Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 2/3/16

marvel roundup17We 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 A-Force 2, Amazing Spider-Man 7, Sam Wilson: Captain America 6, Captain Marvel 2, Deadpool: Mercs for Money 1, Howard the Duck 4, and Rocket Raccoon and Groot 2.

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A-Force 2

A-Force 2Spencer: Thus far, the plot of A-Force hasn’t been all that noteworthy. Disparate characters coming together to battle a seemingly unstoppable monster is a common plot, and Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson hit on a few other standard team book tropes as well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though! Where this book lives or dies is the character development and interaction, and in that regard, Thompson, Wilson, and artist Jorge Molina nail it. This cast is just so much fun. There’s a healthy mix of powers and personalities in play; Singularity especially remains a stand-out character, and I’m already enjoying seeing the good influence she has (and is being set up to have) on the cast.

angry Dazzler

There’s ultimately very little reason for these specific characters to be thrown together onto a team, but Thompson and Wilson use that to their advantage, allowing their clashing personalities to not only highlight each character’s strengths and weaknesses, but to drive the story, and it leaves plenty of room for growth. Perhaps more importantly, these conflicts and arguments don’t dominate the story; the creative team still remembers to let their heroes actually be heroic, which is a balance not every team book can pull off. A-Force may not be the most original book on the stand, but it’s plenty of fun and full of heart, and in this case, that’s what matters most.

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Amazing Spider-Man 7

Amazing Spider-Man 7Drew: I had an old boss who used to say “your greatest weapon is also the sword you eventually fall upon,” that is, our greatest assets might also be our greatest liabilities. Peter Parker has always grappled with the costs and benefits of his powers, but I actually brought this up to talk about Dan Slott’s uncanny ability to simultaneously juggle multiple stories while seeding even more in a single issue. It’s undoubtedly one of his strengths (and, arguably, his calling card), but as Amazing Spider-Man 7 reveals it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

The issue caroms wildly as Peter struggles to stay ahead of Mister Negative, but seems to cost him control elsewhere. Indeed, if delegating is one of Peter’s new strengths, it’s opening him up to all kinds of new weaknesses. Anna Maria is swamped in the wake of Peter’s decision to sack Sajani, Harry is AWOL in the wake of Peter’s decision to appoint him as head of the New York office, and Lian is frustrated at Peter’s drop-of-a-hat decisions to change course on vital research. We don’t see any fallout from that first one (though the implication that Parker Industries is falling apart from mismanagement is palpable), but both Harry and Lian’s stories introduce (or re-introduce) villains entirely auxiliary to the conflict of the issue: Regent and Scorpio, respectively.

I can appreciate wanting to set-up future storylines, but with an issue already stuffed to the gills with half-page (or even one-panel) conversations, I wonder if giving valuable space to threads that don’t yet matter makes for the best issue. Writers often have to balance the serialized needs of a comic with the desire to produce satisfying episodes, but I think Slott misses the mark here, giving us an issue that’s almost all serialized set-up. That might mean a much stronger issue 8, but until these threads start paying out, I can’t see the wisdom in investing in more of them.

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Sam Wilson: Captain America 6

Sam Wilson Captain America 6Spencer: Unless you’re a robot, true objectivity is impossible to achieve. Writers and reporters can certainly try to remain impartial, but eventually their feelings will leak into their work somewhere, even if subconsciously. I don’t necessarily think Nick Spencer is trying to be objective or impartial with his work on Sam Wilson: Captain America, but I bring this up because I admire how level-headed and balanced Spencer’s political commentary ends up being throughout issue 6 anyway.

Spencer’s not shy when it comes to his political views — spend a few minutes on his Twitter feed you’ll know exactly what he stands for — but not every character in the title shares his exact views, and despite what many critics of early issues would have you think, his villains don’t exist simply to demonize conservatives either. I mean, Spencer takes his fair share of pot-shots at the media and big business, but I was really impressed by this tiny bit of narration late in the issue.

nobody likes these guys

With the vile rhetoric Trump and his ilk pump out and the crowds we see cheering them on on TV, it can be easy to forget that even most Republicans are likely embarrassed and ashamed of his behavior, and that goes equally for any of the other easy targets on either side of the political spectrum. Most people have no choice but to support a corrupt system and choose the option they consider least evil; sticking 100% to noble goals often isn’t feasible, and may even end up doing more harm than good in the long run, which even Captain America himself discovers in this issue. I appreciate how Spencer highlights that compromise is necessary when dealing with delicate matters; yes, it’s a broken system, but again, I appreciate Spencer acknowledging that something is broken with American politics while also holding out hope that people can make it something better, even if it has to be done in baby steps. Very, very tiny baby steps.

