Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/2/15

marvel roundup8

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 All-New All-Different Avengers 2, All-New Inhumans 1, Doctor Strange 3, Extraordinary X-Men 3, Howard the Duck 2, Invincible Iron Man 4, Totally Awesome Hulk 1 and Vision 2.


All-New All-Different Avengers 2

All New All Different Avengers 2Ryan M.: By the end of the issue, the gang’s all here, but otherwise, not much happens in this issue. I know there may have been backstory in their own books, but in here, Thor and the Vision just kind of show up. That’s okay, they are super heroes, of course they would band together to fight an alien who wants to destroy humanity. But as it stands, they show up because they were on the cover. It’s not a fatal flaw, but when they’re arrival is pretty much all that happened in the issue, it’s easy to get caught on it. In fact, the whole issue feels like it is missing something.

I think that the story distances us from the Avengers (not that they call themselves that) because we know that Warbringer is not the real bad guy. In the first issue, it felt novel to be in on the twist. Here, the dramatic irony serves to disconnect us from the heroes. They are floored by Warbringer’s ability to phase through Mjolnir, but we know that there is an invisible man there, making it all happen. The reaction panel is probably my favorite of the issue, but I wish I could share their surprise. Adam Kubert gives us up the full ANAD Avengers lineup. Ms. Marvel’s center placement and her wide, scared eyes carry the emotion of the moment.


The arc of this issue is “Avengers recover from confrontation in which they are outgunned. They find bad guy. Have another confrontation in which they are outgunned.” The story didn’t allow any development of individual characters or relationships. Ms. Marvel and Nova continued their bickering, but that’s not very compelling especially since neither of them gained any insight to each other. Now, I will say that after sharing a brief conversation Iron Man let Spider-Man ride him like a surfboard, but that’s not really enough to sustain an issue. The issue ends with a “to be concluded!” tag, and I don’t know how satisfying that conclusion could be to such a flat arc


All-New Inhumans 1

All-New Inhumans 1Patrick: Man, there is just no way to have a conversations about Inhumans — as an anthropological group — without also having a conversation about Inhumans — as a viable franchise. Writers James Asmus and Charles Soule and artists Stefano Caselli and Nico Leon’s first issue of this series is an unceremoniously lengthy exploration of how Inhumans hit into the landscape. The issue is broken up in to two stories, the first of which plays out like a classic X-Men story: two newer recruits training — aboard a fancy superhero-jet — with their old mentor in a wheel chair. Crystal will later make the Gorgon / Professor X comparison explicit, but noting that “he was half the relentless bastard [Gorgon is].” The meat of this episode is pretty classic X-Men fare as well: a new Inhuman is being persecuted by her community, so they rush in to save to her. One of those persecutors is, himself, an Inhuman, so Soule and Asmus even get to play around with the self-hating part of the Inhuman Metaphor. Er… that’s the Mutant Metaphor, right?

That in-universe pitting of Inhumans against Mutants pays off in an extra special way in the back-up, where a delegation from the UN tours the Royal Inhuman Vessel (or R.I.V. for short). The be-tailed Inhuman, Swain, guides them around the ship trying to explain their humanitarian mission as clearly as she can. Swain is charming, but not exactly convincing in her arguments — which I see as a pretty clear analogue for most of the Inhumans material I’ve read since Black Bolt released the Terrigen mist during Infinity. Like, all of their humanitarian efforts are are fine and their scientific advancements are cool and all, but y’know: who cares? The delegation argues over their validity as a nation, interrupting each other and generally being overly dismissive. It’s not until a rouge Mutant crashes through a skylight and starts attacking people that the Inhumans are able to do what they do best — be matched up against X-Men — and finally earn the sympathy of the UN committee, and by extension, the audience. But the Mutant is a friend of Crystal’s named Frenzy, and the whole attack was staged. Which… might mean we’re being manipulated into caring about the Inhumans. Hey, is it working on you guys?


Doctor Strange 3

Doctor Strange 3Michael: When it comes to superhero movies, I have…opinions. But one of the basic arguments I make is that the shelf life of a comic book’s art greatly outlasts that of a movie’s CGI. The phenomenal artwork that Chris Bachalo puts forth in Doctor Strange 3 will outlive whatever special effects Marvel has lined up for the Doctor Strange movie that comes out a year from now. Jason Aaron writes the Sorcerer Supreme as a hero behind the scenes, protecting us from monsters that are unfathomable to the average imagination. The imagination of a comic book creator is just the right amount of fathomable when it comes to mystical monsters and energy-sucking parasites.


