Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/1/16

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Due to a shipping / marketing snafu, Marvel ended up releasing a bunch of comics on January 1, 2016. That’s right: a holiday and a Friday. Thanks guys, that doesn’t screw up our schedule at all. But that’s why we’ve got round ups. All Hail The Round-Up! Today, we’re discussing Amazing Spider-Man 6, Howard the Duck 3 and Rocket Raccoon and Groot 1.

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Amazing Spider-Man 6

Amazing Spider-Man 6Spencer: At one point in Dan Slott and Matteo Buffagni’s Amazing Spider-Man 6, Peter comments that “All of Parker Industries’ greatest discoveries have come from helping Spidey out.” Maybe that was true at the company’s inception, but I’m not sure if Peter is fully aware of how much Parker Industries has evolved, and how much Spider-Man’s role has evolved with it.

Spider-Man’s new role is addressed rather well by his appearance in the issue — he only shows up for one scene, chasing a crook mostly to get the Police off of Parker Industries’ back. Indeed, it feels like Peter’s statement is backwards; Spider-Man has become an agent who protects Parker Industries and continues to allow them to create new inventions and spread their foundations across the world.

I bring this up because Spider-Man’s involvement in this issue is almost tangental; while Peter frets about Spider-Man’s responsibility to stop Mr. Negative, Mr. Negative himself instead attacks Peter Parker, because he’s the more important target now. At this moment in time, Peter Parker’s greatest responsibility may be to his company and to all those across the globe that Parker Industries helps, meaning that Peter falling under Negative’s thrall will likely have far greater repercussions than if Spider-Man had. This new volume of Amazing Spider-Man has found Peter making great strides into adulthood (at one moment in this issue, he even stops himself from saying something stupid by reminding himself to handle his problems like a grown-up), and I’m curious to see how he’ll continue to mature into his new role now that it’s so specifically come under fire. Will Peter’s understanding of his and Spider-Man’s new relationship with the world, their company, and each other change once Mr. Negative is dealt with? Only time will tell.

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Howard the Duck 3

Howard the Duck 3Patrick: After last-month’s powerhouse flashback, Howard the Duck 3 settles in for a little real time storytelling, just not before teasing the bizarre sight displayed on the cover: Howard the Silver Surfer. We’re not with that story long enough to understand any of it, other than the now-totally familiar image of Howard being chased by bad guys. After the recap-page, the story cheekily picks back up “one week earlier.” That not an uncommon narrative device – the flashforward to a more dramatic situation as part of a cold-open – but the degree to which this out-of-context information is divorced from what we’re seeing in real-time is pretty unprecedented. Writer Chip Zdarsky has never taken — and will never take — the form of this series too seriously. The characters and all of their emotions and motivations will always be grounded, but seemingly every other constant of comic book storytelling is up for grabs. That’s why the tease is so outrageously out-sized compared to humble show-down in the Florida swamps, but it also explains those mega-wonky editorial notes. Humorous editorial references are common place in fourth-wall bending books like Deadpool, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a set of editorial notes bend over on themselves as absurdly as they do here.

editorial note(s)

That’s two different notes to two different second issues of Howard the Duck from 2015 in the same panel. That’s the backdrop against which Howard discovers, and comes to better understand, that he is capable not only of sending characters to whatever universe he wants, but of also creating his own universe. Y’know: huge, god-like power that border on authorial. But before Zdarksy and artist Joe Quinones let this whole thing spiral out into meta-nonsense, Howard’s basic decency and empathy makes his spirit his friends to safety before his powers are put to ill-use by The Stranger. There’s a clear message there: Zdarksy can get as fucking crazy as he wants (what with time-displaced, gender-swapped transdimensional clones) as long as he honors the relationships between his characters.

That’s a trajectory that Christopher Hastings and Danilo Beyruth largely hold to in their Gwenpool back-up. Largely. I’m still not totally sure I have a handle on who Gwen is or what she values. She seems to want to be a hero, but has no real gauge for how to accomplish that other than to do what she’s told by Howard. But, she does chase his goals with an admirable disregard for her own safety – even if her drinking the Hydra virus comes off as insane, it’s the kind of sweet-insane we expect from a giddy Deadpool rip-off.

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Rocket Raccoon and Groot 1

Rocket Raccoon and Groot 1Drew: Ah, the time jump: the odd quirk of serialized storytelling that allows a creative team to turn any turn of events into a mystery. Sometimes, like in Breaking Bad‘s irregular cold opens, it takes the form of a flash-forward, as the main story slowly catches up to the mystery moment we’ve seen, but have no context for. Other times, as in Parks and Recreation‘s last season, the story simply skips ahead, carrying the characters to new situations, and explicating how they got there in passing. The most comic-book-y approach is to do both: pushing the narrative ahead, while dwelling on what got us here.

In all fairness to Rocket Raccoon and Groot, it’s not yet clear which of these routes the series will take, but issue one hints rather strongly that it’s opting for door number three, presenting a situation so foreign that we can’t help but wonder how our characters got here. Rocket is now a despot known as Lord Rakzoon, who seems to have no memory of his prior life, nor his old partner. Groot, meanwhile, has hired a pair of Rocket and Groot stand-ins to deliver himself to Rocket. Oh, and he’s also covered in carvings that make him look like Memento‘s Leonard Shelby.

Groot

Indeed, those carvings might just explain why Groot seems to remember when Rocket can’t — he’s written down all of his memories on his body. Or maybe he’s just into tattoos now. We’ll need to read more to find out, but that particular detail holds enough interest for me to press on even if the time jump feels more mysterious than it really needs to be.

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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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5 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/1/16

  1. I missed all of these (I didn’t know the shipping delay happened), and I normally read Spider-Man and Howard, but was on the fence about Rocket and Groot. I think I’m going to be in for it. You got me! My pull list is officially out of control.

    • Brother, you ain’t fooling about out-of control pulls. Marvel’s near-constant stream of new #1s make it very difficult to know where to invest your comic-bucks. I can say that I think we are currently failing at being discerning enough — unless it’s like a James Robinson series or something else I know I hate, we just end up giving chances to everything. I know everyone has to develop their own system for deciding what to buy (and how much), but man, Marvel ain’t making it easy.

      • Unwilling to go through the trouble of making a 90’s comic fan gimmick account, I’ll just say that I don’t buy anything that doesn’t have big boobs on the cover.

      • I was willing to accept that the first few months of 2016 were going to be crazy as I wanted to give Marvel’s lesser known titles a chance. I am really trying to stick through with reading the first arc of nearly everything, but I’m feeling some financial and space pressure on that. I’m also going to try to drop a Marvel title before a small publisher title.

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