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Captain Marvel 2

Captain Marvel 2Drew: It’s one of the quirks of comics that characters can’t escape their pasts. I don’t mean that Bruce Wayne is stuck reliving his parents’ murder (though, obviously, he is), but that he’ll forever be living down the legacies of everyone from Bob Kane to Frank Miller. The breakout success of Captain Marvel over its previous two volumes left the series poised as an A-list book, but the departure of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick begged the question: was the cult of personality that is the Carol Corps based on Carol Danvers, or the person writing her? It’s not a question I relish bringing up — I’d like to judge a given comic on its own merits, rather than its relation to what came before — but writers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters force the comparison, doubling down on the quotations from the previous volume.

If issue 1 echoed the goodbye scene between Rhodey and Carol from Captain Marvel‘s last issue 1, this one reminds us of the riff on Alien that was Captain Marvel 8, though pointedly brings up Alien‘s many sequels. In particular, the haphazard exploration of an organic ship full of systems ready to kill them makes the issue most closely resemble Prometheus — further emphasizing the sense of quotation. I didn’t hate Prometheus, but it’s certainly a loaded allusion, perhaps speaking to Fazekas and Butters’ desire to not simply replicate the success of DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, but to reshuffle its elements in hopes of making something new. The result isn’t particularly vital, but may help the series exorcise some of its focus on its own past.

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Deadpool & the Mercs for Money 1

“See what happens next!”

-Traditional

Deadpool & the Mercs for Money 1Patrick: In the wake of Secret Wars, all the new number ones concluded with a tease for the next issue, presumably to lure the reader back in for the next installment. I hate seeing that sort of thing at the end of a good story — if I had a good experience reading the first issue, my impulse is already to come back and check out number two, right? Which is more effective at getting you to see a sequel: the marketing for it or the first installment in the series? But more than that frustration, I sorta resent the idea that what I’m interested in is “what happens” in a given story. What happens is almost immaterial when measured against how the story is expressed. For my money, execution and thematic exploration trumps plot every time.

Which brings me around to the mess that is Cullen Bunn and Salva Espin’s Deadpool & The Mercs for Money. I enjoyed my experiences with the titular Mercs in the first couple issues of Deadpool, but largely because writer Gerry Duggan used each member of the team to illustrate the various strengths and weaknesses of Deadpool as a character. Nothing illuminates the inherent value of one particular hyper-violent clown like putting him in the presence of less compelling hyper-violent clowns. That pretense is all but abandoned here, instead laying out the Mercs’ shortcomings and unique qualities as fodder for some toothless jokes. There are like two pages in a row where Bunn makes jokes about Slapstick not having genitals (specifically, about not having balls, which isn’t actually a unique quality of the character – like 51% of Earth’s population doesn’t have balls). And then they’re not joking around, the characters are engaging in some horrific violence, which Espin appears to be un-ironically celebrating.

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There are two gruesome fight scenes in this issue, but there’s a really big emphasis on how little it costs the Mercs to get the shit kicked out of them. Terror loses an arm in the first fight, and gets decapitated in the second, but who cares! He can always slap on a new limb or head and who needs consequences anyway?

But it’s not until the Mercs open the crate that the issue plainly reveals its values. Inside is a robot spouting events from the future; literally telling everyone “what happens next.” That, Deadpool decides, is the most valuable thing in the world, and he can’t wait to sell it. Well, I guess it’s good to know that the villains of the Marvel Universe are into the the publisher’s marketing…

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Howard the Duck 4

Howard the Duck 4Ryan D: Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones return to stick Howard the Duck into more absurd situations. That’s the gimmick of the series; Howard is the powerless variable in a multiverse which functions on a currency of outlandish abilities. The Duck himself has virtually no agency in this comics, and I suppose the humor arises from all of the implausible events occurring on such an unlikely character. In the past few issue, Howard has gone from a home-sick Private Eye to accidentally becoming the Nexus of All Realities- a gateway to any universe- and impued with the Power Cosmic:

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All of this new power comes with the unfortunate side-effect of being sought-after by some pretty heavy hitters on a cosmic scale, and Howard barely escapes from the likes of The Stranger and Galactus time and time again, albeit with help from the Silver Surfer, female clones, and the new Ben Grimm/Kitty Pryde version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. As you can see, there are a lot of set pieces to this tale, despite it being only four issues into its current season. Whether the bevy of cameos enriches, distracts from, or drives the comic, I cannot be too sure.