Bachalo does one of those comic book tricks that are so simple but deeply satisfying: he splits the page into color and black and white. Aaron characterizes the average civilian as relatively carefree and literally unable to see the beauty/horror right in front of them. Bachalo takes this and literalizes it by making the average routine of ordinary life colorless while the magical goings-on around them are all sorts of rainbow colorific. Comic book art is the perfect place to literalize the complicated inner workings of the mystical realm. As Strange is traversing the planes and evading magic slugs he visibly transcends the panels of the comic book page. Though the line is from The Dark Knight, I really dig how Aaron is making Doctor Strange the “silent guardian, watchful protector type.” And Bachalo is embodying that notion so fully in the book’s art that it’s a pleasure to watch unfold.


Extraordinary X-Men 3

Extraordinary X-Men 3Drew: I’ve never read Old Man Logan, but I have a friend who loves it. He’s justifiably worried about that character’s inclusion in the new X-Men books, because he feels like it can only violate Logan’s all-important vow of pacifism. Extraordinary X-Men 3 aims to address that exact question, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to win over any skeptics.

The issue focuses on Jean’s attempt to win over Logan, who frames his pacifism less as a reaction to what he’s done and more as a way of avoiding what he fears he’s destined to do. The problem, of course, is that he apparently believes this fate is inescapable.

Destiny! Destiny! There's no escaping death for me!

So…what’s the point in running from it? He asserts that the universe has a way of “course-correcting,” which suggests that you can’t really hide from it in a dive bar in Canada. Oddly, it’s not until Jean convinces him that he can escape his fate that he agrees to tempt it.

Writer Jeff Lemire manages to salvage the sentiment by paralleling it with Jean’s own maybe-inescapable destiny, but ultimately, Logan’s assent only makes sense in light of who’s asking him to say yes. “I never could say no to you, Jeannie” might be the closest we’ll get to justifying Logan joining the fray, but it’s actually surprisingly compelling. I’ll have to ask my friend if he thinks Logan’s soft-spot for Jean could supersede his pacifism, but it certainly works for me.


Howard the Duck 2

Howard the Duck 2Spencer: Howard the Duck is a comedy book, right? Then why did I get so misty eyed reading this issue?! Is it too late to say I was just chopping onions?

Seriously though, the last few installments of Howard have found writer Chip Zdarsky infusing more and more emotion into the book, and it works like gangbusters. While there’s still laughs to be found in this issue (mainly background gags, such as the items in Dee’s quarters), it mainly focuses on the relationship that grows between Dee, Shocket, and Linda as they attempt to escape the oppressive grasp of the Collector. Guest artist Veronica Fish is an extraordinary help in that regard, creating character designs that would melt the hardest of hearts and then using those designs to inform character at every opportunity.


That’s the entire dynamic between these characters wrapped up in a three-panel nutshell!

I applaud the decision to exclude Howard and his supporting cast from the issue entirely. It’s a risk, but one that pays huge dividends; after spending so much time with Linda and Shocket, it’s hard not to be invested in their survival, and that will surely make the rest of the storyline all the more engaging. I’d better stock up on Kleenex — something tells me I may need them!


Invincible Iron Man 4

Invincible Iron Man 4Patrick: I like to think of myself as fairly open to new experiences in old packages. I don’t need the new Zelda game to be a grand, sprawling adventure in an open world, especially when the alternative is so charming, fun and addictive. (By the way, if anyone is playing Tri-Force heroes and wants to play with me, I’d be SO DOWN. I’m JustFoodForDogs on the 3DS.) But there are certain characters and certain artists for whom I have very specific expectations. Cases in point: writer Brian Michael Bendis and Tony Stark as Iron Man. The overlapping part of that venn diagram is “lovable smartass,” and while there have been snippets of that quality in previous issues, that seems to be Invincible Iron Man 4‘s whole mission statement. As a result, the issue is awfully chatty, but Bendis and artist David Marquez do everything in their power to make this gab-fest varied and entertaining throughout. I was struck by how many cool design elements sneak their way into Tony’s opening fight against a small army of cyborg ninjas. Instead of relying on the violence or Tony’s quick wit, Marquez makes sure everything looks as fucking cool as possible.

iron man is bad ass

Previously, we’d complained that this series didn’t focus enough on selling Tony as an active, or even all that appealing character, but his running commentary and general humanity in this issue more than makes up for it.

There is a scene where Tony visits a children’s hospital and is an all around great guy to some sick kids (one of whom is based on a real sick kid – the letters page gives the whole, adorable story), and while this scene feels like its stapled on to an unrelated story about Madam Masque, I can’t help but love the insight into Tony’s character. He totally wants to bail on the kids (because he’s a selfish jerkbag), but is eventually convinced by a message he left himself days prior not to ghost on the kids. That dichotomy is so quintessentially Iron Man, that it’s worth any diversion.


