Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/20/16

marvel roundup15We 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 6, Hercules 3, Ms. Marvel 3, New Avengers 5, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 2, Silver Surfer 1, and Uncanny Inhumans 4.

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Deadpool 6

Deadpool 6 coverPatrick: Conceptually, the year 2099 isn’t really the future of the Marvel Universe. Instead, it’s a version of the future dreamed up by comic book creators in 1992. As such, it’s tone is specific to that era in the medium – it’s a ultra-violent, cyberpunk playground, and everything, from the characters to the setting to the dialogue, has this affected level of artificial cool stapled to it. Gerry Duggan and Scott Koblish take Deadpool to that year that is more genre than year in issue six, and the result is something between the brilliant “inventory issues” of Duggan’s previous run on Deadpool and an extension of the series’ own simmering darkness.

Though, if this story arc is at least partially inspired by the inventory issues, I might have kind of a tough time determining what it’s doing to ape 2099, and what it’s doing to satirize 2099. Duggan smartly dials down my least favorite aspect of 2099 – that fakey made-up slang. Except during the recap page, no one uses “shock” as a substitute for “fuck,” and there are really only a few instances throughout the issue where characters use language in ways that seem unfamiliar. The mugger on page one asks his mark if she can spare “any loot” – which is actually almost more old time-y than it is future-y. But where the dialogue may take it easy, the action goes decidedly bonkers, staging an aerial dogfight between Deadpool on a flying robot dragon and the NYPD on fire-breathing robot pegasuses. To make matters even stranger (and by extension, more fun), Deadpool is bailed out by her support team: “The Bobs.” Obvious Office Space joke aside, the design of these characters is just nuts; they’re all giant clamps, and hoverboards and goggle-looking sunglasses.

The real meat of the issue, however, is much much darker and much much sadder than those first ten pages of radical action would suggest. The new Deadpool is Warda, daughter of Wade Wilson and Shiklah, and she has Old Man Wade shackled up in her apartment. Turns out the years have not been kind of Wade (when have they ever been?) and he’s lost Ellie and had a huge falling out with Shiklah. The torture that Warda subjects him to (C-Span, on repeat) may be a joke, but the anguish Wade is experiencing is grounded, emotional and real. A lot of that comes from Koblish’s remarkable acting.

deadpool is still hurting

This is a man who – despite the absurdity of the world around him – is genuinely hurting, and I can’t think of a more “Deadpool” idea to express. The issue closes with the revelation that the stranger in NYC is a woman, and one who wants Deadpool to know that she’s coming. That could be Ellie. That could be Shiklah. My heart sinks at either possibility.

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Hercules 3

Hecules 3 coverMark: Hercules is a hero out of time, both literally and figuratively. While one of the major arcs of Dan Abnett’s Hercules is how the eponymous hero deals with being an ancient hero in the modern age, in Hercules the threat to Herak is much more immediate as Tiresias reveals that he’s going to die—for keeps this time.

In general it’s not a great time to be friends with Hercules. The issue ends with his friend and roommate, fellow wash-up Gilgamesh, deciding it’s time for him to stop laying around all day. We see the first steps of this change early in the issue when Gilgamesh offers Hercules some coffee that he made. Herc is shocked, since Gilgamesh doesn’t do much of anything these days. But the seeds are sown, and when a phone call comes in asking for help from Hercules, Gilly takes it upon himself to answer. Unfortunately, the call is a trap and Gilly finds himself knocked out cold by Ire, who promises to use his blood to help stop The Uprising.

Whew! There’s a lot thrown out here, but Abnett seems to be laying the groundwork for all of these disparate parties to come together and work together against The Uprising.

I’m not 100% in love with Luke Ross’ art, but I think he does a good job with action sequences. Herc’s battle against the centaurs in Central Park is free of the confusion and lack of clear geography that sometimes handicaps B-tier (and I mean that lovingly!) comic book titles. Where Ross seems to suffer is in selling the humor of Abnett’s script. There’s a familiar trope at the end of the issue where Gilly—realizing he’s out of shape and outmatched— changes his tune and asks for a tête-à-tête with his attackers. It’s a well-worn comedic beat, but it’s not given any room to breathe in Ross’ panels and the joke falls flat.

Then you throw in some just plain ugly panels…

Hercules 3

…and, well what are you going to do? It’s Hercules.

