Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hype Machine - Duane Swierczynski

Sometimes you can’t even explain exactly what it is that draws you to something. I was a kid who liked Blue Heaven milkshakes (and I now prefer lime) and I also thought that cassette Transformer was the absolute business. I am a massive, and unashamed, Iron Fist fan and somewhat because of that I became a huge fan of one of Marvel’s unsung heroes, Duane Swierczynski. He’s worked on a fair few things in his years at Marvel and I just can’t get enough, which will include his run on Black Widow when he takes over in September. Hit the jump to discover the finer bouquets in the alluring scent I waft your way about this literate Philadelphian.

It was all because of Iron Fist. I’d been buying up old Power Man & Iron Fist single issues off eBay whenever I could. Then the relaunch came and Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja knocked it out of the park. They departed and I had to stay on board. They announced the name so I did my research. Duane Swierczynski had written novels before so I dipped my toe into one; it was The Blonde.

Swierczynski writes action so furious you’ll need to slow down to bullet time just to dodge the blows. Each chapter brings something else to the table and I constantly wanted more. The Blonde is a fantastic techno-thriller-action book about a lady infected with a nano-virus that means she has to constantly be within a few metres of another living person or she will die a horrible death. Seeing what this situation does to a once very nice girl is an amazing and believable transition to watch. It moves like a blockbuster action piece but kills people off like an independent crime flick. He’s relentless in the way that he hounds you to care and have to watch it all. I was won over before the book even finished. I felt that Iron Fist was going to be in safe hands.

I didn’t mind the first arc that Swierczynski gave us on the Immortal Iron Fist. It had a great little arc title, The Mortal Iron Fist, and a wicked little premise; all Iron Fists had died by the age of 33 and you can only guess what birthday Rand was celebrating when the previous team handed him across. It seemed to be a coordinated switch up move and though Swierczynski offered some interesting ideas ultimately I think he lost people when the killer sent after him happened to have a little man living inside his head. It just reminded me of Quirrel in Harry Potter. It wasn’t the greatest execution but it didn’t ruin the arc for me.

This arc was followed up by a bizarre one-shot about an Iron Fist of the future. The art felt completely disconnected and the writing left me a little confused. The whole tale flew by really quickly and I didn’t quite get much feeling from it all, which was a shame. I like that he was trying something different but this one was probably his biggest fail on the title for me.

The next arc, however, took Danny Rand to hell, or at least the mystical and heavenly city equivalent of it. It’s a convoluted story as to who he has to rescue down there but needless to say this was the kung fu version of The Great Escape and it was awesome. Well, I thought the scripts were awesome. Rand takes his Immortal Weapon buddies with him down to the fabled Eighth City which has been turned into a very freakish hell full of creepy little minions and plenty of pain. Down there he is brutalised and made a prisoner and then he finds another Iron Fist. Yeah, I know, another, there must be millions of them by now, but no, this one actually works toward the story quite well. Swierczynski breaks his characters down and really introduces some interesting concepts. The dimensions of the hellish mystical city, and the freaky denizens within, seemed like truly horrific creations. They seemed that way but then it also seemed like Travel Foreman just couldn’t keep up with what was being asked of him. Usually, I’ve found Foreman to be a pretty good artist, his covers were always decent, but in this arc he drops the ball far too often. Massive and grand splash pages come off as telescopic scenes of insignificance. There's scope wanting to smash our faces from the page but all we get are mild tickles of insignificance.

I feel Escape From The Eighth City should have been a story that solidified Swierczynski’s place as an up-and-comer in Marvel but instead all it did was get Immortal Iron Fist canceled. I loved the idea of the tale but the execution was lacking, but I feel that mostly was not Swierczynski’s fault. The title went on hiatus and then blasted through a series of one shots focusing on the other Immortal Weapons, written and drawn by rotating creative teams and each with a Swierczynski back up that tied together to make about a one shot's worth of material. I liked nearly all of the Immortal Weapon stories but the Swierczynski tale did leave a fair bit to be desired, truth be told. It was a shame because Iron Fist really needed something magnificent to resurrect him.

