Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hype Machine - Jonathan Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D.


The Hype Machine is a new initiative started here at The Weekly Crisis where we'll be plugging new titles months in advance. We do this in the eternal hope of stirring up comments and getting more people to pre-order. This has become a problem of late with so many titles becoming extinct (Agents of Atlas, S.W.O.R.D., etc) so we hope you like it and look for more to come in the future.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is a series starting this year from Marvel, written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Dustin Weaver. Hit the jump to find out why you should be excited, and why you should add it to your pull list now.

A new series can be well on the road to cancellation even before the first issue hits stands, what with solicitation orders being placed months in advance. With the demise of such ‘boutique titles’ as Agents of Atlas, Captain Britain and MI:13, and S.W.O.R.D. it seems we cannot wait for review/word of mouth, or even trade wait. We have to buy from the outset, we must order months in advance so stores know what numbers to get. Forewarned is forearmed.

Here is everything you wanted to know about S.H.I.E.L.D. but didn’t know to ask.

Concept

The shadow of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been around for a long time. Before Nick Fury, the brains of the Renaissance world worked in membership to protect the Earth. The smartest brains of science and thought were all called up at one time or another to save the world. This is the envisaged story that has a 7,000 year timeline.

It’s not exactly planned as a mini-series, and thought it will be scheduled as an ongoing it will have a finite story. Hickman has hinted that overall the tale would take 30 issues and be not so much broken up into arcs as have a complete beginning, middle, and end. The story will jump around in time to craft an entire myth.

The first flashback will feature a polymath of the third dynasty of ancient Egypt, Imhotep. He will repel an alien invasion and we will see the consequences of this occurrence on society. It’s an elevator pitch that sounds cool but if done right could also be very smart.

Hickman’s plan is to use known, hard history and simply tweak it. When Galileo saved the world from Galactus the Gregorian calendar was just coming into use so they used the transition to drop ten days from history and so it was never documented that in that time the world nearly ended.

A Russian polymath postulated the existence of Antarctica 90 years before it was ever sighted. This is fact, but through the lens of Hickman this man will go there and discover the Savage Land before anyone else does. There are plot lines that can unveil new and clever links throughout the entire history of the Marvel U.

We will see how S.H.I.E.L.D. has operated for the world, and those within it, for centuries. It will craft a long and involved history for the Marvel Universe much like The Marvels Project has. Except on a grander scale.

All of this cool history is simply peripheral dressing as the main story follows a character who is either known as the Human or the Eternal Dynamo (reports from Hickman have varied over time). We will find out about all of these things through his eyes and he will come across an organisation, the Brotherhood of the Shield, the Council of the Immortals. We shall witness the birth of the first defenders of Earth.

A teaser image attempts to portray snippets of cool history melded with coller plot elements. An almost ancient table holds a sketch of a Galactus/Vitruvian Man, a skull that decidedly looks to be made of adamantium sits to the side, and a few of the Infinity Gems sit idly by. There will be many seeds of the series coming together and under the right eye can be very smartly done.

Characters

There will be many ties to the current Marvel U when we observe Nathaniel Richards and Howard Stark working a generation before their sons would become the fantastic and invincible heroes we know today. There will be a new creation, a young man known as Leonid who becomes the Eternal/Human Dynamo, who we will follow along the path of this tale as it unfolds.

We will also see da Vinci, Michelangelo, Newton, Franklin and discover whether they were the first men of reason or the last men of magic. The bitter visions of Nostradamus will be explored, and within the first issue will be a Celestial, Galactus, and the Brood.

Ties To Other Titles

There seem to be obvious ties to Secret Warriors with the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fantastic Four with the Richards men, but overall this series will stand on its own. It is an ongoing series with a finite end.

If sales are not strong then Hickman has given himself to the idea that it may remain an unfinished story but he is hoping for the best, as we all should. If it sells well then he hopes he will be able to get to the end of the story and create a book that might just be a little important.

Creators

Jonathan Hickman has written some of the smartest comics of the previous few years. The Nightly News was all information and understanding wrapped into a brilliant story. His current work for Marvel (Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four) have shown that he has a brain to write smart characters and that he knows how to craft long form stories that are intriguing, well delivered, and insanely enjoyable. He is a writer worth trusting in the long run.

This title he claims is easily the best thing he has ever written. He also states that a better book will not come out from Marvel in April. It’s big talk, hyperbole perhaps, yet he seems to also stand by his wild words. And I for one want to trust him on them.

Dustin Weaver is an artist who has worked on Star Wars, King Kong, and X-Men titles. He has an eye for detail in his panels and dynamic pacing on each page. His work on Nation X has been phenomenal and he seems to be someone on the rise and this title will surely help him with that. Just looking at his Jim Lee inspired X-poster you can see the man knows how to get his art down to fine details and how to also work his magic on many different shaped characters. I'm hugely trusting him, along with the pencil samples shown above, to be a big draw card for this series.




