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, Spencer and Drew discuss Amazing Spider-Man Special 1, Amazing Spider-Man 16, Spider-Gwen 2, Captain Marvel 13, Ms. Marvel 13, All-New X-Men 37, Thor 6, Deadpool 43, New Avengers 31, Guardians Team-Up 2, Southern Cross 1, Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return 1, and Batman Eternal 49.
Spencer: The Inhumans are all over the place lately. With their upcoming movie of course Marvel wants to promote them, and what better way to do so than to team them up with established, popular heroes? That seems to be the strategy behind The Amazing Spider-Man Special 1, a story that finds the Inhumans crossing over with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, the quintessential Marvel team-up character.
Much of the issue’s focus falls on Peter as he meets the new Inhumans and assists them against a mysterious threat. Spider-Man is an excellent viewpoint character since he’s just as unfamiliar with the Inhumans as many of the issues’ readers must be, and his questions are likely the readers’ as well. With this tight a focus on Peter, its fortunate that writer Jeff Loveness has such a fun handle on the character; Loveness’ Peter is a joke machine, covering everything from puns to Marvel in-jokes with equal aplomb.
In fact, this issue is so jam-packed with Peter’s quips and jokes that we can completely understand the older Inhumans’ annoyance with him, but it makes for a breezy, fun story, and that’s enough to bring me back to see how the tale unfolds — plus, I want to see how Sam’s Captain America fits into all of this.
Between the Inhumans and the events of “Spider-Verse,” Peter’s been wrapped up in a lot of larger-than-life stuff lately, and with that in mind, Dan Slott and Christos Gage attempt to bring him back to basics in The Amazing Spider-Man 16. With animal themed villains and secret identity hijinks galore, this is Peter Parker at his most fundamental, but what I find interesting is how determined Peter seems to change his status-quo. It’s refreshing to see Peter take charge of his life, and the corporate espionage elements of this story provide Slott with plenty of opportunities to do what he does best (deal with an expansive cast of supporting characters and develop plots seeded ages ago). There’s a few cheesy lines of dialogue, especially in the Black Cat back-up, and much of the issue is set-up, but I’m interested in seeing how the elements being set-up play out.
Speaking of “expansive supporting casts,” Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Woman has a surprisingly diverse spread of supporting characters for only being on her second issue, and they all play an essential role in Spider-Gwen 2. There’s an intricate web connecting all these characters, but what’s most important is how far removed Gwen is from that web. She’s isolated herself to the point where she hallucinates Spider-Ham just to have someone to talk to, and that isolation isn’t doing her any good as a crime-fighter.
All of Gwen’s opponents have people supporting them, be they henchmen, lawyers, or other police officers, so it’s only fair that she does too. Reaching out to her father is an important first step, but with all the pressure he’s facing, I’m worried he may not be enough help on his own. What’s a Spider-Gwen to do, Drew?
Drew: I have to admit that I think her father might actually be enough, but I’m also struck by just how many people Gwen has pulling for her. Sure, MJ is still sore about Gwen’s departure from the band, but both Glory and Randy clearly have her best interests at heart. As nice as it is to know she has some safety net (you know, besides improvised web wings), her villains really steal the show. The Vulture gets his comeuppance from Matt Murdock on behalf of Kingpin, who wants Spider-Gwen all to himself. Meanwhile, Detective Frank Castle is veering ever closer to his 616 tendencies, making me question who Gwen is better off running into first.
Captain Marvel 13 is the conclusion of Carol’s adventure into the Endless Envelope, but it’s also the end of her partnership with Tic, who ends the issue with her own ship and a newfound purpose in life. Getting Tic home safe was the primary objective of Carol’s trip into space, but writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis use this issue to make a strong case here for Carol’s secondary objective of self-discovery. This issue once again pares the cast down to Carol and Harrison, demonstrating just how strong this series can be without its extended cast. That’s an effective antidote to the homesickness I was starting to feel after Carol’s short jaunt back to Earth. It’s not clear whether this shot in the arm will survive the Black Vortex crossover issue next month, but I have my fingers crossed that drumming up some identity issues will help Carol (and DeConnick) figure out where they want to go next.
Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel 13 finds Kamala’s cast expanding. The introduction of more Inhuman characters is interesting, but I’m much more intrigued at the introduction of a possible love interest for Kamala, which already seems to be causing friction with her conservative family. It’s also poised to goose Bruno’s crush on Kamala, which continues to be one of my favorite relationships of this series. This is a remarkably charming issue — aided in no small part by Takeshi Miazawa’s fill-in work on art — and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.
