Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Longbox

issue: 1
writer: Jonathan Hickman
artist: Dustin Weaver
publisher: Marvel
I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Hickman’s work since I was introduced to Pax Romana a few years back by fellow LBM contributor Jon.  He has a way of working together text heavy segments with visual storytelling to produce a dense piece of graphic literature.  S.H.I.E.L.D. is another departure from that style, one that he started moving away from with Marvel in the pages of Secret Warriors.
S.H.I.E.L.D. opens with the enlistment of an ordinary yet strange young man named Leonid by a pair of agents we are led to assume are Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards in 1953.  Leonid is led to The Immortal City, an ancient city buried beyond deep underneath Rome.  Here Leonid is brought before the High Council of the Shield where he learns a secret history of the world and its secret protectors.
Leonid is told that it all started with Imhotep at the dawn of civilization when he repelled a Brood invasion that threatened to take the Earth.  He was the first and from him the organization and its eagle crest are taken from his shield.  It is then that the council reveals to Leonid that he, like other great minds before him, will stand in the gap to defend humanity.  However, Leonid’s father, the Night Machine, intervenes and sets Leonid on the path of finding his own destiny.  A destiny that seems to be tied to that of Leonardo Da Vinci: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
While I love Hickman for his wordy books, this one does not suffer for the shift away from text heavy pages.  This book does benefit greatly from what seems to be a fascination Hickman has for secret societies, history, and Rome.  He skillfully puts together an issue that teases and satisfies at the same time.  Questions are answered that only open up larger questions that you need to know the answers to.  Who is this Leonid?  Agents Stark and Richards? Night Machine?  How is it then that the world ends?
Hickman’s story is deftly illustrated by Dustin Weaver whose lines and sense of pacing and action are spot on.  He creates iconic panels and splash pages that punctuate and resonate with Hickman’s words.  The image of Galileo preparing to divert a certain devourer of worlds is just fantastic.
While this is supposed to be an ongoing series, I sadly don’t see this going beyond five issues like other well done series of late (Doctor Voodoo, I’m looking in your direction).  I can only hope to be proven wrong and that this title will at least see a year with this creative team.  This book works in so many ways for me.

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