By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Marvel Comics, in the midst of a reboot of its entire superhero universe, dropped 21 first issues of new ongoing titles in November. That’s on the heels of 17 new titles in October.

Of the 38 new titles so far, the best in this reviewer’s opinion is “Doctor Strange,” which launched in October and whose third issue arrived Dec. 2. It can’t be beat for high-quality, professional entertainment.

But November has some goodies, too:

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #1: The lead of this book is one of the few in mainstream comics who is A) not male, B) not white and C) normally proportioned. That’s right, “Moon Girl” –  pre-teen Lunella Lafayette – is a non-sexualized, female, black youngster. Her super-power? She really likes science!

Oh, yeah, the book co-stars a dinosaur. Which isn’t all that unusual for comics. (Super Dinosaur has his own book at Image). Still, I’ll give Devil Dinosaur this: He’s unique, and he’s got an impressive pedigree.

He was created by Jack “the King” Kirby in 1978, in a fun little book titled “Devil Dinosaur.” It starred a mutant T. Rex – it’s red, and fire flashes from its eyes – and his sidekick, a prehistoric, furry, monkey-like humanoid named Moon Boy. It didn’t last very long, but the two have popped up in various books ever since whenever time travel allowed it.

Which is what happens here. Lunella – derisively nicknamed “Moon Girl” by her classmates – invents a “Kree detector” to find objects left by that alien race, and when she finds one, a portal opens between Moonboy’s time and hers. Monkey-people and mutant dinosaur arrive in present-day Manhattan, and hi-jinks ensue.

None of which would matter if the book wasn’t any good. But it is. Moon Girl is adorkable, and her socially inept nerd side should be warmly familiar to most readers. Writers Brandon Montclare (“Batwoman”) and Amy Reeder (“Rocket Girl”) set up an engaging premise, and artist Natacha Bustos, while a bit on the cartoony side for a Marvel book, gets the job done.

HERCULES #1: After decades of being the butt of jokes in the Marvel Universe for his drinking and womanizing, the son of Zeus has decided to get back in the hero game in a big way. After all, as he says, he was among the original heroes, so he still has a step or two on these youngsters. The first issue he proves it, by sniffing out an evil demon so old “it was born in the shadows cast by the first flames mankind kindled.” Take that, Iron Man! Veteran writer Dan Abnett throws in a few mysteries, Pallas Athena, a ticking clock, couch potato Gilgamesh (from the Akkadian epic), a sea monster (Herc: “I enjoy sea monsters.” Gil: “They’re the worst.”),  and a lot of humor. With solid superhero art by Luke Ross, this book is very nearly perfect.

MS. MARVEL #1: Strangely, this book also stars a non-white, non-male, non-sexualized girl, who is also Muslim. Pakistani-American Kamala Khan has been Ms. Marvel for a few years now, and is a big seller, as far as it can be known, in digital form. As a teenager in New Jersey, she’s got the sort of problems Peter Parker used to have when he was a teenager in Forest Hills, but she’s so gosh-dar n optimistic and likable the comparison really doesn’t feel too familiar. She also appears in …

THE ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #1: There’s a smattering of books with “Avengers” in the title already with more to come, but this appears to be the “main” one, if there is such a thing. I say that because it has core members Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Vision – or it will. (The story, by veteran writer Mark Waid, hasn’t yet got to the point where the team forms.) The cover also promises three youngsters for training/comic relief, in the form of Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales (the black-Latino Spider-Man from an alternate dimension) and the new teenage Nova (Sam Alexander). Waid is one of the best writers in the biz, and artist Adam Kubert gives good superhero, so if that’s your jam, this is your book.

Those are my top four, but here are some others worth mention:

* ULTIMATES #1 doesn’t have “Avengers” in the title, but it is still an Avengers title for all that. It stars the abovementioned Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel (who is actually black), Black Panther, Miss America (America Chavez, a heroine from a parallel dimension) and Monica “Photon” Rambeau (who’s had many names, including “Captain Marvel”). Blue Marvel and Black Panther are both super-geniuses, and the women are all heavy hitters, and they have decided their mission is to solve insoluble problems instead of fighting supervillains all the time. First up: Finding a way to make Galactus happy without planets getting eaten. They don’t smart small!

* EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN#1: Like the Avengers title earlier, this one appears to be the “main” X-Men book out of several, due to its cast: Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey (the teenage version), Wolverine (the geriatric version) and Magik (younger sister of Colossus).  X-fun as usual, with veterans Jeff Lemire (words) and Humberto Ramos (pictures).

* STAR-LORD #1 features a new origin for Peter Quill. He needs one, because the original one from the 1970s made him a lot less likable than the movie did.

