There’s probably some really cool independent project that Kathryn Immonen was involved in during 2013, maybe another super-couple project á la Moving Pictures, by whose omission my complete ignorance of all things worthwhile will be revealed. So apologies to more erudite readers, true Immonen fans, and any other relevant parties, I’m about to sing the praises of Kathryn Immonen’s work-for-hire.
Whether it’s Sif bickering with Beta Ray Bill about the best course of action, or the Avengers copping to not really wanting to spend Christmas stoically alone, Immonen manages to find the humour in superheroes without diminishing their extraordinariness. Taking the Sif and Bill example, under Immonen’s guidance their amorous past remains largely subtextual, background to their alpha dog disagreements over strategy and control. They know each other well enough to not have to give ground, shared intimacy enabling more “livelier expression of opinion” than either might use when disagreeing with Cap, or the Silver Surfer. Immonen understands the effect of a deep history on the way people relate, lets it colour her dialogue and pacing. Every exchange between these sometime lovers was tinted red with the impatience of expected understanding, the frustration that after all this time still everything isn’t known.
Of course, that’s not to say Immonen can’t be funny.
But here too are layers. Black Widow is a badass, knowingly playing up to her role as a badass for the kids visiting Avengers Tower, in a comic written for a readership more often focused on Widow’s bad (meaning good) ass than her badassness. Immonen knows the characters, but she also knows her audience and works the angles accordingly. Trapping the Avengers in a tower together at Christmas creates the tension of unfamiliar closeness, as fighting Skrulls alongside someone does not prepare you for basting a turkey with them, or sharing Christmas and whatever memories it conjures, any more than being part of a book club or attending the same spin class can. Different rules apply, and even superheroes get self-conscious.
In all the Marvel comics I read in 2013 (and I work in a comics store, so I read most of them), Immonen was the writer whose words I believed, whose dialogue I felt I might’ve overheard rather than read. While so many others were plotting and planning, Immonen built relationships on the page, and I can only hope that in 2014 she’s given more room.
– Taylor Lilley / CB