Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Marvel makes a half-hearted attempt to reach Chinese audiences with Aero

All images: Marvel Comics

The international success of the Marvel movies has made Marvel a global brand in a way that it’s never been before, so naturally the publisher would try and reach out to readers outside of the U.S. Last year, Marvel Comics partnered with Chinese tech giant NetEase to introduce new Chinese superheroes in comics published on NetEase’s website. U.S. readers met Aero and Sword Master in the New Agents Of Atlas miniseries, a tie-in to the War Of The Realms event, and this month, the two characters get their own solo titles, reprinting the digital comics with translations by New Agents Of Atlas writer Greg Pak. It’s always nice to see publishers expand their horizons by embracing different cultures, but Aero #1 (Marvel) is a shallow superhero story that doesn’t take advantage of a compelling concept.

Written by Zhou Liefen with art by Keng and letterer Joe Caramagna, the main story in Aero #1 is dominated by a narration-heavy action sequence that has the lead character explaining her dual role as an architect and superhero in Shanghai. There are some interesting ideas here about Lei Ling’s relationship with the buildings she designs, and the architect angle is the main thing that sets her apart. She has a different relationship with her city than other heroes, so the destruction that comes with battle has a more profound emotional effect on her. The problem is that this connection with the city is almost entirely depicted in narration. The creative team spends very little time actually showing Aero’s civilian life, which is painted with very broad strokes when it does become the focus.

This first issue gets right to the action, but the heavy motion blur in Keng’s art leaves the fight looking muddy. Keng does succeed at capturing the force of Aero’s wind-controlling powers, establishing her as a heavy hitter by having her level a living building rampaging through Shanghai. The creators of Aero are dealing with the common superhero dilemma of creating genuine personal stakes while delivering bombastic superhero spectacle, and while they try by layering narration on action, the two elements never fully gel. It reads like the artist drew an action sequence and then the writer threw a monologue on top of it so it would take longer to read.

Aero also features a new back-up story written by Pak with art by Pop Mhan, colorist Federico Blee, and Caramagna spotlights Wave, a new Filipino character who debuted in New Agents Of Atlas. Pak blows through Wave’s backstory, but at least she gets something more fleshed out than Aero, setting up a stronger foundation for future stories. The visuals by Mhan and Blee get sloppier as the story continues; it’s hard to make out how she gets her powers, and the water she manipulates is presented as messy scribbles on the page. It all ends up coming across as a rush job, getting superhero content out to a new audience without putting in the time to create the optimal product.

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