Marvel Comics in 2011: A Look At The Events And Highlights!

By Chris Arrant

We’re in the midst of a new Marvel Age, with Marvel's comic line riding high and the success of the Marvel movies bringing their host of heroes into the hearts and minds of not just die-hard comics fans but the public as a whole. With longtime editor Axel Alonso ascending to the Editor-In-Chief position and the publisher's first major event in a year coming up in April, there's a lot to look forward to for any Marvel Comics fan.

In the next few months, expect to see the beginning tremors of Marvel’s next big event series Fear Itself, which officially begins in March with a prelude one-shot to be followed by a seven issue series and a host of spin-off series and crossovers. While the exact nature of this crossover has yet to be revealed, the key word in it all is fear; event writer Matt Fraction said a new “God of Fear” would be introduced, and advance solicits from some series suggest calamitous events across the world. The teasers promise to see the greatest fears of Marvel’s biggest heroes come true, from Hulk’s fear of losing control, Cyclops' fear of becoming too dictatorial with mutantkind, Thor’s guilt over the death of his father and more.

With Marvel boasting three films in theatres this year – Captain America; The First Avenger, Thor and X-Men: First Class – expect a full plate of series, mini-series and one-shots to accompany these characters. The Thor title is branching off into a new series – The Mighty Thor – and a covert team book lead by an all-new teen Loki in a revived Journey Into Mystery. Expect the Captain America title to do something similar with the end result being a standalone book for both current Captain America Bucky Barnes and the original, Steve Rogers.

Over on the mutant side of the Marvel U, this year will see writer Kieron Gillen take firm control of the flagship title Uncanny X-Men at a time when the mutant race is in a state of flux on the mutant refuge of Utopia. At the same time, the X-titles will have their own event with “Age of X" – profiling an alternate reality where Charles Xavier never founded the X-Men. Much like the classic Age of Apocalypse storyline, this series of book will show a dark path for not just the X-Men but the Marvel Universe as a whole.

2011 will be a memorable year for Marvel’s first family the Fantastic Four. In the milestone 587th issue readers saw Human Torch fall and news that the long-running Fantastic Four series would end in favor a new series simply titled FF. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Steve Epting will continue on this new title as they chart the next step in the Richards family, and this further entrenches Hickman as one of the most imaginative and elaborate writers in Marvel’s talent pool.

If Ultimate is your thing, the new year will be a turning point in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line. It’s founding writers Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar are reuniting to tell the “Death of Spider-Man” story which goes from Ultimate Comics Spider-Man to both the Ultimate Comics Avengers and New Ultimates series. Look for Millar himself to pit those two Avengers teams against each other in a miniseries with Secret Invasion artist Leinil Yu illustrating. Jason Aaron and Ron Garney are taking Ultimate Captain America out into the world with his own series, following up Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch’s modern take on Steve Rogers with their own style from Weapon X: Wolverine.

And don’t forget Marvel’s announcement of its key writers – the Architects – from late last year. Five writers were spotlighted, each with a secret project -- and only one thus far has been revealed – Matt Fraction’s Fear Itself. Look for new series by Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron, with Marvel’s top writer Brian Michael Bendis launching Moon Knight and another “top secret project”.

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