Wednesday, 17 October 2012
On "Marvel Now! Point One" (1 of 2)
In which the blogger ponders the storytelling that's been put to use on the opening page of each of Point One's six features. Spoilers lurk here-in, so do be careful;
1. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., by Nick Spencer, Luke Ross et al
In what's an inexplicably soporific opening to Point One's framing tale, Spencer and Ross give every sense of being determined to try the patience of anyone but the most committed of fans. There's quite literally nothing that's visually or emotionally compelling about the page. Who could possibly be enthralled by a single frame in which almost a hundred charmless words are used to describe a time traveller's economic crimes? What is there to be snared on in the four somnolent panels in which three characters wander down barely-illuminated corridors while spouting an intimidatingly dense mass of exposition. It's not that the symbolism of their bromidic journey isn't relevant or obvious; at least some of the hidden secrets of the Marvel Now! project are going to be uncovered. But it's a dull, dry, overloaded beginning not just to this particular story, but to the collection as a whole. With 52 words in the first panel alone, and a clear commitment to telling at considerable length rather than showing, it seems no-one involved with Nick Fury: NYSE was thinking about reaching beyond the fannish consumer. When the most impressive aspect of a comic's first side is the contrast behind the shade of green used for the window in the final frame and the stultifyingly narrow pallet of purple applied elsewhere, it's hard to feel any measure of optimism for what's to come.
2. Starlord, by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven et al
There's not a great deal that's said on the opening side of Starlord: Guardians Of The Galaxy, but that doesn't mean that Bendis and McNiven haven't effectively delivered a considerable degree of information and feeling. McNiven's evocation of an autumnal, rural, storm-threatened Wisconsin in the late-afternoon is beautifully judged. There's a nostalgic wistfulness to the page that's matched to a sense of an approaching ill-fate, with the sanctuary offered by Peter Quill's home counterpointed with the vulnerability suggested by its isolation. The low, looming clouds, the leaves caught on the wind, the shadows which mass under the trees and obscure the returning young boy's features; from the off, we know that things really aren't right here. Yet there's nothing of a comics-Gothic obviousness on display, and that's all to the good. For along with the sense that disaster's looming, we're also allowed to glimpse just how precious the Quill household has been. In that, it's not simply a killing ground.
There's an equally impressive sense of purpose and economy in the way in which the young Starlord's relationship with his mother is swiftly sketched out. Avoiding the most obvious strategy, Bendis and McNiven conspire not to show anything of the physical consequences of the fight that Peter Quill's just been in. In doing so, they sacrifice the chance to establish an immediate sympathy with the lad for the opportunity to show how perceptive his mother is. We can't see anything that's wrong with him, but she immediately can. Peter's loneliness, his principles and his willingness to suffer for them; they're all established here without the need for detailed explanation, narration or flashbacks. As technically impressive as it's informing and moving, Bendis and McNiven's opening page even ends on a quietly intriguing page-turner, with the shadows established in the second panel now being home to a string of mysterious lights. As such, it's a fine example of a creative team paying attention to the class 101 basics every bit as much as displaying the subtleties of their craft.
3. Nova, by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness et al
As their recent collaboration on the woeful Avengers: X-Sanction might lead us to expect, Loeb and McGuinness manage to combine action and spectacle with carelessness and complacency on the first page of Nova: Diamondhead. At least Loeb's exposition is delivered in a way which offers the compensation of movement and novelty. Yet it can hardly be said that a great deal of thought's been invested in the plot. With nothing being expressed in the word-balloons beyond a tiny degree of back-story and one-note youthful exuberance, a great deal of responsibility for the reader's entertainment has been devolved on the shoulders of McGuinness. Sadly, the artist's responded by offering a sequence of effort-sidestepping cliches. Everything that we see beyond the rather charming sight of the new Nova flying upside down and at speed in the first frame is entirely hackneyed, and suggests an artist working to a fantastically demanding deadline while reliant upon a tiny number of tourist's postcards for reference. Would we know that's New York City in the first frame if the text didn't tell us? Could there a more stereotypical representation of Monument Valley than the one in the last? With little of character or invention on show, it's hard to care.
If McGuinness' art have been just a touch less obvious and a measure more interesting, the implausibilities in the third panel might have proved less distracting. Why is it that the folks in "Littleton, Kansas" are so disconnected from life in the Marvel Universe that they can't believe in a "flying man". How did they even know that the luminous, incredibly-fast moving light-effect that's Nova is human in the first place? Indeed, what does that dialogue offer to the story at all in the first place? (*1) What would be lost if it wasn't there? As such, the one truly remarkable aspect of this page emerges. With so little information having been offered up, Loeb and McGuinness still manage to confuse.
File under slumming.
*1 - Jeremy Spitzberg in the comments below points out that the panel is presenting us with Pa Kent and His boy Clark, Littleton being Smallville and so on. My reply to him sums up my feelings on the matter.
to be concluded;