‘Miranda Mercury’ gets second chance to raise your temperature

Writer Brandon Thomas announced today that his original comic, “The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury” is going to get a second chance at life, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

This book got and held my attention when it debuted from comics publisher Archaia Studios last year. But “Mercury” only saw two (I believe) of its planned six issues published before Archaia went through some kind of restructuring that — poof! —caused a number of their projects to go into cold storage.

On Mercury’s debut, Thomas and penciller Lee Ferguson hooked me in with one supremely clever cover:

Miranda Mercury by Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson

It may seem like just one more action-bloated funnybook cover at first until you realize, with the flip of a page, that the cover is the first panel of the book. See? Pages 2 and 3:

All good action comics must feature a foot to the face.I like how the gun has a floodlight mounted on top.

This innovative cover is significant to me because the concept of getting a story “off and running” is one every writer struggles with. When your cover is actually pulling its weight from a storytelling standpoint, that’s a kind of efficiency akin to making votive candles out of spent egg shells and closet deodorizer from used coffee grounds. Except more useful.

Another reason why this cover is particulalry brilliant? It’s a comics tradition to put something salacious and tantalizing on the cover, even if that something never actually occurs in the book itself. Such as this recent example, the “alternate cover” for the comic adaptation of Laurenn J. Framingham’s “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” books:

Who taught Wolverine how to punch? Or is he trying to hit someone on the other side of Anita?

You can be damn sure that Wolverine does not show up to fight Anita Blake in her romance-vampire-thriller universe. (He does not even show up to run past her, which is what looks like is happening here.) Not to pick on ol’ Anita, but the regular, non-variant cover for the very next issue issue may look rather exciting…:

Knock knock! Who's there? Braaaaaaaains....

…but comics gadfly Chris Sims analyzes this issue and reports that the scene actually concludes like this:

Well, this is actually more in line with how *I* would resolve a zombie attack.

With a word, not a fist. Not exactly the tense wrestling match we see on the cover, is it? So you can see why I’m so excited when “Mercury’s” cover is so much more than a bait-and-switch teaser.

One more thing about that cover: that “# 295,” a cute gimmick that wink-winks the notion that Miranda is a popular comics heroine with a long-running title. As you can tell, cleverness buys my loyalty (or at least my $4). But when it comes to a relaunch from scratch, I think Thomas and Archaia make a wise move: This fall, the first issue will be solicted as “#1.” The whole mini-series will be packaged in three, double-sized issues that comprise all six installments (priced at $6 a pop, this actually makes a nice price break; $3 per issue is better than the $4 most indie publishers charge for their color books, and what the major publishers ask for their higher-profile hero books).

Oh, and by the way: The rest of the first issue is pretty great, too, delivering on that opening promise of wit with pages and pages of more just like it.

The comics industry is a mixed-up ball of neuroses, and the way its central distributing company, Diamond, gets funnybooks into the hands of comics purveyors is an arcane system of pifalls and flaming hoops. I know each comics shop has its own challenges figuring out which (and how much) inventory to order, all without the benefit of being able to see it first or to return anything.

So when I see a worthy indie comic swimming upstream like a desperate salmon, I try to help it get past the hungry bear waiting on the rock. Give “Miranda Mercury” a chance this October, won’t you?

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