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 8, Civil War II 0, Deadpool Last Days of Magic 1, International Iron Man 3, Karnak 4, Old Man Logan 6, Silver Surfer 4 and Spider-Man 4.
All-New Wolverine 8
Drew: Superhero stories are undoubtedly a genre unto themselves, but it’s a decidedly broad genre, that can take on the characteristics of countless other genres. Marvel has been particularly good at exploiting this fact in recent years, publishing superhero stories that double as legal dramas, spy-thrillers, high fantasy, and mysteries, to name a few. That flexibility has helped keep the superhero genre vital, incorporating new elements as needed to keep stories fresh, but it can also make the identity of any one series somewhat erratic. Take, for example, All-New Wolverine 8, which breaks with the action thriller and cartoony McGuffin hunt genres of previous issues to present a Godzilla-inspired creature feature.
Mileage may vary on that turn, but shifting the tone so violently left me nervous about this series going forward. My biggest problem was in Laura and Gabby’s jokey patter, which comes off more as stiltedly quirky than casually funny. Laura’s favorite takeout dish, for example, is only ever referred to as “twenty-five with chicken,” which she adds “has all the flavor of twenty-five.” That non-specificity thwarts itself — I can see a host insisting that a guest try their favorite local food, but surely it would be more specific than the name of the dish. You don’t just tell someone they have to try hamburgers, you tell them they have to try the burgers at a specific restaurant — especially if you only know the dish by its menu number at said restaurant. I know that seems like a silly detail to get hung up on, but it’s repeated later in the issue by Maria Hill, who somehow also knows exactly what “twenty-five with chicken” means, somehow repeating Laura’s description of it word-for-word.
Point is, this series doesn’t handle naturalistic dialogue nearly as well as it handles rapid-fire exposition and strong visual action. The issue’s end promises more of those strengths, but its beginning makes me less excited for the series, generally. Tom Taylor writes such a strong Laura-as-loner, it would be a shame to trade that characterization in permanently for this awkward comedy duo. I’m all for character growth; I’d just like to recognize the characters as they grow.
Civil War II 0
Patrick: Zero issues are sort of fascinating — there are so few other mediums that engage in this sort of pre-story storytelling, particularly when that story is serialized. Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel’s Civil War II 0 sets to establish the series’ tone, values and characters, but does little to forward, or even elucidate, a plot.
I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, given Bendis’ involvement, but this is a chatty fucking issue. In fact, it almost fetishizes chattiness. The opening pages are of Jennifer Walters heroically defending her client, former Jester Jonathan Powers, in court. She’s not She-Hulk-smashing anything in these pages, just articulately and compassionately defending a known criminal who has paid his debt to society. But Coipel uses all of the same tricks an artist would use to show a superhero is dominating an action sequence in this courtroom scene. Jen’s body spans multiple panels, and her face envelopes others whole. She, and her powerful words, dominate the page, filling an absurd amount of space. Colorist Justin Ponsor saturates the room with light, lending a divine quality to the defense. Elsewhere in the issue, Captain Marvel has an impromptu therapy session with Doc Sampson — reinforcing this idea that the act of conversation is powerful and meaningful. But there’s nowhere in the issue where this concept is as explicitly stated as when Jen arrives the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier: she and Maria Hill get locked into a looping “how are you?” conversation and Jen points out…
She’s counting words because she knows that this specific conversation will change their relationship. The words have power. Or… do they? Despite Jen’s best efforts, Jester goes to jail and is subsequently killed by a guard. For all the power of her words — and by extension, of Bendis’ words — an innocent man dies.
Deadpool Last Days of Magic 1
Patrick: Regular commentor, Kaif, made the observation that “Last Days of Magic” was essentially writer Jason Aaron grafting his excellent “Godkiller” story arc from Thor God of Thunder to Doctor Strange. It’s not a knock against “Last Days,” but it does sort of expose the sort of fill-in-the-specifics Mad Libs approach to Aaron’s storytelling. Enter Deadpool, and its rockstar creative team of Gerry Duggan and Scott Koblish to cut through the incidental losses on the War on Magic and offer up an achingly meaningful sacrifice.
Of course, just because long-time readers of Deadpool will have a fondness for the underpantsless slacker magician Michael, that doesn’t mean that Duggan and Koblish are going to rest on our pre-existing sympathies. The issue starts with Michael and Daphne going to lunch with her parents. It’s a domestic scene, one’s that’s grounded with real, relateable struggles and insecurities. So when Deadpool swoops in to usher Michael into the Battle to Save Monster Metropolis, we’re already on Michael’s side. Duggan also very smartly throws a couple more magicians in The Empirikul’s way — both Doctor Midnight and the incredibly dopey Mage take part in the last stand. These are Michael’s peers, and they’re all out-matched by Empirikul. Koblish does this battle up in a cacophonous two-page spread that’s every bit as chaotic as the battle it implies, but nowhere near as difficult to follow as Chris Bacchalo’s work on Doctor Strange a few weeks ago.
International Iron Man 3
Drew: Man, I love the first three seasons of LOST. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy the show as a whole, but nothing can top those first three seasons for me. I think a big part of that is that, for all of the mysteries and philosophical wankery, the thing that I loved most about LOST was the way it used its flashback structure. To me, the flashes to thematically-linked moments in these characters lives was a perfect representation of the way our brains (if not necessarily our memories) work. Characters react this way to a given situation because of what happened the last time they were in a similar situation. It’s a simple tool, but it allowed the series to quickly develop its characters by revealing some of the key moments in their life as they became relevant to the story. International Iron Man has been striving for a similar feat, and issue 3 finally finds it clicking into place.
The present day mystery of Tony’s biological parents hardly advances at all — it ends with Tony asking Cassandra the same question he asked halfway through the previous issue — but the flashbacks complicate their relationship in intriguing ways. I mean, sure, that Cassandra actually was the Honeypot Howard Stark accused her of being could be seen a mile away, but writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev keep us invested enough in Tony’s perspective to believe that he doesn’t. More importantly, they demonstrate just how crushing the reveal is, not just because he cared about Cassandra, but because he thought he had proven his dad wrong. That latter bit offers the key to Tony’s obsession with finding his birth parents — maybe this can finally break him from Howard’s “prison” in a way that Tony never could on his own.
Indeed, that context gives the closing “Who is my biological father?” much more oomph than it had in the previous issue. Before we had these deeply personal stakes, Tony’s search felt more like he was satisfying his own curiosity. Now, we have some much more complex psychological motivations, all pivoting around an equally complicated romantic history between our two leads. Consider me hooked.
Michael: Superheroes overcome their obstacles and save the ones who need saving. In Karnak 4, Warren Ellis and Roland Boschi give Karnak a force he doesn’t defeat and a captive who doesn’t want rescuing. Karnak 4 is the latest chapter in “The Flaw in All Things” arc, where we’ve seen Magister Karnak tear through opponents and obstacles with little difficulty. Here we see Karnak struggling a bit to find “the flaw” in the creatures that he’s battling — finally defeating them by using one of their bones. Afterwards, Karnak is met by the boy he was assigned to rescue — Adam Roderick. Adam tells Karnak how his “abductors” helped him realize his powers and become the best version of himself. He understands that his parents miss and love him, but he’s happier where he is, “drawing with people.”
It’s a scene that I’ve witnessed many times in various stories: the young runaway gets confused and falls in with the wrong crowd, leading to the destruction of himself and others. I don’t really get that sense from Adam — he doesn’t seem all that confused and he doesn’t want to hurt people (Karnak). Ellis writes Adam as a young man who has realized his own path outside of what his parents might’ve had in mind.
After Adam and his acolytes leave, Karnak’s displeasure with the situation is very evident. As evidenced by his half-assed speech, he was reluctant to play the “rescuing hero” in the first place. After he fails on his objective of securing Adam, Karnak is pissed and just wants to tear down the whole damn place.
Old Man Logan 6
Spencer: The conflict at the core of Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Marcelo Maiolo’s Old Man Logan 6 is, essentially, Logan’s struggle against the world itself to simply live the kind of life he wants to live. Throughout the issue Logan ruminates about how much he enjoys living in Killhorn Falls, the isolated town he’s moved to in order to keen an eye on the girl who — back in his own timeline — grew up to be his wife, Maureen. It’s a life that suits Logan, a life he appreciates, so of course, it can’t last.
Killhorn Falls is attacked by the Reavers, a group of sadistic mercenaries who are there for one reason, and one reason only: to kill Logan. Logan’s presence in Killhorn Falls has unequivocally put the town in danger, and it’s that fact that highlights the conflict here: Logan’s wants, desires, and happiness are often opposed, if not downright destroyed, to the point where it seems like the universe itself is against him.
This is really a theme that’s applied to this entire series (and the original Old Man Logan) as well. Logan tries to abandon his old life and makes a new, happy one with a family, only to have that stolen from him. Logan makes it his goal to destroy the villains who will, one day, go on to kill his family, but it’s a literally impossible task because he’s been taken to an entirely different universe. He tries to find a peaceful, isolated life, only for villains to track him down specifically, putting his new friends in danger in the process. Old Man Logan 6 is too focused on Logan’s actual rescue attempts at the moment to explore the ramifications of this, but I’m interested to see Logan’s next move once this conflict is resolved; is the world really out to get Logan, and if so, is there anything at all he can do to find some sense of peace? It may literally be impossible.
