Writer: Saladin Ahmed / Artist: Christian Ward / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Marvel Comics
I have been a fan of Saladin Ahmed’s work for years. Straight out of Detroit, Ahmed has been a novelist and short story writer for years — and a comic book geek from the jump. Marvel continues to recruit novelists as writers, to great results.
Issue #1 of the comic set the stage: Blackagar Boltagon has been imprisoned in an unknown cell meant for his brother, Maximus. The jailer, invisible and unknown, demands confession and deals death at a whim — but always death with a caveat, you come back with little memory of what happened. Also in the prison are a surprisingly sympathetic Crusher Creel (yes, that Crusher Creel), Blinky (a multi-eyed alien female), and a variety of others. Page by page, Ahmed reveals the cast of characters and explains the trap they all find themselves in. Issue #2 we meet Molyb, the Metal Master (an old time villain first introduced in 1963), Spyder (another villain from 1988), and Raava (a new Skrull).
It is clear that Ahmed has the deep knowledge of the Marvel catalog that allows him to pick and choose the best characters to fill his pages. And it is those characters that take this comic to the top of my list. Each of the characters is not only carefully chosen, but crafted to fill their role in the story. In their details, they become sympathetic, genuine, believable, even as they are caught in this impossible, imaginary, situation. It is that contrast between impossible situations and believable characters that makes this comic compelling.
Well that, and the art, which is an ideal balance between those same two opposites. Ward’s work is psychedelic and suggestive and the fun he has with the bounds of that art — the panels themselves — adds a whole nother layer.
Do you see those dialog bubbles though? That’s why I included Cowles as an artist in this comic’s byline, his lettering is an integral part to how this comic moves and feels. It isn’t just plain white circles, they are part of the art, part of the story being told.
Pick this comic for Ahmed’s tense, sharp writing, and deep character work. Stay for Ward’s evocative art and Cowles’ masterclass in lettering. All together, the package is shaping up to be one of the best new titles of the year from Marvel.