Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 1/28/15

round up 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, Patrick, Spencer and Drew discuss Secret Avengers 12, New Avengers 29, Spider-Man 2099 8, Nova 26, Harley Quinn 14, The Flash 38, Batman Eternal 43, Catwoman 38, Bitch Planet 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 4, and Casanova: Acedia 1. slim-banner4 Patrick: M.O.D.O.K has always been the wild card of Ales Kot and Michael Walsh’s Secret Avengers, but issue 12 blow that unpredictability out to absurd levels as every single action he’s undertaken in the last year or so is explained to be that of some kind of rouge agent (or possibly even rouge double-agent). Y’see: M.O.D.O.K. had planned to betray the Secret Avengers and kill them, but he also legit fell in love with Maria Hill, so even while he was sending monsters to kill Coulson and Fury, he also didn’t want to hurt them. It’s an intensely dense bramblepatch of motivations, and it mostly works because the confusion is so damn entertaining. what I’d also swear there’s a moment that Kot is making fun of us directly: when some “strange tentacled monsters” appear on Tlön to attack Black Widow and Lady Bullseye, one is red and the other is blue, and the caption reads “Did you see the odd symbolic resemblances between their coloring and the dominant colors of our characters? Could this be important later?” Yup, that’s not from one of our reviews (which I’m proud to say have been more focused on color lately), but from the issue itself. Kot is hinting that these creature might be transformed versions of Spider-Woman (red) and Maria Hill (blue), but it might have been more fun to figure that out on our own, than to have that joke in there… but on the other hand – I can’t imagine seeing a joke that comic-literate in any other series, so, I dunno, maybe it’s a win after all?

If that little joke from Secret Avengers was Kot absolving us of the responsibility of playing along, then New Avengers 29, is basically the same thing. Fans love to speculate over what typical reset buttons are going to be pushed for the sake of CHANGING EVERYTHING, and Jonathan Hickman and Kev Walker trot them all out in this issue, only to see how each one failed. Cosmic cube – destroyed. Galactus and the Celestials – disappeared. Franklin – jesus, I think he was crushed by a star or something? With the multiverse dwindling down to dangerously few worlds, it comes down to Hank Motherfucking Pym to wrangle in the Beyonders and save (?) the day. It’s a massive info dump, but it’s the kind of info dump that’s years in the making (or decades depending), and Kev Walker gives each of those little failures the emotional weight they require. reed mourns It’s huge Marvel mythology, as told through the emotions of it’s characters, which means it’s basically Hickman at his finest.

It’s hard to believe that just last week we we inundated with Spider-Verse stories, and this week we only get Spider-Man 2099 8. I don’t know what the future of this series holds, but I like how much Peter David and Will Sliney are taking advantage of Lady-Spider’s co-starring role in this issue to set up a kind of steam-punk spider-venture. I mean, honestly, what’s more fun than the jolly good Six Men of Sinestry? six men of sinestry Sliney’s designs are on-fucking-point here, and it makes me wish that this series was always mashing up the hyper-futuristic with faux-retro-futurism. I never realized that was an appetite I had, but then, I saw a mech punching a steam powered Electro. Man, it’s sort of incredible how many cool worlds have come out of Spider-Verse, huh, Spencer?

Spencer: Oh yeah, Patrick. I may be chomping at the bit for a Spider-Punk ongoing, but almost any of these characters could support a title, and all these new spiders give David a lot of unexplored territory to cover. As tie-ins to Spider-Verse his issues have been only tangentially relevant to the event (though a radioactive Spider-Zord should be one helluva trump card to play against the Inheritors), but as a chance to take a trip through the future of 2099 or Lady Spider’s steam-punk homeworld they’re loads of fun. I’m curious to see how many new titles (or at least minis) we have coming down the pipeline for these characters, cause Spider-Verse (and Spider-Man 2099) has certainly whetted my appetite for more of Lady Spider and her brethren.

Despite its general all-ages friendliness, Nova has always had a bit of a dark message about the danger of being a teenage superhero lurking beneath its surface. The story of Sam’s concussions has brought that thread to the forefront, and Nova 26 continues to run with it by showing how much better Sam’s life has become since giving up being Nova. When Carnage attacks, though, Sam is forced back into action; although we haven’t seen the specifics of the plan he’s cooking up, it seems clear that it will involve the concept of “castling” Sam learned earlier in the issue. Chess metaphors aren’t the most original and are always a bit on-the-nose, but I appreciate how the lessons Sam’s learning in his time away from the heroing gig are helping him to be a better Nova as well. Maybe the lesson here isn’t that being a superhero is bad for Sam, but that he needs to strike a better balance between being Sam and being Nova, because both sides of his life have vital things to offer him. I suppose that’s a rather appropriate moral for anyone, young and old alike.

Harley Quinn, meanwhile, has never been a title with much of a message, but issue 14 actually finds Harley on a similar path as Sam. Harley’s many responsibilities (that’s a scary statement if I’ve ever heard one) have become too much for her to handle; she’s looking to “harmonify” her life, and I’m interested to see if Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti use this to retool the title’s direction slightly, or simply as a launchpad for more gags. Of course, as long as the gags are funny I’m in, but I found this issue to be so invested in plot that it’s actually a bit light on laughs. The best gags come courtesy of artist Chad Hardin, whose pencils have grown much more consistent over his time on this title, with his physical comedy especially benefitting. RIP Harley’s expressions here just slay me.

