By Jody Houser, Jim Krueger, Shawn Crystal, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Jean-Francois Beaulieu & Trish Mulvihill
From the beginning, Mother Panic has had an identity problem. The first issue of the Young Animal series opened in a compelling manner by introducing readers to the jet legged, jet set heiress Violet Paige. Writer Jody Houser gave Violet an intriguing voice, which engaged the reader despite the many overly familiar elements of her backstory. Still, there was potential to the character. Unfortunately the following two issues almost entirely ignored Violet in favor of her costumed vigilante alter ego, Mother Panic. As a crime fighter, Mother Panic was effective but lacked the personality of Violet. Houser corrects this imbalance in the current issue which goes a long way to reconciling the dueling halves of Violet Paige.
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Fall is upon us but while Secret Wars and it’s many tie in’s sit in delay purgatory for the time being, Marvel is once again relaunching it’s superhero line with a whole bunch of #1 issues for their comics. With that said, the publisher is moving from a different position than they were in with Marvel Now & All New Marvel Now. With the former, Marvel had a lot of young creative talent that they were able to re-position during the relaunch to give their line a fresh make over and give creators they had brought up on their lower tier titles a higher profile like Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jason Aaron or Rick Remender. After Marvel Now was a success, they added several new talents into their fold by building off the success of the original relaunch, giving creators like Ales Kot, Tradd Moore, Michael Walsh, Felipe Smith or Michel Fiffe their first shot at a major comics launch with the publisher. Now, much of the talent from both those initiatives has moved on from the publisher. In their place, Marvel has new creators coming on from all sorts of different mediums in addition to some of their old standby’s like Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid or Greg Land, and they are publishing a lot of comics. Probably too many. Below is a list of all the announced new series categorized into grouping of Yay, Mayhaps or Nah like we did with Secret Wars. Keep in mind that I won’t be including series that are basically the same creative talent and that Marvel will surely have more books to announce in the months ahead.
Joshua Williamson has made a name for himself in the last few years. I knew he had something special when I read the first volume of Ghosted. He later went on to create Nailbiter and Birthright. Two high intensity, highly entertaining comics. This past summer he proved that those skills can carry over into the marvel world when he wrote a fantastic tie in to Secret Wars titled Red Skull; although it ended unsatisfactory, I blame that on the shortness of the arc, not the execution by Williamson. All these fantastic books have one thing in common; Williamson makes the villain relatable. Starting with his Image titles and carrying into his Marvel work, Williamson strives writing the “bad guys”. He creates deep and rich characters. He strips them down and shows us what it is like to be on the evil side of “good vs evil”. The label villain isn’t always as black and white as you may think, sometimes it boils down to one decision, one moment, that could label you for life. Enter Illuminati. With Williamson’s track record on handling the humanity of villains, Illuminati is a perfect fit.
When you step back, Illuminati is the story of a group of criminals who want to put their name on the map. A group of criminals tired of always losing to the Avengers. It is their time to win. Bad guys all over the world are winning these days, why not The Illuminati? However, when you get a little closer, you see that this book is about the fight people with a criminal record have to face to regain a “normal” life. Illuminati #1 is about Mary MacPherran also known as Titania. She has been released from prison on parol and only wants two things out of life. She wants for her husband to also be released from prison and she wants to live a normal life, a life free of crime. She quickly finds out that there are few in this world willing to give a second chance. Once criminal is slapped beside your name, good luck getting a job, or even being trusted (editors note: future Marvel/Black Panther writer Ta-Nehishi Coates has writing extensively about this problem in the USA here). Mary is fighting the urge to slide back into the life of crime. She struggles daily with the temptations to steal her way to a better life, but she knows that if she does that, there will never be a chance for her and her husband. Mary gets a job as a security guard and after doing her job and protecting a pawn shop from an armed robbery she is taken into custody for using her powers. This is where she starts nearing the breaking point. She can’t even do her job without being questioned about it. Luckily for her The Hood comes to save the day, and offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse. She desperately wants to get out of the life of crime, but the world has forced her back into it. With no other options she accepts the job and you have your newest member of the Illuminati.
Joshua Williamson is the right man for this story. I pain for Mary. I see her struggling and fighting to enter back into society, while every single person slams a door in her face. When she finally makes the choice to join The Hood, it is completely understandable. Shawn Crystal gets his shot at a big ongoing Marvel debut and does a fantastic job with the character work, which is exactly what a Williamson book requires. I see shades of Sean Murphy in his characters expressions. Mary is the team member that really sticks out, probably because she is in most of the panels, but she always has this tense look on her face. It is easy to see that she is having a hard time with this new life she has chosen. There is also a nice piece of flare that Crystal adds, whenever there is an explosion or someone crashing into something the sound effects are written with the scattered debris. It is really cool vision that bring the noises to life.
If you like Josh Williamson you will love Illuminati. Issue #1 takes a look at the tough road people face daily when they are judged by past mistakes. Next issue we get to meet the whole team! I can’t wait.
by Gerry Duggan, Shawn Crystal, Dave McCaig
The Story: Jack Shaw’s (Bruce Wayne) first encounter with the killer of Arkham Manor ends badly, with him escaping and Jack injured. After a visit to the infirmary, he disguises himself as a doctor and searches the secret passages looking for the killer. He finds him, but again the killer escapes and leaves behind Victor Zsasz, his prime suspect for the killings. Meanwhile, the inmate that was attacked by the killer leaves the Manor to be taken into into the city to be treated, but not before he falls into a sinkhole revealing underground tunnels. The issue ends with “Eric Border” unleashing Clayface with a makeover into the Manor.
The Art: Crystal’s anatomy gets more exaggerated here to emphasize the action and movement. He and McCaig work in tandem to make the atmosphere of the Manor seem cramped and foreboding on almost every page, as it should be.
Overall: I’m enjoying the running gag of Mr.Freeze’s robot surrogate getting turned off, the Arkham killer less so. There are less character moments in this issue then in the previous two; we’ve seen inmates discuss they’re first Bat-encounter, Batman facing a threat he can’t punch away, here we see him crawling around walls and lose against a mysterious foe again. It seems by the end that either the Batcave could be discovered or how Joker has been getting in and out of the Manor could be revealed. His inclusion at the end of the issue felt really unnecessary (SPOILERS; Eric Border is the Joker), as though this series is preparing to tie into Endgame like the other bat-books. I can’t say for sure how I would’ve “fixed” this issue but it felt off definitely. I know it’s days are numbered literally, but I don’t see how it can’t exist inside its own bubble as a fun sidestory to the other bat-books instead of as a drawn-out murder mystery.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent