Author(s): Reginald Hudlin
Artist(s): Denys Cowan, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Chris Cross
Colorist(s): Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Chris Sotomayor, WIl Quintana
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Action, Drama, Slice of Life, Superhero
Published Date: 03/16/2021
By Tyson Yurai
Some said that it would never happen – that it could never happen, but here we are. Milestone is finally back and with a vengeance. Tapping into the heart of a divided America, can Milestone Comics re-cement their place as one of the most progressive group of storytellers under the banner of DC Comics or will they prove themselves to be a flash in the pan with the comic book audiences of the modern day?
I feel so vindicated.
I have been pushing for a Milestone comeback since the 2015 and 2017 announcements never materialized into anything tangible and have been angrily shouting into the void (and at Jim Lee on Instagram) to bring back the rich, and often timely, universe of Milestone. Thankfully, with Milestone Returns #0, that dream is slowly becoming more real with a bevy of new books and stories set up and announced – and thankfully the lead up was well worth the wait.
Reginald Hudlin, who wrote both this and the Fandome Preview, was likely very inspired and angry about the rampant police brutality going on in America over the last decade and decided that comics needed to face the issue head on, much like Milestone had done back in the early ’90s under Dwayne McDuffie, Derek T. Dingle, Michael Davis and Denys Cowan. They wanted to show what the black experience was like through the eyes of comic book characters that would go on to inspire a new generation of writers and artists, showing them that they too could be welcome in the spaces of comic book fandom.
The Fandome Preview, which released digitally in August 2020, showed off what I would say were some of the initial ideas that Hudlin and the rest of his creative teams had in mind and probably will still do down the line with Xombi, Dharma and other possible series. That book was framed around the idea of Rocket and Icon looking towards the hopes and possible threats of the Milestone Universe and it felt a bit wonky in places with a lot of exposition dumping trying to bring new readers up to speed with old concepts.
Acting as more of a retooling of the Milestone Returns Fandome Preview (which is also included at the end of the book), The Big Bang story acts as the linchpin to hook readers in to the modernized world of Milestone – taking inspiration from the recent Black Lives Matter Protests after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, police with military-grade armaments and an experimental chemical agent fire into the crowd of protestors. This causes a series of deaths, maimings and physiological changes to many of those involved, giving several attendees super powers!
Where The Big Bang succeeds over the Fandome Preview is that, as previously stated, it finds a way to make the incident the biggest throughline between the various parties of Milestone with villainous inventor and businessman Edwin Alva’s company being the supplier of the chemical agent. This leads to its creator, Curtis Metcalf, to anticipate the heat that’s going to come down on him as he becomes Hardware to clear his name. At the same time, Icon and Rocket, two more of Milestone’s flagship characters, are conducting a drug raid in Colombia when they hear the news of what’s going on in Dakota. This draws their concern, especially since Rocket attends the same school as Virgil Hawkins – aka. Static.
The art for this story was absolutely fantastic. Starting off with relative newcomer, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, the book is immediately injected with an immense amount of energy and optimism rivalling that of original Static artist John Paul Leon – with highly expressive faces, Ivey captures the anger and division between the residents of Dakota and the paramilitary police that the city has hired to disperse the “riots.” Even the “exaggerated swagger of a black teen” that Virgil himself displays further endears the young hero to new and old readers alike through sly smiles and serious looks when talking to love interest Frieda and rival Francis “Hotstreak” Stone respectively. His clean lines and vibrant colors give Static’s story a sleek feel for a smooth character.
In stark contrast to Ivey’s style, Denys Cowan returns for the Hardware segments and injects a little bit of grime into the comic with the hero’s more industrial and darker edge. Cowan shows the cold, unforgiving side of being a black man in a multi-billion dollar company by illustrating how Curtis isn’t surprised that he’ll be the scapegoat for the Dakota Big Bang. Through calculated body movement and stone-cold, determined looks, Hardware prepares himself to push back against the corporation that would destroy him. Alongside Bill Sienkiewicz’ dark inks and Cowan’s own hatched shading, the story feels a lot more serious to match Hardware’s character and does well to show what the future ongoing series will look and feel like.
And finally, ChrisCross, Juan Castro and Wil Quintana do an amazing job with the Icon and Rocket story by showing the seriousness and power of Icon next to the youthful exuberance of Rocket, giving them perfect complementary personalities to each other. ChrisCross and Quintana come together to show Rocket’s power with explosive blasts of purple that sling drug dealer debris everywhere and Icon’s deep red heat rays and also purple telekinesis. Castro’s inks accentuate these colors by making them pop through his very thick lines and black shadows.
If you’ve been a fan of Milestone Comics and have been seeking more stories that represent black people in positive lights, Milestone Returns is the book for you! Through Reginald Hudlin’s charge and the awesome teams that have been put together, the Milestone resurgence is well underway and I can’t wait to see just how amazing all of the upcoming stories will be!
Milestone Returns #0: Return of the Cool
- Writing – 8.5/10
- Storyline – 9/10
- Art – 9/10
- Color – 9/10
- Cover Art – 8.5/10