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 Inhumans 2, All-New X-Men 2, Amazing Spider-Man 1.1, Ms. Marvel 2, Silk 2, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 3, Uncanny Inhumans 3, Web Warriors 2 and Weirdworld 2
All-New Inhumans 2
Patrick: Crystal and the crew of the RIV have a pretty clear mission: they act as diplomats to counties that have been effected by the roving cloud of terrigen mist, providing refuge for any NuHuman that sprung from said mist. Their mission puts them on a global stage, but in a very insular capacity – they’re not to intervene in non-inhuman related injustices. Issue two tests this conceit in an uncomfortably familiar setting. The characters may be saying Sin-Cong, but they’re very clearly in North Korea, and a short-statured dictator, Kim Jong Un in everything but name, insists that a) his country is a magnanimous global superpower and b) there are no filthy inhumans living among his subjects. Crystal knows full well that the she and her team are being lied to about the former, and has no evidence that the later isn’t true, so she ultimately makes the heartbreaking decision not to confront the atrocities in front of her. Writers James Asmus and Charles Soule push this tension well past a typical hero’s breaking point – not only is Crystal perfectly willing to swallow her heroism to watch Sin Cong soldier’s torture and kill subjects of awful biological experiments, she plays the “I’m just a silly emotionally girl” car when Flint slips up and springs into action.
This same yucky hypocrisy is tracking in the story of the recon team, which follows Naja, Grid and Panacea on the less public-facing side of this mission. They attempt to find Inhumans, but the power signature they end up tracing is really radiation from the Leader’s experiments, and instead of finding potential allies, all they find are poor people who are sick and dying. Again, because the Inhuman mission is so specific, they can’t even afford to intervene and heal the sick, even though Pan could do it just by laying hands on them. It’s a fascinating look at the responsibilities of an incredibly power sovereign nation as they pursue their own interests across the globe. Interestingly, the Commisar tells a similar story about his father luring the Avengers to fight a giant robot soldier of his own creation. The Avengers presumably fought the robot — because if they’re good for anything, it’s fighting robots — but stopped short of helping the obviously oppressed people of this country. Why? Because that’s outside of their purview.
The thing is, it’s not even like a change-of-heart sets Crystal on the right path by the end of the issue. Instead, the entire RIV has the same horrifying dream of Sin Gong soldiers burning people and inhuman pods alive. Kudos to artist Stefano Caselli and colorist Andrews Mossa for making that sequence as horrifying as possible.
Sure, that forces Crystal’s hand. But man, you just can’t shake the hope that she would have been able to act without being so personally effected, right?
All-New X-Men 2
Spencer: The strongest thread of Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagely’s All-New X-Men continues to be their exploration of young Scott Summers and the way his future counterpart has seemingly screwed him over; considering the significance of OE Scott’s death in the current X-Men mythos, I can understand why it’s taking such a prominent role in this debut arc, but it does leave the rest of the team a bit in the lurch. Edie and Evan are still essentially ciphers at this point, and Wolverine and Angel rehash the same conflict they’ve had time and time before. The only non-Scott character who gets anything even close to a juicy moment is Iceman.
It makes perfect sense that Bobby would use jokes to hide his real feelings and avoid talking about any of his actual issues (including how he’s dealing with coming out, which is what I assume Hank was about to ask him in the second-to-last panel), but even this is mostly just setting up conflicts for future issues as opposed to affecting the current plot. For the moment, All-New X-Men is still the Scott Summers show, and while Hopeless spins a fine Cyclops yarn, it’s still a bit disappointing to see a team book maintain such a narrow focus. Here’s hoping they come together sooner rather than later.
