Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 10/28/15

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We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Sam Wilson: Captain America 2, New Avengers 2, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1.

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Sam Wilson: Captain America 2

Sam Wilson Captain America 2Drew: I used to think of the “media” half of “social media” as an indicator of it’s material — I might describe it as photos and text in the same way I might describe an artist’s media as paint or ink. More recently, I’ve come to understand that people use “social media” as an alternative to “traditional media” — that is, a source of meaningful information about the world that isn’t just selfies and cat gifs. There are a number of reasons why this is distressing, but the biggest one might be the loss of editorial oversight. Without any rigorous method of checking facts, a distorted or misunderstood “story” can be retweeted and repeated long before anyone can step in to correct it, exaggerating those distortions and misunderstandings. There are plenty of real-world examples of this (I’m embarrassed to admit that we’re not immune to this kind of thing), but none could be more salient than knee-jerk reaction to Sam Wilson: Captain America 1 — a fact that issue 2 seems designed to highlight.

Sam sets to giving us “the short version” of how he and Steve came to the stand-off that ended issue 1, and it’s obvious that even his abridged version wouldn’t fit in 140 characters.

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Issue 1 certainly had some extreme moments, but this issue serves to place them in context. Nothing here seems particularly controversial, and that’s exactly the point: if we fire off after only a tiny portion of the story comes in, we’re probably reacting more to our own imaginations than actual events. A little more time and a little more information goes a long way, making everyone who jumped the gun look a little silly (or at least like misinformed bros).

That’s not to say this series isn’t trading in controversial subjects — the immigration debate rears its head here — just that it’s not nearly as partisan as people accused it of being. Actually, the most brazen criticism seems to be of social media culture generally. Writer Nick Spencer doesn’t pull his punches on that subject at all — twitter is called by name, rather than any “chirper” or “tweeter” stand-in that we’re used to seeing in fiction. Of course, it’s hard for anyone to defend twitter from what Spencer is accusing it of here — all the evidence is in his own twitter feed from the last few weeks.

Patrick: Man, even the idea that twitter would need to be defended against Spencer is so backwards it makes my head hurt. If anyone needed a “save me from twitter button” in the last few weeks it’s him.

Actually, on that subject, I do find it fascinating where Spencer chooses to use real-world people, companies and ideas and where he decides to fudge it and use a Marvel Universe equivalent. When poor Sam is just trying to get through his miserable middle-seat flight, he’s straight-up listening to This American Life, as hosted by Ira Glass. The voice on the podcast identifies himself as the real NPR personality, and even gives the name of the show explicitly. But when it comes to the mystery and the controversy within the world of the issue, we’re dealing with a leak named “The Whisperer” revealing a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” program called “Koblick.” But these are all stand-ins, superhero and supervillain versions of issues from the real world. The Whisperer, and the government reaction’s to him, represent Edward Snowden, and Koblick represents anything the government does that US citizens might not be too happy about (the clearest analogue here is probably data collection).

But Drew’s right that it’s not the issues themselves that are important to the creative team, it’s how the issues are discussed (or not discussed) and understood (or not understood) by the world at large. Back to Drew’s point about editorial oversight and fact-checking – remember, we did get This American Life name checked in this issue. Is Spencer trying to remind us that responsible media is still out there?

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New Avengers 2

New Avengers 2Spencer: Perhaps even moreso than the first issue, New Avengers 2 demonstrates just what Sunspot’s new A.I.M is capable of on a technical level. While it’s not short on insightful character beats (from Songbird’s world-weariness to the moment Sunspot must take to compose himself before tackling this newest crisis), writer Al Ewing mostly focuses this issue on the process A.I.M. follows to solve the Life-Minus dilemma and the mix of abilities the New Avengers call upon to implement the plan. I’m an absolute sucker for that kind of stuff, so needless to say, this worked like gangbusters for me. That said, I’m also fond of the way Ewing is building the Maker (Ultimate Reed Richards) into a foil for the New Avengers.

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If Reed Richards is a super-scientist and explorer, than the Maker is a version of him who has lost his way and no longer cares if his experiments are ethical. He values knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake and will even recklessly pursue ideas that could destroy the world, and that’s a far cry from how A.I.M. aims to use their knowledge and resources to solve crises and improve the world. That’s a pretty compelling hook to hang the conflict between A.I.M. and W.H.I.S.P.E.R. upon, and I can’t wait to see it explored further.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1Michael: I’ve always thought that the trick to climbing the ranks in the Big Two is by revamping, revitalizing or simply just telling an engaging story with a lesser known character. I mean let’s be honest here: Geoff Johns is very much responsible for Green Lantern being a household name. And while I don’t know if Squirrel Girl will ever break into the pop culture zeitgeist the way that GL has, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a testament to Ryan North’s writing prowess. Even if you know next to nothing about Squirrel Girl (like me, outside of her being Jessica Jones’ nanny), North builds comedic patterns within the structure of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1 that are so very easy to love. The plot of this issue is: establish our cast of characters, have Doreen (Squirrel Girl)’s mother meet her roommate and help rehabilitate an old school Marvel villain; simple enough. That last plot point may in fact be my favorite part of this book. North frames ‘70s HYDRA villain Brain Drain as a sympathetic character who wasn’t in control of his actions who sought out Squirrel Girl because she “has a way of helping.” Though there is a case of the “classic comic book misunderstanding,” it’s awesome that Doreen is thought of as someone who wants to help bad guys and not just punch them. When Doreen is trying to find any potential weaknesses that Brain Drain might have she pulls out “Deadpool’s Guide to Supervillains.” I think it’s extremely fitting that this book points to Deadpool as a point of reference. With its self-aware style, pop culture tropes and comedic grounding, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl could indeed follow in the footsteps of Marvel’s “Merc with a mouth.”

