Friday, August 26, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Four: Marvel Knights

I've never been especially fond of the name "Marvel Knights," but I don't hate it either and since Marvel's used it a couple of times to identify its street-level, edgier characters, it's recognizable. So I'll use it too.

22. Dakota North by Ed Brubaker and Phil Noto

I don't know much about Dakota North. I don't think I've ever read one of her adventures, but she's a private eye working in the Marvel U and that could be a lot of fun. Maybe it's similar to Alias - I've never read it either - but with Brubaker writing it, it could be a fun, adventurous, Marvel version of something like Gotham Central. I picked Phil Noto for the art because he knows how to give female characters cool attitude without making them obnoxious.

21. Kraven the Hunter by Gail Simone and Marian Churchland

I admit that I picked Gail Simone for this because of the wonders she worked on Catman and because Kraven's a similar character. But visually, Kraven's much cooler and I'd love to see her do something comparable with him; give him some kind of moral center instead of just being whackadoo. Marian Churchland's soft, elegant work would give the series a pastoral look that would reinforce the idea that Kraven's seeking peace, even when he's involved in violence.

20. Hercules by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland

There are a few reasons I'm not reading the current Herc series; none of them having anything directly to do with the creators involved. Indirectly though, I wouldn't be able to pass up a Hercules series drawn by the wife-and-husband team (I think they're married; doesn't matter) of LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (Prince of Persia, Solomon's Thieves). They've got a strong, mythic quality to their work that's totally unique and exciting.

As for why Hercules is in this category: it's a tonal thing. He was the original street-level hero. In Greek mythology - a world filled with iconic, superpowered beings - Hercules was the grounded one whom people could relate to. That feeling is important to who he is and last time I checked in, Pak and Lente were already doing a great job of presenting him that way.

19. Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu by Phil Hester and Mark Smylie

I love Phil Hester's writing because there's always a layer of something deeper going on underneath the action. That's crucial to Master of Kung Fu, a series that in the '70s was filled with as much thought and philosophy as martial arts and espionage. Mark Smylie (Artesia) would complement that balance beautifully. He can paint the most brutally violent battle scene in the most exquisitely lush and contemplative way.

18. The Falcon by Greg Rucka and Steve Rude

The Falcon is one of those characters I wish I knew more about and would totally jump on if some exciting creators told a story about him. He's got a great look and I've loved him in Captain America and on Super Hero Squad, but I'd love even more to get him away from the other superheroes and see what makes him tick. I think Rucka and Rude are the guys to do that.

17. The Sub-Mariner by Ed Brubaker and David Petersen

Some of you have already pointed out that Namor would fit in well in other categories and you're right. He's a versatile character. I've put him in Marvel Knights in great part because of his attitude. I like Namor a lot, but he's a nasty dude with some serious problems he needs to get figured out. I'd certainly want this to have some great, undersea adventure to it, but I'd love for the tone to be similar to what Brubaker did with Captain America. It's exciting and fun, but it's grounded in real emotion as Cap continues to struggle - even after all these years - with being a man out of his own time. Namor's dealing with even more than that.

I picked David Petersen because he's got a realistic style and could draw the hell out of some undersea life.

16. The Panther by Mark Waid and Amy Reeder

One of the things I love most about Waid is that he knows how to dig into a character and find the approach that best suits that character's strengths without having to go off in a radical, new direction. Recently, Black Panther has changed gender, painted himself like the US flag, and borrowed Daredevil's tag line, so it's pretty clear that he's lost his way and needs someone to center him again. That's why Waid. Meanwhile, Amy Reeder (Madame Xanadu) has a sleek, romantic style that could be really cool for a series about a jungle king who dresses like a cat.

You've noticed that I dropped the "Black" from the title. I don't think it needs it, but I could be persuaded differently if it helps identify him as a black character. Unlike Falcon, when he's in costume you can't tell just by looking at him.

15. She-Hulk by Peter David and Cameron Stewart

Peter David's an underrated writer these days and his time on She-Hulk was done too soon. He inherited the character at a time when she was just coming off the tragic events of Civil War and World War Hulk and not only did he deal with that, he made her dealing with it an integral part of the story he was telling. He was also vocal though about wanting to eventually move past that to get back to the light-hearted She-Hulk he really wanted to write. The series was cancelled though and he never got the chance. I wanted to read those stories, so I'd bring him back. Artwise, I've been a big fan of Cameron Stewart since I discovered The Apocalipstix and would love to see him draw this.

