How Does Marvel's Mangaverse Measure Up? Part 1 -

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How Does Marvel's Mangaverse Measure Up? Part 1

CINESCAPE takes a look at the six one-shots that will launch a universe

By Arnold T. Blumberg     January 23, 2002

They're cool in any universe. The Mangaverse welcomes THE X-MEN #1.
© 2002 Marvel Characters Inc.
It's been a little while since the Marvel Comics myth-makers have attempted to jump-start a whole new alternate reality. In recent years, they've experienced the dismal failure of the MC2 line and the success of the ULTIMATE reimaginings. Now they've drafted a cadre of creators to translate classic Marvel characters and situations into the motifs familiar to fans of the Japanese style of comic book storytelling. That's right, Marvel is about to introduce a "Mangaverse" of its very own.

This week, six one-shot issues will hit store shelves, each focusing on a different, somewhat familiar corner of this new manga-ized Marvel reality. Following closely on the heels of the introductory MARVEL MANGAVERSE: NEW DAWN, these installments will allow readers to get reacquainted with some of their favorite heroes as they take on new visual designs, personas, and even backgrounds. But will the Mangaverse catch on as another "Ultimate" thrill for fans, or will it go the way of other "New Universe"s? While we can't predict which way the vast reading public will turn, we can take a look at the beginnings of this new Marvel Universe and see if the foundation is as sturdy as it needs to be to support new worlds of adventure and excitement.

Note: In order to keep things straight, we will refer to the classic Marvel Universe as the Marvel Universe Prime so that there's no confusion. So without further ado, here's a closer look at the first three of six one-shots that comprise the Marvel Mangaverse launch, in no particular order...

Who's the hot babe? That's no lady, that's the Mangaverse PUNISHER!

With great power comes really cute heroes

This one probably takes the title of "Most Adorably Cute." A diminutive Peter Parker shares many of the same traits as his other selves. Witnessing the murder of his sensei (who provides the underpinning "power and responsibility" riff this time around), Parker must face the malevolence of Venom and his boss, the gargantuan Kingpin, as they seek to annihilate the Spider clan once and for all. Parker is the only remaining representative of that order, and now he has to take on the mantle of "Spider-Man" to avenge his sensei's death. True, guilt does enter into it, as Peter believes he should have done something to avert disaster, but it definitely wasn't his fault as we know it was in the Marvel Universe Prime. Now, Peter must take care of his Aunt May and track down Venom while the kids at school - including equally cute versions of Mary Jane and Gwen - wonder about the mental state of their peculiar classmate.

This SPIDER-MAN is dynamic, vibrant, and a worthy addition to the many threads of Spider-lore. While visually the youngest Parker has ever looked, his attitude is considerably more mature than even his older Prime counterpart. For example, "Demon filth! Sensei will be avenged!" is one snippet of spidery dialogue, lacking the colloquial "bunky" punctuation favored by Stan Lee back in the day. But that's as may be. Adding dollops of intense spirituality, filtered through a generation weaned on STAR WARS Force training, the new SPIDER-MAN introduces a tiny hero with the heart to face the biggest of foes. In any universe, Spider-Man has to be an ordinary guy willing to sacrifice everything to protect the innocent; this new version fulfills that role admirably.


Grade: A

Issue: No. 1

Authors: Kaare Andrews

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25


Aw, isn't he the cutest thing? Heads up, true believers, it's the Mangaverse SPIDER-MAN. Cover to #1 pictured.

Hurts so good

The Punisher is a feared enforcer of law and order, a black and white-clad vigilante who strikes fear in the hearts of criminals and inspires others to fits of murderous rage. The Punisher is hated, despised - a marked woman. Wait a minute...a woman? Yes, this manga-ized Punisher is no Frank Castle, but Miss Sosumi Brown, a woman who exercises her finely tuned sense of control in her daytime role as a school principal and at night in the guise of the Punisher. She also has a younger sister, Hashi, who she wishes to nurture and guide as she enters maturity. But Hashi has other ideas. It's not easy balancing family, a day job and a heroic gig battling the forces of evil.

Diverging sharply from the look of the Punisher we all know, this female, geisha-esque avenger is far more glib in battle and a lot more enticing when she's at work. There's also plenty of humor in this title, a hell of a lot more than old-time PUNISHER fans would expect from a comic with that name. Borrowing from some typical anime characterizations, the light-hearted aspects of the story mesh well with the story's darker side. As Hashi uncovers her big sister's secret identity, a redheaded master criminal plots to make the Punisher's life a lot more difficult. David's capable scripting and Hernandez' cartoonish artwork make for a solid effort, although the tone is a bit uneven. Still, this is an original look at an old concept, and the appearance of a sidekick in the mold of Captain America's Bucky is a novel addition. Keep your eyes open at night, or you too may be...spanked by the Punisher! Hmm...


Grade: B+

Issue: No. 1

Authors: Peter David and Lea Hernandez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25


The Marvel Mangaverse version of the Fantastic Four

Watch the claws, bub!

You knew they were coming. What would a Marvel Universe be without its own requisite team of outcast mutants with "X"s on their costumes? For those who know the team best from their movie incarnation, this manga-style romp should be smooth sailing. Touching on similar themes concerning Rogue and Wolverine's protectiveness toward her, this new adventure opens with a slightly different-looking X-team searching for the lost southern gal. She's flown the coop because she feels like "an outcast in a group of outcasts." Hearing the call of someone known as Magnus, Rogue has decided to seek her destiny elsewhere, but she has no idea how much trouble she's in.

Perhaps one of the more surprising changes is the casting of Nightcrawler in the role of sleazy villain alongside a murderous Beast, although given Nightcrawler's supposed fate in the Prime universe, that may not be such a big shock. At least everyone else behaves just enough like the originals to make this new team comfortable enough to enjoy getting to know them better. Wolvie may be white-haired, but he's the same guy underneath, attitude and all - and get a load of those snazzy red claws! Cyclops also benefits from the revamp, looking far more formidable than he ever did before, courtesy of a souped-up suit of armor incorporating the ubiquitous ruby quartz lens (it's Transformer Cyclops!). There are also a few clever surprises hidden in the second half of the issue, as other marginally familiar characters take their bows and show just how different they are from the heroes and villains we knew in another reality. This is a great team with some sleek storyboard-like artwork to carry them through their inaugural tale. And wait until you reach the stunning climax. Could that new look for Rogue spell a Dark Phoenix-like doom?


Grade: A

Issue: No. 1

Authors: C.B. Cebulski, Jeff Matsuda, A.J. Jothikumar, Andy Owens

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25


Next time, we wrap up our special focus on the Mangaverse one-shots with the last three titles.



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