Mike Romo’s Marvel One Shot Round Up!

Ah, the one shot. I don't know about you, but last week I picked up more Marvel one shot books in one haul than I've ever picked up before. Many of them were supporting other ongoing titles, like Shadowland and the "Curse of the Mutants" storyline, but at least one was basically doing its own thing.  Was it Marvel just cleaning out their lineup for the end of the summer? With all the new books coming out, with the profundity of regular, ongoing titles, what were these all about? Well, I figured it was an otherwise light week so I gritted my jaw and decided to pick up a bunch of these books to find out what was what.

The single issue, as we know, can be a tricky beast, but a great single issue is something to cherish. We've talked about the challenges of creating a memorable, compelling 32-page experience before, but usually in the context of a larger series, like Jonah Hex or Paul Dini's run on Detective Comics, both titles which feature single "one and done" stories that keep readers coming back for more.  Most of these issues did what I suppose they were supposed to do: add texture and backstory to another series, to fill out spaces between panels in the main books, or give us a character's recent past to explain why the character showed up in the other book at all, like Shadowland: Elektra.  

In addition to the story-enhancing responsibilities, these books did something else for me, something that I value more than the backstory-filling: they exposed me to some very cool artists. Perhaps that's another aspect of the one-shot; to test out new creators and see how they do in the big leagues (I feel like there are a lot of baseball metaphors that I could be using here, oh well).  So, let's go through a few of these and see what you all think.

Shadowland: Elektra (Story: 3, Art 4) is in the "event supporting" category of one-shot. It features the Shadowland branding and advises the reader that the story takes place before Shadowland #3, which is fine, but I had already read Shadowland #3 and would have appreciated the headsup.  Hey Marvel, I have an idea: if there's an actual order to the damn event books, why don't you let us know in the official checklist?  Because in the checklist, you've got Shadowland up on top of for each month, which implies that you should read the actual event book first and the the supplementary titles after. I know, it's a small thing, but still, if reading the books in order is the better experience, give us some help, you know?  And yes, I get that the order may not matter at some times, that this issue could be a kind of flashback, but this is an ongoing gripe I have about events that have a bunch of other books associated with them, and this seemed like the right time to get it off my chest.

Anyway, Shadowland: Elektra was one of the supplementary books that really didn't move anything forward in terms of plot (probably not supposed to anyway) but neither did it do much in terms of filling out the character's backstory.  We've got Elektra having discussions with Master Izo while she's in a daze during a big fight, with Izo telling her she has to go help Matt Murdock. It is an okay story–we basically flash from fight to conversation to fight to conversation a few times, then, at the end of the fight, she watches Daredevil skewer Bullseye on TV with everyone else (in comics there are tons of stores with TVs turned onto the news so people can keep informed) and realizes, "Hmm, maybe I should go help him, because Matt looks kinda messed up."  Like I said, kind of light on story…but really nice on art, thanks to Emma Rios.  Reminds me a bit of Guillem March's work on Gotham City Sirens, which in turn reminds of me of the old Chinese comics my friends use to read in grade school.  There's a fluidity with the lines that really makes Elektra's hair and outfit come alive, though sometimes the faces look kind of wooden.  It's a nice effect, though, and there a few pages that are really just wonderful to look at.  Overall, the book definitely feels unnecessary–Elektra hallucinating a discussion while she fights is kind of interesting, but doesn't really warrant $4.  The art is worth a look, and for Elektra fans, it's probably something you'll want to make sure you pick up.

My favorite kind of one shot is when there is a nod to an existing storyline or character, but overall, the book is a total standalone, and really has nothing to do with much of anything.  Last week's example of this was Punisher Max: Happy Ending (Story 4, Art 5) written by Peter Milligan with art by Juan Jose Ryp, and this book is a doozy.  It's basically the story of a guy at the beginning of his mid-life crisis, who decides to go to a massage parlor ("Happy Endings") after an argument with his wife, and, not unlike a Hitchcock film, is just the guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting caught up with mobsters, thieves, and, of course, The Punisher.

