While all the adults are busy being afraid of Hammer Bros with Asgardian tribal tattoos, Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta take a look at the sexy, hedonistic youth of the Marvel Universe. This makes Magneto angry.
Joe Casey loves to write about kids. It’s made for some of his best, most underrated comics — The Intimates, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance! and now Vengeance. Hell, writing to a young crowd is how the guy (along with the rest of the Man of Action crew) made his bones working in television! Shame that the state of mainstream comics is seemingly all about marginalizing anyone under 18 that hasn’t been completely indoctrinated, which means that nobody — the die-hard fans who don’t care or the casual readers for whom this is right up their alley — will read an awesome comic book by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta. Which sounds mean and pessimistic, but even Casey himself is aware of that.
Joe Casey doesn’t go out of his way to introduce his characters, instead forcing us to know them through their actions — a great way to shake superhero readers out of their complacency. Nu-Marvel era X-Men fans will recognize Stacy X, Sugar Kane, Beak and Angel Salvadore and everyone reading this book will know Magneto and Red Skull, but it almost doesn’t matter because you don’t need to know anybody’s history to get the obvious cues — tech support characters, reptile party girls, Nazi supervillains — wait, why does this explanation sound vaguely familiar?
Which isn’t to say that Casey’s writing is a Morrison knockoff. His work has always been indebted to Moz (aren’t we all?), but one of Casey’s defining narrative tics is his love for including modern communication as narration. News crawls and Tweets have been targets in earlier, aforementioned comics, but in Vengeance #1 we get text messages between some of our heroes, rendered in that sort of numbered “2 much 4 U” txt msg language that makes every sentence look like the title of a Prince song. Gotta admire the accuracy there.
Vengeance has got to be the biggest surprise of the summer — an under-the-radar six-issue miniseries with the feel of a massive, groundbreaking summer event. New work from Joe Casey is always exciting, especially now that his extracurricular activities afford him not to have to take a lot of shit to get his comics made. He’d been relatively quiet in recent years, dipping his toes back into the mainstream with frings stuff like Dark Reign: Mister Negative and low-key minis like Avengers: The Origin, but with Vengeance makes a gigantic splash, whether or not people are paying attention.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics.
I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but this feels like Joe Casey’s last hurrah for the Marvel Universe. He dips back all the way to his controversial run on Uncanny X-Men, up to his last foray into the Marvel universe, the Last Defenders. And, as one would expect from Casey, he mixes in plenty of over-the-top storytelling and subversive commentary.
It would not be a stretch to say that I really have no idea what the prevailing plot is to Vengeance, but I’m perfectly fine with that. Too often comics, particularly a limited series, give everything away right off the bat, as if we need to know exactly what’s going to come so that we’ll keep reading. Casey has introduced enough elements to keep me entertained and interested in what’s to come.
We know that someone at S.H.I.E.L.D. is feeding the Teen Brigade information, and that the current incarnation of the Defenders will soon be investigating that, no doubt eventually putting them at odds with our lead characters.
We know that Stacy X and the Young Masters of Evil are connected to all of this in some way, although I don’t think anyone really knows how. We also know that one new character, Miss America Chavez, has just discovered another new character, the In-Betweener.
Oh, and there’s a mysterious old man who opens the book, and the Red Skull did something during World War II that would seem to be important to the present day story.
And amid all this chaos of characters and weaving plot lines, Casey manages to give us a recent history of Magneto over the course of just a few pages. He appears as a villain, switches to the self-appointed guardian of mutant kind, loses his powers, then gets his powers back, only to finally leave claiming to have changed. It’s a great way of again needling the Marvel conventions, even if his initial appearance seems a bit forced.
I have to wonder how this first issue — and this series — is going to go over. It seems like everyone with a column online about comics picked it for this week, and I’m sure most of them probably enjoyed it as much as I did. But that’s never been a good representation of how well a comic book will do in the sales department. Joe Casey’s never been a big draw for mainstream books, which is unfortunate, given how much potential this series shows. I suppose I’ll just be thankful that this is a limited series, which means, at the very least, it will be around until the end. And so will I.
Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At,” available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter as @kylegarret.
Just about the only thing I knew about this going in was that it was about big-time villains and their legacy. So far, I’m wondering where the hell they are.
With the likes of Magneto, Bullseye and Dr. Doom gracing the covers of this series, I expected some hardcore badassery to explode off the page. Joe Casey is working a more subtle game than that. The change of locales switched more times than Gaga’s wordrobe and the reader is presented with a horde of characters and callbacks from a multitude of different eras. Though not on the same scale, this is Final Crisis for Marvel. The exact scope of Vengeance remains to be seen; I’m not sure who is exacting the vengeance and who it’s targeted at. When I put this one down, I wasn’t sure what the hell I just read.
Issue one of Vengeance is currently a sketchy pickup for someone not invested in the creative team. Or it could be the first chapter of a modern, period-defining classic. It’s just too early to tell. The book has way too much setup for a truly fair
assessment of the quality of story.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation.