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 Daredevil 7, Deadpool 12, Doctor Strange 8, Hyperion 3, Mockingbird 3, Mighty Thor 7, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat 6, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8, Uncanny Inhumans 9, Weirdworld 6.
Michael: Mind-wipes, retcons and reversals are an ugly but sometimes necessary part of the comic book business. Charles Soule has given Daredevil back his secret identity — no one besides Foggy Nelson knows that Matt Murdock is The Man Without Fear. Soule has yet to reveal the backstory to this magical feat, but it gives Matt the ability to (sort of) live both of his lives and provides the reader with a different kind of Daredevil experience than we’ve had in some time. After Daredevil eventually calms Elektra down, he tells her that he wants to help her find her missing daughter — possibly his daughter. Elektra shows Daredevil a video of her missing daughter…but she doesn’t know that he’s blind and can’t see a damn thing. It’s an old Daredevil story schtick but I haven’t seen it in a while in such a modern context as a smartphone — it was a strange delight seeing Matt try to play along with that one.
What makes this all so much better is the fact that Daredevil initially tries to pretend that he sees something that was never there to begin with. The realm of comic books deals in the arts of mind control and brainwashing fairly often; but the times where lingering effects remain are the most powerful. We discover that Elektra did not actually have a daughter but was merely compelled to believe so. Her frustration, relief and anger that she doesn’t have a child — and therefore a life she regularly endangers — is heartbreaking. The fact that she believed it was real made it real. And somehow it’s all tied into whatever Matt did to make everyone forget that he’s Daredevil. Little by little Soule is teasing that bit out.
Patrick: In his previous run on Deadpool, writer Gerry Duggan got a lot of mythological mileage out of fake “inventory” issues that would initially appear to tell a one-off story in the style of comics-past. Deadpool wasn’t around in the 70s or the 60s, but it sure was fun to pretend he was. The double-genius of these inventory issues was that they perfectly set up plot points that would pay off in the following story arc, simultaneously legitimizing a goof-issue and disguising exposition as something more meaningful. In this set of Deadpool, Duggan is doing something similar with the Deadpool 2099 story, dipping in between arcs of the main series, but instead of clarifying plot points, Duggan and artist Scott Koblish are synthesizing themes. It’s a much more sophisticated and subtle approach — and I don’t think I’ve ever used either of those words to describe 2099 before.
Warda Wilson has been running around, using her father’s name and likeness, to attempt to locate her mother. Of course, this is complicated when another Deadpool-esque figure comes into the picture, rescues Wade, and mucks up her plans. When I wrote about Deadpool 6 (back in January!), I had guessed guessed the stranger was actually Ellie, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise at the end of this issue. But I’m much more impressed by how well the themes of this 2099 story are feeding the current Deadpool narrative(s). I know all superheroes are many-headed beasts and have to present several faces at once, but Deadpool is always doing something weird (like flashing back or flashing forward), celebrating an anniversary or participating in crossover events. Amazingly, this issue touches on a little bit of all of it — from the Mercs for Money, you’ve got this idea of multiple Deadpools (and a team of unreliable henchmen in the Bobs), from Last Days of Magic, you’ve got a Monster Metropolis in ruins, and from the recent Deadpool vs. Sabretooth storyline, you’ve got questions about legacy and patricide. Astonishingly, it’s the goofy 2099 story that can convince me that these are all the same Deadpool.
Doctor Strange 8
Taylor: The best thing about the current “Last Days of Magic” event is how steeped in magic we are all becoming by having all of it destroyed. As Dr. Strange attempts to lead his rag-tag crew of magic users to victory, he’s having to dig deeper and deeper into his knowledge base concerning the occult. This is a necessary step since the Empirikul has wiped out all the major sources of magic on Earth leaving Strange with little or no choice but to settle for the small pockets of magic overlooked by his enemies.
These dire straights have led Strange to an underground tomb in search of a weapon to use against the Empirikul. In attempting to find a magical bow and arrows, Strange uses a magic-eating slug trail to aid him in his task. It’s while he’s doing this that he reflects on the dire situation he finds himself in.
Genies, magic slugs, amulets, swords — all of these speak to an unspeakably large world of magic. Writer Jason Aaron has done a wonderful job of implying the depth of Strange’s world through the character’s reflections in this issue and the series is so much the better for it. It would be one thing if Dr. Strange simply was a magical being, conjuring spells out of the ether, but he’s not. He’s part of a larger world of magic that has so many untold stories that I begin to salivate just thinking about them all.
I’ve become especially greedy for more knowledge about Strange’s world the more I learn about it. A perfect example is the Helmet of Razadazar which lets Strange see in the dark and float for about thirty seconds. We don’t get much more information about his helmet other than that it came from Istanbul, but that’s enough to whet my appetite and make me want more. How did Strange get this helmet? Who made it? What was its original purpose? These questions and more abound when I read stuff like this in this issue and Aaron does an excellent job of just teasing out morsels of information. I may never find out the answers to these questions, but they’re enough to keep me reading about Dr. Strange’s adventures for a long time to come.