Conclusion

The history of S.H.I.E.L.D. from ancient Egypt up until the 1950’s. Some of the smartest brains of the Renaissance written by one of the smartest brains in comics today. Galactus smashing through an Italian town. A Celestial gazing down at a man standing alone atop a Chinese structure. These are all signs that the title will be enjoyable. Hickman has started a very long form story in Secret Warriors and if you are enjoying this then you’ll most likely love Shield. If you missed SW then this is your chance to hit on the ground floor of something very different from Marvel, an indie-style comic that deals in continuity and creativity unleashed.

The first issue will be $3.99, with more pages, but then I assume it will settle back into an affordable and enjoyable title.

I hope many of you will consider adding this to your pull lists now so that we don’t get another smart comic axed within a year because it didn’t tie into the major crossovers of the day.


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18 comments:

Bill said...

I'm in. Of course, with the exception of Fantasic Four, I think I've picked up everything Hickman's written.

Anonymous said...

Already ordered this for April based on the solicit but am glad to see it getting some hype. Based on Hickman's Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four, this should be good.

Scott Roberts said...

Hickman + a Crazy Concept = sign me up. Anyone that is not picking this up day one, read Nightly News, Pax Romana and Transhuman.

Ethereal said...

Excited for this. Wasn't this scheduled as a mini though? When did it become an ongoing series?

David Harper said...

I love this column idea. Great job. Can't wait for SHIELD, I'll definitely be grabbing it.

Warwick Johnson said...

The book I am most looking forward to. Hickman is probably my favorite writer at Marvel right now.

Great idea for a feature Ryan. This is really cool.

Radlum said...

Leonardo Da Vinci, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Count me in.
Seriously, to those that say that mainstream comics are out of ideas this is a great way to prove them wrong, a creative way to incorporate elements of the Marvel Universe in real history sounds like a great concept. I hope it doesn't get cancelled like the other great series you mentioned.

PD: By the way, am I the only one expecting to see Apocalypse in the Ancient Egypt part?

Matt Ampersand said...

I have preordered it as well, and I am glad that people here seem to have as well.

@Radlum: I love the idea of Apocalypse, but outside of AoA and his first appearance, his appearances have pretty much sucked.

@Ethereal: It's an ongoing series with a planned ending. Think 100 Bullets or Y-The Last Man. It will be ongoing series, and it well end eventually, but there's not a set ending issue (yet).

natureboy_HH said...

great article. it sure does make me want to pick SHIELD up come april. and galileo saving the world from galactus is just too awesome.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Glad people have enjoyed this new idea I had for a feature. It'll be hugely semi-regular, but as soon as we like something and want it to succeed we'll be spreading the gospel.

When this was first leaked, on CBR, the commenters just trashed it syaing that da Vinci wasn't a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and they basically didn't seem to get the idea. My hope is that now people are a little more informed, a lot more pumped, and ready to add it to their list come April when the first ish hits stands.

smkedtky said...

If it were anyone other than Hickman helming this project, I'd have major reservations about buying it. However, he has yet to disappoint me. He is, easily, Marvel's top writer and is more than capable of producing great comics with an overreaching story(in fact, he excels at it). SECRET WARRIORS features the best Nick Fury I've seen in the last 20 years (makes me want to be a spy when I grow up) and FANTASTIC FOUR is the best it has been since Walter Simonson wrote and drew it (if it keeps up, he'll surpass Simonson for my favorite all time FANTASTIC FOUR run). I have no doubt that SHIELD (no acronym in the title, right?) will be one of the best books put out this year.

smkedtky said...

@Ryan - PS: Great article. I'm, actually excited for this series after reading your post (whereas before, I was merely curious about it). You have definitely guaranteed, at least, one extra copy sold.

btownlegend said...

This is what I wish Marvel would do more; think outside the box.This is a fresh concept that I can't ignore.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@smkedtky - I'll pass the news onto Jonathan Hickman right now, if I knew how to contact him, ha. Though, in all honesty, I do this with self-serving motivation purely because I don't want the series to die before Hickman is finished with the story. There's nothing worse than a corporately rushed ending.

As for the acronym, we here at The Weekly Crisis had the same discussion but on the April solicit they have made it an acronym, even though it was originally pushed as Shield, no acronym, no capitalisation. We think this may have had something to do with The Shield series that DC puts out. You don't want confusion, the same thing occurred with S.W.O.R.D. but I guess the confusion hurt it still, or I didn't do a hype machine on it so it was doomed. Sadly.

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