Mainstream comics are a medium characterized by unceasing long-term consistency. Both Marvel and DC experience small changes now and then – last year’s “death” of Peter Parker comes to mind – but eventually everything returns to the status quo – as did Peter Parker in yesterday’s Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1, which I will be reviewing in the coming days (I’m such a tease!). Crossover events are the source of these temporary shake-ups. Back when big events became popular in the mid to late 80s (DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths kind of began the trend) they were few and far between, but their effects were actually lasting to some extent. These days, though, both companies put out at least one crossover a year, encompassing most of their characters, and leading to changes that will be negated by the time the next one rolls around. Marvel’s last event, Infinity, wrapped up in November, but they are already prepping for the next one, with the prelude issue #0 of Original Sin.
The introductory issue shows us the budding friendship-ish between Sam Alexander, the young hero known as Nova, and Uatu the Watcher, a giant bald alien who stands on the moon and watches everything that happens on Earth. Yeah.
The story in the issue is a pretty good introduction to both characters. Sam has only been Nova for a couple of years, amounting to probably a couple of months in comic book time. He inherited the helmet that gives him his powers from his father, who had long ago retired from Nova-ing, before disappearing mysteriously.
Uatu, on the other hand is more of known property in the Marvel Universe. Marvel’s number one peeping tom first appeared in The Fantastic Four #13 in 1963, and has appeared regularly throughout Marvel comics ever since. He often shows up whenever influential cosmic events are about to occur, without technically interfering. Most recently Uatu appeared to Sam, who took an immediate interest in the “man” of few words.
As a part of its set-up, Original Sin #0 features Uatu showing his own secret origin to Sam. Turns out that way back in the day Uatu and his dad led a group of Watchers who wanted to get more involved in the development of primitive alien races. Their first breaking of the prime directive eventually leads to war and mass death on that planet, leading to the vow of non-interference that Uatu (sometimes) adheres to now. It is a transgression (a “sin,” if you will – perhaps even THE original one) Uatu has never fully recovered from.
I am pretty steeped in useless comic knowledge, but not enough to know whether this backstory is new or not. Writer Mark Waid is great at using antiquated comic continuity in his contemporary works (see his current run on Daredevil) – which is also evidenced in this issue by his use of Tomazooma, a giant robot modeled after an Aztec god by an evil corporation who uses it to scare the crap out of indigenous peoples. That sounds bonkers, but Waid makes it work. He is one of the most gifted and prolific writers in the industry – and has been for a long time – so he knocks this issue out of the park. His treatment of the Sam/Uatu friendship is affecting, despite the fact that one of the two barely speaks. Some of the bonding moments are a bit overstated, but it all mostly works thanks to Sam.
Sam debuted in a post-Peter Parker Marvel Universe, and seems to be a reaction to the vacuum that was left in Peter’s wake. He is young, foolish, full of quips, and has the same enormous heart that made Peter hit home so hard with kids from the very beginning. Sam is still brand new to the game, so he reacts to all the craziness the same way you or I might. He wants to be seen as mature by his fellow heroes, and even though he often fails, his attempts are endearing rather than annoying. It is really too bad that kids don’t read comics, because Sam Alexander as Nova is the perfect superhero for a younger generation that doesn’t even know he exists.
Waid has excellent help in bringing all of this to the page from pencilers Jim Cheung and Paco Medina, and inkers Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Dave Meikis, Juan Vlasco and Cheung himself. Cheung has a nice, semi-cartoony style that is pretty unique. At least I thought it was – I couldn’t actually discern where Medina took over. This is especially impressive, considering how many inkers were involved. Certainly Justin Ponsor’s color work went a long way to producing a consistent look. In the end the book – with a couple splash pages and some big panels – looks great.
The creative team itself is a bit of a mystery, however, because the actual Original Sin mini-series is going to be written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Mike Deodato. I am hard pressed to understand why Waid, Cheung and company were tapped for this issue. At least they did a good job.
Original Sin #0 is no masterpiece. It is about 85% exposition and review, but it is good exposition and review. The effectiveness of the issue is undermined a little by Marvel’s reveal of Original Sin‘s plot (I’ll let you look it up for yourself, cause spoilers), but at the very least it whets the appetite. It is far too soon for another line-wide crossover, but if the quality is there then I won’t mind checking it out.