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 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.
Amazing Spider-Man 5
Patrick: 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.
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.
Captain America: Sam Wilson 4
Michael: 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.
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?
Ryan 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:
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.
Ryan 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.
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.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 2
Mark: 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.
New Avengers 4
Spencer: 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.
Drew: 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.”
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.
Venom: Space Knight 2
Patrick: 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.
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.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?