Amazing Spider-Man 1.1
Drew: Superheroes have a lot of parents. There are the people that created them, sure, but there are also all of the other writers and artists (and actors and directors) who have portrayed them over the years. The result is a diverse characterization — some might call it “dynamic” or “uneven” depending on their inclinations to certain of these characterizations, but they’re undeniably part of virtually every superhero. What’s stranger is that, for the most popular characters, these characterizations might be actively embraced by different creative teams at the same time. Batman might be clever and cunning in Batman, but brutish and cynical in Detective Comics, for example. Strangely, for all of the comics I read, I tend to avoid reading multiple interpretations of the same character at the same time — not because I’m obsessed with continuity or consistency, but because I tend to favor certain characterizations over others. Which is to say, Jose Molina’s Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man 1.1 is noticeably different from Dan Slott’s, and I’m afraid the difference only helped me understand how much I value Slott’s version
Molina introduces his Peter singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with altered lyrics, filling them with strained rhymes and non-sequiturs.
Jokiness is always part of Peter’s characterization, but here, it curdles into a Deadpool-like patter, where Peter remarks on the shittiness of his own joke to nobody in particular, which sure makes it seem like he’s talking directly to the audience. Or maybe I just don’t like the joke — to me, “is that a reindeer” is no worse (or better) than “ol’ Bloomies is gouging,” so I’m not really sure why Peter singles out that one as remarkable. Moreover, in Slott’s characterization, the jokes serve a function, distracting the criminals Spider-Man is fighting. Here again, Peter’s song and self-deprecation aren’t said to anyone (other than maybe the reader), which may actually make them more obnoxious.
The story otherwise is decidedly banal, more focused on establishing the central mystery than anything else. This means the Santerians — billed on the cover as guest-starring — only show up on the final spread. I’m not familiar with that team, but their presence suggests that magical things are indeed afoot, which also separates this from Slott’s equally fantastical, but generally sci-fi-based run. I suspect mileage will vary on Molina’s approach (this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen Peter characterized in this way), but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Ms. Marvel 2
Taylor: When you’re a super hero, you quickly learn that evil takes many forms. There’s your basic doom-bringers and chaos causers as well as those villains who subvert good in more insidious ways. The Roxxon corporation is a good example of the latter because while it’s not explicitly trying to conquer the Earth, it’s goal is to do just that only through the use of capitalism instead of force. HYDRA, meanwhile, is the former of these two evils. It openly tries to destroy and kill that which stands for good and is, shall we say, more straight forward in its bid for world power.
Considering this, it comes as sort of a surprise to me that HYDRA is behind a nefarious plot to try and disgrace Kamela Khan while also attempting to take over her city through the use of…gentrification?
The idea of Hydra using “investment opportunities” to take over Hope Yards feels a little weird to me. First, Hydra isn’t about this sort of thing. IF they want to take something over they’ll send in a bunch of henchmen and maybe a B-level super villain to do the job. But brainwashing people with soda and underhanded market tactics strikes me as a bit weird. Additionally, I’m used to HYDRA trying to pull off some seriously evil shit like killing an entire town, not just taking it over. Gentrification is presented here as being almost as bad murder and I find that a hard message to take. Sure, gentrification has it’s drawbacks, but it’s not necessarily evil. I get that writer G. Willow Wilson is trying to make a statement about the process here in a fun way, but it just seems a bit out of place in this comic. While that doesn’t make this a bad issue, it does it make it the first Ms. Marvel I haven’t enjoyed from beginning to end in a long time.
Ryan M.: When I’m over-extended, the first thing to go is a good night’s sleep. I can’t make a day any longer or my Christmas gift-knitting go any faster, but I can squeeze a few more hours in by staying up later and setting the alarm for earlier. Now, I’m not equating my pre-holiday crunch with Silk’s moonlighting as a villain and a double agent while holding down her day job and trying to unravel the mystery surrounding her brother’s injury, but I do feel her pain.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 3
Taylor: It probably comes as no surprise to anyone now that Squirrel Girl defeats her enemies in a atypical ways. This is basically her M.O., it’s her super power more so than her ability to talk to squirrels. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me then that her best friend and compatriot, Nancy, would similarly use smarts to defeat evil. For Nancy, however, the need to defeat a badguys with smarts is one that comes from necessity. She doesn’t have super powers so it’s either outsmart the enemy or be defeated.
In Squirrel Girl 3, Nancy does just this. When Dr. Doom (from the past) shows up in the present, Nancy jumps into action to try and get him returned to his own time. The only thing is, Doom doesn’t want to go back since that’s where Doreen is. Nancy, not to be deterred, uses logic to convince Doom that it would be best to go back after all.
