SIGIL #1 (Marvel Comics, May 2011) Mike Carey, Writer. Leonard Kirk, Pencils. Ed Tadeo, Inks. Guru Efx, Colors. Rob Steen, Letters.
The Crossgen era at Marvel was ushered in last week with the debut of SIGIL, soon to be followed by the highly anticipated return of RUSE. I’ve also chosen to write about SIGIL today as my way of honoring St. Patrick’s Day. By writing a review of a book about a red-haired, green-eyed “Colleen” I pay my respects to my Irish heritage. The other option was to pour a Guinness over my laptop - - - I picked the first choice instead.
At first SIGIL seemed an odd choice of Crossgen book for Marvel to revive/adapt. Most of the Crossgen books took place in fantasy settings - - and I remember SIGIL as a galaxy-spanning good old science fiction space opera. (See the cover image to the left.) It wasn’t even one of the Crossgen books I was following on a regular basis. (That would be RUSE, SOJOURN and a few others.) However, it seems that this new SIGIL is honoring that fantasy tradition. The Marvel version is anything but a science fiction tale. Maybe that will change as it moves along. I’m inclined to doubt that. It appears that they took the title more for the sigil emblem that is tattooed on or adorns many characters of the Crossgen universe rather than a single-themed book.
Nevertheless, I like this book. I’m excited for SIGIL and optimistic about it’s future. What I like most is the light-hearted style that Mike Carey employs in the script. It’s a “feel good” book in spite of some of the unpleasant things that happen in SIGIL. More importantly, it seems perfectly suited (in my unqualified opinion) for a younger audience comprised mainly of middle-school teenagers who should take to this title for the same reasons that ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN appeals. It seems to relate to them – especially female students -- and to get it right. Admittedly, I’m doing a little deduction here since I do not have any teenagers in my immediate family to survey. But I do take notes when my wife relates stories of what goes on at the high school where she works. I could see some of the non-fantasy events in this book ,especially the fighting over boys and taunting/ridicule that goes on, happening at our local school. And the peer to peer conversations in SIGIL seem to ring true to me.
Samantha (Sam) Rey seems a little distracted and that’s perfectly understood. She’s had a rough year. Her beloved mother, Vanessa, passed away (an unexplained but accidental death) and her father struggles to hold down a demanding full-time job while helping a failing teen-aged daughter cope with the pressures of maintaining school grades. Sam has a rash-like birthmark below her collarbone that resembles a sigil, and seems to become more noticeable whenever she has vivid and repeating dreams of old mansions and royalty. She’s been drifting off into this dream world more and more frequently, and this occurs at the worst of times - - in one instance right in the middle of a final exam in a history class that she is failing.
She’s also being threatened at school by Tamara, a short-haired muscular husky blonde who thinks Sam is paying too much attention to “her” boyfriend. Sam really doesn’t care for Roberto but he seems to be stalking her and this gets Tamara fired up. She and her brutish band of girlfriends would love to give Sam a real beating. They ambush Sam after school, and as she flees and seeks a hiding place she drifts away again - - this time right into the other world and onto a pirate ship. It’s the good ship El Cazador (from a short-lived Crossgen series about a female pirate captain) and one of the occupants seems to know her as well as her mother.
Mike Carey covers a lot of ground in this first issue and does it very skillfully, dropping essential details and background on every page while still moving the story forward. He’s got even more to explain in future issues. Still, it seems easy enough to follow by just focusing on what is happening in the immediate foreground. What I suspect is happening in the background is that Sam is slowly being pulled into the world once occupied by her mother. I suspect in future issues we will learn of THE FIRST, another Crossgen title about two rival royal families, the firstborn descended from the gods. They are most likely the relatives of Sam.
The art team on this book is stellar, and it even looks like a Crossgen book. There’s a subtle touch at work that I admire - - or maybe it’s so subtle I’m making more of it than I should. It just seems that the panels that take place in the fantasy world have slightly more vivid coloration and more sharply defined inks.
This is a very good start for SIGIL. I’m looking forward to the next issue, and hoping that more of the Crossgen universe gets welcomed and accepted by the Marvel universe of readers.