Reprinting the 2008 Big Hero 6 mini-series from Chris Claremont and David Nakayama, about Marvel’s Japanese superhero team, did not do it any favors. Too sloppy, too repetitive, and embarrassingly inconsistent in every sense of the word, it’s hard to imagine why Marvel brought it back at all, apart from a need to have something in the shops. It’s the kind of top to bottom dopiness Big Two comics represent, managing to hit all the wrong notes every single time, most of which could be eliminated with judicious edits.
Then again, editing in the modern comic book seems to be a billion times more bureaucratic than the editing process of any other artistic medium, three times as baffling, and yet simultaneously nonexistent: characters are knocked out in a fight scene one panel, get up and fight later with no sense of dramatic pacing–a villain known as Brute gets smashed by team member Fred’s giant ghost-dinosaur, taking him out of the fight, only for him to just kind of show up three pages later as if he didn’t just get his ass squashed (robot Baymax performs a similar feat); there’s a ‘teammates fight each other’ scene that highlights its own banality and takes up half the second chapter; finally, a typical Claremont mind control plot where the heroes have to fight their now-evil partners, and they reiterate every other page these are their friends and they don’t want to hurt them (“We must take care, Heroes,” “How can I fight him without hurting him,” “They’re both my teammates,” “Sorry about this, my friend,” “This isn’t his fault, you can’t let anything happen to him!”, etc.). This isn’t even counting the nonsensical subplot about the team making friends with American high school students as part of some exchange student cover: only one of the members is a teenager, though Nakayama draws even the much older ones as if they just stepped from the puberty machine, with all the women in 90s “Bad Girl” poses and clothing at one point or another, and it’s not even necessary because they’re only supposed to be in the United States for two days to track down the mind-controlling villain who is actually called “Bad Girl” and the chase for some magic crystals or something; I remember this was supposed to be an Important Plot Point, but it’s just forgotten about. Rob Liefeld would have at least made such incompetence on his part a sign of fascinating madness; this was likely tossed off in someone’s spare time.
While a lot of that comes down to this just being a bad comic, I can’t stress enough there were two editors assigned to this title along with five others credited. None of them caught Claremont’s inconsistent characterization, such as hotheaded Go-Go Tomago suddenly espousing platitudes about teamwork after helping the Americans win a football game, or how Nakayama’s artwork doesn’t really match up to what was being written (the football scenes only highlight Tomago and fellow Hero Wasabi No-Ginger and how awesome they are), or a scene where dialogue attributed to one character appears to be coming from a completely different one; nor did anyone seem to pay any mind to the repeated use of “Rising Sun” symbolism in the comic, an image that’s often associated with ultra-nationalist/imperialist groups in Japan. It’s not like Chris Claremont is an awful writer, since all his tics in this comic were in The Dark Phoenix Saga, too, but when stuck with editors who care nothing of their jobs, is it any wonder this collection is littered with self-indulgent narration from bland nerd-protagonist Hiro Takachiho? A decent editor could have directed the script and Nakayama’s manga art towards the parts where they actually kinda-sorta work–smaller character beats like the somewhat amusing introduction to secret agent Furi (she only has one eye, har har) or the team member Honey Lemon imagining the disastrous consequences using her powers carelessly could have on her teammates–instead of emphasizing cluttered, incoherent action scenes.
What’s funny about this is how symptomatic it is of Marvel’s entire output right now, whether it’s the poorly planned crossovers that Dan Buckley swears aren’t crossovers (even when they are), the poorly planned double shipping policy, or the poorly planned relaunch of their series to inflate sales figures that came less than two years after their last poorly planned relaunch. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to take a step back and actually think about their comics, like have their writers come up with some sort of…outline…or something? Just a thought. I’m no expert on business practice or anything, so it’s just a suggestion.
Preach it Andrew! I stand fully behind this review 110%
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