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

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6 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 10/28/15

  1. Squirrel Girl feels more and more like Adventure Time with every issue. That’s not a complaint. Erica Henderson is channeling Finn and Jake, which I can deal with.

    New Avengers. I like this. I want to know how Secret Wars ends so I know how Evil Reed gets here to do this. I Like that it’s got Reed Richards going mystical.

    Captain Sam: I’m surprised by how much I like this. It’s got an earnest feeling about it that I always attributed to Captain America but has gotten lost in the relationships Cap’s had with the Avengers for the past 10 years. This really feels like Cap vs. the Establishment, which is a good thing.

    • I like that about SamCap too. Instead of just making him fight Steve’s old baddies, it’s like there’s actually a separate reason for THIS version of Captain America to exist. Like, he carries the torch more metaphorically than literally.

      • The whole Cap v Establishment thing is really well constructed. Not just because the underlying conflict is a good one, and not just because how brilliant it is the characterize the conflict by splitting Sam and Steve (which really makes the conflict sing).

        But it also does a really great job of using the temporary replacement trope (because, sadly, we know that Sam Wilson, just like Jane Foster, Commissioner Gordon, X-23 etc are all temporary). Ultimately, the reason this trope is so popular at the moment is that writers love the chance to explore a character through absence. To look at the two cases that popularized this trope, How much do we learn about what makes Bruce Wayne or Steve Rogers characters, than to explore how different Captain America is if you have Dick Grayson or Bucky do the exact same thing. And the great thing about the strategy is how it also allows you to explore characters who generally don’t get the focus they deserve (even Grayson, who had his own comic, I think deserved that chance. Because the more I think, the more I feel the Nightwing identity trapped Dick Grayson into a kind of purgatory. Forced him into being second rate Batman, always doing the same thing, just lesser. So let’s hope he stays superspy as long as possible).

        And Spencer is doing a great job with this. That very difference is built into the DNA of the story. He has located the greatest point of difference, and dramatized a split to really compare just how different they are. Both sides are good sides, but they each have slightly different views on America and it creates a great look at both characters. And in doing so, makes a very clear, distinct reason why it is worth having Sam Wilson as Cap, instead of telling the same story with Steve Rogers

  2. New Avengers 1 really didn’t do it for me, as the characters seemed a bit thinly sketched. But New Avengers 2 worked, just because of the joy of seeing competent people be competent. If you treat Songbird or Hulkling as characters, New Avengers really isn’t going to work. Because every character moment so far is terribly generic and boring. But if you just focus on AIM as a character, it works really well. As much as I was really looking forward to seeing Songbird and that team as Avengers (though I’m not sure if Squirrel Girl was the right character from the comedy section to place as an Avenger, when one of the underlying jokes of her character is that she is literally unbeatable), if New Avengers turns into ‘What if NASA from the Martian fought supervillains’, I think it could be great. And if you commit to that, the Maker is the perfect villain, as he is the dark mirror.

    I want to say something intelligent about the new Captain America, and it is talking about concepts I’m interested in, but nothing comes to mind. The issues of Social Media and Citizen Journalism, especially the lack of accountability and its close connection to mob justice (add topical mention of what appears to be a fake list of Government officials affiliated with the KKK). The grounding in the real world and the use of superhero as a metaphor for real world events (and the fact that in a superhero universe, the use of Superhero tropes is realistic). Captain America v the Establishment, and how the drama in a good Captain America story is of a good man is a flawed world. But nothing really seems to be coming to mind. Nothing that feels like a fresh new insight

    • You know, I noticed when I wrote my brief comment on New Avengers, I didn’t actually bring up the Avengers, it was about the Maker. You’re right, Avengers idea Mechanics vs. the Maker is interesting. So far, the individual characters aren’t yet. I’m not invested in Hulkling or Songbird enough to see their heroics. It didn’t help their development that they were just the ground troops so AIM could solve the problem and they were just the meat shield and the ray gun.

      I do have to admit, Crystal Headed Tippy Toe was adorable.

      I’ll read issue three. I found the cliffhanger to be moderately compelling – I want to know what Maker has unleashed.

      • Have to say, I love how the person who solves the crisis is a faceless scientist. Really brings home that it is Avengers Idea Mechanics as a whole that is the superhero, not any individual character.

        I’ll certainly read issue 3, and hope they develop the idea further. What I’d love to see is more complicated crises, requiring multiple solutions to solve the overall problem, instead of just one. Really build the tension, and really put AIM on the line.

        Certainly going to keep reading for now. It has a good cliffhanger, and I think if Ewing really commits to AIM v the Maker, there is so much potential

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