Well how do fellas and fellerettes? I thought I posted this ages ago, but I, err... didn't. Anyway, here it is.
Beyond! is a Marvel team up book that came out in 2006, but was overshadowed by whatever event they were having that week. I think it was Everyone’s A Bastard Now or Iron Man’s A Dick This Month or The day the Earth Turned Bastard maybe it was All Women Is Bitches . Something like that. Anyway, this series is an old school Marvel Crossover which picks up where 80s crossover Secret Wars left off and It’s the same premise on a slightly smaller scale. A mysterious disembodied entity “From Beyond!” whisks away a random assortment of Marvel heroes and villains to a far off planet and offers them their wildest dreams if they do everyone else in. Of course it’s not just a free for all, there are enough twists, turns and what-have-yous in this to keep us readers entertained. At the beginning of this story it’s revealed that the events of Secret Wars was not a one off, and this Beyonder has been bringing group after group of characters to die fighting on this planet for years and now it’s these guys’ turn. Remarkably they manage to work in this premise, so steeped in Marvel Universe history, but make it totally new reader friendly at the same time. I think this largely stems from the choice of characters.
For Beyond! McDuffie picked a truly eclectic bunch of A-Z listers, I think it’s this mixture of characters everyone knows and characters nobody knows that are essentially clean slates for most of the audience. I was particularly happy to see Deathlok get an outing, it’s not my favourite version of the character, but I’m always happy to see Deathlok get some attention. The version in this story is the one from the series McDuffie wrote in the 90s and he obviously has a fondness for the character, so this Deathlok fan approves. Another character its good to see again is The Wasp who was rather pointlessly killed off by Brian Michael Bendis a few years later in Marvel mega-event Everyone Secretly a Bastard, which looking back on it was a load of cack. Rounding off the cast are Hank Pym (wife beating former Avenger), Firebird (uninspiring former Avenger), Kraven the Hunter (the not such a villain, more like Steve Irwin son of the original), The Hood (the sympathetic pre being written by Bendis version), Venom (the one that used to be The Scorpion), Gravity (I didn’t read it either, he seems a bit like Invincible), Medusa (the incestuous Inhuman) and Spider-Man (never heard of him).
Scott Kolins art suits the tone perfectly, his style has a fantastic mixture of the stylish modern artist, and the classic Marvel method. I do have one gripe about his art namely “what in the hell is Pym wearing?” but other artistic choices like Firebird’s naff Native American themed kit and Venom’s killer Scorpion tail, actually work if you ask me. The Venom tail particularly, which I thought was a nice addition to the character. On that note, it warrants mention that this was written when the Mac Gargan Venom was a fairly new concept, and people were having fun with the new design. Nowadays everyone just draws classic Venom, maybe a bit bigger, but still same old, same old which I think is a wasted opportunity.
The book is created by Dwayne McDuffie and Scot Kollins both of whom made their names chiefly from their work for the Distinguished Competition, McDuffie for his work on Static and his Milestone characters and later with the Justice League in comics and Animation; Kollins known largely for his critically applauded work on The Flash. It’s interesting to see these guys let loose on such unashamedly classic Marvel action, full of obscure cameos and continuity nods, and they do a bloody great job of it too if you ask me.
I wholeheartedly recommend this and it’s not just the hangover talking.
Saturday, 22 January 2011