Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 3/9/16

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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 All-New Wolverine 6, Amazing Spider-Man 9, Howard the Duck 5, Mighty Thor 5, Ms. Marvel 5, Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3, Spider-Gwen 6, and Weirdworld 4.

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All-New Wolverine 6

All-New Wolverine 6Drew: It’s remarkable how much a twist ending can derail the discussion of a narrative. It’s hard to know what people liked about the first 105 minutes of The Sixth Sense because all anyone talked about was the last five. It’s understandable — that’s one hell of a twist — but I think it might be unfair to the film as a whole. The twist at the end of All-New Wolverine isn’t quite as disruptive, but it still changes the context of this first arc so violently as to completely dominate my thoughts on the issue. (As always, spoilers abound here — though it bears repeating in this context — so consider yourself warned.)

Unfortunately, that twist banks on your familiarity with X-23’s history, and specifically, her relationship with her old handler, Kimura. Being relatively new to the character (as I suspect many readers of this series are), I had never heard of Kumura before, so the final full page reveal fell a little flat. I’m not sure how writer Tom Taylor could have primed us for this twist without giving it away, but something should have been done — Laura is a pretty deep cut, and while I’m loving her time in the spotlight, the presumption of the average reader’s knowledge of her past should probably be pitched a bit lower. It’s nothing that a trip to the Marvel wiki can’t remedy, but that robs the final page of the gut-punch it was meant to be.

Still, in hindsight, it’s a hell of a twist. Kimura is Laura’s Big Bad, and finding out that she was pulling the strings all along upends the narrative in interesting ways. Importantly, Taylor reminds us of a specific skill of Laura’s that might come into play:

Snff

I have no idea if Kimura had any trouble finding and tracking Laura (did I mention I’m new to this character?), but there’s no doubt that she can now that she holds Bellona under her sway. Then again, Kimura seems to have more interest in Bellona’s nanites than her skills, so how this all comes to bear on Laura could be totally different. Who knows? Maybe long-time X-23 fans have a better idea, but for now, I’m happy to just find out what happens next month.

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Amazing Spider-Man 9

Amazing Spider-Man 9Spencer: Parker Industries is all about big, bold ideas, and Amazing Spider-Man 9 finds writer Dan Slott co-opting that philosophy for himself. This issue is essentially one giant gonzo action scene from beginning to end, starting with Spider-Man and Nick Fury blasting off into space and ending with Peter SURVIVING RE-ENTRY AND A CRASH LANDING AT TERMINAL VELOCITY!

Yeah, it’s exactly as cool as it sounds.

These aren’t the kind of feats Spider-Man could have pulled off before Secret Wars — it’s only because of his Parker Industries inventions, resources, and employees that he can do any of this. While previous issues have raised doubts about whether Peter can handle running this company or even if he’s using it for the right reasons, Amazing Spider-Man 9 paints it as a purely positive thing. Not only do Slott and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli treat readers to 20 pages jam-packed with spectacle, but they present Peter as somebody who can do the impossible. Not only do his action confound Zodiac’s precogs, but they even paint him as an absolutely mythic figure.

sign of the spider

Of course, after all that, the issue still ends with Spider-Man at the Zodiac’s mercy. Is that simply Peter Parker’s destiny: is he fated to forever be an underdog, even when he has all the power in the world? Knowing Peter Parker, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Howard the Duck 5

Howard the Duck 5Taylor: It’s hard to say what exactly goes into making the ending of a story good. Part of the reason for that is that there are just so many ways to end something that it becomes difficult define what qualifies as good and not just different. Despite this, the one thing all good ending have to do is tie up loose ends. In Howard the Duck 5, loose ends are certainly tied up, but instead of making for a satisfying conclusion, they make for one that is a bit of a let down.

With the help of the Silver Surfer, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and others, Howard is able to escape the evil clutches of the collector. This is the end of this narrative arc, and it’s clear that writer Chip Zdarsky is interested in closing things out and moving on to other narratives. Throughout the last 10 pages of this issue, all the outstanding plot lines are closed with an abundance of deus ex machina. Howard is able to send all of the collectors prisoners home. He sends his friends home without any tearful goodbyes. And of course the collector himself is easily defeated. However, the most flagrant happenstance ending is saved for Howard alone.

Deus ex Duckia

Scout notices that even after Howard has been separated from his nexus, he’s still able to travel though it because he’s somehow connected to it. This allows Howard to travel to his “home” and sets up the next story arc nicely by cutting Howard off from his previous story in virtually every way. There’s nothing wrong with this ending by any means, it’s just that for my taste it’s all a little too neat and tidy. The ending feels a bit contrived and perfunctory. While there are page limits and publishing dates to consider, I just wish the ending of this arc was anywhere near as zany and weird as the series itself.

