A new Marvel initiative, Marvel NOW,(1) will be spinning out of Civil War II this fall. This practice of seasonal soft-relaunches seems to be the new status quo for Marvel and—according to Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort—is a natural response to the demands of the contemporary comic book market. Very little is known, at this early stage, about the titles that will conclude and/or (re)launch as a result of this rebranding. Marvel has only just begun to release imagery and information associated with the relaunch.
The first announcement concerns a new character, Morris Sackett, a latent Inhuman who will become a major antihero in the Marvel NOW universe. Sackett, or Mosaic—who will appear in a series of the same name—is a famous basketball player whose exposure to the Terrigen Mist will result in him becoming a being of pure energy who must possess the bodies of others to stay alive. Admittedly, when I read the first synopsis of the series and the character, I was a little leery of it. A new black character is introduced only to become literally intangible and invisible? Sounded a whole lot like a Jason Wilkes scenario to me.
Reading a full interview with writer Geoffrey Thorne and artist Khary Randolph has put my mind at ease somewhat, though. According to Thorne, Morris Sackett is a rarity in the comic book world—a minority character who is not a stereotypical paragon:
Morris isn’t a hero, or at least he doesn’t see himself as one. He’s not out to make the world a better place for anyone but Morris. Not at first. Nor is he a villain. He’s not a malevolent person, just extremely self-obsessed… “Minority” characters are generally not allowed to have this nuance. Because they are relatively few, when they appear they have to be paragons of good or face some sort of social backlash. Morris is, frankly, more complex than that. His complexity is what makes him unique.
The depiction of a black man who goes on a journey from selfish self-absorption to altruistic leanings will be a welcome innovation. Furthermore, handled appropriately, a black character who has the ability to jump from body to body, taking on the memories, talents, and behavioral patterns of his host, could enable some powerful commentary on the subject race in America. Lived experience in the US is different for white people than it is for people of color. By allowing Mosaic to move from host to host, the series’ creators could provide an inside view of the difference in quality of life that exists for Morris Sackett when he is in the body of a white person vs when he is the body of a person of color. If Geoffrey Thorne, Khary Randolph, and Marvel have got the guts for it, I’ll be more than willing to plunk down some hard-earned cash on that endeavor.
The announcement of the new series comes as Marvel is gearing up their Marvel NOW campaign. Indeed, the first teaser image for the relaunch features Mosaic as a fractured mirror image of the recently controversy-laden HydraCap, Steve Rogers. Speculation is already brewing that Mosaic—with his ability to acquire every last thought from the mind of his host without being detected—may be one of the first people to discover HydraCap’s deep dark secret. The jury’s out on that one, though, as far as I’m concerned. On the one hand, it’s completely logical that Mosaic would do that. On the other hand, it’s so logical—and the image itself so temptingly suggestive—that I suspect tomfoolery. Mosaic could just as easily have no contact with Steve Rogers as be the man who exposes him. Marvel’s not above littering their turf with red herrings, after all. And anyway, a story that focuses an examination of class privilege is infinitely more interesting than a story that subsumes a new black superhero’s story to that of a white superhero.
Get on it, Marvel.
1) Since 2010 there have been four branding relaunches, The Heroic Age, Marvel NOW, All-New All-Different Marvel, and—once again—Marvel NOW. This second Marvel NOW launch differs somewhat from the first in its use of a fractured NOW graphic, which seems to be intended to hint at the post-Civil War II status quo. A free magazine featuring reveals on new series and creative teams will be released on July 13. ⇧