Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/23/15

 

marvel roundup11We 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 Amazing Spider-Man 5, Sam Wilson: Captain America 4, Daredevil 2, Deadpool 4, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 2, New Avengers 4, Spider-Woman 2, and Venom: Space Knight 2.

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Amazing Spider-Man 5

Amazing Spider-Man 5Patrick: By day, I run the office of a small family-owned business – literally a Mom & Pop situation. My two bosses – let’s just keep calling them “Mom” and “Pop” have very different leadership styles, but both of them can loose sight of details because they’re too focused on big picture ideas. Mind you, this means they can accomplish some big things, but it makes me wonder what kinds of things they’re neglecting. Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Guiseppe Camuncoli’s Amazing Spider-Man 5 explores this same idea, pitting the leadership, and subsequent tunnel vision, of Spider-Man/Peter Park against Scorpio, the leader of the Zodiac.

It’s clear that the creative team loves seeing Peter take charge of a situation. One of the things I think we don’t give enough credit to Peter for is being frighteningly competent. In this issue alone, he solves the mystery of Zodiac’s plan all by himself and manages to save the lives of every single Zodiac member when Scorpio activates the suicide pills embedded in their teeth. The character is obviously at the height of his heroic abilities and it’s awesome to see Comuncoli celebrate that so freely in this issue. My favorite example has got to be when Johnny Storm asks Peter which super-advanced technological wonder they’re going to take as transportation to stop the Zodiac at the British Museum. Spider-Man, not quite cockily, but certainly self-assuredly, says he’s just take the “greatest spidey vehicle of them all” and proceeds to thwip his way around London. Cue: the first splash page in the book.

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But the final page reveal shows just how much Peter is missing by being an experts at the broad strokes of superhero-ing. Scorpio has been acting as an investor, and primary shareholder at Parker Industries, totally unnoticed by Peter. Pete also fires Sajani without investigating who might have actually been responsible for the nano-bots in the British CCTV system. He’s got aggressors infiltrating his organization on multiple fronts, and he just has no fucking clue.

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Captain America: Sam Wilson 4

Sam Wilson Captain America 4Michael: You can craft an entertaining Captain America story without a political message, but the stories that do have such a message are that much more rewarding. Sam Wilson as Captain America or the black Captain America issue” is a topic that even the least comic book-savvy American has an opinion about for no good reason at all. From what he’s written so far in Captain America: Sam Wilson, Nick Spencer is extremely aware of this fact. The hypocrisy in American politics and big corporations is so blatant that it can only be talked about sarcastically or satirically; a lot of us get our news from comedy shows after all. If the more conservative “comic fans” are going to be complaining about a black Captain America, then you might as well double down with the relevant social commentary like Nick Spencer has in Captain America: Sam Wilson 4.

Spencer and artist Paul Renaud make it abundantly clear who the real villains in this country are, as classic Cap villains the Serpent Squad serve as Wall Street consultants. How freaking perfect was Renaud’s visual of Viper cracking jokes with the Wall Street big wigs on the golf course? There’s great comedic timing with the script working in tandem with that image too.

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It’s refreshing that Spencer never paints Sam Wilson as the infallible champion of civil liberty either. Like the traditional Peter Parker, Sam is cast in the role of good guy with terrible luck. It’s obvious that Spencer takes great joy in Sam’s Cap-Wolf status with every chance that he gets. Were-wolf jokes and flagrant political commentary – what else could you want from a comic book?

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Daredevil 2

Daredevil 2Ryan D: Though Drew and Patrick already did a better job than I could discussing how the status quo shifted into Soule and Garney’s new Daredevil, the basic take-away is that DD is dark now. Super dark. This aggressive take on Matt Murdock has no support network (bai, Foggy), no issues with his secret identity, and no catholic qualms- three staples which have bound the character together since I started reading him during that bleak and beautiful Bendis/Brubaker run; however, Daredevil finally has himself a bonafide sidekick! And before you say anything: no,  White Tiger does not count as a sidekick, c’mon guys. Blindspot makes for an interesting compliment to DD, and having just watched Max Landis’ video on the narrative potential, I am excited to see how Soule can play with their dynamic.

Speaking of dynamics, a good share of this issue focuses upon the disparity between Murdock and his current nemesis, the crime boss Ten Fingers:

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Colorist Matt Milla uses colors thematically here to contrast the warm, boiling energy of a budding crime syndicate  with the cool, timeless blues and whites of the process of the law. This new villain seems particularly pertinent, as he preys upon the recently immigrated still searching for identity and a new foundation. Seeing as the Chinese comprise the top source for newly admitted immigrants into NYC, with 40% of those do so seeking asylum, this plot stems from a very real place.

