Fear Itself Arrives To Torment Marvel's Icons, But What's A Nonplayer?

This is a week for Marvel to shine in comics shops, if their new epic can live up to the hype. Plus, there's a surprise video game comic this week with some lovely art.

Wednesdays are new-comics days in America. These are my weekly recommendations about which comics to buy in comics shops and which new releases on the iPad are worth your curiosity.

Comics You Should Consider Buying (from comics shops)

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #38 What if Spider-Man was beloved, Peter Parker was rich and the story was told by the writer of Chew in a series of annuals featuring Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Deadpool, one released each month from now to June? I haven't read these, but I have friends who love the work of writer John Layman, so consider giving this annual, "Identity Wars part 1," a shot.

Fear Itself Arrives To Torment Marvel's Icons, But What's A Nonplayer?

Fear Itself #1 It's a tradition for regular comics buyers to pick up the first issue of the latest Marvel or DC mini-series that will change everything forever (temporarily). Fear Itself is Marvel's latest, invovling some sort of terrible incursion into the Earth by some sort of scary something... "the Serpent", whatever that means. The writer on this, Matt Fraction, is one of super-hero comics craftier storytellers. He can be excellent. No telling if this will be. Official summary: " In this time of global anxiety, of economic turmoil and mass hysteria, Sin, the new Red Skull, has made an awesome discovery...a shameful secret that will rock the foundations of the Marvel Universe! A revelation that will divide father and son, turn friend against friend, and herald the rise of Fear personified. HE IS RETURNING...and the world has nothing to fear but FEAR ITSELF."

Uncanny X-Men #534.1 Marvel has been releasing special ".1" issues of their comics, each telling a standalone story that supposedly hints at the direction for the series it's a part of. The Wolverine .1 issue involving a surprise birthday party for the angry X-Man was quite good, as was Iron Man's .1. This X-Men .1 comes from Kieron Gillen, longtime writer about video games, who is taking lead on X-Men writing duties. Official "Magneto is an X-Man. This may not be news to you, but only a handful in the Marvel Universe know that the poster boy for Fearing Mutants is now living just off the coast of one of the United State's largest cities. How on Earth are the X-Men going to explain the presence of one of the world's most infamous super villains?"

Comics With Video Game Connections (new this week in comics shops)

Fear Itself Arrives To Torment Marvel's Icons, But What's A Nonplayer?

DC Universe Online Legends #5 I recently read that this series explains how the DC Comics version of DC's heroes get embroiled in the DC Universe Online version of events, so this whole 20-something issue series is a bridge that will helps DC sticklers find out how it all fits together. Official summary: "Brainiac's attack on the JLA Watchtower is met with fierce resistance - but the tide turns when he reveals his true goal! And in the bleak, blasted future, Lex Luthor reveals his own plan for killing Brainiac . . . but at what cost to his 'allies'?"

Nonplayer #1 This one from writer/artist Nate Simpson and publisher Image is a surprise. It's not tied to a real game, but, well... official summary: "The future kind of sucks, and that goes double for Dana Stevens - she's stuck in a dead-end tamale delivery job, and she's way too old to be living with her mom. But in the online fantasy world of Jarvath, she's an elite warrior. When she slays the wife of celebrity game character King Heremoth, her fame seems all but guaranteed - that is, until the game spins totally out of control."

And Over On The iPad…

If you like your comic book covers painted by Alex Ross and your comics co-written by him, his and writer Jim Krueger's Earth X, a 14-issue alternate-universe Marvel series from 1999, is out today on Comixology's Comics iPad app. I'm a fan of artist John Paul Leon, who drew the books, so I'm looking into it. (Our Mike Fahey said the series is so-so but says others love it.) The first issue of Gotham City police procedural Gotham Central is free on the iPad today, with four more issues going for $2 each at the Comixology app. Only a silly person wouldn't read that first issue. This series, about a cop's-eye view of Batman's city, was terrific, offering about four-fifths believable grit and casework, with only a sliver of attention paid to Gotham's carnival cast of super-villains. Garth Ennis' Hitman, a series about which I always heard good things, also makes its Comixology debut, with an offering of the first three issues. It was about a super-powered guy with guns who takes contracts to kill other super-powered characters. I understand it was quite sarcastic about the goings on of Superman, Batman and friends, not a surprise since Ennis is ever the iconoclast.