Welcome to Marvel A-Z, a project wherein I read from Marvel Unlimited alphabetically by creator, and comment on what I find. Last time, I finished a very extensive look at Dan Abnett, so it’s nice this time to look at a few smaller bodies of work. Today, we’re looking at three creators, going from Paul Abrams to Ben Acker. Also, I figured out how to adjust the picture size, so that’s something to look forward to.
Paul Abrams. Abrams is credited as artist for three issues from 1991 to 1992. There’s Avengers 340, a one shot written by David Michelinie and Scott Lobdell where the Avengers rescue children from their tyrannical arms dealer father (and for essentially no reason have Jarvis stand-in as a gun runner). The book has two inkers, and Abrams’ art improves noticeably half way through the book when the lines get much thinner. The other two issues are Parts 3 and 4 of a Nick Fury arc, “The Cold War of Nick Fury”; Parts I and II are by a different team entirely, so something went odd there. The issues introduce a team of operatives who are…. well, very much the sort of characters Scott Lobdell would create in the 90s.
Ben Acker. Acker is 1/2 of a writing team, with Ben Blacker; they’re probably best known for their fictional podcast series, Amazing Adventure Hour. His Marvel comics are with Blacker as well, and their comic output for Marvel is in a similar vein, tending towards some dramatic moments, but also a lot of humour and silliness. Here, for example, are two panels from their Deadpool Annual in 2013:
Their style is well-suited for Deadpool, and they’ve contributed stories to a few Deadpool anniversary comics, as well as the Gambit v Deadpool miniseries. (It also works well for their Star Wars comics.) I prefer the slightly more serious work, however. Not so much Wolverine: Season One (a retelling of Wolverine’s origins that really makes you wonder how the Hudsons stayed married for more than 30 seconds) but the Thunderbolts 2014 run is really good. The premise is that they’re an extreme team put together by Thunderbolt Ross, and thus includes Red Hulk, Punisher, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Deadpool and a forced Red Leader; the plot is essentially the team falling apart through mistrust and Ross’ need for control and there’s some genuinely interesting visual approaches they enact with artist Carlo Barbeli. My personal favorites are this depiction of the Leader’s mental state:
And, maybe borrowing a page from contemporary David Aja’s Hawkeye, this depiction of Elektra and Punisher on a date:
In both cases, there’s still a humorous aspect to what’s going on, but it’s not the main attraction. And as a result, the Thunderbolts run winds up being a lot of fun.
Chris Acosta. Acosta (I think) works for Marvel in the Marketing and Product department; here, he’s writing a portion of the What If? Secret Invasion comic, “What if the Secret Invasion Remained Secret?”. The original What If? series varied greatly in tone–since most issues were by different creative teams, that’s to be expected. But generally, the issues either looked at low level self-contained stories (for example, the story where Mystique kept Nightcrawler, but raised him in hiding) or a sweeping, cause-and-effect look at what happens if a small element of the Marvel Universe changes (what if Ka-Zar failed to stop Kevin Plunder from using… the Cosmic Cube, I want to say). More recently, Marvel’s approach has been to release a one-shot a little after a comics event, and it doesn’t work for me, generally; either it’s too close to the original events, or it veers in a weird direction that does make sense, or, as in this case, it proposes multiple what ifs for the same event, and the impact is lost between them. (Sidenote: for a recent What If? that worked, there was an issue where Dr Strange took in Magik as a teen instead of the X-Men; that one was both self-contained and at a distance from the events.) The story here works OK–Norman Osborn figures out the Skrulls have infiltrated, only to realize they came a lot closer than he thought. It does rely on sympathy for Osborn, though, and interest in the Skrull invasion, and I remember a general fatigue on both fronts when this originally came out.
Next on the list is someone I neglected the first time through, for reasons we can get into later: artist Daniel Acuña. It turns out he has a pretty large body of work, so we’ll save him for the next post.