If you've been a regular reader of Panel Discussion, you've seen the name Jonathan Hickman pop up before, albeit briefly. I've mentioned him when it comes to praising the writer's work on such Marvel Comics titles as the Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors.
|Marvel Comics/Jim Cheung (left) and Gerald Parel|
So what's so special about Hickman?
Glad you asked because this week--which also, coincidentally, sees the release of Secret Warriors #18 and S.H.I.E.L.D. #3, two of the writer's highly ambitious and highly entertaining series--we're going to take a look at five reasons that make Jonathan Hickman a comic creator worth reading by looking at five of his comics you probably haven't picked up.
1. He's an innovative storyteller
The comic The Nightly News
Hickman burst on to the comic book scene with this ambitious miniseries, which he wrote and illustrated. The concept--an examination of the corrupt side of modern news media and the destructiveness of blind, idealistic zealotry--perfectly matched Hickman's fresh storytelling approach that eschewed a traditional panel approach in favor of a slick, open-page, design-heavy style that blends a straightforward narrative with dense, informative background graphics. It's a stunning debut that's relevant today in its style and its content.
2. He tells sprawling, multi-layered epics
The comic Pax Romana
How do you follow a bravura work like The Nightly News? If you're HIckman, you up the stakes with Pax Romana, a miniseries that uses the same storytelling techniques to look at history, science and religion. In the future, the Vatican creates a plan to secure its dominance by sending an army into the past in order to establish Catholicism as the dominant religion in the world. It's a complex story involving time travel and theocracy, and it's well worth the effort.
3. He tells smart stories
The comic Transhuman
Although Hickman's best work comes through when he illustrates his own stories, he also works well with a collaborator. In Transhuman, Hickman and artist J.M. Ringuet use an effective documentary style to tell a story of corporate politics and genetic manipulation.Using the documentary as a storytelling device allows Hickman to present a complex story about the ins and outs of how captains and industries work to create the very first "superhumans" as just a way to make a profit. He does it in an entertaining and engaging fashion that doesn't insult or bore the reader. Plus, he injects a fair share of humor into the story (the rundown of the test monkeys and their abilities is priceless).
|Marvel Comics/Jonathan Hickman|
4. He's a master of the infographic
The comic Strange Tales (vol. 5) #2 (2009)
Infographics are a signature in all the works Hickman illustrates--and even those he doesn't, such as the organizational charts for Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. that he did early on in Secret Warriors. He knows how to design them, and he knows how to use them as effective ways to communicate information. He also can use them to tell a good gag or two, like he did with a series of Galactus herald recruitment posters (click on the image for a better look).
5. He has a dark sense of humor
|Marvel Comics/Kody Chamberlin|
"Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu and Deadpool in The Annual Race to Benefit Various and Sundry Evil Organizations and Also the Homeless (Now With Beer and Hot Dogs)," Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu Super Issue
If you're going to do a Deadpool story, you're going to have to make sure it's funny. This story isn't just funny, it makes you go "eww" as you're laughing at the names of the evil gangs or figuring out what the mystery meat is at the Sodom Diner.
Other comics to check out this week
- Baltimore: Plague of Ships #1 Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden adapt their World War I-set vampire novel into a five-issue miniseries with art by Ben Stenbeck.
- Chloe Not to be confused with the steamy, sexy Amanda Seyfried movie of the same name. Although it's easy to confuse the two, given the erotic nature of Hans Rickheit's tale about a teenage girl and a hermetic dwarf.
- Deadpool #1000 Yes, the issue numbering is meant as a joke. What isn't a joke is the alt-comics talent assembled for this anthology issue, which includes Peter Bagge (Hate) and Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle).
- Eden The first collection of comics by Argentinian cartoonist Pablo Holmberg, a.k.a. Kioskerman.
- Indoor Voice Jillian Tamaki follows up her critically acclaimed Skim with this collection of comics and sketches.
- Secret Six #24 Writer Gail Simone takes an inventive, off-beat approach to the series, imagining her team of supervillains for hire existed in the Old West.
- Supergod #4 The penultimate chapter of Warren Ellis' take on what would happen if world governments actually created their own national superheroes. Not for the squeamish.