Thursday, November 26, 2020

Comics Commentary: Juggernaut #1-3 (Marvel, November 2020-January 2021)


This is a Media Diet Comics Commentary video review of Juggernaut #1-3 (Marvel, November 2020-January 2021). Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only.

Transcript below...

Today we're going to be talking about the first three issues of a five-issue miniseries focusing on the character of Juggernaut recently published by Marvel. This is #1-3, and the issues are dated November to January. It’s the first comic I've read actually dipping already into next year! This miniseries is written by Fabian Nicieza—if you know how to pronounce that, feel free to correct me in the comments below—and drawn by Ron Garney. Interestingly, it’s a really good book, extremely impressive: an impressive handling of the character, an impressive storyline unfolding just over these three issues, and a lot of potential for a character whom I've enjoyed in the past but didn't actually think had this much potential.

Right on to Fabian Nicieza for writing such good comics. The miniseries reminds me a little bit of a couple of things that happened in the early ‘80s. In around, I think, ‘83-’84, we had a Hercules miniseries and the Thing ongoing series. Both were quieter, scaled-down books for those characters, and this miniseries so far is striking in a very similar way. It’s an interesting story unfolding. A comment on the art: A little bit of Garney’s style reminds me of where I felt John Romita, Jr., was—and perhaps was going—rather than his current style. Good, good art from Ron Garney: an appropriate degree of fantastic and realistic, cartoony, and darkness and light—a wonderful, tempered art style for the tenor and tone of the comic.

Also, an interesting storyline. First of all, a couple of interesting tidbits. Each issue opens up with a relatively scarce or sparse introduction. Each one introduces or includes the text “Nothing can stop the Juggernaut… .” This one says, “except himself.” This one says, “except an immovable object. And this one says, “except a spider's web.” If you're making a list of things that can stop Juggernaut, this miniseries will help you for sure.

The series opens with Juggernaut, who is a villain named Cain Marko, kind of a gray character now, villain turned good, a good villain. The comic actually addresses that in some dialogue, but he's working for Damage Control. Damage Control is a fun thing that has been handled in passing. It has had its own miniseries in the past, and the idea behind Damage Control is that it's the contractors’ organization or construction organization that cleans up after all the super-powered or superhero battles throughout the Marvel Universe. They come in to tidy things up and cart it away after all the damage is done.

Juggernaut works for them in demolition tearing down buildings, and he's tearing down a number of buildings that have been condemned and encounters a bunch of youth who are squatting in the buildings. So doing, he encounters a young woman who goes by the name D-Cel who's able to slow things down. So far she's used her powers being a street kid mostly for performance art and pranks. She mentions a couple of projects. She actively live streams online, so she has an online and social media presence through which she communicates with her base and followers. She talks about a couple of projects in which she slowed the decline of an elevator so it took however long, and during a parade caused confetti to fall more slowly.

Using her powers mostly for art and for humor, there’s some debate whether she's a mutant or not a mutant. She indicates that her powers come through mutation rather than being born with it, with an X-Gene, but there are some people in Damage Control later in the series so far who test her or meter her somehow and suspect some kind of mutant-ness from her, as well.

That's where the book starts. He's working in construction, encounters this character D-Cel, and then the rest of the story involves their relationship and growing friendship—I'm hesitant to call it that—as she tags along with him to help him make good on the damage that he's done to her and to her community. She goes around, basically live streaming him doing a number of things over the series of the issue.

At the same time we have a side story about Juggernaut's banishment to Limbo by Magik in Uncanny X-Men #21, which I haven't gone to check out yet—and how he lost his armor, gave up his armor. It’s clear he somehow regained his armor, and the comic also addresses that in the second issue, which includes a cameo of the Hulk. This includes a caption that indicates that it took place before Immortal Hulk #30. That’s an interesting intertextual reference because Immortal Hulk #30 happened quite a while ago—10 to 15 issues ago. It's already been collected and happened a while ago. Maybe because of the pandemic and the changes in the publishing schedule, who knows, but that reference coming out so late indicates some kind of scheduling or publication snafu or staggering, in my opinion. It seems that usually references like that happen in books that are a little closer to each other in real time.

In any event, he is going after—wonderful two-page spread there with the Hulk—the Hulk with D-Cel’s assistance and Damage Control because they think that she can slow the Hulk down enough that he can be captured. The fight is a challenging fight. Juggernaut is not enough. Those of you who debate or bet on whether the Hulk can beat Juggernaut, it looks like the Hulk could beat Juggernaut. But she's brought in, slows him down enough so he's captured. He is basically being taken to court as part of a class action suit by people that he's harmed through his destructive ways.

At the same time, we have Cain Marko several months ago going to Budapest to track down some information about the deposed deity Cyttorak. We have a nice quiet moment in the courtroom in which citizens of the Marvel Universe are describing and detailing to the Hulk how he hurt them. He's taking it in stride, escapes, and then points his finger at the Juggernaut and says, basically, this is slightly hypocritical; anything that you're saying about me could also be applied to him. Why are you not talking to him? The Hulk's theory is that this is all just a conspiracy involving the Roxxon Corp. He asks people in the courtroom if anyone works for Roxxon. Juggernaut apparently is currently in the employ of Roxxon, so the Hulk suggests that it's part of a smear campaign.

That takes us to the third issue. The third issue continues with another wonderful two-page spread with Spider-Man, with the reference on the first page to being able to be stopped by a spider’s webs. But Spider-Man doesn't actually appear. These are photos in which, as the court case unfolds, some additional legal drama occurs. In North Korea, we have Cain Marko going to the Forge of Cyttorak. That plot thread continues and he ends up meeting the host of Cyttorak and is interested in obtaining the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

There’s a wonderful fight scene with a female Sandman-like character named Quicksand who comes to get D-Cel under the employment of someone who's controlling her mind. That brings us to the end of the issue, where Arnim Zola of all people comes into play. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff going on in this issue. We've got some Asgardian or Celestial stuff going on with Cyttorak—Doctor Strange almost—with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. We've got Cain Marko very much reminding me of a series of Amazing Spider-Man issues in which the Sandman is painted as a much more sympathetic character; Cain Marko’s coming across very sympathetically in this miniseries where he was kind of a joke and a buffoon before.

The wonderful art by Ron Garney might replace my vision of where I thought John Romita, Jr., was going; excellent, excellent art. And a wonderful story by Fabian Nicieza giving a credibility and a seriousness to Juggernaut in a way that I didn't necessarily expect. It’s a shame that there's only two more issues left in this series. Juggernaut has not had a lot of titles to himself. The only things I'm aware of are one shots in the mid- to late-‘90s; I think ‘97 and ‘99 each had a one-shot. There’s been some reference in the past to the bands of Cyttorak, so I think this is filling in some gaps that were left at the time.

This makes me think that he can be included in the pantheon of the Marvel Universe in a more present way then he has been, not just a one-shot or one-joke wonder villain for Spider-Man, which is I think where I first encountered him. I just want to check #1 to see if there's a two-page spread like in the next two issues. It’s punctuated by panels, but a two-page spread there just of juggernaut himself, so that continues some interior design consistency issue to issue. A wonderful read.

With five issues, it'll be collected, I'm sure, but I wouldn't wait. I would pick up the issues now because they're worth reading. The way these first three issues have gone, it's going to end with a bang for sure. I’m wondering where they're going to go with him next. I’m wondering how it's going to tie in. There's opportunity for bigger things here, and it’s a fascinating reintroduction of a character, a villain, that could lead to bigger and better things. I’m really interested in seeing where that goes. Who knew that Juggernaut could be so cool? If you haven't checked it out, be sure to do so.

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