Point One #1
Writers: Ed Brubaker, Jeph Loeb, David Lapham, Chris Yost, Fred van Lente, Matt Fraction & Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Javier Pulido, Ed McGuinness, Roberto De la Torre, Ryan Stegman, Salvador Larroca, Terry Dodson & Bryan Hitch
Inks: Javier Pulido, Dexter Vines, Roberto De la Torre, Michael Babinski, Salvador Larroca, Rachel Dodson & Paul Neary
Colors: Javier Rodriguez, Morry Hollowell, Lee Loughridge, Marte Gracia, Guru-eFX, Sonia Oback, Paul Mounts
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos, Comicraft & Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Adam Kubert (regular)/Nick Bradshaw (variant)
Editors: Lauren Sankovitch, Tom Brevoort, Jody Leheup, Stephen Wacker, Thomas Brennan & Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $5.99 US
I haven’t been all that interested with Marvel’s product line as a whole as of late, as I’ve found too much of its output represents one long, drawn-out storyline with no end in sight. The first couple of issues of Fear Itself was what ultimately did it for me; there was no hint of plot. And since then, Marvel’s made it clear it’s creating product, not stories. With multiple spinoffs, Fear Itself seems to be the crossover that never ends. DC’s fresh start served as a much stronger hook for this particular super-hero comics reader. Still, there’s no denying Marvel has an impressive array of creative talent at its disposal, and it was that lineup that ultimately led me to second-guess my initial decision to avoid Marvel’s new “Point One” brand.
I should’ve stuck with my initial gut feeling. I understand this anthology is designed to tease upcoming storylines and new title launches, to draw in new readers. While there is some compelling comics craft to be found in the pages of Point One #1, all the book convinced me to do was avoid the comics and stories it previewed.
Behold the Watcher: The strongest sequence in this one-shot is this framing sequence, thanks mainly to Javier Pulido’s fantastic artwork, in which he’s clearly channelling Steve Ditko. The Ditko riff is so strong I thought at first the work was done by Marcos (Daredevil) Martin, who’s developed a strong reputation for art in the vein of the legendary comics master. While writer Ed Brubaker hints at a plot to steal the Watcher’s knowledge and power somewhere down the line, this aspect of the book is understandably thin on plot. It was designed to connect the disparate property previews here, and the link feels rather forced.
Harbinger: This Nova story — penned by Jeph Loeb and pencilled by Ed McGuinness — is a teaser for the Phoenix-related event/story branding that will likely be a major focus in the Marvel Universe. I haven’t been following any of the news about the upcoming storyline; Marvel seems to trot out the Phoenix at least once or twice a decade to hook readers, but as someone who’s never been a big X-Men fan, I’ve never been all that interested. Loeb’s short script is unfortunately scant on background information. There’s no indication why Nova seems to have been physically transformed (I understand he “died” in a storyline not long ago); exposition seems to have bee sacrificed to allow for lots of cosmic action. McGuinness’ bombastic, larger-than-life approach to super-hero genre art remains fun and attractive, making it easy to overlook the emphasis of style over substance. After all, that’s what Jeph Loeb stories these days are about.
The Myth of Man: If there’s any particular recurring theme or motif in this anthology, preview project, it’s that the audience has to be well-versed in Marvel lore to follow the plots. I read little of the original “Age of Apocalypse” story in the X-titles in the 1990s and none of the more recent return to that alternate-future premise, so I had little idea of who the players in this little drama were. In fact, I had no idea it represented a return to “AoA” until I reached the credits page at the end of the book. De la Torre’s artwork is appropriately dark and gritty, and it reminds me a little of Denys Cowan’s work. Still, the rough, inky quality of the line art seemed to obscure some of the storytelling rather than adding to it.
The Scarlet Thread: Apparently, the recent “Spider-Island” event rehabilitated “Clone Saga” villain and Peter Parker clone Kaine, who’s now Marvel’s new Scarlet Spider. Of course, I didn’t read either “Spider-Island” or the “Clone Saga,” it was a little difficult to piece this together. In other words, Chris Yost’s plot and script is inaccessible, just like others in the one-shot. There’s no indication as to why Kaine wants to be a better man, and it’s hard to connect to the character as we never really get a sense of his face. Artist Ryan Stegman avoids showing us Kaine’s face for the most part, I’m guessing to develop an air of mystery and isolation around the character, but it distances the audience from the protagonist.
Yin & Yang: this short story introduces conjoined twins separated at birth and held in isolation by an evil corporation so their mutant powers — one generates heat, the other cold — could be harnessed as weapons. There’s something about the concept that feels… uninspired, formulaic. Furthermore, I don’t buy into the notion their captors would keep them locked up so close to one another, given their superhuman powers and genetic connections. Also irksome about the storytelling here is how artist Salvador Larroca fails to portray them as young as they are. The script tells us the twins, codenamed Coldmoon and Dragonfire (ugh), are 16 years old, but they appear to be much older here.
The Shaman of Greenwich Village: This Dr. Strange solo story by Matt Fraction and the Dodsons is clearly meant as a teeup for the new Defenders series by the same creative team. While I had no interest in the fact the initial plotline for that series spins off from Fear Itself, the names of the creators working on the book was enough to pique my curiosity. I was on the fence about the book, unsure if I wanted to pay the $3.99 cover price to try out the title, but after getting this taste, I’m no longer torn: I’m definitely going to skip it. While I enjoyed Fraction’s take on Strange here, as a fixture of and lover of the cultural and social tapestry of Greenwich Village in New York, the plot didn’t hook me. Furthermore, the notion Strange and the other heroes will be trying to stave off a dark future for themselves doesn’t hold my interest; I know Marvel won’t shake things up too much for these valuable properties (or at least not for too long). I also didn’t care for how the hero fails the man he originally set out to help. The Dodsons’ artwork is attractive but not necessarily effective. The astral psyche-scape the protagonist explores doesn’t seem particularly striking, wondrous or weird.
Age of Ultron: I was pleased to find some Bryan Hitch in this volume, but I was just as surprised and disappointed to find how confusing and unclear it was. His illustrations for this Brian Bendis-written story about a dark future (another one?) for the Avengers seem to hide what’s going on rather than shows us the story. Some computer effects are used to convey some sort of sonic or seismic effect, but the blurriness detracts rather than enhances.
Despite the issues I had with the material in this comic book, I have to admit I did come away with something valuable: a lesson learned. Namely, I learned to avoid Marvel’s teaser comics and to heed those gut feelings I mentioned earlier. 3/10
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