Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing All New X-Men 19, Talon 13, Superior Spider-Man 22, All-Star Western 25, Wolverine and the X-Men Annual 1, Aquaman 25, and Indestructible Hulk 16.
Taylor: It’s always a little jarring when you pop open one of your favorite monthlies and are suddenly confronted with the work of a new artist. Even though you may have already known about the artist change from reading the cover or by giving the cover more than a simple glance, it’s strange to see the characters in a new light. The thing is, even if the new artist is just as good as the previous, sometimes we find ourselves rejecting the new. Humans just aren’t good with change I guess. So when I read All New X-Men 19 this past week it took me a bit to cope with the change of artist on this title. Making things more difficult is my love of Stuart Immonen’s work on this title. I feel like his art the perfect balance of photo realism and cartoonism for this title as it reflects the tone Brian Michael Bendis’ writing quite well.
That being said, I’m not sure if I’m giving new artist Brandon Peterson a fair shake with this latest issue. There’s something about his style which I feel is out of place in this particular X-Men story. Peterson likes to include a lot of detail into his work, which is something I can appreciate. Often, the more detail included in a picture means the more real and lifelike it will become. However, when a story centers on mutants and fundamentalist Christians doing battle I think a simpler, more iconic style would be the best choice. Peterson’s detail has a way of cramping up frames and making them feel too busy. Also, there are some odd shadowing effects going on that make the young X-Men look super old, which makes for an odd experience.
Spencer: Well, Taylor, Immonen is a hard act to follow, so I feel bad for Peterson. He does some cool things with his pencils, but I agree on how some of the art ages the characters and is jarringly realistic compared to the book’s tone. There’s also some weird posing going on in here:
The writing mostly fares better; Bendis continues to nail these characters’ voices with his usual humorous, conversational style and the new villains are a terrifying and unique take on the typical “world that fears and hates them” routine, but I still feel like there’s a lot of wasted space in this issue. The fight and chase scenes could have been trimmed down significantly without losing any of the plot, and because of it, I walked away from this book feeling slightly unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, while All New X-Men sets up its story, Talon 13 is entering its end-game as Calvin, Casey and her troops, Sebastian, and Harmon all finally clash; unfortunately, Sebastian’s wired the catacombs of the Court’s former hideout to explode — and take all of Gotham with it! This issue was a thrill a minute as the dominos set up across this series’ run all began to fall into place. We’ve got climatic fights, horrific images (such as Harmon’s continued killings and the fate of poor Sarah Washington), and some truly awesome entrances (I’ve got to get one of those mechanical arms), but the best scene of this issue is actually a quiet moment of emotional honesty.
Calvin and Casey’s relationship has been one of the most intriguing elements of Talon to me ever since its inception, simply because I could never quite get a bead on what they meant to each other; even when they actually kissed it was simply a ruse to pass Casey a lock pick. So seeing these two finally lay their feelings bare and having it be such a simple, quiet moment was super exciting for me. With Tynion’s run rapidly drawing to a close — and with it possibly the end of Calvin’s adventures as well, it’s still unclear — I’m more excited than ever to see where this title takes them. I’m rooting for these two!
Meanwhile, Venom comes to town over in The Superior Spider-Man 22. Of course, this iteration of Venom is currently Spider-Man’s biggest fan, Flash Thompson, who has turned Venom into a force of good (well, mostly; he is on the Thunderbolts), but Otto doesn’t know that, nor does he know who Flash even is. There’s an interesting comparison to make between Otto and Flash; Otto is a villain who inherited a hero’s legacy and has been doing his best to live up to it while Flash is a heroic guy who inherited a villain’s mantle and has been attempting to redeem it ever since. Both characters are fighting for control; Otto over his own supervillainous tendencies and Flash against the corrupting influence of the Venom Symbiote. It will be interesting to see if this is ever addressed, or if this story is going to be more about Flash losing control; honestly, either one should be entertaining. It should also be entertaining to see how/if this moment with Aunt May is addressed in the future:
Aunt May is always treated like a saint, so it’s just nice to see that she has flaws of some sort, y’know? I’m looking forward to seeing her and Anna Maria finally meeting, as May has no idea that Anna Maria is the girlfriend of “Peter’s” that she so eagerly wants to see; whether I laugh or I cringe, should be fun. Taylor, what did you think of May’s moment of political incorrectness? What all about all these folks gunning for Spider-Man? Are you rooting for Otto, or against him?
Taylor: I think I’m rooting for Otto, oddly enough. I’ve really been enjoying his run as Spider-Man because I love the moments when his Otto-ness shows through the slick, Spider-Man veneer he’s wearing. A perfect example of this comes when he’s unveiling Parker Industries.
I love the barely restrained restrained feeling of superiority that is constantly brimming beneath the Peter Parker surface. Every so often, as in the case above, it ruptures a little and we get magical moments where despite his best efforts, Otto is jerk to everyone in the room. What makes this so appealing to me is that in some way you feel all superheroes believe they are better than the common man. By donning a cape and mask they are choosing to be something other than a citizen and in that decision there has to be some sort of reasoning. In any case, Otto is like the Id of the superhero world; starting businesses, having sex, fighting crime, and generally enjoying the power of being a super hero.
