 2012 in this 7-part, 64-page anthology-ish issue.

Seven Things:

1. Behold the Watcher.  This was the spine of the issue and it showed a couple of guys in spacesuits fiddling with The Watcher while he slept.  And here we get the essence of the issue: What these guys downloaded from The Watcher is supposedly what is to come in the Marvel Universe in the near future.  That’s a pretty interesting way to glue together a bunch of 7-8 page teasers.  Ed Brubaker get’s writing credits here and does a fine job, but the scene-stealer was Javier Pulido and Javier Rodriguez on the art.  Pulido reminds me of a playful version of Jack Kirby and Rodriguez matches the playfulness with bright colors.  LOVE this art.  Every time I see Pulido art I decide I need some for my collection, yet I can’t find if/where/how the dude sells his original art.  So, if anyone knows….hook a brother up so I can give the man some money.

2. Nova: Harbinger.  Most marvel fans have seen the teaser images showing the Phoenix coming back, right?  Well…..here’s a story further teasing that story and if those prior images of a flaming Phoenix effect left some doubt about what precisely was going on, this makes is pretty clear: The Phoenix force is returning to the Marvel Universe.  Loeb and McGuinness do a nice job with this story of Nova (when did he come back from the Cancerverse?) trying to stay one step again of the Phoenix force.  Still unclear what titles this story will occur in.

3. The Scarlet Thread.  I really enjoyed this intro to the new Scarlet Spider series by the creative team of Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman.  It showed Kaine trying to just get away from it all, but ultimately showing that he can be a Spider-Man…..just not the Spider-Man.  And, that’s really the best way to use the clone guys: Emphasize the “nurture” part of “nature versus nurture” and show that genetics only goes so far to explaining why Peter Park is the hero that we all know and love.  A guy like Kaine with different life experiences is going to be a different type of character.  Bonus points for setting the story in Charlotte, NC!

4. The Shaman of Greenwich Village.  This was the dud of the issue for me.  I’m a pretty big fan of Terry Dodson, but when you think of Dodson, you think of his beautiful women.  I mean, the guy’s sketchbook is called Bombshells and is full of almost nothing but gorgeous women.  So it’s probably a mistake to have a teaser story that revolves around Dr. Strange and features almost no women, huh?  That’s not to say that Dodson is incompetent drawing a dude, but the thing that sets him apart and makes a fan say, “I MUST see more of this!” is his women.  Major fail by Matt Fraction to not feed his artist a better teaser story especially considering they’ve worked together for several years on X-Men.  This should have featured Red She-Hulk instead.  As for the Dr. Strange story, it was really boring and really wordy.  I don’t even remember what it was about.  I’m still buying Defenders #1 to see the Dodson art, but I’m officially concerned now.

5. The Myth of the Man.  This was a pretty cool little story set in the Age of Apocalypse universe and revolving around a set of human heroes who are fighting back against mutant oppression.  That’ll either float your boat or it won’t.  David Lapham writes well and the Roberto de la Torre/Lee Loughridge duo does a wonderful job on the art.

6. Yin and Yang.  I wasn’t familiar with these two central characters in this at all.  They’re a couple of twins(?) who seem to have been raised by AIM for some nefarious purpose until they escape.  Now they’re kinda heroes.  One notable thing is that this was actually drawn by Salvadore Larroca, not photo-tracing, but real art.  You can tell he is rusty as hell, but you can see bits of the artist he used to be.  Given that he did a few awesome covers for Astonishing X-Men recently we can only hope that this is a sign of things to come.  This story was written by Fred Van Lente who does a typically great job.  Van Lente is one of the most underrated writers in comics right now.  He’s always quality and it’s a shame that everything he’s working on is getting stomped by Marvel because if you put him on a high profile title, he’d do a great job.  The fact that the now laid-off Alejandro Arbona is listed as the editor on this short makes me wonder what the future is of this story.

7. Age of Ultron.  Remember during the first arc of the Bendis/Romita, Jr. Avengers when they found that timeline in the future?  Well, on that timeline was teased an Age of Ultron and here we get to see what may happen with an Earth ravaged by the insane and near omnipotent robot.  Ultron is a great enemy, so I can’t wait for this Bendis story.  Bryan Hitch illustrates the hell out of this short.

Conclusion: Lots of good teasers here.  While it’s clear where to follow the Scarlet Spider, Ultron, Age of Apocalypse and Defenders stories, I’m not sure where the others will be.  So, that’s kinda a miss.  And I guess there isn’t anything in this issue that isn’t anything you couldn’t learn online, so this issue is very skippable.  But, it does a nice job of teasing upcoming action and features some great art.  If you’re a Marvel fan and have room in your budget for the $5.99 price, it’s probably worth it.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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Conclusion