It appears Marvel is getting very good at producing 6-issue mini-event stories that affect many different superheroes. We see it with Ravencroft and Iron Man 2020 which kicked off this week, and Contagion is getting the collected format treatment as well. Originally published back in October right in time for the spooky season, Ed Brisson and four different artists capture the utter horror of a virus that can’t be stopped.
The covers for this series perfectly summarize some of the most intense and disturbing scenes in the miniseries. In issue #1, the Thing is fighting off Moloids and he’s being overrun. There’s a sense of hopelessness that Brisson captures well in this issue. It starts with a Yancy Street kid who left his friend in the sewers after being too scared to help them. Thing is soon dragged in and things go from bad to worse. Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, and Invisible Woman all make appearances and they too feel a sense of hopelessness. The threat at hand isn’t so much a zombie virus, necessarily; it’s some kind of fungal growth. It’s appropriately gross and should have folks itching when they see it. The final cover, which graces the back of the trade, shows off some of the most famous Marvel heroes covered in mushroom pustules that should have you holding back your lunch. The main covers are by Juan Jose RYP and Jesus Aburtov and it’s good stuff.
This isn’t a straight Marvel universe caliber book, as there is an additional layer to the book involving K’Un-Lun. The book opens there and it appears Brisson is going back to his roots after his excellent Iron Fist run a few years back. There are other nods of course, which enrich the read for those who have followed Brisson’s work.
The beauty of this book is how it gives great purpose to the street-level heroes. It’s understood early on the heavy hitters are taken off the board for fear that they get infected and the enemy gains their powers. It’s a logical explanation and it gives more purpose to folks like Cloak and Dagger showing up. Fans of Moon Knight can’t sleep on this either. He’s not only written well but plays a huge part in the fifth issue and final chapter of the book. His schizophrenia is brought into the plot in an organic and believable way.
Roge Antônio draws the first issue and does a good job with the art, keeping the fungal growth looking bizarre but never going too far with it to make you feel sick. Color artist Veronica Gandini covers most of the issues with help by Andrew Crossley on issue #3 with letters by Cory Petit. Gandini never lets us forget how gross this contagion can get. Thing appears most throughout the series and he looks solid (heh) with varying levels of rockiness looking sharp. Art duties go to Stephen Segovia on issue #2 and 3, Mack Chater on #3, Damian Couceiro for issue #4, and Adam Gorham for #5. Gorham gets to play the most with creative layouts and monster design and he really flexes with some impressive pages. Segovia, Chater, and Couceiro aren’t the cleanest looking artists, but they do well with the street-level drama.
I will say though, aside from looking gross, this book doesn’t get very scary and that’s in part due to the art. Colors are relatively bright and things don’t get very atmospheric. It’s a scary concept but given the players involved, there isn’t much of a threat and thus much of any stakes along the way. It didn’t help this series ran concurrently with other books and this contagion not mattering in those titles.
I ended up dropping this book in the single-issue format but ended up liking it quite a bit reading it all in one sitting. It’s a good contagion story involving superheroes and it’s strong enough for a sequel. The feeling of hopelessness is strong with this narrative and it should have you feeling lost as the contagion grows in strength. I’m not yet sold on the horror angle, but I’m here for it.
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