Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Nicole Virella and Lee Loughridge
Every once in a while I like to check in with a series to see how it did while I was away. In some cases I come back and they’ve peed in the corner and strangled the babysitter. But other times I cautiously open the door only to find them lighting Kraven the Hunter on fire while drowning Bruce Banner in gamma toxin. Okay this analogy fell apart but what I’m trying to say is that I had a feeling that Marvel’s “1872” would peter out by now. This doesn’t have anything to do with the writing talent of Gerry Duggan; this has everything to do with western comics in contemporary comic book publishing.
Let’s take a step back to an earlier era. It’s 2011 and DC is announcing their lineup of comics. Chief among them is “All Star Western” staring Jonah Hex. It starts off really good and seems to have some longevity to it. And yet people don’t even seem to remember it existed. Westerns seem to have a difficult time maintaining a foothold in comics which explains my trepidation for “1872”. The book started out phenomenally but would people actually care to read it? And the answer is “Who gives a shit? Tony Stark built a steam powered Iron Man!” That’s right, the guy who started the series drunk as an industry professional at a SDCC party punched through the back of his workshop, through a hail of bullets, and doused a man with fire. So who gives a shit what you think, this book is awesome!
Usually I reserve a paragraph to talk about cast and the characters in this book are decent. It’s still a bit weird to me that Marvel just reintroduced Red Wolf to modern comic fans and are now featuring him in their universe wide relaunch. Not that Marvel shouldn’t be adding more diversity to their books, but they feature him on the promo shots when I’ve just met the guy. I’ve hardly known him long enough to make an impact. But that’s a bit of a tangent. The truth of the matter is Red Wolf does a good job of picking up the reigns as the protagonist for the series. He does kick a lot of ass in this issue.
As a fan of western shoot outs, this was some really good gun play. Not only does the book ratchet up the tension as Red Wolf sneaks into Wilson Fisk’s main office, but when things go tits up there is an explosive energy to every panel. Action erupts from the pages as Red Wolf is forced into more desperate and dangerous situations. I suppose the ending is a bit Deus Ex Machina but watching Steam Iron Man punch the town into splinters is enough to forgive the heavy handedness. Plus this issue feels like a reward, after sitting through the buildup of the previous issues there’s this cathartic release of pressure where I was hoping Red Wolf would simply confront Wilson Fisk and punch him in half—though that would kind of undercut the story that’s been bubbling through the pages.
The whole of this comic is a wink and a nod at comic book fans. From the characters to the locations and even the events that transpire, which is why the ominous Roxon Corporation makes a perfect bad guy in this book for me—actually let me be clear, it makes a perfect bad guy to me, a lifelong comic book fan. If a casual fan picked up this book they’d be like “Why the Hell does everyone hate these Roxon guys?” See they don’t really make an appearance in the book. Every time something bad happens everyone just whispers the name “Roxon”. And I get the idea of building up the villain but if all I see is a bunch of people talking about Roxon without any Roxon it starts to feel like suddenly and inexplicably all my friends are talking about how great Little Caesar Pizza is. There are additional elements to the story like the B-plot with Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner that fit better. They’re supposed to blow up a damn and the whole time Duggan is dropping little Easter eggs. It’s fun—a bit disconnected from the main plot but it does provide a richness for the world. Altogether a really fun comic book to read.
Because this is the penultimate issue of “1872”, this climactic battle isn’t even the last battle yet it is still so epic and harrowing. It’s a little like that time Invincible faced off against Conquest. Mark had fought against his father so he knew how strong a Viltrumite could be, but this was one that wouldn’t hold back. The great thing about this fight was that however badass and evil Conquest turned out to be, that reflected on the rest of the Viltrumite race. So if Mark nearly died at the hands of this man, if he threw everything he had into the fight and just barely made it, what does that say for when he has to fight a whole planet of this guy? Any victory that he achieved would be overshadowed by this awful foreboding of what was coming over the horizon. That’s why the fight with Conquest was so great, because it was only the first step towards war. I think if “1872” had a bit more time to capture that feeling this book might have more weight.