We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, (especially when All of these things are New) 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 All-New Wolverine 5, All-New Hawkeye 4, Deadpool 7, Old Man Logan 2, Silk 4, Spider-Gwen 5, Ultimates 4, and Weirdworld 3.
All-New Hawkeye 4
Spencer: Every time I think I have Ramon Perez’s artistic tricks all figured out, he throws something entirely new and exciting my way. That’s awesome. All-New Hawkeye 4 finds Perez and writer Jeff Lemire turning their signature flashbacks to the past of our younger Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. This means a return to the dreamy flashback-style Perez and colorist Ian Herring used in the first arc, but with one notable difference: Kate is rendered as much more clear and solid than the rest of the characters.
While I have a few different ideas about what this could mean, the most feasible is that it represents the distance between Kate and all the figures in her past. This flashback finds Kate feeling isolated from her father, separated from her mother entirely, unable to relate to anybody in New York. She seems to have a pretty good idea of who she is (hence the clarity of her figure), but no idea at all who her now-distant father really is (hence his much more hazy appearance). In the above image in particular I love the size of Kate’s father in the background, especially in that first panel — though he’s legitimately present in this scene, he dominates the space in a way that isn’t realistically rendered. It represents the way Kate’s father looms over her life. He’s a figure she longs to be close to, and thus his shadow hangs over her every move, but he’s too distant for her to ever really reach.
The focus on Kate in the flashbacks makes her absence in the present day all the stranger. Her running off alone to save the Project Communion Kids seems counter to her reunion with Clint in the previous issue — are the two working some sort of scam on S.H.I.E.L.D.? The present day scenes are fun, but somewhat thin; that sort of subterfuge could make it feel a lot more substantial.
All-New Wolverine 5
Drew: “Restraint” isn’t the first word that springs to mind when thinking of Wolverine, but it’s certainly something that characterized Logan’s recent turn as schoolmarm. Moreover, it’s been the defining characteristic of Laura’s tenure as Wolverine, as she refuses to kill in spite of all of her instincts and training to the contrary. Indeed, Laura’s restraint has been so central to the first few issues of the series, it feels like a genuine break when she vows vengeance at the end of issue 5. This time, it’s personal, as the saying goes, but writer Tom Taylor earns every bit of those personal stakes, totally justifying Laura’s decision to go on the offensive.
Actually, the turn really comes about halfway through the issue. The first half is all about saving Zelda, with each scene bringing Laura incrementally closer to that goal. That hard-won progress is immediately wiped away, though, when Mooney shows up and kills Zelda, anyway. It’s a turn of events so traumatizing, it plays out over the back half of the issue, forcing us to feel every bit of Laura’s frustration. That structural trick effectively compensates for Zelda’s lack of characterization (she was the…level-headed one?) — we’re invested enough in the mission to keep the stakes high, even if we aren’t particularly invested in Zelda as a character.
Taylor also litters the issue with fun little superhero details — I’m particularly enamored of the angry voicemail Janet leaves for Doctor Strange. Heck, the fact that Doctor Strange has a voicemail is enough to make me smile. The shrinking premise also affords artist David Lopez some fun shrinking effects and deep perspective shots, which add a fun dimension to the art.
Actually, the most effective part of this page might be the slow zoom-out in the first three panels, priming us for the “establishing shot” in the fourth. His use of full bleed in the fourth panel also emphasizes just how big Zelda is relative to our heroes, reinforcing the tininess of Janet and Laura established in those first few panels. That’s just smart storytelling.
Patrick: Outside of Batman, I can’t think of any comic book character that I’ve seen celebrate more anniversaries, milestones, and specials than Deadpool. Issue 7 celebrates the 25th anniversary of the character, but it remains staunchly — perhaps even stubbornly — focused on the current state of Deadpool. That means that rather than focusing on some classic Deadpool shenanigans, this enormous volume seems primed to introduce new readers to a) The Mercs for Money; b) Shiklah; and c) Deadpool’s role bankrolling the Avengers. Where the main story does stay pretty close to celebrating the platonic idea of Deadpool is in the way it depicts the futility of his insatiable appetite for revenge. There’s literally no pretense for why he decides to flip through his Grudge Book, looking for personal affronts to ameliorate, he just does it in what Foolkiller generously describes as a “manic episode.” Wade’s adventure through the newly re-established Marvel Universe starts out super fun: he’s razzing Iron Fist in front of his kung-fu students, and beating up Hand ninjas. Both of those feel justified and grounded. Even the made-up fuck-session with Shiklah feels appropriate and measured, like we’re exploring dimensions of an eccentric, but ultimately rounded, comic book character. Things take a weird turn when Wade flips to the next entry in his Grudge Book:
Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Scott Koblish are patient enough to let four panels pass where Deadpool does nothing but scrutinize this entry before declaring “They don’t all make sense.” Which is evidently the cue for Deadpool’s revenge rampage to stop making sense too. He socks a guy in the nose for spoiling The Half Blood Prince back in 2005, he berates the corpse of Doc Sampson for not curing him of his psychosis (which even Wade has to admit probably wasn’t the good Doctor’s fault – he never made an appointment). That kicks off some classic downward spiral imagery: Wade DJing at a rave, partying at Mardi Gras, participating in a fight club, and walking the museum-like corridors of his own memory. Of course, this only serves to make him more crazy and more unhappy. In the final pages, Deadpool is eating something right out of a can, with his mask pulled up to his nose and he looks alarmingly like Rorschach eating beans. Manic break, indeed.