Silver Surfer 4
Mark: Despite the critical praise, I had a hard time getting into Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s Silver Surfer book when its run first began. I think I got about three or four issues in, but it never clicked into place for me and it faded from my consciousness even though I was aware of the general buzz surrounding it. Silver Surfer 4 is the first issue I’ve read in what has to be over a year now, and I found it so enjoyable I feel compelled to revisit the book from the beginning.
Comparisons between Marvel and DC have basically been exhausted at this point; between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War and DC’s latest attempt to catch Marvel in comic book sales via DC Rebirth, we’re reaching peak Marvel/DC discussion. But as a comic book consumer I spend a lot more time in the DC world than the Marvel world (which you can tell by my work on this site), and Silver Surfer 4 made me consider two ways it differs from DC’s output.
Over and over when I talk about DC’s Superman: Lois and Clark, I talk about how Dan Jurgens’ writing is decidedly old school. As a result, portions of that book feel out of touch and dated (I will forever laugh at Jurgens’ attempt to incorporate reality television into the story) and less than compelling. In contrast, Slott and Allred’s Silver Surfer 4 is knowingly retro but still contemporary. Ben Grimm being unashamedly Ben Grimm! Shalla Bal cries “Great Galaxies!” in combat! These are all deeply silly and right out of comic’s Silver Age, but it’s endearing and works in a way Jurgens is never able to achieve.
Second, Silver Surfer 4 is extremely hopeful. One of the things that DC’s Geoff Johns has said repeatedly in interviews leading up to the launch of Rebirth is how he wants to return hope and optimism to the DC universe. You would never see a story like Silver Surfer 4 in DC YOU. Even DC’s team titles get bogged down in a mire of grit. There is no Silver Age optimism there. In contrast, the pop art inspired work of Michael Allred and colorist Laura Allred in Silver Surfer are the perfect compliment to Slott’s story of teamwork and stick-to-itiveness. These are heroes and they’re unabashedly heroic.
Being completely ignorant of the behind-the-scenes on Silver Surfer, I reached the last pages wondering whether this was the final issue of the book. There’s a sense of finality to the ending of this arc, with Surfer becoming a citizen of the world and him and Dawn embracing in front of everyone. And if it were to be the last it seems a great send off. Still, even as someone who hasn’t read a single issue of Silver Surfer recently, I was still relieved to see the preview page for Silver Surfer 5 next month. I may even start reading again.
Spencer: We’ve talked a lot in these reviews about the pacing and speed with which writer Brian Michael Bendis doles out his story in Spider-Man, to the point where I’m honestly kind of sick of discussing it. I’m bringing it up anyway, though, because this issue — especially in comparison with the ones that came before — is rather fascinating in that regard.
The entirety of Spider-Man 4 essentially revolves around one event: Miles and Ganke’s argument about Goldballs. 12 (out of 20) pages are devoted to their argument; the final eight pages depict Spider-Man trying to outrun a missile attack launched by Hammerhead, but even then, Miles spends a good portion of the action still reflecting upon the argument. This intense focus is a benefit to the argument itself; Bendis has the space to really flesh out the thoughts of both Miles and Ganke, creating a conflict where neither side is fully in the wrong (their real enemy is their woeful communication skills).
This argument also allows Bendis to further clarify the theme of this arc: Miles’ difficulty balancing his civilian and heroic identities. After all, the main reason Ganke overstepped his bounds with Miles is because he was worried about his work/life balance; that’s the same kind of concerns Miles’ parents, grandmother, and even Miles himself have had in prior issues. As of now Miles problems have probably been hammered home a bit too much (I’m ready to see the cast start to rectify it), but I do appreciate the amount of time Bendis has spent establishing Miles’ issues and the way they affect every aspect of his life and the people he loves.
Artist Sara Pichelli is absolutely essential the success of these scenes, keeping the characters lively, expressive, and funny even when Bendis’ script is at its talkiest.
While Bendis’ pacing benefits the argument, though, it’s to the detriment of both this issue as an individual unit and as a piece of the larger story arc. With really only two scenes, the issue feels especially slight; when I got to the end I immediately thought, “that’s it?” The issue ends just as the story is picking up; Bendis is clearly more interested in the character moments than the action/plot ones, but that just means that Bendis either needs to cut down on the plot or kill some of his darlings, cause this balance just isn’t working. As for the arc itself, we’re four issues in and it still feels like we’re early in the “rising action” stage; how long is this story going to be, anyway? It’s actually pretty amazing to me that a single issue can feel this dense in character yet simultaneously so slight in every other way; while there’s a lot I like about this issue, overall it still left me disappointed.
I know we say this a lot about Bendis’ work — to the point of cliche, actually — but his books are clearly meant to be read in trade, and this may go more for Spider-Man than any of his other recent titles. I’m sure this story will feel a lot more satisfying when read in one sitting, but when read month-to-month, it can be awfully frustrating.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?