The book is all told from the point of view of Joseph, our lowly accountant, who ends up getting in the middle of a much larger drama involving a disc with top-secret information on it, mobsters, etc–pretty standard stuff, but, obviously, not for him.  All he wanted to do was get a massage and maybe a little extra something, right?  Instead, within a few pages, he is stuck in the middle of a firefight with The Punisher and bad guys, then rocketed into a pretty exciting car chase, and finally in another firefight with the baddies. Again, not much to get too excited about when you read it here, but the pacing and the storytelling are just top notch, because the art by Ryp is just jaw-droppingly good. Fantastic amount of detail, great character acting…I mean, there's a sequence where the characters are in an alley, right? Well, instead of just drawing a bunch of bricks and a trashcan or two, Ryp covers the wall with detailed graffiti art and then adds a fire escape, basement window, a few dumpsters (also covered with graffiti) just to give the scene that extra realism.  For those of you who loved Geoff Darrow's incredibly detailed work in Hard Boiled, you'll really appreciate the level of care and detail that Ryp puts into every one of these panels. Blood doesn't fly, blood blobs and blobs spash.  Things don't explode, rivulets of flame carry detritus across the sky.  The firefight in the Joseph's office is just awash in broken glass, crumpled up pieces of paper, busted phones and dangling mice. It's incredible.

Yes, Frank Castle shows up a few times, but really, this is Joseph's story. This is a story of a man who was finally alive, "so alive it actually hurts."  I really enjoyed this book and part of me really hopes we see this character come back, though I admit that might cheapen the book a bit.  I don't know. Maybe it's because I get frustrated with my own day job of working in a cube in front of a computer for hours at a time, that I identify with some of Joseph's complaints. Whatever it is, this is the kind of out of the blue one shot that tells a great story, supports another ongoing character (albeit very lightly) and exposes the reader to some great talent. Right on.

X-Men: Smoke and Blood (Story 3, Art 5) is a one shot that serves as a side story that takes place during the ongoing event, in the case, the surprisngly enjoyable "Curse of the Mutants" storyline that's happening in X-Men right now. It's a small story–basically a jailbreak attempt–but it provides us some interesting character moments between a few of the characters, namely Emma Frost and Doctor Nemesis. The trick with this book is that since it is happening mid stride (the Elektra book took place outside of the main Shadowland story, this one happens in the same time period and location), it can't really do much to impact the regular status quo, so is limited to just a few hours during the main story.  That's fine–because this is basically a monster-in-the-attic horror story, with some fine character moments and scenes, courtesy of writer Simon Spurrier. Fun stuff, but made much better with the kinetic art of Gabriel Hernandez Walta, who brings real artistry to the page–these don't look like your normal comic book pages.  From the muted color palette to the stylized, almost blocky character design, this is a real departure from the other books on the shelves, and I loved it. Loved. It.  Great line quality, wonderful use of white, great lettering…I guess, if pressed, I would have to say it reminded me a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz with a dash of Howard Chaykin thrown in and maybe a sprinkling, just a touch, of Ben Templesmith. Unlike other one-shots, this did add some information to the main story–we get an idea of how to cure humans from the vampiric infection, which is obviously pretty important. Still, for me, the art is the reason why this book is worth picking up. I've never seen Walta's work before but I hope he gets his own book soon–he's got some chops.

Finally, Wolverine: Road to Hell (Story 2, Art 3) was the kind of one-shot I just hate.  This had three stories in it (including work by Jason Aaron and Rick Remender), which is why I bought it, but I did not realize it was basically just a bunch of teasers for ongoing books.  Like, you know the teaser before the main credits on a TV show? That was this book, with openings for Wolverine #1, Daken: Dark Wolverine #1 (and X-23 #1), Uncanny X-Force #1, with a 7 page preview of Namor: The First Mutant #1 thrown in.  (7 pages? That's like a third of the book!)  Didn't like it. Didn't feel like these were really complete stories at all, and really didn't get excited about any of the books they were supposed to be getting me excited about.  The only thing I got out of the book was that Leonardo Manco looks like a pretty good artist.  We'll see. Still, I felt like it was a bit of a rip-off for $4.