She basically uses reverse psychology here to convince Doom. This is an old trick I’ve seen heroes use time and time again, but here it doesn’t feel stale. Perhaps it’s Doom’s verbose language that does the trick for me or maybe it’s knowing that ultimately this plan just makes things worse. Whatever the case, it’s just damn entertaining and I laugh every time I look at the panel of Doom’s eyes where he’s contemplating things. Squirrel Girl is made of moments like these and this is what makes it continually an outstanding comic month after month.
Uncanny Inhumans 3
Patrick: One of the things I dread about reading comic books is that the stories inevitably march toward a knockdown drag-out punch-em-up between good and evil. It’s a necessity of the genre, even if that also seems to be a dimension of storytelling that still images on a page seem particular poor at conveying. Plus, y’know I’m a 33 year-old man: I’m much more interested in seeing character effect each other emotionally than hit each other in the face. It’s shocking then, that Charles Soule and Steve McNiven’s battle between Inhumans past and present in Uncanny Inhumans 3 is so much fun.
Part of that is that Soule and McNiven go through some particular pains to make sure every one gets an opportunity to use their powers in the fight. And that’s so important for this particular team. If anyone needs a demonstration of what the Inhumans can actually do — and let’s be honest: that’s everyone — this issue is a pretty good primer for that. We even get to see more subtle things, like just what Medusa is able to do with her prehensile hair. It’s a suit of armor, or a set of tendrils that can snatch arrows out of the air. The best has to be McNiven’s portrayal of Black Bolt’s voice, which gets a full page of preamble, followed by two pages of Human-Torch-vaporizing action.
I mean, look at that – not even the panel structure can withstand the voice of that thing! But the best part about this page-ripping power is that Black Bolt has to eventually use it to obliterate his own son – a fact that Soule doesn’t let the cast linger on for more than two panels, before Medusa announces a plan to save Ahura. Looks like we’ll be back in the high concept time travel mumbo-jumbo next time, but this was a nice, straightforward palette cleanser in the meantime.
Web Warriors 2
Spencer: While I enjoyed the plot, the best part of the “Spider-Verse” crossover was, without a doubt, getting to explore the Multiverse and discover each universe’s outrageous new incarnation of Spider-Man. Mike Costa and David Baldeon’s Web Warriors has yet to find that kind of unlimited scope with its heroes, so it’s handy that the villainous league of Electros is on hand to spice things up with imaginative cross-dimensional business plans and members who are actually horses. It’s zany stuff, and most of Web Warriors 2‘s best moments are similarly based in humor — I’ll never get enough of Costa poking fun at typical team book conventions.
Drew: It’s tempting to review this issue simply as successfully depicting a “weird world,” but I think that might overlook just how much fun this series promises to be. It maintains the Wonderland logic and gorgeous Mike Del Mundo art from the Battleworld series, but replaces the protagonist with a much more relatable modern Earth human, Becca Rodriguez. Apparently she was brought to Weirdworld by a wizard, who is promptly killed by Goleta the Wizardslayer. Becca forms an alliance with Becca, which is good, because she’s also pocketed the magical macguffin that teleported her from Earth. Maybe she’ll be able to use it to get back (though her partnership with Goleta may make it difficult to find a living wizard), but it seems Morgan Le Fay is also looking for that macguffin.
Sorry to just regurgitate the premise, but it’s hard to express what’s fun about this issue without expressing how batshit it is. Fuzzy wizards and hulking wizardslayers make some kind of sense in the same world, but Becca also encounters some kind of flying tentacle monster and a few other bug-eyed horrors. The plot seems straightforward enough, but you never know when Weirdworld might just send in a flock of flying noses or something to muck up the works. Case in point: some kind of winged cat emerges from the slain wizard, vowing to go after Becca and Goleta. Is this cat related to Morgan Le Fay, or does it have its own agenda (possibly related to the slaying of the wizard it was inside)? We’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime, we can rest assured that the answer will be weird.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?