Original Sin 8

Alternating Currents: Original Sin 8, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Original Sin 8, originally released September 3rd, 2014.

Drew: As the final chapter of a summer crossover event, Original Sin 8 has significantly more baggage than the average comic issue. In addition to wrapping up its own 8-issue maxi-series (9 if you count that zero issue), this issue is essentially charting of the trajectory of the Marvel Universe in the short term, setting up an array of new series and new volumes of old series that seem to fall out of the aftermath of this event. All that is to say that it’s easy for this conversation to turn into a discussion of Original Sin as a whole, or even how we feel about some of the lasting changes this issue presents. There’s certainly value in those conversations (and believe me, I’m going to talk about them a bit), but first, I want to examine whether or not this issue manages to be entertaining in its own right.

The issue follows our aged Nick Fury on his way to two denouements: in the present, he confronts Dr. Midas, who has returned to the Watcher’s home in hopes of consuming all of his power, and in the past, he confronts the Watcher about who stole his eye. The Watcher refuses to give Fury any information, then proceeds to tease him with the knowledge that Fury has been murdering all of those monsters, and then hints that he might make Fury take his place, all of which sends Fury over the edge. That’s right: Fury killed the Watcher, which is maybe the conclusion we came to in issue 4. Anyway, Fury kind of makes up for this original sin by actually stopping Dr. Midas, though in doing so, he somehow consigned himself to becoming the new Watcher.

As a conclusion, I’m not totally sure how satisfying this is. Fury’s fate certainly bears some irony — this issue takes him from a man of action to one of obligate inaction — but one that I’m not particularly invested in. Is this a punishment or a reward for him? He seemed relieved to be passing on his mantle to another (and it turns out Bucky answers that particular call), but is bearing witness to it all better or worse? He’s spent the last several years in seclusion, so being alone on the moon isn’t a particularly big change, and has worked virtually half of his life remotely via LMDs, so not being able to intercede shouldn’t be that new to him, either. Maybe this is meant to be a fitting retirement for Marvel’s resident super-spy — who else would want ALL of the information on Earth? — but is that what he deserves?

I suppose there’s no reason to expect any kind of fairness in this issue’s conclusion — this event has been all about dragging “truths” (or awkward changes, depending on your perspective) into the light, essentially injecting chaos into the lives of our favorite heroes — but it feels like the purpose is the change, which doesn’t make for the most satisfying narrative. That is to say, I’m not sure this issue, or even this event, work nearly as well as a cohesive story as they do as a impetus for change throughout the Marvel Universe. We now have our setup for the new Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier and Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, but is that enough?

Actually, I’m kind of bummed about the fallout, too. I was a big fan of how goofy and over-the-top this series was, but it seems to have set up a much more serious Marvel Universe going forward. Doctor Strange puts it succinctly:

SecretsMarvel’s sense of humor about itself has long been one of its most distinguishing characteristics, but this puts it on a decidedly more self-serious path. It’s hard to imagine something like “Meat Night” (one of the more charming conceits of this series) happening in this new, distrustful Marvel Universe.

That’s not to say the conclusion is entirely dissatisfying. Indeed, artist Mike Deodato is able to wring some wrenching emotions out of the situations. Unfortunately, these moments seem almost auxiliary to the story at hand. I’m absolutely floored by Ulana mourning Uatu, but it comes awkwardly late in a series that’s treated Uatu more as a plot device than a character (just check out our discussion of the first issue, where we argued over whether or not we saw him long enough to even care about his death).

So I guess I’m disappointed on all counts. I’m neither satisfied by this issue as a conclusion to the series, nor as a set-up to future developments in the Marvel Universe. I’ll probably pick up all of the fallout issues featured at the back of this issue (Bucky Barnes fighting aliens and monsters might finally be the application of Ales Kot Marvel has been looking for), but that seems to be the most positive thing I can say about this issue. Patrick! Were you as nonplussed by this as I was, or are you seeing some scope in which this has more merits?

Patrick: I would say — even more than being nonplussed by this issue — that the conclusion to Original Sin is downright upsetting. Drew mentions the implied tonal shift moving forward, but I’m a little less worried about that; Marvel’s big events are always considerably darker than the storylines of their individual series. My biggest beef with this issue perhaps stems from the idea that Aaron is more content to treat Uatu as a plot device than as a character. While the facts sure do make it look like “Nick Fury killed Uatu,” the truth is far more unsettling. Uatu committed suicide by Fury. I made a case back when we covered Original Sin 0 that the Watcher is like the ultimate Marvel fan — literally as fascinated by the goings-on of the Marvel Universe as all real-life Marvel fans combined. So the idea that this character has “seen too much,” and seeks the cold embrace of death to escape it, feels particular gut-wrenching, and I don’t know that Aaron and Deodato wield the emotional strength of that decision with any purpose or responsibility.

