Okay, so Britain has been momentarily delayed its usual early stack of comics. I popped into Orbital Comics this morning to be confronted by a few Marvel, Dark Horse and Image titles – and NO DC. So I am Joe The Barbarian deprived. I may try to pop in later.
But for now, Secret Warriors #25. And this is the issue after the climactic events last month where Nick Fury's son Mikel had died, and he basically gave himself over to Kraken of Hydra.
Which we hardly anything of this issue. Because this is, basically, a S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover, set in the nineteen fifties. Featuring the unnamed Da Vinci in the Immortal City headquarters under Rome, and a round table of the big spy leaders, brought together to aid Da Vinci's agenda, no matter what their politics, creating the original Zodiac – and not Cornelius Van Lunt as we previously were told. Though he is there, with Baron Strucker, Nick Fury, Jake Fury and Viktor Uvarov all sat together, as well as Hydra's Daniel Whitehall. And Da Vinci as the original original Aries. And he has a plan. Even if Nick Fury is ready to throw spanners in the works. Naturally this early incarnation of Zodiac falls apart – but not before our Renaissance Man gets what he wants.
Some will see this as more undermining of Marvel's continuity. The rest of us will see this as the kind of intricate intercontinuity weaving that the likes of Alan Moore, John Byrne and Alan Davis have given us, taking an existing framework and carving out strange beautiful shapes between the pillars – and sometimes revealing that the pillers were made of jello and the structure was actually being supported by a sentient gravity bubble… sorry, I got lost.
Both S.H.I.E.L.D. and, to a slightly lesser extent, Secret Warriors have been obsessed with systematically rewriting the history of the Marvel Universe with the zeal of Alan Moore, while constantly holding back on important bits of information or explanation. And as ever, these missing pieces either grab the attention of the reader, trying to solve them withe the minuscule pieces given or frustrate them so much they scream "stuff this for a game of soldiers (or warriors)" and resolve to pick up the Omnibus in five years time, if they remember. Well, if you were hanging on, this issue you may not get much plot progression from last month, but you do get a lot of answers. That's what you were wanting, right? Right? Oh, and some more questions too. Sorry.
Which, you know, for people like me is great. But if you haven't the investment in Marvel comics, if the references don't give you that inner glow, a lot of this could come off as cold. This was a problem for some reading Planetary of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen without experience of the originals, who felt the books came off as cold. This could have been solved, hell, it's the kind of reading experience that the Marvel DCU is built for, allowing readers to access swathes of past published material to bring them up to speed, and connect new readers easily with this back matter.
Because, yes, you can read all this without reading any other comic. But it's a lesser experience and you'd be forgiven for wondering what some of the fuss is about.
Put it this way. If you can read Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema's Avengers #72, Steranko's Strange Tales #159 and so on, it might just help you want to buy #26 of Secret Warriors.
The opposite of Secret Warriors is Axe Cop. The absolute opposite. No prior knowledge of anything is required to read this comic, indeed, any knowledge of anything may harm the experience.
Much has been made of the simple surrealism of this comic, written by a six year old playing with his twenty year old artist brother, acting it all out wit, then gathered together into a semi-consistent narrative. And yes, it's an axe with a cop, teamed with a dinosaur soldier. And it's not all simple good guy/bag guy stuff, we have problems with the non-Axe cops, jealous at the only Axe Cop who is allowed to fly, when they can't, and dreams aboit troubled dinosaurs in the far past. Even when a bad planet is about to kill them all. Where everything needs shocking. And where faint bullets or faint bombs don't hurt anyone, not really,. And at any second the plot can be instantly derailed into chickens having their brains pop out and turning into bad guys. The brains, that is, not the chickens.
It's an insanely joyous read, with beautiful coloured art now, that's not just an addition to the strip but an integral part of how the reality and surreality of the book is played. The book now looks closer to Chew which has to be a good thing.
And you know what this book makes me want to do? Make a comic with MY daughter. She's six years old, Axe Cop wouldn't be her thing… but I have no idea what would be. When she comes home from school, maybe we'll find out. I'll report back.
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics in London. A new gallery exhibition is opening instore, 'Kaleidoscope: A New Look at British Comics' – a selection of comics and drawings by new British artists, most of which haven't been published or exhibited publicly before from Hurk, Joe Kessler, Lando, Joe List, Will Morris and Bethan Mure.