Indie comic book creators can go on and on about how the two big publishers… (For those who don’t know that’d be Marvel and… wait what was the other one called again? Eh, it’s probably not important. Full disclosure: I am a Marvel intern. Eat it, Aquaman. What was I saying? Oh right. We now return you to your regularly scheduled comic book related programming.) Some indie creators go on and on about how the future of comics is in creator-owned projects and not in the hands of larger publishers. They say that creative freedom is going to save the industry. (When I say they, I mostly mean Robert Kirkman in GQ.) I say no. Comics will actually be saved by good storytelling. The characters don’t matter. The publishers don’t matter. The writers and artists (and let’s face it, decent marketing plans) are at the heart of any hope for a revival. I think that recent Marvel miniseries “One Month To Live” is the kind of thing that will get people reading.
The gist of it is this: Dennis Sykes, a banker by day and miserable parent to his orphaned niece by night, hates his job. He hates his life and is frustrated by the fact that it seems nothing good will come of it. But while trying to do a good deed, an accident imbues him with supernatural powers… as well as terminal cancer. In five weeks, he learns lessons that the Earth’s mightiest heroes have been teaching us for 70 years, and something about this story hits much closer to home. Do outrageous, completely unrealistic things happen? Yes, this is a comic book. But everything completely out of the ordinary is grounded by something real, something that we very well could encounter on an everyday level.
Everyone knows someone who has had cancer. Everyone knows someone who hasgone through marital problems, has lost a loved one, has lost a parent, has struggled with the moral implications of their job. This story speaks to the heart of what Marvel Comics have seemingly always been about, that you don’t need to be an alien from another planet or a brooding billionaire to have adventures or experience exactly what it means to be human. These experiences are all around us and we take them for granted because we are not Spider-Man or the X-Men. We escape to comic books because a superhero’s problems seem important. Ultimately, ours are too.
One thing I liked about this miniseries was that each issue had a different artist andwriter. You would think that it would be uneven and distracting but it isn’t. Who they are or aren’t isn’t important. The concept is the focus here, not the creators. Gladly the concept is well executed and although the ending is a little bit cheesy, it is realistic. Dennis Sykes is not a superhero. He is not coming back. It’s nice to know that some things, even in the seemingly infinite universe of comic books, can be finite. A reminder of our own mortality does not have to be a sad one and in this case it isn’t. Instead it also serves as a reminder that we matter and so do the people around us and it’s important to remember that if not for our sake then for our friends’ and family’s.