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Ms. Marvel 5

Ms. Marvel 5Ryan M.: For the first time, I’m not sure that I like Kamala Khan. The issue opens a few moments after the last, with dozens of Kamala copies overrunning the science lab. Rather than show any concern for the clearly agitated Bruno or any sense of responsibility, she is dismissive and looks to put off dealing with the problem. I understand that Kamala’s desire to dive into the thing that she loves and ignore the consequences is typical teen behavior, but it’s difficult to connect with a story when the central character is so self-involved. After her family watches a clone of their daughter melt from the inside (a horrifying experience), Kamala has a moment where she realizes that her presence at her brother’s wedding events is not just a formality; it is important to them. For a moment, it feels like G. Willow Wilson is using the clones to guide Kamala to some sort of reckoning.

ms marvel lesson

The above panels really worked for me. I was buying into it. It’s like the last five minutes of any given episode of Degrassi when the character explains their issue-of-the-week with a pat psychological explanation a vow to get better. Who wouldn’t sympathize with the shame on Kamala’s face in that first panel? She even makes her realization and follows it up with the questions of identity and responsibility that underlie her character.

From here, she could have a few options. She could face her mistakes and fix them, or go part-time with the Avengers, or even get a day planner and schedule her problems away. Instead, she walks through a growing mob of her clones to eat pizza and talk out potential solutions. I know that too much Superhero time got her into this mess, but it’s difficult to root for anyone who keeps themselves safe in a room while the results of their mistake cause havoc outside. I know I’m being harsh on poor Kamala, but I think I feel a little suckered by the mid-issue emotional monologue. If the issue had ended there, I would be much more excited about seeing the Mega-Clone crash Aamir’s engagement party. Instead, I sort of want the clone mob to kidnap Kamala until she gets some perspective and a sense of responsibility to her non-Ms. Marvel activities.

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The Mighty Thor 5

Mighty Thor 5Patrick: Why does war ever stop? Virtually no conflicts end in the total eradication of one side of the fight (except in Lord of the Rings, when the earth just decides to swallow up Sauron’s forces), so there has to be something that makes the fighting stop. Last issue saw Malekith taking a time-honored approach to ending conflict among the elves by marrying Queen Aelsa, which while effectively achieving peace does have the icky side effective of muting a woman through marriage. We get to see that actual ceremony play out here and it’s clear Aelsa is acting against her will — sorcery, telepathy, drugs, political pressure, a society groaning under the weight of its patriarchy: it doesn’t really matter what makes her marry Malekith, the point is she doesn’t want to. Of course, the horrible deed is celebrated with a raised champagne flute and a toast.

In Asgard, the civil war (which, let’s be honest, these are both civil wars, right?) finds a totally different resolution which once again finds a woman sacrificed at the heart of it. Loki, trusted by his mother as her spy against Malekith, materializes a poison magic dagger and stabs Freyja in the back. The thing is, writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman were having a hell of a time depicting the brawl between Thor and Odin right up until that moment. They set their skirmish out past the asteroid belt, as the gods smash each other from Saturn to Jupiter in a couple of hilariously bravura-infused sequences. Hell, Thor even takes one of those aforementioned asteroids and flattens Odin with it. Dauterman sells the shit out of this sequence, tilting his panels as though their affected by the gravity of the asteroid.

thor throws an asteroid

Actually, my favorite inventive-as-hell detail has to be Thor channeling the storm of Jupiter’s red dot. What an amazing idea! This fight’s too big for earth storms — we need something bigger. But no matter how big the fight gets, it all comes to a full stop when Freyja is murdered. Tellingly, no matter how powerful Jane Foster becomes as Thor, she’s not able to get results like woman dying (or coming very close to it). That’s part of the reason the gender politics of Thor and Might Thor have been so satisfying — they don’t examine issues as trite as “can a woman be tough?” Of course she can. How society responds to that agency, however, is another thing entirely. In both Aelsa and Freyja’s cases, their weakness affects more change than Thor’s might ever could. That’s fucked up.

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Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3

Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3Drew: “It was all a dream” gets a bad rap, but it’s possible for it to be done well. For me, its success is based on two criteria: 1) if it reveals something about the dreaming character, and 2) if it isn’t used as an ending. If it fails on either of those criteria, it’s going to feel like a cheap fake-out, but if it meets them, I see no reason to complain. Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3‘s “forget what you thought was the plot” twist isn’t quite a dream, but I think that helps it meet my first criteria even more emphatically.

