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 All-New Inhumans 4, Astonishing Ant-Man 5, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 4, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 3, and Silk 5.
All-New Inhumans 4
Drew: I have a love/hate relationship with fake-out deaths in movies. You know, like when Aragorn “falls” in The Two Towers. I hate them because they’re emotionally manipulative in the cheapest way possible, but I love them for that same reason — it’s often so over-the-top it takes on a delicious (though often unintentional) campy quality. Hot Fuzz squeezes one of its best jokes out of sending up fake-out deaths, mostly by playing it totally straight. Whether it’s earnest or satire, the fake-out only works if we’re invested in it — if we believe, however briefly, that the character in question might actually have died. All-New Inhumans 4 breaks this cardinal rule, completely derailing its own ending in service of a subplot it never commits to.
After a tense standoff between Crystal and the Commissar of Sin-Cong, the Commissar orders that Flint’s prison chamber be filled with poison gas. The next page cuts to Crystal’s personal quarters some unspecified time later with no reference to the apparent cliffhanger of Flint’s safety. Indeed, its not until the next page turn that we catch up with Flint, and his non-death is dismissed with an explanation of “Inhuman physiology” and the timely deployment of Ash’s healing abilities. It could have been an exciting scene to see, or at least an interesting one to hear about afterwards, but the fact that these two moments are separated by a scene where nobody even comments on Flint’s death (or survival) completely undermines the significance of either moment. Moreover, the shock of suddenly dropping Flint’s thread hangs over the scene in between, making my takeaway from it “why aren’t they talking about Flint?”
I suspect that these pages may have been moved around late in production, and Flint’s apparent death was meant to smash-cut directly to his waking with a start in the med bay. However, the cut between the scene of Swain talking to Gorgon in the hallway and the entirely separate scene of Swain talking with Jack in the brig wasn’t clear — partially because the reveal that Swain is confiding in Flint is presented as a twist that doesn’t happen until halfway through the page. Flint’s recovery was moved in between those scenes to smooth over that transition, robbing it of its own emotional impact and causing that tension to awkwardly hang over the scene in between. That’s just a guess as to what happened, but I suppose it doesn’t matter: it doesn’t work as-is, and the misstep is enough to throw off the whole final act of the issue.
Astonishing Ant-Man 5
Patrick: Superhero comics are an inherently iterative medium – they’re based on the idea that we want to see the same superhero battle the forces of evil in perpetuity forever. So it might be a little strange to peg a specific issue as repetitive — or at least, it’s strange to level that as a criticism. But here I go! Astonishing Ant-Man 5 plays a lot of needless catching up, even going so far as to reintroduce the readers to characters and relationships (that have been pretty well-expressed in the four issues that came before it) that don’t figure into this story. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Ramon Rosanas even appear to call out this recursive storytelling by repeating specific flashback moments (and even specific panels) at the beginning and end of the issue.
In fact, is seems like Spencer may be grappling with both the grind and the allure of iteration in a lot of different ways throughout the issue. We get to see some of the more glamorous points in favor of just-doing-the-same-thing-again in the form of Augustine Cross living it up on the money he made off his Hench-rip-off, Lackey. And it’s remarkable how much the goons in the Power Broker’s press conference react to the mere mention (and logo reveal) of Hench 2.0. It all feels intentionally hollow and even the new functionality of Hench 2.0 feeds into this idea that there’s a glut of “sequel” ideas. Can’t find a new villain as strong or as cool as Backlash to fight Ant-Man? Just hire / create “the new Backlash.”
That iteration can also be seen in the interminable line of succession for Pym-particle-powered heroes. Hank Pym begot Scott Lang, who now begets Raz Malhotra. That’s a valid observation about both the medium and the genre, but Spencer’s comics might just be a little too talky to overcome the repetitiveness he’s trying to criticize. If we’re dealing with such easily repeatable archetypes, then there’s no need to pack ever inch of ever page with text, right?
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 4
Spencer: I know I’m backtracking a bit from the position I took when we discussed Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 1, but I’m finding it really hard to like Lunella as a character. The concept Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder are establishing here — Lunella’s isolation, the way she feels pushed around, condescended to, and misunderstood — is a strong, relatable one, but the execution is too muddled to support it. If this is a “kid vs. adults” narrative, then Lunella’s a bit too ineffective to make a worthwhile protagonist — if she’s going to call out adults, she needs to have the chops to back her talk up, and she often doesn’t. It’s possible that Montclare and Reeder are preaching a kind of moderation here, but that fails as well because the adult characters are always in the wrong — if Lunella needs to accept that sometimes she’s wrong and adults are right, then that needs to be something that’s actually true. About the only character I can fully root for here is Devil Dinosaur.
