- In a prelude to the Guardians of the Galaxy, we meet the future Starlord on the day young Peter Quill's life is shattered by strange visitors. Brian Michael Bendis provides an affecting, sharp script, while Steve McNiven and John Dell's finely crafted, thoughtful artwork puts me in mind of Gary Frank.
- The new Nova who showed up in last year's Marvel Point One gets another strip, by the same creative team of Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, and this time with the promise of an actual series to follow. His encounter with Diamondhead is engaging enough fluff, but fails to trail the series properly - unless the book is going to be old Richard Rider villains mistaking new guy Sam Someone for him. I said it last year, but it bears repeating - Nova looks like a really young kid. He is, though, meant to be old enough for Thor to have invited him to join the Avengers - perhaps McGuinness and Vines could bear this in mind? Oh, and fans of in-jokes may enjoy a brief trip to Kansas, though the scene doesn't hold up to examination.
- Ant-Man Scott Lang, who's one of the new FF members, stars in a short courtesy of that book's creative team, Matt Fraction and Michael Allred. He's sneaked into Latveria to take revenge on Dr Doom for the death of his daughter Cassie, the Young Avenger named Stature. Ant-Man's commentary on his misadventures is great stuff, but the pay-off, while smilesome in a whimsical way, is horribly off-key given his motivation. The art from Allred and colourist Laura Allred, though, pops throughout.
- The best of the bunch is Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton's Young Avengers prologue, which sees the new Miss America meet Kid Loki for a bite to eat on Earth 212. It's thoroughly entertaining, sets up mysteries, features a fun fight and ends with a cute full-page flyer inviting us to join the new Young Avengers. And while I'm by no means young, I'll be there, if only to try Volstagg's 'Asgardian Korean fusion'.
- Forge fixes a weird robot thingie, then Cable drops in to ask for help with his dicky arm in a dull entry by Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Forge talks to himself a lot while looking like the Prisoner of Zenda, while Cable merely shows up at the end in his Knowing Future Man way. It's advertising Cable & X-Force, and while I wish the book the best of British, it's not for me.
- There's another Knowing Future Man in the framing story by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross, and he's the most annoying person ever to appear on the printed page. Lifted by SHIELD after taking over the world's markets in a single morning on the stock exchange, he spends page after page wittering cryptic warnings without ever saying anything. I'd have thrown him from the helicarrier by the bottom of page two, but Agents Coulson and Samuel L Jackson let him ramble on and on until things get out of control. Supposedly, he's telling the stories in this issue, but the conceit's unconvincing. There's a fight scene that makes Coulson seem clever in retrospect, but that doesn't excuse the lack of clarity in the barney itself. Anyway, if the new Secret Avengers book this story is selling us is going to be about averting terrible futures, count me out - Marvel's done the idea to death. Plus, the idea of a team of Avengers constantly being mindwiped by SHIELD - they're that secret - is ridiculous even for superhero comics. Fans of in-jokes may enjoy one of Cryptic Guy's predictions ... but I doubt it.
So there you have it, 49pp of strip for $5.99, which by Marvel standards is a positive bargain. If it were a DC comic, though, this would likely be a dollar. Still, it's an entertaining time passer - certainly better than last year's equivalent - with one outstanding short and a terrific cover by Adi Granov. It's Marvel NOW!, if not quite Marvel WOW!