|Major WM Releaser
Device: dell axim
: S.H.I.E.L.D. Volume 1
(Click to go to the release post)Writer(s)
: Jonathan Hickman
(Click to see other books from this writer released on this site)Review source
: Minhquan Nguyen
(Review 1) and Chad Nevett
(Review 2) (Don't click it, read the review here...
Review 1 - S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 - The Story: Genius white men…and other sorry excuses for the state of the world!More info
The Review: In ordinary circumstances, S.H.I.E.L.D. would be the kind of title I’d fallen hopelessly in love with by now; it has fresh ideas, remarkable craft, rounded characters, and some gorgeous art. Instead I find myself surprisingly nonplussed by the series. I appreciate and respect the kind of story it wants to tell, but it just hasn’t done much to get me invested.
Maybe it’s the highly cerebral nature of the title. The whole storyline so far, after all, deals with a literal war of ideas, the smartest people in history giving way to violence strictly to defend their principles, which, I suppose, if you’re going to war over anything, it might as well be your dearly held beliefs. While the ideas at stake (determinism vs. fatalism, hope vs. resignation) do have a certain intellectual appeal, it’s no surprise they do little to capture your heart.
Then, too, the story has proceeded at a horrendously plodding pace. Forget the fact they labeled this issue #2. We all know this is really the eighth issue of the series, and considering this title launched June of last year, well—that rate isn’t great, to say the least. And even had all eight issues been released on time, that doesn’t change the minimal advances the plot has made.
The first time I reviewed S.H.I.E.L.D. (half a year ago, if you can believe it), you had Newton and da Vinci duking it out in the Immortal City, with Leonid standing by. Now, two chapters later (three, if you count the “infinity” issue), we’ve only just started our way to a resolution. Hickman has filled the yawning gaps between important moments with a lot of expository, conceptual material, but again, it’s intriguing in an academic sort of way, but hardly engaging.
I suspect, however, that Hickman does expect to blow your mind with his ideas, and he may very well have succeeded—if you could understand what in blue blazes he’s talking about. Not to rank on Hickman, but has this quality to his writing where at times you can’t tell if he’s being smart, pretentious, or purposely obscure. Excessive capitalization has that ambiguous effect: “The Quiet Math,” for example, or, “…had attempted to Solve for Everything and succeeded!”
Yet for all the abstract threads going on here, the plot strikes you as kind of predictable. You never have any doubt Newton, despite his genius or because of it, is the villain here, and once that suspiciously convenient Spirit-Truth Machine forces Newton to rave, “I have killed, and will kill again, and will race God to end man,” it’s a shoo-in which of the two prodigies Leonid will choose to believe in. Da Vinci, by contrast, can’t fail to gain your sympathy: “I am alone. I have never loved. I have never allowed myself to love…I have sacrified everything.” Poor guy!
No one breathes life into Hickman’s ideas like Weaver. He really does give a celestial beauty to everything he draws, especially with Oback’s dreamy, major motion picture colors. And then you have his inspired pages, like the depiction of the Well of the Elixer of Life, whose mandala-like appearance, with Oback’s sunset reds, gold, and indigos filling them, just takes your breath away, even before you notice the design work Weaver uses to weld it into the flow of action.
Conclusion: What should be one of the greatest titles on the stands turns out merely enjoyable. To really take it to the level it aspires to, it needs to drop the humanities lessons in favor of just advancing the story. Maybe it will do that next issue—two months from now.
Review 2 - S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 - It’s not always easy to forge a clear and concise opinion of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” It’s one of the more challenging and different titles published by Marvel in a year that saw more “Strange Tales,” “Spider-Man: Fever,” and “Deadpool MAX” hit the stands. Jonathan Hickman has a large story to tell and is still in the process of setting the mood and context. But, does that mean we just ignore the lack of plot? Or the fragmentary storytelling that doesn’t actually provide a context? We’re five issues in and I can’t really say what “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is about beyond a vague description about the secret organization and some historical figures. It’s a comic you have to give a large benefit of the doubt to and, as it approaches the end of its first volume, how much longer should that benefit be extended?
Much of this issue focuses on Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards, transported into the far future after an encounter with the Night Machine, as well as a flashback to when they both joined the organization full time. These scenes are broken up by a few two-page spreads providing a quick overview of the events within S.H.I.E.L.D. during the late ‘50s, narrated in elusive, vague language. If you were asked what actually happens in this comic, there isn’t much to tell. But, that’s not all that makes a comic worth reading, of course. Still, even putting this issue into the larger context (at least what context we have), it doesn’t hold up as much as previous issues. Increasingly, there’s a sense that this could be a comic that takes far too long to actually get going. All of the promise of the initial issues is wearing thin.
The interaction between Stark and Richards in 1951, though, is very well written as they discuss the price of devoting their lives to S.H.I.E.L.D. For Stark, the idea of faking his death and leaving his family behind is a necessary cost, one he’s prepared to pay, because anything else would be too cruel. Better to simply remove himself from their lives than tease the possibility of meaningful interaction when he has more important things to do. Richards doesn’t seem convinced. It’s one of the more thoughtful and intriguing ideas raised in the series so far, exploring what it means to be the secret guardians of the planet.
Like Hickman’s writing, Dustin Weaver’s art continues to show massive potential in this series while never quite reaching it. He’s capable of breathtaking images on large scales, but his panel-to-panel art is very inconsistent, shifting between detailed, striking figures and flat, misshapen ones straight out of a third-rate X-Men spin-off comic from the middle ‘90s. The two-page spread montage pages in this issue feature a bold design, but the detail of the line work often falls apart. It’s hard to know what version of Weaver you’ll get on any given page or any given panel.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn’t like any other comic on the stands, but that isn’t just a good thing. There’s almost appalling lack of plot or consistent character work, focusing more on hints and allusions to a larger picture. It drifts in and out of events, and delivers powerful and affecting scenes when it focuses like the discussion between Stark and Richards here. But, do those fragments add up to anything? That remains to be seen. For now, this is another piece of a puzzle that’s beginning to not seem worth the effort.
Story by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dustin Weaver
Colors by Christina Strain
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by Gerald Parel, Dustin Weaver
Publisher Marvel Comics
|Post rewarded by Ojay on Wed Aug 10, 2011 5:20 pm.
|5 WRZ$ reward as announced in Comics News. Nice reviewed. Thanks!