I had completely missed any advance press on "Dark Reign: Zodiac." I had no idea that it was written by Joe Casey, and when I opened to the first page, I said to myself, "wait, did Marvel actually get Nathan Fox to draw a superhero comic?" I couldn't believe it. I've enjoyed Fox's work for years, since he tackled a few sections of Brian Wood's "DMZ," and he was certainly the only reason to pick up Dark Horse's "Pigeons from Hell." Of the post-Paul Pope artists of the new millennium -- like Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon, and Vasilis Lolos -- Fox is the most intense. His obsessively detailed pages vibrate with energy, even though they are filled with linework (and if he drew this comic at the same size he draws his other stuff, it's a gigantically oversized art page filled with those tiny details). If the other post-Pope artists have pushed the style toward simple, graceful forms and minimalistic linework, Fox has taken the road less traveled. He's brought a Geof Darrow kind of precision to the Pope dynamic.
This comic looks amazing.
But I don't know what it's really about yet. It establishes this new Zodiac character, a guy who has taken it upon himself to eliminate any other pretenders to the "Zodiac" crown by beheading anyone formerly associated with that name. This new Zodiac is part Cillian Murphy Scarecrow and part Mr. Nobody from the Brotherhood of Dada. He wants to inflict chaos on the world, or at least enjoy it while it lasts, under the maniacal rule of Norman Osborn.
This issue also sets up what will be Zodiac's gang, presumably, with Death Reaper (daughter of Nekra), Manslaughter Marsdale (Spidey villain with the purple jumpsuit and brass knuckles), and the Clown from the Circus of Crime. With that crew and Nathan Fox on art, I'm game for this series. But there's not much here beyond the off-beat do-badders and the funky artwork. Not yet anyway.
Still, Nathan Fox drawing the weirder side of the Marvel Universe seems a whole lot more palatable than yet another take on the Avengers, dark or otherwise.