Marvel's push to bring classic comics back into print proceeds at a pretty fast clip, but that doesn't mean that they're slacking on pumping out new books, either. Marjorie Liu, Greg Rucka, Emma Rios, Jeff Parker, and Gabriel Hardman have strong showings this month with some comics that look to be awesomely hard-hitting. Marvel's got an extremely strong line-up of creative talent, and this is a good month for showing that off. After the jump: the ten most interesting Marvel solicits for August 2011!

10. BLACK WIDOW: THE ITSY-BITSY SPIDER PREMIERE HC

Written by DEVIN GRAYSON & GREG RUCKA

Penciled by J.G. JONES & SCOTT HAMPTON

Cover by J.G. JONES

Natasha Romanov has always led an exciting life - first as a Cold War-era Soviet spy, followed by her defection to the West. She has earned a reputation through the years as a consummate professional, coldly efficient and as deadly as her namesake. Now, her time as Black Widow may be at an end. Yelena Belova, the new Black Widow, seeks to claim the mantle she feels was stolen from her Motherland. Trained in the arts of espionage and combat, and anxious to prove herself and eliminate her counterpart, Belova will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. The battle of the two Widows rages from the deserts of the Middle East to New York's Upper West Side. When the smoke clears, will either be left standing? Collecting BLACK WIDOW (1999) #1-3 and BLACK WIDOW (2001) #1-3.

152 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5827-1

Trim size: standard

Remember these? Way back in the early days of the Quesada/Jemas era, Marvel greenlit a bunch of really fascinating miniseries. JG Jones ended up drawing a couple of them, perhaps most notably Marvel Boy with Grant Morrison. His Black Widow with Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka, though, was good comics. It was cool to see Black Widow get an actual rival, and more than that, a worthy one. This hardcover collects a couple of series, but not Rucka's third series, which starred Yelena Belova and was published under Marvel's MAX line. It was just three issues and would've been a nice addition, but I suppose the rating and size would have become prohibitive.

9. JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #626

Written by KIERON GILLEN

Penciled by DOUG BRAITHWAITE

Cover by STEPHANIE HANS

FEAR ITSELF TIE-IN

Loki has assembled his team for his secret mission in the shadow of FEAR ITSELF. Now, he just needs his equipment. Is there anyone Loki won't won't turn to get the power he needs? SPOILERS: No, probably not. The question has to be whether the young boy has the guile to survive turning to them, and whether the promises he makes to secure the chance of a tomorrow will only ensure that the tomorrow will see Asgard as black as a cinder.

32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

I could talk about Gillen's scripting (it's been quite good, with a nice blend of stilted Asgardian dialogue and ultramodern cleverness) or Braithwaite's art (the guy's a master, and can draw anything well), but give me a moment to break my generally strict "Creators Up, Characters Down" stance here.

Loki's secret strikeforce includes Surtur? Nostalgia aside... this is going to be pretty awesome.

That aside, Stephanie Hans's cover really tells you all you need to know about this series. Loki is young, fun, and full of nefarious plots to save life as he knows it. No one in Asgard likes him, or even trusts him, because, well, look: he's riding on Surtur's head. Surtur, the beast who wants to burn Asgard to the ground.

Good stuff.

8. WOLVERINE: THE BEST THERE IS #9

Written by CHARLIE HUSTON

Penciled by JUAN JOSE RYP

Cover by BRYAN HITCH

Wolverine may be the best there is on earth but will that hold true when Bounty Hunters Monark Starstalker and Paradox take him on a trip through the vastness of Space? What's all this talk of spaceborn technecrotic viruss that produce a race of unkillable zombies? And just how long can Logan hold his breath in a total vacuum while cutting alien invaders to ribbons? The answers will shock you! Don't miss WOLVERINE: THE BEST THERE IS 9, coming your way at light speed.

32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

I'll keep this one short: Monark Starstalker is a cosmic bounty-hunter with an android falcon. He was created by Howard Chaykin in 1976, and it is clear to me that Charlie Huston likes the same comics from the '70s that I do, and hopefully you do, too.

It's Wolverine in space with one of Marvel's more obscure characters, written by a guy who gets how to make dialogue-driven comics exciting and drawn by a guy who knows how to make gross subject matter beautiful. Get on the bus or get left behind.



7. X-23 #13

Written by MARJORIE LIU

Penciled by PHIL NOTO

Cover by KALMAN ANDRASOFSZKY

GUEST-STARRING THE FF!

As X-23 searches for the sole survivor of her kill list, a seemingly-unstoppable force descends on New York and X-23 is its target...until an unlikely cavalry shows up. But maybe for a girl who struggles with her past, maybe the Future Foundation are the only ones that can help!

