Last week I read and reviewed three of the All-New, All-Different Marvel titles being released, and the diversity of superhero comics and talent on display was just too much to resist doing it again this week. There were even more #1’s coming out, so I had to be picky. As much fun as Howard the Duck, Drax, and Deadpool look to be, these are the three new Marvel titles that look to be the most intriguing. Read on to see what how the promise of the new series panned out.
The Vision #1
Written by Tom King
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
If you can only buy one new Marvel comics this week, make it The Vision. Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta have both risen to prominence in the past couple of years, and are clearly bringing their A-game to this series. It is unlike any previous Vision story or anything else being published in superhero comics today. In The Vision #1 King and Walta have filtered a Jonathan Franzen novel through the lens of the science fiction genre with a dash of superhero tropes.
King’s script is understated and haunting. He is writing a story about the modern American family, life in the suburbs, and the struggle to appear normal. They are very mundane, but powerful themes being explored with fantastical characters. There are obvious genre elements like a floating vase from Zenn-La, but they don’t break the tone of suburban misery that is being crafted, instead only serving to build suspense. The Vision #1 is densely scripted, but the cold, removed narration only serves to enhance the ideas in Walta’s art, rather than overwhelm them.
If it weren’t for Walta, it would be easy for the colorful superhero elements to overwhelm this unsettling mood. He normalizes even the craziest concepts though and transforms a family of synthezoids into something very recognizable. He finds the drama in each quiet moment and subtly fixes reader’s eyes on the power interplays and hidden tensions; The Vision #1 is filled with memorable panels with minimal motion and restrained emotion. Jordie Bellaire’s colors help draw forth the darkness as well, casting even the pink skin of the Visions into a simmering shadow of darkness. These three creators together are crafting a comic that will stick with you, surprising you with depth and thought that may strike very close to your deepest held fears.
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Luke Ross
Colors by GURU-eFX
The first issue of Hercules focuses on the (in)famous hero’s journey to rise above mediocrity, reclaiming his place in the world as first and greatest amongst heroes. That journey may be paralleled by the quality of the series itself. WhileHercules #1 is not a bad comic, it is defined by its uneven quality. There are moments that absolutely charm here, but for every one of those there is another that will cause shoulders to shrug or eyebrows to rise.
Luke Ross’ artwork is inconsistent from page-to-page and panel-to-panel. Many of his compositions have a sketched, under-inked quality to them, perhaps revealing the pressures of a deadline. Characters’ eyes appear off-kilter or not at all in some panels. His best work is thoroughly inked and defined, giving rise to some truly heroic panels. Yet there are just as many, if not more, that only provide weak outline or generic backgrounds. The lack of interesting artefacts in Hercules’ armory is a particular lowpoint. Ross is done no favors by the company coloring this book though. Their shadow effects are blotchy, making characters often appear sickly or unnatural. Color palettes are selected on a generic basis and all appear to be rushed.
Dan Abnett’s script also reflects work with fine elements, but speed bumps that could and should have been smoothed over given more time. There are a number of jerking transitions between scenes, with a failure to effectively introduce two named characters and notable setting. Dialogue often hops between topics, hitting the required points but not cohering to anything resembling the rhythm of conversation or banter. Abnett does land some excellent puns and very charming lines though. Hercules’ respect and forthrightness with two young men is particularly excellent. Moments like this reveal the promise of Hercules as a series, one that would be quite stirring if only its creators could more consistently reach it.
Extraordinary X-Men #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Extraordinary X-Men #1 has all of the ingredients of a classic Claremont/Byrne X-Men comic. There’s a diverse team where each member features their own unique drama, a variety of threats facing mutantkind, and some really fun costume designs. The comic only turns out to be a barely passable imitation of this beloved run on the superhero team though. Jeff Lemire knows the notes to the song, but is unable to play it with much feeling or gusto, and Humberto Ramos can only add so much excitement to the surface.
The first issue is a classic getting the team together scenario with a call to action and vignettes featuring each of the soon to be returning X-Men. It’s a fine setup, but one that doesn’t give readers any reason to care as it is told. Each character bit relies on preexisting knowledge with plenty of phrases and setups that rely heavily on nostalgia. If you don’t already love Nightcrawler or Magick, this issue certainly won’t alter your lack of affection. Lemire seems to be leaning heavily on a pair of mystery boxes (in the worst tradition of J.J. Abrams’ term). An event with Cyclops is continually referenced, but never revealed, begging for attention in far too expositional of a manner. The fallout of the Terrigen Mists on the other hand is explained, but the response to this terrible tragedy are only recognized on a superficial level. Lemire’s script is functional, but lacks the soul necessary for real investment.
Ramos and inker Victor Olazaba add some much needed energy to the issue. Ramos’ designs and style lend themselves naturally to this team of varied body shapes and costumes. Each member stands out with a unique silhouette. Action sequences speed across the page with bodies that truly feel as though they are in motion. Exaggeration almost gets the better of Ramos, but is reined in by Olazaba’s smooth inks. As a result Extraordinary X-Men is a comic with plenty of style attempting to cover a disappointing lack of substance.
What did you think of this week’s comics? Sound off in the comments below.