Dark Reign: New Nation #1
Cover artist: Daniel Acuna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Marvel Comics hasn’t had the best track record as of late when it comes to its big event comics; well, sales-wise, they’ve been successes, but creatively, they’ve faltered (in my humble opinion, of course). But on occasion, what flows from one of those awkwardly paced stories seems to make the excess and din of the event worthwhile. Case in point: Civil War. Though it started off strong, it lost its way by the end. But in the wake of that event, Marvel released a handful of good to great comics. The Order, Avengers: The Initiative, The Invincible Iron Man and a new direction for Captain America — Civil War served as the setup for all of them (and probably a couple more I’m forgetting about at this moment).
Secret Invasion struck me and others as an exercise in futility. Rather than a cohesive story, it was a marketing stunt, designed to get consumers to buy more comics and to continue buying them by transforming into another event, namely “Dark Reign.” But this one-shot demonstrates that again, some interesting tangents can arise even from a disappointing effort. I have a minor concern that this one-shot simply reprints material from the various new titles it’s promoting, but I’ve been led to believe that’s not the case, that these short stories are original, designed specifically for this special. Now, given that this is clearly a promotional effort, I’m surprised Marvel didn’t offer it at a friendlier price point. However, the page count and quality of the storytelling won’t leave you feeling that you didn’t get your money’s worth.
“Secret Warriors: Declaration” – by Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli
Of all the new titles previewed in New Nation, this was the one to which I was most looking forward. The reason: Jonathan Hickman. He’s proven himself as someone who writes intelligent, innovative and entertaining stories with such titles as The Nightly News, Pax Romana and Transhuman. I couldn’t hear his voice in this Nick Fury/Secret Warriors story. Of course, it’s Bendis who set the stage for this premise and introduced most of the characters in Mighty Avengers. Mind you, that was one of the stronger Secret Invasion tie-ins, and this sneak peek seems to indicate that it will be the Nick Fury Show. Bendis has re-invigorated the character in recent years, bringing a darker, more intense and mysterious air that’s in keeping with him as the ultimate spy. Sergio Caselli’s art tells the story clearly, though it’s not as moody as what’s called for here; colorist Daniele Rudoni brings a somewhat sullen atmosphere that makes up for the lack of noir. I also appreciated the fact that Caselli’s interpretation of Nick Fury as tough but ever-so-slightly out of shape given his age.
“Agents of Atlas: The Heist” – by Jeff Parker, Carlo Pagulayan & Jason Paz
It’s about time Marvel got around to launching an Agents of Atlas ongoing series. Jeff Parker’s previous forays into this unusual lineup of heroes were highly acclaimed and justifiably so. I’m a little disappointed that the new direction for the team will be linked to the “Dark Reign” brand, but Parker’s plot here makes it work. This teaser/promo story is a bit inaccessible. Those who haven’t read the Agents of Atlas limited series will probably be a bit lost here, but the plotting and dialogue are clever and fun. I loved Leonard Kirk’s work on the previous AoA title, but Pagulayan’s work here is strong, conveying the characters’ power and personalities quite well.
“War Machine: Crossing the Line” – by Greg Pak & Leonardo Manco
This new series was teed up in a recent three-issue run of Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., although it was presented by a completely different creative team. I enjoyed that War Machine arc, so I was already interested in this new title. My interest grew when Greg (World War Hulk) Pak was announced as the writer. He explores the world of Marvel’s metahumans from a soldier’s perspective. It’s a harsher look at super-heroes, and there’s potential in the dark premise. Given the nastier tone of this new take on War Machine, Leonardo Manco’s gritty, dark, pseudo-realistic style suits the subject matter quite well. The sleek, high-tech look some might expect from Iron Man-related comics isn’t really there anymore, but this is such a contrast to most of Marvel’s output, Pak and Manco have definitely grabbed my interest.
“Skrull Kill Krew: Breakfast in America” – by Adam Felber, Paulo Siqueira & Amilton Santos
Given the ending of Secret Invasion, I’m left wondering what the point is of setting up a new Skrull Kill Krew title now. Bringing these characters back in the middle of the Skrull invasion event (in Avengers: The Initiative) made a lot of sense, but now, I’m completely disinterested. The biggest obstacle the property faces is just how unlikable the characters are. Ryder is nothing more than a badass with impossible “gun” powers, and there’s no indication here that Felber’s going to add any more depth to the character to offer something unconventional and challenging in the way of plotting. It’s clear the writer intends this as comedy, but I just wasn’t feeling the humor. Siqueira’s art is detailed, clear and capable, and he clearly tries to instill a more irreverent tone to go along with the goofier side of the storytelling.
“New Avengers: The Reunion: Suspicion” – Jim McCann, David Lopez & Alvaro Lopez
This final segment is a setup for the new Ronin & Mockingbird title. While I think Mockingbird’s resurrection was one of the more ludicrous and unnecessary plot points of Secret Invasion #8, I have to give McCann credit for exploring an unexpected and interesting angle in this story. Both heroes are back from the dead, albeit in different ways, and the writer wisely realizes this would be traumatic, both for each character personally and to their marriage. Mind you, any kind of resonance relies on the reader’s knowledge of their background, including Mockingbird’s little-known history as a secret super-spy. There’s potential here for sure, though I’m not completely sold on the concept yet. David Lopez’s art is attractive and it conveys the kind of mature atmosphere of intrigue for which the script strives, though Rudoni’s colors are a bit too bright. 7/10