Totally Awesome Hulk 1

Total Awesome Hulk 1Spencer: What makes Amadeus Cho a unique Hulk isn’t his intelligence — Bruce Banner is (was?) a super-genius too, and Amadeus’ gadgets and mission seems like a natural extension of the direction Banner pursued in Indestructible Hulk — but his youth. If the original Hulk was a product of Banner’s rage, than the Hulk of Greg Pak and Frank Cho’s Totally Awesome Hulk is Amadeus’ youthful spirit — in all its impulsive, joyous, hormone-addled glory — given massive power and free reign.

Of course, Amadeus wouldn’t like being compared to Bruce Banner. Unlike Banner, Amadeus has always seen the Hulk as a hero, and he seems especially compelled to prove that after the seemingly dark ending to Banner’s career as the Hulk. His desire to prove both himself and the Hulk are about the only thing Amadeus takes seriously, and in some ways that’s as dangerous as the previous, rage-monster Hulk ever was — overconfidence is not a trait any Hulk should indulge in, and Pak already seems to be foretelling a harsh fall for poor ol’ Amadeus.

I've got a Hulk in my trunk!

I do think there’s a lot of potential in this direction — Amadeus can redeem the Hulk, while the Hulk can teach Amadeus to be more patient and responsible. It’s a coming-of-age story wrapped in a radioactive, green coating! With Pak’s humorous touch and obvious affection for the character, I’m eager to see where he takes the totally awesome Hulk next.

Other things I’m eager to see: less awkward flirting from Amadeus (those moments can be hard to read), and plenty more Miles Morales. Pak’s takes on Miles is, well…totally awesome.

Why are you even IN New Zealand Miles?


Vision 2

Vision 2Drew: Last month’s Vision 1 proved to be a hot topic of conversation here at Retcon Punch. Spencer and Patrick’s discussion (and the comments it spawned) managed to touch on just about everything that made that issue so remarkable, from its detached 3rd person narration to its distinctive art to its careful (though perhaps over-the-top) use of symbolism. This issue features all of those elements, but raises the stakes beyond the Visions’ initial goal of simply fitting in — or rather, it further pathologizes that goal, exaggerating it to homicidal proportions.

In the wake of the Reaper’s attack, Vin is grievously damaged, Vic is emotionally traumatized, and Virginia is scrambling to cover up Reaper’s death. Actually, “scrambling” is the wrong term — she relays her story (and apparently disposed of his body) with the kind of sociopathic detachment that has become this series’ hallmark.Rock'em Sock'em

It’s a chilling sequence, revealing an intriguing depth of motivation we might not have expected from these characters. The issue ends with one hell of a cliffhanger — somebody saw Virginia burying the body, and seems to be blackmailing her — which only emphasizes her unexpected drive to not be caught. Exactly what this situation could push her to is totally unknown, which only makes me more interested in the next issue.

slim-banner4The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

10 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/2/15

  1. All-New All-Different Avengers: Well, I’m thankful I didn’t pick up issue 2. Between the preview, some other reviews I have read and what you have said, ti seems like Avengers is still directionless and more focused on just having a random selection of sequences put together than actually making a story. Mark Waid is usually better than this

    Inhumans: I think it was Devin Faraci who said that the Inhumans movie won’t be X-Men, it will be Game of Thrones. I wonder why they don’t just do that? Use the global Terrigensis to create five or six new cities, and then explore the political ramifications of Attilan having to deal with multiple new factions of Inhumans with their own rulers, and how the people of Earth deal with the fact that the Inhumans are now major political figures (and what happens when Attilan as to actually start dealing with the rest of the world in earnest). Really focus on the politics side, and make it Superhero Game of Thrones

    Invincible Iron Man: What is there to say, other than Bendis/Marquez are just continuing be be consistently great. This will never be the best comic of the month, but it is always high quality. The Tony/Friday and the Tony/Doom interactions are both really strong, and constantly entertains. There is a real sense of the character. I disagree that he wants to bail on the kids, it is more that he gets obsessed. There is always something important, and he puts stuff like the kids off to focus on whatever he is obsessed about, currently Madame Masque. Still makes him a jerk, but a jerk without malice, which is important. Looking forward to seeing this continue.

