Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on a diverse array of comics, from name-brand cape titles to creator-owned books to webcomics.
Taking the Tie-In Temperature of Original Sin
In a special two-book review, Joe Stando takes a look at how two Marvel titles out this week affected by Original Sin fare because of (or despite of) their status as crossover tie-in books.
Mighty Avengers #10
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Greg Land (pencils), Jay Lesten (Inks), and Frank D’Armata (colors)
Lettered by Cory Petit
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Lenil Francis Yu (pencils), Gerry Alangulian (inks), and Sunny Gho (colors)
Lettered by Cory Petit
Original Sin is a couple issues in and getting to the meat of the story, so it’s time for the tie-in issues to begin. It’s interesting looking at the angles this week’s two Avengers books take, because right now Original Sin is still an event more about tones and themes than actual high concept gimmicks. It’s not like Spider-Island or Secret Invasion where it’s easy to throw Skrulls or Spider-guys into the mix. The key to Original Sin thus far, in addition to the Watcher’s murder and stolen eyes, is the mystery and paranoia, which helps to inform these tie-ins.
Mighty Avengers goes a pretty classic, traditional route. Ewing summarizes the miniseries thus far in a way that lets you follow without reading it, and then lets the characters react in organic, natural ways. It gives him a chance to explore a little more of Blue Marvel’s backstory, and shows some personal fallout with the Watcher’s widow that an eight-issue limited run can’t spare the time for. Some of the other characters interact more directly with the Original Sin arc, rounding up villains between the events of OS #1 and #2. There’s even a nice callback to Spectrum’s time on Nextwave. And still other characters are wrapped up in their own plots, the ones the book has been building since before this even. One of the greatest strengths of Mighty Avengers is how it juggles such a large, diverse cast, and its handling of the tie-in plays to that strength. I expect we’ll see more crossover involvement here too, since both Luke Cage and Falcon are players in the main OS book. Not every character will deal with it, and I doubt the Watcher’s killer will be apprehended in these pages, but it’s a great way to focus on characters important enough to be included in the main book but not to be featured as the stars.
Avengers, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach: despite the cover and solicit, it barely discusses Original Sin at all. Instead, it follows the ongoing plot of Hickman’s Avengers book, with this issue dealing with them flung into the future and being pretty pissed off at one another. What listing it as an Original Sin tie-in does do, however, is keep that story in the back of the reader’s mind, and thus raises the stakes here. Not only do we have the tension between Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the team, but we’re also reminded of the paranoia and the danger of that other story. It’s unclear how or even if this arc will deal directly with the Original Sin story (my money’s on no, at least for now), but the key to a shared universe is that characters matter. What happens here will inform how the Avengers act in Original Sin, and vice versa. It reminds me of Disassembled, where the tie-ins dealt with impossible challenges the heroes faced that were thematically similar to the main event.
For my money, this is the ideal way to do a tie-in. Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man was one of my favorites of all time, but I didn’t like having to buy every event title it tied into in order to keep up with all the related plot threads. A ton of books at the Big Two have been smothered in their cribs by demands for tie-ins and crossovers before they could get their footing. Tying the book to an event thematically rather than directly lets the book stand on its own, while building on the event.
I’m enjoying Original Sin, but I’m not so invested in it that I’m going to go out of my way to hunt down every book that has that header this summer. Still, when it pops up in the books I already read, I have high hopes, and both Avengers and Mighty Avengers had great issues this week.
Sam Paxton is reading…
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Lettered by Fonografiks
“I made it to the toilet. I am a professional.”
The newest comic from the twisted mind of Warren Ellis is an alien invasion story without the aliens. Set 10 years after mysterious, monolithic ships touched down on Earth, Trees is an examination of how knowledge of extraterrestrial life could alter the course of history. The twist is that the alien ships have never actually done anything since landing; no aliens have come out, or attempted to contact humans, or made any acts of aggression towards them. The “Trees”, as they’re dubbed, are just sort of…there. And as with any sort of spectacular event, they’ve become sort of commonplace. Life goes on.
