(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Jason Aaron
Artwork by Mike Deodato Jr.
Color Artwork by Frank Martin Jr.
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato aren’t messing around; they have hit the ground running in combat boots with the first issue of Original Sin. Mark Waid did a tremendous job of setting the stage with issue #0; not only by constructing a solid foundation for the entire event but Waid very precisely set the tone as well as established several other key atmospheric elements that are sure to run through the entirety of the event arc. Aaron astutely continues the narrative in that dark, noir influenced style that suits this story so well. Although the events take place in present day continuity, there is a decidedly 1930’s vibe to the story, not just the murder mystery premise but the setting particularly Deodato’s heavily shadowed renderings and Frank Martin’s use of darker, more somber colors bring to mind a time that was certainly more severe than ours, an era bordering on dour if not downright cheerless due mostly to the extremely daunting financial straits that defined the times and gave rise to an age of criminal empires. That kind of theatrical crime drama’s influence can certainly be felt in Aaron’s narrative as well as in Deodato and Martin’s visuals.
From the opening scene it is obvious that this is not going to be the usual “world changing” big summer event that promises irrevocable and momentous changes only to be written out of continuity and in less than a year’s time the original and permanent status quo is returned. Instead Aaron spends a substantial amount of time examining the dynamic between Cap, Natasha and Logan beyond their ties as Avengers they are friends and Aaron drives that point home with some really sharp dialog. The three discuss the attributes of different species of meat in a conversation where Natasha raves about Russian bear as fine cuisine. This scene is multi-faceted as is provides a logical occasion for Nick Fury to enter the story, it highlights the camaraderie of these characters and it sets the tone of the entire arc. One other very important element of this scene is that it gives us a glimpse of the heart and humanity of this event, something that many of these epic endeavors are sorely missing.
This book features a rather extensive cast of characters, something that can sometimes water down a story or cause it to lose its impact in a meandering attempt to include a bit of “clever” dialog for each of the seemingly endless roster of supporting characters, this is not a problem for Aaron as he turns in some of his best character work in this issue. His strength as a dialog writer is evident in the scenes featuring some of the most diverse team ups in recent memory; the one-sided flirtations between Ant-Man and Emma Frost and the remarkably tense exchange between the Punisher and Stephan Strange with its exceedingly violent undertones (courtesy of Frank Castle of course) are just a couple examples of Aaron’s wit and insight into the heart of a given character. He has the remarkable ability to find the genuine voice of these larger than life characters and write authentic and intelligent dialog that rings true in every instance. Aaron is possibly the least formulaic writer working today; he is not afraid to take the spotlight off the “main” character and give the big moment or the tag line phrase to a supporting character if it makes more sense to do so. He seems to possess an innate sense that allows him to get inside of a character and speak in their voice; look at his most recent work Southern Bastards where he channels these sort of viscous rednecks or his work on Thor: God of Thunder where he dials into the voice of Asgardian demi-gods or his many and varied X-Men characters that fill the pages of Amazing X-Men and his previous run on Wolverine and the X-Men. In each of these cases, as well as here in Original Sin, Aaron gets right to the heart of these characters and nails the voice spot-on. I was so anxious to see him write some of my favorite Avengers characters and boy was it worth the wait; not just the big names but guys like Black Panther and even more part-timers like Moon Knight, Spider-Man and Winter Soldier, all of which work wonderfully here to further identify Original Sin as an event book like no other.
This issue lays out the story of The Watcher, Uatu’s murder. However, that is not the worst of it; in an act of barbaric butchery, The Watcher’s omniscient eyes are gouged from their sockets and stolen along with an array of advanced tech and weapons. The Avengers along with a reluctant Nick Fury are now on the case in an investigative capacity that is not entirely comfortable or usual for them; they are faced with the very perplexing questions of who did this and what insidious plans do the perpetrators have in mind for the misappropriated munitions.
One of the many things I loved about this issue is the role in which Nick Fury is cast. At this very early stage in the game he has emerged as the leading character, taking charge of the investigation if in a hesitant fashion. Not since the Secret Warriors ended has the senior Fury taken such a predominant role, not that I dislike Fury Jr. but, it is nice to see the old back in his element once more.
Deodato’s style is a perfect fit for Aaron’s gritty, noir murder mystery. His use of heavily shadowed figures and strong line work are an ideal match for Frank Martin’s subdued palette. The only aspect of Deodato’s artwork I take issue with is his use of computer generated backgrounds; as an artist myself this feels more than a bit like cheating not to mention that in a few places the hand illustrated and colored foreground figures appear to be floating atop the photographic background, a look I am not at all impressed with. Deodato has the artistic chops to eliminate this problem; I hope he stops selling himself short.
Overall, Original Sin is on course to be one of Marvel’s all-time best events. Aaron’s impeccable character work and extremely strong dialog lend something to this story that many previous events lacked, heart. Deodato and Martin work well together and despite Deodato’s reliance on computer rendered embellishments, the pair have captured the gloomy tonal quality that so befits a murder mystery. I highly recommend jumping on board for this thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe. Although it is in no way mandatory preliminary reading, I recommend picking up the #0 issue as well. This is going to be one heck of a fun journey, just try to hold on through all the twists and turns that are sure to come. (4.75/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.