The reveal, that this was all an elaborate practical joke Rocket was pulling on Groot, serves to illuminate their friendship, and the lengths Rocket is willing to go for something so petty. It’s far more revealing than any dream (everyone dreams, and not every dream is meaningful), telling us a great deal about both Rocket and Groot, even if the specifics of the premise no longer matter. As someone who was missing Rocket and Groot’s easy rapport from Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon, throwing out the whole Memento angle is a welcome — if unexpected — turn of events.

Of course, this issue still trades in much of the darkness of the first two issues (undoubtedly influenced by Filipe Andrade’s moody artwork), which keeps me from fully embracing Rocket’s antics here. There’s still cartooniness in Rocket using Groot as a makeshift bridge or doling out an atomic wedgie, but there’s enough grimness in the talk of torture or Rocket leading his friends to believe he was dead that I’m more repulsed than amused. Here’s hoping this series can now return to the Earthworm Jim aesthetic that made Rocket Racoon so enjoyable.

slim-banner4Spider-Gwen 6

Spider-Gwen 6Spencer: What is a mask if not a chance to put on an entirely new persona, a blank slate that allows you to become whatever you desire — or for others to do the same to you? The police use Spider-Woman’s mask to paint her as a criminal, but Gwen Stacy’s always used it as a badge of sorts, an opportunity to battle evil on her own terms. In Spider-Gwen 6, Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez give Gwen a chance to redefine what Spider-Woman means, both to herself and to the public at large.

Her new friendship with Captain America has the cops singing a different tune about Spider-Woman, but what does Gwen’s alter ego mean to her now? Well, she’s become a figure of redemption — not just an opportunity to fix her own mistakes, but to help others do the same as well.

Green Goblin

This is Gwen rejecting the typical superhero/typical Spider-Man narrative. The eternal battle between a hero and their arch-nemesis — between Spider-Man and Green Goblin? Not gonna happen. Even if it means rejecting S.H.I.E.L.D.’s offer and potentially making an enemy of them, Gwen just can’t bring Harry in. That would mean fighting him more, it would mean seeing him hurt, it would mean condemning them both to a life of eternal battle and bitter enmity, and that’s not what Gwen wants for her friend. This is where Gwen decides that Spider-Woman is not a cop nor a soldier — she’s something more. She’s something better.

It’s easy to see where Gwen gets it from.

one and only dad

Sure, this scene doesn’t take place until after Gwen lets Harry go, but that’s a minor nitpick — from what we’ve learned about the former Captain Stacy, this has got to be far from the first time he’s made such a sacrifice for Gwen. She’s clearly learned from it, and it’s nice to see that positive influence becoming a part of her Spider-Woman persona. As a free agent, as a figure of redemption, Spider-Woman can be the hero people need her to be in a way that neither a cop nor a soldier — perhaps not even Spider-Man himself — ever could. And that’s pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

I suppose that’s always been one of the strengths of alternate-universe stories — that need to stick to convention, and to try to keep the same stories running for decades, just isn’t there, and the stories are often better for it. I’d certainly say it’s the case for Spider-Gwen 6.

slim-banner4Weirdworld 4

“It is permitted for a warrior to be sad. We will be sad warriors together.”

Goleta, The Wizard Slayer, Weirdworld 4

Weirdworld 4Patrick: A title like Weirdworld lives and dies on the strength of its insanity engine. I can’t think of a single issue of this series we haven’t praised for being so damn weird. But that’s simply the series’ hook, and any good story is necessarily going to be more than its hook. You come to Batman for the cool billionnaire in the bat-suit, but you stay for the genuine pathos his stories deliver. While Sam Humphries and Mike Del Mundo’s Weirdworld has always been smart, it’s not always been clear what shape the series’ heart is. Issue number four comes out swinging hard at themes of loss and acceptance, with a movingly slow tribute to saying goodbye.

Becca, Goleta and Odeode find themselves in a magical candy land that — surprise — isn’t what it appears to be. Both Becca and Goleta are haunted by alluring versions of the people they have lost; for Goleta, this is a diamond girlfriend, and for Becca, its her deceased mother. I can’t recall if we knew prior to this issue that Becca’s mother committed suicide, but that detail felt both surprising and powerful here. Her mother’s suicide naturally complicates Becca’s relationship with her loss, and it’s not just sadness our warrior experiences, it’s also anger, frustration, powerlessness. Del Mundo has a glorious page showing the passing of time as Becca is incapable of moving on from this moment that will likely define her life forever. It’s perfectly balanced, achingly similar from panel to panel, with this crushing consistency of that box of ashes anchoring her every experience.