The Flash 38 doesn’t have much in the way of laughs, and “our” Barry’s plot is a bit dull, mainly focused on Selkirk’s exposition dump about the Speed Force settlement, but fortunately, Robert Venditti and Van Jensen use Future Flash’s battle with Mirror Master and Napalm to give the issue the action its other half is missing. It’s great seeing how the Rogues are doing after Forever Evil (and sans Captain Cold, who’s hanging out over in Justice League), and the battle pushes Future Flash’s plot forward drastically, with both Iris and Patty closing in on Future Flash’s secret. That may actually be what I find most exciting about this issue: will Iris and Patty team-up? They’ve been at odds for so long that it would be great to see them finally working together.

After nearly a year build-up, Batman Eternal 43 finally catches up with the preview issue way back in Batman 28. I’ve been wondering how they were going to handle this issue for a while, and I couldn’t be happier with the result; instead of trying to retell the same story, writer James Tynion IV skips around the edges of the narrative, retelling key events from new perspectives. It helps to enlighten us on the fledgling relationship between Batman and Bluebird, expounds upon Selina Kyle’s reasons for acquiring Stephanie Brown, establishes a fascinating dynamic between Harper and Stephanie (they can’t stand each other, but are more alike than they realize), and even springs one hell of a cliffhanger! The cherry on top is David Lafuente’s surprisingly adorable art: Hello Stephie I’m surprised that a mainstream Batman book is allowed to be this cute, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Drew: Absolutely. I haven’t loved every development of this series, but it’s hard to deny what a great showcase it’s been for artists. They’ll still give arcs to DC mainstays like Jason Fabok and Fernando Pasarin, for sure, but it’s been a blast to see artists with decidedly different aesthetics get their shots, too. As for this issue, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Selina’s characterization — something I was complaining about the last time we had issues Batman Eternal and Catwoman side by side…

…which isn’t to say that Catwoman 38 is a slouch in that department. Indeed, writer Genevive Valentine’s handle on Selina’s voice is as strong as ever, but the real draw of this issue is the plotting. Selina makes a strategic play to appease the families and her coinscience, though it puts her at odds with Batman, Black Mask, and possibly the Penguin. Valentine saves the biggest reveal for the end — the kind of shocking twist that doesn’t mean anything on closer inspection, but it functions as the perfect mic drop for a largely breathless issue.

Speaking of badass ladies, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s Bitch Planet 2 offers a better idea of what shape the series might actually take, which feels decidedly less transgressive than the buzz surrounding it. A prison team-up/gladiatorial games mash-up in the vein of Death Race, the series seems poised to translate all of The Hunger Games‘ “teens are so oppressed” messaging to feminism, without losing any of the heavy-handedness. Evil speech is evil There’s never any confusion about the goodness of our heroine (who maintains her innocence, and agrees to participate with extreme reluctance) or the evilness of our villain (who all but twirls his mustache when insisting people respect his authority), making the story less about philosophy than it is about assuring us we’re the good guys, which seems to go against the very thesis of the series. That may be fine for setting up what seems to be a Inglourious Basterds-style bloodbath when our intrepid ladies meet their oppressors, but with everyone reduced to caricatures  I’m not sure even that would be particularly cathartic.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters wraps up with issue 4, tying everything up with a nice bow, but goosing every moment with a ticking clock. With three different groups wrangling three different problems, it would be easy for things to get confusing, but Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz manage to establish the whos and wheres clearly enough to give us a solid handle even before all hell breaks loose. I can’t say there were a lot of surprises in this issue, but I was still charmed to see all of the characters interacting at the end — especially when the art switches as the turtles reunite with Splinter (Dan Schoening is the only credited artist, so I’ll assume he’s doing his best Cory Smith impression, but it’s a damn good impression).

Patrick: That’s pretty hilarious, Drew – I hadn’t even noticed why exactly I was suddenly more comfortable when the turtles were hugging Splinter, but it’s almost certainly because we were returned to the familiar hand of Cory Smith. Which isn’t to say that Schoening was doing a poor job at all – in fact, I think this issue has some of the most satisfying action we’ve seen in this mini-series. That last battle with Chi-you-in-Winston’s-body is fun, dynamic and features a flaming ax. What more could you really ask for?

From TMNT/Ghostbusters, which is clearly giving me exactly what I want from start to finish, to Casanova: Acedia 1, which is essentially the opposite of that. I’m not familiar with Fraction’s other Casanova series, so I don’t have much built-in interest going into this thing, other than Fraction’s reputation. This series caries a lot of his trademark cleverness, but while Casanova trades in a lot of sexual content, none of it is half as enlightened or nuanced as Sex Criminals. In fact, there’s this whole skinny-dipping-murder-fuck scene that’s damn regressive in its gender politics, but maybe that just comes with the superspy genre? I don’t know. There are some cool ideas at play — like towards the end when the rock critic gets a dressing down by a bassist that can actually play — but Fraction might be just too eager to show off when he’s being clever. There are caption boxes to beat the hype, tits  and autotuned band. I’d be a much stronger piece if it weren’t so damn busy. 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?

5 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 1/28/15

  1. Spider-Man 2099 was awesome. New Avengers (and last week’s Avengers) put both titles back on my pull list as I reread everything getting ready for the End. Bitch Planet really did nothing for me. I’m a bit disappointed in that.

    Really, It’s finally an Avengers World for me. I’m ready to be Hickmanized.

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