The Redemption of Sean McKeever

April 29th, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

Sentinel was most likely the first Sean McKeever book I ever read. It hit in 2003, right about when I’d pretty much given up any hope of not getting back into comics. Marvel did me the favor of launching the Tsunami line around that time, with a bunch of new series built for the manga/teen reader. I picked it up, spurred on mostly by UDON’s art, and thought it was pretty good. A boy and his giant death robot out having adventures. Kinda simple, but it worked. Not great, but enjoyable. He later picked up Mystique from Brian K Vaughan and did a solid job there, too.

What really sold me on him was his writing on Mary Jane with Takeshi Miyazawa and Gravity with Mike Norton. Gravity is one of those books that played with the Marvel Universe in an interesting way. Greg Willis, a kid from the middle of nowhere, gained gravity-based powers. Now, he’s grown up in the Marvel U, where heroes have been active for about as long as he’s been alive. So, what does he do? He moves to New York City for college, with a side of superheroing. He sucks at it. And then he gets better.

Mary Jane, though, was excellent work. It was, boiled down, Spider-Man’s Girlfriend Mary Jane. McKeever scripted a high school drama from Mary Jane’s point of view that was part Saved by the Bell, part reinvention of the early era of the Spider-mythos, and part romance comic. Spider-Man figured large in the series, with Peter Parker firmly in the background. It was a good series, and managed to spinoff a sequel miniseries and then a full-blown ongoing called Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

2007: Sean McKeever moves across the street to DC Comics. He jumps into Countdown with both feet and, well, it sucked. Everyone sucked on Countdown, though, so maybe that was just the fist of editorial fiat cramping his style. He took over Teen Titans in issue 50. Twenty-one issues and a mini-series later, there were, what, a lot of dead Titans and a whole lot of comics that weren’t exactly worth reading? McKeever gave up the reins to the book, and instead scripted a back-up feature starring Ravager that run until issue 81.

In late 2009, McKeever came back to Marvel with Nomad: Girl Without A World. Nomad was Rikki Barnes, an alternate universe’s Bucky who was trapped on Earth. She had no hope of getting back home, so she was trying to make do with the life she was given. A story about a teenage girl hero trying to find where she belongs? McKeever killed on it. It was a good story, the sort of pitch-perfect teen work that I expected to see out of him when he took on the Titans. It clicked. It worked.

McKeever got an upgrade. Nomad was moved to a back-up story in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, boosting its profile and reminding Marvel fans that McKeever was back. Though the hardcore espionage tone of Captain America clashed with Nomad‘s free-wheeling teen action, the story was good. It was simple stuff, a hero having to solve a mystery and make a friend (Araña, a heroine dating from the days when Gravity debuted), but it was good. It’s what you want out of teen comics.

Later this year, McKeever and David Baldeon, the artist on Nomad, are launching Young Allies. It’s a teen team book and it sounds like it’s right up McKeever’s alley. He’s bringing in Firestar of the New Warriors, a character he recently wrote to good effect in a one-shot, Araña, Gravity, and a few new characters.

I hate to pigeon-hole the man, but it seems like teen heroes are his thing. He’s good at them, and I like reading about them under his pen. Teen Titans should have been a match made in heaven, with Marvel’s premiere teen writer paired with the only teen team that was still viable in comics at that time, but something got screwed up somewhere and the stories we got were nowhere near what McKeever is capable of. I don’t know why, though my best guess considering other high profile disappointments at DC would be “editorial handcuffs.” Who knows, though. It’ll make a good tell-all interview one day.

But, he’s back at Marvel, and he came out swinging for the fences. I think I’ve liked all of the Marvel work he’s done since he came back. He’s even done a little fill-in on Web of Spider-Man with Stephanie Buscema that I dug. I’m happy that this guy who was there with some interesting ideas back when I was getting back into comics is back to pumping out good stuff years later. Young Allies sounds dope, and I’m honestly hoping that Marvel gives Heinberg a miss and hands over the Young Avengers. McKeever would kill with those characters.

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10 comments to “The Redemption of Sean McKeever”

  1. I’ve actually got McKeever’s “The Waiting Place” trade which is a indy book about..well teen-agers and a few adults who are stuck in a teen-ager mentality. Pretty decent book. Which is another part of the “Why did his Teen Titans run suck so much” mystery. DC’s editorial style? Secret hate of Robin? I don’t know. But his Marvel work both prior and post DC is definitely aces…

  2. Considering McKeever’s Titans run seemed to be in line with everything in DC that came before it (grim tone, violent deaths, especially for the Titans) and against what he had wrote before, I strongly suspect DC editorial wanted him to conform to the “Darker and Edgier” house style.

  3. McKeever’s run on Teen Titans is one of those weird moments that we’ll probably never know the whole story about. I suspect that you’re right about editorial interference, given that he had his name removed as writer on his final issue (if I’m remembering correctly). I remember being so disappointed that McKeever’s run was almost as bad as the Beechen issues, even though he also had the added benefit of Ale Garza on art, who also seems to specialize in teenage characters (though he inexplicably vanished a couple issues into the run).

  4. I love Sean McKeever’s work. Another fun series was The Inhumans, also a tsunami title. It imagines a sort of college student exchange program with Inhuman teens going to school at your average mid-western university. A great teen-centric story with appeal for tweens and adults alike. It’s surprisingly hard to find appropriate recommendations for the 12-15 age range (can’t really recommend Batman, Avengers, and I certainly wouldn’t hand them anything in the X-books these days, for fear of scaring them off of comics all together).

    My dream McKeever writing gig? Marvel’s Runaways! This title has had a hard time finding it’s feet since Brian K. Vaughn left, even the Joss Whedon run seemed a little directionless. I dropped it two issues after Terry Moore took over. I think Sean’s got what it takes to get this book back on track.

  5. I’m pretty sure I remember reading that McKeever had written a purposefully darker run on Teen Titans because he wanted to be taken more seriously in the industry, but I have absolutely no way of sourcing that because it was on his forums.

    It’s a shame, really.

  6. I take it I’m the only person who found the whole Wonder Dog thing to be one of the funniest things of the past couple years. Comedy Silver

  7. If there’s any piece of evidence that Eddie Berganza needs to be kicked out of comics, RIGHT FUCKING NOW, it’s the past six years of Titans comics.

  8. I think the timing of his exit from Teen Titans is interesting; it was a couple issues after the debut of the new team line-up. His run was plagued by characters constantly joining and quitting the team, and he said it was mostly going to stop with that line-up. So I wonder if after spending all that time waiting and working toward a stable cast, DC said “We need you to kick out/kill some characters to make room for Beast Boy, Raven, Superboy and Kid Flash” and he gave up and quit.

    Dan Coyle: Eddie Berganza hasn’t edited Teen Titans for over two years. He left a handful of issues into Sean’s run.

    Mambazo: I don’t know if he said that, but I remember him saying something vaguely similar, that he’d become typecast at Marvel. He was their go-to guy for younger-skewing, fan-favorite, low-selling comics, and it was the last bit that was hurting him. He said his last year at Marvel before moving to DC was one of his lowest-paying. And his DC exclusive meant high-profile work on Teen Titans and 52’s sequel.

  9. @Dan Coyle: 4 years >:(

    Also Wednesday Comics is a much more damning against Berganza

  10. Hey, I liked his Titans run. Not sure if he liked it personally and don’t really care.

    Comics are shattered source material. You can’t fix the damn things since they are always reinventing themselves in unoriginal ways for new audiences and barely acknowledge the old ones. Stupid nostalgic fans will want thing one way and new fans (who eventually will become nostalgic as they want things another way), and it continues with each passing decade.