Hey everyone! Welcome back to a special edition of my Read Pile for this week. As you might know, I’ve been doing a series of “Versus” books as a theme for my read pile entries, and I’ll definitely have another one of those for you next week.
However, my favorite part of this job is the fact that I get to sometimes meet super awesome, super creative people like myself that also just happen to be forging their own paths in the crazy world of comic book publishing. That happened to me recently when I had the great pleasure of meeting Nate & Stacie Pinsoneault, two Pittsburgh area based creators of the 819 Comics line.
Photo Credit: Robert Armstrong 2018
I was originally drawn to Nate’s artwork as I was thumbing through his collection of prints and found the one he made in honor of Jack Kirby’s 100th Birthday featuring Orion, Silver Surfer, Forger, and some Celestials thrown for good measure. That print immediately got Nate and I talking and as I should have guessed from his art style, he was a fellow fan of Kirby’s 4th World Saga. But what really got me excited was the fact that he was actually a comic book creator, not just print artist.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being an artist that just does prints, but for me, given I’m a writer at heart, those artists that take that love of the comic medium, of the tropes and characters that have been passed down from generation to generation and synthesize into something of their own is what I’m after. Those that take it to the next level and actually create something which marries illustration with original storytelling which adds to the collective we call the comic book universe…that…that is the good stuff.
And so there was no question, I had to pick up his work, and thus I bought issue 1 of his comic companies’ current flagship character, Mister Marsh. Even got good ol’ Nate to sign my copy. Class act that guy!
But for those that think I’m just using this blog as a forum to do shameless promotion of 819 comics and not do a proper read pile of this as a comic as I have in the past, let’s go ahead and take a deeper dive into this issue.
The issue starts with the familiar narrative trope of an established character, in this case Mister Marsh, recounting how his adventures started, as to allow the author to provide the audience with an origin story framed within the context that these events have long passed. As an author myself, I definitely can dig this approach as I detest origin stories and would much rather just dump the audience into the middle of the action as quickly as possible. Issue 1 of this series doesn’t go as far as that though, as we are introduced to who I believe Mister Marsh was prior to becoming the “steampunk”ish knight in shining armor: a simple farm hand named Macon working for Miss Maddy Maple (who looks somewhat like Mary Jane Watson from the Spidey books to me).
The two of the are trapped in a blazing barn set afire by a trio of no goodniks named the Drakes. As Macon helps Maddy escape, he ends up to seemingly perish a victim of a unfortunate collapsing floor board.
However, despite an exhaustive search, his body is never found and Maddy doesn’t give up hope that he’s still alive. That hope is rewarded as Macon falls from the heavens days later enclosed in a metallic prison of sorts, what looks to be some sort of robotic life support system. We aren’t actually privy to whether the suit can be removed or not in that first issue, but in the far away Eighth City, a wizened old crone seems pleased that her old friend has returned.
Perhaps we should be as well as it seems this Mister Marsh has tremendous powers some of which he uses to save Maddy again from the hands of evil Drake triplets who it looks like have returned to finish the job they started at the barn. And that’s where the issue ends, with a dramatic sneak peek of the marvelous super human abilities that Mister Marsh possesses.
From a narrative perspective, I feel that first issue does what first issues should in that it starts teasing out the main characters, although I would have liked to have found out a little more about the Drake Triplets and why exactly they were such awful people. Perhaps that’s for future issues, but as thus far the main antagonists and in some ways the catalyst that starts this “hero’s journey”, their relationship with Maddy and Macon could have been fleshed out a bit more. But long story short, there’s more good here than bad in terms of storytelling so I’m willing to give it a pass until issue 2 at least to see if things start coming together. Again, origin stories are some of the hardest stories to tell because there’s so much to relay to the audience in such a short amount of time, that often they can’t be contained into a single issue.
As for the art, again, I’m a sucker for Kirby and you can tell Nate is as well what with the Kirby dots and energy crackles. Mister Marsh is a very striking super hero with a great design that’s a bit reminiscent of Doctor Doom what with the green and gray iron motif. But hey, Doctor Doom is one of Jack Kirby most famous designs as well and one of my favorite characters so I’m not going to knock Nate for the homage. I guess my only knit picky thing about the art is sometimes the shading on bare flesh makes some of the characters look a little “vein”y which I could have done without, but again overall the visuals are crisp and the layouts handled nicely. Plus there’s a decent amount of emotion conveyed in those panels so the art succeeds in bringing out Nate’s passion for this story and his characters which is always a plus.
In closing, like supporting local comic shops, I’m also a firm believer in supporting local talent, especially when they got the makings of a great creation on their hands. Just based on the first issue, I’m intrigued to see where this comic series goes from there, as they definitely set the table with the combination of space age/mysticism aspects of the book such as the old lady that is one part fortune teller one part Yoda. They also tease a lot more through dropping neat character names like The Dumpster or Six-VI, all of which I’m sure will pay off later.
In fact, I might not even have to wait as 819 Comics recently announced the release of the first Mister Marsh trade which you can pick up at their website now. So even if you are someone like me that doesn’t pick up the singles and waits for the TPB collection, Nate and Stacie got you covered.
So here’s hoping you follow Uncle Andy’s sagely advise and give Mister Marsh a try. Not only is a great comic with classic Kirbyesque visuals, but you’d definitely be supporting a lovely comic book couple with their creative endeavors. And as friends of the ol’ GotS crew, we wholeheartedly are down with that!