Journey Into Unknown Worlds# 1 // Review
In the 1950s, Timely Comics was on its way to becoming Marvel. Back then it was known as Atlas Comics. This year, in celebration of its 80th anniversary, Marvel takes a look back on some of the titles it published as Atlas. One of several anthology titles, the clumsily titled Journey Into Unknown Worlds was a sci-fi/horror comic book filled with stories in the tradition of old pulp fiction that had been popularized in the early 20th century in magazines like Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. The debut issue of Marvel’s Journey Into Unknown Worlds features two alien parasite stories: “Bones of the Earth,” by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Guillermo Sanna and “Chrysalis,” by writer Clay McLeod Chapman and artist Francesco Manna.
“Bones of the Earth” is a ten-page tale set in the Ozarks. Alien parasites have invaded human hosts only to find that there are serious complications with their plans of relocation to Earth. The overall premise is a lot better than writer Cullen Bunn’s execution of it. To his credit, Bunn allows the full horror of the rather invasive invasion to be delivered by the artist. To his credit, Guillermo Sanna does a really good job of conjuring the full horror of an alien parasite on the loose in a human host population. Heavy shadows and warped, misshapen bodies lurk around panel after panel of wilderness as U.S. Government personnel investigate in clean suits. It’s a very memorable, little package to open what will hopefully be a successful series.
“Chrysalis,” is set not far away from the fist story in the Blue Ridge mountains. A group of young scouts run into a monstrous parasite of an entirely different kind when a dejected, chubby, little sci-fi enthusiast investigates a meteorite long after everyone else has gone to sleep. From the glow of the campfire, Chapman relays a very straightforward alien parasite story. Manna’s art is beautiful in places. The alien in question has an exotically inhuman appearance that contrasts well against the very human campers that are encountering it.
Marvel’s Atlas Comics anthology revivals continue to show promise with Journey Into Unknown Worlds. As with the straight-ahead horror revival Crypt of Shadows from earlier this month, more than one story fits the same theme without feeling repetitious. It’s a clever format given the format of the rather limited size of the modern comic book. The Golden Age anthologies that these titles hearken back to were much bigger editions with several comic stories and at least one text-based tale. With modern mainstream comics being shorter, 2-3 stories need to have more to connect them. A couple of stories without much connection is going to feel a bit disjointed. A good example of what NOT to do might have been the first issue of Marvel’s War Is Hell in which the work of Howard Chaykin completely overpowered the second story in the issue. Had there been a common theme it might have felt a bit more cohesive. With the approach of JIUW and CoS, Marvel’s anthology revivals might stand a chance surviving in the cluttered serial-dominated world of the modern comics rack.