Drew: The cost of entry for any genre fiction is the appropriate level of suspension of disbelief. There’s no way glasses would really fool Clark Kent’s colleagues, just as there’s no way a group of rational adults would chose to split up when being terrorized in some creepy woods. So long as these details aren’t distracting, we’re willing to accept some incongruities or unlikelihoods in pursuit of a good story. As a genre mashup, this arc of Hyperion has regularly juggled twice the amount of incongruities — those of both superhero and horror stories — but has largely managed to keep all of these balls in the air. With issue 3, however, those details have reached a critical mass, threatening to consume the story from the inside out like a writhing mass of worms.
Which is to say, I would gladly read a story about a Superman-like figure unwittingly roped into a supernatural murder mystery. I’d gladly read a story about a creepy carnival that uses its haunted house attraction to turn patrons into freakish slaves. I’d even gladly read a story where a girl’s innate abilities as a mechanic make her mysteriously valuable to the criminal organization that more-or-less enslaves her. But all of these stories together results in more of a hash than an intriguing premise. There’s no room to answer, or even really dwell on, these questions, as all of these threads share space in this issue.
I might have more faith in this series if the writing felt like it could support all of these threads, but writer Chuck Wendig regularly gives space over to odd little asides, like factoids about the biomass of the planet’s ants, or the patently untrue myth Hyperion uses to catch Doll in a lie. None of it is meaningful to the story, which leaves it feeling like padding. That’s a particularly egregious problem in a story already too overstuffed to expound on any of its plots, let alone its themes. When Hyperion suggests that he can “stop a killer instead of being one,” I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Is Hyperion maybe being a murderer something this series cares about? That seems like a more important detail to focus on than how much ants weigh.
Mark: I spent a lot of our discussion of Batgirl 52 talking about the different ways female superheroes are portrayed, and debating if there’s one that is inherently better than the other. And while Batgirl embraced a bubblegum and pop music sheen, Mockingbird 3 takes a different approach. Writer Chelsea Cain uses the issue and its superhero trappings to comment on the way women have to navigate the real world. It’s a not-at-all-subtle approach –“Dick Profit,” ladies and gentlemen — but it’s not a perspective often explored in mainstream superhero comics, and I appreciate the boldness of it.
I’m not sure there’s any larger conclusion to be drawn here, but I do think it’s interesting how the Batgirl comic written by two men is a much more (for lack of a better term) stereotypical characterization of a female superhero. Again, I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing; women like that version of Barbara Gordon do exist. But discussing it and Mockingbird 3 back-to-back, the contrast between the two characters couldn’t be bigger, and I can see how the former characterization might irk fans of the latter.
Having not read them, I am curious what the first two issues of Mockingbird are like. #3 feels like it easily could have been a first issue, since it lays out a lot of themes with potential to be explored over a full run, and doesn’t seem to have any real connections to events that preceded it.
The Mighty Thor 7
Drew: Loki lends himself to fantastic storytelling. The modern interpretation of his status as pathological liar makes him the ultimate storyteller of the Marvel universe, allowing writers to use him to comment directly on the nature of storytelling. That’s a premise that may put some readers to sleep, but it’s absolute catnip to me.
This issue, like the one before it, doesn’t feature the titular Mighty Thor, instead focusing on Loki’s story-within-a-story about Thor’s battle with Bodolf. The story itself establishes a cadre of Marvel heroes that might have been around in the year 896, including a Black Panther, a bear-mounted Ghost Rider, and an Atlantean Princess that might just be Namor’s mother. Those may just be fun little nods to continuity, but they might also be establishing a team-up, as teased in a mural that goes unnoticed by Agger.
That tease suggests that this team might play an important role going forward — especially considering their conspicuous absence from Loki’s story. Anytime Loki tells a story, we must remember that he’s anything but a reliable narrator, conveniently omitting or altering details to suit his purposes. Did things with Bodolf happen as Loki described them? Will the dragon’s blood work in the way Loki suggests to Agger? The only thing we know is what Loki has told us, which probably means it isn’t the truth.
But I’m super excited to learn more about this 9th-century Avengers team. In addition to the legacy heroes Loki name-drops, the context makes it clear that Bodolf is a kind of Viking Bruce Banner, “wandering the Earth, fighting to suppress the monster inside him.” Has Thor done the whole superhero team before? Again, we have no idea what role that team might play in the series going forward, but I’m super excited to learn more about them.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat 6
Ryan M.: The details of Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat 6 feel custom-made for my enjoyment. The issue contains skee ball, the beach, ice cream and an object shaped like a flamingo. Plus, Jessica Jones is there, being her sullen sassy self. With all of these small things giving me such delight, it took me a little while to separate the pleasure of the issue referencing my peccadilloes from my feelings about the more general plot.
The story takes a bit of a break from Patsy’s quest to get her business off the ground and allows her to have a bit of a side-adventure with her crew. One of the fun things in the issue is how solidified that clique has become. Patsy’s friends run the gamut of her world. She has the superhero bestie in She-Hulk, the powered but non-heroic Ian, and regular super-sweetheart Tom. Writer Kate Leth has the burly Tom play the role of damsel in distress, subverting traditional gender roles. A few pages later, Ian talks about his bisexuality with Patsy. These moments are not treated as any more surprising than Patsy’s penchant for feline accessories or She-Hulk’s short shorts. Leth and artist Natasha Allegri don’t force any of these characters into a simple archetype. Patsy herself is both girlish and womanly, a hero and a goofball. Though it took a few pages for me to get used to someone other than Brittney Williams drawing Patsy’s face, Allegri does a great job at communicating those dichotomies.
