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 Secret Wars Too 1, Spider-Woman 1, Ms. Marvel 1, Deadpool 2, Astonishing Ant-Man 2, Sam Wilson: Captain America 3 and Extraordinary X-Men 2.
Secret Wars Too 1
Sheila: Well, behind every joke there’s some truth.
Jerry: What about that Bavarian cream pie joke I told you? There’s no truth to that. Nobody with a terminal illness goes from the United States to Europe for a piece of Bavarian cream pie and then when they get there and they don’t have it he says “Aw, I’ll just have some coffee.” There’s no truth to that.
Seinfeld, “The Soup Nazi”
Drew: What do we mean when we talk about “truth” in jokes? Do we care if the story a comedian is telling actually happened, or are we more interested in some kind of more universal truth about the human condition? I’d generally argue for the latter, but that makes self-deprecating humor a bit of a sticking point — it’s easy to make fun of yourself if you turn yourself into a straw-man. That is to say, while I’m not particularly interested in the accuracy of Jonathan Hickman’s self-portrait in Secret Wars Too, it’s hard to know exactly how clever these jokes are without a sense of that accuracy.
Obviously, the account is heavily fictionalized, with Hickman speaking directly to Doom about his role in Secret Wars, but there are plenty of jokes that could be more true: the length of Hickman’s Secret Wars pitch, the insecurity about an ending, even the stakes of the series going well. The jokes about shipping on time (and forcing Hickman to participate in this very comic) at least play more to the audience, mocking the few things we know for certain, but otherwise, this story feels pitched more for Marvel insiders.
Fortunately, the rest of the issue avoids that directness of metafiction, instead having fun just riffing on Marvel’s characters. Those riffs all bear some sense of repetition, hinting that everyone in the Marvel Universe is stuck in some kind of loop, forever doomed to eating pies or tangoing with the ultimate nullifier or pining after Jean Grey. That these characters are all reliving the same stories isn’t the most flattering truth to assert about comics, but fortunately, there’s more than enough fun to justify all of the familiarity. This issue is the definition of inessential, but it absolutely revels in that inessentiality.
Patrick: If I can be so presumptuous as to take a stab at what I would find frustrating about being pregnant, I’d have to point to putting your own life on hold with none of that immediately gratifying baby stuff. You have to change your behavior, your habits, your routine and all you’re rewarded with is people asking way too personal questions, weirdos touching your belly, unsolicited advice, and a body that hurts all the damn time. Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez’ Spider-Woman hits all of these frustrations with the series’ signature wit, but it feels no less presumptuous for it. I’m sure both of those guys have done the emotional homework to tell this story, but it feels like a missed opportunity to bring in a female creative voice that has experienced these indignities first hand.
Ultimately, though, the story feels honest — at least from my perspective. And I absolutely love Jess’ internal and external struggle with giving up control of her life. She puts up a good fight against Ben and Roger, but ultimately folds when it’s clear they only want what’s best for her. But I love her little victories the most — like zapping Tony for being an ass at the Avengers party, or insisting on ice cream over frozen yogurt. But probably the best parts of the issue are the sacrifices she chooses to make in a vacuum. Rodriguez plays the scene with just enough dramatic distance to deliver the joke of “she’s only giving up a motor cycle” while still presenting the scene earnestly.
At this point, I can’t really tell how well all of this strong thematic material could possibly continue with Jess in the (don’t call it) Alien Maternity clinic, but I have faith in Hopeless and Rodriguez to figure it out.
Ms. Marvel 1
Ryan M: Big life changes can force you in to a triage of sorts. You realign priorities to makes sure that you can handle the new challenges, cut all but the most necessary activities out and squeeze in needs like sleep and food where you can. This mode is inherently unsustainable and once you find your “new normal,” you may find that you’ve eliminated things from your life without thought.
Patrick: I’m sort of a sucker for “franchised hero” stories. Sure, “Batman Incorporated” may test the strength of my suspension of disbelief, but making other heroes adapt the values of a well-known figure means clearly articulating and exploring those values. With Deadpool franchising his name, we’re left to ponder that old questions: just what the hell does it mean to be Deadpool, anyway? It turns out that Wade has been sending out his cronies on jobs that are more heroic than they are profitable. The types of dudes that Deadpool has attracted to this position — and they’re a fucking who’s who of characters I’ve barely heard of — are all morally flexible, so they bad together and accept a job that pays. Turns out: crime is the only thing that pays. They violently clear a building of it’s undocumented residents so the landlord can tear out the low income housing and build condos (and probably a Pink Berry and a Yoga Works). It’s remarkable to me how varied their reactions are to this realization: Foolkiller and Terror just want to collect on the payday; while Madcap and Slapstick can only make jokes about the situation, seemingly unaware of or indifferent to the moral conundrum; and finally Solo and Stingray who feel terrible and donate their fee to the victims. Beautifully, would all be reactions we could reasonably expect from Deadpool who — this issue is quick to point out — once burned his parents alive, but is ultimately maybe a good guy?