    Totally Awesome Hulk: Interviews and such are ultimately marketing, and you have to be careful. They are always going to say that the latest comic is the best thing ever. which is why you have to read them carefully. Seeing stuff about Totally Awesome Hulk made me think that the stories about this weren’t just marketing hype, but that as much as they were preaching that the other comics were great, there was something special about this. Either I need to get better at reading interviews, or I have very different tastes to Marvel Editorial

    This isn’t bad, but nothing special. The basic idea of the Hulk emphasizing Amadeus’ youthful spirit is a good idea. I just wish it wasn’t usually done through teenage hormones so that we have to watch Amadeus try and flirt with every woman he sees. I was hoping for more emphasis on the idea of Amadeus finding it fun to be the Hulk. Maybe have the problem be that he gets distracted by the joy of fighting to actually deal with the monster properly, instead of because he is flirting with yet another person.

    And using the time skip to get Amadeus right into the action sounds like a good idea, but not knowing what the monsters they are tracking are and why it is their job is kind of annoying. I think there is a lot of potential if they tone down the hornier aspects, and the imagination scene with Hulk in the boot is amazing and suggesting so much potential. But this comic disappointed me. Just not a particularly good comic, even if it featured my home nation

    The Vision: The Vision continues to be amazing. You mention Virginia’s detachment as she tells her story, and I love at the moment of utter detachment, she takes place of the narrator. A fantastic use of taking the form of the comic to emphasize exactly how detached Virginia is (I also enjoy her sitting in front of the vase in her first panel, and the emphasis of the time travel in the panels after she has ‘rewritten time’ by telling a false story).

    Another great thing is the cliffhanger. The cliffhanger is kind of standard for this sort of story (of course they are, the basic story beats are by design standard). But that is the terror. This issue has a great focus on how dangerous they are. We begin with a (fake) fight scene demonstrating the range of powers, Vin attacks another student while the narrator discusses how the children know how to kill a man by putting pressure on a small nerve cluster and the Vision bullies the principal into accepting his terms by mentioning how many times he has saved the world. They aren’t just the other, but they are also powerful. What happens when you take figures like this, and place them in a conventional blackmail story? Well, the narrator has another foreboding prophecy, discussing how, one day, the principal will wonder if he had acted back then, he too would have saved the world.

    Also notable is that while the narration is still an key part of the story, over half the comic didn’t have the narration. More and more, real humanity is infiltrating the artificial world of suburbia (even as Virginia risks creating her own artificial world by rewriting the history to hide her true self).

    Even outside the formal cleverness, there is so much great stuff. Like Virginia’s line of ‘My name, as I have already stated, is Virginia, not Mrs. Vision’. Wonderfully double layered. Despite their masquerade as a normal family, the true weirdness is revealed by the simple fact that Virginia’s name is not Mrs. Vision. ‘As I have already stated’ is a great piece of criticism of the suburban world that plays such a central role in the book, as the world around the Visions expects it to confirm to its biases perfectly, even when given repeated proof that it doesn’t. And then there is the simple choice made by King to even have that line in the first place. A line where Virginia distances herself from the Vision…

    Damn, I may do another essay on this later. But now, I need to run off and write that Inhumans idea in my list of roleplaying games to run

  2. I liked the Vision, but it was a rough week in the real world and honestly, nothing else made a huge impression on me. I was doing most of my reading in a state of exhaustion, however. I’m going to be doing a bunch of rereading over holiday break.

    I was underwhelmed by Hulk. I thought it would be Totally Awesome, but Amadeus wasn’t that interesting to me. I thought it might be fun to see what a genius would do being the strongest there is, but instead it fell pretty flat. But I’ll have to reread it to make sure.

    • To be fair, Bruce Banner is a genius. But a genius with anger management issues would have been interesting, especially one who was committed to enjoying being the Hulk. But it fell pretty flat to me as well

      • I didn’t even have TA Hulk on our pull until Spencer pointed it out. I’m not a particularly big Pak-booster, and I have found basically every Hulk volume I’ve ever read boring. I don’t know how long we’ll be coming back to it

        • I only read it because the interviews seemed to be saying it was something special.

          Not the usual ‘of course we are saying it is good, we want to sell it’, but this idea that they were proud of the new Marvel as it allowed them to release something like this.

          Either we massively disagree with Marvel editorial, or I need to learn to read interviews better

        • Totally Awesome Hulk’s greatest crime was that Pak gave a mission statement both in interviews AND on the recap page — Amadeus Cho having fun being the Hulk — and then didn’t live up to it within the issue itself. This is something I see a lot, creators talking up a direction for a book and then never doing much with it — Geoff Johns does this a lot — and it never fails to be disappointing.

          I’ll admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed by the issue too, but I think there was enough fun, smart ideas and good humor packed within for me to stick out a few more issues and see how it develops. But I can totally understand why anybody else might not stick with it (Patrick included).