32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$2.99

I've only recently realized this, but Marjorie Liu may be Marvel's best new find since Charlie Huston. X-23 is one of those characters that has had a... questionable history, to be perfectly politic about it. She's been featured in a number of so-so series with gross plots, and bounced around sort of aimlessly--or if not aimlessly, toward an unworthy end--for years now. Liu's got the reins now, though, and she's managed to turn X-23 into one of the most straightforward X-books you're likely to see. It's about X-23 the person, rather than X-23 the super sexy Girlverine killing machine, and that makes all the difference. She's bothered by her past, she's looking toward the future, and she's trying to figure out how to become a better person. The addition of Gambit to the series as a mentor was an inspired choice. Here's a page from the book's first arc, featuring art by Will Conrad:


See? This is good stuff. And the addition of Phil Noto just means that it's going to get even better. Noto drawing the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-23, and (hopefully) Gambit? Yes, please.

6. X-STATIX OMNIBUS HC

Written by PETER MILLIGAN, X & NICK DERINGTON

Penciled by MIKE ALLRED, SEAN PHILLIPS, DARWYN COOKE, DUNCAN FEGREDO, PAUL POPE, NICK DERINGTON, PHILIP BOND, NICK DRAGOTTA & MARCOS MARTIN

Cover by MIKE ALLRED

Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's subversive, media-loving mutants - the world-famous X-Statix - star in a series of bizarre, hilarious and deadly adventures with the most shocking ending ever! See all your favorites - including the Orphan, the Anarchist, Dead Girl, Doop, Venus Dee Milo and U-Go Girl - in action against and alongside Wolverine, the Avengers, Dr. Strange and others! Plus: the awful threats of Bad Guy, Pink Mink, Surrender Monkey and more! Collecting X-FORCE (1991) #116-129; BROTHERHOOD #9; X-STATIX #1-26; WOLVERINE/DOOP #1-2; X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL #1-5; and material from X-MEN UNLIMITED (1993) #41, I [HEART] MARVEL: MY MUTANT HEART and NATION X #4.

1200 PGS./ Parental Advisory ...$125.00

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5844-8

Trim size: oversized

Now this is a long time coming. X-Statix, alongside Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's New X-Men, breathed new life into a tired franchise. Milligan and Allred's X-Statix pushed back against the demands of the cape comics genre, and the result was a stunningly great series and one of Marvel's all-time classics. Milligan and Allred explored celebrity, sexuality, race, and everything about what it means to be a human in the modern day. It was a much-needed updating of the core metaphor in the X-Men, and these guys did it with aplomb. It was mean, funny, deadly, and really, just great. The art was top-notch throughout, too.

5. X-FORCE: ASSAULT ON GRAYMALKIN PREMIERE HC

Written by FABIAN NICIEZA

Penciled by DARICK ROBERTSON & GREG CAPULLO

Covers by GREG CAPULLO

No longer able to abide Professor X's passive ideals, the young members of X-Force split from the X-Men to carve out their own aggressive destiny! Featuring the threats of Magneto, the X-Ternals and...War Machine!? Guest-starring Deadpool, Nick Fury, the New Warriors, Storm and Beast - and featuring the return of Cable! Collecting NEW WARRIORS (1990) #31 and X-FORCE (1991) #19-25.

216 PGS./Rated A ...$29.99

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5899-8

Trim size: standard

This was probably the last time X-Force was really good, both as a concept and a series. This was right after X-Cutioner's Song, which saw the death of Cable and forced the reconfiguration of X-Force. These are straight up good comics from the heart of the '90s. Greg Capullo's style was perfectly steroidal and explosive for the book, and Nicieza's script was well suited for the jokey, but angry, twenty-somethings that make up the cast. Each character is well-defined (Sunspot was the best, though, with Domino and Cannonball tied for a close second), and the story reads like it's about inevitability. X-Force only knows one way to do things, and that way? That tends to lead toward a lot of punching, for better or for worse.


4. SPIDER-ISLAND: CLOAK & DAGGER #1 (of 3)


Written by NICK SPENCER

Penciled by EMMA RIOS

Cover by MIKE CHOI

SPIDER-ISLAND TIE IN!

The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed team of Nick Spencer (IRON MAN 2.0) and Emma Rios (OSBORN) answers the overwhelming demands of readers, and puts the beloved heroes Cloak & Dagger back in action...in SPIDER-ISLAND! Everyday citizens fall prey to a mysterious infestation, and Manhattan is quarantined! Cloak & Dagger are at the front line, in the streets. Thousands of people are gifted with great power...and it's a disaster!

