Join me as I delve into a bunch of first issues: Analog, Avengers:Shards of Infinity, Venomized and Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander.
by Gerry Duggan & David O’Sullivan
As I began to read this comic book and learned of the premise that everyone’s secrets leaked out of the Cloud in the years before the main plot, I was immediately reminded of The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, but the further I delved into this inaugural issue, the more the story differentiated itself. The story — which focuses on a former spy who works in a near-future as a courier of non-digital information in an age of no online security — is at its strongest in its flashback scene, set in 2018. Essentially, Duggan writes that a the CEO of a Facebook-like entity ends up devastating any kind of privacy in the world, and he’s portrayed as a true villain. The timing of Facebook’s complicity in the Cambridge Analytica scandal couldn’t have been better for this comic book. The plot is incredibly relevant, but it actually reads like a private-eye genre story, with some slight science-fiction adornments. The attitudes of Jack McGinnis and the character he travels to meet toward the end of the issue are gruff but a lot of fun. There’s a blue-collar quality to the protagonist that hides a sharp intellect.
David O’Sullivan’s art reminded me a great deal of the style of Cameron Stewart, specifically from his stint years ago on Catwoman, when detective “Slam” Bradley was a key member of her supporting cast. It’s also comparable to the clean, simple linework and designs we saw from artist Tonci Zonjic in Who Is Jake Ellis? and Where Is Jake Ellis?, though there’s a grittier quality at play here that conveys how devastating the failure of online security has been to society. 7/10
by Ralph Macchio & Andrea Di Vito
This one-shot would appear to be designed to capitalize on the anticipated release later this month of the Avengers: Infinity War movie, but the connection is only to be found in the titular team and the misleading inclusion of “Infinity” in the title. There’s no Infinity Stone here, but rather shards of the Cosmic Cube. Sure the cube-shaped Tesseract in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an Infinity Stone, but the Cosmic Cube in comic-book continuity isn’t. It’s little more than a plot device/power source for some generic terrorist villains. Why Hydra wasn’t used as the enemy instead of the new and inexplicably well-armed L.U.N.A.R., I don’t know. Now, Ralph Macchio was once as synonymous with Marvel lore as Chris Claremont, Mark Gruenwald and Brian Michael Bendis, but those days are pretty far behind us now. Given the simplistic, awkward and redundant qualities of the dialogue, I have to think this is a script that’s been lying around in a drawer somewhere in the Marvel offices. The only audience I can see connecting with this incredibly basic level of super-hero genre writing would be very young readers.
Andrea Di Vito’s artwork is unremarkable here, but given the uninspired quality of the script, I’m not surprised the art feels a little flat as well. I like Di Vito’s traditional style, but the bland designs of the villains and setting don’t offer much in the way of dynamic visuals. Everything about this comic book screams that it’s forgettable, and it appears to take place out of continuity. I wonder if we’re not going to see a free giveaway version of this comic in theatres in coming weeks — which would be unfortunate, as the publisher and creators here are capable of far more engaging and exciting storytelling. 3/10
by Cullen Bunn & Iban Coello
With the impending release of a Venom movie later this year, it makes sense that Marvel Entertainment is working to get a lot of material featuring the character into the marketplace. Given the horror-leanings of the character concept, there’s some real potential to connect with a wider audience, but it won’t be with an event book such as this. While the notion of the diverse super-hero characters of the Marvel Universe being infected with Venom-like symbiotes from an other-dimensional invading force may seem like a cool concept, its superficial appeal is pretty fleeting. But the real problem with this opening chapter of Venomized is that it doesn’t read like the beginning of a story at all. This just appears to continue the events of Venomverse and some sort of Venom/young X-Men team-up story. While some background information is provided on the credits page and later in the script for this issue, I was completely at a loss to figure out what the hell was going on. And that the heroes remain on the side of good after being infected seemed an odd choice.
Iban Coello’s exaggerated style suits the Venom-infected designs of the various characters pretty well, but his art seems ever changing as well. It seems like he’s emulating the styles of various artists, and things looks different from scene to scene. Had you told me this comic had been crafted by a quartet or quintet of artists, I would have had no trouble in accepting it. Despite the fluid nature of the style here, overall, there’s an inherently Kewl, 1990s vibe that’s in keeping with the height of Venom’s popularity from a quarter century ago (Jesus, 25 years!). 4/10
by Frank Miller
I was impressed and entertained by Miller’s 300 series years ago, and given the success of Zack Snyder’s big-screen adaptation of that book, I’m not surprised the writer/artist has crafted a sequel. That he waited this long to deliver it, though, is surprising, as it doesn’t really capitalize of the popularity of 300 or even Miller’s brief high profile in the entertainment world outside of comics. Nevertheless, I was curious about this Xerxes comic, but as I read this first issue, I was taken aback — mainly because it’s not a Xerxes, at least not yet. We’re presented with more battles between Greeks (Athenians) and Persians, but Xerxes isn’t even mentioned. Miller is obviously building up some history, but it seems like we ought to do so a little more quickly. You’d think a comic would at least reference the title character in its first issue. This comic pales in comparison to 300, mainly because it lacks the characterization and quieter interactions. Only two of the Greek characters are explored, and all we know of those two is that one relishes the use of unusual and brutal edged weapons and the other doesn’t like wearing his helmet. I was hoping to see something of greater substance here, instead of just more Miller-trademark violence.
Miller’s art, presented horizontally, stands apart from typical industry fare, but when one compares it to his past efforts, it’s not quite the same. The level of detail and polish seems to have faded a bit. To be fair, Miller’s usual style is still quite evident, but it’s clear age is wearing on the master’s skills. The lettering, clearly aiming to convey a historical, classic look, can be a little hard to read at times as well. Perhaps what surprised me most about this project is how it wasn’t published as a single graphic novel. Given Miller’s profile and the cultural penetration of 300, Xerxes could have easily done well if released as a single volume from the start. 6/10