Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays - 10 Modern Debut Issue Reveals

Back in the day, you know, way back in the 90’s, there was a comic called Thunderbolts that was all about a new superhero team in the Marvel universe. They did good deeds and fought the good fight but then at the end of the issue we found out that the team members were actually a bunch of old school villains in disguise. People who read the issue complained, and were overjoyed, by the facemelting properties of such a reveal at the end of this debut issue. So, in that spirit, I wanted to showcase some of the best debut issue reveals in comics over the past decade. It’s important for a title to hit the ground running and really lure in the dollars, and the readers, so hit the jump to see some of the best conclusions to new openings I’ve ever read.

#1 - Captain America

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting

Captain America had really waned off my radar for some time, truth be told. I wasn’t certain he could have a story told that would interest me. I always did like Cap’s rogues gallery, though. Crossbones was always awesome and red Skull is admittedly pretty cool, blame it on the younger me who loved (LOVED) Streets Of Poison. So to see the opening issue and watch Red Skull get assassinated was pretty intense. Sure, it’s a bit of a cliché statement to make in comics (“I’m serious because I just killed someone.”) but in this case it works. And it’s been explained very well, I feel. This isn’t even to mention that the Winter Soldier was introduced in this issue, I’m simply looking at the last scene and it certainly left me wanting to read more. Much more.

#2 - Green Arrow

Written by Kevin Smith
Art by Phil Hester

I’m not the biggest DC fan, as many will know, and I certainly hadn’t read a lot of Green Arrow in my time as a comic fan but having Kevin Smith on writing was enough to lure me in for a sneaky sample, at least. I was enjoying the first issue, I had picked up on the fact that the original Green Arrow was dead, that’s cool. The issue still works really well, I liked the dialogue, and I am a massive fan of Phil Hester’s art, but then the final splash comes on and it hits pretty hard. We are first shown a mugging in an alley where a trident arrow nails a hand to a wall and then an arrow with a bottle of bleach filled with sand slams someone in the head. How you’d shoot an arrow that heavily weighted I have no idea, but that’s not the point. The following splash is the point where we see Oliver Queen standing atop a dumpster and a garbage pile with a bow made of odd pieces and an arrow with a coke can duct taped on at the tip. This isn’t the usual sort of superhero, but I guess coming back from the grave hasn’t agreed with him completely. He’s got long hair and a massive flowing beard and suddenly I could see that Smith was setting up a pretty big tale. Sure, I think the story does falter as it goes along but this first issue hook had me completely.

#3 - Secret Warriors

Words by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli

This title always had to earn its chops. It spilled out of a mega-event that many people had become tired of, and it didn’t have the same creative team as many thought it would, or should. The first issue shipped and I can remember there being a medium amount of buzz behind it, but nothing crazy. But then came the reviews. The ending had to be seen to be believed. I knew the comic would have Nick Fury and this young team of unknown upstarts but that was about it. Once I found out HYDRA was involved I became heavily excited, I LOVE HYDRA. I’d get a t-shirt saying so if someone would just make it. Then to find out that the last panel reveal was Nick Fury realising S.H.I.E.L.D. had always been just another arm of HYDRA was one hell of a way to get the crowds in. And I can remember from interviews at the time that Hickman had originally planned on making that the big reveal at the end of the arc byt Bendis told him not to bury the lead, so we get one of the best opening issues for a series in a long time.

#4 – Hulk
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Ed McGuinness

Say what you will about this series but it’s sure a bit of fun. Yeah, I’ve only read the first issue, and probably only ever will, but I don’t feel like I’m the target demographic for this title. The aren’t out to capture the Vertigo type audience, they want fanboys who can handle a few big knock downs and some wild rides. They want someone who’s willing to switch off their brains and have a stack of fun. They want the summer blockbuster audience, and those things are called blockbusters for a reason, they sell. We follow a few Hulk peripheral characters as they try to understand how a Hulk type crime has just been committed. They go through the motions like some sort of CSI team and then re-enact it all to try to understand what they are dealing with. Then, at the end, they go to the one mind they should be able to trust, and they just conveniently have him under lock and key. They go to the cell and Bruce Banner looks back. So, if he’s been locked up then who the hell was doing all the Hulking out. It’s an interesting mystery and actually well presented in this issue. It also helped that I got it free through the Marvel iApp.

