MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ORIGINAL SIN #2, AVENGERS #29, and, yeah, really, BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN and IDENTITY CRISIS AHEAD!
Kevin Reilly: Fans who share Jason Aaron’s bizarre taste for z-list super-villains got the shock of their lives this week when it was revealed that man who wields the Watcher’s eye, and every secret in the Marvel Universe, is the fucking ORB. Now, again, people who know Jason Aaron know he loves the Orb. In a 2010 interview with Newsarama, even, he was teasing the Orb for some other project beyond his Ghost Rider series.
But this is ridiculous, and beautiful, and it’s one of those things that reminds me why I love Marvel Comics: they aren’t afraid to do all-out, dumb shit. Charles Xavier is dead, and the Red Skull has his brain? Ah, sure, why not. Doc Ock, well, is Spider-Man? Yeah! Absolutely. The things Marvel Editorial has gotten away with over the last year and a half have only gotten crazier, and I believe it’s hit its climax with this, a miniseries about an eye ball being stolen from the Watcher’s corpse by a fucking eyeball. It’s so perfect, and I love it, even though Marvel had sort of scooped it a few weeks ago with the Issue 5 cover being released and all. But man. the Orb.
Deodato continues to defy the usual big-time event style with a layout that totally knocks the reader out. It’s the kind of careful consideration which I really admire in a superhero artist, particularly one working on probably the biggest event Marvel will put out this year. Usually I find these big events to be really shoddily put together, with bland page setups and barely any emotion. Deodato takes these expectations and shatters them, and I really dig that.
But what did you guys think, especially of the big reveal? Did you think it was as clever as I did, or was it too cartoony? Too weird?
Jamil Scalese: We see eye to eye on this one, Señor Reilly. The fucking ORB.
I first met this character in Aaron's completely wild Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine and I was surprised he wasn't a new creation but rather thirty years old. The writer is using Marvel lore in inspired ways, from the mixing and matching of dissimilar Marvel heroes to incorporating places like the Blue Area of the Moon, Mole Man's subterranean world and otherworldly realms like the one Doc Strange and the Punisher visit this issue. As a fan of series like the classic Thunderbolts and Superior Foes of Spider-Man I'm always geeked up to see underutilized villains get their due. Let's also not forget Orb's accomplices in the murder plot, Exterminatrix and her father Dr. Midas, characters that only previously existed in Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones' Marvel Boy series from 2000. Jason Aaron seems to get that if you dig deep into the Marvel toolbox and you'll find all kinds of tools of awesomeness.
I should also applaud the pacing, which is very good in this issue. Marvel's competitor fouled up their big event by back loading all the good stuff into the last two issues and it's sooo refreshing not to have to wait until #6 or #7 of this series to find out who holds (one of) the Watcher's eye(s). The creators could have easily milked the murder mystery aura for months but they didn't and this comic is infinitely stronger for it. They delivered the "Who" and we're still eagerly anticipating the "Why" and "How". Plus, as Orb alludes to, they might not be the murderers the heroes are looking for.
Shawn Hill: The eyes have it, pals! I don’t think there is such a thing as too cartoony, Kevin. Or too weird. While I know very little about the Orb, I loved that spooky vibe of their penthouse lair where they were torturing Mindless Ones and turning the Fake Iron Man into the Fake Thing. Or whatever is going on with Exterminatrix’ dad. When Marvel Boy came out, it was such a fresh and experimental take on the Marvel Universe (Captain Marvel and the Kree had been multi-dimensional and alien before, but they hadn’t been cool and psychedelic in a long time, not since the heyday of Jim Starlin anyway). Now Morrison’s Exterminatrix was kind of an anti-heroine, not the psychotic villain we’re seeing here, but as I said we never thought we’d ever see any of his Marvel Boy ideas used well by Marvel (and Marvel Boy himself has been the principal disappointment there).
I agree Deodato is doing excellent work, especially in the action sequences (like Nick Fury having to destroy his flying car Betty to subdue a Mindless One), or when all the heroes converge on the machine-gunning Exterminatrix. His Dr. Strange and his take on limbo are sufficiently fantastic, and the Punisher and the Panther look right too. Still not on board with his vision of Emma Frost (how is it that Magik looks perfect but Emma is not recognizable?), but that’s a tiny quibble in the ocean of awesome vistas he’s supplying on every page.
Kevin: Good to see that we’re all in agreement here. I definitely need to go dig for Morrison’s Marvel Boy. And hey, actually, they’re reprinting it soon.
