Pick of the Week
What did the
- Pick of the Week - 05.22.2013 - Daredevil #26
- Pick of the Week - 05.15.2013 - Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher #1
- Pick of the Week - 05.08.2013 - Thor: God of Thunder #8
- Pick of the Week - 05.01.2013 - Animal Man #20
- Pick of the Week - 04.24.2013 - Uncanny Avengers #7
Artist: Alex Maleev
Size: 40 pages
Tuesday, July 6th was the day the insanity started. Coming out of a nice long 3 day weekend, the comics world woke up on July 6th, looked around and decided that now was a good time to go crazy. A type of crazy that will last, oh about 3 weeks, right until July 26th, the day after the San Diego Comic-Con ends. It's not like we've had our own personal challenges and dilemmas here at iFanboy HQ this week, but even beyond that, the insanity of the upcoming super bowl of cons is enough to make a grown man cry. But what's this? Comics ship on Thursday this week in the US, thanks to the holiday, thus throwing off my finely tuned schedule for the week? And what else? Oh, I bought over 20 comics this week, including 9 number one issues, with most of those being by A-List creators? I should never have gotten out of bed on Tuesday.
No! I take that back, these are the times of our lives! As comics professionals and media alike gear up to take the world stage for a week in San Diego later this month, these are the times to be alive! And what better than way to celebrate that with a stack of comics so high, I wasn't sure I'd be able to read them all. And yet, here at the end of the day on Thursday, July 8th, I've survived what can only be described as round 1, and came out with a very happy surprise pick for the pick of the week, Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.
It's no secret that here at iFanboy, we're pro-Bendis, and I, specifically, am a huge fan of his work. He defined himself in the 1990s as one of the hardest working creators in comics, and he has completely dominated at Marvel in the 2000s, leading the company creatively on his many successful, best selling books. As I sat with my stack of books, I realized that it has been nearly 10 years since Bendis has released any "new" creator owned or "indie" work. Once Powers launched, it's plodded along over the years, and perhaps Alias was as close to indie as he could get at Marvel, but it was still not creator-owned. So after 10 years, he's back to a character of his own creation, along with his art partner from that epic run on Daredevil, Alex Maleev.
As I sat with this comic, preparing to read it, I couldn't help but remember how I felt back in 2005 when one of my favorite all time musicians was back with a new record after about 8 years of not releasing any new albums or new material. I was worried sick. Would it suck? Did he still have that magic that caused me to become as big of a fan as I am? All that anxiety that ran through my hear before I heard the first song was replicated today. Was the Bendis of the 1990s still in there? Or would this be more characters in costume sitting around a table talking? Further, while I loved Alex Maleev's work on Daredevil, I was immensely disappointed by Spider-Woman, which felt stiff, uninspired and way overboard on the photo reference. All of this worry and bother for a silly little comic book.
I finally got the courage to open it up and read it. I took my time, taking in each page, discovering the world and paradigm that Bendis was creating. Analyzing every panel, every word balloon, every aspect of the book. I think I took about the longest I've taken in a while just to read a comic. And when I finished, I exhaled and without thinking, I read it again. I don't know why I read it again. Maybe because it was good, or maybe because I was in disbelief as to what I had just read. But whatever it was, it got me.
Scarlet #1 opens up with a violent scene of a red-headed girl taking down a cop. It's shocking and leaves you confused. And then the fourth wall gets broken and she begins to address the reader, telling her tale. This issue works purely as an origin/scene setting issue. We find out who she is and how she got this way. No cliff-hanger, no sense of what's to come. Just an introduction to this person and the world she inhabits. What amazed me about this issue was that Bendis, who has made it no secret how much of a movie and TV buff he is, was able to create a story and execute it in a way that made it feel like a cross between a really good indie movie and TV Show. This felt like the first episode of a really edgy TV show created by a great indie film director.
Now, I'm guessing many people will have a problem with the fourth wall breaking narrative structure, but for me, it worked. By working with letterer extraordinaire, Chris Eliopoulos, they were able to, with a subtle tweak of the word balloons, make it clear when she was talking to the reader and when it was dialogue amongst characters. That elegant squaring off of the word balloon instantly was a device to help me the reader understand what was going on. In addition to an amazing 3 page sequence of snapshots of Scarlet's life, combined with edgy, dynamic typography to give us a glimpse into the live she's led thus far. It was a 3 page sequence that, while so simple, just absolutely knocked my socks off.
And what of the art? Was Maleev's art more Daredevil or more Spider-Woman. Well, if there was any knock against the book, it would be the fact that we didn't get just one consistent direction of art. There were pages and panels in this issue that completely blew me away and made me remember why I loved Maleev on Daredevil. And yet there were pages and panels that made me cringe a little, as the photo-reference style went a little too far in my opinion. There were moments where I looked at the art and wondered if this was just straight up Fumetti? But it was on that second read that I really focused and evaluated the art, knowing that many of you would freak out on me for picking a book as the pick of the week with art that I didn't like, and I saw that for the most part, I dig what Maleev is doing. Some of the layouts, composition of characters and storytelling techniques show that Maleev can make amazing art. Especially some of the full page and double page spreads. And ultimately, that Fumetti feel helped to instill that feeling of an indie film that the book gave me. So while I'm a little cringey at points, ultimately the art stands on its own as something to absorb and digest for enjoyment.
What I like most about Scarlet #1, and what I expect from many indie comics, is that it challenges me as the reader. It challenges me with the story and its confusing setting and events mixed hyperactive action. It challenges me with the art, pushing my sensibility of what's "good" and what's "bad" and most of all, it challenges me with a type of book and promise of stories that I have never read before. Scarlet #1 is as close to a great indie film as a single comic book issue can come, with all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making it laid out on the page.
My hat's off to you Brian Michael Bendis, for showing me that 10 years of Spider-Man and the Avengers and all the rest hadn't shaken that hungry indie creator out of you and I look forward to the story that you and Maleev will be giving us with this future of this book and I pray it stays on schedule. It's nice to have this type of book back in my stack and I can't wait to see where it goes.
I didn't know Josh was freelance writing in Portland?