Original Sin by Jason Aaron (Oversized Hardcover) – Book Review

Original Sin

Who shot the Watcher?

This question is printed on the cover of Original Sin #1, and it’s also the core premise behind the Original Sin event. Kind of.

I’ll get into the story later on, but I want to talk a little bit about what’s collected in the oversized hardcover first, and then talk about the quality of the book. After that, we’ll get into the story. There will be spoilers, but I’ll keep those isolated to the story section of this review. If you just want details about the physical book, you can stop reading before you get to that section. I’ve clearly marked the place where the spoilers begin.

Alright, so let’s get into it.

What’s collected in this volume?

Original Sin

This volume collects the entire mainline Original Sin event, with some of the side content thrown in for good measure. In this book, you’ll find:

  • Material from Point One #1
  • Original Sin #0-8
  • Original Sins #1-5
  • Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic #1-2

This is everything you need to understand the core event, and then some. The Original Sin event was written by Jason Aaron, while the Point One content was written by Ed Brubaker. The two-issue Secret Avengers was actually a webcomic tie-in by Ales Kot, and Original Sins is an anthology series with a host of writers.

Note that these are the contents of the oversized hardcover. If you buy the paperback version of this book, it won’t have Secret Avengers or Original Sins collected in it.

How is the quality of the physical book?

Original Sin by Jason Aaron (Oversized Hardcover)

My copy of this book was manufactured between August 29 and October 6 of 2014 at R.R. Donnelley in Salem, Virginia. I believe that makes this the first edition, because this book released in November of 2014.

The front cover shows the art from Original Sin #1, while the back shows the cover of Original Sin #8.

Original Sin by Jason Aaron (Oversized Hardcover)

You could maybe consider the back cover to be a little bit of a spoiler, but I think it’s vague enough that it doesn’t matter all that much.

But the real magic happens when you take off that slipcover, because you’ve got this wonderful piece of art beneath it:

Original Sin by Jason Aaron (Oversized Hardcover)

I love the concentric circles with a chalk outline of the Watcher splattered with blood, but for some reason, I can’t not see the outline as Dr. Robotnik. I get that the things protruding from the sides of the face are the edges of his collar, but I see them as a moustache — and it’s really hard to unsee that.

But that’s just me…

As thin as this book is, it still does feature a sewn binding.

Original Sin by Jason Aaron (Oversized Hardcover)

That binding is rather tight, which does lead some of the two-page images to lose pieces in the gutter. The good news, though, is that you can feel like you can press down on the pages a little bit to reveal more of those images without feeling like you’re going to damage the spine.

The pages aren’t super thick, but they feel slick and they don’t have a lot of image bleedthrough.

This is a U.S.A.-manufactured Donnelley book, printed in 2014, and the overall quality of Marvel’s hardcover books has gone down since then. That’s important to point out, because I think the book as I own it is really sturdy, and I do acknowledge that this might not be the case for newer reprints. So no, I can’t vouch for more recent printings of this hardcover, but the one I have is pretty high in quality overall. I’ve also had this for several years at this point, and it still looks brand new.

Spoiler alert

Original Sin

Okay, I warned you about this earlier, but this is the point at which you might want to bail on this review if you’re worried about spoilers. In the next section, I will be talking in depth about the Original Sin story. Yes, this event happened almost a decade ago, but it’s still more fun to read if you go in blind.

Is the story any good?

Original Sin

So, this book begins with some pages from Point One #1, in which some beings observe Uatu, the Watcher, in his location on the moon. Apparently, he is in some sort of stasis uploading his memories — something that happens for 42 uninterrupted minutes every three years. Apparently, these intruders figure out a weakness that will allow “The Unseen” to kill Uatu.

From here, we jump to Original Sin issue #0, which if I remember correctly was a Free Comic Book Day issue. This one was written by Mark Waid, and it shows a young Sam Alexander (Nova) attempting to meet the Watcher to see if he can learn anything about his father. While on the moon, he realizes Uatu is watching several timeline streams at once, and in every single one, Uatu is murdered…

And now, the real event begins, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Mike Deodato. The Watcher is murdered (as he predicted), which kicks off a cosmic murder mystery that’s filled with bizarre plot twists and action. The Watcher’s eyes were removed from the corpse, and each one is filled with secrets. Each eye is also a sort of info-bomb, which reveals its secrets when it explodes.

