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 Groot 6, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Silk 1, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2 and Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.
Ryan M: Groot 6 reads like two kinds of stories in one issue. The first had me delighted, the second, sniffling. To accomplish this, there are two different framing devices in the issue. The first half of the issue uses of the list created by Groot’s friends along with cameos of them offering suggestions of Earth activities. It adds a structure and dynamism to a nearly plot-less story. Even with an actual battle against D-list villains, there is very little in terms of conflict. But it doesn’t matter when the story is told in such a fun way. Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger employ very brief scenes and great visuals, like the adorable and truly goofy way that Groot eats pizza. In the same panel, we also get Carol’s cat cuddling with Groot and a grumpy Rocky comparing their dynamic to that of Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Patrick: Famously, Superman 75, which featured the definitive death of Superman, was told entirely in splash pages. Any why not? It’s not like Superman is outsmarted by Doomsday, it’s simply a slugfest between invincible beings that Supes was on the losing end of. Every single moment demanded the full page, or at least that’s what the creative team suggests by presenting the fight this way. The first half of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is presented in much the same manner, but employing double-splashes to tell the story of the Last Daughter of Hala. And while her saga does technically cover the destruction of her home planet, I find myself struggling to care about the sob story of a character I just met in the previous issue.
I do like that the only thing big enough to stop her grandstanding is an equally big (and equally cheesy) Ben Grimm moment.
The rest of the issue plays out with some more traditional page lay-outs with multiple panels in them. Brian Michael Bendis-penned issues tend to embrace these larger-than-life double splashes and artist Valerio Schiti seems happy to oblige. The page I posted above is the first one to use an abstract background — the rest are all painstakingly detailed, sometimes with those heartstoppingly beautiful starscapes. But Grimm comes in and knocks some sense into the issue, grounding it in a way that the normal space-operatics don’t really allow for. I don’t know that the issue really sticks to that kind of scaled down aesthetic all the way to the end, but even the huge stuff is focused on Peter Quill. That’s certainly a more effective way to get me to care about the fate of the planet Spartax.
Taylor: One of the things that stands out about Marvel’s recent Jessica Jones Netflix series is that most of the cast is female. And not only are they women; all of them are complex characters with well explored motivations and feelings. Naturally, many people are happy to see this in a series based on comic books. It wasn’t too long ago that Avengers 2 was making headlines for all the wrong reasons concerning the way women were portrayed in the film. Silk seems to be taking a few ques from these lessons and presents a story that will make make those searching for gender equality in comics happy.
It’s not like the issue is beating me over the head with feminist ideals however. Rather, it’s simply telling a story about some superheroes who happen to be women. The story in this case revolves around Cindy Moon and her current assignment as a double agent to dig up intel on Black Cat. It’s all in good fun and I enjoy how Cindy, ever down to earth, never quite feels comfortable being a double agent. I also enjoy her relationship with her controller, Mockingbird.
It has a sort of protege and teacher feel to it and it’s a clever way to expand Cindy’s learning curve as a hero without giving me the run-of-the-mill origin story. And while stories like this have been done before, this one feels fresh because it’s coming from characters we usually don’t see in this context.
Silk, Mockingbird, and Black Cat have all stared in comics in their own right but often times only within the context of dudes being present. In this issue they are working independently of the hairier sex. Like Jessica Jones, this isn’t presented as being anything special. Instead it’s just portraying these characters as real human beings with their own individual lives. Even though in many ways this issue isn’t all that striking, I’m drawn to the promise of a series that in issue one seems so self-assured and aware. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here on out!
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2
Michael: Here’s a little secret of comedy: anything can be funny. Trace back your favorite inside joke and you will probably discover that there is no logic in it at all – it’s just a strange thing that you made funny. I respect The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for its steadfast commitment to making strange things become routine inside jokes between writer Ryan North and the readers. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2 provides us with a new gag – that builds on the content of the first issue – by having Doreen nag her “internet friend” Tony Stark. And while there’s no proof just yet, this little bit of trolling on Squirrel Girl’s part might end up being the saving grace that returns her to the present.
I will admit that I am guilty of speed reading through comics — it’s unfortunately very easy to do. When you breeze through any given comic you are likely to miss something, however. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2 is a book that rewards patient readers who want to take it all in when it comes to their comics. One of my favorite parts of this book is when Ryan North and Erica Henderson lay out a smorgasbord of “Easter eggs” (not crazy about that term) for the readers. If you want to simply read “Squirrel Girl time travels to the ‘60s” story in front of you that is totally fine, but you can tell that North enjoys going the extra mile with footnotes and detailed Wikipedia pages. Another trope that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has established is the “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” trading cards – I loved the Scarecrow card in particular. I think that having Doreen and her friends look to the meta Deadpool for some advice/resolution is perfectly fitting for this series. We read so many stories where the hero pulls the solution out of his/her ass at the last minute, it’s refreshing to see a hero just look up the answer in the way you cross-reference sources for a term paper.
Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2
Drew: How unique does a work of art have to be to interest you? I may put too much of an emphasis on uniqueness, but that habit also keeps me from reading the same type of comic over and over again. Unfortunately, Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. proves to be exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road comic I tend to avoid. I was never that enamoured of the premise, which felt like countless “secret team of monsters working for the government” series over the past few years, most notably Marvel’s own Secret Avengers. Unfortunately, that inevitable comparison leaves Howling Commandos looking even less original, coming up short in everything from humor to pathos to inventiveness.
My biggest issue, though, lies in the leaden dialogue, which drags every scene to a halt, somehow avoiding advancing the plot or developing the characters in any meaningful way. I suspect the bulk of the dialogue is intended as witty banter, but it’s far too stilted to read as comfortable repartee. Moreover, it often doesn’t make any sense.
I’m not sure why Duggan would consider “focusing on the task at hand” a demon, or what any of that has to do with Shakespeare. It’s clearly meant to be a casual tease, but it doesn’t actually correspond to what Manphibian was saying. This series might be fun if it was able to achieve the Whedon-esque back-and-forth it seems to want to, but without that distinguishing charm (which again, would at best make this series derivative), there’s nothing to set this series apart from countless others on the shelves.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?