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Comic of the Year – S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 – Jonathan Hickman

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Pax Romana TP

If you are a regular customer at Collector’s Paradise, no doubt I have drilled into your heads what I think about my favorite writer in comics – Jonathan Hickman. Some people call it a “man crush”, while others (most) thank me for introducing them to the work of a guy who is unparalleled as a writer in the field of comics. For me, the fascination started when I picked up Nightly News TP. I was first shocked by the 100% original art style of the book. I have never seen a comic book that included Graphs, Web Content, prose text, and layered graphics, along with traditional comic content on the same page. Add to it the brilliant design elements that have since become so associated with Jonathan’s work, and a brilliant and original story that really explored the way media intrudes into the lives of ordinary people, and you got the first true graphic media MASTERPIECE of the 2000s. Just when you thought that was a one shot fluke, PAX ROMANA came out and blew the socks off every single person who’s read it. The story of Catholic Church sending troops into Constantine’s Rome to change history and save the religion from going extinct was so original and so gutsy, it has become, at least in my opinion, a true example of the limitless nature of our favorite art form. Jonathan followed PAX with two other amazing books, the documentary-style retelling of a corporate war to create super-humans (TRANSHUMAN) and a yet-to-be-completed Superhero Epic RED MASS FOR MARS. Since then, Jonathan Hickman has produced for Marvel Comics an amazing Spy-meets-Superhero SECRET WARRIORS, and is now hard at work on an unparalleled (it is, trust me, try it out) run on FANTASTIC FOUR.

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Fantastic Four #577

A few months ago, when Jonathan visited LA and was our Special Guest for a signing event at the store, we went out for dinner at night. After a few glasses of excellent Spanish wine, Jonathan loosened up a bit and told me “in secret” about a book he was doing next for Marvel. He said this was going to be less of a Marvel Universe book, and more of a “Jonathan Hickman book set in a Marvel Universe”. I was super excited at the time, and since then, every time an additional piece of promotion for this book came out, I wanted to see more and more. Well, last week I read the full first issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (a perk of being a retailer) and I have to be honest here…

Cover to S.H.I.E.L.D. #1"

Cover to S.H.I.E.L.D. #1"

This is the book that will be talked about for a long time. Set firmly in Marvel Universe, this book elevates the characters, the settings, and the basic possibility of what you CAN do with these characters to a degree I have never seen in another Marvel comic book. Neil Gaiman’s 1602 was a near-attempt. It tried to take the characters out of their settings and still retain their true character. Where 1602 failed, S.H.I.E.L.D. succeeds on every single page. It is the best mix of Hickman’s own Sci-Fi work like PAX ROMANA , the espionage elements of SECRET WARRIORS and the truly fantastical elements found in his FANTASTIC FOUR run, all wrapped into an absolutely stunning art package by Dustin Weaver. By the way, if Weaver is not a HUGE STAR after this book comes out, I will be shocked. The artwork is phenomenal; it translates that sense of “fantastical” that Hickman is trying to convey with perfect ease and whimsy. Add to it an amount of detail on par with masters like Art Adams, and a little bit of a fine art touch of Barry Smith, and you have the pages of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 in front of you.