The title was put on hiatus, officially, and it took about a year before anyone at Marvel would admit that it had actually been, unceremoniously, canceled. I was sad twofold because it meant no more Iron Fist and no more Swierczynski. Two greats were missing from my monthly list and I didn’t know what to do about it. I liked that Swierczynski was able to blend the horrific with the mystical and also still keep good character work alive.

I did figure out some other things I could try to do to ease the pain. I tracked down the MAX mini series that Swierczynski had written about the Punisher and Werewolf By Night, which I reviewed here, and that was fun. I still haven’t tracked down Cable, but perhaps one day. It seems a little tied to X-continuity for me so it’ll have to be free or cheap, and that goes for his Times and Life of Lucas Bishop as well. I even picked up his Moon Knight Annual, and though different it was also pretty cool.

But then there wasn’t really too much from him except wrapping up his Cable run, which I believe has now finished. I wondered whether he was even going to get more comic work. Not that he wouldn’t, he clearly talent personified, but I worried he might return to focusing on his novels, of which I managed to procure his back catalogue and am gleefully working my way through them all. If Severance Package isn’t turned into a movie soon then I’ll eat my hat. Each week I waited for news and nothing would come, it was a crime. I figured Swierczynski was going to be relegated to some little character work until he was shunted out of the business.

His career was kept afloat as he did some small pieces in the Marvel Magazine format issues, which I covered here previously, with a strange piece about Iron Man and then a text piece in the Ares issue, which I really loved. I do still hope to see more of these sorts of things by Swierczynski because I feel like he excels at that sort of thing, getting in quick, punching you in the face, and then getting out. If this was how his career ended with Marvel I'd almost be happy but then some strange news came along the line and I had to take notice.

Deadpool isn’t a character I would have initially connected to the Philadelphian crime juggernaut, even thought he had previously contributed a story to the Deadpool #900 anniversary issue, but Swierczynski was being given a mini titled Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War and I knew I had to be in on it. I reviewed the first issue here and it’s a decent story, but it’s like he just made me the best eggplant burger in the world. It’s great, for what it is, but it’s just not my taste. I’ll load some pepper and Tabasco onto it and smile politely anyway but I really just want Swierczynski back in his wheelhouse, which is why I was so damn pleased when the following was announced.

Duane Swierczynski To Take Over Black Widow - #6’ I missed the boat on Marjorie Liu’s launch of the series, despite the good press that was going around. An ongoing about an international spy with superhero friends and lovers. It’s right where Swierczynski should be and I could not be happier about it. He has even said that Black Widow was an open inspiration for his nasty female protagonist in Severance Package so he should have a pretty good grasp on how to make this series continue to be awesome.

I get the feeling that Swierczynski could easily make this title a pulp must read, and I hope he does so. I don’t actually want to see him on any of Marvel’s flagship titles, I don’t think I could follow him onto Spider-Man, but giving him lower tiered characters seems like a perfect choice. I’d rather see his take on Daredevil, Ares, or the Winter Soldier than how he’d run an X-team. I just feel like his subversive paperback style is more suited to the less spandex heroes, and even when he gets the spandex, or Rand's little yellow booties, he manages to stand above the usual tropes and try his hand at something new, something that will push the boundaries a little bit.

In a dream world, Swierczynski would be coming to us in stereophonic sound via the Marvel creator owned imprint, Icon. I think he’d be able to knock some independent work out of the park and surely he’ll be doing some of it eventually. To pair him with a great little artist, someone like Clay Mann, on some sort of ultra-noir title would simply make my day.

Swierczynski did tease, recently on CBR, that he was to be paired up with a great artist to do a mini series on a very obscure Marvel character. Even more obscure than SuperPro, so I can only wonder who it is. The fact that it is someone off the radar makes me hope that he’s going to be given a fair degree of free reign to do as he wishes, and that pretty much ensures I’ll be on board for the tale.


As with most titles being launched, I strictly feel that we decide which creators get the most work by voting with our wallets. If we read 5 books by {BIG NAME CREATOR} then that person will probably be offered a 6th book, it's pure economics. Seeing as how so much of the comic industry is actually decided months before the issues actually hit stands I feel that people need to get their orders in now. If you want to jump on board a Swierczynski Black Widow title then let your LCS know, now. I'm even picking up a Deadpool comic just to show Marvel I really like this creator. I have set up Black Widow a place in my standing order already and I'd like to think it makes a little difference. If this article can convince you to go make a difference, for this creator or any other, then I'll be a happy bloke.

