Wild Cards: The Drawing Of Cards is a rather intriguing, if not surprising, series sprouting from George R.R. Martin’s editorial endeavors. It’s an entire universe that spans more than 25 novels and more than 20 short stories written by more than 40 authors. Over three decades, it has been a graphic novel adaptation from Marvel Comics. Written by Paul Cornell with art by Mike Hawthorne and Enis Balam, the series is a love letter to pulp fantasy, noir, and everything in between. Once you understand its roots, you’ll likely have a grand old time with this collection.
It’s no surprise there’s a learning curve when reading this series. Printed under Marvel’s label, this book has nothing to do with any Marvel Comics property. It’s its own thing, with an entirely new universe and set of characters to figure out and understand. Thankfully, under Cornell’s pen, it’s a rather fun throwback tale that takes about two issues to get into. As a four-issue series, that’s a lot of issues to burn to get to the point, and this collection serves as an okay introduction. In a world much like our own back in 1946, things take a major turn due to alien intervention.
Or maybe it’s alien accidents, which is a nice throwback to classic sci-fi stories with mysterious spaceships crash landing on Earth. The story begins with people in the streets of New York City transforming into all kinds of monstrous things. Cut to a few humanoid aliens dressed in what seems like King’s Court garb arguing over the decision to drop something on Earth to test for use against their enemy. Things go bad quickly, and the alien who disagreed with using Earth ends up trying to save it.
You get the sense there are many different inspirations for this tale with infinite possibilities. This story has alien sci-fi, classic pulp action, gumshoe types, and monsters galore. There are also historical characters further entwining the story into another format: Historical fiction. It all ends up feeling old and new again.
The second half of the collection focuses on a single kid who is one of the lucky ones. The opening page showed people turning into monsters, some in horrible pain, but we find out some folks can be blessed with good powers. This character ends up giving the story a story more akin to what Marvel Comics would publish as we see him try out his new powers, try to keep a normal life with them, and eventually pay the price.
The art throughout is good, with inventive alien spaceship stuff at the start and plenty of well-designed monsters when things get chaotic midway through. The old-timey ’40s setting is also well represented. Epic moments are captured well, with a grand scale when necessary.
The art is good, but it does take patience to stay invested in the story. As someone who hasn’t read a single Wild Cards novel or short story, it’s not very clear what kind of tale this is until the end of the second issue. The alien trying to save Earth ends up being annoying–the running joke that his name takes minutes to say isn’t all that funny–and a lot of the first two issues set up a valiant hero and dastardly supervillain who end up not mattering in the second half. There does seem to be some world-building at work here that’ll pay off if more comics in this line arrive, but as a standalone trade paperback, it feels a bit like a missed opportunity. Instead of setting things up, this collection could have told a standalone story that’s satisfying from beginning to end.
Wild Cards: The Drawing of Cards is an intriguing worldbuilding collection that sets up multiple characters but never ends up feeling completely satisfying. There are good starts here, and it might even make you inclined to read the short stories and novels, but if this is the end of Wild Cards for Marvel, it feels more like a half start than an epic beginning.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!