So, the grand Not-A-Reboot known as “Marvel NOW!” has been with us for a few weeks at this point. Several books have dropped, quite a few comics have been bought (we’ll know just how many in due course), and everyone’s talking about the new books versus the old books and mulling over the still-more changes to come (quite a few Spider-Man fans are having a rough month). But for me, as well as most of you, the biggest question is “Are the books any damn good?”

You might recall that, before Marvel NOW! really got off the ground, I embraced the concept, largely because I was intrigued by the reshuffling of Marvel’s talent pool, the new combinations of creators on books, the new versions of old characters by writers and artists who’d never tackled them before. I remain intrigued by that, because when it comes to comics, I’m less devoted to characters and more devoted to creators (except for Batman, who has my undying devotion wherever he may roam). I like to follow the course of a writer’s (or artist’s) development over a number of years, watching as he or she puts down one character and picks up another, seeing the creative growth and change. It’s like following a rock band through a number of albums, and if you stick with it it’s quite fascinating.

But I digress. The point is that the new uses for Marvel’s talent that came with Marvel NOW! were/are what intrigued me most about the new line of comics, and I bought quite a few of the books because I wanted to see what the creators would do with their new gigs. Granted, I would have done the same had Marvel just moved talent around without all this relaunch/new issue #1’s/”Join the Revolution” business, but that’s a topic for another day.

What follows is a series of brief reactions to the Marvel NOW! books I’ve picked up and read over the past few weeks. Call them “mini reviews” if you like. I didn’t buy every book (my comics budget is nice, but it’s not unlimited, and there are other publishers out there), nor did I care to, but the ones I did pick up are listed below. Also note that, though several issue #2’s and #3’s have dropped at this point, I’m only talking about first issues below.

Fantastic Four: I love Matt Fraction first issues, because he’s the kind of writer who really dives in and joyously plays with all the new toys he’s just been given (see the first issues of his Iron Man, Thor, Defenders and (most recently) Hawkeye runs for further proof of this). Fantastic Four was no different. I’ve traditionally been bored with Marvel’s original superhero team, but this issue convinced me to take a ride on the freaky transdimensional journey Fraction’s got planned for us.

A+X: This is billed as an anthology series, with each issue featuring two tales of X-Men and Avengers teaming up. The first issue featured a Jeph Loeb-written Wolverine/Hulk team-up and a Dan Slott-written Captain America/Cable team-up. The latter was more intriguing, but neither of these stories really grabbed me. Still, the idea here is that you get something new every month, so the next issue might be more fun.

Deadpool: Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan team to write this Tony Moore-drawn bloodfest. It’s Deadpool as you’ve always wanted to see him, and it’s worth picking up for every comic fan.

Iron Man: I was a huge fan of Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run, so I approached this new incarnation with some trepidation. Kieron Gillen (who also succeeded Fraction on Uncanny X-Men a few years back) and Greg Land delivered an intriguing first issue, but it didn’t have the same promise that Fraction’s kick-off did. Still, I’ll read issue #2.

Indestructible Hulk: I don’t buy Hulk books. I bought this one because Mark Waid wrote it. Mark Waid turned me, and now I’ll buy the next one. How does he do that? By acknowledging one of the great untapped storytelling wells in the Marvel Universe: Bruce Banner is a supergenius who’s tied down by the monster inside him.

Uncanny Avengers: Rick Remember was given Marvel NOW!’s flagship book, and after his work on Uncanny X-Force and Secret Avengers he deserves it. He’s got some big ideas, and the first issue got me excited about them. That’s about as much as you can ask for.

FF: This was the most fun I had with any of the NOW! books I picked up, mostly because Matt Fraction and Mike Allred are a combo that knows how to infuse every damn panel with pure life. I don’t know where this one’s going, but the first issue made me smile so much (and tied into Fantastic Four so nicely) that I want more.

Avengers: Jonathan Hickman is Marvel’s best “Big Idea” man right now (see his Fantastic Four work for proof, and read his excellent Image series The Manhattan Projects for even better proof), and he’s got something huge in store for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This one had me thrilled with possibility.

Thor: God of Thunder: Jason Aaron knows how to pack a story with badass, so giving him Thor was a good move. This one is filled with old school blood and thunder, and it’s got the potential to go far.

All-New X-Men: This is the one I was most skeptical about, and Brian Michael Bendis might be taking the X-Men in a ridiculous direction, but the first issues was interesting enough that I will read on. Also, Stuart Immonen’s beautiful art on this one was my favorite of the relaunch so far.

Captain America: This one was the biggest risk-taker of the bunch, but I trust Rick Remender to take risks. He’s taken Cap out of his comfort zone, and I’m always interested in seeing the guy who could be the stalest superhero in the room go to new places.

So, what’s the final verdict? Basically, there’s a lot of potential here. Sure, a good bit of it could fizzle by issue #2, and by issue #5 half the line could be royally screwed (God knows Marvel’s done that before), but for now I’m very interested, and I’ll keep reading (if only so you don’t have to).

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