It seems fitting that my first post would be about the man who has reignited my love for comics, Jonathan Hickman. As a keen comic book reader as a kid it has been 20 years since I have read comic books seriously and Hickman's Fantastic Four was going to be my first step into the neighbourhood.
Jonathan Hickman and The Fantastic Four
My only real experience of the Fantastic Four was a vague understanding of the comics and a couple of so so films. The characters never really appealed to me and for me, it was a franchise I was happy to leave well alone. I understood that the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation was important, I just didn't see it. I also clearly didn't buy into the self title of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine." That and the lead character being called "Mr Fantastic" seemed a little much.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on issue 570, the start of Solve Everything, and though not his first Fantastic Four work, it was the perfect starting off point for me. First off, I didn't know that Reed and Sue had kids, Franklin and Val. Initially I thought these were cheap additions to the plot and wouldn't add that much value - this is before they have turned into two of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe. What Hickman is able to do is to not only make these characters have depth and reality (it takes something to make them believable) but to make me care about them through some of the grandest narrative arcs involving multiple realities, multiple universes and plot twists that were genuinely shocking. It was Hickman's ability to manage all of these various strands, and to make it an incredible read, that was truly staggering. Along with the incredible artwork, it was his ability to tell a story that, by all accounts, should have been ridiculous, that had me coming back for more each month.
Long term advocates of Fantastic Four clearly brought into his work but for me it was a staggering introduction to a comic staple and the perfect starting point for my exploration of the Marvel Universe and Hickman's work. If you haven't, get your hands on issue 570 and start your journey.
Jonathan Hickman and The Manhattan Projects
Once my interest was sparked I wanted to hoover up everything he had written and was lucky enough to be pointed towards The Manhattan Projects. Taking the starting point that the Manhattan Project was a cover for something much grander, Hickman has a field day with the possibilities. Published through Image Comics the cover art is truly genius and is the perfect reflection of the content.
Filled with true characters from warfare and science, the series, which started in 2012, introduces you to the alternative universe of Oppenheimer, Einstein, Feynman and many more and quickly moves on from the end of World War Two to create much grander threats to the world. That every character has significant flaws that threaten the group as well as all having their own personal reasons for being involved creates a sense of drama and tension that I hadn't encountered with comics before. The artwork is sometimes a little jarring but Hickman's story telling blitzes any issues you might have and again, this has become a monthly staple for me.
Jonathan Hickman Comics
At present I have gone through Hickman's work on Nightly News, S.H.I.E.L.D., Pax Romana and Red Mass for Mars and enjoyed all, to varying degrees. Pax Romana is a story he loved writing and plays to all his strengths. Would love to see that series fleshed out a lot more though through further issues. The next read though is his work on Avengers and New Avengers in the Marvel Now relaunch.
Avengers and New Avengers
Much like the Fantastic Four, I was continually aware of the Avengers but never took the time to explore it. It just seemed hard to get into, characters that I wasn't hugely fussed about and though I loved Thor, I had real problems with the Hulk. So when the Marvel film world started booting up I would watch the films but even that wasn't enough to motivate me to read the comics. The Avengers film though gave me the kick I needed to explore it but until I realised Hickman was involved I hadn't taken the time to catch up. Now I know he is, and considering how much I love Fantastic Four and The Manhatan Projects, it is a must.
Hickman then is not only the reason my love for comics has been reignited, he is the reason I am getting into franchises that previously I wouldn't have cared about or touched. The Marvel world is a big one, Hickman is the reason I am exploring it.
Links of note
Jonathan Hickman's blog - http://www.pronea.com/
Jonathan Hickman's Twitter - https://twitter.com/JHickman