And then there’s the requisite bevvy of back-up stories: six, each featuring one of the Mercs (I guess Massacre is just one of them now). This is a petty nit-to-pick, but I wish there was some consensus on the visual identity of these characters – some artists put them all in red Deadpool costumes, some let them dress in their own threads, but I’m left wondering what happened to the multicolored costumes from issue 4. I’ve already written too much, but I liked a bunch of these — particularly Sting Ray, Massacre and Solo’s stories — so let’s talk about them in the comments!
Old Man Logan 2
Drew: The centerpiece of this issue is the battle between Old Man Logan and Amadeus Cho’s Totally Awesome Hulk, but the real interest of the issue rests in the margins. That’s not to say Andrea Sorrentino doesn’t bring the appropriate amount of care to a knock-down drag-out between two of Marvel’s heaviest-hitters — indeed, he manages both wide-screen epicness and up-close bone-crunching — it’s just that the premise feels a bit prescribed. We know what a fight between Hulk and Wolverine would look like, and we know that Logan isn’t actually going to kill Cho, so no degree of awesomeness could really shake our sense of inevitability.
To his credit, writer Jeff Lemire seems well aware of this, injecting tons of specificity into that fight, but more importantly, filling the rest of the issue with much more unexpected details. The opening vignette on the monstrosity of the Hulk Gang is rich in those details, but my favorite scene has to be Logan breaking into Clint Barton’s apartment.
Archery targets and a dog’s outline are fun panel borders (Sorrentino pulls something similar with cows in the opening scene), but what really gets me are Lucky’s thought bubbles. It’s an approach lifted directly from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye run, suggesting that the subjectivity of that series (perhaps of Lucky himself) can creep into the subjectivity of this one. That’s a fun idea as this series continues to carom across the Marvel universe, colliding with any number of other, equally stylized series. Who knows? Maybe Old Man Logan will be teaming up with Squirrel Girl soon, giving Lemire an opportunity to write actual jokes in the actual margins.
Taylor: All superheroes have their motivations for doing what they do, it’s just part of what makes up the superhero mythology. Few, if any, superheroes fight crime just because. Part of the reason for this is that it’s good storytelling, but another part is that it makes our heroes vulnerable and human. For Cindy, motivation takes the form of finding her long lost parents and thereby finding a home for her and her brother. However, the Goblin King, her latest nemesis, not only threatens the vision with his previous taking of her brother but also with a counter proposal of his own.
Cindy is currently in trouble after being betrayed by Shrike, who tossed our hero in the Goblin King’s underground lair. She battles some Goblin thugs and even discovers a little bit about where her mother and father might be. But before she gets far, Cindy is captured by the Goblin king, who offers her a place in his underground city. Cindy, is reluctant to join his ranks, even if he makes a good argument for why she should.
What the Goblin King offers Cindy is a home, much in the same way he’s taken at-risk youth and given them a place to belong. His reasoning is that his underground lair is better than anything Cindy or these parentless youth might otherwise get. Cindy of course isn’t falling for it and things get even more hairy for her from there. It’s interesting to note that writer Robbie Thompson is trying to give Silk a foil that appeals to wants and dreams. All good superhero stories have such an antagonist. In this case though, it all just rings a bit hollow. Perhaps the Goblin King’s pitch just simply isn’t convincing or perhaps Cindy’s need to belong just isn’t played up enough. In either case, I found the premise of this issue interesting but the execution just a little bit lacking. This is similar to the build-up in the previous issue about Cindy’s anger issues which also failed to live up to expectations. Is this the new norm for Silk or will it rediscover the heart it so expertly pulsed with months ago?
