Adjusting Mythology

July 1st, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Marvel’s Mythos series is pretty interesting. They’re 32 page one-shots that re-tell, and sometimes re-adjust, the origins of a few Marvel heroes. They don’t fit into any ongoing series, so the collection will likely come in the form of a “Marvel Mythos” premiere hardcover sometime over the next year, hopefully. From the first solicit:

AN ALL-NEW SERIES OF PAINTED ONE-SHOTS FROM MARVEL, RECAPTURING THE EARLIEST DAYS OF OUR GREATEST HEROES! The first of a series of quintessential, stand-alone, done-in-one stories by Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera, MYTHOS: X-MEN takes readers back to the formative days of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and recounts the first encounter between the nescient, teen-aged X-Men with their ultimate nemesis, Magneto! Filled with new detail and nuance, the MYTHOS books are also the perfect starter set for those readers new to the Marvel cast of characters, or to those who known them only from movies and television cartoons!

The line-up thus far has been pretty much par for the course. X-Men, Hulk, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and Captain America. The books haven’t really functioned as direct movie tie-ins, save for maybe Ghost Rider or Fantastic Four. Instead, they’re quick primers on the character that also serve as a light continuity patch. Characters are modernized and origins are retooled for the modern day. The FF were given their powers on a space station, instead of fighting Russkies, for example. Come to think, their origin is probably the most changed.

Usually, this is the exact kind of story I’m not interested in. Continuity Comix? Give it a miss. For some reason, though, I’m really digging them. I think it’s because they feel like a throwback. They’re like the backups that used to show up in Marvel comics, like “Here’s the secret of Spider-Man’s webshooters!” or “Here’s the layout of the X-Mansion!” Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera make it work, though.

Rivera’s art is fully painted, but still manages to come with enough of a retro flair to make it reminiscent of old comics. He uses a color palette that isn’t garishly dayglo, nor is it Alex Ross-y. It’s not subdued either. It feels just right. His facial expressions come through clearly, in part due to the large size of the panels giving him room to work. Johnny Storm’s casual embarrassment, the Congressman’s bemusement, and Sue Storm’s complete and utter lack of surprise at her little brother’s antics all are true to life. You can recognize them on sight. I also love that they included the schematic of the old school Baxter. I love seeing that stuff.

Paul Jenkins caught a lot of flack post-Civil War: Frontline. You’d think the man hadn’t written a good comic in his entire life, the way some people talk. However, looking back, he’s got The Sentry, Inhumans, and he had a killer run on Spider-Man. His last issue of Spectacular Spidey, with art by Mark Buckingham? That was one of the best issues of Spider-Man in years. It was pitch perfect.

The core of all of those stories that Jenkins did so well on lies in the relationships he puts on display. Ben and Peter, Norman and Peter, Black Bolt and his subjects, Black Bolt and Medusa, Sentry and his wife/friends, and so on. He’s putting in similar work on the Mythos books. They are about the origins, yeah, but more about the choices, or lack thereof, that led to the origins and the choices that followed. Reed desperately trying to talk Ben down, or Captain America thinking about the men he served with and the things he missed, are what makes these books so good. Johnny Blaze making the decision to sell his soul and Peter Parker’s rage and shame at realizing he caused the death of his uncle are more crucial scenes that succeed.

I started this post with the intention of talking about the Captain America book, but got way off track. The Cap book is a good one because it focuses on Steve Rogers, not Cap. It’s about his life, his dreams, and his regrets. I’d challenge anyone who thinks that Jenkins doesn’t “get” Captain America to read it. I’m willing to bet that you won’t come away with that feeling. This page alone is dead on. I love the dual Nick Fury appearances… and is that milk Cap is drinking?

The Jenkins/Rivera team is a great one. They’re telling tales that you’d think were inessential, but are actually really good. I’m hoping Marvel does the series justice when it collects it. I’m hoping for an oversized HC, myself, but that’s because I’m addicted. I also kind of want Jenkins to get a crack at the Fantastic Four for a while, too.

Also, this cover is basically the definition of awesome. I didn’t even catch the detail on the shield when I first picked up the book.


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2 comments to “Adjusting Mythology”

  1. That cover is amazing. This is what we need in the film. Lots of “have at it, Fritz!”.

  2. Jenkins also had an awesome run on Hellblazer.