Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/1/16

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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 A-Force 6, Amazing Spider-Man 13, Civil War II 1, Moon Knight 3, Old Man Logan 7, and Spider-Woman 8.

slim-banner4 A-Force 6

A-Force 6Patrick: This is an odd sensation I’ve experienced more than I’d care to admit: sometimes I just can’t successfully do something I know I’m good at. Sometimes I’ll be staring blankly at the computer monitor, like I’ve never written about a comic book before, or I’ll be standing on stage and it’s like I’ve never done scenes before. But sometimes it’s even more basic – like when you’re having a conversation and suddenly realize you’ve stopped making sense. Those moments make me question just about everything about my identity; why even bother cultivating skills and talents and abilities if they can just leave you at a moments’ notice? That’s the situation the A-Force finds themselves in in the claustrophobic first half of issue 6.

It’s actually sort of alarming how much of this issue takes place in a cramped jail cell. Artist Ben Caldwell frequently packs pages with a high panel count and Kelly Thompson’s script densely populates those panels with dialogue. The whole scene feels very tight, as our heroes’ options (and chances of success) seem to shrink with every panel. Caldwell narrows his panels accordingly.

She-Hulk and Countess

This constriction lines up pretty well with the idea of the A-Force (plus Dazzler Thor!) having their powers taken away. Like, every aspect of this scene makes me nervous. So when Nico makes Jen Hulk-Out, even though our heroes are in grave danger, it comes with the sigh of relief of them getting out of that jail and getting their powers back.

But that relief is only temporary. I mean, they’re trying to fight magic here – who can ever hope to combat that which controls the fabric of reality? I’ll admit that that makes the storytelling a little bit more frustrating than I’d like: I don’t think there’s any solution to A-Force’s problems that I could predict or intuit, leaving me just as powerless as an unworthy, M-Pox-infested Dazzler-Thor.

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Amazing Spider-Man 13

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Amazing Spider-Man 13Drew: The above passage wasn’t written about superheroes, specifically, but it absolutely nails modern attitudes about superhero comics. Every conflict, every team-up, every redesign, has been done, redone, deconstructed, reconstructed, and just generally beaten into the ground. That’s a harsh criticism if your prioritize newness, but, as Ecclesiastes points out, one that is equally true of life in general. That is to say, of course you’ve seen it all before. Familiarity can’t in and of itself be a worthwhile critique of any work of art — least of all superhero comics — without dismissing the notion of art altogether. That said, it is possible for a work of art to be so familiar, so predictable, as to be distracting, which is unfortunately the case with Amazing Spider-Man 13.

Having already lampshaded the predictable team-up beats in the previous issue, this month finds Spider-Man and Iron Man at odds yet again. Tony Stark accidentally antagonizing Peter Parker to his face is a clever enough idea, but it falls so close on the heels of the previous uneasy team-up that it feels decidedly stale. Moreover, it doesn’t quite feel earned. When a bystander asks why these heroes are fighting each other, his friend replies “it’s what Superheroes do now,” and the issue never really bothers to provide a more satisfying answer. It acknowledges how perfunctory it feels even as it does nothing to subvert that feeling.

But, as I suggested, a little familiarity isn’t necessarily damning. That it’s basically repeating the same conflict from the previous issue is irksome, but not unforgivable. Unfortunately, that’s not the only repeated beat in this issue, which also sets up much of the same conflict with Regent that played out in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows last summer. With those plot points drawing so strongly from such recent stories (by the same writer, no less), it’s hard to accept them as the background noise we accept in superhero stories.

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Civil War II 1

Civil War II 1Michael: Civil War II marks the fourth incarnation of a Marvel Civil War in about ten years. That means heroes will take sides, fight and of course there will be some casualties. Brian Michael Bendis sets the stage in Civil War II with a combination of en media res and time jumps. We open with a huge Marvel heroes set piece by artist David Marquez. The heroes give it their all and they win the day against a “freaky, giant? big, giant celestial giant”  – business as usual. It’s not until later that they discover that the superhero community was alerted to this threat by a new Inhuman who can predict the future. The conflict is established: Captain Marvel thinks they should utilize the boy’s powers and Tony does not. Essentially they agree to disagree, then move on. Three weeks later however, Tony learns that Captain Marvel has gone ahead using Ulysses’ powers and now She-Hulk and War Machine now dead at the hands of Thanos. Civil War!

The death of a loved one as a story motivator is a tricky thing: it can be moving or needless and more often overused. I’m still processing how I feel about the deaths of Rhodey and She-Hulk – especially as the impetus for Iron Man’s rage. In a way, I applaud Bendis for the curious way he announced Rhodey’s death – having us learn after the fact the same time as Tony. I like the subversion at play here – typically in an event book like this we’d get a big hero’s death in action at the end of the book. Conversely we hear about Rhodey’s death after the fact. It’s a breath of fresh air for unique storytelling, but it might be an undeserving way to kill of James Rhodes. I can buy the respective viewpoints of Carol Danvers and Tony Stark – it might take a bit of convincing to justify other heroes’ stances however. She-Hulk’s dying speech came off a little heavy-handed in my opinion, if for no other reason than it doesn’t exactly gel with her portrayal in Civil War II 0.