32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Here's one huge reason why you should pay attention to this comic, courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, and José Villarubia:


That's from Osborn, the recently completed series about the Spider-Man villain, and you should click to make it bigger. Rios caught my eye when she did Hexed for Boom! Studios (available digitally via ComiXology or Graphic.ly), a comic series that was pretty good. Still later, she pinch-hit for Chris Bachalo on Amazing Spider-Man: Shed, which was also pretty good. Now, it seems like she's leveled up to a positively absurd extent. Her action scenes have a great and intuitive sense of motion, her characters are interestingly varied, and she's great at picking a moment to draw. That top panel, see how it takes place after the punch is finished, but is still just as exciting as a pop on the nose?

So, yeah, I'm interested to see how she renders Cloak & Dagger. The two of them are a hard sell on the best of days, but I think Rios might have something special in store for us.

3. THE PUNISHER #1

Written by GREG RUCKA

Penciled by MARCO CHECCHETTO

Cover by BRYAN HITCH

Variant Cover by SAL BUSCEMA

Variant Cover by NEAL ADAMS

Blank cover also available

TIME TO GET BACK TO WORK.

For Frank Castle death comes easy...life is where things gets complicated. Fully loaded with the Eisner winning writer Greg Rucka (Batwoman, Queen and Country, WOLVERINE) and neo-superstar artist Marco Checchetto (Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil), the BIGGEST GUN of all returns with blood on his hands and vengeance in his eyes. As New York City's body counts continue to rise, the city's streets are teeming with more methodical criminals than ever and a police force doing it's best to keep its head above water. The Punisher has returned to serve his own brand of justice with everything's he's got... but can he survive the darkness stored in his own arsenal? Plus bonus pages exploring some of the new personalities in Frank's life...and how closely intertwined living is with dying.

40 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Greg Rucka and the Punisher is going to be an interesting mix. Marco Checchetto is talented, and did a bang-up job on Daredevil. I have complete faith in him. Not to say that I don't have faith in Rucka, but the Punisher is one of the most fragile characters in cape comics. Judging by the solicits, Rucka's taking a position I prefer to see with the Punisher. No supervillains, all thugs. When you put the Punisher up against the dayglo cape comics types, he tends to wobble as a concept, if not break entirely, so give me mobsters any day of the week.

Rucka's a guy with an interesting approach to violence. Other than his brief forays into straight up cape comics, he's done books that have been more contemplative than exploitative. Even his time with Wolverine was spent telling mostly socially conscious tales with a minimum of flashy violence. I'm looking forward to seeing where his run on this book lands.

For my money, every Punisher story ever now sits in the shadow of Ennis's Punisher MAX. Rucka, though, might be the one guy who can come up with a take that meets the bar Ennis set.

2. MYSTIC #1 (of 4)

Written by G. WILLOW WILSON

Penciled by DAVID LÓPEZ

Cover by AMANDA CONNER

A Crossgen title reimagined as only Marvel could! Eisner Award-nominated G. WILLOW WILSON (Air, Superman, Cairo) and superstar DAVID LOPEZ (HAWKEYE/MOCKINGBIRD, Catwoman) join forces to bring you the story of two seemingly ordinary orphan girls who find their lives turned upside down by magic...one of them will find herself responsible for saving the world and the other as her mortal enemy! The magic begins this August!

32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

G. Willow Wilson is a writer who has the chops to be much bigger than she is. Cairo and Air were very good, but her Superman issues came in-between some of the most unpleasant issues of that comic in years. That'll hamstring you in the eyes of the audience, which isn't even remotely fair. She's good, and to be perfectly frank, better than most Superman comics will ever deserve. The Crossgen relaunch has been surprisingly good (or perhaps not so surprisingly--the creative teams involved are top notch), and hopefully this'll be the time when Wilson gets to garner the fanbase she deserves.

Amanda Conner's cover is pretty great, too, but that almost goes without saying these days, doesn't it?

1. HULK #39

Written by JEFF PARKER

Pencils & Cover by GABRIEL HARDMAN

OMEGEX, a deadly force from beyond the far reaches of space, has awakened, and he wants Red Hulk! Our Crimson Crusader has fought battles of massive scale, fought villains of great strength and guile, and even punched a Watcher! But what can he do against a destroyer of entire worlds? Star scribe Jeff Parker and the astounding artisan Gabriel Hardman bring an epic Hulk tale in the grand Marvel tradition!

32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

I've never really felt like the Hulk had any good villains. There was the Leader, sure, and I'm inexplicably fond of Zzzaxx, but who else is there? The only person that comes to mind as being a worthy villain for one of Marvel's best characters is General Thunderbolt Ross, and he's a Hulk now. So, kudos to Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, and Elizabeth Breitweiser for sitting down and coming up with some great new villains for the Hulk to go up against.

The introduction of Omegex has been building since the early days of their run, in a manner similar to the introduction of Surtur in Walt Simonson's Thor. Now, Omegex is here and things are about to hit the fan. Assuming that the level of quality keeps up (And it will: Hulk is Marvel's best book right now, and hitting on every conceivable level), this issue will be a keeper.