So, there you go–a little round up of last week's one shots.  I also ended up picking up a bunch of mini-series as well, the one-shot's tricky cousin.  I'll pick up on that thread for next week, since I have a barbecue I've got to get ready for (I'll spare you my experience with cleaning out the insides of a whole chicken…this time).  

Did you guys pick up any of these books? What do you think about one-shots?  Do you like them? I think they can be pretty great (DC's Final Crisis: Requiem comes to mind) but it's clear they can vary wildly.  Still, as a way to get readers to experience up and coming talent, I think they are pretty important.


Mike Romo is an actor in LA who is putting off a lot of writing right now.  Email. Twitter.


  1. Nice roundup, Mike. One quibble tho: While Ryp’s work on Happy Ending was indeed detailed it looked like Darwyn Cooke or Mike Oeming compared to his normal, hyperdetailed fare. Witness the Image book Nancy In Hell, currently on stands. That book is beyond obsessive in its detail. For example, when he draws rope he not only shows the weave, he details little hemp fibers poking out too. It’s INSANE. 

    Smoke and Blood was pretty good, too.  Thanks for bringing these to the iFanboy nation’s attention.

  2. I picked-up Punished MAX: Happy Days only because of Ryp’s name. While I found the story interesting, I was letdown that the character of the series was hardly seen at all. I was just dreaming for a blood-bath consisting of Ryp’s gorgeous detailed art, and Frank Castle.

    If anyone picked it up and want to see what Juan Jose Ryp is really capable of, I highly suggest you pick-up BLACK SUMMER from Avatar.

  3. Thanks for the reviews Mike!

  4. I didn’t pick any of these up the past week. I normally go for the Wolverine one shots just to see other writer’s/artist’s interpretations of the character without worrying about current continuity.  I’m glad I didn’t get Road to Hell because it sounds like the X-Men: Hope one shot. Rember that one? It was the one shot that collected the short back stories out of various X-books (most of which I read in the other books). My favorite one shot I think to this day is the Punisher MAX: X-Mas story by Jason Aaron. It was that comic and his work on the Black Panther S.I. stuff that got me to read Scalped. Great Article Mike! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for a mini-series article. Since you’re a Marvel guy I hope you say something about the Marvel Knights minis that get released.

  5. Jerome Ope

  6. hi guys!

    thanks for the comments–YES, I am gonna talk about those Marvel Knights minis…I was actually really impressed with…well, you’ll see.  Originally, this was going to be a roundup of one shots AND mini’s, but there were just too many.  

    I think the expectations about The Punisher one shot are really compelling–I really liked the fact that Frank was barely in the book, but that’s probably because I was enjoying Joseph’s predicament so much. But if I were a hardcore Punisher fan? Yeah–that would be way irritating, I see your point. 


    @Rob–wow, he gets more detailed?  Thanks for the suggestion–I had never heard of this guy before.

    @mikeandzod – that’s interesting that Manco will not be on the book…but with Opena on it..iiiiiiiiiinteresting.


    thanks for reading guys.  have a good week!

  7. I think not having the Punisher in the MAX one-shots work. For me at least, I can see why an UBER fan would hate it. But the last couple of one-shots, like this one and Butterfly have been really well done. Partly because Marvel is using other creators to do them and not the people actually working on Punisher at the moment.

    @mike: Have you read anything else with Ryp’s artwork? Cause you’re right, there is an insane level of detail in his work. Also, for Happy Ending he was really (sorta) censored then he usual is. That guy who got hit in the truck in this story, if it was Avatar or anywhere else, would’ve had his spine ripped out in gory detail. 

  8. I also read Shadowland #3 before the Elektra one shot and I agree. A small thing but still irritating. Some sort of order would be nice.