Becca loses time

Del Mundo might have proven himself to be king goof-ball in the last 9 issues of Weirdworld, but it’s here where his heart — and Becca’s heart too for that matter — is on full display.

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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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8 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 3/9/16

  1. All-New Wolverine: I came into this issue knowing who Kimura is, which certainly changes my view of it. It is hard for me to think how such a twist works for someone not familiar. The way the scene is structured is designed to suggest importance. You understand a dramatic shift has occurred solely through the very structure. In today’s wiki age, you can google it, but does it also work as an intriguing tease even if you don’t know who it is? For me, I certainly get a good twist, but for someone else, do they understand that there is much more to the story, and things are going to get even more interesting? I do think that it is a good twist, though. Suggests things are going to get more interesting

    And this issue was really good. Everyone got to end their arc in really great ways, and act as three dimensional characters, even Bellona who struggled to have one previously. A good ending to the arc

    Ms Marvel: After being a bit down on this book lately, I actually enjoyed this one a bit more. Things seemed to be working in ways that it hadn’t lately. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully fall in love with Ms Marvel, but it is consistently good

    Thor: On the other hand, I still love Thor. I am really enjoying Loki lately. Even after stabbing his own mother in the back, you don’t know whose side he is on. The storm of Jupiter is a fantastic piece of imagination, every action is still full of meaning and purpose and the art is astonishing. One of the best books on the stands

    Weirdworld: Becca’s mother committing suicide was revealed in the first issue, where we see Becca walk into her dead with lots of pills next to her. But this issue did a fantastic job and deepening the already fantastic central tragedy of Becca.

    And isn’t it amazing what a good character Goletta is when they aren’t trying to make her silly? By grounding her, she has also been fantastic in the last two issues. With Becca and Goletta grounded, the joyful insanity of Weirdworld because much funnier and enjoyable, while giving us characters to enjoy. Weirdworld took its time to get going, but I am so thankful that it has reached this stage. This was honestly a great week for comics, with Mockingbird and Vision, but Weirdworld made a point to be counted as one of the best of the week. I’m loving it

  2. Ms. Marvel: I actually laughed out loud several times this issue. How many comics can you say do that to you? I know that not many to me, and I appreciate that. Ms. Marvel balances the teen drama and humor in a good way for me. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Kamala is not taking things seriously, also from the ending we know that the consequences to her actions are far from over.

    Spider-Gwen: I’m so very glad that the Lizard/Peter’s death arc is over, seriously, I love the book and I understand the importance of the event in the character origin, but I want to read more stories that explore Earth-65 and Gwen in a context that do not involve Peter Parker.

    Thor: Probably the most epic Thor battle in a while? The narration and visuals of this issue were truly awesome. I’ve seen a share of Odinson fans bothered by Thor being able to go against Odin in this issue, but surely they would not have such complaint if it was the old Thor? After all, we should assume that the new one has as much power as he did. In other note: I hope the Loki stabbing thing is plot designed by him and Freyja. She needs to be an active participant in this arc.

    Howard the Duck: I actually liked this issue a lot exactly for the same reasons Taylor hated it. It felt appropriated to me, and I suspect that many seeds planted in this arc will return later. Excited for the crossover with Squirrel Girl!

    • Ms Marvel: THe book does certainly always make me laugh. Would just love it to return to some more interesting ground. I think the gentrification storyline got handicapped by the Mike stuff (those two plotlines never really converged thematically) and army of clones feels so generic. This issue did a lot to redeem last issues use of the trope through great execution, but I miss the Ms Marvel of the first volume.

      Thor: The way the book reads, I think Freyja didn’t expect Loki to backstab her. Whether Loki is still loyal or not, he is going beyond what is expected. I do expect Freyja to have an important role over future events. Just maybe only in spirit (though I also wouldn’t be surprised of Loki has a plan to stay in contact with Freyja. We still have nothing solid on which side he is on).

      Whenever Greg Weisman gets asked ‘who will win in a fight?’, no matter who the two people are, he always has the exact same answer ‘Well, Hulk is stronger, but if the Thing keeps his head…’ In nearly every fight, the prevailing wisdom is Odin will beat Thor. But when you have a fight that epic, I really don’t care. Let’s just take Weisman’s answer. Damn, I love THor, and it is still one of the best things Marvel is releasing

      I should probably catch up with Spider Gwen. Wasn’t entirely working for me. But I want to read SPiderwomen, and there is still a lot that interests me in the book. I may catch up. I think I’m only two issues behind

      • I really like the idea that Loki was only acting to end the conflict in Asgard. He knew that killing (or damn-near killing) the All-Mother would unite Asgard and put a stop to the brawling between Thor and Odin. When he’s cornered, Loki is accused of either being very good or very bad with poison, because the wound has not yet killed Freyja. My money is on “very good with poison” and that he only every meant to make it look like her life was in danger.