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Ms. Marvel 3

Ms. Marvel 3 CoverRyan D: I feel like I am taking a nice, warm bath whenever I read this comic. G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa, as usual, imbue this title with their trademark love and affection for the character in an action-filled issue. Kamala Khan finds herself in way over her head as the company using her likeness for its advertisements without her consent, hell-bent on gentrifying all of the family neighborhoods in Jersey City, turns out to be a front for none other than what might be Marvel’s most persistent crime organization, Hydra! Hydra seems well-prepared for Ms. Marvel’s attempts at do-gooding, and simultaneously rebuff her efforts while raising the stakes: they have kidnapped and brainwashed Kamala’s best friend and sidekick, Bruno. With nowhere else to turn, Khan is forced to collaborate with Bruno’s new squeeze, Michaela, to save him, also providing her some moments of insight.

The art is fantastic, the plot is absurd and wonderful, and the creative team finds ways to sprinkle human moments throughout the issue. My personal favorite:

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I love the Matrix ridiculousness featuring the John Woo action scene double guns (hairspray bottles) and doves flying about. So slick. So silly. And I love the little panel-break that the nozzle makes. It’s the little things in this comic which really go a long way.

While this comic can often come across as a morality tale, I never feel like I am being talked down to; instead, I feel like I am discovering lessons with Kamala in a very organic fashion, and seeing her come to the same realizations as I have is one of the big reasons I come back to this title time and time again. If you are a fan of the series, then this issue should tickle your fancy. If not, you are probably a bad person and there’s nothing I can say or do to change that.

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New Avengers 5

New Avengers 5 coverSpencer: When we discussed the first issue of New Avengers, I mentioned how refreshing I found it that writer Al Ewing didn’t dwell on plot points we’ve seen play out a million times before in other team books (in this case, Hawkeye’s status as a mole). I still find this to be the case in issue 5 as Ewing and artist Gerardo Sandoval bring the “Moridun secretly possesses Wiccan” plot to a head. Hulkling is clearly already suspicious, so why drag that out for months just because that’s what other books have done?

On the other hand, this means that Ewing is blowing through plots at lightning speed. Two-issue arcs are starting to feel a little cramped, even if each arc is just a small part of a larger story. As much as I appreciate not dragging out a body-hijacking we’ve seen play out many times before, pitting the team against Moridun only an issue after his first possessing Billy feels terribly rushed. Tried-and-true styles of storytelling got that way for a reason; instead of trying to subvert them and losing some punch in the process, maybe it would be better to avoid those kind of storylines altogether.

I know those two perspectives are at odds, and that muddled feeling permeates my entire reading of this issue. It’s a blast seeing Ewing’s take on the Avengers of the future, and as a big fan of the Young Avengers and of Billy and Teddy, I love to see them getting so much attention, but between the two groups the rest of the cast are starting to get marginalized in the process. Some of their spotlight moments feel awkward and out of character, especially for Squirrel Girl, whose mistake with the time machine comes across more depressing than funny, and doesn’t really fit into the “hyper competent” persona North’s developed for Doreen nor Ewing’s “curious and intelligent” take. Sandoval’s bulky interpretation of Billy finally feels appropriate now that he’s been possessed by Moridun, but some of his storytelling feels especially cramped, and moments like White Tiger’s scaring a W.H.I.S.P.E.R. grunt lose effectiveness because of it.

fear

I just don’t feel fear in this panel. We can’t even see the grunt’s face, and neither Ava nor her tiger projection have room to make the impression needed to sell “primal fear” — there just isn’t enough space for this moment to hit home. There’s still a lot I like about this series, but it’s already starting to feel messy. Ewing’s shown us how much he can do, but I think I’m ready for him to settle down and give those ideas some more room to breathe now.

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Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 2

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 2 coverSpencer: I worked retail for nearly 9 years, a fact that still gives me nightmares sometimes. It’s that experience that makes (the already fun to begin with) Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 2 such an enjoyable read for me, because every obstacle Patty faces is designed specifically to interfere with her new job. For example, both Ian and Hedy drop by to see Patty at work, which, in part, eventually gets her fired (in my first year at the job I had a friend who kept ‘visiting’ me at work, and I can say from experience that bosses are generally not fans of this). There’s no one a retail worker hates more than a shoplifter, and sure enough, Hellcat’s supervillain nemesis of the week is a petty shoplifter with a magic bag that can fit any item. Getting a new job doesn’t slow down Patsy’s problems — they simply evolve to find the most irritating way to impede her. She really does lead a hard-knock life.

