Since San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel has been touting this week's Marvel Point One as setting the stage for everything they're planning on doing in 2012. It is actually a simple collection of short stories from various writers in the House of Ideas – well, as simple as you can get when you're dealing with the nuts and bolts of a cosmic entity like The Watcher.
I dove into this without checking to see who was writing which chapter, so I was pleased to see my initial opinions of the writing generally reflected my take on the writers once I got to the last page to look them up. It's always good to check yourself to make sure you're not just going with the flow of public opinion when you're actually in the business of throwing out your opinion to the public to see who agrees with you or who doesn't.
The framing story, involving a couple of space-suited agents working for a group called The Unseen raiding the headquarters of the Watcher for information about the present and potential futures, is done by Ed Brubaker, which was no surprise because it was the most interesting. He posits that Watchers enter a fugue state for 42 minutes every three years, which is the only time they're not actively watching – thus, THEY can watch, and see all the chapters going on from the other writers. One of them mentions "the leader," but it's not clear whether or not that's a proper noun. The Leader could easily be the type to brainstorm a Watcher raid, but last we checked, Sam Sterns lost all his megamindedness, so odds are we'll find out just who The Unseen are at a later date. Javier Pulido gives us some very Kirbyesque visuals here, too.
The first story is about who we all assumed was Nova. Given the fact that this suit is redesigned and he's drawn by Ed McGuinness to look as though he's a 12-year-old in clothes too big for him, this may not actually be Richard Rider. He's never mentioned by name, so it might just be a Nova Corps recruit. Anyway, he's trying to get Terrax to evacuate his planet before it's destroyed, but Terrax The Tamer has never been a retreater, so he dies with his planet. Because it's the Phoenix Force. The dialog is fairly awful, as this Nova Corps kid speeds from an exploding planet full of innocent people and says "Epic fail." Absolutely no surprise that this is written by Jeph Loeb.
The second story is potentially very intriguing. The muddy Roberto De La Torre art detracts a little from it, but David Lapham's set-up for his upcoming Age of Apocalypse ongoing series has the interesting twist fo making the most xenophobic racial-purity bastards in the 616 univese into the X-Terminated, a band of struggling freedom fighters in the place where mutants rule with a genocidal iron fist. There's Purifier founder William Stryker in a badass blade-wielding outfit calling himself Prophet, and Zora Risman (likely spawn of Purifier Matthew Risman) as the gun-toting Deadeye. There's Donald Pierce of the Hellfire Club calling himself Goodnight and Francesca Trask of the Sentinel-building Trask family dubbed Fiend… and then there's the Horror Show, aka Graydon Creed. The human son of mutants Mystique and Sabretooth… at least in our world. There's no telling what crazy AoA origin they might get when this new series launches in Uncanny X-Force #19.1.
Next up is Chris Yost's set-up for his new Scarlet Spider ongoing series, featuring the newly-not-decaying spider-clone Kaine taking up the mantle once carried by his hated/loved clone brother Ben Reilly, now a pile of goo (in the words of Spider-Man writer Dan Slott). Coincidentally, I've been reading some of the old Clone Saga stuff which heavily features Kaine as the decaying, maddened failed clone who went around trying to kill Ben Reilly and murdering other people with furious self-righteous anger mixed with the Peter Parker remorse, and it's weird to think that guy will be getting his own book nearly two decades later. It's also interesting to see how much is maintained from his initial appearances. This may be a clone of Parker, but he's not funny. He's a brooding machine, but thanks to the events of Spider Island, he's no longer destined to completely degenerate into the same pile of goo Ben became. He actually has a future, if he can figure out what he wants to do with it. So he's weighing his desire to not be Parker against how much he hates the feeling of Parker judging him for not playing the hero every chance he gets. This is definitely not your average Spider-Man, but it should be interesting, especially with the clean, crisp art from Ryan Stegman, which brings to mind Amazing Spider-Man's Humberto Ramos without actually aping him.
Then, we have Fred Van Lente's curious introduction of a pair of new (to me, at least) characters called Coldmoon and Dragonfire – a pair of Chinese conjoined twins separated at birth, raised in isolation by the Taiji Corporation and each believing the other was dead. Or so they were told. In actuality, they were bred as weapons whose devastating powers would be unleashed and amplified if they ever came in contact with each other. So, they're out to destroy the nefariou Taiji Corp, and they'll be mixing with the Avengers to do it. It's sort of like throwing Northstar and Aurora into a blender with Fire and Ice, which makes sense, since Van Lente's also been co-writing Alpha Flight with Greg Pak. It's a nifty little tale with a fun ending, and some cool Salvador Larroca art.
Of course, Fear Itself architect Matt Fraction then chimes in to set up his new Defenders series with a Dr. Strange story. I strongly disliked Fear Itself, but this little nugget is all right. Terry Dodson art helps. The fact that Strange just sort of dawdles around in street clothes instead of rocking the Cloak of Levitation these days is a little saddening, but I've certainly never been a student of Dr. Strangelore or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Canon. It's a cute little slice of the everyday for Doc, until he realizes a local eccentric friend is actually in some kind of waking dream state, and trying to intervene gets him a glimpse of dangerous Defender future, where Iron Fist says "The Impossible Is Everywhere Now." Again, the all-caps lettering in comics leaves us to wonder about the properness of that noun. Is it just that impossible things are happening, or are The Impossible a new threat they'll have to face? Fraction has said The Defenders will expose the true cause and purpose of the entire Marvel Universe. So I'm betting on the latter.
Finally, we get Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch showing us a potential future featuring a big devastating attack from a swarm of Ultrons, and while it may be some kind of mistake, Hitch is essentially drawing Ultimate Hawkeye and 616 Spider-Man scrambling to not die in the destruction. There are people in the crossfire who may be the Owl or something, actually claiming to have paid Ultron off. How do you even pay Ultron anything? He's a damn robot. It's a big explody mess that doesn't really make any sense. Way to go, Event Boys!
Overall, Point One is just a bunch of set-up, but that's pretty much how they billed it. There's some eyebrow raising stuff in a good way and some head-shaking stuff in a bad way. It's hard to judge this crock pot of ideas on its own, before we see how these pan out. Especially considering these Unseen types now apparently have a look at Spider-Man's unmasked face thanks to the Hitch bit – but who knows if that's a creative-team communication glitch or something that will actually matter. In this case, I'll bet on the former.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 6.8/10