Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 6/4/14

round upLook, 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, Drew and Patrick discuss Green Lantern 32, Green Arrow 32, Batman Eternal 9, Punisher 6, Magneto 5, Iron Fist: The Living Weapon 3, Loki: Agent of Asgard 5, and Miles Morales The Ultimate Spider-Man 2.

slim-banner4Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret! Why didn’t you tell the world, EH?

Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Strangelove

Drew: “Honor amongst thieves” is a noble concept, but in practice, the deceitful behavior that qualifies someone as a “thief” tends to make them a shitty partner. I mean, if they’re willing to throw over some of the most sacred tenants of our society for their own gain, what chance do personal agreements have? This notion comes to the fore in Green Lanterns 32, as the Khund and the Clann finally turn on the Durlans. Or is it the other way around? The Durlans blow up the entire fleets of both races, but it’s not quite retaliation, and without any forewarning that such an attack was possible, it couldn’t have been used as a deterrent. Instead, it seemed to be part of the plan to kill them all along. Honor amongst thieves indeed.

Writer Robert Venditti crams this issue full of moustache twirling — beyond the double-crosses, we have all manners of threats, and even eating living creatures alive — all to hilarious effect. My absolute favorite moment has to be the Khund Captain who is violently emphatic about getting recommendations from his lieutenants.

RECOMMEND THISHaha. What? He doesn’t want results, he wants recommendations. You can’t get much more goofily over-the-top than that.

Not that that would stop Jeff Lemire from trying. Green Arrow 32 features a cadre of similarly trying-too-hard set of admittedly D-list villains (though, when you’re Green Arrow, can you really expect much more high profile adversaries?). Those would be the ones sent by Richard Dragon (or Dick Draggin’, as his frat brothers used to call him) to kill Ollie. They’re actually surprisingly effective, keeping Ollie off of his feet until he can be saved by a little girl. That little girl happens to be the super bad-ass Emiko, but still, it’s weird to see Ollie felled by such chumps.

The real meat of this issue lies in the conversations between Dragon and Diggle, which flashes back to Ollie’s earliest adventures as Green Arrow, giving Andrea Sorrentino an excuse to break out a fun construction paper (or is it screen printed?) effect, rendering all of the action in bold, single-color silhouettes.

Neat!I’ll admit that I’m a little tired of issues that end with Ollie being rescued by a family member, but the action does carry us to some new revelations about his history as Green Lantern, which I think this series will benefit from focusing on.

From one gang-controlled town to another, Batman Eternal 9 actually finds Batman city-hoping, himself, popping up in Hong Kong to figure out why Falcone left his interests there so abruptly. He doesn’t find out much — essentially, just that Falcone had “unfinished business” in Gotham — but this issue affords us a fun glimpse at Batman Incorporated, including his hilariously familiar bat-hideout in Hong Kong.

Penny? Check. Dinosaur? Check.Hong Kong also affords us the opportunity to meet a willful British operative who I suspected for a second might be the New 52 Cassandra Cain, but her identity turns out to be much more shocking: Julia Pennyworth. It’s not clear if she’s a daughter, granddaughter, or some kind of more distant relation, but it’s certainly an unexpected twist.

Meanwhile, we get a small hint of what Falcone’s “unfinished business” might be — specifically, that it includes Selina Kyle, who Falcone captures in this issue. He still bears the scars she gave him in Batman: Year One (you know they must have hurt if they were deep enough to survive a reboot), and promises to pay her back several times over. I’m not particularly worried about Selina’s wellbeing (we kind of already know that she comes out on top), but I am excited to see if that’s actually what brought Falcone back to Gotham.

Patrick: The whole thing’s kind of a weird little diversion — at this point I’m more interested in seeing what brings Batman back to Gotham than Falcone. As much as I like seeing Jiro and Canary, their inclusion feels kinda sticky. Hong Kong isn’t Japan, so while Jiro and Canary were probably closer than any other member of Batman Incorporated, it does feel like a weird little mistake that someone noticed after they already decided that Batman of Japan would be there. It momentarily reminded me of that terrible issue of Batwing where Nightwing met up with David to fight a dragon-man in China. It’s a similar conflation of “otherness” that makes me uncomfortable. Also making me uncomfortable: the way Guillem March draws Catwoman. Whether she’s repelling down the side of a building or kicking some dudes in the face, her proportions are all out of whack, betraying March’s difficulties with the female form.

