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, Drew and Spencer discuss Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier 2, Captain Marvel 9, Silver Surfer 7, Nova 23, Justice League United 6, Batman Eternal 32, Outcast 5, Django/Zorro 1, and Hawkeye vs. Deadpool 2 .
Drew: To say that Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is a dense read is a bit of an understatment. Indeed, we couldn’t even agree on what the events of the first issue were, let alone how we interpret them. Issue 2 manages to up the ante, taking Marco Rudy’s already trippy art on a literal drug trip, and ensconcing the already difficult-to-follow narrative in a series of Loki illusions. The effect is mesmerizingly like watching a movie half-asleep — you catch the rough outline of the plot, but the actual details are utterly lost — but frustrates any sense of narrative flow. I never like to dismiss a work for my own failure to understand it, but I’ll be damned if I got anything out of this issue other than that Bucky’s sights are now set on Mer-z-bow (though I’d love it if somebody would like to explain it in further detail in the comments).
Meanwhile, on the total other end of the straightforwardness spectrum is Captain Marvel 9. Curiously, the issue also features a lot of rhyming — an affect that never fully justifies its gimmickry — which lends to its children’s storybook feel. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick continues to focus on offbeat problems for a superhero (this time thwarting a political marriage on behalf of the reluctant bride), though is still struggling to elegantly fold action beats into those stories. This issue relies on an out-of-left-field challenge to mortal combat, which suddenly invests us in the emotional stakes of the groom. Ultimately, the self-contained nature of this issue justifies a lot of the discomfort, even if the complete lack of meter in the rhymes had my eyes twitching.
Speaking of self-contained stories, Silver Surfer 7 doubles down on its done-in-one nature, delivering glimpses of several adventures as Norrin reflects on his time with Dawn. I’m always charmed by serialized stories that refer to events between installments (that clip show episode of Community remains one of my favorite things of all time), hinting at an even more colorful world than the one we see every month. The issue also makes the romantic tension between Norrin and Dawn a bit more explicit, which I’m thrilled by, though that could just be a throwaway joke. What did you make of that ending, Spencer?
Spencer: I assumed it was just a joke, and would prefer that to be honest, but if there is some spark of romance here, then I’m certain writer Dan Slott can make it work. After all, this issue is all about the respect and camaraderie Dawn, Norrin and Toomie have built with each other, and a solid foundation like that will serve these three well no matter where their relationship goes next.
I’m absolutely charmed by the way Slott and Michael Allred characterize Toomie here, but I’m mostly thrilled by how respectful Norrin is of Dawn and Toomie. Dawn always wants her dots? Done! Toomie doesn’t like being reassembled? No more! Norrin goes out of his way to respect his friends’ wishes, and it’s part of why these three care about each other so much. This book is such a blast, filled with wackily inspired art and zany cosmic threats, but the way these three compliment each other and continue to make each other better provides this title’s ample heart, and it’s a treat to read.
Nova 23 certainly has heart, but it not only punches up the humor — Gerry Duggan writes a fantastic Spider-Man, and the gag with the EMT’s is like something right out of Deadpool — but it ramps up the threat level to new highs. AXIS has pit Sam against an evil version of an already eviler-than-usual Hulk, and this feels like the first time Sam has faced a villain truly capable of standing up to the Nova Force. Nova gets in a few impressive licks, but Duggan makes sure to continually remind us of Sam’s youth and inexperience, which makes the danger he faces all the more terrifying and the damage he takes all the more devastating. The cliffhanger promises permanent changes for poor Sam; I’m interested to see if they stick or not, though.
If Nova is trying to switch its tone up a bit, than Justice League United 6 is sticking with what works: straightforward superhero action coupled with sweet and fun character interaction. The opening exchange between Equinox and Ultra may be the most touching scene the book’s done thus far, and plenty of other pairs get fun moments — I’m still getting a kick out of Adam and Alanna constantly switching locations and the frustration that follows. If the issue has a weakness it’s the art; Neil Edwards’ pencils aren’t bad by any means, but they often feel a little flat, meaning that a lot of the action never packs the punch it should. This issue probably won’t win Justice League United any new fans, but to anyone already following the book I’m sure it’s another enjoyable installment.
