Take History 101 with The Immortal Men #4
Travel back to the dawn of time and discover the secret origin of the Immortal Man, the Infinite Woman, and the rest of their siblings. Then find out how the world will be changed forever. One of the siblings breaks their cardinal rule and tries to bring their eternal war into the public spotlight for the first time. It’s all-out war between the House of Action and the House of Conquest in The Immortal Men #4. Thanks to new artist Tyler Kirkham these new characters look better than in any of the previous issues.
Writing: Immortal Men
It’s strange to criticize The Immortal Men #4 because it’s far from a perfect issue. The problem is that in many ways it’s so enjoyable, and the world it’s building drew me in more than my concerns pushed me out. So if I’m overly affectionate about this issue, and my criticisms are short, it’s because I love to like books that are introducing new characters and concepts.
This is the best issue of The Immortal Men so far. This could be anyone’s first issue of the series and it would be entirely appropriate because it reads like a first issue. This issue finally fills readers in on so many things they’ve yet to have, like who the Immortal Man is and why they should care about the book’s protagonist, Caden Park. It also deepens the story around other plot points that had been introduced earlier, such as why Timber is the inspiration for Paul Bunyan. This influx of information allows the issue to move at a breakneck pace. This helps hide some of the issue’s flaws.
The real problem with this issue is that some of the central ideas that shape this concept are flawed. Specifically, it does not make sense for the Immortal Man’s house to be the House of Action. Action and Conquest are so similar as opposed to the other houses the issue introduces. James Tynion IV also tries to force the idea into areas that it doesn’t necessarily fit, and it takes the reader out of the issue. The worst example of this comes at the end of the telling of Timber’s origin.
Tynion is thankfully able to pull the issue and this concept together at the end of The Immortal Men #4. The climax focuses on the Immortal Man and makes a very clear case as to why readers should like him. He just makes him do something cool. It’s often overestimated what it takes to make characters likable. What Tynion does here was a masterclass in how to do that simply. The same can also be said, to a much lesser extent, about the treatment of Caden Park at the end of this issue. I wouldn’t say he’s completely gotten him over. But Tynion’s finally realized he needed to explain what Park’s powers are and why he’s useful in this war if he wants readers to care.
Tyler Kirkham’s contribution to The Immortal Men #4 cannot be overstated. This series has suffered over and over again from poor art, whether it was a Jim Lee who evidently didn’t care or a Ryan Benjamin who wasn’t ready to carry a series this big. Lee’s original designs for characters like Stray and Reload are somewhat of a hurdle this series has to get over. Kirkham’s art beats back all these challenges, though.
I worried that Kirkham’s style would be too dramatic for this story. But for the most part, it’s the perfect amount of crazy. His style often accentuates and beautifies the violence that is central to this issue and story. Make no mistake, his dynamic and stylized fight scenes are absolutely what get characters over in this issue. I’ve wanted to like Timber, the Immortal Man, and so many of these characters in every issue up to this point. But finally seeing them look cool has allowed me to really become their fans.
Some of the same thoughts I applied to the writing can also be applied here. There are bad panels, and Kirkham’s anatomy and inking could both use some work. The positives of his artwork just outweigh the negatives tenfold. I would love to see Kirkham stay on this book for as long as possible.
The Immortal Men #4 shouldn’t have been as good as it is, based on what you know as a reader coming in. The first few issues were moderately slow. Kirkham’s art can often be so stylized it could be considered parody. Despite this all, and despite issues in the book itself, this story is an enormous success because it’s cool. These characters look cool. Their histories are cool. Their philosophies are cool. I want to see more of these characters. And in the end, that carries so much more weight than whether James Tynion IV knows the proper definition of the word action.
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