While today sees the first batch of DC’s “New 52,” I’m writing this on Tuesday and therefore don’t have my copies as yet.
I decided instead to focus on a book by Marvel Comics, S.H.I.E.L.D, a work that’s so imaginative that I’m not quite sure what to make of volume one, save it’s one of the most beautiful comics that I’ve ever read. This series uses the full potential of sequential art storytelling.
The premise is simple, the execution is complex. Calling this “steampunk Marvel Universe book” is close but that’s also not doing the story justice. Essentially, cosmic threats have been attacking Earth long before the age of Marvel heroes, resulting in the formation of an ancient protective organization named “Shield.”
Among these historical heroes are Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci and other great scientists and mystics, along with Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards, the fathers of two familiar Marvel Universe characters.
Our entry into the world of Shield is through a young man called Leonid who has, literally, stars in his eyes. The mystery of what Shield is, what it wants to be, and how Leonid fits into it all drives the first volume. To say more, even about which other historical characters appear, would be spoiling the story.
Which ends on a cliffhanger, so now I need to go buy volume 2.
This is far more a science fiction story that borrows bits and pieces from the Marvel Universe than a superhero story. I needed to read it several times to grasp the full scope some of the concepts being presented. I also spent time studying all the cool devices that the “magical” scientists use to illustrate the philosophical differences between Isaac Newton and Da Vinci. I admit, I got lost in the artwork a few times.
Steampunk fans will love this but so will many science fiction readers who haven’t delved into superhero stories. If it has a flaw, it’s that the characters are secondary to the concept.
What Kids Will Like About It:
This isn’t a book I would recommend for younger readers. Not because of the concepts. I think kids can grasp those. It’s the narrative structure that would frustrate younger readers. The story jumps forward and backward in time with multiple characters appearing and disappearing. There isn’t a main character to focus on, which is always helpful for children.
However, teenagers might love this as it’s something very different. Especially teens and anyone who loves incredible art. It’s eye candy of the first order. For an example, look at this splash page:
It’s so hard to choose. But I think the panel in this interview with writer Jonathan Hickman might just be my favorite. Or maybe it’s Da Vinci action-hero pose at the top of artist Dustin Weaver’s blog. Or maybe the one above. I can’t decide.
About the Creators:
Hickman first gained notice with his six-issue Nightly News miniseries from Image Comics which was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2008. Weaver has been working in comics since 2003 and drew Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. Seeing his art on this series makes me want to go back and find those Star Wars issues.