Spencer: Me either Drew, though I do fear that things may be headed in a direction that won’t be so great for our beloved Kamala Kahn. For all its charm, there’s a vague ominous undertone to this issue, which is most evident in Ms. Marvel’s unsettling defeat of Kaboom. She’s facing the realities of what being a superhero sometimes means, and that isn’t always pretty. The same can be said of love; Kamran is perfect for Kamala — so perfect that it seems suspicious (he’s practically her male doppleganger!) — so when he revealed himself to be Inhuman I couldn’t help but to think about Medusa’s worries earlier in the issue:
Maybe the less than benign Inhumans Medusa is referring to will just turn out to be Kaboom and her friends, but still, Kamran worries me. This could very well be setting Kamala up for a disastrous first love, which is almost a little cliche except for the fact that this is Ms. Marvel, a book through which writer G. Willow Wilson always manages to turn even the most common of teenage tropes into fascinating stories. No matter where this story heads next, I know it will be no exception.
All-New X-Men 37 is rather charming in its own right, and it gets a lot of mileage out of finding a new angle on a familiar concept — in this case, the animosity between Jean Grey and Emma Frost, which is slowly melting away into a working relationship. Paring down the cast to these two characters (plus a fun Magik cameo) and keeping the story one-and-done helps avoid a lot of the traps Brian Michael Bendis’ books can sometimes fall into (major decompression, too many characters, etc.), and Mike Del Mundo’s work is always a joy. His art brings a slightly different tone to All-New X-Men, perfectly capturing the grimy grittiness of Madripoor and the weight of the fight between Jean and the Blob.
We had to endure a lot of delays to get to this issue, but I’d say the wait was well worth it.
Likewise, Thor 6 keeps us waiting most of the issue for the title character to make an appearance (which I’m a bit disappointed by), but when she does finally show up, it’s with all the majesty, grandeur, and dynamic detail we’ve come to expect from Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson.
They’re so good it’s not even funny — the Rainbow Bridge twisting to Heimdall’s command is yet another phenomenal moment, but truthfully, there’s simply too many packed into this issue for me to give them all the attention they deserve. Story-wise, writer Jason Aaron puts Odinson into the reader’s shoes as he tries to piece together just who this new Thor is. I can tell Aaron’s enjoying having Odinson address and debunk many of his readers’ most common theories, and I’m pretty jazzed that all clues seem to be pointing towards my number one choice, Roz Solomon, but it’s how easily we can all come to that conclusion that makes me think Roz might just be a red herring, even if she’s the only candidate who fits the profile at the moment. Drew, what do you think; do you feel any closer to discovering Thor’s identity? What do you make of Malekith and Agger’s new pact?
Drew: Oh man, that pact is so deliciously evil, it’s hard to believe it follows so closely on the heels of almost making Agger a sympathetic character. Ultimately, he’s as monstrous as ever — and their plan to conquer and strip every realm for parts sure is monstrous — but giving him a backstory manages to humanize him just enough to make his moustache-twirling even more horrible. For me, Agger’s story overshadowed everyone else’s, from Odinson’s reunion with Jane Foster to Thor’s cliffhanger encounter with the Destroyer, but it was more than strong enough to carry this issue. I certainly look forward to pulling the focus back to Thor next month, but this was a very worthy intermission.
Speaking of Roxxon, Deadpool 43 finds Wade escaping their clutches, only to bring the fight back to their front door. Wade has been a little listless in recent months, but this issue gives him a newfound purpose, not to mention a common enemy with his wife. Of course, any plot details take a backseat to the scene where Deadpool chews off his own arm in order to escape his bonds. It’s maybe even more graphic and gross than we’ve come to expect of this series, but artist Salva Espin manages to get some laughs out of Wade running around with his chewed-off arm strapped to his hip. That’s key, because this issue is otherwise pretty light on gags — Wade in general just has less dialogue than the typical issue. Tying this little mercenary adventure back to Wade’s homelife is an unexpected, but very welcome twist, giving this series the direction it’s lacked ever since Axis.
New Avengers 31 follows Doctor Strange and his Black Priests as they storm the Library of Worlds, hoping to find Rabum Alal and put an end to the incursions. It’s a strangely slow, serene infiltration story, aided in no small part by the utterly silent battle at the center of the issue. A wordless room is such a clever defense against those who use words as a weapon (and a great exaggeration of what we expect at a library), and is exactly the kind of thing I look for in a Hickman story. Well, that and master-plotting, which this issue also has in spades. By the issue’s end, we’ve learned the identity of Rabum Alal AND seen our multiversal Avengers getting some face time with the Beyonders, all of which seems poised to propel us into Secret Wars, even if we don’t fully know what any of this means just yet.
