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 Hawkeye 2, Amazing Spider-Man 4, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Gwenpool Special 1, Hercules 2, and The Ultimates 2
All-New Hawkeye 2
Spencer: Stories set in a shared universe face an unique challenge — reference characters from other books too much and you risk them taking over the title (or their presence eliminating all tension whatsoever), but reference them too little and you’ll be inundated by questions about when certain characters are going to show up. Fraction’s run on Hawkeye chose to mostly isolate Clint and Kate to focus on their street-level perspective, but in All-New Hawkeye 2, Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez decide to bring in the Marvel Universe at large, and in doing so, strike a masterful balance: the guest stars further Lemire’s story and emphasize different facets of the lead characters without overwhelming the narrative.
In the present-day segments, Clint and Kate still aren’t speaking, but Lemire and Perez shows them leading very different lives. Clint is lonely and isolated, with no one but his dog Lucky for company. What’s notable about this segment, though, is that Clint isn’t physically alone.
A significant amount of Clint’s time is spent fighting alongside his teammates on the New Avengers, yet it hasn’t translated to any off-the-clock friendships; he’s still alone, which is why he still needs Kate so much. Kate, though, has plenty of friends. While Clint eats alone at his kitchen sink, Kate dances the night away with America Chavez, and in the future story, she saves the day by keeping her old flame Noh-Varr on standby. Overall, this reinforces America’s claim that, while Clint needs Kate, the reverse isn’t true. I’m curious to see where Lemire and Perez take this idea; as much as it hurts to see the Hawkeyes at odds (and as much as the idea still seems like a bit of a retread of what Fraction already did in his run), and as much as the future segments make it seem as if Clint and Kate won’t reconcile any time soon, I still think there has to be a different way for this conflict to play out. Even if breaking this duo up is supported by the story, it would still be one bummer of an ending.
Amazing Spider-Man 4
Drew: The ties that bind are just as central in Amazing Spider-Man 4, which finds Peter weighing his S.H.I.E.L.D. duties against the safety of Aunt May. It’s no contest, really, though one has to wonder if Spider-Man really did any day-saving here, at all — it sure seems like May and the villagers she was taking fire with might have been just fine without Peter’s attention. Then again, it’s not entirely clear if Peter would have been all that more useful completing his S.H.I.E.L.D. mission — half of the raids on Zodiac facilities turned out to be decoys.
That means a lot of water-treading in the main plotline, but it’s clearly pacing things out so Slott can plant the seeds for stories down the line. Harry Osborne’s influence in Nadua continues to grow, and Curt Connors is recruited by that mysterious man offering the company of long-dead loved ones. It’s not clear exactly what either of those are building towards, but it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Zodiac that will draw our focus for the time being.
Whatever pot-shots I can take at the plotting of this issue, Slott manages to turn the wheel-spinning into some genuine character moments. Peter tells May how he really feels (as Spider-Man, so as to not make it too nakedly emotional); Peter saves a genius kid and her brother; Curt gives up everything he’s worked for to be reunited with his wife and son. I suppose my favorite is that genius kid — it’s such an unexpected twist for one of Peter’s rescuees to be smarter and more charismatic than he is, but she absolutely steals that scene. I’ll take a moment like that over narrative progress any day.
Guardians of the Galaxy 4
Patrick: Marvel editorial seems to be exceptionally good at matching their writer talent with appropriate artists. Just glancing through this list, it starts to look like they place a premium on a book looking the right way to tell the right story. Brian Michael Bendis, whose style somehow encompasses both a decompressed chattiness and absurdly broad ambition, is perhaps overserved by artist Valerio Schiti in the third issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s almost mind boggling to consider how much back story has been stapled on to a simple planetary invasion in just this first handful of issues, but nothing proves too weird, or too much of a non sequitir for Schiti to gorgeously render. Rather than pick up where we left off in the previous issue, the story begins on the now-obligatory Knowhere – the space-city-inside-a-dead-celestial’s-head. There, we meet Yotat, the Destroyer of Destroyers: he’s looking for one of our heroes (see if you can guess which one). The scene is a fairly wrote bit of intimidation / exposition, until Schiti makes Yotat’s final demonstration of strength astoundingly violent and spectacular.
I mean, it doesn’t even look like Yotat is trying all that hard, and that poor guy’s head goes flying like 20 feet.