With The Hand joining the fray, this creative team’s earnest take of a Daredevil on the offensive seems like it will be kicking into high gear. As long as they can keep the human element of the character alive through the relationship between hero and hero-in-training, then this series seems to be heading in a very entertaining, cohesive direction.   

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Deadpool 4

Deadpool 4Ryan M.:  There are not a lot of surprises to be had in Deadpool 4.  For example, the rainbow-colored Deadpool costumes is treated like a reveal. We end one page with Deadpool and his tailor looking off the page. They are commenting on what we can’t see. On the following page, the image of the new costumes takes up half the page, with the panel slipping behind the next.

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This would be a pretty neat moment. Putting these characters in these colors offers a chance for grumpy banter and, somehow, every color but red looks silly. However, all of the potential narrative power of this moment is diffused by the fact that the ROYGBIV Deadpools are featured on the cover of the issue. Anyone who is reading the issue has been exposed to the image. The cover even hints at another unsurprising outcome. Madcap has betrayed Deadpool. He has a dark obsession with Deadpool that started when they shared a consciousness. You wanna know how writer Gerry Duggan communicated Madcap’s creepy infatuation? With a freaking serial killer wall. I know that Deadpool books can use tropes purposefully but this wall of crudely drawn vignettes from Deadpool’s life only provides a opportunity for exposition. I will admit that I may start using the exclamation “Odin’s prostate!”

Midway through the issue, Steve Rogers and Deadpool have to stop a group of possessed men wearing red stocking caps and the issue ends with Madcap setting a different be-stockinged group out into the city. Instead of being worse or more challenging to our hero, it just feels like a redo. This may just be an off issue, but right now it feels like the story is spinning its wheels.

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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 2

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 2Mark: I’m not even sure how to put the distinction into words, but where Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 1 felt familiar but fresh, this issue suffers from feeling route. Unlike last time, (adult) readers know every beat of the issue before it happens because we’ve seen it in countless stories and movies before; even the Killer Folk’s business in the subway is well-worn. There’s nothing wrong with tropes, there’s a reason everyone’s psyched about Star Wars right now, but even the most by-the-numbers story needs something to set it apart. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has that in Lunella, but her personality is mostly sidelined here in favor of “madcap” “action.”

Natacha Bustos’ art and Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are bright, clean, and wholly unthreatening, making this a great issue for kids just getting into comics. Hopefully next issue has more of the personality of the first, making it a great read for kids and adults alike.

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New Avengers 4

New Avengers 4Spencer: This may sound trite, but New Avengers 4 is an issue all about the power of being yourself. The clearest example is Hulkling, who finds the power to defeat Moridun (or, at least, his corporeal form) when he embraces his destiny as a Space King. Despite introducing themselves via kidnapping, the Knights of the Infinite turn out to be excellent coaches in this regard — rather than attempting to use or destroy Teddy as the Kree and the Skrull have done in the past, they allow him to make his own choices, and even allow him to return to Earth (essentially on stand-by) because they know that’s where his heart is. His home, his friends, his mission, they’re all just as integral to Teddy Altman as his lineage, and it’s all of those traits that make him powerful. Denying even one would be denying him his very strength.

Despite mainly serving as comic relief, Hawkeye gets a similar moment — he lands a significant blow to Moridun only once he owns up to the sarcastic “cool dad” moniker Songbird stuck him with rather than continue his vain attempts to be hip. At first, Billy seems to be following the same path as well, trading in his “Wiccan” codename for something a little more personal, but that development is hampered by the fact that Moridun seems to have hitched a ride in Billy’s subconscious.

In this case, embracing his destiny as the Demiurge might not be the best thing, if only because it grants Moridun access to nearly infinite power. Will that somehow distort this issue’s parable about the power of embracing your individuality? I suppose only time will tell. The same applies to Sunspot — Hawkeye’s pissed that he’s not using his abilities to help the team, but he literally can’t because of the Terrigen Mist. Would joining the fight be Roberto’s downfall, or perhaps his salvation? I’m curious to find out.