In the panel above, Patsy’s body language is that of a noir femme fatale, complete with glamorous chapeau. The entire look is undercut by the mint ice cream covering the bottom half of her face. Mint chocolate chip is my favorite, so it’s not just an illustration of Patsy’s complexity, it’s also a shout-out. I love this book!
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8
Spencer: Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8 opens with Doreen and the New Avengers battling a monster-sized Tree Lobster (normal-sized ones are a real thing!), which is taken down in short order thanks to Doreen’s typical blend of knowledge and empathy. This scene is a reminder of Doreen’s prodigious competency, which is significant since the rest of this issue strands Doreen so far from her comfort zone. It’s unusual — nay, almost unheard of! — to see Squirrel Girl nervous, unsure, and ready to give up, but that’s exactly what her romantic woes do to her.
Introducing romance to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, then, adds some interesting new conflicts to the title. It seems significant, though, that even when faced with near-infinite romantic despair, Doreen never loses her confidence and the sense of self that has come to define this series — she knows she’s a catch and worthy of love even if she feels utterly powerless to find it.
Thus Doreen is still recognizable even when facing new threats, and that goes for the issue as well. While Doreen’s romantic woes add a bit of variety to the title, North and Henderson also use them to further explore themes and jokes that have run throughout the entire series. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 8 is an issue that feels both comfortable and fresh all at the same time, a status that continues to make this title one of my favorite comics on the stand, and a must-read book for any fan with even the slightest trace of a sense of humor.
Uncanny Inhumans 9
Spencer: The conflict at the heart of Charles Soule and Kev Walker’s Uncanny Inhumans 9 — Queen Medusa has been secretly dating her sister Crystal’s ex-boyfriend, Johnny Storm — is straight out of an episode of Degrassi. Indeed, there’s a certain kind of melodrama inherent to this love triangle that feels more “high school” than “royal court,” and thankfully, Crystal is able to see past her own pain and realize that herself. The true nature of their conflict, of Crystal’s pain, has nothing to do with teen drama, and everything to do with broken trust.
Crystal feels insulted and betrayed that Medusa and Johnny kept their relationship a secret, that they didn’t trust her to react to it as a mature adult instead of a petty teenager. Of course, Crystal’s other theories as to why Medusa would keep this from her aren’t 100% accurate either, and it takes a catastrophe to pull these three together and finally force them to work out these differences.
Soule is deliciously clever in this regard, teasing his readers with one of the most cliche scenarios in comic book history only to immediately subvert it with a more interesting and far more immediate threat, one that leaves Crystal, Medusa, and Johnny no other choice but to put their priorities in line.
There’s nothing like being inches away from death by immolation to help one realize what, and who, matters to them most. I’m eager to see how the relationships between these three characters progress now that they’re all on the same page, and now that they’ve remembered how much they truly mean to each other in the first place. Man, love and family trumps drama any day of the week, don’t they?
Patrick: I’m doing a Mad Men rewatch right now, and I just got through the second season episode where American Airlines Flight 1 crashes, killing everyone inside. The Sterling Cooper boys are cracking jokes and focusing on work until Pete discovers that his father was on that plane, and then his character is forced to make a shift away from those aforementioned activities. He storms into Don’s office and admits “I don’t know what to do.” That’s a powerful feeling — and one that’s damn near universal. Even though you know what physically needs to be done (you make arrangements to attend a funeral, you call a lawyer, you alert loved ones, etc.), there’s really no accounting for the emotions at play. Weirdworld 6 makes the connection between grieving and Weirdworld itself explicit when Becca connects with Morgana Le Fey. Morgana’s story is also heartwrenching, but the detail that I was keenest on was that she was unable to understand how to do magic on Weirdworld. She explains: “It was humiliating. I had to learn the physics of the world from the ground up. Bit by bit.”
Becca’s journey in Weirdwold doesn’t have as clear cut a goal as that. Sure she wants to escape and spread her mother’s ashes, but as Goleta points out, it was never Becca’s responsibility to save her mother in life and it’s not her job to save her after death. Writer Sam Humphries and artist Mike Del Mundo are always perfectly dialed in to this series idiosyncratic tones and rhythms, but they strike a particularly rich vein of melancholy in this one. Del Mundo’s colors are so light and aethereal in this one that everything feels like overexposed film — with ever-so-slightly too much attention to make the environment feel quietly alien. My favorite scene in the issue steers back toward the relatable, putting all of Becca’s memories of her mother ironically in a cheesy picture frame.
By the end of the issue, Becca’s quest is far from fulfilled. Hell, she’s lost her mother’s ashes and now there’s a damn INFINITY DRAGON on the loose, but at least she’s with a friend. And goddamn, that’s got to count for something.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?