Even if you never break into comics, at least you will have read Marvel's best anthology in some time.
Back in 1989, I convinced my mother after no small amount of begging to buy me the large paperback book by Stan Lee and John Buscema entitled How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. One can imagine the disappointment I found when I discovered that, to really draw any sort of useful advice from this book, one also had to be able to not only draw, but be willing to practice. A lot. For hours on end.
So instead, I decided to wait until PopMatters was invented and begin writing for them. Now a couple decades later, Marvel has followed up that book with a two-issue mini-series called Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way. While perhaps not as technically helpful as How to Draw Comics, it is just as much fun to read if not more so than its predecessor.
Writer/editor/Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski announced a couple of years ago the (somewhat unfortunately named) ChesterQuest, wherein he would be searching for new, raw talent to work for Marvel Comics. Largely pulling from Europe’s talent pool, Cebulski has indeed found a crop of impressive new artists, showcased here in these two issues.
And rather than give readers a strict “How-To” format, these new artists are given the opportunity to show us what they can do in this anthology format. Each issue contains six stories, penned by the likes of Chris Yost, Mike Carey, and Kathryn Immonen, and featuring a vast range of characters from the Marvel Universe.
There is also a smattering of helpful advice from Cebulski and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada as to specific do’s and dont’s. But readers are far more likely to respond and respond well for a forum like this where new talent is collected all under one roof. This not only creates a sort of trial-by-fire for the artists in question, but offers readers a fairly diverse assortment of artists to either admire and begin to follow, or dislike and plan to avoid. Marvel’s Young Guns program also intends to expose new artists to present and future readers, but by pushing specific titles already under production in some cases. This mini-series acts more like a taste spoon at the frozen yogurt stand: it can be dipped into a few times without taking a hurting on one’s wallet.
Iron-Willed: Tony Stark broods on the consequences of his IronTech being stolen
And much of the art presented here is in fact quite impressive indeed. A personal favorite is Joe Suitor’s Iron Man story, written by Stuart Moore. At first, Suitor’s quasi-Manga style, something in the vein of former Runaways artist Adrian Alphona, did not quite suit me. But as the story progressed, I found myself acclimating to it more and more until near the story’s end, Suitor renders this splash page, a sort of evolutionary chart of the Iron Man that I found myself staring at like a man in love. Cebulski’s later notes about Suitor’s “nice composition, cool imagery, [and] great coloring” are very well-founded indeed.
Do You Know Where Your Children Are: The original New Mutants find themselves trapped in Limbo, courtesy of new talent Gabriel Henandez Walta
Another great stand-out is Gabriel Hernandez Walta, whom Cebulski discovered in Barcelona. He talks about how Walta brought in a big stack of painted artboards and, even though hauling a load like that around could not be any fun, it was the only way for Walta to get across the level of detail he puts into his art. And his story in the second issue is also very much worth the trouble, a very dark New Mutants story written by Jonathan Hickman. Walta’s linework is nearly reminiscent of old wood engravings, reminding one very much of early Barry Windsor-Smith, and the savagery with which Hickman depicts Magik seems as though it could only have been done true justice by this artist.
Upon first reading these books, this reviewer was a little dubious as to the apparent exclusion of new writers. Granted, new short stories by such heavy hitters as Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman are always welcomed. But if one wants to break into comics the Marvel way, does one have to be an artist? That just brings me back to 1989.
So buying this book is probably not going to get your foot in the door to Marvel any more so than if you bought any of their other titles. But it is an entertaining anthology, filled with great stories, and it is rather exciting to be sort of “in on the ground floor” as far as these artists are concerned.