After teasing a fateful confrontation between Batman, Hush and Spoiler last week, Batman Eternal 32 leaves their actual fight frustratingly unresolved. This issue is a quick read — possibly too quick, as I breezed right through it in only a few minutes — but fortunately, the rest of the issue is much more satisfying. The next stage of Hush’s plan falls into place with horrifying efficiency, and the triumphant return of Jason Fabok on art gives each new development the impact and urgency it requires.
Drew: Absolutely. The cape action is over so quickly in this issue, Fabok is really the only hero to speak of. It seems time is telescoping a bit as the series nears the events of Batman 28 (we get our first mention of any curfew here), which I think explains why the pace has been so breezy of late. With Higgins on script duties, that briskness feels more like efficiency than rushing, but all of the event doesn’t leave much room for dialogue, leaving Fabok to do most of the heavy lifting here.
The pace is decidedly slower in Outcast 5, but Robert Kirkman does drop a few hints as to the larger story here, mostly by keeping Kyle focused on the central mystery. That there even is a central mystery may come as a surprise, but it seems the world of exorcism isn’t as straightforward as Reverend Anderson made it out to be. This issue features their first failure, and while that totally deflates Anderson, Kyle is starting to see a pattern. Ultimately, the draw of this series continues to be its unsettling atmosphere (and Paul Azaceta’s moody art), but with a overarching narrative to hold it all together, it may be time to start paying attention to it again.
For all his directorial flourishes, the most distinctive element of any Quentin Tarantino film is his dialogue. Or, perhaps more precisely, his characters’ habit of slipping into long monologues. It’s true of Bill, it’s true of Jules Winnfield, it’s true of basically all of the Reservoir Dogs. Indeed, I’d argue that basically all of his leads get a meaty, scenery-chewing monologue with the exception of Django, which makes him a bit of an odd choice for a comic spinoff. Django/Zorro 1 does what it can to make things feel familiar — the desert setting, the gunfighting, even the tendency of bounty-hunting-by-way-of-subterfuge, but it struggles with the voice of its lead. Tarantino and co-writer Matt Wagner do what they can to give him distinctive affects, but I think it’s telling that this only feels like Django when he’s spelling his name. Unfortunately, without a specific interpretation of Zorro to depart from, neither character feels particularly developed here, leaving the issue without much to hang either of its distinctive hats on.
Spencer: I think this issue does an adequate job of establishing its two leads (admittedly, it does a better job with Zorro than Django), and the plot Tarantino and Wagner are setting up has a lot of potential, but the main problem with this book is that it feels a bit lackluster for a first issue. I may be sick of in medias res openings, but this story could have legitimately benefitted from starting with the action in full-swing. After all, this isn’t like the TMNT/Ghostbusters crossover book, which necessitated some kind of explanation for how its characters got together; Zorro and Django are a much more natural fit, and skipping ahead to the actual plot would have given this book a needed kick in the pants. I mean, a book with the title Django/Zorro ending on the cliffhanger that one of its main characters is Zorro reeks of padding. That said, I still think there’s a lot of potential in this premise (especially as outlined in the spoilerific Comixology summary), and I hope to see Tarantino and Wagner take more advantage of it in future installments.
I’m still thoroughly charmed by Hawkeye vs. Deadpool, which finally gets around to setting up the fight its title’s been teasing for three issues now (yes I know this is only issue two — there was a zero issue for some reason, I don’t know why). The rest of the issue furthers the mystery surrounding the missing thumb drive but mostly continues to mine humor from comparing its two leads. Duggan still has a better handle on Deadpool than Hawkeye, yet this issue feels more balanced than the previous; Clint and Kate receive insight into Wade that is both enlightening and terrifying, but Wade too continually flips from being impressed in Clint to being disappointed at the drop of a hat. I suppose the moral here could be that these heroes’ lives aren’t so different after all…except where naked wizards and ghostly founding fathers are involved. Hm. Okay, so maybe there’s no moral at all — I think that’s something Wade, Clint and Kate would all be proud of — but that doesn’t stop this issue from being a lot of fun on matter which hero is in the spotlight.