Marvel’s busy last few weeks continue with more Generations. This week we’re seeing double in the Generations one-shot featuring a tale of the older and younger Jean Grey! To make the publishing line even more wild this week, beloved Marvel writer Christopher Priest is returning to the publisher with the extraordinary Phil Noto in Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1–welcome to a very, very busy Marvel Rundown:
Written by Christopher Priest and Ryan North
Drawn by Phil Noto and Gustavo Duarte
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
If you ask the average Marvel reader which characters they want to see more of, the Inhumans probably isn’t the first franchise that comes to mind. This concept is why Inhumans: Once and Future Kings is all the more astonishing a debut. The narrative is focused around the early days of the characters and Priest brings his signature title cards introducing the themes of the story. The comic reads pretty similar to DC’s Deathstroke until the writer takes a step back to introduce a major twist which calls back to the structure of the beginning of his Black Panther run with Mark Texeira. Priest has a tendency to get more obtuse with his writing and having something that reigns the story in and shows the nuance without being quite so obvious is a welcomed addition to this kind of comic book.
Readers should leave this debut installment excited about what will happen next for these characters. The only disappointing aspect of the comic is how short the project will be clocking in at five issues including the debut. Black Bolt’s silent-but-cool demeanor laced with Maximus’ pure narcissism and selfishness lends some personality to each character that is just subtle enough to keep the comic interesting. Each character deploys some sort of new aspect to the narrative almost immediately and Priest covers a ton of ground in this comic.
Phil Noto’s art really brings out some of the more casual and political pieces of the story. The artist continues using his laid-back and vivid art to get the most out of facial expressions and the tone of the comic. While Noto’s art is truly spectacular in the story, his interior work can feel a little stiff. Sometimes readers don’t get the the illusion that characters are moving between the panels of the story. However, those complaints are quelled by some of the fight scenes in the comic have lots of fast movement. With dynamic poses and expressions, Noto is addressing the criticism to the best of his ability in the story.
Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 does the impossible and makes readers interested in what could be next for the Inhumans. The depth present within the narrative and exploration into the tumultuous upbringing of the Inhumans royalty is fascinating place where celebrated writer Christopher Priest can stretch out his legs alongside Marvel veteran Phil Noto. Priest has put these characters in a really bad spot where the throne is far out of reach.
Verdict: Buy. If you give Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 your time and money you will be rewarded by complex writing and art and a fascinating look at the early days of the Inhuman royalty.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Drawn by R.B. Silva
Inked by Di Benedetto
Colored by Beredo
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Alexander Jones: This week sees the continuation of Marvel’s Generations centered around the phoenix in a tale written by Cullen Bunn with art from R.B. Silva. AJ, what did you think of Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1?
AJ Frost: I was never really into the X-Men Universe and came into this week’s issue slightly intimidated. There’s so much history with the X-Men mythos I thought that the continuity might possibly get mixed up with the team-up of Jean Grey and Phoenix. Surprisingly, though I may have missed little details here and there, I quite enjoyed the issue even if it did get hokey once and awhile. Cullen’s story beats were interesting considering the comic was reversed in terms of narrator orientation.
Jones: This one went over a lot better than last week. Readers more familiar with the franchise are going to get more out of this story but this is a very accessible comic mostly friendly to new readers and X-Men film watchers. Knowing the tragedy of The Phoenix character instilled in the X-Men mythos from film and television clues readers into almost everything they need to know about this issue aside from the time-displaced Jean Grey which is still strictly a comics thing (never say never.) I just loved how accessible this thing was and how it finally delivered on the fun promised by Generations. These characters definitely have a chemistry and an interesting story. When I go back and think about the Hulk one-shot, I think there was a sense of tragedy and characterization that could have given Greg Pak a better entry point into the character he didn’t take.
Frost: Yeah I’m with you. Also, I think the Hulk is the wrong character to attach metaphysical emotional arcs to because he’s relatively simplistic in design. But here, there are a lot of things at play, but more importantly, readers get a sense at how large the Marvel universe is through the appearance of certain characters and going deep through space-those elements were really groovy! I will say the issue starts off shaky-It lowered expectations for me of where things were going to go.
