Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/6/16

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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 Deadpool 5, Doctor Strange 4, The Ultimates 3 and Weirdworld 2.

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Deadpool 5

Deadpool 5Patrick: The last time I really dug into an issue of Deadpool, I was blown away by the characterization-by-subtraction approach that writer Gerry Duggan was taking for Deadpool. By letting the audience observe the various shortcomings of Deadpool’s impostors, Duggan makes a case for how well-rounded and amazing Wade Wilson really is. But it’s worth mentioning how much work has had to be done to evolve the Merc with the Mouth from the juvenile murder-fest he started as to the noble, family-man, Avengers-benefactor that we know and love now. Deadpool and to grow up, and part of that was ditching Madcap, the psychotic extra set of voice over boxes that plagued Wade for years. There’s a pretty clear metaphor in that – you have to let go of your more childish impulses in order to take your proper place in the grown-up world.

Deadpool 5 lets that metaphor ride, but like any good speculative fiction, asks the reader to consider the implausible reality of the scenario. The question that Duggan and artist Mike Hawthorne pose is: did Madcap drive Deadpool insane, or did Deadpool drive Madcap insane? The big reveal of the issue is the physical toll that existing in Deadpool’s body has taken on Madcap, transforming him face into an absolutely ghoulish figure.

Madcap is ugly

He’s so gross that the shreds of his mask hanging around his face can’t even behave like normal fabric – it’s practically dripping off of his face. It’s like everything has to ooze off of him. Hawthorne, who Madcap points out here has drawn Deadpool’s also-disgusting face a bunch, really pulls out all the stops on this grotesque design. As Madcap pulls himself together, it’s somehow more horrifying than Massacre hacking him apart.

In the end, Madcap is backed into a corner and atomizes himself, but not before asserting that there’s no way to ever get rid of him. Even at a molecular level, he’ll always be out there, somewhere. If Madcap does represent the transgressions of youth, then this ending represents that fear of backsliding into our worst tendencies. Deadpool teeters on that edge anyway — as Preston is eager to remind him with a punch in the head and a stern talkin’ to — he did just use his own daughter as bait. The issue, and by extension the story arc, ends on one of the more somber Deadpool moments we’ve seen recently: a series of movie posters celebrating Deadpool, wrecked up by the man himself, with the clearly not true “…and I’m always fine” coming out of his mouth.

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Doctor Strange 4

Doctor Strange 4Drew: Early in Doctor Strange 4, the Ancient One tells Stephen, “the harder you punch, the more it hurts you.” He’s making a point about the physical toll of sorcery, but he might as well be talking about the psychological toll of writing. There’s no doubt writer Jason Aaron has the ability to sell a “the magical world hangs in the balance!” kind of story — the real question is what kind of blowback would a story like that bring? Would it diminish any future stories with Doctor Strange? Would it shift his focus from magical doctor (who still makes house calls) to some kind of caretaker of magic itself?

It’s not entirely clear what the repercussions of this story will be, but it’s clear that Aaron is well aware of them. Of course, Aaron’s other work should make it clear that he’s not prone to runaway stakes-inflation — my favorite single issue of his remains Thor: God of Thunder 12, which immediately followed up his “Godbomb” arc, effectively proving he can sell a story with much more human stakes, even after one where the stakes were decidedly godly. The point is, Aaron seems to have already internalized the lessons Stephen is learning here, reminding us that Doctor Strange is more than this one epic story that Aaron happens to be opening with (but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying all of the epicness).

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The Ultimates 3

The Ultimates 3Spencer: One of the more interesting facets of The Ultimates thus far has been the idea of transparency and accountability. Issue 3’s conflict kicks off with the Shi’ar getting angry at the team for not consulting them about the Galactus incident, but the issue even opens with a recap page masquerading as a broadcast meant to keep the public updated on the Ultimates’ actions. Considering the sheer power of this line-up and the scope of their missions (they’re attempting to fix time itself in issue 3!), it’s certainly a wise idea, but writer Al Ewing also drops a few hints that maybe we should be reading deeper into these characters’ actions and intentions as well. Let’s look at Monica Rambeau first.

scary

The discovery that she’s essentially no longer human barely fazes her, and on the next page, Carol wonders if it even should. One of the thing I like about this series is the way the characters all admire each other’s powers and skills, but there’s something slightly eerie about this. Should we be worried, or empowered by the Ultimates so eagerly embracing the full scope of their abilities?

Then there’s Ms. America. While it hasn’t been addressed in the series proper yet, the prologue in Avengers 0 showed that America joined the team in order to keep an eye on them, which she’s clearly still doing, even if it’s something Ewing leaves for Kenneth Rocafort to convey through art rather than words (look at how America’s intent stare is the focus of the following panel, even though she’s not involved in the conversation at all).

america watches

Later in the issue America clearly takes umbrage to Blue Marvel’s claim that he discovered the Neutral Zone. Why? We’re still unsure, but I’m getting the uneasy feeling that we’re supposed to be uneasy about this team on some level. The arrival of the Anti-Man on the issue’s closing page suddenly makes this a very personal mission for Blue Marvel — if there was ever a time where he could wind up overstepping his boundaries, it would be now.