Look, we always complain about Event Fatigue. (I was going to put a time-frame on that: “we complain about Event Fatigue every… summer? September? Whenever there’s an event going on? Between events?” But it’s basically “all the time.”) Those complaints are less about the fatigue of reading huge, universe-altering stories and more about reading stories that are not satisfying on their own. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t read comics because I need to be up-to-date on the uber-mythologies at the Big Two publishing houses. I read comics because I like superheroes, and simple morality plays are engaging, and the medium is so damn flexible. But I always find a weird anchor in Uatu, even though his “reading” habits don’t necessarily reflect my values in storytelling. Uatu takes in everything, and is a valued member of the community – he’s the superfan who lives on the moon. Rock on, Uatu – you do you.

What’s the moral of that story then? An eternity of following all the stories in the Marvel Universe makes you want to kill yourself?

Uatu has seen too much

I mean, fuck that. Even if we don’t want to take my reading of Uatu as the ultimate audience surrogate, the story that unfolds in the flashback is endlessly tragic, just, y’know, not at all in the way Aaron intends it to be. The immediate aftermath of pulling the trigger is an oddly naked confession from Fury: “I killed the Watcher. I killed him and then I… God help me.” Fury’s allowed to feel guilt here, but to say that he murdered the Watcher criminally undersells what Uatu was going through.

I do think that Deodato’s artwork in this issue is very effective at telling this story, however. In the past, I’ve praised Deodato for composing newly iconic images, and the conclusion here finds him cashing in on his own iconography in amazing ways. Probably my two favorite panels from this whole series are 1) the ultra-gory two-page splash of the Watcher’s corpse from the first couple pages the first issue and 2) that full page splash of Fury holding that 12 foot long sniper canon. Both of these panels are recalled in this issue, and the new context casts both images in a new light. The first image simply inserts Nick Fury at the scene of the crime, and while I don’t agree with the emotional conclusion that Aaron and Deodato reached in that moment, I do know exactly how I’m supposed to feel in that moment. If the writing after a more honest moment, this would have hit me like a ton of bricks.

UATU CORPSE

 

It’s the second image that’s recalled so much more effectively. As the secrets pour out of Uatu’s bloody eye hole, we get one last reminder of that heroic drawing of Nick Fury standing on a goddamn hunk of space rock, shouldering a rifle that would weigh a ton if he weren’t, y’know, weightless at the time. That’s quintessential Nick Fury nonsense, and demonstrative of what we actually like about reading superhero comics in the first place. Then the issue closes with that same image, but this time with Nick fury recast as Bucky Barnes.

Bucky Barnes is Winter Soldier is Nick Fury

 

I’m telling you, Deodato knows his damn strengths. For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

6 comments on “Original Sin 8

  1. Yeah, I still have no real idea what actually happened between Fury and Uatu. I agree with Patrick’s point that Uatu’s death was more of a suicide-by-fury, but did Uatu somehow talk/trick Fury into pulling the trigger, or did he use some kind of control (his hands were glowing at the time) or what? Fury seemed like he didn’t know that he killed the Watcher himself until he actually did it, but he could have just been trying to deny his own guilt to even himself. It’s a little muddy.

    Also, Fury as a Watcher is another strange choice. The Watcher’s aren’t inherently unable to use their abilities to intervene in the world’s affairs–they took a vow not to interfere, a vow which this issue even points out that Uatu broke in multiple occasions. What’s to stop Fury from using his fantastic new abilities to do more than just watch what’s going on? His own guilt/fatigue? Perhaps. I dunno.

    There were a lot of fun moments in Original Sin and a lot of interesting stuff seems to be spinning out of it, but overall I don’t think it really succeeded as a story, at least to me.

    • My read on that moment was the Watcher started to charge up a kamehameha or something, and Fury knew that it was either kill or be killed in that moment. Obvi, Uatu knows how Fury would respond to such a threat — he’d wipe out an alien threat before he’d wipe his nose.

      But yeah – what the hell makes Fury a Watcher now? It’s sort of a bummer that one character dies and the rest just shuffle around to fill all the newly vacated roles.

      • My read is that Uatu was actually charging up to somehow turn Fury into the new Watcher. Like, maybe he would die in the process, but the point wasn’t suicide so much as it was making somebody else take his post — hence the line, “it is time for someone else to watch.” I think the other Watchers saw this, which is why they ultimately turned Fury into the new Watcher (I mean, somebody chained him to the moon). Still, I have no idea what that means for Fury. Does he like it? Not like it? Are his feelings in any way mixed? We don’t get enough here about his guilt and sense of action to even really care about the answers.

  2. Today, in Patrick hypothesizes about the relationship between the movies and the comics:

    So what if this whole shuffling of characters is there to establish Bucky Barnes as “the new Nick Fury?” The comics appear to be building in solutions to the Marvel movie problems of “what happens when Evans / Hemsworth / whoever doesn’t want to do this anymore,” but I hadn’t really considered that Sam Jackson might ever want to take a break from these things. Dude’s 65 years old. If, in 10 years or whatever, there comes a time that they slide Bucky into that role, that’d make total sense.

    • Interesting. I actually thought sidelining old, white Nick Fury might have been a move to bring bald, black Nick Fury to the fore in the 616 Universe. That is, to better align it with the Cinematic Universe. I suppose Bucky could serve as a replacement in the movies, but since he’s much more obviously poised to pick up Cap’s mantle (which may need to happen sooner rather than later, given Evans’ interests in directing), I kind of doubt this has anything to do with setting that up.

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