Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/9/15

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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

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All-New Hawkeye 2

All-New Hawkeye 2Spencer: 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.

New Avengers

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.

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Amazing Spider-Man 4

Amazing Spider-Man 4Drew: 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.

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Guardians of the Galaxy 4

Guardians of the Galaxy 3Patrick: 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.

Yotat knocks a dude's head clean off

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.

hala is pissed

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Gwenpool Special 1

Gwenpool Special 1Ryan 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.

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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.

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Hercules 2

Hercules 2Mark: 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:

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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 was a pleasant surprise.

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The Ultimates 2

The Ultimates 2Taylor: 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.

I MUST SURVIVE!

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.

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

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14 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/9/15

  1. I adored the Gwenpool special — and while I loved every story, I didn’t realize how much I missed Soule’s She-Hulk until I read his framing story. I love the expansion of Angie as a character, but I particularly love the was it explores “doing things for the art” vs. “doing things for the money.” While I’m sure Marvel supported Soule’s She-Hulk as much as it could, I can’t help but to see the monstrous real estate agents as big companies who can only see the realistic bottom lines of the products they peddle, and who will cut any of their stories off if they’re not bringing in enough sales. She-Hulk argues that what these stories represent is more important than money, and that they need be given a chance to grow, to reach their full potential and bring in more readers and exist for the beauty of art alone.

    It’s a critical darling vs. a sales blockbuster mentality, and I think it’s beautiful y’all.

    • Just like She-Hulk itself, it took me a second to warm up to the first chunk of this story. The Deadpool / Hawkeye / Hawkeye story was so fucking good that it made me reinvest emotionally in the whole thing, and I think you’ve totally got this thing nailed down beautifully, Spencer. It’s all about letting your freak flag fly, even if that’s not bringing in the bucks.

      Also, I must not have been paying attention when Gwen-pool was introduced in Howard the Duck. Are there just Universes where Gwen became any superhero? Gwen-Pool, Spider-Gwen, Captain Gwenmerica, Iron Gwen, Gwthor? Dr. Stacy, Sorceress Supreme? GWENOR THE SUBMARINER? Look, I’m just saying, if someone wanted to put together a Gwen-Verse mini-series, I’d read the fuck out of it.

  2. I find all of the extra panel-noise that Rocafort uses FASCINATING. There are so many different ways to read it, but I think it works best at depicting broken characters (which is why I liked it so much in Red Hood and the Outlaws, and so little in Superman). Ultimates 2 is telling the story of sort of an uber broken man – one so villainous we dare not humanize. There are a couple pages that have extra tiny panels that appear to just be falling off the page, and while I know that’s maybe just a quirk of Rocafort’s drawing style, it’s a fucking awesome character detail.

  3. Other than Gwenpool being fantastically charming, and much better than I expected from a Christmas special, not much to say. So instead, going to do a big, complex essay on the Ultimates

    I didn’t have the highest opinion of the first issue of the Ultimates, but I was fascinated by the idea of how do you solve Galactus. When I came to reading this issue, I was surprised just how excited I was, and then it ends with Galactus solved, which sounds underwhelming.

    I have used the Martian as the point of comparison to Ewing’s Avenger titles, so it is important to understand how the Martian works. The Martian, famously, is 99% scientifically accurate, but the accuracy isn’t why the Martian works (though realism does work really well aesthetically for the type of story the Martian is).

    The Martian sets up an impossible challenge, which is that Mark Wattney is trapped on Mars, and needs to get home to Earth. It then breaks this challenge down into smaller components. How is Wattney going to eat? How is Wattney going to contact NASA? These smaller challenges are what makes the Martian work. Because a series of smaller challenges seems achievable. Every success leads to a new problem, and then another, and another, until Wattney is back home. Add some mistakes and accidents that make things even harder, and you have a cracking narrative.

    Ultimates presents itself with an impossible challenge. How do you solve Galactus? Then solves it in two issues. It feels simplistic because of it. Apparently, all you needed to solve Galactus was to shoot him until he falls into his birthing chamber, then give it enough energy.

    If Ewing wanted to have the Ultimates solve impossible problems, he needs to make sure the challenges feel sufficiently impossible. Otherwise, Galactus will be solved in a disappointing manner.

    If I was writing the Ultimates, I would have placed a timer on the Ultimates, by having Galactus threaten something (personally, I would make an excuse for why he is hungrier and more powerful than usual, and say that he is somehow going to eat an entire space sector, to make really clear why he needs to be solved, instead of this being like any other Galactus story). Then, I would have the Ultimates start from scratch. No plan, and actually have to do the investigation to even consider using the birthing chamber. Make acquiring the birthing chamber an epic task in itself, instead of just beating up a generic warlord. Have them make a plan, and have it go very wrong, and they lose something valuable and helpful. Do an entire issue dedicated to the issues of making the birthing chamber have enough power, instead of a quick solution.