BAM

While the story of Civil War II 1 leaves me a little unsure, David Marquez shows up ready to put in some work. Event books are full of their fair share of bombastic splash pages but Marquez doesn’t overwhelm the book with them. Great moments of comic book tension occur when a panel or page is completely devoid of words. Marquez gives us several instances of this in Civil War II 1 near the end, but the most powerful comes when Carol briefly flashes back to Rhodey’s death. There’s something very powerful about that wordless image of Thanos tearing into War Machine – a terrifying image that has been burned into Carol’s mind’s eye. Another excellent visual from Marquez worth mentioning is when Jean Grey tries to get into Ulysses’ mind but fails – visualized by Marquez as being a dark and empty room. Moving visuals with a less that moving story.

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Moon Knight 3

Moon Knight 3Mark: There’s a moment in Moon Knight 3 where Khonshu straight up tells Marc Spector it doesn’t matter if he’s crazy or not—his madness is a gift and he needs to stop fighting it—and I wish writer Jeff Lemire would let him take that advice. The central hook of Lemire’s new Moon Knight run is whether what Marc perceives as reality is the truth, but three issues in Lemire doesn’t show any interest in revealing the answer.

Which is theoretically fine. I don’t need a definitive answer to the question of Marc’s reality. But if there’s no intention of revealing the truth anytime soon then it’s time for the story to move forward. The past two issues share nearly identical beats, and any hope that the big “reveal” at the end of this issue concerning the status of New York City will lead to new information is checked by the fact that it can easily be walked back next month with Gena replying “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Marc. The Big Apple’s the same as it ever was.”

Normally I would say that this will all be more interesting if it turns out Marc really is crazy, but thus far there’s nothing that seems like it would benefit from being recontextualized. Lemire’s a talented writer and this isn’t a bad book, just disappointingly straightforward. Moon Knight begs to surprise.

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Old Man Logan 7

Old Man Logan 7Spencer: Old Man Logan 7 ends with a new status quo for our titular Wolverine, which is a little bit surprising considering it’s our third such new direction for the character since the series began. That said, it’s easy to see how writer Jeff Lemire’s been leading up to this moment all-along: everything Logan’s been through in the past seven issues seem designed to push Logan to his breaking point, to get him to embrace the chaos he’s been so ably keeping at bay until now.

In fact, when I wrote about Old Man Logan 6, I even mentioned that it seemed like the world was out to get Logan, and that’s a fact even he’s noticed now. So if Logan literally cannot lead a normal life, why wouldn’t he sacrifice his own happiness, his own chance at normalcy, to help others achieve theirs? It’s perfectly logical, yet absolutely chilling, since for Logan, we know embracing chaos is going to involve a lot of violence.

While Lemire does an excellent job of building to this moment, though, it’s artist Andrea Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo who truly sell Logan’s anguish. Their always excellent work is ratcheted up to 11 this month, beginning with the very first page, a tour through Logan’s history of despair which Maiolo tints to make it appear as a yellowed, ancient document.

The highlight of the issue, though — and the moment that gives us the clearest sense of where Logan’s head is — is this spread:

Logan's pain

Yeah, this is a man in pain, a man so full of regret and loss that it literally spills out of him in the form of the bones of his dead friends and family. I don’t think it’s possible for any other single image to so ably, powerfully sum up this Logan as a character. My heart goes out to him.

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Spider-Woman 8

Spider-Woman 8Taylor: When you read monthlies week after week, you get to the point where seeing something new doesn’t happen often. This isn’t a knock against comic book creators, it’s just that it’s hard to innovate in a field that has been continually refined for almost a century. So, when I do encounter something new and different in a comic, I’m excited. With that said, Spider-Woman 8 has me really excited.

With her life somewhat settled for once, Jessica is enjoying a night of some “me-time” which for her means crime fighting. She’s sent to go capture Tiger Shark, who has recently escaped from prison. She finds him in his Uptown penthouse and a fight ensues wherein Jessica emerges the victor.

The plot of this issue is simple, but that’s not were the innovation and uniqueness of this issue lie. Instead, the artwork of Javier Rodriguez is a astounding from start to finish. throughout the issue he uses a wide variety of techniques to make the prolonged fight scene between Spider-Woman and Tiger Shark interesting. My favorite moment comes when Tiger Shark tries to bite Jessica but she blocks his jaws with a nearby trophy.

Clak clak clak CHAK.

To animate Tiger Shark’s attack, Rodriguez draws his jaws chomping closer and closer from left to right across the page. In doing do he paints the jaws in an ethereal green to denote that this action happened previous to the ultimate “chak” when Tiger Shark’s jaws land on the trophy Jessica uses to block his lunge. While I’m sure this technique has been used previously by another artist, I love how it’s used here. It’s a bit weird but it still beautifully animates the scene and I totally grasp, with clarity, what’s happening in the situation. Compare this technique to what could just as easily have been horizontal motion lines and I appreciate it even more. With just lines I don’t understand that Tiger Shark was chomping furiously all the way right up to Jessica’s face. It makes the attack more violent, but also funnier too. Tiger Shark is living up to his name after all.

