I’m sure like me, a lot of my fellow comic fans out there love stumbling across a book you’ve never heard of, but that feels right up your alley. I had that when I saw a book from 1998-1999 called The Supernaturals. From the cover I could see that this four issue mini included some of Marvel’s great mystical characters like Brother Voodoo, Ghost Rider and Satana. Cool. I love those guys and gals. I’m in! So, on the MyComicShop wish list it went and recently I grabbed them. How’d it go? Hmm…let’s find out.
When I got these issues in hand, I was surprised to see the talent involved. Brian Pulido of Lady Death, Evil Ernie and Chaos! Comics fame seemed to be the major architect of the series with Marc Andreyko doing the actual scripts. He would go on to have a hit with Manhunter a few years down the line in 2004. And then you’ve got covers by Catwoman‘s Jim Balent and interiors by future Green Lantern-and-beyond star Ivan Reis! That’s a a killer line-up with a roster of characters that included those I mentioned above as well as Gargoyle, Werewolf By Night and…Black Cat? Huh, okay. Unexpected, but I was still curious.
And then I got confused. The first issue — and all subsequent ones — have those great fold-out, recap pages in the beginning that Marvel used to do. I love these because they, in theory, give you all you need to know going in. However, this one just left me scratching my head because it referenced a Chaos! Event that didn’t ring a bell and also laid down character bios that felt a bit off. That’s because the recap page ran down the events of the book I was about to read! Odd choice.
Here’s another aspect of this book that took me too long to glom onto: it’s set in an alternate reality. In this one, the Brothers Drumm get involved in a spell that sucks most of the planet’s heroes into a portal. Thirteen years later, a few supernaturally included folks get recruited by Brother Voodoo (in a very cool super hero suit, I must say) to form a team to stop a pumpkin-headed baddie called Jack O’Lantern. Which is basically what happens throughout the rest of the series in exactly the way you would expect it to play out.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure how I feel about The Supernaturals. Admittedly, it made me feel dumb because I didn’t catch on to the alternate reality thing. Some characters seemed relatively unchanged like Voodoo, but then Satana was a good Catholic high schooler and Ghost Rider was a kid riding a BMX bike, but also turning into the Johnny Blaze version of the Rider. Plus, who even knows who Gargoyle is (it’s not Grey Gargoyle). And then you’ve got Black Cat’s involvement…because she has luck powers and sounds like a supernatural character.
On the other hand, the book looks fantastic from Balent’s eye-catching covers to Reis’ appropriately spooky and dynamic interiors. I think I just had trouble figuring out what to grab ahold of because everything just felt a little bit off. Like it was cool seeing random appearances by the giant Marvel monsters of the early 60s as well as the 70s Legion of Night gang, but even some of those appearances didn’t jive with my mental map of those characters. Plus, the story was pretty paint by numbers with a surprise reveal that left me more “huh, okay” than “WHOA!”
I think I was a bit thrown by this series. It did not do a great job of establishing what it was — which could have easily been done in that first issue fold-out — but that may also have put me on a bad footing. It also didn’t help that it felt like Pulido was name-dropping his own company every time someone referred to the Chaos! Event because, yes, it includes the exclamation point Every. Single. Time. I’m going to keep these issues in hand for a while and give them another read down the line. I think going in knowing what I know will take away some of the difficulties and set me up for a smoother reading experience. If nothing else, they come with pretty rad cardboard masks in each issue, though I have no idea how you get them out without destroying or deconstructing the comic!