12.23.2009

My 13 Favorite Things of 2009 (Part 9 of 17)

Dark Reign: Zodiac (Marvel): I deeply, deliberately, defensively even, tuned out of all things bearing the Dark Reign banner. I really can’t stress that enough. But. Joe Casey. Nathan Fox. When I see those two names on a book, it’s basically an instant buy, regardless of company, character, or content. Joe Casey had an interesting run on Uncanny X-Men that pre-dated his prescient and forward thinking Wildcats re-launches, but Wildstorm’s Automatic Kafka is what really turned my appreciation of his ability into fandom. I’ve followed everything since, Avengers, Godland, even some of the G.I. Joe work for Devil’s Due Publishing. I randomly saw Nathan Fox’s art for the first time while picking up Dark Horse’s Pigeons from Hell mini-series out of a quarter bin. He began popping up here and there, including a great single issue of DMZ spotlighting DJ Random Fire. Instant fandom ensued, and I now pick up anything he works on. The easiest way to condense what I loved about Dark Reign: Zodiac into a short blurb is to cite the writing in the self-aware line “all good things are done in defiance of management” and couple that with Nathan Fox’s disturbing and unsettling images of Johnny Storm being beaten up that served as the series opener. It’s almost as if Marvel Editorial either wasn’t aware of, or didn’t care about, what was going on in this throwaway little book, and allowed this fresh, subversive, creative outburst to occur right in its own backyard. Zodiac is so consistent with itself; it’s dark tone, violence, sex, and humor boldly shrug their shoulders at the conventional, while being compelling and entertaining. This book is remarkably different, tonally, visually, and stylistically. In the current market landscape occupied largely by the Big Two, it’s but a tiny example of the type of paradigm shifting projects they could be publishing, instead of turning to so many dry wells seeking to recapture some nostalgic time in the past that never really existed in the first place. We should have all paid more attention to this quiet little coup d’etat. Because these guys? These guys are the future.

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