    Quite simply, instead of having the Ultimates walk in with a plan and have it go almost perfectly, with the smallest problem (power) getting solved instantly with some Iso-8 and a superhero power combo, make them panic and work hard for each and every success.

    Because otherwise, it feels too easy. If you open the Ultimates with the challenge of solving Galactus, you have to earn it. I want to see some real sweat and tears be shed. Because a challenge like that needs to be earned.

    The Ultimates didn’t earn the success. So Galactus being turned in the Lifebringer felt false. It felt like Ewing cheated.

    • I agree that it felt trivial due to the timing of the solution. I actually reread it because I thought I missed something. Oh, he’s making life now? Cool. That was quick.

      There needed to be either (or both) more tension because Galactus was either an immediate threat or because the steps needed to stop a future Galactus invasion were dangerous and important (important enough for each step to take an issue or two). Instead, BOOM, Galactus solved.

      It’s a fine comic. It just didn’t quite reach its lofty promise.

      • Summed up my big essay in one paragraph.

        I think the new status quo could be interesting, and could lead to a decent story down the line. But this was disappointing, as it promised the world and was… fine

  4. Hawkeye was good.

    Hercules was great (again). It is easily top 5 ANAD Marvel. I swear, to me it’s this rebranding’s Marvel Now Hawkeye. How does a hero who’s washed up spiritually (but still in his prime physically) cope with getting his shit back together turns out to be a hell of a hook. I’m completely engaged in this story.

    Seriously, read Hercules.

    I haven’t had time to read Amazing Spider-Man or Guardians yet. Or Scarlet Witch.

    I did have time to read Black Knight #2, which was much better than issue #1 and at least started to tell a story I might be interested in. I also read Spider-Man 2099 #4 which is still a character that i’m invested in. It looks great, Peter David writes this character as well as anyone, and it’s a fun story. It’s downfall is obvious – how many Spider-Man stories do we need right now? There sure are a lot…

    • Oh, I didn’t mention Hawkeye. Yeah, Hawkeye was good. Wish Noh-Varr wasn’t a part of it, as I think the idea of Noh-Varr being an important part of Kate’s life goes against the point that Gillen wanted to make with their relationship. But I think it was the best issue of the Lemire/Perez run yet. Everything seems to be falling into place, finally.

      I am avoiding Scarlet Witch like a plague. What part of ‘James Robinson writing a Scarlet Witch comic about female magic’ sounds good? James Robinson’s character voices always sound mechanical, Scarlet Witch is more plot device than character and why the hell are we creating arbitrary gender divisions in magic?

      I should try Hercules. You are convincing me

      • James Robinson wrote the 12 issue Shade maxi-series about 5 years ago. I thought it was great. I haven’t loved a lot of the other things he’s written since then (although his run on Fantastic Four was better I thought than others gave credit for), but if he can get a sense of the weird and displaced with Wanda like he did with Richard Swift, the book might be a winner.

        It might not – I have zero interest in the character. But I’ll give a Robinson magic book a chance (I’m giving a lot of books chances on the non-reboot).

        • Yeah, I’m got a short no-fly list for my personal pull, and James Robinson is on there. I have no doubt that he must have done something amazing at some point, but nothing I’ve read from him in the last 4 years has felt honest to me.

        • Never felt him dishonest. Just overly mechanical, with lacking any sense of soul. Apparently his Starman (which the Shade miniseries being a decade later spinoff) was fantastic, but everything I have read recently doesn’t read right. Feels like he has kept all the worst aspects of older comic writing, and trying to write modern stories, and get the worst of both worlds

        • I tried to read Scarlet Witch last night. Admittedly, I tried to read it after teaching all day, being stuck behind an accident for an hour, playing a 5 hour poker tournament, and getting home at midnight after leaving for work at 6am.

          I couldn’t read it. I actually put it down and decided i’d rather not read.

          I kind of liked his mini-Fantastic Four run last year. I really liked his Shade. I’ve not liked much else by him recently. I’ll try again this weekend, but I’ve got a huge to-read pile, so this will be at the bottom of the list.

    • Read Hercules 2 without reading 1, so I might have missed some nuance, but I liked it. The concept is good and all the scene with Herc dealing with the public is fun, and I love his fortune teller friends (although it sucks she seemingly meeting her end).

      But the stuff with Herc’s landlord grinded my gears. Her conversation with Herc’s friend felt really stilted and preachy to me. It was a tough scene to get through in an otherwise good issue.

      • I don’t have Herc in front of me, but I’ll try to relay some info: Herc’s friend is Gilgamesh. Yes, that Gilgamesh. He’s crashing at Herc’s place. Hercules is trying to be the hero he used to be, but Gil wants to part of it, he seems happier being fat and lazy. I do think part of the story is going to be what happens when Hercules needs Gil’s help – will that drive him from his complacency or is he lost.

        It’s heavy handed, yes, and maybe issue 1 was needed to get the basis of the relationship.

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