The Symbol Becomes Her

"SIGIL" v2 #1 from CrossGen (a [newly acquired] imprint of Marvel Comics)

The weekly sea of the new comics rack had a very few covers that jumped out at me three weeks ago. Really only one grabbed my attention: a gorgeous fully-painted illustration by Jelena Durdjevic [at right] displaying a woman with striking red hair mysteriously focused away from her face and cleavage (a road not too often taken in American mainstream comic-books and thus very welcome). The woman’s face is obscured by the logo from the series’ original run, spruced-up a bit by the new publisher’s in-house production team.

The comic is “SIGIL” #1, a continuation of a comic-book printed between 2000 and 2003 by CrossGen Entertainment. It appears to have been a science-fiction title then, and it’s… an interesting mix now. Usually when one reviews something in a series, it’s bad form to admit some unfamiliarity with the history of the material being reviewed. I am new to this series. But then, so is the publisher. Marvel announced plans to re-activate the property among the other CrossGen titles last year. Turns out: Disney has owned the rights for years, Marvel is now an official arm of Disney, rights are shared, ergo Marvel may print CrossGen comics. It was one of the announcements of San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

Comics companies buying up old properties after their original publishing house have gone to the great beyond and adding these characters to their repertoire is a long-standing tradition in American comics industry. DC bought the characters from Fawcett Comics in 1980 (many, many years after a protracted court case in which DC sued Fawcett claiming their Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman), the entire small universe of characters at Charlton Comics became theirs to play with in 1985 (on whom the “Watchmen” characters are based), WildStorm Productions became an imprint of DC Comics in 1999 and its properties were declared an informal part of DC’s fictional universe last year (making one of the more sad but expected news items of last year: the end of WildStorm), and, most recently in 2008-2010, Milestone Media, whose comics were always distributed by DC, are now also published exclusively by them.

The previous year, the big news of San Diego Comic-Con 2009 was Marvel’s purchasing of the rights to the character Miracleman/Marvelman, a property so tied-up in litigation new stories haven’t been told with the character since the late Eighties. That instance was only the second time, to this writer’s knowledge, Marvel Entertainment has engaged in this practice. The first being Malibu Graphics in 1994, reportedly purchased not so much for their characters as for their digital coloring department. Disney’s money now runs through their veins and makes them capable of such things just as Warner Brothers money does for DC. It’s all about jockeying for new material with minimal effort and hoping to grab established fanbases combined with a corporate big-fish-eat-small-fish mentality.

But enough history; on to the comic itself. I have to first say: “SIGIL“ #1 is not the best thing I’ve read so far this year. But it also has many fine elements to recommend it.

New writer of “SIGIL”, Mike Carey gives us a story that works as an introduction for new readers (such as myself) but also seems to continue the story from the original run. Our main character Samantha Rey, knows nothing about the unusual magic happenings that bring her to a pirate ship in the year 1695 because she is too young to remember the events that will happen in her future. The one negative thing I am forced to say about the narrative is that it really lacks subtlety. However, Sam’s dialogue is shockingly naturalistic! She sounds like people I know. Read some of this dialogue:
Leonard Kirk’s pencil art shows strong storytelling choices, though with some uneven draftsmanship. Some very fine page layouts serve the story well. [See above again.] The draftsmanship issues might be the fault of the inker Ed Tadeo. (Comics in America are most often produced with two artists: a penciler who create shapes with a pencil, whose lines are then layered-over by an inker to create emphasis and depth.) No way to tell without process materials or inside-information.

Seriously though? This comic was FUN. Hard to do these days it seems. The issue ends on a great cliffhanger… in two ways. (1) The reader is left not knowing how Sam will survive this epic sea-battle aboard the El Cazador in 1695. Evil pirates, old friends of a future version of herself that she certainly don’t know. The ending splash revealing the villain of the piece descending on them from the sky is just marvelous. And (2) we the readers also can’t know if “SIGIL”, or all the other CrossGen properties that have been sitting in limbo for almost a decade, will survive this recession publishing market!

Only time will tell.


No comments:

Post a Comment