Secret Wars is about as classic an “event book” as I can think of, and sort of my gold standard for how these things should go.
While we all roll our eyes or groan inside (or on message boards) when the summer blockbuster season rears its ugly head, part of me hopes we get another clean, classic Secret Wars out of the bunch. It had a great mix of heroes and villains from across the Marvel Universe who didn’t normally hang out together. It took those character completely out of their normal element (quite literally) to give them room to interact and put everyone on an equal footing. There was a clear common goal and a threat to face in the form of the Beyonder, and a host of villains he collected to fight our heroes. We had some new characters created in Volcana, Titania and Spider-Woman, growing the event into an origin story. And then everyone went home having learned a little something and … oh, yes: the black costume.
Secret Wars had a lasting effect on the comics that came after it despite having a clear finish when it was released. Heroes go to Battleworld, they battle the Beyonder and Doctor Doom, everybody dies, everybody comes back, they overcome their obstacles and go home (or stay, as Ben Grimm would do). It wraps up but still gives us so much to work with for future comics. This should be a checklist for all of Marvel’s event series.
Sadly, it’s not. However, Original Sin has the potential to get back to those classic roots. Please note that we’ve only really seen the zero and first issue, but there is just something from the simplicity of storytelling to the theme of the event that gives me hope. Let’s see if I can’t translate that hope to you, Dear Reader.
WARNING: I’m going to talk about Original Sin today, and if you’ve been avoiding promotional material and interviews to remain spoiler-free, you might want to skip this one, too. Everyone else, grab your copies and read along!
A lot of the modern event comics rarely meet anything but one or two points from Secret Wars; if anything, they mostly concentrate on that “everybody dies” part. Fear Itself comes closest, as the story has a mix of heroes and villains, creates a new character that is inevitably locked away at the end of the story (Cul, Odin’s brother and the main villain, is defeated and could possibly never come up again), but does at least have a very clear threat for our heroes to face (even if it is an abstract one like “fear”) and some lovely parting gifts in the form of the Fearless and some super-toyetic weapons).
House of M also comes close, as the heroes are indeed taken well out of their element in the “House of M reality,” we got a new character in the form of Layla Miller and there was definitely some mileage out of the “No More Mutants” finale. Other events leave us flat; in the years since Civil War, our heroes have mostly fought each other, whether directly or indirectly. They’ve saved the planet so many times between May and December, I’m surprised they don’t have it listed on the calender at Avengers Tower. More characters have been killed off than created from these events. There’s just been something missing.
Which brings us to Original Sin. Reviewing an event based on the first issue is really difficult, and I wasn’t even going to try it, but something caught my eye in the middle of this murder mystery: I don’t think I have ever seen Scott Lang and Emma Frost together on the same page, let alone in the same panel. That’s not even mentioning they’re being paired up for this investigation, which makes good sense; a telepath and someone who can shrink can go through finer details that broader searches from the Punisher and Doctor Strange (another inspired pairing) will miss. The strike team of Moon Knight, Winter Soldier and Gamora are also good with stealth, which will allow them a unique reach.
What really got me after the first issue is that this is a series of team-ups I’ve never seen before. Not just Avengers, not just X-Men, not just one major race or another, but a series of heroes united in a common goal. No one (so far) is fighting another hero; there could be a twist down the road where Captain America is behind it all and we’ll devolve into the heroes-fighting-heroes problem that previous events have caused, but for now they’re simply looking to investigate the murder of Uatu and all that entails.
So far, no one’s planning to destroy Earth, simply undermine it with secrets and sins that will be coming to light through the course of the series. And these won’t just be the Avengers’ secrets, either; they will reach into Asgard and beyond as more pages pass. That means our heroes (and possibly some villains) will get a parting gift at the end of Original Sin as to what to do with this new-found knowledge. We know Thor and Loki will be getting a sister; will she be added to the ranks of Asgard? Captain America looks to be learning about the mind wipe the Illuminati pulled on him, so that will finally bust those guys on the big stage. In fact, there seems to be a handy teaser image set that shows some of those who will have secrets revealed, and there are quite a few. I’m not sure if Angela counts as the creation of a new character, but getting her origin will provide a nice notation to make this event memorable after the killer is revealed and a villain most likely defeated. We have a chance to go home from this with lovely plot parting gifts for the regular series to parcel out and use as they see fit. This story can not only end, but move forward, and our characters can grow.
Jason Aaron has a great handle on both epic drama and quirky fun, as seen in both Thor: God of Thunder and his time with Wolverine & The X-Men. Original Sin has both of these in spades, as the story calls for some uncomfortable team-ups and a whodunit approach. All of his voices are strong and distinguishable, super-important for an event book looking to mix plenty of characters. Mike Deodato has a very evocative art style that drives home that “murder mystery with muscles and secrets” theme of our book. He makes a steak dinner look sinister!
Again, this is only the first issue but I have a lot of hope, which can be unusual at the start of the long summer slog through a major event title. So far, our motivation is clear, our potential for long term story development is high as we’ll learn new things about our favorite Marvel heroes (oh, God, please don’t change Spider-Man’s origin again …). Our villains are mysterious but the threat is clear. All in all, a promising start to the event that I hope lasts longer than the final issue.