I recently interviewed Jo Duffy for an article I’m writing, and she talked about how, early in her career at Marvel, they thought that she’d be a perfect fit to write “Ms. Marvel” even though she really wanted to write “Power Man and Iron Fist.” She eventually got to write Luke Cage and Danny Rand’s adventures, but the initial thinking was, “let’s put the female writer on the book about the female character.” I have no idea if that kind of behind-the-scenes antiquated sexism has affected the comic book career of Kathryn Immonen, but there’s no doubt that she’s been asked to stick mostly to the women of Marvel during her work so far. In the interview in the back of this issue, she talks about how the genesis of this story went back a few years, when she mentioned that “Frankie Raye had gotten the short end of the stick,” so there’s a strong sense that she was involved in the decision to write about the ladies of Marvel.
But in everything she’s done so far, Kathryn Immonen has shown herself to be a superior writer — one of the best new voices of the past couple of years — and I hope that she isn’t being brought in just to write some ancillary comics about women. She should be writing Spider-Man, or a major series about a female team, or basically whatever she wants to. She’s very good.
Here’s what she’s good at, and it’s in evidence in “Heralds” #4 — which, if you don’t know, is basically the story of “Is Frankie Raye, aka Nova, back from the dead? If not, what the heck is going on with this red-haired girl and this flame-headed gal flying through the sky?” But, yeah, she’s good at: (a) dialogue, giving each member of this strangely mixed cast (Emma Frost, Hellcat, Sue Storm, etc) verbal flair and humor and personality; (b) pacing, with the scenes alternating between cosmic strangeness and homey comfort; (c) emotional impact, giving a sense of how these weird events affect these characters, whether they have superpowers or not. All in all, she’s very good at this comics writing business.
But “Heralds” is crushing Immonen’s script beneath a mash-up of artists. Tonci Zonjic drew the first issue, then he’s only drawn a few pages in each issue since. Had he drawn every page, this might be a 3 1/2 to 4-star comic. But he’s been joined by James Harren, who has a grotesque, Mark Badger-meets-Farel Dalrymple style that might have a place in a different kind of comic. It just looks terrible here. It’s the antithesis to Zonjic’s clean-line style. And in issue #4, Emma Rios comes in to draw handful of pages as well. So we get three very different artist looks, without any consistency between them, and they aren’t even used to show radically different parts of the plot. It’s not like one style represents the flashbacks, and the others are different teams in different parts of the universe. No, this is a series that is of a single cloth, but the trio of artists has turned that cloth into a cubist tapestry, and it just does not work in the service of the story at all.
And it’s too bad, because there’s something special beneath the art here. There’s something that could have been quite good. Immonen deserves better.