For now, I’ll be happy to pick up some Black Widow super-espionage from Swierczynski, and I’ll eagerly await his next mini series and just hope he gets another ongoing under his belt at some stage. I’ll be there to support it if he does because he’s honestly just one of those creators that I’ve taken a shine to and will follow just about anywhere

So, are there any creators out there that haven’t made big time yet and whom you just absolutely, almost inexplicably, love? Let us know in the comments. And let your LCS know in your standing order.

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Zdenko said...

His Cable stuff is solid. It hasn't got some grand ideas that would knock you off your feet, but it's a solid run. That said I haven't re-read it, I've followed it as it came out, so I don't remember properly.

Patrick Hulman said...

Did you notice that it took only six immortal weapons to open the door to "hell" (both in the present and the past) and yet there are seven immortal weapons?

Nathan Aaron said...

You do love some Duane Swierczynski! :)

CowboyCliche said...

Not happy that Marjorie and Acuna are leaving Black Widow. It had become my favorite new book, and now I don't know what it will become.


Mate said...

I think Swierczynski will be fine, but I'm really afraid of Manuel Garcia. His portfolio is anything, but impressive.

And I need to decide about my subscription in the next 2 week.

Simon McDonald said...

I'm excited for Swierczynski's Black Widow run despite how much I'm enjoying the current creators' take on the character.

I love Swierczynski's novels, but his comic work hasn't wowed me at all; but that's undoubtedly partially to do with my own disinterest in the characters he's played with; Cable is a definitie no-go for me, and I've no real affection for Iron Fist. His Punisher stuff was okay, solid stuff, but again, having seen what he's capable of with his novels, I wasn't as impressed as I'd anticipated.

I agree with what you said, Ryan - I'd love to see him do something creator-owned, something that allows him to really let loose. One day.

Wez said...

I enjoyed his Cable series. The second arc felt a bit weird and the less said about the X-Force cross over the better but it was a good journey.
I felt he gave Cable a greater depth and quality than just another soldier blowing shit up. His sense of responsibility and duty conflicted at times with what the smart choice was. Hope was/is his mission.
Swierczynskis writing kept me reading even through some questionable artwork at times.
I wouldn't call it a landmark series in writing but it was a good ride.
I would be interested to see how he handles a team book (X-Force or something) rather than single characters.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Hearing some pretty middle of the road accounts for Cable. I'll get there, one day, cheaply.

I really hope people take heed and try his Black Widow work, I have a feeling it'll be good. Then maybe he'll get more work.

Aaron K said...

My best friend is a huge X-universe fan. He thought "Cable" was about the worst thing ever, though I think that was due in no small part to the art (which I also found atrocious when I glanced at it).

I'm more than willing to give Swierczynski the benefit of the doubt given how much I enjoyed "Immortal Iron Fist" and how much I love the Black Widow. But, I'll also be surprised if "Black Widow" lasts more than one arc for Swierczy before it gets cancelled. Diamond's sales estimates show the series already down in the 20k-25k range. That's where "Nova", "iHerc", "GotG", "Agents of Atlas", "Ms. Marvel", "Spider-Woman", "Moon Knight", "Black Panther", "S.W.O.R.D.", "Doctor Voodoo", and other dead series had been prior to their demises (though some were re-born and "Spider-Woman" was ostensibly cancelled for other reasons).

Kirk Warren said...

@Aaron K - The art was really bad on that title for me. It detracted from the story quite a bit and made it hard to really judge it on its own merit with the stiff, CGI look. I also hated the way Bishop was forced to become a villain. Complete destruction of teh character, though not Swierczynski's fault. He was just working with the direction the X-titles pushed Bishop in.

brandon said...

For me, I dropped Cable because of the art. Olivetti just didnt do it for me at all. However, the story got way too repetitive. Leap forward, fight Bishop.

Four years ago I would have said Jason Aaron was the dude I followed that hadn't hit it big. Well, so much for that.

Nick Spencer is also great but now's he is on his way to DC....that's all I got.

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