It’s rare for a comic to live up (down?) to expectations as much as MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #1. Which I first saw the line-up of the book, I wasn’t reminded of the 1990s version of the title (which started with the optimism that maybe characters like Cyclops and Colossus could be the tentpole characters for the book, before realism set in and we got Wolverine and Venom over and over and over again. Ah, such happier days) as much as I was left thinking “So, it’s the Immonen’s Hellcat and lots of filler, I guess.”
It’s not to say that the other strips are bad, per se – although the Vanguard and Weapon Omega efforts come close, if only for the fact that they sacrifice both plot and characterization in their first episodes for some vague sense of mystery that lacks the hook necessary for you to care enough to want to come back for a second helping (Disconnected scenes and foreboding dialogue alone isn’t enough to get me to care, people. You kind of need something more coherent for the reader, especially in an opening episode, to introduce them to the characters before the weirdness sets in) – but they don’t really have the style and panache of the Hellcat story; they feel like back-up strips, and I’m not sure if that’s down to intent or execution. The Thing and Spider-Man stories in the book are nice enough ideas, but either too low-key or, in the case of the Spider-Man story, not enough of an idea to last the length of the story (Sorry, Stuart; it’s a nice gag for a couple of pages, but after that it began to wear thin; that “It was all a dream… or was it?” ending didn’t help, either).
In comparison, Kathryn and Stuart Immonen make their contribution both read and look individual – the script sets out the character first and only really gives you the plot in the last couple of pages, but the pacing and humor (especially the retro pin-up fashion pages) make it seem as if they really care about the strip, as opposed to just filling up pages in a book for a paycheck. As far as the visuals go… Dude, it’s Stuart Immonen. What more needs to be said about that?
Overall, it’s an Okay book, but the Hellcat story itself is Very Good. Wait for the trade of that to come out and snap it up instead.