'Marvel Rising' #1 Review: Baby Steps

Marvel Rising, Marvel’s brand of content targeted at younger fans, came to comics last year with [...]

Marvel Rising, Marvel's brand of content targeted at younger fans, came to comics last year with a series of one-shots, but these individually titled issues proved difficult for readers to follow. Marvel looks to rectify things this week with the release of Marvel Rising #1, the first issue of a new five-issue miniseries. Nilah Magruder writes, with art from Roberto Di Salvo, and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg. No more scouring solicitations for whatever the next Marvel Rising release may be; it's all here. Unfortunately, the simplified release program may be the most memorable thing about Marvel Rising #1 as the content of the issue uses an odd setup to present some of Marvel's most exciting new heroes at their most generic.

The issue begins in medias res with several of the Marvel Rising heroes fighting in the street against possessed cars. The lineup includes Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Inferno, and Spider-Man, but Ms. Marvel serves as the point-of-view character and provides narration. The issue soon flashes back so Ms. Marvel can explain how the heroes got into this situation. The flashback reveals Squirrel Girl had offered to give the teen heroes a tour of Empire University; she attends the New York City college and acts as an ambassador to new students. Even for a school with a superhero for a spokesperson, taking a campus tour in full costume seems a strange choice. Inferno has no secret identity, so no worries there. But isn't the reason Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man keep their identities a secret so that they can keep their personal lives personal?

Even if you're willing to roll with that premise, the issue makes some strange choices in regards to pacing. Ms. Marvel sets up the flashback, which then catches up to where the story began. Only the issue then immediately changes perspective, focusing on the story's villain, Morgan Le Fey, for the rest of it. There doesn't seem to be a good reason why the story wasn't told in chronological order. It does allow the issue to open with a two-page spread of the heroes fighting the cars, which is the artistic highlight of the book, but that doesn't make up for how unnatural the pace feels and how hard it is to settle into the story.

Marvel Rising #1
(Photo: Roberto Di Salvo, Rachelle Rosenberg, Nilah Magruder, Marvel Entertainment)

In fairness, this is a title aimed at newer, younger readers. In that respect, it makes sense that the issue tries to keep things simple. But then simplicity gives way to blandness. Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and Squirrel Girl are some of Marvel's hottest new characters right now. Here, they're forced into the molds of teenage stock characters. Inferno, the least popular of the group, gets the worst of this as he's shoved into the "hot-headed guy with fire powers" box, likes a less-charming Human Torch. Morgan Le Fey at least comes with a motivation that could develop in interesting ways throughout the series. In this issue alone, it doesn't get much further than bitterness over the fame of her brother, King Arthur.

The artwork doesn't add much to the book's personality either. Di Salvo is a decent storyteller, and that opening two-page spread is eye-catching, but his characters lack distinction. Marvel has had a problem with keeping Squirrel Girl's character model consistent across books. Here she looks almost unrecognizable, and Rosenberg's colors give everything an artificial feel.

And yet, this book isn't targeted at longtime comic book readers. Instead, Marvel seems to hope it will the first comic for a lot of people. That's great! For those new, young readers the basic approach of this issue may not seem so boring. But Marvel like could have achieved the same goal with a bit more personality.

Published by Marvel Comics

On March 27, 2019

Written by Nilah Magruder

Art by Roberto Di Salvo

Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg

Letters by VC's Clayton Cowles