This comic is sure to make many comic fans – especially the older CrossGen crowd – very happy. It’s a refreshing of the CrossGen brands and concepts, to a certain extent, but with a fresh coat of paint. That coat of paint, however, becomes a problem for young Samantha Rey, the star of the book and a Sigil-Bearer. Sigil-Bearers were the focal characters of the old CrossGen line of comics and frequently held significant power. In this case, however, it seems as though Samantha’s power is the ability to screw things up.
Sam lost her mother ago and is on track to spend her summer retaking math and Spanish. The issue opens with Sam forgetting that it’s the day of her history test. From there, everything else goes sour. She gets picked on by the school bully, a girl named Tamara Wachowski, who seems to exist solely as a foil for poor Sam. I’m not keen on Tamara as a foil, but I suppose just flagging in her classes wouldn’t be enough drama for Sam and this comic.
Carey makes Sam quite a likeable character in the classic Peter Parker sense. She’s that loveable loser we can all relate to on some plane, but Sam has other issues that are fantastic by comparison. Unfortunately, by fantastic, I don’t mean “excellent” or even “good.” I mean “apparently impossible, but real or true.” Sam has dreams that plop her on a pirate ship. Those dreams are long in story, but upon waking, Sam discovers the dreams are only long enough to continue to muck up her life. That pirate ship Sam finds herself on is another salute to the nearly-decade-gone CrossGen line of comics. Those of you who followed the line can surmise where I’m going with that. Those of you who haven’t ever held a CrossGen book, well, it’ll be less satisfactory and seem like just another detail of this story.
Although a great deal of this issue bounces back and forth between settings, I don’t get the impression that Carey is trying to pull a fast one on the reader or confuse us. Quite the contrary, he’s bringing us deeper into Sam’s story, putting us right beside her as her world unfolds like some bizarre cootie-catcher.
Kirk’s art is solid as always, from the ribbed collar around Mr. Cutwell’s sweater vest to the vent slats on the lockers Sam runs past. Kirk is a very solid artist and a better storyteller. That comes in handy in a comic book that deals with high school violence on one page and pirate ship naval battles on the next. Kirk is a solid catch for this first launch of the CrossGen properties from Marvel as his style is very much in line with the range once offered by CrossGen. Modern comic book coloring owes a massive debt to the progress made from the colorists in CrossGen’s bullpen and Guru eFX is trying to uphold that tradition. Some of his shading choices are a little too over the top and come off rather harsh, but that’s balanced by Guru eFX’s knack for nailing the Sigil glow. All in all, this book looks spectacular.
I wasn’t the most dedicated CrossGen reader, sampling from here and there, so I’m sure I’m missing a wink or a nod that Carey has dropped in. All the same, I found this story to be enjoyable, and have no doubt that those unfamiliar with the CrossGen brand before today (after all, if an eighteen-year-old picks this book up, she may have barely been ten the last time any Sigil-Bearer was originally printed) will find a book that they’ll enjoy. This isn’t a superhero comic, and it most certainly is only tangentially a Marvel comic as the cover design can attest to.
This is the first of a four-parter, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This issue might be a letdown to CrossGen fans hoping for a continuation of those tales from yesteryear, but if they stick with it, they’ll discover this story is right inline with the CrossGen spirit.