Even Patsy’s post-firing hang-out feels pulled right out of my life — I’ve never been fired, but there were more than a few days where the only way to recover from a shift was burgers, shakes, and good friends. Of course, my friends were never as cool as the Marvel All-Stars Patsy assembles — just two pages of these characters has me longing to see more of them together. Brittney L. Williams’ art sings throughout the issue, but it’s strongest here — these characters have never looked more adorable or more appealing.

BAMF Marvel ladies

Look at Squirrel Girl’s giant round head! Aw! And Kate and America are splitting a milkshake?! It’s details like this that makes Williams and writer Kate Leth’s work on this title so much fun. This even applies to background characters and events — there’s an entire story going on in the background of Patsy’s store featuring a mother chasing a baby in a Captain America shirt that Leth and Williams never draw attention to, but it’s charming as all get out (and between that baby and the kid in the dog head hat from issue 1, I wanna see Williams draw an ongoing just starring little kids in funny outfits, please).

Also, I’ll never get over Patsy insisting on wearing an apron to work in a clothing store. It’s a funny, eccentric detail that also says a lot about how disconnected Patsy is from reality. There’s a bit of a dark undercurrent to this title, and I’m not sure how much of that is purposeful. I think Hellcat could go in some interesting directions if Leth and Williams choose to explore that angle, but even if they don’t, the book’s humor and charm are enough to make it one of my favorites all on their own.

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Silver Surfer 1

Silver Surfer 1 coverRyan M.: One very quick way to endear a reader is to give your protagonist a love of books. Sure, it’s kind of playing to the home crowd, but it works. Silver Surfer 1 exploits that same reader inclination. The story implies that the people who consume stories about heroes are inherently better for it. It’s a bit pandering to a reader of a superhero comic, but it’s done so well here that I can’t really resist. I don’t have a big history with the Silver Surfer, so I came to the issue a bit of a blank slate. Immediately the relationship with Norrin and Dawn reminded me of Doctor Who, down to Dawn’s red converse. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the Doctor is front and center in the first panel revealing the Hordax’ new forms.

hordax

Mike Allread’s art is able to show aliens cosplaying as Western culture’s greatest protagonists without sacrificing the alien’s inherent creepiness. The Hordax make up an all-star team that not even the most adventurous fanfiction could contain. The pages with the Hordax offer a second layer to the reading. Some of the characters are immediately identifiable for me, While others take a second or third glance. Silver Surfer and Dawn have two different takes on how to approach the Hordax, and writer Dan Slott uses this as a way to illustrate both their individual characters and their dynamics. Silver Surfer sees the Hordax as a theiving threat and looks to shut them down aggressively. Even without memory of the stories that inspire her, Dawn takes a chance on those stories having turned the Hordax into heroes. Her faith in the creatures paired with his unemotional tactics is interesting and fun to see.

Even before the Hordax arrive to drain Earth of its culture, the issue sets a playful tone. With Silver Surfer’s help, Dawn hijacks an alien race’s message of invasion to wave at her family. She is a delight, and  this is a charming book. The issue ends with a cliffhanger involving the Thing. Now, that Slott and Allread have me invested in Dawn and Silver Surfer, I am excited about whatever they have planned, even if that’s a more traditional kind of story.

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Uncanny Inhumans 4

Uncanny Inhumans 4 coverDrew: I love the goofy, recursive timelines that fall out of time travel stories. Back to the Future Part II might be my favorite example of this, as Marty goes back to gain a second perspective on the events of the first movie, avoiding himself just enough to change our understanding of those events, without actually changing the events themselves. It’s that kind of recontextualizing that opens Uncanny Inhumans 4, retracing the ill-fated attempt by Black Bolt, Triton, and Reader to retrieve Ahura in issue 1. Here, that attempt is used as a distraction, with our intrepid time-travelers popping into Attilan at that exact moment in hopes of scooping up Ahura.

Ultimately, the story isn’t really about revisiting the same moments, and Kang eventually sniffs out the plan. Fortunately, Ahura comes into his abilities just in time to possess Kang (apparently permanently) in a terrifying show of power.

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I love this reaction — after all of that heavy stuff, writer Charles Soule knows just who should lighten the mood: Johnny Storm and Beast. Not to be outdone, artist Steve McNiven paces this issue perfectly, though I may be even more impressed at the way his meticulously rendered figures and faces never feel stiff or posed. Point is, this issue was as pretty as it was fun, even as it features some heavy family drama. Very few series can cover that much emotional range in one issue, and even fewer can do it so well. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

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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 1/20/16

  1. Ms Marvel: A great conclusion to the arc, and honestly, the fact that Mike seems to be a character that Wilson wants to have stay as Bruno’s girlfriend does a lot to fix Bruno’s issues. I love the HYDRA stuff, and the Bruno stuff was handled as good as it could be.