This month’s issue of Punisher found the first major story arc concluding in the cold open with a weird whimper. I really like seeing Frank using his tactical mind, and loading his weapon with rubber bullets — capable of actually hitting Electro, instead of being deflected magnetically. That’s a tiny piece of clever writing, but it asserts that Frank is more than just The Will to Punish the Wicked, and that’s important to me. The real bummer is that Domino just appears out of nowhere, cracks Frank in the head and then helps the bad guy escape. It’s only then that the title page drops into place, and the real business of the issue transpires. That business is quite simple: Punisher fights his way through the urban war zone that is Dos Soles controlled Los Angeles. It’s a breathless sequence, and every time Frank takes a second to take cover behind a car, it explodes right in front of him. Punisher’s relentlessness is one of the strongest identifying features of the character, and this issue gets that across about as clearly as I’ve ever seen it. Plus, Gerads builds it all up to one pretty bitchin’ hero/anti-hero shot.

Punisher in LAAlso, I’d like an “I [red Punisher skull] LA” sticker — where do you think I could buy one?

If Punisher was all about getting to Frank’s statement of purpose, it appears as though we have an obvious pivot point to Magneto 4. Between Magneto’s voice over and Briar’s assertions that Magneto is some irrefutable force of nature, it sure seems like his motivations are going under the microscope in this issue. But the really intriguing tid-bit comes at end, when we see that Briar nearly lost a leg during one of Magneto’s earlier rampages. So what are we to make of her offer to help Magneto take out the S.H.I.E.L.D. unit assigned to the Mutant Problem? Is she trying to trick him, or is she just in awe of the power that crippled her? At this point, either reading feels legit. Drew, we haven’t had much in the way of support cast for Magneto yet, but I like the idea that he’s maybe got a sidekick now (even if he might not be able to trust her).

Drew: I’m not even sure that she’s going to be a series regular — that’s how ambiguous Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta play her appearance here. By the end of the issue, she’s already taking her leave of Magneto, perhaps to offer intel to other villain/antiheroes, or perhaps to just GTFO before Magneto hulks out again.

For me, it was that characterization of Magneto’s next violent outburst as an inevitable force of nature that stuck out to me — he really is being treated like the Hulk. In that light, I’m not sure Briar’s motivations fall on the good/bad spectrum so much as they hinge on exactly how manipulative she’s being. She obviously knows the marauders are an irresistible target for Magneto, so the real question for me is whether she actually wants to get rid of them, or if she just wants to direct his wrath at a specific location. There may be an outside chance that she’s setting him up for capture, but I tend to think that her motivations might be much more complicated than that. Magneto’s a pretty effective weapon — why not try to take advantage of him while he’s free?

Speaking of living weapons, Kaare Kyle Andrews’ Iron Fist: The Living Weapon 3 finds Daniel Rand also hulking out, though he mostly takes out his rage on a tree. Indeed, Daniel doesn’t accomplish much this issue, but the action back in the land of mortals boils over as Davos and the Crane Mother’s Daughters both make plays (or protect) “Kung Fu Girl.” Three issues in, and I think I’ve finally acclimated to Andrews’ style. My initial reactions defined it almost entirely by its clear stylistic debt to Frank Miller, but that ignores just how effective the storytelling is here.

Indeed, Miller is a pretty good example when it comes to pacing and motion, but Andrews surpasses him when it comes to emotional immediacy. Andrews played that skill close to the chest in the first few issues, making Daniel a classic hardboiled stoic, but he allows him a full-fledged breakdown here, leading to that tantrum I mentioned earlier.

BreakdownTry imagining Miller’s Batman ever emoting anywhere near that much.

A surprise burst of “realness” also defines Loki: Agent of Asgard 5, which was heretofore defined by its artifice. Al Ewing and Lee Garbet have fun lampshading that particular affect, going so far as to almost name drop my favorite reference for calling comics on overreliance on tropes: tvtropes.org. That self-aware goofiness allows this series to have a lot of fun with itself, but I’m surprised how well this issue retains its color even when things get serious. That is to say, the confrontation between Lokis worked extremely well for me, but I’m curious to hear your reactions, Patrick.