BLACK KNIGHT #1: Marvel never seemed to know what to do with this guy. Introduced in 1967, he’s the third character with that name, and carries the cursed black blade used by the first (in 1955). For long periods of time Marvel has sent him into the past, turned him into stone, or just ignored him. Now they’ve put him into the interdimensional space called Weirdworld, where almost anything or anyone can show up, as the new sheriff. Sounds like an interesting job for an interesting character just waiting to break out.

* MIGHTY THOR #1 stars the current, Y-chromosome-challenged Thunder Goddess, who is actually Jane Foster, a major supporting character in the 1960s. She was a nurse then, to Thor’s secret ID Dr. Don Blake, but Blake’s gone and Foster’s now a doctor – and suffering from cancer. Worse, changing into Thor keeps her chemotherapy from working, so all the hammer time is literally killing her. That gives Marvel an out should they want to return the original Thor as the Asgardian Avenger, and I imagine sales will be the determining factor if or when that happens.

* VISION #1 started out as a saccharine Pinocchio story, with the Android Avenger now somehow having a Vision wife and two Vision kids and living behind a white picket fence in an Arlington, Virginia, home. But by the end of this issue people are dead, Visions are dismembered and “don’t tell your father” has a chilling connotation. This vicious turn promises a violent, unpredictable future. I don’t know if I like this series or not, but it’s sure got me curious.

* SPIDER-WOMAN #1 stars yet another Avenger, and yet another Spider-person (there’s a ton of them now). I’d have little to say about this book – the character isn’t particularly unique, and has had numerous short-lived titles – except that now she’s pregnant. VERY pregnant, with the father’s identity a mystery. So she’s teamed with some other characters to do the heavy lifting (Captain Marvel, ex-supervillain Porcupine, ex-Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich) while she waits for her water to break. So, you know, it’s got that going for it.

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38 new titles so far, eh? Well, I’ve liked 98% of what I’ve sampled so far. But I’ve sampled only 13% of what Marvel’s offered (which only shows I know myself better than Marvel knows me, I guess).

Doctor Strange is one of the titles I dismissed out of hand (because I didn’t like the preview/concept). I’ll have to give it a look based on your recommendation. (Just what I need: another comic to read.)

Can anyone tell me if this version of Gilgamesh has appeared in comics before, and if so where?

MOON GIRL and DEVIL DINOSAUR -- sorry, sounds too 'cutesy' for me.

HERCULES -- Could be worthy of a look - if they ditch the boozy-comedic-relief version this could be the 'God' book that is not being produced at the moment.

Ms MARVEL - as I have previously said - and been derrided for -- I'm sorry I just don't like this - again - too cutesy and twee. (Ducks and runs!)

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS - I'm not very excited by the content as the members all seem pale versions of the big guns but I am encouraged by WAID and KUBERT and I love all things Avengers so i'm sure I'll at least trade wait.

ULTIMATES - Now this one sounds right up my street. I liked the Mighty Avengers team this has spun off from and am actually looking forward to seeing where this team go.

EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN - I'm glad to see anyone other than Bendis writing the X-Men - but they feel like damaged/doomed goods these days, what's left that no-one else wants until they sort out the film rights etc.This team interests me the most as the nearest to 'my' generation of X-Men

STARLORD - I liked the 1970s version of this guy, I loved the 'Annihilation' era version and I even like the newest film-version, he's just about as zany/funny/irreverent as I can take though so as long as he's 'grounded' I'll probably like this.

BLACK KNIGHT - I am also really looking forward to this one, it looks fascinating and has great potential - I hope it has time to grow before low-sales cause cancellation. (I doubt it'll be a big seller)

MIGHTY THOR - has been really good, better perhaps than I had imagined, but with the mystery identity solved and the health problems etc it is just a waiting game until the Odinson retakes his title.  When i know the entire status-quo is doomed, I find it hard to stay hooked.

VISION - the initial concept sounds awful and not at ll the kind of Visiion I wanted to read about - but I'm hearing there may be more to this than face value -- will it get to grow into its story wait.?

SPIDER-WOMAN - why oh why, when there are now so many Spider-people out there did they go and compleletly change Jessica out of all recognition or previous charcater into this trendy silly person.? Why not take that new 'Silk' person or one of the many other Spider-Girls there's been and do the unknown father pregancy thing? AND she has thrown away an iconic costume!! Not for me.

Richard, if you don't like cute-sy, you don't like cute-sy. That's perfectly understandable. Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel are pretty cute, so you should avoid them. Ditto Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl. Forrtunately, Marvel's got lots of books with different tones, which is the way it should be.

Incidentally, I also wrote about Marvel's first issues in October. Since it got no comments, it's possible it was overlooked.

Thankyou Captain.

I appreciate that - and I've added my thoughts to your other thread too!

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