        But of course, the most exciting part is that there’s no way of knowing. Loki’s the shit, man.

        • The best thing is that all of Gillen and Ewing’s work has finally given us the Loki we’ve always been told about. The Loki who we don’t know whose side we are on. Gillen has talked a lot about how Loki was always going to go back to status quo, but he actually might not. Instead, he may stay in this wonderful place Aaron has him he his exact side on a storyline is never obvious. Because this is the true trickster god.

          It is a fantastic series of events, that have led Aaron to positioning Loki in a position similar to status quo, but infinitely more preferable because of the sheer depth this version has. All you need to do is make it clear that Loki has an interest in both sides (I love that in this case, it is the same answer: Family). Once you have that, you have this truly unpredictable Loki.

          We all know that Loki is good with poison, but we don’t know why Loki chose to leave Freyja alive. Out of a plan with Freyja? Out of a wish to keep Freyja alive even as their plan needs him to go even deeper? Out of a plan with Maliketh? Out of a wish not to kill her even as he betrays her?

  3. Ms. Marvel 5, Rocket Raccoon and Groot 3, Spider-Gwen 6, and Weirdworld 4.
    Wolverine: Your comments make me glad I dropped it. It’s a terrible idea to create a new series for a B-list character and then have the big bad be a surprise from her past (completely unknown by most of the readers). I’m glad I’ve switched teams to Old Wolverine.

    Spider-Man: It’s just time to accept that this is a different world and these will be different Spider-Stories. And I’m fine with that if they are this quality. I was pretty down on it last issue (I shouldn’t be surprised by the naming of Spider-Man’s girlfriend. He’s my favorite fictional character of all time and I’ve read nearly every comic he’s been in for the past 10 years at least twice, including all of this run), but I’m going to try to accept that this is a huge global Spider-World and not everything is going to be contained in 10 square blocks in New York.

    Howard the Duck: His legacy sucks. His old comics don’t translate well. They just weren’t good. They’re fun as archaeology, but they’re just not that good. Zdarsky does a pretty good job of playing to that past by relishing in how stupid these stories are and how non-heroic and truly non-interesting Howard is (other than being a duck). So change gears at will, relish in the ’70s zaniness and remember, this is meant to be nonsense!

    Thor: “I am really enjoying Loki lately. Even after stabbing his own mother in the back, you don’t know whose side he is on.” Yep. I never was a Loki fan. He was just not that interesting to me for years. He was a green and gold Mephisto. How have Gillen and Aaron tapped into this? Was it the ‘reboot’ young Loki that turned him into this agent of chaos instead of a boring “of course he’s lying” villain? I don’t know, but Loki is now powerful enough to take attention away from the truly fantastic Thor story, which is amazing.

    Ms. Marvel: I’m (again) with Matt on this. I’m glad this is the continuation of Ms. Marvel’s story, not the introduction, because I would not have stuck around after this arc. She’s a selfish bitch in this volume with no soul. This whole volume has not had a very good tone. I feel like I’m supposed to be on her side here, but it’s not obvious WHY I should be. It’s kind of like Moon Girl to me. This should have either been played as over the top camp like Ghostbusters or Walking Dead like horror, but middle of the ground teen drama with this shit has just been boring with the occasional eye roll.

  4. and yes, I know I’m late. Last week was a bear with Parent teacher conferences and last weekend was NCAA tournament (Go Badgers!), so I’m getting my time in now!

  5. A couple you missed:

    Spider-Man/Deadpool #3: I’m trying to reduce my Deadpool intake. This deserves to be read. This actually has some of the drama of The Hateful Eight. Really. Except with Deadpool and Spider-Man and no heavy handed racism talk. I’m digging this comic quite a bit. Deadpool is a great foil for Spider-Man and there is a ton of great dialogue and characterization here that I believe satisfies new readers but really touches on some of the key points of their relationship over the past years. Quality comics, strongly recommended.

    Red Wolf #4: One of Marvel’s top comics right now. Should be read for those interested in a ’70s midnight cowboy movie set in modern times. Quality comics, strongly recommended.

    Spider-Man 2099 #8: How does this never die? Amazing that Peter David still has new stories with what seemed like a one shot what-if character. I continue to be interested in this story that is more along the lines of what the x-men do (accidentally ruin the future so must fix the present).

    Doctor Strange #6: Did you do Dr. Strange? Maybe you did. I remain interested. I still wonder if there’s eventually going to be a Scarlet Witch crossover as they both have the same story with very different approaches.

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