The Comic Bookworm: Operation S.I.N.
Hello world. You may recognize me from my appearances of the GOT Stratosphere podcast but I am now also available for your reading pleasure in the blog-o-sphere! You’re excited aren’t you?!?! That’s right, Ghost Andy has finally convinced me to write for the blog, adding (I hope) a little perspective from the female persuasion.
I’m going to jump right in and make a confession–comic books are not quite what I’d call my cup of tea. To be totally honest, when Andrew (yes, he is Andrew to me) would talk about reading comic books I would be like, “that’s not reading”. Comic books held no comparison to well written prose, pages and pages of text that would allow you to escape to another place, time or into someone else’s life. I would stubbornly (I am mostly German so go figure) stick to this “that’s not a book” until just recently. But more on that some other time.
My first introduction to comic books came when I was first dating Andrew, albeit he did not display his full level of comic book geekdom until much later (I blame Chad and Stew for bringing it back full force once we moved back to the ‘Burgh). He talked about comics a bit and asked if I’d be interested in reading any. Of all the characters he mentioned, the ONLY one that I was REMOTELY interested in was the Fantastic Four. So, I diligently read from the Marvel Masterworks collection, starting with Issue #1 since I am most definitely a linear, organized reader. Whereas Andrew could just pick up a random issue (probably in part since he had read them all before) and read it, I wanted to start with No. 1 and progress through as they were written.
It wasn’t the comic, it was me…I just wasn’t that into it. I pressed on a little since it seemed to endear me to Andrew’s heart a little. But then I stopped. Game over.
Fast forward now many years later–a move to Chicago, a move back to Pittsburgh, two kids and a continuous battle to balance work and home life. What does Andrew decide to do–start a podcast and blog with his friends. Seems great right? Sure enough, I find myself on the show reviewing the Netflix Marvel series and then some MCU movies and then low and behold–I’m reading comics.
And, I must admit–I don’t hate it! One of my main gripes with comics is actually the longevity of them. I have a hard time following the reinvention/reincarnation/resurgence of characters and storylines. Some of these are so confusing and convoluted it is nearly impossible for a newbie to follow (anyone tried looking up the history of Captain Marvel lately???). I tend to be drawn to self-contained series or at least newer series where I can start at the beginning without trying to dredge through 60 years of backstory.
I also find myself enjoying more recent comics more than say, Golden or Silver age stuff. Stew and I both seem to dislike the fact that many of these older comic books have a way of spelling out exactly what the characters are doing and/or thinking in the word bubbles, whereas I feel the modern art is so much better at letting you “see” the actions and emotions without having to put it into words. But long story short, I’m actually enjoying myself.
So, here is my first blog on a comic. Who would have thunk it? A few months ago, while on vacation in S.C., I planned an awesomely romantic date-day/night with Andrew (cuz I can be a cool wife like that sometimes). We left the kids with Bibi and Grampie and headed across town to North Charleston to a comic book shop 🙂 The shop was sponsoring a comic book trivia night at a local pizzeria and so we thought we’d stop there before hitting a local brewery or two and then the contest. While Andrew was schmoozing the owner with talk of the podcast, I was browsing around for anything that looked interesting. I was more looking at the racks of Image graphic novels–a lot of which appealed to me (Paper girls, Rocky Candy Mountain, more Saga) but then Andrew pulled me over to the long boxes full of bundled issues. I forget what he was looking for but as we browsed, a set of 5 issues caught my eyes–I definitely judged by the cover because these covers were AWESOME.
Enter Michael Komarck’s realistic, nearly photographic, beautiful, nostalgic, almost noir cover art for Operation S.I.N. (Marvel, 2015), a self-contained mini-series starring a “retired” Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and burly Woodrow McCord. While the cover art was the main reason I pulled it out, I was also intrigued by a stand-alone story about a character I wouldn’t mind reading about, in a time period I’ve always liked, and without needing to know a lot of the backstory (my Peggy Carter and Howard Stark knowledge is and continues to be based mostly on their appearances in the Captain America MCU movie). SOLD.
I have to admit, the issues sat unopened until I recently found myself home for a week, convalescing from a random karate injury turned infected leg turned my first two surgeries ending with a open wound requiring packing and all sorts of fun wound care. I had planned on catching up on work but since I was on FMLA they locked me out, forcing me to find other ways of entertaining myself. Meanwhile, Andrew, who has been a darling husband taking care of me and the kids, decides to make me a Mommy to-do list, with reading and writing a blog about a comic right on top! I figured what the heck and so here we are.
