5 Reasons to Start Reading ‘Marvel NOW!’ Right Now

by Blake Northcott

Does Stan Lee need my endorsement? Of course not. His beloved company is firing on all cylinders: top selling comics, movies that generate billions, Scarlet Johannsen in skin-tight leather – it can’t get much better than this…or can it?

If you love Marvel, you’ve no doubt added some of the Marvel NOW! titles to your weekly pull-list – but if you haven’t, here are my top five reasons why you should be partaking in the recent re-launch:

1. Thor – God of Thunder

Of all the Marvel NOW! titles, this one is my must-read.

Spanning millennia, issue #1 gives us a glimpse of Thor Odinson in three stages of his life: first, we see the young, brash warrior who thirsts for combat (and thirsts even more for wenches and ale). We’re then introduced to the God of Thunder circa present time – a little older, a little wiser, and swinging a big-ass hammer with a name that only the geekiest among us can pronounce. And then, in the very distant future, we see him as an old man, about to engage in battle – I don’t want to say any more at the risk of being spoiler-ish, but the final few pages are a jaw-dropper.

The underlying mystery of murdered gods that stretches across time and space has me salivating for more of what writer Jason Aaron has cooking, and Esad Ribic’s art is stunning.

Issue #1 was released in November of 2012, so if you haven’t been picking up this title you’re a tad behind; go forth to your local comic book store and search for back-issues, or better yet, download them digitally – you’ll thank the gods that you did.

2. Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven

Guardians of the Galaxy #1, courtesy of Marvel Comics

Guardians of the Galaxy #1, courtesy of Marvel Comics

Until now, the cinematic Marvel Universe has played it safe. Making moviegoers fall in love with Tony Stark, Captain America and Thor was relatively easy, primarily because they were portrayed by attractive and charismatic actors, embodying characters there were — at least to some degree — recognized by the laypeople. Guardians of the Galaxy, however, could prove much more challenging.

Trying to convince the general, non-comic-reading population to warm up to a largely-unknown group of space defenders – including a talking tree and a gun-toting Racoon – may not be such an easy sell.

Enter Bendis and McNiven.

Marvel put the powerhouse creative team on the new Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series, and it’s already paying off: with positive reviews across the board, the title stormed out of the gates as the highest-selling comic in March 2013 (an estimated 211,312 copies sold, according to Diamond Comic Distributors).

The book will serve as a primer for next summer’s blockbuster film event, and it’s off to a fantastic start. I expect fanboys (and girls) to be at the theaters in droves, and if the comic continues to produce the positive buzz that’s already surrounding it, the mainstream audience won’t be far behind.

3. Iron Man

Back in black.

Back in black.

As a childhood Iron Man fan, I took a break from Tony Stark’s adventures for over a decade (too busy with some of the more eccentric Vertigo and indy titles, I suppose). With Marvel NOW!’s fresh new start, I’m back on board, and it looks like Tony has more than a few new tricks up his exoskeletal-sleeve.

Issue #1 reintroduces the reader to the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and shortly thereafter shows us his new armor: dark, more badass, and made of…putty? Okay, it doesn’t sound cool, but it makes sense when you read the comic.

It also reintroduces the Extremis Virus, which has recently been sold on the black market. Tony goes on a mission to track down all existing versions, and sets up what promises to be an action-packed five-issue arc of the new ongoing series.

4. Thanos Rising

How can you NOT be a Marvel fan? (Courtesty of Disney / Paramount Pictures)

Thanos is butt-ugly and scrotum-chinned, so here’s Scarlett Johansson instead. (Courtesy of Disney / Paramount Pictures)

Okay, remember when you sat through the end credits of The Avengers, and that purple raisin guy flashed an evil grin, causing the geek half of the audience to gasp? That was Thanos. He’s sort of the Joseph Stalin of space.

This comic is the answer to the question that no one asked: what was Thanos like as a little kid?

The formula that destroyed the childhoods of millions of Star Wars fans is being repurposed in the Marvel Universe, and fortunately, this time around things look more promising. Instead of seeing Darth Vader as a bland, one dimensional pre-teen, we’re introduced to a baby Thanos moments after his birth…when his mother tries to kill him.

During his school years we see him as a passive and introspective child who’s shunned by his peers due to his appearance (apparently being born purple isn’t considered normal on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan — who knew?) By the end of issue #1, after suffering through a traumatic event, we see a very different Thanos emerging, and seeds are planted for the Infinity Gauntlet-wielding maniac we all know and love.

Is it a masterpiece? Hardly – but it piqued my interest. And as the five-issue mini-series continues, I’m looking forward to a closer look at the fractured mind of the Mad God.

5. Marvel AR

A Marvel 'AR' (augmented reality) logo

A Marvel ‘AR’ (augmented reality) logo

Marvel AR (or ‘augmented reality’) has been out for over a year, and for whatever reason I decided to try it out for the first time just last week, and I’m glad I did.

It works similar to a QR Code: after downloading the free app (available for iOS and Android) just point your device at a comic page marked with the red and white AR logo. Within a moment your eyeballs will be treated to exclusive content, including sketches, storyboards, character profiles, and even some behind-the-scenes video features.

This is just one more reason why Marvel is pulling away from the pack as far as innovation goes…and did I mention that it’s free? Give it a shot, and if you don’t like it, I’ll give you the same advice I give people when they’re offended by one of my Tweets: demand a refund.

Robots? Comics? Punk babes? ...is this heaven?

Robots? Comics? Punk babes? …is this heaven?

Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.

Drink and Draw--the original social club

Drink and Draw–the original social club

Blake previously asked Are Comic Book Artists the New Rock Stars? and answered her own question in She Makes Geek Chic.

More from Blake Northcott

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