The launch of All-New, All-Different Marvel is in full swing (as Secret Wars has finally accepted it will not conclude until 2016) with plenty of new #1’s from the House of Ideas dropping every Wednesday. This week there are seven new series featuring a wide variety of talent, characters, and styles. We’re taking a look a few of the most exciting debuts to help you decide what’s worth checking out and possibly save some extra strain on your wallet.
Squadron Supreme #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Leonard Kirk and Paul Neary
Colors by Frank Martin
Squadron Supreme focuses on an interesting, if somewhat played out, concept. What if the most powerful heroes on Earth decided to do exactly what they felt was best for the planet, regardless of public opinion (or basic morality)? It’s something that has been explored at Marvel multiple times in series like The Ultimates and original Squadron Supreme maxi-series, but here James Robinson and Leonard Kirk bring it to the core Marvel Universe instead of an alternate reality. The result is something that certainly changes the status quo in the first issue alone, even if there’s nothing special about that issue.
This issue definitely reads like a James Robinson comic with characters laying out exactly what they think and how they feel in big language. It is restrained enough here that it appeals to a Silver Age charm of high concept superhero comics, rather than becoming tedious. He’s also happy to pull back when the big set piece of this issue is rolled out. It’s written to be a devastating scene, one that makes it very clear that while the Squadron Supreme may be protagonists, they are not heroes. His engagement with the premise and ugliness of these characters is promising enough in Squadron Supreme #1 that it will be intriguing to see how he continues to handle them.
Unfortunately, both characters and big action set pieces fail to live up to any potential found within the script. Leonard Kirk’s pencils appear inconsistent with Paul Neary providing varying levels of detail and refinement between individual scenes and pages. Much of the enormous battle falls flat, as neither the movement nor scale of what is occurring is realized. Even the composition of a few key moments fails to land with a big (previously spoiled) death rolling across the finish line, rather than racing. It’s a disappointing display of a comic that has, if nothing else, potential.
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Mike Del Mundo
Colors by Mike Del Mundo with Marco D’Alfonso
If it wasn't the best mini-series to come out of Secret Wars, then Weirdworld is certainly on the shortlist and it's an absolute thrill to see it return as a regular ongoing. While the previous story focused on Arkon's journey, this new iteration of Marvel-style sword and sorcery adventures focuses on a new character: Becca. She's a classic fish out of water, finding herself in a land filled with monsters after her plane to Guadalajara crashes somewhere beyond Earth. Yet watching her sprint headlong into this new realm is every bit as exciting as the series that preceded it.
That sense of propulsion is formed in Mike Del Mundo's stunning artwork. He is a perfect match for both the tone and style of this story. Every monster is exaggeratedly ferocious, every chase is set at a sprint, and every character is lovingly detailed. He is crafting a world in every panel that will make you want to submerge yourself until you have no choice but to come back up for air. He guides readers eyes with ease between each new discovery leaving lovingly designed creatures behind as mere background detail. Del Mundo's color work with Marco D'Alfonso creates the sense of being underwater. The world appears almost dreamlike and the journey through it almost feels like drowning.
Weirdworld #1 would likely have been a rousing success no matter what thanks to Del Mundo's efforts, but Sam Humphries grasps what makes this concept and artist jive, then plays to those strengths. He crafts characters and drama in broad strokes. Every named entity on Weirdworld feels bigger-than-life, including a truly ridiculous barbarian and a version of Morgan Le Fay that feels as seductive and dangerous as any to come before. Even though the dramatic key to Becca lands like a sledgehammer, it fits into the tone of Weirdworld #1 perfectly. If you're looking for grand adventure and beautiful madness, then look no further; this is the comic for you.
Starbrand and Nightmask #1
Written by Greg Weisman
Art by Domo Stanton
Colors by Jordan Boyd
Starbrand and Nightmask #1 asks a troublesome question: Who asked for this? Characters created by Jonathan Hickman and based on Warren Ellis concepts, the pair worked as part of an ensemble in Avengers. However, whatever charm they may have show there is completely lacking in this debut. Framed as a buddy-superhero college drama, writer Greg Weisman paints both the lead characters and their story in the broadest of strokes, complemented by equally bland art. The result is a comic that, while not offensive, is instantly forgettable.
The titular pair are distinguished by the cliches they tumble willingly into in this issue. Starbrand is a shrilly annoying teenager shouting whatever pops into his head and only showing the slightest layer of gravitas when exposition demands it (along with his accidental complicity in the murder of thousands). Night Mask is the opposite, but no more endearing. He is an oddball sidekick who spouts off catchphrases that never even muster a chuckle. If the reason for their existence wasn’t questionable enough, they lack any discernible purpose. Despite mentioning that they are high-level superheroes, they are determined to go to school for… reasons, turning down an Avengers membership that even their floor mate Squirrel Girl (surgically removed of any charm) was able to accept.
At least in Avengers both Starbrand and Night Mask had engaging costume designs, but here they are reduced to the simplest versions of technicolor displays. That simplification applies to body type and facial expressions as well. Rather than emphasizing a cartoonists’ economy of line, Domo Stanton’s work is merely reductive. It results in both action and drama that reads as being entirely unengaging as figures stand and pose instead of moving. Everything about Starbrand and Night Mask #1 feels like the simplification of something better, from costumes to characters to concepts, it’s all a lesser version. While the plot and art may function, it does so in such a way that it is difficult to recall just how it worked even a few minutes after reading.
What did you think of this week's comics? Sound off in the comments below.