While the cover art is what drew me to this series, I have learned from previous experience that the covers can be a totally different artist and in a totally different style (ie. Fables). While not quite as cool as the cover art, Rich Ellis and Jordan Boyd did a pretty good job of marrying the more cartoonish type of comic book art with the time period but also displaying some of the more modern detail I’ve come to expect of contemporary comics. But what I loved about this book was the snarky, don’t take no crap from nobody writing of Kathryn Immonen, whose notable works also include a Hellcat mini-series (Christmas gift? Hint Hint wink wink Andrew), Runaways, a Jubilee and Wolverine mini-series (STEW!) and a book I’d never heard of but might have to check out called Heralds with an all female cast.
This story finds a “retired” Peggy Carter living the mundane routine of civilian life, when Howard Stark entices her back into action by coming with him to meet up with one of Stark’s operatives investigating an alien energy source in Russia. In the course of meeting up with Woodrow McCord, the trio picks up some stow-aways in the form of a teenage Russian girl named Talia, who “replaces” Carter’s KGB host in an attempt to enlist American help in finding her imprisoned father, and Mikhail, a shape-shifting human/bear who leads them to the hidden alien ship. As it turns out, when they activate the ship it transports them to it’s creator, an alien currently taking refuge on Earth posing as a scientist working at a Hydra run Russian Gulag. Without giving too much away, in case you find yourself reading this for yourself, Hydra is run off, they save the world from destruction by a dark matter being and the Russian military shows up to reclaim the base. The trio of American’s are escorted back to the U.S., Talia is put in prison for attacking a KGB officer and poor Malhail is taken to be poked and prodded. But Howard Stark has a secret he’s brought back with him–something that will help launch Stark International Nuclear into the future faster than humanly possibly.
Being this is my first review, I’m not quite sure the best way to do this. So I’ve split the review into some key aspects and my final grade below:
Overall, for a one-off story relating to all the Hydra/Russian/post WW2 era, it wasn’t bad. It was contained enough that you didn’t necessarily need to know a whole lot about who Hydra was or who Howard Stark was. Of course, some background info probably helps but I feel it wouldn’t be mandatory. I’m ok with sci-fi stuff, in this case alien life, but I tend to like it more when the whole story revolves around such a world–think Star Wars where the whole universe is inhabited by different species. I find it harder to connect the “real world” concepts of post-WW2 Earth with “other worldliness” but the story was pulled together fairly well. I was kind of surprised at the end when it almost seemed like a cliff-hanger as to how Howard Stark was going to use his “new” technology–someone with much more comic book experience will have to tell me if this ties back into another series.
I am somewhat split on this point. I really loved Peggy Carter in this series–she was smart and sassy and empathetic and motherly all balled into one kick ass lady. Her dialogue was witty and on-point throughout. I also felt Howard Stark and Woody McCord were written well, especially in how they played off of Peggy. I had a little more trouble with the tag-alongs. Talia initially seemed like she was going to move the story along but then she just ended up a cast aside who never really developed and this story of finding her father pretty much just vanished. Mikhail too, while he played the vital role of leading the group to the hidden alien spacecraft, once they were at the Hydra base, he had some weird interaction with a Russian woman (who disappeared the next time we saw him–was she a delusion?) and that was pretty much it for him. It almost felt like a book that is somewhat slow to start and has a lot of information and characters thrown at you that you think will be important but as the book hurtles to the end in a frenzied fashion, these extra characters just fall by the way side and make you wonder why they wasted so many pages on them in the first place.
Final Grade: B-
I really liked how strong of a character Peggy was in this story and especially how she played off of and usually one-upped her male counterparts. The plot was ok, somewhat typical of what I’ve come to expect from Marvel titles based on what I’ve seen from the movies etc. I wouldn’t say its the best thing I’ve ever read, that it was revolutionary or mind blowing. But I will say it entertained me this morning and gave me something to do. And the cover art is pretty fantastic so at least it looks good lining our bookshelves.
Well there you have it folks. My first official blog ever. I would never have thought it would be about a comic book. But that’s marriage for you 🙂 Love you Ghost Andy.