Original Sin is one of Marvel’s more interesting but almost equally frustrating recent event series. The paperback collection is now available.

Image provided by Amazon/Marvel

Framed as a murder mystery, Original Sin commences with the murder of the Watcher, the moon-dwelling alien who, for years, has observed all the events on Earth. Further, the Watcher’s eyes, the repository of all the info he’s seen, have been stolen. A diverse group of heroes, led by Nick Fury, jumps into the investigation.

The heroes run afoul of some D-list villains, Doctor Midas, Terminatrix and the Orb. They possess one of the Watcher’s eyes and have a connection to the crime. They also have a cadre of Mindless Ones, brutes from another dimension, who are distressed over developing incipient awareness. At a climactic moment, the Orb unleashes the info contained in the Watcher’s eye, essentially a “truth bomb,” that rocks the heroes with long buried secrets.

Parallel to the main investigation, three oddball teams (Doctor Strange and the Punisher; Black Panther, Ant-Man and Emma Frost; and Moon Knight, Winter Soldier and Gamora) follow their own investigation. Their courses lead them to the darkest corners of the Marvel Universe, where they uncover a number of beasts, demons and aliens killed with the same kind of weapon that did in the Watcher. They learn some startling new information about a long-time Marvel character and discover they are intended to audition to become the new “Watcher on the Wall,” the secret line of defense protecting Earth from a variety of unearthly menaces.

These plots converge in a climactic final battle on the moon. In the aftermath, the truth of the Watcher’s death is revealed. A new “Watcher on the Wall” takes his place. And a long-time character receives a grim new status quo.

Image provided by Amazon/Marvel

There are a lot of strengths in Original Sin, especially lots of interesting ideas. Writer Jason Aaron works with an appealingly diverse cast and comes up with some intriguing sequences. The central murder mystery is solid. The Watcher is a long-time, embedded presence in the Marvel Universe. His removal, and the danger his eyes pose, are compelling drivers of the plot. As icing, it’s always fun to see a writer undertake a creative rehabilitation of disreputable villains.

Unfortunately, Original Sin isn’t able to make the most of its premise. There’s a lot going on here and it doesn’t always hang together easily. In the mix is the Watcher’s death, the major character retcon, two different investigations, thematic touchstones like “Original Sin” and “The Unseen,” and the new “Watcher on the Wall” concept. Some of those elements feel like editorial mandates that don’t quite fit easily into the main story. As such, the plot fragments and the murder mystery loses momentum. The twists in plot logic to get from one point to another don’t always work smoothly, leaving some sequences confusing. The final resolution of the mystery winds up being less than satisfying.

Worse, the revelation of long-held secrets was teased as a major feature of Original Sin. And while the “truth bomb” does detonate in the main series, the secrets themselves mostly play out elsewhere. A couple are teased in Original Sin, but what’s essentially the juiciest drama in the concept takes places in companion titles. That’s a major structural flaw that robs readers of the concept’s payoff. Fans are used to tie-in stories and can even understand using the individual titles to more fully explore the ramifications of revelations. But to almost entirely punt those from the main story was a big misstep.

Aaron does some nice work with the character interactions. The cast manages to span all of Marvel’s major franchises and Aaron makes the most of the oddball pairings. If the major character retcon doesn’t necessarily make sense based on Marvel’s history, it at least makes for some entertaining sequences.

Image provided by Amazon/Marvel

Mike Deodato handles art duties for Original Sin. He’s working in his scratchier, more shadow-drenched mode, which works for an atmospheric murder mystery that spans Earth, the Moon, space and other dimensions. Deodato does his usual dynamic character work and keeps the action large scale and impressive. Frank Martin provides the colors and is mostly his usual dependable self. A few sequences go a bit overboard with the shadows, making the action a little muddled. But overall, Martin does a strong job, especially with the few explosions of color that add welcome contrast to the otherwise dark proceedings.

Oddly, the most affecting part of Original Sin was the #0 issue by the team of Mark Waid and Jim Cheung. It’s a simple story, barely connected to the main event, that finds Nova (Sam Alexander) visiting the Watcher on the Moon. Sam gains some new insights into the imposing Watcher and the duo forms an unlikely bond. This brief, self-contained snapshot is light on action, but big on heart. It looks great and provides some genuine insight into the characters.

Whether or not to recommend Original Sin is a difficult call. Certainly fans of Deodato’s art will be interested. It’s a high profile part of Marvel’s recent history that has some actual lasting impact. But for a lot of fans, since the fallout of Original Sin played out in the characters’ ongoing series, taking in the “main” event is less urgent. Use your judgment.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on May 6, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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