Patrick: Oh, I totally loved it. The first three-quarters of the issue rely so heavily of manipulating truths and tropes to suit our Loki’s purpose, that we really should have seen it coming that Glam, Sword of Truth, would have been his undoing. It’s like Loki — and by extension, Ewing and the reader — have been so focused on the power of fiction, that we’re naturally blindsided by the immutable power of reality. All throughout Ewing shows a deft hand for overly clever wordplay, my favorite being how many times he makes Loki and Lorelei collectively use the phrase “incredibly deadly traps” capped off with Loki’s use of the phrase “What makes them especially incredibly deadly is they’re not actually there.” You know how sometimes you can use a word so many times, it’s lost all meaning? That’s basically what they accomplished there.

On that note: “CLONE!” (Pretty big Ultimate Spider-Man spoilers following, so proceed with caution).

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man 2 is singularly focused on the oddity that is Peter Parker rising from the dead. This is a classic Brian Michael Bendis issue, which is to say that he’s got the story decompressed to an artful crawl. Bendis very persistently doesn’t let any moment from his story buzz by without checking in on how the characters are feeling, and for the first half of the issue, he manages this without a lot of extraneous copy. That leads to entire pages that are little more than Miles standing there, mouth agape, as he tries to process the fact that Peter Parker is alive and in his living room.

Miles and Peter

Bendis’ patience totally pays off, and when Miles finally decides that what he encounters was a clone of Peter Parker, his panic seems appropriately earned. By the time we get to the scene of him explaining the situation to Gahke, we’re totally ready for a dialogue-heavy explain-o-rama. In fact, it’s almost a substitute for what we’re doing right here at Retcon Punch. Bendis shows us life shattering action for 16 pages and then uses the final four to process that info. I made the claim last month that I might have finally found the Ultimate book for me, and two issues in, I don’t think I’ll be going back on that statement any time soon.

slim-banner4The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

2 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 6/4/14

  1. Nailbiter 2 – , I actually haven’t read it yet. Last week of school is always a wreck and I’ve got ONE MORE DAY. I liked the first one and am interested in seeing if they turn this into a Silence of the Lambs type thing (they say they’re not) or how it’s going to work. Basically, a town has been responsible for producing about 30 serial killers over the years. Their most famous, Nailbiter (known for kidnapping his victims and chewing off their fingers), somehow wasn’t convicted for all his crimes and is living out his life back in town. Cops get involved. It’s pretty gory and issue one hit some pretty good moments, so I’m ready to read issue two.

    Superannuated Man #1 – I haven’t read this either. I want to, but I’m so far behind on life that I didn’t get a chance.

    I did read the new Futures End this week already, however. I think I have a problem with my processing system. (Although this week was a better week for it).

    Ultimate Spider-Man is Bendis at his best. I really don’t know what is going on with Peter and I am very resentful I have to wait a month to find out.

    I picked up a DC compilation of World’s Finest, which has the Superman where he and Batman teamed up on a boat and found out each others secret identities as well as the first 20 or so World’s Finest with Bat/Super teamups. So far it’s really good. It’s a Batman and a Superman that I like more than modern versions. The art is definitely more basic, but I prefer it in many ways. I like the simple and bold lines and it’s all black and white which really fits the story (obviously color in comic form, but these compilations (as you know) are black and white). A good $8 buy from half price books.

    (Hidden at the bottom) – I held a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1 last weekend. I almost bought it. It didn’t have the front or back cover, but it was THE FIRST SPIDER-MAN EVER. I almost pulled the trigger. If it wouldn’t have had writing in pen on the first page I would have. It would have meant an end to some of the new comics I’m getting (I’m way over budget right now, going to have to say goodbye to a few mainstream titles), but damn. Amazing #1. It was really, really cool.

    Shit, writing about this makes me regret not buying it. I touched it, I held it, and I had the cash. But really, I could buy EVERY Amazing Spider-Man in the 200s for the price of that one comic (and I almost did. I bought a ton of Old Spideys from the dollar and 2 dollar bins).

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