Marvel Pick Of The Week – November 11, 2015 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week:

Illuminati 1, by Joshua Williamson and Shawn Crystal

I’m not sure how many readers were crying out for an Illuminati title, especially one like this. Long-running comic book publishers like DC and Marvel often extend the life of their intellectual property by using a name they own to cover a book with a very different content. Sometimes it works, like when X-Force stopped being about militant young mutants and got stuck on a team of reality stars. Sometimes Thunderbolts stops telling the story of villains seeking redemption and instead covers some bizarre underground fight club that no one reads. But Illuminati as a concept has been played out in its current incarnation, a group of superheroes meeting in secret to determine the future of the universe – the group featured heavily in the Bendis and Hickman runs on Avengers, but there are only so many ways a member can drop his jaw and tell the men around him that it’s wrong to play God… and then play God. So if there’s going to be an Illuminati title, I like turning it over to a secret group of super villains. That said, teams of bad guys have recently been done very well, most notably with Nick Spencer’s pitch-perfect work on Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, a comedy title about delusional losers with bad luck and no conscience. So if we’re going to have a resurrection of this title, it needs to be something other than a funny villain book.

And Joshua Williamson has made the old standard fresh again. I hadn’t been too familiar with his Marvel work, but he wrote a villain book for Secret Wars called Red Skull, a piece that shocked and scared me, deftly moving morally grim characters into volatile constellations with unpredictable results. What he seems to want to do in this book is recall the fun of the old Tales From The Crypt comics, beginning with a welcoming introduction: “Welcome, criminals, crooks, and evildoers! My name is Parker Robbins, but you may call me The Hood. Within these pages is a tale of crime and horror where you’ll witness that escaping a life of crime is easier said than done!” With this tone, his story about Titania, a recently-paroled super criminal who can’t find a good job and worries that her husband may be unwilling to leave the outlaw life, takes on a delicious element of doom. Scenes that could have been used for humor are read as a woman killing time as something horrible is falling toward her head, and when The Hood reveals himself as having manipulated her into recruitment for his impending heist, the reader is chilled but nods, “Yes, that fits.” The team also includes Thunderball, the android Black Ant, a “new and improved Enchantress,” and some version of the Mad Thinker. They only get one panel of introduction, but I am sure each of them will be the point character for another grim little cautionary tale, and I have faith in this writer to keep me engaged enough to get to know them all.

As much of a joy it is to read Williamson, this book was equally notable for the art of Shawn Crystal. This world is a swirling soup of fluid lines, be those buxom femmes fatales or the curls around a ray gun’s blast. Sound effects are garish and gorgeous, calling to mind the killer work Spider-Gwen is doing to change the way we read Bam! Smack! and Pow! on the page. My favorite panels included Iron Fist flying into a kick, his shadow a green dragon with jaws open and his outstretched leg its tongue. Below that, he summons his chi into his right fist, and the effect is fiery green dragon of light and smoke surrounding a set of finger bones, like Ghost Rider’s head at the end of his silk pajama sleeve. John Rauch’s bright colors take nothing away from the darkness of the book’s content, and the contrast is captivating.

So yes, Marvel has another Illuminati book. And yes, Marvel has another villain book. But no, this is nothing you’ve read before, and I think you’re going to love it, even if you’re not one of the “criminals, crooks, and evildoers” on Parker’s list.

Honorable Mentions:

Spider-Gwen 2, because the joke about “a reptile dysfunction” while fighting The Lizard is pretty darn great, even if Captain America doesn’t think so.

Secret Wars 7, because I kind of like Madelyn Pryor’s over the top Goblin Queen outfit, but I can sympathize with Mr. Sinister being moved to violence against what he considers a crime of fashion. I caution, though, that people who live in glass houses with hideous Limp Bizkit goatees should probably put the stones down…

Squadron Sinister 4, because Warrior Woman is downright lethal with the repartee. “I should have killed you when I had the chance.” “If it makes you feel better, Kyle, you never had that chance.”

Uncanny Avengers 2, because Deadpool isn’t usually all that funny, so when he gets a good joke, I’m going to make note of it.

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Catch up on previous Picks here!