This week in Comic Book Scattershot we look at new releases from Image Comics and the return of a comic legend.
Deadly Class #1
There are just few people on my list of comic creators from whom I’ll check out anything they do. Rick Remender is one of those few.
“Deadly Class,” his second new Image book in two months (the first being the sci-fi epic “Black Science”) is another wild departure from his usual cornerstones of work.
“Deadly Class” focuses on Marcus, whose parents died when he was young. He’d bounced from foster homes to boarding houses, only to wind up a teenage vagabond living on the streets of San Francisco in 1987. The first issue starts in January and takes the reader through a year with Marcus dealing with hunger, the cold, other indigents and a strange paranoia that someone was watching him.
At a Day of the Dead festival, he’s attacked by men with guns and walkie-talkies, but is saved by a group of mysterious teens. After being led to to safety, he’s taken to their leader and teacher Master Lin who ask him to join their school, Kings dominion School of Deadly Arts, a school for hit men and assassins in training. Lin sees something important in him and the issue ends with Marcus joining the fold.
I’m kind of amazed by Rick Remender as a writer. The guy has been the most consistent writer on the block and Deadly Class has some promise. Marcus is sympathetic but someone I want to follow and learn more about. The rest of the cast is mysterious and offer a lot of intrigue.
This is the first book I’ve seen from Wes Craig and I really love it. The characters all have a fun design but his fast pace action scenes and paneling is very reminiscent of J.H. Williams III.
Set in a mysterious school, with mysterious characters, I’m looking forward to see Marcus explore and uncover these mysterious mysteries. So far I’ve not been disappointed by a Rick Remender title and this looks like it’ll continue the streak.
“Miracleman” is a book that has some history in comics.
Created by British artist/writer Mike Anglo in 1954, “Marvelman” (known as “Miracleman” in the states), was the UK answer to American superheroes, mainly DC’s Captain Marvel. When he yells out the Secret Key Harmonic of the Universe, the Phrase Kimota, Copyboy Mickey Moran changes into the powerful superhero, Miracleman. Along with his sidekicks, Kid Miracleman and Young Miracleman, The Miracleman Family stop goofy villains like Young Nastyman and scientist Gargunza.
In 1982, “Miracleman” was re-launched in a black and white anthology called “Warrior” with writer Alan Moore. That name will sound familiar to readers as the man behind the deconstruction superhero comic, “Watchman” and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. With a new “Miracleman” came a new dark take on the character that would lay the writing groundwork for Moore’s later, well-known stories.
After Moore’s run, Sandman writer Neil Gaiman took over with artist Mark Buckingham (of Fables) who wrote “Miracleman” for nine more issues in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Both runs were incredibly influential to many writers; a style and rhythm imprinted in the comic book market we see today.
Why is this important? In what would take incredibly too long to explain, the rights to “Miracleman” bounced around several companies to creators until it finally found a home at Marvel comics in 2009. The series laid dormant until this year. Marvel decided they were going to re-release the original issues, unedited except for updated inks all from…herm, “The Original Writer” and Neil Gaiman. I say “The Original Writer” because knowing Alan Moore, he didn’t want anything to do with this and his name omitted, hence the credit.
Having never read the original “Miracleman”, I figured I would give it a try. It runs into similar problems that other revolutionary work runs to.
The book is broken up into two parts. The first being the first “Miracleman” Story from Mick Anglo in all of its goofy golden age glory. He’s very much like Captain Marvel; his powers coming from a keyword and that he has a family whose powers are all derived in the same way. I also laughed a bit when the narrator revealed that Mickey Moran is a copyboy at The Daily Bugle, the same paper that Peter Parker, Spider-Man, works for. It’s a pretty harmless book that’s pretty silly, but it reflects what a lot of comics are at DC and were during the golden age.
This story is followed by #1 and #2 of Alan Moore’s “Miracleman” run and I’m going to say something that may shock some people.
I’m not that big of an Alan Moore fan.
Don’t get me wrong, I like “Watchman” and it’s a very well done book. “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “From Hell” still elude me, but this book kind of has some things that bother me.
Set in 1982, Mike Moran has completely forgotten about his Miracleman past until one day he remembers that one word and reclaims his powers and his memories. He stops some would be terrorist and flies home to tell his wife, Liz, of his discovery. She scoffs and laughs as his expositions everything that we know from the past story. It’s one thing to read a book from the ’50s and laugh about the campiness of it, but Alan Moore completely buries it. This is mostly seen in #2 and I’m not sure if this is an ongoing thing, but if the writer is saying how dumb this all is, why should I even read it?
The other thing that kind of bothers me is just something that old comics used to do: the narrator explains everything. Moore doesn’t really let Leach tell the story through his art because Moore has tons of internal monologues that tell us what characters are thinking. It really weighs down the book and makes it pretty dense.
Everything else looks great though. Leach’s art looks really sold when it’s not covered up by tons of text and the off colors. Companies, when releasing old work, like to re-color everything and it always comes off as very unnatural. “Miracleman” isn’t much different. I also wonder if it was printed on old news print, because that can also change the look of the art when it’s re-printed on the current glossy paper that comics are printed on now.
The rest of the book comes with interviews from original creator Mick Anglo, original art, and more original black and white “Miracleman” stories from Anglo from 1954.
With a price tag of $5.99, it’s a pretty steep for a bi-weekly book. I’d like to check it out once it’s a collected edition, but on it’s own, it doesn’t light my world on fire. It’s really not the fault of the book because now it’s a 30 years old. There have been many deconstruction superhero stories and just different ways comics are presented that this book feels dated. Even though I’m not really excited for Moore stuff, I’ll check out Gaiman’s story because he stuff tends to feel more timeless.