    The big problem, though, is how poorly the whole ‘New Jersey turns against Ms Marvel’ thing is done. The fact that Ms Marvel never punches a sign and makes a speech earlier in the story to prove that she didn’t approve is an obvious mistake, but forgivable, were it not for the fact that at the end, people believe she is trying to cover her ass after Hope Yards is revealed to be evil, despite the fact that Ms Marvel was the one who revealed it. It feels forced.

    Also, I’ve had enough of Avengers references. Partly because it never feels needed, partly because it reminds you every time how poor of a choice it is to have Ms Marvel in the Avengers and partly because I don’t need the reminding that Mark Waid has stopped writing banal mediocrity and moved onto writing utter shit instead.

    New Avengers: Looks like I got off this book at the right time

    Patsy Walker: I felt like this was a bit of a step down from last issue. All of the events at the store just didn’t work as well as it should. I think a big part of it that the first issue set up a supporting cast and a world, and this issue just didn’t have any of that. Even Ian’s appearance felt forced, existing more to reveal Patsy’s identity than an actual dramatic reason (though I have to love that Patsy needs to keep her identity secret because of comics, instead of the usual superhero tropes). And the thief just wasn’t particularly interesting. Afterwards, with Patsy having burgers with the other superheroes, things worked a lot better.

    Silver Surfer: I honestly found the ending with Ben Grimm more interesting than the main plot. The opening, before all the culture is siphoned away, and the very end are great. But this feels like a story I have read a million times before. The idea of ‘villains became culture’s great heroes to fight heroes, only to realize they have become the heroes themselves and therefore become good’ is an idea that honestly isn’t something fresh and new. I’ve seen it before, and Silver Surfer didn’t do anything interesting with it. Which is a shame, as draining culture is a wonderfully weird premise.

  2. Deadpool#6: Confession time. I hated the cover to this so much I didn’t read it. It’s just sitting in my basement. It was too true to some of the 2099 comics that I really didn’t like back in the day and I never got around to reading it. It looks like I should.

    Hercules #3: I didn’t like a couple things about this comic, but I liked it overall. The good: I want to know what happens. I want Gil to be ok. I’m invested and interested. The bad: The centaur fight seemed to be a fight because they needed a fight. That sucked. And I was confused when Gil went to fight because he took his shirt off and was suddenly ripped and lean! Umm, what? Did he just decide to god it up and therefor looked good with his shirt off? Anyway, I want to know what happens next which is saying something considering I didn’t even knoiw Gilgamesh was a character in the Marvel U.

    Ms. Marvel #3: This is cute, it’s the template for about 20 other Marvel titles right now, and this was a weak issue. The ‘how to stop Hydra’ sequence was dumb and the masses being mad at Ms. Marvel at the end was dumber. It’s still a great comic, I think it’s got teen romance that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out (unlike Archie), and I actually like finding out what Ms. Marvel does. I think this mini-arc was mediocre, but I get that they need/want to move past the awestruck omg face she sort of lived with while superheroing in her first volume and have her get into a different type of menace. I’m on board, even though this wasn’t my favorite.

  3. Uncanny Inhumans #4: Last week I dropped everything with the word ‘Avenger’ or ‘X-Men’ in title from my pull list. Am I a sap? Am I falling for the Marvel Message of, “Embrace the Inhumans, they’re the best!” Maybe, but this is really, really good comics and I’m not in love with ANY title in Marvel’s two flagship team lines. Soule is great, McNiven is great, and even though I’ve only got about 20 lifetime issues of relationship with these characters and I don’t completely understand Ahura or Kang, I’m invested.

    That’s my key word I think as I drop titles to get to a reasonable number. Am I invested? In this case, it’s 100% yes.

    Hellcat #2: On the other hand, there’s this. A lead character that I dislike, am irritated by, pity, and wouldn’t want to be around bungling through situations I find unbelievable, even in a superhero universe. I’m not even sure I think it’s cute, to me it’s more childish and sad.

    Starbrand and Nightmask #2: I know I read this, I know I kind of liked it, but I don’t remember it at all. Oops.

    • I completely forgot about Starbrand and Nightmask. Damn, that book just isn’t working as well as it should. The basic premise works, btu Weisman just can’t get it working. A real shame, as Weisman is a talent

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