While DC attacked its relaunch full-bore, starting everything essentially from scratch, Marvel has been slowly revealing its own reboot plans piece by piece. This week, we got our first glimpse at Marvel Season One—a series of graphic novels designed to retell the origins of Marvel's most popular characters in order to pull in the elusive new reader.
So, what do we think so far?
First, let's look at what Marvel had in mind going into this project and judge from there. According to SVP and Executive Editor, Tom Brevoort:
" ... it made sense to us to go back to our roots and give a new generation a chance to experience those early Marvel stories in a brand-new way. Not just the oft-recounted origin stories, but the earliest adventures of our harrowed heroes, when they were first young and new to the ways of super-heroics. When they first became the icons they are today."
With that in mind, here's a break-down, giving our impression of each of the four books coming out.
Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa doesn't tread far from the classic origin for Reed Richards, et al. We get the classic story of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben, traveling into space only to be bombarded by cosmic rays. There's some solid character work here, with a focus on Reed and Sue.
Where the book really shines (and you'll hear me say this again, later) is in the art. David Marquez paints everything in bright colors, giving the Fantastic Four a great pop. The space scenes and Reed's ship, especially, are really lovely. The reveal of Reed and Sue's powers has a nice edge to it without losing the buoyant fun. Some of the male characters are a little difficult to differentiate from one another but, since they are all in space suits in the preview, the similarities are forgivable.
Based on this preview, we feel it's worth recommending to new readers, but not veterans. The book looks nice, but the take could (and may yet) be fresher.
Jean Grey has an iPhone. We open with this information not because it's central to the plot, but because the inclusion of such a device is an obvious bid to connect with new, young readers. It also signals a sort of non-permanence to these new origins. In a few years, technology will have evolved completely again, but it's clear that the goal of this book is to get people to start reading RIGHT NOW.
That said, the focus on Jean works very well here and her characterization is very refreshing. She's young, she's brash and not afraid of making a dirty joke. Bottom line: she's identifiable and a great window into this world.
It was incredibly smart to bring in Jamie KcKelvie for the artwork. He's work on Invincible Iron Man was excellent and his sharp, clean lines make for a great aesthetic on the book. Like with Fantastic Four, the colors are bright and attractive to the eye.
Everything about this book feels right. It's fast-paced, there's solid original takes on well-known characters and it looks great to boot. This one deserves a pick-up from readers, new and old.
Here's one for the grown-ups. Matt Murdock aka Daredevil is, in many ways, the Batman of Marvel. Here we get the fast and dirty version of his origin, the blindness, the super-enhanced senses, the loving father killed by gangsters, and the search for vengeance—it's all there and that's just the brief preview we've seen so far.
It's nice to see Murdock back in the classic yellow suit, too. In fact, despite the grittiness of the story, we're still retaining that bright, colorful art style that seems to be essential to Marvel's Season One books.
We thought this had the strongest writing of the bunch, but it's definitely geared towards a more adult audience.
If Daredevil was meant for adults, then this origin for Spider-Man is firmly meant for the kids. Maybe it's because we've seen so many incarnations of this story, but this Season One tale felt very derivative. Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gets powers and freaks out. This would only appeal to someone who is so young that they'd never heard this story a million time already.
The artwork, similarly, feels very extreme, Peter's expressions being a little too cartoonish and silly for an adult crowd. Physically, Peter also looks much younger than he's often portrayed. Don't get us wrong, the art looks good, but it's clearly designed with a younger reader in mind.
Spider-Man Season One is definitely for young, new readers only based on this preview.
Marvel Season One is a decent idea and, thus far, it's being executed well. One thing that analyzing the stories doesn't cover is the way in which the books will be read. They're obviously being targeted towards people who don't read comics, but in two smart ways.
One, by making the issues graphic novels instead of smaller, floppy comics, guaranteeing the print copies a better spot at your local bookstore. Two, by making them app-friendly. While reading these previews on an iPod or iPad, it's clear that the panels were laid out in a way that really suits the digital format. Perhaps that is the biggest reason why Marvel may succeed in garnering a new audience with Season One.
Did you read the preview? What did you think?