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, we discuss Fury S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary 1, Astro City 27, Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey and April 4, and Deadpool vs. Thanos 2.
Fury S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary 1
Michael: In cliché terms, Fury: SHIELD 50th Anniversary 1 is a marriage between “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and “Like father, like son.” Cyborg scribe David Walker takes the idea of the 50th anniversary concept and run with it by telling a “then and now” story that turns into a time travel story. In 1965 Nick Fury Sr. is lamenting on an America divided by racism in the same way that Nick Fury Jr. is in the present day. Fury Jr. travels back in time via silly racist villain Hate-Monger and has to team up with his younger father. I must admit that I am not up-to-date on my Hate-Monger mythology, but it seems that this fella Josh Glenn was possessed by the consciousness of the original Hate-Monger from way back when…but since we’re only dealing with regular Josh Glenn that all seems a little superfluous. It isn’t explicitly stated as such, but if you know how to use context clues, then you would realize that Glenn’s ultimate plan is to kill a young Barack Obama. This is a relatively minor plot point, as the book is more about a father and son than it is preventing a time travel murder from taking place. My guess is that Walker was trying to use Hate-Monger as a “legacy character” so he could have relevance now and in 1965. From what I know Nick Fury Jr.’s story is convoluted enough, so we probably didn’t need a possessed wannabe Klansman on top of that. But what do I know?
Though it brushes up against some poignant messages about how racism in America might not have changed the way we think it is, this is a Jr./Sr. story. This is the story that we’ve seen before where the hero goes back in time to come to realize that his dad used to be A) not such a jackass, B) cool like him, C) nerdy like him or D)all of the above. Fury Jr. leaves this story with a better understanding of how his father was before the Marvel U ever heard of Skrulls, Infinity gems or Civil Wars. My problem with this is that I didn’t buy Nick Fury Sr. as the boy scout of 1965; he’s not Captain America after all. Fury Sr. is so shocked that the America he’s witnessing is the real America of the history books and not a time travel distortion. Since we’re telling a very loose time travel story I might be splitting hairs, but I don’t think that Nick Fury would still be so green 20 years after WWII. And of course after Fury Jr. returns back to the present safe and sound he looks to the stars and has a bit more understanding for his dead dad. And like any good father/son/holy spirt patch dynamic, Fury Sr. is winking (with his good eye) back down at his son. Because remember that whole Original Sin thing? Yeah, you do – FURY’S ON THE MOON NOW!
Astro City 27
Spencer: Kurt Busiek and Joe Infurnari’s Astro City 27 tells a tale of ancient myths known as “The Unbodied” seeking more modern, physical forms, and finding them in the imagination of video game designer Marguerite Li. Thus, her new game literally starts coming to life, both in the form of destructive monsters and adorable hero American Chibi. This plot provides the backbone for some strong superhero action, but the most compelling element of Astro City 27 is the way this tale acts as a metaphor for the way creators bring their characters and worlds to life. They may not be able to make their stories a physical reality, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real — every creator whose characters have taken on a life of their own and every fan who’s lost themselves in these worlds can tell you that they are very much alive and very much real.
Moreover, the benefits of creation go both ways; stories not only help their fans to grow, but their creators as well. In Marguerite’s case, she admires American Chibi’s enthusiasm and bravery, and it almost boggles her mind that such an inspirational figure was literally birthed from her own mind. Most characters carry a piece of their creator’s personality in them — for better or for worse — and putting those characters through their paces can help creators learn more about themselves and their personalities. Even after Chibi’s departure — she stays behind to protect the now-real Ibbopolis from the Unbodied — Marguerite still learns from her; bringing Chibi’s bravery to life has helped her find that kind of power within herself as well.
The magical hair scrunchies Chibi leaves behind are a metaphor for the effect birthing Chibi has had on Marguerite’s life, and I feel like any creative person should be able to relate. Really though, anybody who has ever been a fan of something will probably find something to love about Astro City 27 — it’s the power of creation wrapped up in an adorable, chibi-bow, and that’s well worth checking out.
Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars 3
Drew: I know it may offend some purists, but I absolutely loved Love, the remix of Beatles songs Cirque du Soleil created as a soundtrack to one of their shows. There’s something about smashing the Beatles catalogue into itself that captures the experience of just having all of these songs rattling around in your head — sometimes “Strawberry Fields Forever” does just kind of turn into “In My Life.” Which I guess is my way of saying I’m a big old sucker for homages to and remixes of things that I love. Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars is no exception, so when Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra double down on their Star Wars references in issue 3, I can’t help but love it.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some wildly inventive stuff here — cellular intelligence and homicidal judges and unreliable robots all feel incredibly fresh and are a huge draw for this series — but I can’t help but smile at all of the nods this issue makes to Empire Strikes Back. Particularly, Judge Ryleth’s space-chase of Laika et al. Laika’s tactical retreat into an asteroid field was enough to catch my attention, but then Ryleth pulls a full-on Millennium Falcon.
That’s more of a “showing the bomb underneath the table” moment than a plot point that becomes relevant in this issue, which actually makes me love it more. Ryleth is proving to be a tough villain to shake, and each encounter makes me more excited to see where he goes next.
I might count UNa’s condition as reminiscent of C-3PO’s in Empire, as well, but if I start counting all of the references, I might not ever leave. The point is, those homages endear this world to me, but aren’t so strict or closed to make this series feel like a rehash. It’s something new out of something old, which is a pretty neat trick in and of itself.