These open questions emphasize how New Avengers 4 acts more as a pause in the stories of Hulkling, Wiccan Demiurge, and Moridun than any sort of conclusion. I can understand if that’s frustrating to some, but the way writer Al Ewing acknowledges the ease of this ending and makes it clear that all these threads are going to be vital going forward smooths over the issue’s rough edges for me. Like the Knights of the Infinite, I’m gonna give New Avengers room to be itself, and just hope that it brings out the best in the title the way it did for Teddy.

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Spider-Woman 2

Spider-Woman 2Drew: I’ve never really loved tracing back artists’ influences. Part of that may just be that my own catalogue of artists isn’t extensive enough to recognize their influence, but I think a bigger part is that it minimizes the artistic merit of the artist we’re actually discussing. Case in point: Javier Rodriguez’s career has had him coloring the work of fantastic artists like Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, so its easy to trace Rodriguez’s work on Spider-Woman to their influence. That’s not to say Rodriguez isn’t a fantastic artist in his own right — indeed, his work is distinctive even when I can’t see either of those influences — just that he’s picked up on the strengths of other great artists he’s worked closely with over the years. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say he’s succeeded in making those strengths his own. As Pablo Picasso said (or, rather, probably didn’t say), “good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

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Seriously, though, the figures and the paneling are so evocative of Rivera, I’d have no trouble at all believing this was him. Of course, that might actually trace back to Rodriguez’s colors — it’s the common thread between this issue and much of Rivera’s work, and is certainly distinctive in its own right.

But maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about attribution — this issue is gorgeous, and, if anything, “looks like it was drawn by Paolo Rivera” is a compliment. More importantly, the art supports the story beautifully, pacing out surprises and jokes (and surprise jokes) perfectly. Rodriguez is able to capture the chaos of battle, but also makes sense of some drastically different locations throughout the issue. Whatever alchemy is behind his style, there’s no denying that it’s a great fit for this series.

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Venom: Space Knight 2

Venom Space Knight 2Patrick: Ariel Olivetti’s art style seems like a natural fit for for a Venom series. His watercolor-esque shaping gives a visceral scene of bulging to the muscles on the bodies of his characters. It’s not exactly realistic, but it does cross that uncanny threshold, making an ultra-fit body look damn near horrifying. And that’s a big theme of the Venom symbiote – it takes over a living host and makes it into something powerful and scary. However, that’s not what Venom: Space Knight is about, and Robbie Thompson’s lighthearted script ends up being weirdly mis-matched with Olivetti’s grounded-but-gruesome style. Seriously, Thompson’s script has Flash doing downright cute things – like using his suit to create a bubble to rescue an alien race from “heat rain” or cracking jokes with aliens who simply refuse to get them. Olivetti’s art does not meet Thompson half way, which is weird enough in its own right, but I’m not even sure the design of Venom is consistent with Olivetti’s style. With his huge legs and arms which seem to get heavier the further down they go, Venom almost looks like a Chris Sanders design. Unfortunately, Olivetti’s slavish devotion to detail makes those body shapes look downright uncomfortable and impractical, instead of, y’know, charming and curvy.

dat venom design tho

I’d be interested to see how everyone else feels about the art here. It’s a hurdle I’m having a hard time overcoming – even when Thompson writes a clever interaction between his characters, or delivers compelling twists, I can’t look past these incongruous visuals.

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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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12 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/23/15

  1. Daredevil: This was the Matt as prosecutor stuff we should have got last issue! And I appreciate how this issue deepened Tenfingers, turning him from generic crook into something more. But I think that has meant that Tenfingers has been rushed, and there has been no clear establishment of what the powers he stole actually do. Instead, as soon as he uses them in any real degree, the Hand is turning up. So far, Soule’s Daredevil looks like it is going to be very uneven. A rough balance, equally interesting and infuriating in turn. Certainly a change from Waid’s consistent but inert run, but a long way from Daredevil’s glory days

    Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: The ‘girl and her dinosaur’ stuff at the end is good. The same tropes, but the art makes it adorable, and makes you care. This should have been the focus of the issue, as it was the best part. But between alright road hijinks and the simple fact that the killer folk are terrible villains, this comic isn’t working as it should

    New Avengers: WHY IS EWING RUSHING HIS AVENGERS STORIES! His first New Avenger story, unlike his first Ultimates story, worked as two issues even as it was obvious that it would have been so much better if it was longer, with a more complex problem/solution. But Ewing hasn’t managed to space things out here. I mean, Wiccan changing his name to Demiurge is supposed to be paying off his talk with Power Man, but the scene played out as incidental conversation, not as an actual dialogue (also, I really don’t care for the idea of discussing the problems with the ‘Wiccan’ name, simply because I know that ultimately it will be lip service.)

