Have you ever read a comic that felt like it was written exclusively for you? That the writer sat down, deeply considered your tastes and desires before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard)? Now, obviously, that isn’t what actually happens, but that’s how “Vengeance” feels for me. With each issue, it feels more and more like Joe Casey is writing this comic book because it’s what I want to read. I’ve been a follower/fan of Casey’s writing since “Cable” #51 when he took for the much-heralded James Robinson only a few issues into Robinson’s run on the book, and have read almost everything Casey’s written. So, you can understand why a series that pulls together elements from all of his previous Marvel work (and I do mean all of it) would seem like it was written for an obsessive fan like me.
But, just because I’m inclined to like “Vengeance” for its place in Joe Casey’s career doesn’t mean it isn’t a fantastic comic in its own right.
The opening pages are chaotic and mesmerizing, as the new Teen Brigade finds itself on the Astral Plane with the In-Betweener and tasked with the job of protecting Doctor Octopus to maintain the balance between order and chaos. Casey’s writing is jam-packed with references and throwaway lines, while Nick Dragotta manages to convey visually just how strange things are with inventive layouts, weird alterations to characters, and a general sense of too much happening. From there, it’s a big convergence on Doc Ock’s lab with the Teen Brigade going up against the Young Masters of Evil and some of the Secret Six.
Characters from previous issues begin running into one another and a sense of that larger picture for the series is beginning to take shape. Thus far, it’s been a comic with some seemingly random happenings and, now, it’s all beginning to run up against one another. Miss America teams up with the Last Defenders, the Teen Brigade fights the Young Masters of Evil, Nighthawk and Kyle Richmond approach and confront Larry Young (or, is it Jack Truman?). So much is going on that the comic feels both twice as long as most other comics and half as long as it needs to be to fit everything in.
Casey may be the idea man, but Dragotta’s execution of those ideas is superb. His work on the first two issues was impressive and, yet, he manages to up his game here. His use of shadows and choosing the best compositions is uncanny. The pages are filled with detail and action without losing clarity. He does the little things like drop in a random tiny panel of the Ultimate Nullifier’s eyeball shifted to one side as he turns when someone speaks. There’s no reason for that panel to be there, except it’s fantastic!
Look, I’m a guy who’s been conditioned by years of reading and writing about Joe Casey comics to love “Vengeance,” so it could be easy to dismiss my praise. But, this comic is phenomenal. It’s everything you should want from a superhero comic: lots of action, nothing boring, universe-spanning stories, great characters, inside references that aren’t essential, art that knocks your socks off, and at least four things in every issue that you haven’t seen in a comic before. Buy this comic. Again: buy this comic. It’s fantastic. And if the preview for issue four is any indication, this comic has no signs of slowing up.