Spencer: We don’t know what any of it means at all, Drew, but I’m sure having fun speculating. I am so glad I was able to reach the reveal of Rabum Alal unspoiled, and I want to offer that same opportunity to our readers, so, if you haven’t read New Avengers 31 yet, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD.
Anyway, Doctor Doom, right?! He seems to be preparing to fight the Beyonders, so does that mean he’s trying to stop the incursions? Or is Doom as Rabum Alal indeed responsible for them, as Black Swan always claimed? If so, we’ve got some sort of fixed time-loop on our hands, as Doom was drawn into this story long after Rabum Alal and the incursions were introduced. It’s more questions piled atop more questions, as Hickman is oft known to do, but the catalyst behind them is so fascinating that I can’t even get frustrated. Time runs out in two months, and we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover — should be exhilarating.
So while New Avengers is still introducing new questions even this late into its run, Guardians Team-Up 2 is already bringing its first arc cleanly to a close. The Avengers do even less this issue than they did in the first, and I’m getting the impression that Marvel is less concerned about truly honoring the “team-up” conceit as they are just having a second Guardians book on the stands. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as having this book around finally gives Brian Michael Bendis the chance to give Gamora the spotlight; here he focuses on her hyper-competent, unstoppable nature and the way the Guardians have become the loving family she never had with Thanos, and really, that’s all I ever asked for from a Gamora story. In many ways the rest of the cast barely matters, but Bendis still has fun with them, and even seems to be poking fun at how large and unwieldy his cast has become.
I like it when writers have the confidence to point out some of their own faults. Bendis knows exactly what he wants to do with Guardians Team-Up and has made it very clear to the readers what the title’s going to look like. If you want an extra dose of Bendis’ Guardians every month, this is the place to look; if that’s not your thing though, well, you can’t say you weren’t warned.
As a contrast to the world of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Becky Cloonan and Andy Belander’s Southern Cross 1 takes a more grounded approach to science fiction; even its most advanced technology looks dirty and old, allowing for Cloonan and Belander to create a setting that’s familiar despite the fact that it’s a space shuttle headed for the moon Titan. Aboard that ship is the prickly Alex Braithe, who’s traveling to Titan to investigate her sister’s untimely death under some sketchy circumstances. Braithe is characterized as being a bit testy and anti-social, but it’s hard to blame her for wanting to be alone when trapped on a ship like the Southern Cross. Cloonan and Belander use its cramped quarters to ramp up the tension and keep all the characters on edge — dark secrets are already starting to reveal themselves, and with the cast stuck on that ship together for another five days, I can’t imagine they’re going to be received happily.
Drew: It’s quite the feat that all of these mysteries are so intriguing, long before we even reach the scene of the crime that’s driving the action. I call it a “crime,” but Cloonan gives us no real information about Alex’s sister’s death, other than to suggest that Alex suspects something. You can bet that something has to do with the Zemi corporation, which runs the drilling operations on Titan, as well as the titular ship. I don’t suspect Alex will find much in the way of answers before the Southern Cross reaches Titan, but I’m sure I’ll be enthralled, anyway.
Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return 1 has every reason to be uncomfortable, arriving 14 years after the last installment, and featuring two stories that essentially contradict one another, but, much like the movies, the charm of the franchise (and the talent working on it) more than makes up for any shortcomings in the actual conception. Brian Lynch and Jerry Gaylord’s carries the torch of continuity a bit harder, exploring what happens after the talent show that Bogus Journey was so focused on (and seems to parallel Excellent Adventure, only sending the dudes into the future to solve their problems), but my heart belongs to Ryan North and Ian McGinty’s backup, which hilariously asks how Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan would react if their “good robot usses” were infected with malware via a Nigerian prince email scheme sent from Chuck De Nolmos in the future. It’s an appropriately absurd — if unlikely — situation for Bill and Ted, and I can’t wait to see more like it.
If the previous installment of Batman Eternal found our heroes at their lowest point, issue 49 finds them rallying in true fist-pumping style. Stephanie escaping her father’s helicopter and the Pennyworths tag-teaming Hush are great moments, but none are as viscerally satisfying as Jim Gordon’s Rorschach moment at Blackgate, as he turns the table on Penguin. A hero coolly gaining the upper hand over a diminutive baddie (and his goons) is a clear enough homage, but Kyle Higgins (credited on the script for this issue) takes it a step further, paying tribute to one of Rorschach’s most memorable lines.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?