    But that is only a small example. The big fight with Moridun is poor. In an old Guardians of the Galaxy comic, during the days when the only person who read it was a guy named Kevin*, there was a story, where the Guardians in the Galaxy had to fight the Magus in a very similar situation. Big fight against an evil figure in space, where Star Lord had a weapon of such power that he could win with just that, only for the twist to be that Magus wasn’t defeated, but tricked everyone. But it was handled so much better than this. Part of it is quite simply because Star Lord had a Cosmic Cube, something we know is a big deal, and therefore understand the power level and accept how it can defeat the Magus, as opposed to a brand new sword. Part of it was the fact that since only Kevin was reading it, they could shake things up, and trick you into thinking half the cast actually died in the fight. But in truth, it was because it felt earned. The Guardians truly had to fight for it, and even with a Cosmic Cube on their side, it felt sufficiently difficult. It felt like a satisfying climax to the story, so that when the plot twist occurred, it was truly a twist. Here, Moridun’s defeat feels like such and anti climax that the twist that he is inside Wiccan doesn’t work. You are so disconnected from the story, you don’t care about the fate of Moridun

    And then there is the fact that these two issues are so generic. Arthurian Legends applied to sci fi, fighting an eldritch abomination is a good idea. Except Ewing takes the worst possible angle. It is Arthurian Cliche with Space Elves fighting Cthulhu. Moridun is a fantastic idea, a mage from a previous instance of the universe that, in the post-Secret Wars new universe, has found a chance to return, but when he is just a big monster full of the generic aspects of Cthulhu, I can’t help but get bored

    At least I get to make jokes about Bennet and Ewing competing for the crown of ‘next Gillen’. Because the combination of English King Arthur mythology and a Killers reference is so, so Gillen. Even if it lacks Gillen’s quality

    *Who loved the comic so much, he decided to make the movie, creating Marvel’s best movie, and one of the most successful

    Spiderwoman: Basically, does what I hoped last issue. A more traditional structure lets the exploration of Jessica dealing with being pregnant a lot better. Really enjoyed it

    • The Killer Folk might be weak villains, but I did laugh out loud when they strolled out of the subway wearing stolen clothes. It’s just a very funny drawing.

      I had a little bit harder time getting into the “Girl and her Dinosaur” angle of this because I don’t get how Lunella can be SO CHILL being dragged around New York City stuck in Devil’s maw. She can be a defiant kid all she wants – that’s a goddamned red dinosaur. Is she not scared of him because she’s not scared of the kids and teachers at school that harass her? I still don’t get this kid.

      • I found the stolen clothes gag to be the far-too-obvious gag to make, and also used the space to avoid making the killer-folk in any way interesting or threatening.

        I found Luna getting dragged aorund New York alright. I think that she did display a bit of fear, desperately trying to control the situation and then making mistakes and destroying her robot bug she was using. And she was scared at the end, where the comic actually worked.

        Sadly, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur isn’t working as well as I’d hoped

      • Last issue I found Lunella to be irritating and hoped she’d be eaten by a dinosaur. This issue there was no irritation, just boredom, and I’m ready for Devil Dinosaur to go back to the Savage Land, Lunella to go back to middle school, and the Killer Folk back to a Kirby museum.

        A gigantic red dinosaur appeared from a weird vortex, picked up one of the smartest 10 year olds on the planet, stomped around Manhattan, destroyed millions of dollars of property, and it was boring. At least last issue inspired some passion in me, this issue convinced me to not read issue 3. It joins Contest of Champions and Starlord (one word) on my dropped list (probably to be joined by Drax, Howling Commandos and Carnage this week).

        • The thing about Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is that it will be so easy to fix. Once they get it right, you can ignore the bad start. Just got to hope they do so.

          I’m giving it till the Hulk shows up, as I think the Hulk is the perfect ‘villain’ for this book

        • You know, I agreed briefly about the idea that the Hulk might be great. Then I read the blurb for it:

          A dinosaur loose in an elementary school! Somebody call for backup! • Enter AMADEUS CHO – TOTALLY AWESOME HULK/monster hunter! • But can MOON GIRL’s brains and DEVIL DINOSAUR’s brawn take down a HULK?

          I don’t think I want to read that story. 1 and 2 will sit in a box in my comic room. In a year, I’m guessing if I want to read later issues, they’ll be available for a buck.