But all is not well in the shade of the Trees. As in many science fiction stories, it seems like humanity was just waiting for an excuse to slip into anarchy or a police state. Cities have been walled off to preserve cultural centers, and in some places police and military forces have gone rogue and operate as gangs. It’s bleak stuff, but some inklings of hope remain. The first issue does some heavy lifting as it builds the world, so not too much happens in the way of plot, but the reader is introduced to several potential plot threads: a democratic candidate running for Mayor of New York City, a young artist who has moved to a “special cultural zone” from a small village, and a group of arctic researchers stationed near a polar Tree who discover a mysterious flower growing at the base. Over all of this hangs the unspoken mystery of who, or what, is inside the Trees, and why they came to Earth.
Aesthetically, Trees is a nice looking comic book. Jason Howard’s art style is detailed and expressive, packing a lot of action and character into each panel without feeling cluttered. The washed-out, almost dusty color palette fits well with the run-down cities and landscapes. Overall, the first issue is worth a read, even if it’s a little anemic in terms of plot. Knowing Ellis, subsequent installments will incorporate more political satire and social commentary. As it is now, though, Trees sets up a compelling and narratively rich universe that will undoubtedly flourish in time.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Bravest Warriors #20
Written by Jason Johnson and Breehn Burns
Art by Mike Holmes
“We are the Bravest Warriors! And we’re here to change your lives forever!”
Bravest Warriors #20 concludes the guest arc by show writers Johnson and Burns, an extended “lost episode” of the animated show’s second season. The multi-issue format gives the story much more room to breathe than the show’s usual 5+ minute running time, but it’s still an immensely complex science fiction story, featuring Eldritch monsters from another dimension, parental betrayal, nonlinear timeframes, questions of free will versus predestination, and teenagers with too many feelings. Oh, and little aliens in Bill Cosby sweaters. Can’t forget those.
Unsurprisingly, since Johnson and Burns work on the animated series, they skillfully capture the characters’ voices and wade knee-deep into the show’s increasingly dense mythology. The issue also takes a step forward with Chris and Beth’s relationship — Beth, who had been raised by her scientist father to feel no emotions, confesses her feelings to Chris, while Chris, who is destined to become an immortal Emotion Lord, struggles to suppress his own feelings. (“Oh, the FEELS!” as the kids on Tumblr say.) Artist Mike Holmes is great at illustrating all the sci-fi shenanigans and colorful aliens, and hits all the right comedic and emotional beats as well. I’m sorry to see this arc end, but I’m looking forward to what the new creative team of Kate Leth and Ian McGinty have in their weapons arsenal.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Clive Barker and Mark Andreyko
Art by Pitor Kowalski
“You think you are alone?”
In 1990, Nightbreed seemed like a herald of a new kind of superhero movie. Though it didn’t actually feature superheroes, and wasn’t based on any comics (though it was heavily advertised in them), it was based around a group of outcasts, each with special gifts and curses that placed them separate, elevated, from normal people. It was basically the X-Men, but with monsters, and it was pretty cool. So of course it sank like a stone, and though it had a cult following and a brief comic series, it was mostly forgotten until now, with this new comic series launching from Boom!
Sadly, that comic isn’t very good. Its biggest problem is that it suffers from serious pacing issues. The first issue starts in 1857 Louisiana, and begins setting up the origin of two of the characters from the movie (Peloquin and Shuna Sassi) and just where it seems to want to start some narrative movement, it ends. I realize that it’s being paced for the inevitable collection, but I’m a guy who loved the movie and I just can’t care about anything that is happening here. We have the parallel stories of an escaped slave who is attacked and later rescued by Peloquin (basically Nightbreed’s Wolverine). Meanwhile, a Senator goes to a whorehouse to visit a very special lady, after they spend like ten pages of him walking through doors and talking about how special she is so you know she’s special.
This comic isn’t bad, it’s just incredibly average. The art by Pitor Kowalski is unspectacular, but perfectly serviceable; meanwhile the coloring is not good at all. It’s as if they were provided a very limited set of colors with very little shading between. (Our review copy featured no credits at all, so I don’t know who did the colors.) The writing, again, is serviceable, but spends way too much time telling instead of showing, like this was meant to be a prose project but was flipped to comics late in the game. I can’t imagine why anyone would think someone new to the property would read this and be interested in looking any further into it. What a shame; the movie deserves better than this weak follow-up.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!