Actually, just what the fuck is up with Deadpool in this series. Even before that final page reveal that he’s not exactly who we think he is, there are hints scattered around that he’s not the Wade Wilson we know and love/hate. First of all, that costume is incredible. Mike Hawthorne draws him in this insane costume that is simultaneously a) a suit, b) a hoody, and c) a classic Deadpool uniform.
What is that and where can I buy one? Also, when Hawkeye serves him the papers for the lawsuit about using the name “Heroes for Hire,” he never actually gets Deadpool to confirm his identity. Oh, Clint, won’t you ever stop fucking up?
Astonishing Ant-Man 2
Drew: Scott Lang in prison is the kind of premise that seems like it shouldn’t need a lot of explanation. He was introduced as a criminal, and has spent most of his life living in the shadows of that history. I wouldn’t say returning to prison was inevitable — he certainly has worked hard to stay on the up-and-up — but it’s not exactly a surprise, either. Leave it to Nick Spencer to find a whole slew of surprises beneath that apparent foregone conclusion, revealing that Scott doesn’t have a “supporting” cast so much as he has a nest of vipers.
Here again, there’s a mix of foreseeable and the unforeseeable — Machinesmith’s turn to the dark side isn’t exactly a surprise, but the fact that he was able to drag Grizzly along with him is a significant moral loss for Scott. Of course, the bigger deception is on the part of Darla Deering, who sweeps back into Scott’s life with righteous indignation, only to reveal that it’s all a put-on for her new reality show. It’s an unexpected (if a bit unfortunate) turn for her character, revealing that Scott really doesn’t have anyone to trust. She may ultimately redeem herself, but I suspect not until after Scott winds up in prison.
Of course, with so much deceit going on, it’s hard to know if Scott’s tenure in prison is quite what it seems. Perhaps Spencer is pulling his own Darla Deering fake-out, giving us just enough of what we expect to lull us into malleability. At any rate, the next issue promises some fun interactions with Captain America, who I’m loving under Spencer’s pen. Surely Scott can trust him, right?
Sam Wilson: Captain America 3
Spencer: Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, and Mike Choi’s Sam Wilson: Captain America 3 features mad scientists, genetic mutations, corrupt corporations, and its main character being turned into a werewolf — it’s a far cry from the political commentary of issue 1 (and the frenzied reader response), something Sam himself lampshades early in the issue.
Sam’s right, though — things rarely turn out the way we expect, comic book speculation included. This plot was never really about immigration or racism, but corrupt businessmen using those hot-button topics to help carry out their own plans; in some ways that’s a bit of a letdown, but it’s also commentary in its own right, calling out those who are quick to criticize or condemn without knowing all the facts. Even the fact that Sam calls himself out in this regard shows that leaping to these conclusions is something anyone can do, no matter what their leanings or intentions.
I still admire the stand Sam (and, by extension, Spencer) took in the first issue — and I hope to see more of that kind of political commentary in the future — but I can also appreciate the balance between “issues,” humor, and straight-up superhero action Spencer strikes in this installment. In its most sublime moments, Spencer even finds a way to combine all three:
Whether it’s serious or silly, Nick Spencer’s proven that he knows how to make Sam Wilson: Captain America an engaging read no matter what tone he aims for.
Patrick: I need help with this one, guys. I know we’re talking about an extremely soft reboot with the All-New, All Different initiative, but it’s overwhelming to me how much this series is contingent on the continuity of the stories that came before it. And — weirdly enough — it’s contingent on understanding the histories of stories that don’t really happen in the same universe. I swear, I’m not a stickler for continuity, but this issue is hellbent on cashing in all of my “In Love With the Marvel Universe” chips all at once. Not only are Cyclop’s death and Global Terrigenisis necessary pieces of background information, but the narrative leans hard on Magick’s relationship to both her brother and Purgatory, which is where the Mutant School (Jean Gray School? Xavier School? Phoenix-Cylops Academy?) is currently located. Add in Nightcrawler and Forge stuff, and it all gets a little too inside-baseball for me. I’m just not interested in moving pieces around on a board.
The two pieces that are the most interesting — emotionally speaking — are also the two that make the least logical sense. OG Jean Gray and Old Man Logan connect at the end of the issue, and while it’s fascinating to think of how they might make each other feel, it’s kind of an exercise in insanity. Like, it’s an emotional “what if” scenario that I’m not even sure I could articulate. “What if you were brought 50 years into the future, only to discover that you had died by this point in your life, and then you met up with an elderly alternate reality version of a friend you hadn’t made yet by the time you traveled through time, but in this reality he’s also been dead for a year? Oh and the original version of him killed the future version of you but this future version of him didn’t kill you?” Guys, I’m telling you: I NEED HELP WITH THIS ONE.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?