That being said, I hope he can outwit all of those who are conspiring against him. Eventually however, you have to believe all of these enemies will catch up to him and that Otto’s smugness could be his fatal flaw. Only time will tell I suppose. As for Aunt May’s un-pc views, I think it’s a perfect setup for an issue where she does meet Anna. We tend to think of oldsters as being cute and doting and because of this we sometimes forget that they are products of their time and therefore may hold outdated views we find offensive. Pit this ignorance against Anna and Otto and you got yourself gen-u-ine comedy gold my friend.
Speaking of displaced heroes, let’s talk about Jonah Hex from All-Star Western 25. He’s living in the future, running around with buxom women, and getting into undead adventures with Constantine. This month he’s at a Burning-Man like festival when Constantine shows up to help him fight some undead demons who want to feast on the souls of sinners. By far the most interesting part of this issue was the reveal that Jonah is some kind of avenging angel. The idea of Hex being imbued with the divine wind of a the holy spirit is fun if for no other reason than he most certainly hates the the very idea of it. This accounts for Jonah’s peculiar ability to find trouble and also his peculiar ability to walk away from it alive. It seems fitting that Constantine, a man of similar ill repute, should be the one who discovers this about Jonah. Well at least eventually does, after a demon first glimpses what Jonah’s life has consisted of.
It’s a pretty good summation of Jonah’s life and I love that Abraham Lincoln features in it so prominently. Shouldn’t that be Amadeus Arkham? I don’t really mind though, it somehow seems right that Jonah’s conception of the world would somehow revolve around a president who was perhaps the nations greatest and who also met a violent end. Perhaps a mirror image of Jonah’s life?
Speaking of antiheroes, what’s Wolverine up to? Well in the annual issue of Wolverine and the X-Men we actually see very little of our favorite beclawed X-Man. Instead, the issue focuses on Kind Gladiator and his experience when he is sent back to his home world to complete his schooling. While there he realizes that he actually really enjoyed his time on Earth and being threatened by Wolverine every day in class. Eventually he goes on an adventure wherein he saves the universe, punches a lot of things, arm wrestles Thor, and even kisses a girl. All in all this issue is about as fun and wacky as it sounds. Writer Jason Aaron strikes the perfect comedic tone in this and I found myself having a ton of fun reading this issue even though I had never heard of Kid Gladiator before this. His description of the Marvel heroes on Earth is both hilarious and entirely accurate.
Look, I’m a big Wolverine fan even though for a long time I tried to avoid it. That being said, I don’t care that he only appears on one page in this issue. Even though his name graces the title, the story here was so much fun I found I didn’t miss Ol’ Logan one bit.
This month marks my first foray in the watery realm of Aquaman with issue 25 of the series. I gathered that the Dead King had displaced Aquaman from his throne on Atlantis and imprisoned his girlfriend, Mera. The story was simple enough to follow but I felt like the climatic battle between Aquaman and Atlan was a little anti-climatic. They spar for a bit before Atlan gets all watery and washes away in the currents, leaving Aquaman to triumphantly retake the thrown. Mera then says she doesn’t want to stay underwater any longer, only to see her dog on land and realize she wants to be with Aquaman again. It seemed like a weird decision to leave and an even weirder one to go back again and borders on being a little trite in my mind. Still, undead underwater army! Sign me up! Spencer, did you like the issue any better given that you have more familiarity with the title than I?
Spencer: Aw dude, I had no idea this was your first issue of Aquaman. Starting with an issue that is both part seven of a storyline and the final issue of the writer’s run has got to be tough; kudos for sticking it out, man. I think I did like it better, but even with a familiarity, there were still some problems with this issue. As you so aptly pointed out, the Dead King was taken down way too quickly, and I don’t think Johns properly resolved all the plot points he raised throughout this storyline; whatever happened to the Scavenger, for example? Still, I had a lot of fun reading it, and I don’t know if it’s because the Throne of Atlantis was the best story of Johns’ Justice League or simply because I can’t wait until Forever Evil is over, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the mythology of the Seven Seas explored more in the future.
I thought the scenes with Mera were pretty sweet though, Taylor, especially reuniting with that “just shave the beard.” I think my familiarity helps here; Mera didn’t come to Atlantis at first because she was never liked or wanted there, and the city already shunned her once. Of course, Mera isn’t very comfortable on the surface world either, and when she saw that even her dog didn’t need her, she realized that the only place she really belongs is with the man she loves. Sappy? Probably, but I ate it up.
Indestructible Hulk 16 isn’t sappy at all, but I dig it just as much. Just last week we were talking about how eager we were to see this book return to the adventures of Banner and his mysterious assistants, and this issue delivers exactly that. It opens with a fantastically hilarious sequence detailing a frustrating week for poor Banner, who keeps getting beat to the invention punch by his super-genius peers.
It falls on Banner’s assistant, the noble Randall Jessup, to keep Banner under control until he can focus his rage on a much more deserving target: in this case, a monster freed from an Aztec ruin. Thanks to a tragic past spent caring for his out of control mother Jessup is up to the task; he proves to be a noble, loyal assistant to Banner, so, of course, writer Mark Waid has to go and break my heart by revealing that Jessup will die saving the world in one week’s time.
I’d be furious at Waid if this issue wasn’t so fun, so hilarious, just so great in general. You’re in the clear this time, Waid, but I reserve the right to be heartbroken and bawl like a little baby when the tragic moment finally arrives.