Every now and then Marvel releases a one-shot that is so batty I’m surprised, but thankful, it made it to print. Case in point is this week’s Journey Into Mystery: The Birth of Krakoa #1. Set back in World War II, the one-shot portrays the origin of Krakoa, the Island That Walks Like a Man, and its fateful meeting with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. Despite its brilliant design and and status as the first villain the All-New, All-Different X-Men faced together, Krakoa has barely appeared since it debuted back in 1975. Here to rectify that shame are Dennis Hopeless (writer), Djibril Morissette-Phan (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and VC’s Travis Lanham (letterer). So, is the issue good?
First off, any discussion of this comic would be remiss to not talk about how flawlessly Morissette-Phan craft his line-work. His style is perfect for horror (as seen in his work on Glitterbomb). It’s heavily inked and brings out the menacing side of shadows and the unknown. Not only that, but he does also a great job depicting events in broad daylight with his renderings of characters’ faces. There are multiple occasions in the issue where he perfectly encapsulates characters’ emotions through their eyes, whether they look exhausted, confused, or terrified. The page compositions are also on-point, with a wide variety of layouts that effectively move the story along and really hone in on the horror. The splash pages here don’t feel arbitrary; if Morissette-Phan devotes that much space to an image, it’s because it’s meant to punch you in the gut with its atmosphere.
The rest of the art team also does a great job here. Rosenberg’s work is gorgeous, and we get to see more or less the whole spectrum of colors here. From Krakoa’s own menacing green to ocean blues to orange and purple skies, virtually every part of this issue looks divine. The island itself is both lush and menacing, effectively channeling what makes the Krakoa concept so cool in the first place. Lanham also does good work with the issue’s lettering, to include a distinct font used only for Krakoa, reinforcing the notion of it as an otherworldly and inhuman creature.
Plot-wise, this issue is mostly successful. The basic premise (Nick Fury and co. get stranded on Krakoa right after atomic bomb testing brought it to life) is a fun one, and the execution is strong. We get to see different types of horror, from unexplainable glowing plant growth to shifting topography to humans struggled with the good old-fashioned unknown. The writing of the characters is strong, as Hopeless infuses distinct voices into the dialogue and delivers a classic take on Nick Fury. The use of narrative captions also calls back to the era in which this story takes place.
With that said, the issue’s pacing prevents it from achieving its full potential. The first two-thirds or so are very well paced, but it feels like the story gets wrapped up just when it really hits its stride. Though this is an extra long issue, it still doesn’t feel long enough for the content. One of the issue’s most pivotal scenes is outright skipped over, and while we didn’t necessarily need to see it in its entirety, a bit more would have been nice.
Overall, Journey Into Mystery: The Birth of Krakoa #1 is fun one-shot with a wacky concept and top-notch talent. The writing and visuals both deliver fun horror, and I’m left wanting more. Unfortunately, part of that desire for more stems from the ending’s rushed pacing. Nonetheless, this is still a refreshing read and my pick for comic of the week.