Hickman has also just launched a series from Marvel titled S.H.I.E.L.D. which delves into the clandestine history of the foremost spy agency in the Marvel U as it finds its roots in ancient civilizations and starts to collect agents like Leonardo Da Vinci and Nostradamus. It clearly is a smart and very cool title but also definitely too early to make a call on it. So that leaves me the title that I think perfectly epitomizes the erudition and style of Hickman’s ideas, behold:
Jonathan Hickman’s The Nightly News
It’s almost a shame that Hickman’s calling card remains his first ever work in the field. Sure, he’s done some phenomenal work since The Nightly News hit stands but this trade still stands up as my favourite work of his and what I think is still his most important piece. It’s a dramatic change of structure and style for most comic readers and the experimentation is completely successful. Hickman manages to fuse narrative with fact without making it feel expository. The infodumps in the page are presented in graphically organized charts and tables that are beautiful on their own and manage to not just add depth to the story but also clarify what the meaning of it all is. It takes longer to read as the words and numbers are small but the concepts are very large and by the end of this trade, when you finally get there, you feel like you’ve just undertaken a really good study course and you’re now passionate to find more out about the world around you. I gave this trade to a friend to read and he then went out and bought a copy for one of his friends. It’s a collection that even non-comic fans can easily take in and appreciate, and isn’t that what a calling card is all about?
The story is about acolytes of a cult that instructs them, via The Voice, to start killing media celebrities to make a point that the world is being controlled. It's an excellent look into the mind set of how people can be convinced, even brainwashed, by certain points of view, and it also looks at how hard it can be to remove yourself from such conditioning. There are some excellent moments of destruction as one side that believes it is right forces itself violently against another side that asserts, constantly, to the public that it is right and always will be. In the end, we see how minimal the difference truly is.
To think that this was Hickman’s first comic idea, and that he assembled the pitch so quickly and easily, is mind boggling. He’s either a very lucky or a very smart man, and if you’ve read any interviews with him I think you’ll already have your answer for that one. The man works to make his stories smart, he researches, he thinks about it, I feel like when I read one of his books that the main idea, and all satellite ideas, has been percolating in his mind for some time before he even put pen to paper. The Nightly News is a great example of just how much information Hickman can give to the reader, but also how much fun he can have influencing you, and showing the effects of this influence through his characters.
The Nightly News reads like an introductory statement for what Hickman wants to achieve with the medium. He wants to be different, he wants to be classy and not speak down, and he wants to give you something you’re probably not getting anywhere else. I feel he succeeds on all battle fronts there. Hickman ushers in a new era of comics, or at least a new branch on the many layered tree that is this medium. I only hope more fruit is grown on that section now.