I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.
I read 8 comics last week: Secret Wars #4, Darth Vader #7, Princess Leia #5, Detective Comics #42, Action Comics #42, A-Force #2, Amazing Spider-Man #19.1 and Ultimate End #3.
I am a DC Comics guy primarily. I have said that many times in weekly “Best Sequential” post. I anticipated with some dismay the big spring/summer crossover events from the “big two” comic book companies. Their premises seemed so similar that it was silly. Both featured patchwork worlds. Both touted significant changes to their respective comic universes. Both revisited past story lines and periods in the publishers’ histories.
When this spring came around, I knew I would read DC Comics’ Convergence and I knew I would read Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars. I was hopeful I would love one. Convergence. I should have paid attention to the creative teams. DC’s Convergence was written by someone I’d never really heard of in tv writer Tim King. Marvel’s is written by Jonathan Hickman, an author I’ve been reading – continuously – for years. And Esad Ribic’s art on the Marvel title blows away almost everything being published today. It annihilates what Carlo Pagulayan was able to do for Convergence. Not that Pagulayan’s art was poor – it was good. But Ribic’s is great. Smooth and crisp, Ribic is delivering the so-called “wide-screen” action as well as the character moments. Hickman’s script calls for both and Ribic is more than capably delivering. He’s the kind of artist I want to follow from title-to-title.
As Secret Wars #4 clearly demonstrates, the backbone of Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel Universe is and always will be Reed Richards. This makes me nervous because Hickman is set to take a break from writing Marvel Comics when Secret Wars concludes. Does this mean Reed Richards is on his way out, too? Regardless, I’ll enjoy the ride for now. Hickman seems to love Mr. Fantastic and he certainly knows what to do with him. Though this is the first issue of the mini-series that Reed has figured in as an active participant in events, his presence has been woven throughout the title. This should come as no surprise, When your main character up to this point has been Victor Von Doom, can Reed really be far behind? As it turns out, no.
I’ve loved this book and I’ve truly appreciated the fact that Hickman, it appears to me, has toned down some of his world-building, science fiction concepts (concepts that have, sometimes, been beyond me – no fault of Hickman’s – I’m just not that bright as it turns out) in favor of a more straightforward but no less engaging story. He’s balancing the fate of the universe on the head of Dr. Doom’s pin and putting the heroes (and villains) in place to tip that fate. We know that the Marvel Universe will change as a result of Secret Wars and the change will be more significant than Spider-Man wearing a black costume. What is most impressive about this series is that it gives reason for the change. The changes that will result will make some sense from a story-telling perspective.
That’s something Convergence didn’t come close to delivering.
Secret Wars is going to fulfill this promise… and then some.
Hickman and Ribic are giving comic book fans the best superhero series of the summer and I cannot wait to see what happens next.