          If I’m being totally honest, Amadeus Cho is just a character I’ve always been interested in and fond of despite never reading a Cho story before (outside of Noelle Stevenson’s Secret Wars “Runaways,” which, as mind-meltingly awesome as it was, wasn’t concerned with canon in the slightest), so I already felt like I liked this series as soon as it was announced. It’ll probably take me a few issues to form an unbiased opinion.

        • What stuff I’ve read about Amadeus Cho has been really good. Noelle Stevenson’s utterly amazing Runaways is of course great (why can’t she do a new Runaways in the new Marvel universe. With either as close to that team as possible or with a completely brand new team), but I’ve also read a couple of other, older books (though sadly I can’t remember what). Many of them actually had a lot of fun with the idea of a character whose primary power was just super intelligence. I was looking forward to seeing him apply his super intelligence to being a Hulk, and I was looking forward to seeing him as a character who enjoys being a Hulk.

          Sadly, I didn’t care that most of this ‘fun Hulk’ was him being sleazy to women. There had to be a more interesting and fun way to show how totally awesome his adventures are. I may give it another shot, and see if they get that right next issue. If they get that vibe right, I can forgive the other problems, like the loosely defined mission (All New Wolverine’s first issue managed to render any complaints about the fact that we have no idea why anything is happening by simply being utterly perfect with everything else that you didn’t care).

          The darker aspects when Amadeus is human and they discuss if he can control the Hulk work. But the fights really need to have a sense of real fun and imagination. Amadeus Cho as the Hulk is a great idea. Amadeus as the Totally Awesome Hulk having fun as the Hulk is a great idea. Just currently, too underwhelming

        • Given some of the other conversations here the past month, it’s a bit weird to find us all agreeing on this. I especially agreed with, ” I didn’t care that most of this ‘fun Hulk’ was him being sleazy to women.” I was actually more than a little put off by it.

          I too have read very little of Amadeus Cho. My knowledge of him is incomplete and may even be faulty. I just browsed his Wiki and I swear his fictional biography makes Peter Parker look like he had a normal life in high school and college.

          Ok, I’ll come out with it. My impression of Amadeus Cho was that he was always with Hercules or Hulk or someone huge and strong and he was constantly in danger from the gigantic fights that were going on and his role was that of a Frazetta styled fetishized princess in bikini bottom and gold pasties hiding behind/under the barechested hero with a sword, wrapped around his leg, except Cho is one of the 10 smartest people on the planet.

          It’s never been overt, and I may be 100% completely and weirdly wrong, but now it seems Amadeus is excited to be the one with a lady wrapped around *his* leg. Which just makes it all seem a little creepy and more than a little gross. But isn’t that kind of what you’re getting in any Frank Cho project? And I won’t lie, I would read the heck out of a Mile Morales, Amadeus Hulk, and She-Hulk team-up book that was well done, so…

          I just hope this turns into something good.

        • No argument? This is weird. Someone bring up Mark Waid as the perfect writer, so I can disagree.

          I don’t think Amadeus Cho has ever had it that bad. Even as he’s with Hercules or the Hulk, he’s had his chance at being the hero. He’s actually done some stuff and contributed as more than a damsel in distress. And that’s not counting the fact that in Time Runs Out, he was running missions for the Illuminati (even if he got captured). The stuff I remember pre Secret Wars had him doing legitimate hero stuff, and the gorgon girl from the Secret Wars Runaways is Amadeus’s love interest in Incredible Hercules, I believe. In fact, I think I’ve heard that Incredible Herucles was largely around him growing into a hero. Don’t think he has too much of a problem with that sort of stuff.

          But even if that was the reason, in doesn’t change the fact that none of us care about Amadeus being so sleazy. There are other ways of demonstrating his love of being the big hero.

          Miles Morales, Amadeus Hulk and She Hulk fighting crime in New Zealand in a team up book would be amazing. I would read the heck out of that.

          And yeah, I think we all hope it turns into something good. We all want to like it. Let’s hope next issue is an improvement

  3. I finally read Doctor Strange #3. I should have read it earlier. Instead of worrying about the weird creepiness of Hulkadeus, I could have spent my energy going over why Doctor Strange was a brilliantly constructed comic. Aaron has a Doctor Strange story that feels great (it’s like the super D&D game you want to play in when you’re 13) and Bachalo’s unique style fits this perfectly.

    Side note: There was a little bit of the same feeling in one of the early Thor: God of Thunders (when discussing the God Killer’s victims, especially the whale one) as there was here when Strange encountered the other dead Sorcerers Supreme.

    I thought this was brilliant. I wish I’d spent more time reflecting on it.

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