(Marvel Comics, 2015)
Written by Frank Barbiere
Pencils and Inks by Marco Checchetto
Colors by Andres Mossa
Letters by Joe Caramanga
Although writer Frank Barbiere has set this issue in the present it is important to note that the timeline is somewhat fractured in that the narrative running through the series contains plot elements from both the past and the future. Confused yet? Well don’t worry True Believers, Barbiere does his due diligence; first by explaining in meticulous detail how Smasher and Cannonball, aka Izzy Kane and Sam Guthrie respectively, found themselves on another planet and the parents of a new baby and second both he and artist Marco Cheechetto keep the story engrossing and entertaining while keeping the pace lively with enough action woven into the romantic drama to keep the pages turning at a brisk clip. Essentially this is a one and done at its very core but, Barbiere very cleverly adds enough relevant story elements to tie the narrative into current Avengers continuity, which by the very nature of things ties it into current continuity in general as the events in the Avengers books pretty much lead the way to the huge upcoming Secret Wars event.
Those of us who have been closely following the “Time Runs Out” arc running through the Hickman Avengers books should have no problem at all placing this story in continuity, however if you are looking for a jumping-on spot for the big Secret Wars brouhaha this could theoretically work for you, if only for the fact that the re-cap page concisely presents events in an easy to follow few panels. However, if you are looking for a story that can be enjoyed within the context of the huge events swirling around it but, is in actuality not all that dependent upon the overwhelming amount of backstory, this is that story as well. Barbiere does a really fantastic job of setting a human drama upon a huge stage, the epic event of having a child is all but dwarfed by the surrounding details giving the over-arching theme an even greater sense of scale. Sure Smasher and Cannonball are not Captains Marvel and America so the import of them procreating is diminished by their place in the Marvel hierarchy, but the sense of drama created by Barbiere is undeniably enthralling.
Visually, Cheechetto nails the romantic scenes with expressive facial features and dramatic posing but as effective as he is with these scenes he really comes into his own on the more kinetic action sequences. His dynamic staging and innovative use of panels add a pulse quickening, cinematic feel to the action, while maintaining an artistic flair that really make these pages come to life, both in the quiet moments as well as the more bombastic. Colorist Andres Mossa use of a subdued palette brings a nuanced feel to the entire book, the toned down subtlety of the colors works extremely well in contrast to the cosmic setting. Very often a colorist can overpower the imagery when the action is set in space or on another planet but, Mossa does a fabulous job of maintaining a precise balance between restraint and indulgence. These two work so well together but, the final result speaks more convincingly of that than I ever could; this is visual storytelling at its finest.
Overall this issue is entertaining, captivating and above all else fun. This creative team crafts a wonderful breathing space in the midst of an epic story arc. Its great fun to be able to lose yourself, as a reader, in the events of these two relatively unused characters’ lives before diving back into the tumultuous roiling events of this universe changing arc. If you haven’t committed yourselves to following the road to Secret Wars here is your chance to jump on True Believers and have fun while getting caught up. (4/5)
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.