14. Daredevil and Elektra by Mark Waid and Hub

Like Wolverine, Daredevil's another character I don't have a lot of affection for, but it wouldn't really be Marvel without a series that featured him. I haven't read Mark Waid and Marcos Martin's current run at Daredevil, but I'm not surprised to hear that it's very good. In order to make this interesting for me, I'd keep Waid on it, but turn it into another two-character team-up book by having Elektra co-star. Not that I'm a big Elektra fan either, but the two of them together may be more interesting than either of them separately.

The final push though would come from having Hub (Okko) on art. As great as Martin is, I can't not buy a book by Hub. He's also really excellent at depicting a fantastic version of Southeast Asia that could come, Hand-y (sorry) when doing a book about a couple of ninjas.

13. The Champions by Kurt Busiek and Becky Cloonan

The founding line-up for this short-lived team was Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, Angel, and Iceman. The Russian superhero Darkstar joined later. I didn't read this as a kid, but discovered it later thanks to my fondness for Black Widow. It's pretty cool that she was leading this team in the '70s. That's not as unique an idea now as it was then, but the line-up of characters is still unexpected and weird, especially having Ghost Rider on board.

Angel and Iceman aren't quite as interesting now as they were when the team debuted either. They were fresh out of the X-Men after the All-New All-Different team sort of pushed them out and they had something to prove. They were looking for a new home and since they were going through it together, they were able to talk about it and compare their new team to their old one. I don't know if I'd use the same two characters today, but maybe someone comparable. Characters who are immediately identifiable as X-Men, but could reasonably feel pushed out of that group for some reason. It sort of needs to be former X-Men because while that's not the most familial group of superheroes Marvel has (that would be the Fantastic Four), it's a big enough family that there are by necessity fringe members. Gambit and Psylocke might be good choices. Maybe Jubilee? Someone who's been central to the team in the past, but isn't anymore. It could be interesting watching them to try to adapt to life outside an X-group.

Anyway, Busiek is a writer who loves to try new things and would be perfect for this. Becky Cloonan has a gorgeous, gritty style that would work well for this street-level team as well.

On Monday, we'll wrap up with the last 12 titles: Marvel Heroes.


Kal said...

These posts have been great to read. You have expertly put together a roster of titles that would really send some excitement through the comic reading community. I wish we could get away from the Age of Bendis and huge EVENTS like the failure that is 'Fear Itself'.

Ian Explosivo said...

Oh man, a Dakota North comic by Brubaker and Noto? Get this man a seat at Marvel's round table stat!

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Marvel Knights is the umbrella I currently read the least of, but these pitches are options that make it hard to choose a single title as my favorite. Maybe its because you've sprinkled a number of characters that ordinarily get shuffled into "The rest of the Marvel Universe" for diversity.

Dakota North is definitely a "new" character for me, and one I could get hooked on easily, the PI angle making further connections throughout the greater Marvel Universe, plus Phil Notos Fantastic artwork. I'm digging this image with the Audrey Hepburn stylish silhouette and negative space earphones.

Rucka and Rude would be a stellar team on any book, so it feels right pinning them with a character like Falcon who as a rich history as a former Avenger and friend and partner to Captain America.

I'd buy "Sub-Mariner" just for the art, its a kind of style the character hasn't really had before.

Panther really is a tough nut to crack, often writers just seem to have him take on quality of more popular characters like Batman or Daredevil. You're right on there with Waid being able to dig up the essence of the character.

Personally, I'd dig back to the first solo series by Jack Kirby were he was a globetrotting adventurer protecting ancient treasures of great power from falling into the wrong hands, using a combination of intelligence, fighting prowess, advanced technology, and noble moral code to battle enemies that were on Thor level strength.

I'd also like to see a story involving Panther and Doctor Doom together. They seem destined for an involuntary team up or confrontation. Both of them are genius bruisers, equipped with advanced science and are both kings of their own land (plus both created by Jack Kirby for the FF Title)

Through Sub-Mariner into that mix and you'd have the best Marvel Sitcom ever, we could call it "We Three Kings", with Black Bolt as the wacky drop in neighbor who communicates through pantomime! Oh the hilarity!

And I'm in favor of any Shulkie series that gets her back to basics as "Fun Personified", definitely something you need as ballast in the angsty Marvel U. Peter David is an excellent writer, making it all the more appealing to say nothing of Cameron Stewart's art, hubba hubba!

Ken O said...

I've been giving David Petersen my money for years. This idea would just make me give him more.


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