Patrick: Maybe that’s the quality that unites vanilla Manhattan Projects and Sun Beyond the Stars – the ability to take things we believe ourselves to be familiar with and then making them a thousand times weirder than we could ever imagine. The issue’s opening is a firm reminder that Hickman and Pitarra immeasurably creative and fearlessly expressive. The image of the Great Sionox’s tumorous legs being licked by supplicants (supplickants?) for data is simultaneously repulsive and appealing. It’s like a weird intersection of being sexual without being sexy and being body-horror without being threatening. Are those enormous, scaly veins sticking out of his legs or are they bone? Do his attendants actually taste Siil history when they suck on his tumors or do they just have to pretend they do? Why is there a droopy dead face on the back of his head? This character’s existence raises a thousand questions that we can’t answer with “because it was like that in Star Wars.” Pitarra’s absurd devotion to detail in this scene — articulating ever bump and groove on the Great Sionox’s digusting body — is like a promise that the more we investigate the more we’ll find. So while Ryleth is a pretty fun boots-on-the-ground kind of bad guy (who can resist that perma-smile?) its the Great Sionox that actually makes my skin crawl.
Oh and I’d be remiss not to share that drawing of Yuri re-building UNa. It’s a fun game of spot-the-robot (including the aforementioned C-3P0’s head just behind Yuri’s speech balloon.
And actually, there’s a lot of Star Wars in here – I also see a battle droid from the prequels and that weird floating needle-torture droid from A New Hope. So while there are a bunch of other robots from other science fiction franchises in the room (Matrix, Terminator, Lost in Space, The Jetsons), maybe this is a sly acknowledgement that Hickman and Pitarra are leaning on Star Wars a little more than the rest.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey and April 4
Taylor: In this last issue of the mini-series, Casey and April find themselves in the realm of gods. The Rat King and his similarly godlike sister reveal their interest in humans and just who, or what, they are. None the information we get is something we didn’t already know which leaves the payoff of this issue a little light. Even the promised resolution of Casey and April’s relationship trouble is quickly written off with vows of love and a kiss. It feels like nothing has been settled, which I suppose is OK given that this mini-series is part of a much larger universe, but a little more closure would have been nice.
One aspect of the issue that did pique my interest were the words the Rat King’s sister had to share with April. She speaks of change and war, insinuating the turtles. Along the way, she lets it be known that April will play a big part in the change that will happen to the world.
It’s a vague promise of what April’s roll in this change will be, but hell if it doesn’t excite me. For so long, April O’Neil has just been the sidekick of the turtles, sitting on the sidelines, offering the occasional help and sometimes acting the role of damsel in distress. But this new generation of TMNT paints her as being a capable scientist and one worthy to put her own safety at risk to save the day. In this day and age when we have Imperator Furiosas and Kamala Khans showing us that women belong in action roles just as much as men do, I think everyone would welcome an April O’Neil who takes a more active role in the TMNT universe. That type of change, promised here, excites me. Does it you, Patrick?
Patrick: Normally, Taylor, I’d be right there with you, cheering for a more active role of April in the TMNT universe, but I’m not totally enamored with the way it’s handled here. This mini-series had been so grounded in the relationship between Casey and April that I’m not really sure I have room in my heart for a prophetic message from a Bird Goddess. In fact, I find it kind of baffling that Casey goes through a trial on his own while April has a chat and then the whole thing just sorta ends because Aka was done talking. Ideally, I would have liked to see April and Casey come together to escape their bondage as a team. Or at least, stepping aside to let the other person engage in the behavior the other one doesn’t understand. How nice would that have been — if April had to let Casey be a hothead and Casey had to let April be overly trusting? I want to see these kids succeed because they’re excepted each other’s flaws. Instead… well jeez, I’m not even really sure what we get.
It is nice to see the series’ signature “flipping through the radio” device come back in the end. It looks like April and Casey start off listening to a weather forecast, warning of storms, and then flip over to a radio station that only plays the Breakfast Club soundtrack. It’s a little tough to place because “as you walk on by” could be from a lot of things, but I’m guessing it’s a reference to Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds. The first radio cue is easy to connect to what the characters are talking about: with all the chatter about change and an on-coming war, the weather report telling motorists to be careful is almost laughably literal. But then there’s this Simple Minds song. What that? A wistful look back into the past? A celebration of 80s teen-movie angst?
Deadpool vs. Thanos 2
Spencer: The only thing Deadpool and Thanos have in common is that they both love death — and when I say “they love death,” I mean that they’ve both wooed the physical incarnation of death herself. Thus, Tim Seeley and Elmo Bondoc’s Deadpool vs. Thanos feels most focused when it’s exploring the relationships both characters have with death. From Thanos’ harsh, dead-on assessment of why immortality is the perfect “punishment” for Deadpool to Thanos’ role as an Messiah to intergalactic death cults, issue 2’s best moments are the ones that stick to the series’ central themes and characters.
Unfortunately, most of the issue’s other aspects don’t work nearly as well. Even within a single issue, the plot feels too aimless and episodic — the worst example comes when the Guardians of the Galaxy show up just to talk about how many times they’ve all died and remind us that they all used to have really bad costumes before getting beaten and left behind. I’m also just not that fond of Seeley’s interpretation of Deadpool. I realize that this probably just comes down to personal preference, but he feels too crude for my tastes — even for Deadpool. Wade’s romantic rivalry with Thanos brings out all the worst sides of his sense of humor, and it makes me feel a bit icky every time Wade starts getting explicit about his hookups with Death, or when he starts trying to hook up with other girls while searching for his supposedly beloved Death.
So maybe it’s just me, but while there’s plenty that works about Deadpool vs. Thanos, I don’t know if it’s a match-up I’m all that interested in seeing the resolution to.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?