Over the past several months, Marvel has been releasing special Point One issues. These one-shots are supposed to take place between regular issues of their ongoing titles. For example, Uncanny X-Men 534.1 takes place between Uncanny X-Men 534 and 535. These Point One issues are supposed to be great jumping-on points for new readers as well. They’re designed to be single issue stories that also introduce new themes for the regular series.
With that stated purpose, Marvel’s Point One one-shots can be judged on both their quality as individual issues and their success at serving as introductions to the actual series. That second element is worth considering. However, I would argue that the first element is still the most important.
Amazing Spider-Man 654.1
The Point One issue of Amazing Spider-Man felt like a bait and switch. It was advertised as a Spider-Man story featuring a new host for Venom. It turned out to be a Venom story that barely included Spider-Man. Now, there’s a place for an issue of an ongoing series to focus on a supporting character rather than the star. Amazing Spider-Man has been successful doing that recently with Flash Thompson when he returned from the war in Afghanistan. But that issue was advertised as such. This issue, in which (spoiler alert) Flash Thompson becomes the new Venom was not. We were told that it was a Spider-Man story, not the soft launch of a new Venom series. That bait and switch left a bad taste in my mouth. The story itself was almost secondary. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t that good. It was a pretty standard tale of a good man hired to become a hero by slightly shady government officials.
Captain America 615.1
Captain America was one of the best examples of the Point One program. The individual issue focuses on Steve Rogers, the first and former Captain America. In this story, a recent war hero is convinced to take up the mantle. This allows Steve to reflect on his own story and on the others who have taken up the mantle in the past. However, the new Cap’s first mission doesn’t go as well as planned. He’s apparently trapped by AIM agents and the former Cap has to come to the rescue. The issue allows for exposition in a natural manner and establishes the current status quo while calling it into question for future stories. By the end, Steve Rogers is shown that, whether he wants it or not, he might have to serve as Captain America. The only downside for me was the twist at the end that (spoiler alert) this was all a plot by Nick Fury. It was a little too Machiavellian for me. I believe that Nick would want Steve to resume his role as Captain America but I don’t like that he intentionally set somebody up for failure. The story would have worked just as well if he had been monitoring the situation instead of manipulating it.
I had questioned the need for a Point One issue for Uncanny X-Force. Why would you need a special jumping-on point for a new title? But after reading the issue, I changed my mind. This was a good story and a good idea. Like most titles, Uncanny X-Force has opened with a couple of longer stories: a four-part Apocalypse tale and a three-part Deathlok story. That’s not a problem; I don’t think that every story needs to be done-in-one. But I do like that they came out with this one-shot. It allows fans to sample the title without committing to a three or four issue arc. In this issue, the Uncannies take on a new and improved Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers. It’s a quick, brutal battle that does a surprisingly good job of simultaneously revealing character. It’s very typical of Uncanny X-Force. My only quibble is that I think Marvel should have released this as either 4.1 or 7.1, which would have been between a pair of longer stories rather than in the middle of one.
Uncanny was far and away the best Point One issue that I read. It did everything it was supposed to. It was a one-shot that took place between two longer stories (Quarantine and Return to Breakworld). It introduced some of the ongoing plotlines, completed a story in one issue and changed the status quo. The X-Men are shown in a good light as heroes who are trying to stop villains who claim they can initiate earthquakes. On top of that, it was well told, with a nice framing sequence that focused on the X-Men’s new public relations flak and Magneto. That framing sequence turned out to be essential as (spoiler alert) Magneto leaves his interview in order to save San Francisco. As new writer Kieron Gillen mentioned in an afterword, he was excited that he found a way for Magneto to save the day while staying true to his character. Plus, former X-Men artist and comic book superstar Carlos Pacheco comes back for this little joy ride.
If this issue of Wolverine was supposed to serve as a jumping-on point for new readers, it’s a failure. Wolverine is in the midst of a year-long epic (Wolverine Goes to Hell, Wolverine vs. the X-Men and Vengeance). This issue completely ignores that epic and therefore doesn’t help new readers transition to the parent title. However, if this issue is judged as a standard Wolverine one-shot, it’s actually really good. There are two alternating plotlines. In one, Wolverine’s girlfriend Melita throws him a surprise party. All of the Avengers and half of the X-Men are on hand. It’s a hilarious sequence of scenes, with Luke Cage cracking jokes, Deadpool making a fool of himself and Iceman and Beast commiserating about Cyclops. I laughed out loud so often my wife wondered what I was reading. In the other plot, Wolverine tracks down a kidnapped trucker and finds him captured by a pair of cannibals. As is the case with too many recent Wolverine comics, the scene is unnecessarily gross. Even so, the birthday party was more than enough to make this a really good one-shot.