Warm weather is finally breaking here in North America, and for comic fans that means the season of the massive summer crossover is upon us. Each year, the Big Two (and increasingly, other publishers) roll out their “event” books, bringing together throngs of heroes and villains for a run at large scale storytelling. Like Hollywood summer blockbusters, the events are splashy, melodramatic, and probably best best enjoyed without too much critical thinking involved. Popcorn comics for a popcorn season.
Marvel and DC both kicked off events this week with the first issues of Original Sin and New 52: Futures End. The two comics are very different animals– Original Sin an eight-issue miniseries and Futures End a year-long run published weekly in 52 installments. The difference in structure and execution makes a direct comparison tricky to measure, but both issues are on stands this week vying for your dollars and commitment, so let’s take a look at which one delivers the most bang for the buck.
The New 52: Futures End #1
Published by: DC Comics
Writers: Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen
Artist: Patrick Zircher
The New 52: Futures End is DC’s latest stab at a weekly series, following past efforts like 52 and the recently launched Batman Eternal. The best feature of the first issue is the art by Patrick Zircher. His pages are solid, with a scratchy quality that I liked for the most part. In some sections the characters seem a bit stilted and their eyes looked dead to me, but with a story that moves all over the place Zircher’s art mostly keeps up with the pace.
Futures End #1 art and story come together best in the pages featuring Grifter. The straightforward narrative is clearer and more engaging than any of the other entries in this issue. There’s a sense of character in the Grifter segment that’s lacking in the remainder of the book. The Batman Beyond segment fell flat and several pages of cosmic Stormwatch action left me more confused than intrigued.
The closing chapter featuring Firestorm came across as very stodgy and failed to grab me at all. Am I really supposed to think “Casual Encounters” Ronny Raymond is cool? The whole “hotshot neglects duty due to being a ladies man” trope seems woefully dated, not to mention that the woman in the situation is treated as entirely disposable. She gets one line and disappears, apparently only existing to serve as Raymond’s afternoon delight. When called out by his Firestorm persona partner Jason (“You don’t even care about her!”), Raymond responds with “I care about having a good time.” Uh, what? I guess the creators are setting up Firestorm at a low point to facilitate his growth and heroic journey over the next year, but man, this dude is grimy. I had a hard time connecting to or caring about this guy.
A 52-part story has a lot of threads to weave, and while some hint of an overall alien threat is apparent in each of the book’s opening vignettes, there’s wasn’t enough substance behind that treat to hook me in or unify what had unfolded throughout the issue. It felt like a bunch of fragments pasted together.
Setting the story “Five Years from Now” may be the crux of Futures End unsatisfying vibe. Casual readers not steeped in New 52 chronology are likely to be confused, and there’s a brisk callousness to the multiple deaths in the first issue that makes it feel like an inconsequential Elseworlds book. Sure, it’s a cheap read at $2.99, but I didn’t get the sense from issue one that there’s much of a satisfying future to be found in the pages of Futures End. I can’t see myself reading another issue of this, let alone 51 more.
My take: Nah.
Original Sin #1
Published by: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Deodato
Who Shot the Watcher? On the surface, it seems like a ridiculous question, but writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato do a darn fine job spinning an intriguing Marvel-style murder mystery out of the premise in Original Sin #1.
The issue opens strong and doesn’t waste any time setting its plot (and subplots) in motion. Even a “superheroes eating dinner” scene, which has become something of a requirement in Marvel comics lately, doesn’t slow things down too much.
Marvel’s big guns are all here– Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Wolverine, Spider Man, and more–but the star of the book is Nick Fury. Not Nick Fury Jr., the horrible attempt by Marvel to reverse engineer Samuel L. Jackson’s movie Nick Fury persona into the mainstream comics, but gloriously old school Nick Fury Prime. Aaron writes Fury perfectly, imbibing him with an energy akin to that of Quint from Jaws. Deodato draws Fury’s flying car with nods to Steranko and Marvel’s Swinging Sixties past.
Deodato’s art is beautiful throughout and carries the weight of a master doing what he does best. While there’s no blockbuster pages suitable for framing, the art looks great, tells the story, and brings a ton of mood to Jason Aaron’s script.
Bolstered by a higher page count (and price tag), Original Sin delivers a far more satisfying event debut issue than Futures End. Futures End is playing a longer game with its weekly publication schedule, but even with that in mind it fails to make the most out of each of its pages. In contrast, Original Sin feels not just longer but more potent. Aaron gives readers strong characterization with each new cast member introduced, from Black Panther to Ant Man, Moon Knight to Emma Frost. A fight scene toward the end of the issue is paint-by-numbers and there’s a lack of a strong central antagonist, but overall the book works.
My take: Yeah!
That’s my read on the start of the summer crossover season. While both offerings from DC and Marvel are interesting, only Original Sin really pulled it off for me. Futures End may have some good stories planned for its remaining 51 issues, but I can’t say the first issue did much to convince me of that. Original Sin clicked with me and I’ll definitely be back for issue two.
Of course, both Marvel and DC could be outdone this summer by upstart publisher Valiant, who drops their first mega-crossover Armor Hunters in early June. Stay tuned…