#5 - Daytripper

Words and Art by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Daytripper was a series that you signed on because of the creative talent and the promise that they would deliver something amazing. The series is about a Brazilian man named Bras. We follow his life across certain days, that’s all we knew.The preview pages came out and we saw how amazing the art was, and how poignant the words were. It was a good sell and I was in. The entire first issue was captivating in a very slow burn way. It was a slice of life story, no capes, no powers, just people. Just life. But then the ending showed us it was about more than life, it was about death to. Bras dies on the final page and suddenly I had no idea what the title was going to be about. But I knew I was hooked. I am still on the series and things are still pretty crazy, I don’t profess to know what the end game is going to be on this title, I have an idea but it’s not guaranteed, but I absolutely know that I am enjoying the ride. And as long as that continues to happen I’ll be around til the last issue with #10.

#6 - Ex Machina

Written by Brian K Vaughan
Art by Tony Harris

The story of a man who can talk to machines and becomes a superhero only to give it away to do something more with his life, become the mayor of New York City, is a fascinating idea and concept for a comic series. And it’s pitch perfectly executed by Vaughan and Harris straight from the start. This tale is a fractured one, and our lead man, Mitchell Hundred, tells us from the start that it will be a tragedy. We see snatches of his origin story and watch how he trades one suit for another in order to best help the city he loves and all of the inhabitants of it. It’s the West Wing brought to us with powers and the writing and art nail just what we need to take in. The ending is a quality zinger, but it’s not so much a moment as it is a thematic bookend to this opening chapter. Hundred obviously feels like he needs to fulfil a higher purpose for the city and we know that just before he quit being a hero he stopped a plane. The final splash shows us a lone Twin Tower as Hundred knows that were he a better man he would have gotten there quicker and saved the first tower. This is a guilt that will hang over his head forever and a great character moment to end the issue on.

#7 - Runaways

Written by Brian K Vaughan
Art by Adrian Alphona

This series came out of nowhere and grabbed many people's attention purely because of the reveal at the end of the debut issue. Brian K Vaughan wasn't quite yet the superstar master of the craft that he is today, though he was well on his way. The series follows a bunch of children who all suffer by being the offspring of powered adults. Every year the children would be brought together as the parents would attend a charity event of some kind. Each year it's the same thing but this year the children decide to do a little spying and end up watching their parents interacting. Observing the social habits of your elders can be disturbing at the best of times but this time it is downright horrifying as they discover that their parents are actually members of a secret villain group known as the Pride. The issue ends with the parents sacrificing an innocent girl in the middle of their ceremony and then hearing a noise come from the hiding place of the children. It's a great place to leave the story and guarantee that the audience will come back for more.

#8 - Immortal Iron Fist

Written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

Iron Fist was a 70’s joke. Long forgotten, oft ignored, a man with a collar too big and Capri pants too small, he was never going to be an A-list star. And that’s why the relaunch from Brubaker/Fraction/Aja worked so well, they kept him mired in the tropes of B-list stories. He fought against a murky and evil organisation (HYDRDA) in storms and darkness. He would go on to enter a kung fu tournament of the heavenly cities, a golden idea perfectly executed. Instead of trying to bring Danny Rand up to the big leagues they took A-list eyes and made them appreciate the appeal of a B-list guilty pleasure. The opening issue is a great work of reintroduction to the character, but his internal workings and his external powers. But the end of the issue really opened up the scope of the tale of the iron Fist when they revealed the fact that there was another Iron Fist still wandering the world and trying to stay off the radar. We discover that Orson Randall never gave up being the Iron Fist and so the power has always been spread. He was an older, stockier, more grizzled iron Fist and the inevitable team up was always going to be awesome. And it was.

#9 - All Star Superman

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quietly

The All Star line from DC was set up to be out of continuity, a place for the best creators to give their best stories. This Superman title confirmed that intention as it delivered what is quite possibly the best Superman story ever. Many of written of how expertly, and economical, Morrison covers Superman’s origin story but for me it’s the reveal at the end of the issue that let me know that the series was going to mean something. During the main course of the action, Superman averts a crisis but in doing so exposes himself to fatal levels of Earth’s yellow sun. He’s now going to die and he knows he has to put his life in order before he kicks off. So, at the end of this introductory issue, Clark Kent goes to see Lois Lane and he lets her know they have to talk. Then he reveals that he’s Superman. It’s a great moment to leave on and one that offers up a fantastic scope to tell the last Superman story.

