It’s just another day in the neighbourhood and Robbie Reyes is a man on a mission. On a bike.
Wot, no flaming muscle car?
The figure watching him takes this as confirmation that this isn’t the reality he knows. Blade the Vampire Slayer finds himself on a world with no vampires. And that’s not the only difference. There’s no Hulk. No Captain Marvel. Iron Man, Black Panther, Iron Fist, Star Brand… all absent. In short. No mighty Avengers. But there are heroes and villains on this changed Earth 616.
And Hyperion, here fighting one Doctor Juggernaut, isn’t the only champion of justice.
Blur. Power Princess. Dr Spectrum. Nighthawk, ready to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand.
But what the heck is going on? And why is Blade the only hero who knows something is wrong.
Or is he?
This is Nighthawk? When has he ever exuded such Batman-level confidence? I’ve long been a Kyle Richmond fan, as a Defender he was a competent hero, a trier, but… cool? Hardly. This really is a different world.
And it’s one I look forward to spending some time in. I hadn’t planned to follow this Marvel event on first hearing about it – how many times do we need Age of Apocalypse/House of M/Secret Wars? – but it’s a light week. The cover didn’t entice me, mind; it is, to be polite, unprepossessing – like the dullest heist movie poster ever. Even the title treatment is snooze-some, while the orange background is rather sickly. Illustrator Leonil Francis Yu and colourist Sunny Gho have produced some excellent work in the past so I can only assume they’re following someone else’s big idea.
Inside, though, the art pops. When did Ed McGuinness get so good? To me, he’s the guy who drew Superman looking like a Macy’s parade balloon. But this stuff is just wonderful. Dynamic layouts, attractive characters, wild new designs… the first couple of pages hold no hint of the glory that is to follow. From page 3, when we meet Dr Doom, the visuals ignite and from there the pages pop right to the end.
Working with McGuinness are Mark Morales, whose sharp embellishments remind us that the publishing trend towards losing inkers is misguided, and colourist Matthew Wilson, who opts for understated tones in the civilian scenes, then goes nuts when the super powers come out – just look at Dr Spectrum!
And Cory Petit is obviously having a ball with the lettering, with breakout effects and ad hoc logos a go-go.
Writer Jason Aaron’s script is clear and breezy, with a playfulness that ensures no one needs to take things too seriously – this is a fun comic, with no ‘just’ about it.
After the strip, editors Alanna Smith, Martin Biro and Tom Brevoort share preliminary sketches for this series’ changed heroes and villains. I do like bonuses like this, the kind of feature usually restricted to trade collections.
This opening salvo will be followed by a number of one-shots and more issues of this mini-series, with a Heroes Return comic to close the event. While I could do without Marvel recycling Nineties branding, if the coming chapters are as much fun as this opening, I won’t be complaining.