Jones: Were you just unhappy with the setup of the comic? It seems these Generations one-shots do the bare minimum and are just interested in launching directly into the story. This is a really confusing story beat making each issue go from 0-100. However, I have seen lots of Marvel stories which just set up the premise and then coast from there. As long as this approach is explained quickly and the story goes somewhere I’m fine with it. AJ, do you think the plot of these Generations one-shots is confusing or do you like the approach?
Frost: I think for me, the opening was just an odd narrative choice. It was like the opening of faux-existentialist novel: “Under my hand is stone… Under my feet is sand.” It was just like..”Ugh ok, here comes the plodded inner dialogue.” It just threw me for a loop. I think the story team could have been a little better at set-up, seeing as how these are just one-shots, but I quickly got into the groove and it all worked out ok. Maybe it’s just an odd juxtaposition to see a superhero at the beach in their full uniform. That’s a visual that we don’t really think of, but here it was.
Jones: AJ, I like that you are coming out of your cage a bit. The constructive points like you calling out some of the captions is a great way to get more in-depth with the book. Which brings me to a big point of contention which could just be me against Marvel’s editorial versus a critique of the book: I wish younger Jean had a different, more nuanced and conservative personality to set her apart from the other Jean. This is a huge chance to show how different each Jean is and I wish Bunn and editorial did more to show different they are.
Frost: Do you mean different in terms of powers or different in terms of temperament?
Jones: All of the above.
Frost: Ahh. Ok. Yeah, I think for a newbie like me, it’s good to differentiate how each character views their world. While we didn’t get to see so much of, what we do end up seeing is a nice rapport develop between different conceptions of the same character. On a meta-level, that’s a high-concept risk Marvel is taking with these one shots, and while last week’s Hulk issue didn’t quite know what do with the meeting of the different iterations of the characters, this week’s issue (for the most part) did. And I’m just as surprised as you are that I was let out of my cage!
Jones: I guess what I’m speaking more here about is the way Jean comes from a different period and how her past is no way reflected in her modern adventures. There are aspects of the ongoing series that do nicely get brought up in this issue which firmly establishes Generations is in continuity. I wanted to see the younger Jean react to the older one in a swimsuit and scream with embarrassment over how much skin she was showing.
Frost: Ok. Let me ask: What did you think about the art, because I thought the coloring work was exquisite.
Jones: R.B. Silva is as underrated a comics artist as you can find nowadays. This issue matched perfectly with the Terry Dodson cover and really delivered two different versions of the character. I have seen Silva’s pencils a little more rushed and the figure work and clarity really made this comic shine for me. What do you have to say?
Frost: I feel there’s some spottiness to the figure drawing. Maybe it was a time crunch, or maybe it was some odd aesthetic choice, but I felt there were some panels where the characters were too pencil-y, if that makes sense. But the real MVP is the colorist. The splash pages are made extra-dynamic. Lots of good contrasts. And the scenes in outer space, with galaxies swirling in the background, are the stuff of sci-fi delight.
Jones: I’m just more positive in general because this is a real step up for me from some previous work of Silva. When the galactic stuff really comes to a boil there are some truly delightful spreads. I like the sense of scale depicted by some of the creatures and how different they were from each other. Yes! Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are awesome too! Let’s definitely take a step back and acknowledge the work.
Frost: The galactic stuff was my favorite part of the issue.
Jones: Good call on not spoiling anything but I really thought the story went places towards the back half of the comic. The structure of the issue is very linear in how it keeps adding new information and details onto the story while taking the time to touch back on lots of the information we already know about the two characters. The two Jean’s actually do establish a relationship and there is a pretty sweeping sense of loss when the final pages hit. This comic also has a clear beginning, middle and end which is very important for a one-shot.
Frost: Very true. There was both a sense of finality, but also, in true comics style, the possibility for the story to continue at some point down the road.
Jones: Which is exactly what a comic like this should do. What are your final thoughts on the issue AJ?
Frost: Pleasantly surprised. Here we have a solid story, dynamic art, and all the goodies for old and new fans of Marvel alike. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done!
Jones: I think for a Generations title this does everything it needs to. I would give the comic a solid buy. This issue is a great place for someone with a passing interest in the X-Men to really get in touch with what is currently going on in Jean Grey’s life while getting the chance to touch on an old favorite version of the character. When you wrap the package up in R.B. Silva and Rachelle Rosenberg line-art and colors I am a happy Marvel fan.