By Don Alsafi. The speedster Quicksilver is an interesting character who’s been around since 1964, debuting as part of the very first incarnation of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, in The X-Men #4. Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain, his combination of passion and arrogance has long positioned him as a deeply complex character, providing fertile ground for character-rich developments.
But while his cold aloofness and superiority complex can be fascinating, those same characteristics are what have perhaps kept him from ever gaining mainstream appeal. Let’s face it: Quicksilver usually ends up doing the right thing – but he’s also usually a bit of a jerk!
Thus, in five decades he’s only ever had one series before now – a late ’90s ongoing that lasted 13 issues. But in the past few years he’s had his profile elevated, as moviegoers saw him in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the X-Men films. With this heightened audience awareness, is the time for this acerbic speedster finally nigh?
Written by Saladin Ahmed.
Art by Eric Nguyen.
Colors by Rico Renzi.
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles.
Everybody STOP! Except Quicksilver. The comic is written by sci-fi author Saladin Ahmed, after penning last year’s Black Bolt, and relaunching Exiles last month. The visuals are courtesy of Eric Nguyen, an artist who first caught readers’ attention with his work on Rick Remender’s Strange Girl in 2005, and most recently illustrated a story arc for Old Man Logan.
As the story opens, Quicksilver is racing through a bizarre noplace, with only streaking colors and speed lines around him. Following on from the climax of Avengers: No Surrender, he smashes a ghostly blue orb, which seemingly saves the day – but when he stops and looks around, he discovers that everyone but him has been frozen in time. He then briefly fights an energy-based doppelganger of himself before realizing that more of these energy beings are whizzing around New York…
The fastest man alive, in the slowest story possible. Eric Nguyen’s art has a pleasingly rough edge to it; it’s not quite on the same level as a New Mutants-era Bill Sienkiewicz, but it’s perhaps in an adjoining neighborhood. His scenery and architecture have both an impressive level of detail and a slightly pixelated quality, indicating that he may be, to some degree, a digital artist. Colorist Rico Renzi’s work is just as eye-catching, and the primary colors seen in the inter-dimensional void are arresting. Moreso, when time freezes for everyone but Quicksilver, he (and the energy beings) are the only elements that still retain color; everyone and everything else are just black lines on white, giving the whole setting a stark and eerie feel.
The only problem is that there’s not very much to this first issue. Ironically, for a comic starring Marvel’s fastest hero, the pace is almost glacial! This is especially surprising coming on the heels of last month’s Exiles #1, since one of the things that most impressed me about that debut was just how much story was packed into its 20 pages: the prologue, the setup, jaunts to two separate alternate realities, and a final page reveal of the cosmic threat.
By contrast, very little of any real importance happens in Quicksilver: No Surrender #1, with multiple pages being spent on Quicksilver’s ruminations on being a speedster, and idly playing juvenile pranks on the people frozen in time (like dressing up Magneto as a clown). It’s notably ponderous and, since he’s the only character in the issue with a speaking role, there isn’t a single conversation in the entire issue.
Waiting for the trade vs. reading in installments. It’s interesting to think about the choices that went into how this story is told, and how they relate to the evolution of comics as an art form. 1939’s Marvel Comics #1 gave readers a 68-page package for a single dime, and contained within it six complete stories of between six and sixteen pages. By the 1960s and the birth of Silver Age Marvel, however, comics were transitioning to a place where an issue contained one story instead of several, and two-parters were rare – since, with newsstand distribution being occasionally spotty, you couldn’t always depend on catching the same title on the rack two months in a row. (Marvel’s Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has spoken many times about how his initial forays into Marvel initially put him off, as arriving in the middle could be positively confusing.)
Today, of course, almost all comics tell a continuing story, which can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to play out. This is a natural byproduct of the increasing sophistication of the medium, and isn’t necessarily a bad thing! The problem, rather, comes about when a story which might read just fine in the trade paperback collection offers too little in its monthly installments to really work as a piecemeal endeavor. This is called “writing for the trade,” and concerns what comics journalist Heidi MacDonald refers to as the “satisfying chunk” theory. (In short: Does the format you’ve purchased offer you sufficient enjoyment for the price you paid? When the standard price for a single issue is $3.99, this is by no means an academic concern.)
There are, of course, ways you can tell an ongoing story which are completely satisfying in both the collected edition and the single issues, and a lot of it has to do with pacing. Quicksilver: No Surrender is a 5-issue miniseries – but, given how little actually happens in the first issue, one has to wonder whether it might have been better served as a 3- or 4-issue mini, so as to move up the action a bit. Adding extra pages to the first issue, as was most recently seen in the first issue of the new Avengers, might have also helped. Or maybe there’s simply too much in this debut installment that’s simply inessential! One of the golden rules about writing fiction is to take out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary, but too many pages in this 20-page comic boil down to Quicksilver running around the time-stopped Earth and going: Yep, this is weird.
Warning! Prior reading required. The final frustration with this first issue is that it’s not really a first issue at all. The cover proclaims that it’s “racing out of the pages of Avengers: No Surrender“, which can sound like “You saw him there, now see him (in his own story) here!” But the comic as written is explicitly an epilogue to A:NS, even though that story is itself never named or referenced anywhere but on the cover. (Which is a bit confusing when the opening segment refers to “two cosmic-level madmen” threatening the Earth, yet never names them.)
The question then becomes: Who is this miniseries being targeted to, and written for? The weekly Avengers: No Surrender story has been over for almost a month, with the first two issues of the new Avengers series currently on the stands. (In other words, A:NS is already old news.) Quicksilver has never been a character with a massive fanbase, so if the idea is to nab Avengers readers, maybe spotlighting more of the team in the story or on the cover might have been wise. (His sister, the Scarlet Witch, is set to appear in future issues.) If you’re trying to appeal to hardcore Quicksilver fans, on the other hand? Doing so in a miniseries that’s deliberately an epilogue tale is going to turn off those readers who didn’t choose to plunk down nearly $70, over a four month span, for that weekly event comic.
It’s too bad, because Quicksilver is a fascinating character who really deserves his due, and with a small but devoted fanbase who would love to see him featured in more stories.
But this first issue really does feel like he’s running to stand still.
6 out of 10