Marvel really likes to spread its announcements around at San Diego Comic-Con, and that's never more evident than at the publisher's final panel of the weekend, which it calls 'Next Big Thing', possibly because Columbo has a prior claim on using the phrase, 'One More Thing,' just as you're getting ready to leave.

The major new announcement out of the Next Big Thing panel is that Marvel is finally going to publish a new S.H.I.E.L.D. book (which I'll henceforth refer to as SHIELD, because no-one has time for that much punctuation). Mark Waid will write the new series, with Carlos Pacheco on issue one and a rotating team of artists thereafter. Agent Phil "Cheese" Coulson will be the book's lead, and each issue will tell a self-contained story.

It's baffling that it's taken Marvel so long to try another SHIELD series -- one focused on the agents and their missions, and not the secret histories uncovered in Jonathan Hickman's last series of the same name -- given what a central role SHIELD plays in the Marvel movies, and the high profile of the TV show. Perhaps the folks at Marvel were waiting to see how the show came out. And then when they saw, they decided to go ahead and do a SHIELD book anyway.

Characters from Agents of SHIELD will clearly make their way into the comics universe through SHIELD -- the cover shows characters who could be Agents Fitz, Simmons, May, and Skye (and Fitz's monkey). The done-in-one stories are perhaps designed to make this series as accessible as possible to viewers of the show, and Waid is a smart choice for a writer who can make a world as arcane and complicated as the Marvel Universe accessible to new readers.

Also announced at the Next Big Thing panel: Jason Latour and Marvel newcomer Enis Cisic will explore the story of Woodrow McCord, Nick Fury's predecessor as "the man on the wall", in Original Sin Annual #1 in October. Original Sin recently revealed that Nick Fury has been going around shooting aliens and monsters that threaten Earth. This is the tale of the guy who did it before him.

Charles Soule will add another title to his plate in November with Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program, but it's only a mini-series to help plug that hole left on the shelf by there not being any Wolverine books coming out. (Didn't you hear? He dead.) Salvador Larocca will provide art, because evidently drawing the new Darth Vader book isn't keeping him busy. What's Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program about? Five issues.

Finally, Greg Rucka is following artist Russell Dauterman away from the recently launched Cyclops ongoing series. Dauterman is going to Thor; no word on whether Rucka is picking up another Marvel title. Chew writer John Layman joins new artist Javier Garron on Cyclops with issue #6 in October.

This switchover follows the example of Moon Knight, which launched with Warren Ellis as writer and switched to Brian Wood as of issue #7, and Hulk, which relaunched with Mark Waid and switched to Gerry Duggan for issue #5.

With no disrespect to the writers who take over on these books, it seems like an odd tactic, and one that may establish bad faith with the audience. One of Marvel's great strengths of late has been its willingness to trust the identities of its books to strong creative teams -- and even to end or relaunch books when the creative teams change. Switching gears like this may suggest to the audience that certain books -- and certain creative teams -- are less valued than others, and that doesn't seem to be the brand Marvel wants to present to the world.


Alexander Lozano
Alexander Lozano
Christian Ward
Francesco Francavilla