Story Title: Freshmen Flu!
Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Written by: Fiona Avery
Penciled by: Diego Olmos
Inked by: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colored by: Laurie Kronenberg
Lettered by: Clem Robbins
Editor: Nachie Castro
Publisher: Marvel Comics
For the past few years Marvel Comics has been trying to reach out to younger readers with a variety of new series and imprints aimed at younger readers, but alas have proven to have rotten luck. It’s not that they haven’t been putting good comics, in fact some of the freshest books in recent years (i.e.: Runaways, Sentinel) have come from these noble intentions, but alas Marvel’s never quite had the right product in the right place at the right time. Blame a cynical fan base in the direct market, poor marketing, or a generation of readers who just aren’t going into comic stores, but I honestly can’t blame Marvel for having it’s heart in the right place. Still with recent successes in the digest format, it has become apparent that Marvel will sooner or later have a breakout series. It’s just a matter of time.
One of this year’s batch of new launches is AraÃƒÂ±a: The Heart of The Spider, starring the Anya Corazon character who first debuted in Amazing Fantasy (which is being changed into a “Showcase” style series for new and revamped characters.) AraÃƒÂ±a’s introductory arc in Amazing Fantasy was an entertaining, but cluttered affair that suffered from an all too slow pace. The first issue of AraÃƒÂ±a fixes a number of the problems the earlier mini-series by cutting strait to the action. We are re-introduced to Anya in a sequence in which our heroine must deal with an a group of thugs while fighting off a case of the flu. The meat of the issue revolves with Anya and her mentor figure Miguel dealing with corrupt judge who has ties to the nefarious Sisterhood of the Wasp. It’s a good introduction to the book’s cast and Avery supplies a few solid exchanges of dialog. I particularly liked the scene in which Miguel and Anya bluffed a mook into giving away some information on his boss.
Still there are a few plot points from the original arc on Amazing Fantasy that still need to be wrapped up. Namely we’re still not sure what exactly the Sisterhood of the Wasp are doing that is so evil? Also why an organization with the word “Sisterhood” in the title be composed primarily of males? Who exactly runs Web Corps now that Ezekiel is gone? I guess alas some things must wait.
While artist Mark Brooks who handled much of the Amazing Fantasy arc isn’t on board for this arc, Roger Cruz does provide a more than serviceable substitute. While Cruz draws roughly the same style as Brooks, he seems to add some more animated touches resulting in a book that resembles a mixture of shonen manga and the Hispanic graffiti style used by artists such as Humberto Ramos. AraÃƒÂ±a’s character design is striking and in my books one of the best ones to come out of Marvel in recent years. I imagine that her armored up alter-ego is probably going to be one of those love it or hate it character costumes. However while the design takes cues from such Japanese franchises as The Guyver and Kamen Rider, it certainly looks like nothing else in mainstream superhero comics.
I imagine that the adolescent girls who are thumbing through Tokyopop titles, and the younger crowd who read W.I.T.C.H will probably enjoy this book if they discover it. The big question is will they find it? As far as first issues go the first episode of Anya’s ongoing series still isn’t quite as good as Runaways or Sentinel, but this issue was still pretty enjoyable and worth giving a trial run.