This series is also just strangely paced. The issue’s sad ending relies upon our being invested in Lunella and Devil’s partnership, but we’ve simply seen too little of them together for their separation to hit home. In a book targeted at younger readers, four issues is too long to go without fully establishing the status quo/central relationship. Even the issue itself suffers from some clear padding — besides a pointless four-page scene featuring the Killer Folk (still a poor choice of villain), Lunella and Hulk also seem to repeat their arguments a few different times throughout the confrontation (how many variations of “you’re just a kid!” or “you don’t use your brain!” are there?!).
The best thing about this issue — and, indeed, the series as a whole — is Natacha Bustos’ art. While her weaknesses show a bit in the action sequences, she still sports some of the best facial expressions at Marvel, running Lunella through a full spectrum of emotion on any given page.
When I can connect with Lunella, it’s almost always because of Bustos’ art. I really want to like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, as I think it has the potential to be something really interesting, but it’s just not coming together the way it should.
Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 3
Ryan M: Much like it’s title, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat deals with her duality in a straightforward way. Yes, Patsy is instantly smitten with her landlord’s son, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t try and root out villainy while flirting. She is so comfortable with both parts of her life and it makes for an angst-free read.
Brittney Williams’ art continues to be a delight. Even as the comic gets deeper into the nightmare of every urban dweller, her depiction of bed bugs has a sense of play. The horror comes from Hellcat’s reaction. Her expression in the upper right panel above conveys her shocks and disgust. Leth also peppers in “fun facts” about bedbugs that mix a jovial tone with disturbing information.
At this point in the series, the villains of Patsy’s “girl in the city” life have been established. They are the usual mix of unemployment, scarcity of affordable living situations, and frenemies from the past. In this issue, writer Kate Leth establishes Hellcat’s antagonist. Casiolena is not just part of Hellcat’s history, she is operating directly opposite her goals. What started as Patsy’s pitch for a temp agency for powered people has evolved into a great basis for the series. The introduction of Casiolena also raises the stakes. Every person that Patsy cannot help find gainful employment will likely end up working for the dark side.
This issue had me smiling from beginning to end. Considering all the bedbug talk, that is a significant achievement. I can’t wait to see what other horrors of the modern urbanite that Patsy will defeat. Maybe the dreaded line for brunch? Honestly, wherever this series goes, I am on board.
Taylor: I’ve been awfully cold on Silk the past couple of issues. It seemed like the story had stagnated and that plot elements were being introduced but infrequently touched upon again. This comes after I had such hot feelings for it in earlier issues which was due in no small part to expert story telling and wonderful art. With issue 5 of Silk, I once again find myself warming up the series after a cooling period and I couldn’t be happier about that.
This issue really is a blast from beginning to end. Cindy has been injected with some low-level goblin serum and as such obeys the Goblin King’s orders to kill Black Cat. However, this has all been part of Black Cat’s plans as she simply wanted to test her anti-goblin serum on somebody. She gets this chance when Cindy busts into her loft with lethal intentions. After easily taking out Shrike, Cindy and Black Cat go out it for bit. Like all of the action in this issue, this fight is wonderfully drawn by artist Veronica Fish.
Fish does a wonderful job of drawing motion into her panels as can be seen here with Black Cat tossing Silk into a wall. While I greatly enjoy this kinetic motion, what really makes me enjoy this panel and others like it is the hot to cold coloring I see thanks to the talents of Ian Herring. Throughout this issue whenever someone lands a blow on an opponent (which happens often), Herring fills the background with bright reds and oranges. This accentuates the violence of the battles throughout this issue and lends them an energy that is often needed in a medium where fisticuffs can so easily become boring. Herring is careful though to make sure only those panels with a blow are colored hotly. Panels where there is dialogue or where characters are rather static are colored coolly or neutrally. The panel above is brilliant because it combines these two color motifs into one panel, but keeps the same rules going. As Silk hits the wall there is an explosion of red color while Black Cat’s portion of the panel has a blueish tinge. This shows exactly who’s in control of the fight and where the violence is happening in the panel. It’s a subtle yet extremely effective way of making the action come alive.
Relating to temperature changes, I also really like the way Robbie Thompson is having other characters react to Cindy’s goblin-induced absence. Her friends at work are genuinely worried about her and even J. Jonah Jameson hints that he too is worried about Cindy. Meanwhile, Mockingbird and Spider-Woman are bemoaning being ignored by Cindy in a very different fashion. All of this illustrates how Cindy means different things to different people. They all care for her to different extents and view her in different ways. Her disappearance serves to show just how hot or cold each of these characters are on Cindy at the moment, which plants the seeds for interesting narratives later in the series. Lastly, Cindy learns that Black Cat now considers her part of the gang. This acceptance is ostensibly a good thing as it helps to fulfill Cindy’s mission, but both Cindy and I get bad feelings about it. It’s all just so damn engrossing and I can’t wait to read next month’s Silk. I’m hot on this title again.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?