2003: Crimson Dynamo

Crimson Dynamo (2003) #1-6
by John Jackson Miller, Steve Ellis, Joe Corroney and Thomas Mason

This is the second series from Bill Jemas’s Epic Comics initiative, and it’s more like what I expected than the Trouble series by Mark Millar et al.

I mean, it’s about a kid who finds the Russian version of Iron Man’s suit, basically. Hilarity ensues.

But it’s told with a surprising amount of information about the Soviet Union’s break-down and about living in Russia… and as you can see above, it’s told with a lot of humour.

Jemas said that the distinguishing thing about Epic (as opposed to Marvel) was that the creators at Epic would just deliver the comics to Marvel, and there would be no editorial interference. Which makes it rather odd that they list no less than four Marvel-side editors here. And the president.

The protagonist is such a scoundrel, and Miller just can’t stop writing dialogue. It gets somewhat bogged down in places, but the dialogue is often pretty amusing.

The artwork’s pretty dynamic and sometimes leans into cartoonishness heaver than in other places. But that’s a pretty good comedic scooter scene, right?

There’s a lot going on in this six issues. There’s at least four different factions (I think?) that want the Russian Iron Man suit, and it gets a bit challenging to keep them all apart, because they’re all… kinda… not given that much space to develop? I mean, it’s a pretty clear story: It’s got good bones. It’s well-structured, and it uses the six issues effectively. But perhaps some of these, what, two dozen characters could have been edited out?

Heh heh. That’s a good R. Crumb face.

There’s a lot of comedy set pieces interspersed in all the action and plotting. I don’t think all the gags quite land? Like the above; sure, it’s fun with the near-sighted guy who doesn’t quite see the armour, but… I don’t know. The timing’s off?

I could totally see this working as a screwball action movie, though.

Ellis leaves the series halfway through, and Corroney takes over. (Very typical of Marvel.) Corroney’s artwork is more standard super-hero, which is perhaps no disadvantage:

Iron Man drops by, because why not? Marvel owns all the rights to this series.

This was a lot more fun to read than I had expected.

So this was Miller’s first comic book:

His first professional comics work appeared in 2003 in Crimson Dynamo for Marvel Comics, which led to a run on Iron Man (#73/418 – 85/430).

No wonder he put so much stuff into it.

No collected edition of this series has been published.

This person didn’t like it:

John Jackson Miller has crafted a poor man’s H-E-R-O (see DC Comics if you don’t get my sorry reference), wherein the central character has found a device of untold power and learns how to use it through trial and error. This s a tired premise, but there’s potential in telling it from a non-American point of view, unfortunately Miller’s interpretation of Russia seems steeped in 1990s TV and movie parodies of post-Soviet society and doesn’t feel remotely believable. I


The problem is there’s just not enough plot to fill six issues.

*shakes head* *marimba sounds appear*

2003: Trouble

Trouble (2003) #1-5
by Mark Millar, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

So this is the first series from the new Epic Comics, set up by Marvel in 2003 for reasons unknown. Marvel owns the copyrights on these comics, but they apparently are supposed to have less editorial oversight by Marvel, and are instead delivered to Marvel as finished pieces. At least that’s the gist I got from the pitch in Marville #7.

The cover of Trouble #1 was published there (that is, the cover image from #1 was), but the series wasn’t mentioned there. But I guess this means that this series had already been accepted by Marvel at that time, so… perhaps this series was the impetus for the imprint? I have no idea; just guessing.

So… this is set in some unspecified “some years ago” time, so I thought they were going for a generic “not now, but earlier” time frame. But then they go on mentioning that Superman sells for 12c, so it’s set in the 60s? According to wikipedia, the 12c era ended in 1969, so…

Do those people look like 60s people to you? The clothes? Hm.

It’s nice of the artists to put in a picture of Mark Millar.

This is basically a romantic slightly comedic standard made-for-TV movie, only on paper. You have these pretty kids (supposed to be 18, but looks like they cast 25-year-olds for the parts, as usual) working in the Hamptons, getting romantically involved, and then there’s complications. It’s a very… er… odd thing for Marvel to publish? I mean, it’s just… There’s not a lot here. Just a repetition of scenes we’ve seen many, many times before.

The artwork by the Dodsons is relentlessly pretty. It’s like Archie comics, but modern. My main issue with all this is that I couldn’t tell the characters apart at all. Sure, they have different hair colours (smart move!), but I constantly got May and Mary mixed up, and Ben and… whatsisname. Perhaps it would have helped if they’d gotten some personality.

There’s lots and lots of ads in these books, and over half of them involve The Hulk. There’d just been a pretty successful movie around this time, right? So here you can buy a DVD “and video” featuring… an interview… with Peter David.

Oh, it’s so complicated.

This was a pretty funny sex montage, though. Probably even funnier in the movie they were probably envisioning when making this.

Did you know that Nokia made a special edition Hulk phone? No? Now you know.


Well, it’s got one thing going for it: It’s a pretty brisk read.

What the fuck:

Trouble is a five-issue romance comic book limited series published in 2003 by Marvel Comics as a part of its Epic Comics imprint. Written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Terry and Rachel Dodson, the series deals with teen pregnancy. The basic concept was created by Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada.

Trouble was considered by Marvel’s editorial group as the possible origin of Spider-Man. It was also meant to re-popularize romance comics (which were very popular in the 1950s, selling millions of copies), but failed.


The series’ main characters, May, Ben, Mary and Richard, were clearly meant to be Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and his parents Richard and Mary Parker.


Well, now I feel stupid.

At least I wasn’t the only person having problems keeping the characters apart:

If Epic is about discovering new talent, it’s a little difficult to see where Mark Millar fits into that. Or, for that matter, artists Terry and Rachel Dodson. And Epic is, at least theoretically, meant to be a line where the editing is left to the creators (though this doesn’t seem to actually accord with anyone’s publicly recounted experiences of the line).


That’s the fundamental glitch here – Richard, Ben, Mary and May are all the bloody same. Not only do I not identify with any of them, it took several re-readings before I could even remember which was which. Save for the fact that one of the girls will do it on the first date when the other one won’t, I struggle hugely to remember any character traits that differentiate the four of them. And then I fail.

This person seems to take it all a bit too personally:

So take a bow, Mr. Millar! In my opinion, not only are you one of the most OPPORTUNISTIC, DERIVATIVE, UNTALENTED HACKS to disgrace the comic book industry– but you are also the “father” of the DESTRUCTION of Spider-man.

Uhm, right.

Anyway, it’s not an auspicious start to the new Epic line.