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