        • Really? That blurb seems to be exactly what the book should be doing. A ‘villain’ powerful enough to challenge Devil Dinosaur, smart enough to challenge Moon Girl, force a story about co operation, and require a resolution based on Moon Girl having to be empathetic and learn how to actual connect with another person. Added of Hulk having such a different body profile to Devil Dinosaur, which means we get an interesting fight

        • Really. Hulks not a villain, he’s a good guy. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur aren’t villains, they’re good guys. I’ve read enough misunderstanding fights about characters I’m invested in. Hulk mistakenly thinks he has to stop Devil in a school because there’s a t-rex in a school isn’t what I want to read. I’d be interested if it were one of the Hulk’s villains, like Abomination or Absorbing Man, or even a regular villain like Sandman or Juggernaut or Rhino.

          Have the Lizard show up and try to recuit Devil Dinosaur. Or Stegron. This path doesn’t interest me.

        • I’d love all those villains to turn up later. A good villain who can fight hard would be great for the book (part of the problem with the Killer Folk is that you just can’t buy them as threats for Devil Dinosaur).

          Still, I think that a good misunderstanding fight is still worth doing. Just has to be done right. I think Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a new enough book that it makes sense. It is an organic continuation, and not forced out of a need to follow the tropes of comic books

    • Yeah, what he said about New Avengers. I’m so close to liking it, instead I don’t. I liked it more than Angela, but I like pulp fictions (which this is) more than I like paranormal romance (which is what Angela is, even though it turns out the story isn’t too bad when the book actually pays attention to the story), and it turns out it doesn’t matter if the writers are trying to sound like hip-Gillen or not. I still am probably dropping New Avengers because I don’t care about the characters, but at least I like the story style.

      I think I have to give a shit about Wiccan/Demiurge to give a shit about this comic, and nothing has ever made me give a shit about him as a character.

      • I think the real problem with Ewing’s stuff at the moment is the ‘story style’. Basically, he has settled on a structure that is heavily plot based, character light. This isn’t a bad thing, and strong emphasis in plot can be used to great effect for thematic purposes etc. I could list all sorts of things that emphasize plot to create something great.

        The problem is the third part of his structure, which is ‘each story is two issues’. His stories don’t fit in two issues. Which means the plots feel rushed, which in deadly when you have made the choice to emphasize plotting over character

  2. Spider-Woman is delightfully fun. I like the art, it’s a style that I really, really find pleasing. I like the story and I liked the variety of pregnant humanoids. Two issues in and it’s getting an A from me. That’s something, because I’m not a fan at all of other Spider-Woman or Captain Marvel stories.

    Deadpool: Is it too harsh to say Deadpool was better with Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan than just Gerry Duggan? If it’s not too harsh, Deadpool was better when Posehn was co-writer. This just isn’t working for me at all. The last volume of Deadpool confirmed me as a fan (Remender’s handling of Deadpool in Secret Avengers was outstanding and made me like what I considered a mostly unreadable character), much to my surprise. I may continue following the story, but I’m not sure. It’s pretty far down on my list.

    Angela, Queen of meta-commentary: If you’re going to try to immitate Kieron Gillen’s style, that’s cool. He’s popular. However, I can’t stand his too cool for school teen schmarm, which is what’s being copied here. His serious stuff holds up very well for me (Uber is still one of the ten best comics out there), but this is just a cheap rip-off of his stuff that I find irritating. The thing that sucks is: THE STORY IS GOOD. I just can’t handle the dialogue. It’s not funny, it’s not believable, nearly every page rips me out of the story and makes me want to punch someone in the face. Except I usually read alone, so there’s too much self abuse. Fuck this book, it could be great. I don’t understand it at all, but journeying to hell to win back the girl that you put there or put there for you or killed and put there or whatever happened (I can’t tell, I keep having to skip the fucking words) while beating back the challenges is freaking awesome. Now if they’d just shut the hell up I might keep reading it.

    Venom: I only know Olivetti’s art from a pretty terrible ww2 pilot vs dinosaur book by DC a couple years ago. It’s a striking and unique style, and it fails this book in places that require human interactions, but is awesome for space and monster fighting. This book succeeds as a pulp action adventure with a superstar football player fighting a merciless empire in space…. this book is Flash Gordon. Finally. Flash Thompson gets to be Flash Gordon, and this also has been my favorite Venom story ever. I have never, ever liked the symbiotes as villains or characters, but this has turned me. I think this rocks.

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