Spencer: It wasn’t until my second reading that I realized that, outside of one flashback panel, Gwen Stacy doesn’t appear at all in Spider-Gwen 5. In many ways, though, this issue is still very much about Gwen, as almost all the conversations between her various opponents and supporters revolve around Spider-Woman. In fact, removing Gwen from the equation allows these characters to give us a far more candid look into their feelings and plans for Gwen than they ever would in her presence. There’s a lot of interesting debates going on here, but most significant is the one between Captain Stacy and Matt Murdock, where Murdock’s devious plans for Gwen come to the forefront, and Stacy proves his trust for and respect in his daughter once and for all. It’s smart writing from Jason Latour; not only does a Gwen-less issue make her relationships with the rest of the cast all the clearer, but it better defines these supporting characters in the process.
Bringing in a fill-in artist on such an offbeat issue is an inspired touch as well. Chris Visions has a fun take on this world, mixing stylish layouts and a sense of barely-contained chaos to create some truly dynamic scenes. Meanwhile, colorist Rico Renzi and letterer Clayton Cowles pitch in to keep these new visuals within Spider-Gwen‘s normal, recognizable aesthetic.
There’s a lot of reasons Spider-Gwen 5 could have failed, yet the creative team takes those reasons — be they the absence of its title character, or of its regular artist — and turns them all to their advantage. I’d call that a win.
Drew: How do you represent remembering? In LOST, memories came rushing back with a “whoosh” sound effect. In Swann’s Way, memories “rose up like the scenery of a theater.” In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan experiences all time simultaneously, skipping almost dispassionately between moments in his life. In The Ultimates 4, writer Al Ewing employs almost all of these techniques, offering a remarkably thorough portrait of the Blue Marvel’s history with the Anti-Man. The skeleton is roughly chronological, but Ewing freely skips back and forth without warning, weaving a fascinatingly subjective version of that history through the eyes of Adam Brashear. Indeed, while the sudden skips can be disorienting, they’re emotionally continuous, allowing us to understand exactly how Adam feels about each of these memories in hindsight.
Or is it the way Anti-Man was experiencing time all along? For his part, artist Kenneth Rocafort keeps the times as distinct as possible, with costuming and set designs, but it’s hard to know whose subjectivity we’re in. Is this jump to 1962 a flash-forward Conner experienced in the moment of that scene in 1961, or is it a connection Adam made in hindsight? There are clues suggesting both, effectively tying their subjective experiences together, condensing a decades-spanning friendship into one compelling issue.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the issue ends with Eternity intervening to stop the Ultimates. He may have explicit stakes in their mission, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s just heartbroken by the inescapable nature of Conner and Adam’s relationship.
Patrick: Denial is a powerful thing. It sorta has to be — living in the 21st century means employing an alarming amount of denial about the nature of personal responsibility with regard to where our resources come from and the tolls our appetites have on our environment. There’s basically no such thing as an environmentally responsible diet, for example. Or, for another example, your cell phone and computer and whatever other screens you own (I have a total of five on my desk as I type this), are the result of unscrupulous labor practices. But, like, what’s a body to do with that information? If you’re like the protagonists of Weirdworld (and I suspect that you are), you keep your head down and focus on your own goals. Becca is told explicitly by the Grand Mechanic that her goals spell necessary doom for all of Weirdworld, but Becca remains steadfast in her desire to get home. It’s hard to argue with her: “I just want to go home” is an ambition so universal, it’s baked right into Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It almost feels like it’s her right to go home, even though that right is challenged by the most rational mind in the universe – Eta, Weirdworld’s very own Watcher. Becca’s defense against this criticism is horribly inarticulate, she shouts “leave me alone!” and keeps insisting that her ignorance of Weirdworld’s plight absolves her of any responsibility toward it.
It’s some weighty headspace to be in, and writer Sam Humphries doesn’t let any of the characters off the hook, even tossing in a story about Ogeode’s people slaughtering Goleta’s ancestors. Everything about our heroes’ actions stinks of isolationism – to hell with the tragedy of an entire people, they have their own goals. Mike del Mundo, who’s always game for pushing weird shit, sells some spectacularly bonkers imagery, making the issue’s philosophical pill go down easier. It’s basically cover-to-cover Del Mundo masterpieces, but I think my favorite has to be Becca and Goleta’s dance off, which is the ultimate in them saying “fuck it: I don’t care about anything else.”
Of course it ends in an explosion.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?