So, this is a comedy title. Much of the comedy comes from the absurdity of the circumstances, and the rest comes from Chip’s silly comedic timing and self-effacing dialogue. I get that, and appreciate it; however, nothing thus far has made me care about Howard the Duck as a character. I suppose I should identify with him as “the other”, the underdog (duck), the lovable con man, but thus far he just reads as a cog in a much larger galactic maelstrom. I don’t think it necessarily helps that I find Joe Quinones’s art to be a little on the generic and overly cartoony side. I would recommend this title if you are a Zdarsky fan-person- though even a stalwart brimper like me is not really digging this title- or really want to see someone new take on The Eater of Worlds after His great appearance in the pages of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

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Rocket Raccoon and Groot 2

Rocket Raccoon and Groot 2Drew: A Groot-centered story always represents a platform for creative storytelling. Jeff Loveness came up with some fun ways around a character who can’t really speak in Groot, but Skottie Young has always had a penchant for clear visual storytelling, delivering virtually silent issues of Rocket Raccoon in spite of his protagonist’s typical verbosity. That puts him in a great position for Rocket Raccoon and Groot 2, which follows Groot’s harrowing journey to reunite with his long-lost friend. Unfortunately, Young opts to provide a narrator for the sequence, undermining artist Filipe Andrade’s capable visual storytelling. That Rocket can’t understand Groot emphasizes his amnesia, but also provides the unneeded crutch of a translator. The best sequences dispense with the narration, with expansive images hinting at an adventure much more interesting than the one told in words.

Groot

Perhaps the most frustrating part, though, is that Groot’s quest was all a waste — in spite of his systematic following of every clue, he ultimately finds Rocket thanks to a convenient TV report showing exactly where he is. I suppose that leaves a missing piece to the puzzle, but it sure makes all that work Groot put in feel like a waste.

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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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7 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 2/3/16

  1. Only thing I read here was Captain marvel, which I really think just isn’t doing enough except holding course.

    As a comic, it exists and is pacing Captain Marvel in an important part of the Marvel Universe and making sure she has a comic. But it is kind of like Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy. So much could be done, but it is letting the name do all the work.

    Captain Marvel is one of the most important superheroes in the universe at the moment. She is everywhere. She is in two different Avengers teams, leading one of the two sides in Civil War 2 and about to have her own movie. And yet, even as she has never felt more essential to the Marvel Universe, this book feels so inessential.

  2. Invincible Iron Man: This comic is always hard to talk about, in that it is always Part X of Y, and almost feels unfair to talk about it until you read it in all as a trade. Things like plot mechanisms just can’t be talked about except as part of the greater whole. There just isn’t enough in the individual issue.

    Though what can be talked about is interaction, because they really do sing. Tony and Rhodey have a fun banter, but what I really enjoy is Tony, Amara and Doom talking. Bendis has given the new Doom a wonderful mix between moral ambiguity and actual good stuff. This isn’t a Superior Spiderman sort of thing where Doom is actually using supervillain techniques to be a superhero. On the one hand, he is actions are legitimately better way of being a hero (having a follow up to check everything is fine in the aftermath of last issue), on the other hand, he casually pushes Amara to start human testing far too early.

    The entire conversation is fantastic. Each character is an active participant, each wanting something different out of it, and the stakes get raised with every page as things get more and more out of control for Tony. And Mike Deodato is fantastic. His art pushes character away from supermodel looks, which really helps make the restaurant, come alive, and he does such a fantastic job in the compositions of the Tony/Amara/Doom conversation. It is honestly a fantastic example of how something as simple as ‘unexpected interruption on a date’ can be dramatic.