There’s this weird kind of phenomenon that’s been going on in comics for as long as I can remember. It’s the ‘Mystery You Weren’t Supposed to Solve” syndrome. Yeah, sure, everything is ~VeRy MyStErIoUs~ or whatever for the seven-twelve issues the storyline/miniseries runs for, but the writer doesn’t give you any indication of who the killer was, or even, in some cases, who it could be. So by the end of the book, while you may have been enthralled, you’re scratching your head. Gilda Dent? you ask yourself. That doesn’t make any sense!
Sure, right, Long Halloween has clues. If you recall, Calendar Man says at one point that the true killer could be a woman. But what did we really have to work with? We went through half the book convinced that Alberto might have done it, even. ‘Mystery’ stories in cape comics have continued this trend since. Take a look at Brad Meltzer’s controversial Identity Crisis. Now, say what you want about it– like, for example, that it took the JLI and did to it what DC would do the rest of their line, suck it completely dry of joy and fun, over the next decade– but it’s another comic in which the solution came out of nowhere.
I’m afraid that Original Sin might be walking on the same tightrope. Sure, we don’t know why they did it right now, but we appear to have the big three villains in our sights. Plus, there seem to be very few clues. Either that, or maybe I’m just not reading closely enough.
Not that this is any indictment of The Long Halloween or Identity Crisis. Hell, if you don’t like those stories, they didn’t even happen anymore anyway. But in any case, it’s just a trend I had been thinking about running up to Original Sin’s release, and something I feel like Aaron may have jumped over entirely, possibly for the better. What do you guys think?
PS. Apparently, this time, the Orb was Tom Brevoort’s idea. I’m losing my mind.
Jamil: I see your point, Kevin, and I’ve long thought that it’s extremely hard to set up a properly layered mystery in a serialized format like comic books or TV shows. People are pretty attentive, and the audience is constantly trying to one up each other, fighting to be the first one to “figure it out”. This mentality marred Lost, where every minute of every episode was dissected in order to crack the code. It’s not that the writers couldn’t think up a clever ending, it’s that every conceivable finish had been already theorized. Or at least that what I tell myself to ward of bitterness.
That’s why I truly enjoyed how this comic flowed. There are still huge mysteries to be revealed but in the immediate we got fantastic underclass villains to entertain us with festive designs and swear words. Still, we there is a feeling of only standing at the cusp of the core action, and I’m wondering how much they milk this “Mysterious Boss” thing. I’m looking for an added coat of complexity. I hope the Orb can deliver.
Shawn: I personally have never been good at sussing out mysteries or even keeping track of all the steps along the way. But I’m willing to be impressed about how it all comes together. If it makes sense emotionally, I might accept a certain amount of illogic. If it is both fitting and logical however, even better. So, not like Lost, which wound us all up in one direction, and then played bait-and-switch for the whole final season. The crux of Lost was “We have to go back!” That it ended up being “We never left!” wasn’t quite the right answer. But I think Aaron has something else on his mind here, I think we’re going to look into some dark Marvel corners not to compromise our always clay-footed heroes, but to see the weird magic within.
TIE- IN(S) TIE UP
Avengers #29. Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Lenil Yu
THE STORY: Cap remembers the New Avengers mind wipe, and his attempt to use the gauntlet. Also, the Time Gem comes back, so there’s that, if you were counting.
In Avengers Volume Five’s first pages, we see Steve Rogers haunted by nightmares. Five men, figures he knows– Black Panther, Black Bolt, even his friend Tony Stark– looking over him menacingly. As he emerges from his nightmares, Steve encounters Stark and the two talk about expanding the Avengers. You can sort of guess where it goes from there, and if you’ve had the good fortune to stick it out through Jonathan Hickman’s obtuse, bizarre, and sometimes confusing two-and-a-half title Avengers run, you were probably champing at the bit, waiting to see how Hickman could pull off another huge payoff. (I say another, of course, because Hickman is best known for his planning. Fans of Fantastic Four know this well, and stuff from that run is still paying off in Avengers. [Oh my god, the sequence in New where Reed revealed the Bridge again? I could have cried. Really.])
In short, he pulled it off. The book echoes with paranoia. Lenil Yu’s brilliant pencils contribute, as well as ever, to the ever-expanding narrative. Those of you invested in Original Sin but at least vaguely familiar with the narratives at play in Hickman’s titles ought to give it a shot. Even if you’re not, you’re immediately reminded of everything you need to know, and hey, maybe this huge payoff and the ‘seismic’ effects it will have on the final twelve months of Hickman’s tenure on the book will make you reconsider the past. – Kevin Reilly