And one does explode (which is how Thor first learns that Angela is his sister, but that’s a story for another time…)

The core mystery of Original Sin is “Who shot the Watcher?” But also, “Who is the Unseen?” The answers to both questions are the same, of course, but they’re also more complicated than they might seem at first. So the action that unravels over these nine issues is a bit convoluted — involving more characters from the greater Marvel Universe than I can even count — but also very satisfying.

Original Sin

This is a story of twists and turns, where you can never feel quite sure who you should be trusting. And it’s full of unconventional Marvel Universe team-ups, like Doctor Strange with the Punisher, Black Panther with Ant Man and Emma Frost, and Moon Knight with Gamora. As our reluctantly cooperative heroes investigate the murder, they uncover piles and piles of additional bodies — some buried in the center of the Earth, while others are in some sort of alternate dimension. One of these corpses is a planet, and all of them are riddled with radioactive bullets that glow green. This is some super-weird stuff.

All of these trails — of bullets and bodies — lead back to a satellite floating in space. And when our heroes investigate that satellite, they find the Winter Soldier with Nick Fury’s severed head. Only the head doesn’t really belong to Nick Fury; it’s part of a Life Model Decoy, one of many that were built to look and act as Nick Fury while the real, genuine artifact remained hidden.

Yeah, this is the kind of story Original Sin is telling — it’s one of those tales where pretty much anything can happen, where you’ll have the rug pulled out from under you more times than you can count by this-could-only-happen-in-a-comic-book plot twists. It blends some high-concept ideas with the sort of comic-book sci-fi absurdity that prevents it from ever feeling grounded in reality.

Original Sin

And the art by Mike Deodato is absolutely on fire here. He draws all of this with a spy thriller look that reminds me just a little bit of Steve Epting’s work on Captain America, where he uses a lot of shadows to darken every panel and give the whole thing a gritty feel. There’s this look of exaggerated, sharp-cornered realism that somehow still works when Deodato is drawing alien planets and alternate realities littered with demon corpses. I don’t know how he manages to pull this off, but he does it wonderfully.

Now, I should probably warn you that this is probably not for the squeamish. If you’re opposed to seeing eyeballs ripped out of faces or heads exploded against the wall in red splatters, you’re probably going to want to stay away from Original Sin; it can get pretty gory at times. But if you can stomach that stuff, this is a really great story from start to finish.

Original Sins and Secret Avengers

On top of the Original Sin story, the hardcover version of this book also collects the five-issue Original Sins and the two-issue Original Sin: Secret Avengers webcomic.

Original Sins is a collection of stories from various creative teams that tie into Original Sin #3, in which the Eye-Bomb explodes and leaks its secrets. All of these stories deal with the effects of that blast, though none of them is as good as the event itself. Also, in this book, those stories aren’t collected in exactly the same order as in the original comic series. You could argue that these stories belong after Original Sin #3, but I think they’re better at the end of the collection so they don’t interrupt the main event.

Original Sins - Young Avengers

First is “Young Avengers: Hidden in Plain Sight,” which was written by Ryan North and drawn by Ramon Villalobos. The story was originally serialized in five parts across all five issues of Original Sins. In this collection, however, all five parts are collected together, back to back, so you can just read through it all at once without having to flip through the other stories.

This story features Marvel Boy, Prodigy, and Hulkling. The trio of Young Avengers take on the Hood, who’s been collecting folks who were affected by the Watcher’s Eye-Bomb and have been driven mad by its secrets. Hood’s plan is to convince Prodigy to build a mini Cerebro (which they actually call Cerebrat) to pull those secrets from the minds of these people, returning them to their normal selves. In the process, however, those secrets will be encrypted and uploaded to the internet.

