Out this week is the meta-textual comic one-shot Heroes Reborn: Marvel Double Action, which features a reprinting of a classic comic within the Heroes Reborn universe. Simply looking at the cover, one can surmise this story will take from the classic Amazing Spider-Man #122 which featured the death of Gwen Stacy. Tim Seeley and Dan Jurgens are doing a few intriguing things here, from playing around with comics history and telling a key story about Nighthawk, to telling a story within the confines of classic comics printed within the Heroes Reborn universe. It’s a trippy comic that’s incredibly smart and well worth your time.
This story is a blast from the past that is written and drawn in the style of 1973 comics. Word balloons are used, characters talk in verbose ways, editor’s notes reference comics that don’t exist in our universe but do in the Heroes Reborn universe. There are even mini text ads at the bottom of pages that require you read multiple pages of lines to get the full pitch. It’s a zany idea you don’t often see and the creators have swung for the fences with this one.
Despite the goofy, old school look and feel, the book takes itself very seriously. The editor’s notes and fun newsletter aside, this is a story about Nighthawk turning from a valiant hero to a man who pushes everything away. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that an editor’s note in Young Squadron referred to this issue to explain why Nighthawk is so against anyone ever dressing as Falcon again. Even with its cover revealing plainly that Falcon dies, and the story somewhat following a familiar formula, the issue itself is so damn fun. It’s a wild spin on a classic that’s so rare to see you have to stand up and applaud.
Heroes Reborn has been without a doubt some of the most over-the-top and outlandishly fun entertainment from Marvel Comics in some time. Heroes Reborn #4 was proof of that, as the issue featured insane idea after insane idea in an alternate universe setup where anything goes. As we uncover how the Squadron Supreme and its members are in fact not so perfect — Young Squadron is proof of that — we’re also seeing how these idolized heroes aren’t so perfect. Compare that to this comic, which feels like a retelling of events for comics readers within the Heroes Reborn universe, and you get a different picture. In a sense, this book reads like propaganda sold to kids to explain why Nighthawk is so dark and brooding.
Jurgens’ art, paired with colors by Chris Sotomayor and inks by Scott Hanna, is every bit an ode to Gil Kane’s iconic lines from Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122. The first two pages are nearly identical panels for panel from Amazing Spider-Man #121 and Jurgens doesn’t skip a beat throughout. Coloring has certainly improved since the ’70s, and Sotomayor does well to capture the older feel but elevate the game too.
The story is hammy at times with over-the-top character emotions, so some might not understand what this book is going for. Some may not appreciate the nod to comics of the era it’s homaging and it’s understandable if it doesn’t work for folks. That said, it’s the kind of comic that rewards longtime readers who appreciate the history that came before it.
Heroes Reborn: Marvel Double Action is a stunning example of how an homage can work so very well when done right. Seeley and Jurgens have crafted a story that’s exciting as it takes classic comics elements and remakes them for modern readers. It also works well within the confines of the Heroes Reborn story, and is meta enough to offer a zany story to latch onto for casual readers too.
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