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Weirdworld 2

Weirdworld 2Taylor: I don’t consider myself a man of unusual tastes. I like pizza, basketball, and action movies among the miscellany of things I favor. Considering that, one might assume I wouldn’t be drawn to a series called Weirdworld, but after reading it’s second issue I am in love. However, I don’t think I love this title because of weirdness of it. Instead, I love it because it combines two of the things I enjoy deeply, which just so happen to be as mainstream as it gets: Adventure Time and Mad Max. 

In this issue Becca continues her misadventure in Weirdworld with Goleta, a wizard hunting barbarian. Goleta has taken Becca on as her squire and as such is training her to track wizards. Naturally this leads to all sorts of hijinks that climax in this amazing panel rendered by artist Mile Delmundo.

Cater to me.

 In case you were wondering, that’s Goleta the wizard killer impaling a sandshark atop her muscle car. It’s just all so totally absurd and totally zany that I can’t help but be enthralled by it. When I dig deeper into the elements of this issue, as exemplified by the picture above, I realize that these disparate elements – a muscle car, a wizard killer, sand sharks – actually are all things I enjoy greatly in different story. The car and lone marauder hearken to Mad Max while the wizards and bizarre creatures allude to Adventure Time. Both of those franchises are institutions in their own right and have become such an element in pop culture that they really can’t be considered weird anymore. Throw them together, however, and it becomes unique and simply engrossing.

Which who’s to say that the weirdness of Weirdworld isn’t calculated or somehow contrived. The cynic in me says that perhaps it is. After all, this title is published by Marvel and it’s not in their best interest to necessarily to fund a project that caters to a niche group. So maybe what that suggests is Weirdworld just isn’t so weird after all. Maybe its just catering to my own mainstream interests. If that’s the case I really don’t care. The joy that radiates off from these pages is palpable and I’m going to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

slim-banner4The 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 1/6/16

  1. You know what expression I hate? “This isn’t your father’s .” That expression is, however, what came to mind when reading this run of Deadpool. I wasn’t a fan of the first couple of issues. I thought they missed some of the wackiness that I really liked when Posehn was the co-writer. By the end of this issue, I really appreciated the story and its tone. I’m not sure of how it made a mega-jump from Deadpool dies with the rest of the world to immediately Deadpool is a hero with his own team and the drama that ensued from that (as I wasn’t invested enough in the team and I’m not convinced that the story didn’t differentiate enough between them for me to establish concern for them or about them), and I’m really not sure that I should have understood Madcap coming in…

    But this worked for me. Madcap was a revolting but somewhat honest character that I somehow, in spite of his ridiculousness, was able to believe in. And that’s what really matters a lot of the time in super hero stories – can you believe it?

    I believed it, and that’s saying something.

    • The thing about Deadpool’s death, in true Deadpool fashion, is that ultimately it was one big joke. Pretend to be building up to a big death, make a big deal out of it, but what actually happens is that he ‘dies’ just like everyone else does in Secret Wars 1. And as the final incursion never happened in the new Marvel universe, Deadpool didn’t die, just as everyone else who died is still alive

  2. The new Weirdworld is great fun. But I think the secret weapon is Becca’s mother. Naturally, any Portal fantasy is going to rely, on the start, with the lead using their skills on Earth to survive, and therefore linking all of those skills to the core emotional aspect, Becca’s mother’s suicide, is genius.

    And quite simply, no matter how out there Weirdworld gets, it gets grounded easily with just one flashback. Really, really clever way of doing a silly, fun book. Still wish Goletta was played just a little straighter, as I think she will be even funnier that way, but I am really loving this book at the moment

    Accidentally ended up picking up Ultimates 3, which I planned to drop, and it seems like it will follow New AVengers in ‘2 issue story that is perfectly fine, but far too short to actually capitalize on its strongest idea, followed by a story that completely misunderstands the strongest idea’.

    Fixing time itself is a great idea, but any hope of it being something worth reading is ruined by the Anti-Man twist. Part of the Ultimates’ big selling point is epic cosmicness, while its weakest point is character interactions (Monica and Captain Marvel’s conversation you mentioned as some interesting implications from a character perspective, but was robotic and expository, and started off with one of those ‘cute set of panels to share on tumblr that acknowledges that Monica used to be Captain marvel, but honestly really doesn’t work in any real dramatic way’.

    I had such high hopes for Ewing doing Avengers. Had high hopes for everyone, actually (though A-Force I was nervous about after the disappointing Secret Wars miniseries). But they’ve all been bad

  3. Was I supposed to know who Anti-Man was/is? Did I miss something? I actually liked most of this comic, but I like it for its giant ideas and complete ridiculousness of it (parts of it feel Manhattan Projects-ish). I have no idea what or who Anti-Man is or why he’s in The Neutral Zone.

    It’s strength is its big ideas, but I think there might be something with the exploration of too much power, like Dr. Manhattan or less like Captain Atom in the new 52.

    • Ultimates was mostly good. But the Anti Man twist is a completely against what made the strongest parts of the comic strong, the big ideas. Which is why I don’t think I can continue reading. It feels like it is doing exactly what Ewing’s New Avengers is doing.

      And Anti-Man is a frustrating twist, in that so few people know about Blue Marvel, that a continuity point about him falls flat. As the guy who had actually heard of Blue Marvel before Ewing, I have no idea who Anti Man is. I’m just accepting what Blue Marvel said, and thinking that this is a character so powerful that Blue Marvel, one of the strongest superheroes in the Marvel Universe, that shunting him in the neutral zone was the only way to win

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