#10 - Secret Avengers

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato

Sure, it’s a big, almost flagship, title for one of the big companies. Of course it’s going to be lame and mainstream. Right? I think that putting Brubaker on an Avengers title is genius, but even more so is letting him run it like it’s just another noir Brubaker title is even better. It’s Brubaker’s Avengers, not just Brubaker on Avengers. The issue opens well, this covert team is after the Crown of Serpents and they’re working their way to getting it. It’s a nice atmospheric set up of espionage quality. And then we get the reveal at the end which is someone knocking out Sharon Carter, the intel operative, and claiming something back for the Shadow Coucil. And that someone is Nick Fury. It’s a brutal thought to think that Nick Fury might just be at loggerheads with Steve Rogers, just one top cop to another.

Which debut reveals do you think are the best? Let us know in the comments.

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quietomega said...

Great list Ryan! Though I'm bummed that I've only read about six of them

Astonishing X-Men 1 really sold the new direction of the team in the wake of where Morrison (and I guess Chuck Austen) left the X-Men for me. Scott's back-to-basics approach, the return of Kitty Pryde, the characterization that Whedon just nailed, the double-splash of the team in costume and "We have found a cure" just hooked me on the title.

KentL said...

Not sure how Secret Avengers will do, but they certainly hooked me with that first issue. I wasn't sure about the title. I love Bru's Cap, but his X-Men didn't really click with me. Add that to the odd mix of characters, and I was definitely on the fence. The first issue helped quiet those fears, and I look forward to seeing where he'll go with the title.

Timbotron said...

Those are pretty fantastic, but I have to say Mike Carey's Unwritten had a mind-blowing first issue. In my opinion, it barely edges out a few you've got listed here.

Good list, though!

Matt said...

What, no love for Avengers Academy?

Revealing that the heroes of the book could be the world's next greatest villains if left unchecked was pretty surprising for me.

Nice list otherwise.

brandon said...

Nice list - I completely forget about the Green Arrow one.

The one that comes to my mind was the reveal at the end of Scalped #1 that Bad Horse was an FBI agent.

Another one was at the end of DMZ #1 where you see that Matt is left in Manhattan alone.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Thanks guys, they're all issues I love, and runs, too.

@quietomega - I looked at Whedon's Astonishing but just didn't feel that final reveal at the end was strong enough to make the list. Strong enough to make me keep reading, sure, but not for the list, sorry.

@KentL - I was pretty wary of Secret Avengers too, but the final sell for me was Eric O'Grady, I love the Irredeemable Ant-Man, so had to know how Brubaker would handle him.

@Timbotron - haven't read Unwritten, guess I'll have to now to find out what this awesome reveal is, thanks for the hot tip.

@Matt - I figured with Secret Avengers already on here I didn't want to add a book that shipped the next week, even though, by all accounts, it was a pretty snazzy reveal.

@brandon - See, I wrote up an entry for Scalped, but then went back and checked my trade and they say he's in the FBI on the second page. I didn't remember it that way, but there it was. And as far as first issues go, DMZ is one of my favourites, but the reveal wasn't something completely strong enough on its own, it felt like a contribution of every page in that comic that made it what it was.

Aaron K said...

Ryan, countdowns go DOWN, not UP! Apparently, you guys do everything backwards on the bottom of the world.

As to issues that hooked me in and made sure I bought the next few issues, I've thought of two.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 ends with a shot of Captain America's shield and its indistinct wielder, frozen in a block of ice, coming out of a rift in space. This was after Steve Rogers died too. (It turned out to be Major Victory, which was still awesome since he was a member of the original GotG.)

The final two pages of Alias #1 are Jessica Jones realizing that she's just videotaped Captain America's secret identity and that she's involved in something MUCH bigger than she thought she was.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Aaron K - ha, yeah, we really are swirling down the drain on the wrong side down here. I did the list that way because the reveals weren't in any order. And I don't know what order I would do if asked, sorry.

I did like that end to Alias, true, and haven't read any GotG, sadly.

MC Nedelsky said...

I was going to rebuke you for no Y:The Last Man, but re-read it and the line of "All the men are dead" is on the first page. You dont really know what she means until the end though, and it is a pretty giant mind-fudge. BKV kills at first issue hooks. And if limited series count,I'd say House of M has a giant "gua...whaa?" at the end.

I think I'm only one on the internet who loves brubaker, all the cast, but hated Secret Avengers.

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