This is a story with a lot of twists and turns, but it’s told in an upbeat, lighthearted manner that makes it feel like it’s aimed at a younger demographic than Original Sin proper.

Deathlok - Whiskey David

Next up is “Terminus” — written by Nathan Edmonson and drawn by Mike Perkins — which is a Henry Hayes Deathlok story. In it, Hayes is at a train terminal when he’s approached by an off-duty S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Seth Horne. Horne learned of Hayes’ secrets (all the Deathlok stuff) via the Eye-Bomb, and he won’t shut up about it.

Eventually, Hayes sees the phrase “Whiskey David” on a sign in the terminal, and it triggers his Deathlok persona, which chases Horne into a bathroom stall and kills him.

This story sets up the 2014 Deathlok series, which ran for 10 issues.

Next up is “Lockjaw: Buried Memory,” which is a two-page gag by Stuart Moore, drawn by Rick Geary. This wraps up the content from Original Sins #1.

Black Knight - Black Legacy

“Black Legacy” is a Black Knight vignette by Frank Tieri, drawn by Raffaele Ienco, where Dane Whitman is being driven mad by the Ebony Blade. I love the Black Knight, and I love tragic comics, so this was a high point of Original Sins for me.

“Before Your Eyes” is a two-page Howard the Duck story written and drawn by Ty Templeton. This is a two-page tragedy that presents Howard as the smartest creature in the known universe, only he was smart enough to hide his intelligence so deeply inside his subconscious that he couldn’t remember how smart he actually was. Until that pesky Eye-Bomb goes off…

Original Sins - Lineage

Original Sins #3 starts with a tale called “Whispers of War” by Charles Soule and drawn by Ryan Browne. This is a story about Lineage, who can make the faces of his ancestors appear on his body so he can talk to them. It begins with a new face appearing on Lineage while he’s relaxing in the hot tub. The face is freaked out, because he’s figuring out that appearing on Lineage’s body means he died. Yeah, it’s pretty weird.

“Bury the Lead” by Dan Slott, and drawn by Mark Bagley, is a two-page story that takes place at the Daily Bugle and features J. Jonah Jameson.

Original Sins - Gil Carmichael

Moving into Original Sins #4 now, we have “Checkmate” by James Robinson, and drawn by Alex Maleev. This is a Doctor Doom vignette, and another highlight for me. In it, an investment broker by the name of Gil Carmichael is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the Eye-Bomb fills his head with Doctor Doom’s secrets. This, of course, means Doom very much wants to meet Mr. Carmichael.

“Catharsis” by David Abadta and Pablo Durá, and drawn by Erica Henderson, is a two-page story featuring Captain America — or a remembrance of Captain America, I suppose.

Original Sins #5 features “How the World Works” by Al Ewing and drawn by Butch Guice, which is a Dum Dum Dugan story, and “The No-Sin Situation,” written and drawn by Chip Zdarsky, closes out the Original Sins portion of this book. It’s a fourth-wall-breaking two-page story where various Marvel characters talk about their darkest secrets.

Original Sin: Secret Avengers

After this, there’s the two-issue Original Sin: Secret Avengers webcomic, written by Ales Kot and drawn by Ryan Kelly. Obviously, since it’s printed on paper, it doesn’t have the transition effects that the webcomic version has, where one element of a panel will stay onscreen as the background will change. Still, it works well enough as a printed comic.

This is a short story about a man named Kenji Nakamoto, who can alter reality as if he’s writing computer code. Nick Fury was supposed to kill him at one point in the past, but decided not to. But now that the Eye-Bomb is revealing secrets, Nakamoto is too dangerous to keep alive any longer.

Ultimately, the fact that these stories are all collected here is a nice bonus, and it makes the hardcover feel comprehensive. However, these are all side stories that aren’t critical components of the Original Sin story. You’re totally fine picking up the paperback version of this book — which doesn’t have all the additional content — if all you care about is Original Sin proper. And honestly, even though I enjoyed a couple of the bonus stories, I doubt I’ll return to them on subsequent re-reads of Original Sin.

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