Published on November 9th, 2010 | by Michael Harris0
A Week Late #4: Jonathan Hickman
WHAT I’VE READ OF HIS:
Pax Romana (Image, 4 issues, 2007-08)
The Nightly News (Image, 6 issues, 2006-07)
Transhuman (Marvel, 4 issues, 2008)
Red Mass for Mars (Image, 4 issues, 2008-2010)
Fantastic Four (Marvel, #570 – 584, October 2009 – Now)
Secret Warriors (Marvel, #1 – 21, April 2009 – Now)
S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel, #1 – 5, April 2010 – Now)
Most articles about Jonathan Hickman talk about how he “burst” into the comics world with the Eisner Award nominated The Nightly News back in 2006, but he flew under my metaphorical radar until hiw work on Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors (which started in the wake of Secret Invasion ). I’ve always loved Nick Fury and I had been missing him from Marvel continuity ever since Secret War and consequently, Secret Warriors, with a story plotted by B. M. Bendis and written by Hickman was an instant win for me. Secret Warriors, if you haven’t read, tells the story of a group of supers known only to Fury whom he picked to form small black ops teams that he could trust and that could combat the Skrull invasion that he saw coming. Now, post SI, the team became Nick Fury’s personal army in his attempt to thwart HYDRA, which he learned had long been secretly in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as numerous other government agencies. Also, during Dark Reign we learn that there is an even larger and older organization known as Leviathan that may be more powerful than HYRDA. The series is fun, full of unique character and completely made me a fan of Hickman as a writer. His work on Fantastic Four turned Reed Richards from the prudish and increasingly arrogant genius ex machina of Marvel into a dynamic character with depth and emotion. Also, his Fantastic Four work revitalized the scope of the team, showing the reason that they are as prominent as they are by giving them galactic and universal threats and leaving the commonplace villains to other teams. However, it wasn’t until I explored his other works like Pax Romana and The Nightly News that I fell in love with the man.
Pax Romana tells the story of a near future version of the Catholic Church, wherein the church has strongly endorsed scientific research in response to the expansion of other religions in Europe and America. Genetic engineering and medicine has advanced to the point where people can live hundreds of years with a few medical procedures and the Catholic Church is the first to know when a major breakthrough occurs (very much by accident) in time-travel. The church sends a team of modern military minds to the Fourth Century in order to alter history to better suit the desires of the papacy, but things do not go as planned.
“All my life I have wanted to be…sought to be…a spiritual person, but like my country, my religion has prevented me from being the man I want to be. No more. And so we meet here… now. I mean for us to do our duty and completely change the course of human history…” -Pax Romana
The Nightly News is the story of every time the news might have got a story wrong and what happens when people decide to fight back against the media machine. A group is formed of radical “victims” of the mass media who have had their marriages, careers, and lives ruined in some way by some fault in reporting that couldn’t be forgotten. The radicals are led by the mysterious “Hand” who directs them to commit violent acts against the agents of the mass media and start an information revolution. The story follows John Guyton from his path as a victim to a devout believer and instrument of The Voice.
“It is a lie you choose to believe – That bad things just happen. From mouth to ear and back again, they lied. They repeated that lie until there was no distinction between the truth and this lie. Your life – an amusement to them. This is what the media does, they destroy with impunity.” -The Nightly News
First off, his comics have a very distinct visual style and a very distinct feel to them that lets you know from the second that you see them that it is a Hickman creation. Each page is a deluge of information, from factoids and clarifications to complications and commentaries. You feel like you’re reading the comic straight off of an interactive website that has been designed to make you understand just as much as Hickman wants you to understand. Each page is laid out with the end goal in mind and is meticulously planned to give enough information and context to make sense of the story.
To make a point; Hickman writes crazy. I can’t deny that he writes some insanely high-concept pieces of fiction that go beyond my ken of casual understanding. However, he doesn’t write it in a way that excludes readers because of their lack of understanding. His high science is not meant to be understood, only accepted. He never tries to write over the heads of the reader with convoluted plots, on the contrary, his plots are generally quite simple mystery plots told from an interesting perspective. Pax Romana is told from the perspective of a young, genetically-perfected and grown emperor being told the story of how his empire came into existence, Transhuman is told from the perspective of a documentary host explaining how the status quo of the world came to be shifted and The Nightly News from an entirely unreliable perspective which you simultaneously are meant to fear and trust implicitly. The plots, however, are not what are important. What is important is Hickman’s ability to create a world where the impossible seems plausible as he is able to very keenly analyze and reflect human nature as it seems it would behave in these situations.
At the moment, in addition to Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors, Hickman is taking on a project that looks like it will change the entirety of Marvel comics. S.H.I.E.L.D. is (so far) an epic story spanning generations that tells of the origins of the abbreviated organization that has been such a huge factor in the Marvel world. Individuals such as Leonardo DaVinci, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Nostrodamus, and Archiamedes have been shown to be members as well as Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic’s fathers, respectively. The final outcome of the book is such that I cannot venture a guess with even a vague hope that it will be accurate but we have already seen that it reaches back to ancient Egypt, and it might involve Galactus and the Celestials. The book also has yet to name Leviathan or HYDRA which both have been stated will be included in the overall story. The only thing we readers can do is sit patiently and wait for a great storyteller to give us more to read and enjoy.
For a while, Hickman did a column over at www.iFanboy.com called Concentric Circles. Hickman’s website is www.PRONEA.com
NEWS IN COMICS:
» The Walking Dead is already renewed for a second season.
Cowboy Ninja Viking is being developed for a movie by the writers of Zombieland.
Comic-Con San Diego registration is changed to November 22nd.
» Casting for Akira movie adaptation is moving ahead with Zac Efron and Morgan Freeman rumored to be involved.
» Just in case you haven’t heard, Sally Field is going to be Aunt May and Martin “Illusive Man” Sheen is going to be Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man Reboot.
» Christopher Nolan’s Legendary Pictures is very soon going to be branching out with Legendary Comics.
» Marvel is shysty with their price drop to $2.99 on *cough* limited series and DC is dropping their cheaper comics down to 20 (from 22) pages of story.
» This week we get a brand new hardcover edition of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, I think that deserves a mention.
WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK:
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (of 6)
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #4
Red Robin #17
Knight & Squire #2 (of 6)
American Vampire #8
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
New Avengers #6
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #3 (of 9)
Thanos Imperative #6 (of 6)
Ant-Man& Wasp #1 (of 3)
Cowboy Ninja Viking #10
Atomic Robo: Deadly Art of Science #1 (of 5)