Current Reviews


Marvel Comics Presents #1

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2007
By: David Wallace

Writer(s): Marc Guggenheim, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Moore, Rich Koslowski, Nelson
Artist(s): Dave Wilkins, Stuart Immonen, Clayton Henry, Andrea DiVito, Nelson, Dave Wilkins, Wade Von Grawbadger, Mark Morales, Andrea DiVito, Nelson, Tony Washington, Dave McCaig, Sotocolors, Laura Villari & A. Street

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I really want to like Marvel Comics Presents. In theory, it's a good idea: an anthology title which gives various writers and artists the chance to play in the sandbox of the Marvel Universe, presenting several short stories in each issue, without any shackles to current continuity. I've been actively looking forward to seeing whether Marvel can pull off the notoriously tricky format, and I've been hoping that they'll be able to showcase both new and established talents at the same time as providing some accessible, self-contained and economical stories. However, it doesn't look like things are going to work out that way.

The major problems with this first issue of MCP lay with the multi-part stories. Maybe it's a symptom of the modern-day industry trend towards multi-issue story arcs over individual single-issue stories, but it seems that some of today's writers lack the skills of compression that are necessary to spin an entertaining yarn over the course of just 8 pages. The first story, "Vanguard", is a case in point: Mark Guggenheim's opening chapter provides some intriguing (if unexplained) prologue sequences, features some lush (almost photo-realistic) art from Dave Wilkins, and drops some interesting hints about the possible future direction of the story - but it can't give readers enough substance to really get us hooked. Equally, the “Weapon Omega” segment (part one of twelve!) by Rich Koslowski gives us a healthy dose of action, but only the vaguest pointers as to what the story is actually going to be about. Both read more like trailers for their main stories than they do a chapter of a story in its own right. For a first issue, I can't help but feel that Marvel could have chosen some more immediately attention-grabbing stories to kick off proceedings. It's the kind of material which is fine if it's included in a budget one-shot along the lines of DC's Countdown to Infinite Crisis or Brave New World issues, but it's not something that feels like it's worth paying $3.99 to enjoy.

Only Stuart and Kathryn Immonen really manage to pull it off, with the first chapter of their Hellcat/Patsy Walker four-parter. It's a story which is instantly attractive and enjoyable enough to be a satisfying read in its own right, but which also hints at a more complex plot for future issues. Even then, though, there's a sense that it could be coasting on the sheer charm of Kathryn Immonen's light, bubbly text and Stuart Immonen's dynamic and vibrant visuals. Still, it's the only part of the issue which has me interested enough that I might pick up the next issue to see how it continues. Then again, if I know that I can rely on a collected edition of the story later down the line, it's not something that I feel is worth the cover price alone.

Luckily, the one-shot stories are more successful than the multi-parters. Stuart Moore comes up with a fun, silly, and amusing Spider-Man short which sees the wall-crawler transported to a meeting of the Galactic Alliance of Spider-Men. It's a disposable but enjoyable yarn which features some delicate, detailed art from Clayton Henry (who proves that he'd be a great fit on one of the Spider-titles, should the vacancy arise) and which wrings a lot of laughs out of its brief page count. There's also a heartfelt tale about the Thing: a character piece told from Alicia Masters' viewpoint (so to speak), which writer/illustrator Nelson manages to make warm and sentimental without the story ever coming off as slushy or saccharine. These are the kind of stories that I would have liked to see more of, and I'm disappointed that they make up less than half the page count of this issue.

One of the strengths of this first issue (and the format in general) is that it provides a chance to sample the work of various artists and writers, many of whom aren't all that well-known. However, that's also the book's main weakness, as you can virtually guarantee that a book of mixed styles like this will be hit-and-miss for most readers. MCP also lacks the frequency of a successful anthology book like the UK's weekly 2000AD (say), which comes out regularly enough that followers can get their fix of a continuing story without having to wait a month for the pleasure. When you're only getting 8 pages of each story per month, without any apparent attempt at compressed storytelling for some of the longer-form stories, it's asking a lot of readers to remain interested enough to keep buying the title. I can't help but wonder whether casual readers who might be interested enough to follow one or two of the stories are really going to want to pick up this book for a year to see them through to completion.

Ultimately, considering the high price tag and the variable levels of quality, it looks like it's going to be difficult to entice readers to stick with this title. Whilst I might like the idea behind Marvel Comics Presents, the execution isn't everything that I would have hoped for, and there's far too much flab for a format which should be all about conciseness and efficiency. Perhaps my particular expectations are as much to blame as anything else for my disappointment in this first issue, but I can't help but feel that a new anthology title could have been launched more effectively than this. I'll be interested to see if it's the kind of book that the market will stand. Personally, I'm only likely to check out another issue of the book if I'm a particular fan of one the creators involved.

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