    So yeah, Invincible Iron Man is still well written. It is nowhere near the level of things like Thor or the Vision, but quite simply is simple, polished storytelling. Yeah, each issue requires every over issue to go into a deep discussion, but each individual sequence is so incredibly well written

  3. I should start buying Iron Man again, I thought the first few issues were ok and I forget why I stopped. I stopped enough other things to make it ok I think to pick this back up.

    Captain Marvel: I don’t think I’ve ever bought a Captain Marvel book to read Captain Marvel. I bought a couple to collect first appearances of Ms. Marvel… She needs to be Hawkeyed or Visioned I think for me to ever give one of her books a try.

    Sam Wilson 6: I really like this comic. I hated the end, but hated in a good way – I was mad. I hate the phrase to big to fail and throwing it in sort of rubbed me the wrong way, but it was more as mad being involved in the story, not mad as a dispassionate observer of the story. I like the supporting cast, I like the story, I like the character – I’m really worried about Steve Rogers coming back to the role and the Avengers tie-ins and think this might all come crashing down, but right now this is damn fine comics.

    Deadpool/Mercs: I like Cullen Bunn. I didn’t want another Deadpool book but bought it because of Cullen Bunn. This treated the mayhem and murder a bit too cavalierly for me to be involved. It’s either gotta be over the top cartoon or something – this was just bad idiot people doing terrible things to get something they didn’t understand, which kept the fun to gross ratio really, really low.

    Howard the Duck is a weird book. Duh. But I kind of feel like the go to joke is Zdarsky yelling at me, “LOOK HOW DUMB THIS IS! LOOK AT HOWARD!!” over and over. I think my desire to like this book is greater than my ability to like the book, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change, but I do know my desire to like the book is getting lower and lower each month.

  4. Scarlet Witch #3: I know you guys aren’t going to read this. It was ok. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

    GO READ SCARLET WITCH #2!!!! I’LL WAIT HERE. IT’S LIKELY THE BEST LOOKING COMIC PUT OUT THIS YEAR.

    Seriously, go read Scarlet Witch #2. If you like Steve Dillon, sure, read #3. It’s ok. I’m actually invested in the story, which doesn’t feel Scarlet Witchy or even Marvelly, which is kind of a good thing. It’s got a tie-in to Dr. Strange and I’m kind of confused they haven’t overlapped by now with how magic and witchcraft are both dying, although I don’t know if magic and witchcraft are synonyms or different things.

    • I saw some pages of Scarlet Witch 2. The art is amazing. Truly fantastic. And I like how Robinson brought up the Wanda admitting to having depression. Surprisingly natural, from James Robinson.

      On the other hand, the book seemed utterly obsessed with not letting a single line be spoken without reference to the fact that Ares died. And the dialogue during the minotaur ‘fight’ was terrible. From Scarlet Witch’s speech about the Witch’s sight, to Man-Bull realizing that he wasn’t the minotaur, it all sounded straight out of the silver age ‘I must exposit exactly what I am doing, and explain exactly any thought processes I have’ writing.

      The art was not only fantastic, but in the pages I saw, also did a fantastic job in improving the dialogue issues through interesting panel layout. But even what looks to be one of James Robinson’s better scripts is full of everything that drives me nuts about him.

      I will happily agree that it is the best looking comic of the year so far, though, and will struggle to imagine a better looking one

  5. I guess I should bring up Spidey, Deadpool and Cable, and Venom.

    Spidey is… boring. It’s good looking and rich and colorful, but it’s telling stories about the OTHER time Peter fought Doc Ock back when Peter was in high school, and the OTHER time Peter fought the LIzard back when Peter was in high school, which just aren’t as interesting as all the stories told already about when Peter was in high school. I think these Spidey in school stories need either a different universe so it can all be fresh and new or… well, that’s about it. Because these are stale.

    Venom is strangely cool. It goes against what I believe in, but I’m coming to grips with the fact that maybe ALL symbiote stories don’t suck. Because this and Carnage have my attention.

    Deadpool and Cable: More timetravel was needed in the Marvel universe in order to tell a better Deadpool story: True or false?

    They seemed to think true, which is NOT the answer I got. I want this movie to come out so I can get back to mostly ignoring Deadpool other than picking up his main title as a trade.

    • Totally agree on Spidey. Dropped it after issue one proved to be so boring. I suppose someone might be able to tell “classic” Spider-Man stories better than Stan Lee and Ditko/Romita already did, but I don’t think that’s the creative team to do it.

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