Sunday, January 4, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Bullet Points

J. Michael Straczynski has really been a hot/cold writer when it comes to the world of comic books, but alongside Tommy Lee Edwards this is definitely on the good side.

Bullet Points takes two “What If?” conceits and uses them to create a very different world. First, the Marvel Universe operates in real time with all the characters appearing approximately when they first appeared in reality. Secondly and more importantly is a very important bullet fired in 1940. This bullet takes two lives, Dr. Abraham Erskine, the creator of the super soldier serum, just hours before his first test on a young man rated 4F named Steve Rogers. In an attempt to defend the doctor, the young soldier escorting him dies as well: a soldier named Ben Parker.

From here, events begin to change irrevocably, as Steve Rogers is taken before one Howard Stark and becomes the prototype for a project known as Iron Man. This is a much less advanced Iron Man which forces Rogers in to a lifetime in the armor. Because it takes much longer for him to move in to action, Iron Man isn’t able to save Nick Fury who falls in battle, and James Buchanan Barnes never becomes Bucky. Iron Man is never frozen, and remains an active hero for the next two decades.

Things unravel farther, as a young ne’er-do-well without the influence of his uncle, stumbles on to a gamma bomb test site. Peter Parker survives but finds himself irrevocably transformed in a rampaging hulk.

His project delayed again and again by the United States government, when Reed Richards takes his best friend, girlfriend, and her younger brother in to space, someone sabotages the shuttle launch. It explodes before reaching orbit, and only Reed survives. He is offered a new position in the government, as head of an organization named SHIELD.

Things continue to alter for the Marvel Universe, as that one bullet leads to changed event after event. But somethings don’t change, and the series concludes with the arrival of the Galactus and Silver Surfer.

Straczynski weaves all his plot threads in to a unique alternate universe bit of storytelling. His take at being comic book’s Harry Turtledove works wonderfully as it reaffirms the heroism that is inherent to so many of these characters. The art is exceptional as well.

Tommy Lee Edwards is one of those artists who chooses his projects on a very odd, limited basis, but he works best on projects with a high level of realism than the normal super-powered fare. It fits the darker tone of this series well and especially his one-eyed Reed Richards shines sas a great interpretation of the character.

Together they make Bullet Points in to a unique “What If” story unlike any other. Highly recommended.

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