And while Schiti can deliver these kinds of moments with gusto, I get the distinct impression that Bendis is writing to hit those moments, steering between nearly-silent fight scenes and space operatics simply because he knows the Schiti will look good doing it. For instance, the team still has yet to present and interesting emotional reason to pit Gamora against Hala. So when a nearly-dead Gamora hops out of the Guardians spaceship to battle her single-handedly, it looks amazing, but doesn’t carry any emotional weight. The same will be true if Drax sacrifices himself to save the team from Yotat next time.
Man, oh man, though: maybe Schiti’s storytelling is enough to buoy the whole series anyway. I love this final page, which manages to show that Peter Quill has escaped his pod ship prison, without showing an empty room or relying on any text.
Gwenpool Special 1
Ryan M.: I am a sucker for a Christmas episode. My otherwise snooty standards drop for the month of December and I embrace hackneyed sentiment and cheesy plots that strongly imply that Santa exists. Gwenpool Special 1 gives us several of these heartwarming and sorta schmaltzy stories in one winter’s night and I really enjoyed it.
The issue purposefully fulfills the Christmas-themed stories while also offering a twist on the standard stories. The Hawkeyes and Deadpool storyline contains the kind of beats you would expect, e.g. Deadpool singing inappropriate carols, Clint beating a guy up while dressed as Santa. There are also moments that look like they could be a Christmas card.
Of course, here, the man standing with Deadpool is a pickpocket who will be going to jail before the night is over, likely emotionally scarring that little boy forever. But this is a pretty nice moment. Gwenpool’s own story line is definitely the lightest on holiday cheer and sort of suffers in comparison to the other plots in the book. Maybe it’s because I am currently Christmas-crazy, but Gwenpool’s lack of acknowledgement of the season was disappointing. She doesn’t even offer commentary on the fact that she is living through a Marvel holiday issue. That said, she does get to live every fangirl’s holiday wish and sing Karaoke with Ms Marvel. Okay, I’m changing my mind, I see the Christmas in Gwenpool’s story.
I’m a little too holidazed to be effectively critical of such sweet stories about these characters enjoying each others company. At one point in the issue, Gwenpool’s narration assures the reader that “It’ll allll work out” and sometimes it’s nice to read a story that you know will have a happy ending or four.
Mark: Hercules, the Marvel character, is not a hero I’ve ever had much interest in or followed very closely, so I don’t know if writer Dan Abnett’s take is unique or not, but it’s definitely working for me. Abnett frames Hercules as the original superhero, and one who now finds himself upstaged and outclassed by newer entrants. It’s a clever idea, and one that encapsulates not only the hero himself, but also the book that shares his name.
Hercules’ reputation as a crazy, washed up drunk who only makes things worse when he gets involved is encapsulated by this post-heroism encounter with a father and son:
Sick burn on Peter Parker.
I’m bummed that so many of Marvel’s titles have taken a similar tongue-in-cheek tone as of late, but viewed in isolation a lot of great books have come out of the soft-relaunch. After flying completely under my radar, Hercules 2 was a pleasant surprise.
The Ultimates 2
Taylor: Life is tough when you’re the bad guy – no one just seems to understand you. Frequently, life as a villain isn’t made any easier by the authors who create them, who often make them one-dimensional evil-doers. No enemy has suffered as much from this as big, poor Galactus. The giant one is just so god damn hungry that he has to eat entire planets! Few comics have actually devoted much attention to the why he eats planets, instead choosing to focus on the danger to the inhabitants of said eaten planet. Capitalizing on the promise of doing things differently made in issue 1, Ultimates 2 dares ask just why is Galactus so hungry. In doing so the Galactus problem is not only solved, but turned into a source of good.
Galactus is threatening to eat planets again when the Ultimates show up. It turns out they’ve found the old space junk that made Galactus into what he is today. It’s some sort of fusion generator or something like that and is currently being used to enslave a planet. The Ultimates stop that from happening and use the chamber to transform Galactus into Lifebringer, a planet making giant!
This is fun twist to the typical Galactus story, but what I enjoyed the most about the issue is how we get a little of Galactus’ backstory. Turns out he was just a dude trying to save all life in the universe when the big bang happened and he transformed into a giant, purple, planet eating monster.
As his ship crumbles, Galan (Galactus) subverts his mission from all life must be saved to just his life should be saved. That’s a dastardly move but it’s also one I understand. Faced with my own imminent death I’m not sure exactly how I would react? Would I guarantee my own survival over that of the universe? I would like to think not, but then again I’ve never faced this particular situation before. Whatever my decision may be, I’m finding I actually understand, if not sympathize, with Galactus just a little bit here. That’s a huge improvement over the force of nature he was before and it’s great fun viewing Galactus as a human.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?