Brian K. Vaughan is an admired name within the comic-book industry. If you ever mention his name, fans will barrage you with praise for his many titles, such as Runaways and Y: The Last Man. Unfortunately, since working on Lost however, Vaughan has disappeared from the comic-book scene for some time. However, surpising news appeared during this year’s Comic-Con of a new title he was writing, called Saga – a new sci-fi story with Fiona Staples on art duties. Before this new title hits the stands, let’s take a look through those significant comic series, from his first major mini-series The Hood, through to his last accomplisment, Ex Machina.
Vaughan began at Marvel working with different comic-book characters, having brief writing stints for the X-Men and Captain America. His first, important mini-series arrived in the form of The Hood. Yes, long before he was used and abused by Bendis, the Hood was actually a lowlife criminal called Parker Robbins. A character created by Vaughan and brought to life by Kyle Hotz, Robbins acquires a unique cloak which grants him the power of invisibility and flight, amongst others. These abilities enable Robbins to commit petty thefts with ease, leading up to a set of events which change Robbin’s life drastically. It’s a worthy read, as Hotz’s art brings a great display of violence throughout. Vaughan has expressed before that he always prefers working with his own creations and there’s no doubt about him being successful at it here. This first series certainly paved the way for the writer, who would later follow up with his best work with Marvel to date.
Vaughan’s best Marvel series ended up on shelves across stores in April 2003; Runaways. Telling the story of a group of teenagers who discover that their parents are part of an evil cult, Runaways is comprised of a unique and interesting team, as readers get an insight into the life of some ‘super-teens’ who essentially end up taking down their own parents. It’s an interesting set up, accompanied with a perfect artist for the material, Adrian Alphona.
Vaughan manages to engage the reader with interesting characters, each with their own depth and development throughout. The team consists of a witch, an alien and even a velociraptor, to name a few. The fact that Vaughan manages such a diverse team is a credit to his writing, especially concerning the dangers they come across throughout their growth. His first series lasted for an epic 18 issues, which was soon picked up again for a further 24 issues. Vaughan decided to leave the project during it’s peak, leaving the project in the hands of Joss Whedon. Three different creative teams have attempted working on the series since Vaughan’s departure, but unfortunately the series has never reached the same levels as it once had before.
Runaways works extremely well, and it’s no small wonder as to why. Marvel picked up the project immediately due to it’s pitch. It was a comic aimed at teenagers and fans of manga, but it reached a much wider audience, as many appreciated the series for it’s immense vision and talent. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so. Watch out for Wolverine’s entry into the series also. It’s perfect.
Vaughan’s next impressive project is almost a love letter to Steve Ditko’s wild and vivid work on the Dr Strange series of the 60s. This time round, he and artist Marcos Martin got together to work on Dr Strange – The Oath. One of Strange’s more colourful outings in recent years, The Oath focuses on Strange attempting to solve a murder. Oddly enough, that murder is his own. With the help of his assitant Wu, they traverse into magical dimensions, encountering a lot more than they desired.
It’s packed full of surprises, assisted with the aid of Martin’s spectacular artwork. Even the colourist adds to the story. Vibrant colours and Martin’s signature style make for an astounding tale, which backs up Vaughan’s engaging writing effortlessly. Thankfully, it’s also somewhere for readers to start up on Strange. There’s little backstory involved, as it contains itself with ease within the span of five issues. The Oath ends up than being more than just a little tribute to Ditko’s art, it ends up being a great read.
Just prepare yourself for the crazy elements of the story, which presents many moral dilemmas for the Sorceror Supreme.
However, is was up to Y: The Last Man to allow Vaughan to showcase his complete talent. With a hard-hitting first issue, readers were hooked. Yorick Brown is a typical, out-of-college teenager, who practises his magic in his spare time with his fellow monkey Ampersand. Whilst proposing to his girlfriend over the phone, all mammals with a Y-chromosome across the world die within minutes. Every single one, apart from him and Ampersand. He is then the only man in the entire world, stuck in a dangerous world which is now in turmoil. The only thing Yorick can think about however, is his girlfriend who is stuck on the other side of the planet. He makes it his mission to find her, whilst having to survive in a man-hungry, dangerous world.
It’s an intriguing setup, which borrows heavily from the original I Am Legend. Yet Vaughan moulds the story into his own perfect being, swinging surprises and fantastic dialogue at you from all ends. It’s a touching story, which spans over 3 years. Yorick comes across many trials along his path, but thanks to the help of some trusting friends he finally gets somewhere.
Pia Guerra’s pencils manage to seamlessly illustrate the story for most of it’s run, with a clean and unique style that fits in perfectly with the tone of the comic. There’s a clear reason as to why it has recieved 5 Eisner awards, and why it’s been considered for a film adaptation for years now. The final issue of the series is probably the most emotional ending to any comic, ever. If it seems like too much praise for one comic series, then check it out and decide for yourself. Y: The Last Man manages to be one of the best comics in recent years.
His latest major title, Ex Machina is a politically charged superhero story, brewing with heavy sci-fi elements. Mitchell Hundred is is the major of New York City, who has attempted to leave behind his efforts as a superhero to concentrate on leading the city. The comic itself focuses on many flashbacks surrounding his time as his superhero alias, The Great Machine, whilst dealing with present dangers which effect his running for President. Whilst the set-up doesn’t sound particularly engaging at first, be sure that the comic pays off brilliantly.
As with most of his titles, Vaughan delivers a hard-hitting first issue. The final panel was a nice take on such an important event in America’s history and changing that aspect so slightly works to show Hundred’s responsibility and power. His power is also vastly unique compared to most heroes, which also makes for interesting takes on the situations he’s stuck in. Tony Harris excelled with the comic’s art, thanks to his great use of photo-referencing. It truly brings the comic to life.
Ex Machina had an unique setup, which made for a great read. It may have lost it’s pacing a little towards the end and perhaps the series deserved a better ending, but this may be due to Vaughan’s growing involvement with scriptwriting elsewhere. That’s not to say that the series is average, as it’s far from it. Even Vaughan’s weakest work can still be defined as being wholly enjoyable.
Well, it’s Saga next for us fans. Whatever Vaughan comes up with, I’ll be sure to follow up with it. For a industry which is stagnated with reboots and relaunches, it’s nice to see that someone like Vaughan can bring something new to the table. His work spans over several different avenues, even providing us with some of Lost’s best episodes, such as The Shape of Things to Come (featuring Alex’s shocking death) and Catch-22 (one of the best Desmond centric episodes). Regardless of it’s awful ending, these episodes maintained such a high-level of drama and intensity to them.
Along with that, he still has a few short gems within the comic book industry. Pride of Baghdad is a touching tale based loosely on real events, which is worth picking up. Everybody’s much loved Canadian mutant got the treatment in L0gan, a three issue mini-series depicting a short romance of Wolverine’s during his time in 1940’s Japan. He also had a short run on Ultimate X-Men, just before Robert Kirkman came along to begin the ruination of the Ult-X-Men. He’s definitely a very talented writer and that’s not to say there aren’t many like him in the industry. There’s tons. However, Vaughan brings a certain freshness to comic books. If you haven’t checked him out yet, then at least now you’ve got an idea of his capabilities.
So what are you waiting for? Check him out.