There are other examples of how Rodriguez uses unique ways to animate action in this issue. The way he draws Jessica’s fight in the sewers comes to mind as it uses a fun fish-eye lens and the use of multiple events in one frame. Or having Porcupine, on babysitting duty, literally walk into an action when he calls Jessica asking for parenting advice is just fun and engaging in a way I can’t remember reading in any recent comic.

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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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3 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/1/16

  1. I am standing my ground. I am NOT reading Civil War II. I will buy the Spider-Man Civil War II mini-series and I’ll buy the Gods Unite (or whatever) for Hercules mini-series to read after the event. But that’s it. I’ll then buy the hardcover trade when it comes out and it will be cheaper than the event. I’m not even going to read your review of it.

    I’m out. They’re not getting me again. I’ll buy the character ones, like that X-Men one a couple years back and the Spider-Women, but these mega events. I’m out!

  2. Holy crap-balls was Amazing Spider-Man 13 a terrible comic. It was boring and the fight lacked… fuck, everything good. I agree, this seems the origin of the same Regent story as before except this time he’ll be stopped by the power of the press.

    I’m pretty sure that Amazing Spider-Man 13 was the only comic this week to actively make me sad, but not in a sad in the heart, just sad that I spent money on it and sad that I collect it.

    I still don’t collect A-Force. I dropped Moon Knight and Old Man Logan.

    Spider-Woman continues to be a delightful comic book. Javier Rodriguez… damn. I believe that Chris Samnee is currently one of the most innovative visual storytellers out there right now, and he’s very correctly being listed as co-storyteller with Waid on Black Widow. Rodriguez worked with them on Daredevil and it’s possible that he was this great before working with those guys, but to my eyes he’s taken some of the innovative style that Samnee had and made it his own and I think I’ll now read anything he draws. He turned a comic that was one long fight scene with a B-list super hero and D-list villain (I don’t even know whose rogue gallery Tiger Shark is in) into an A+ comic. This is one of those comics where I’d like to know the collaborative process between writer and artist. I know the line of creation gets muddied in comics, but damn, this was good.

  3. All-New Wolverine: The issue was mostly average. The main story has a lot of fun mixing Laura’s serious nature with the sheer joy of Fing Fang Foom. Wolverine simply demanding ‘Jetpack’ while slathering herself in Fing Fang Foom Phermone is just inherently funny, and there are a couple of nice character beats.

    Until the ending. That hits hard. Old Man Logan has been unconscious for most of the issue while Laura saved the day, and wakes up in a familiar place and says one line. ‘…I know this apartment. It’s where… …It’s where I raised you…’

    Damn, that hit hard. This book has been built on the fact that Laura never got a real family, a real childhood. And here, she comes face to face with the other path. The path where Logan actually raised her. Where she could have a real father.

    It honestly doesn’t matter what the rest of the comic is like, because of that amazing final page. Emotional and beautiful, and can’t wait to see next issue

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    Civil War II: I’ve got to feel sorry for Bendis, having to write a FCBD issue, a #0 issue and a first issue for the same event, as you can see that it has butchered the start. We can discuss the choice not to show the Thanos fight… but that was shown weeks ago during FCBD (as well as the scene establishing Carol’s relationship with Rhodey)

    But I think this is mostly a good start. THe opening appeared to suffer from the typical ‘Army of Superheroes’ thing where they seem to do nothing but quip (something Bendis can often make worse), but works because of the dichotomy that is supposed to be here. This is supposed to look terrible, but actually be a piece of cake because of the plan.

    Which is why it immediately shifts to a big party and the disappointment of not hearing Jane Foster Thor toast (that would be comic gold and you know it). On the other hand, we do get to see Thor armwrestle She-Hulk – the sheer level of detail in this scene is amazing. Marquez throughout this issue, whether it is a toast or a battle or just standing around in the trees packs the panels with so much action and life, which should make the actual war look fantastic when it starts.

    And I have to say, I appreciate that instead of having the War begin with a blown up school and the government, we have a small discussion. Heroes aren’t forced into an escalated discussion, and therefore the road to war will hopefully arrive much more naturally. THis isn’t SHIELD shooting at Captain America for no reason. This is Tony Stark saying ‘seeking to control the future has all sorts of unfortunate problems, especially as the very fact that the future can be changed means Ulysses is only seeing a potential future.

    The big problem is that the inciting incident seems all wrong. Rhodey’s death was well chosen, being the person who is important to both Tony and Carol and therefore the perfect spark (I can discuss the racial dynamics of killing a black man for the white people, but I feel a disaster is the exact thing needed to motivate things, I like the personal level of the disaster and the simple fact is, Rhodey was chosen not by virtue of being expendable but because Tony’s best friend being Carol’s boyfriend is just to perfect an opportunity. I’m more likely to criticise She-Hulk’s meaningless death).

    But Rhodey and Jennifer didn’t die because of Ulysses, but because of incompetence. They got intelligence on Thanos’ arrival too late, went in too soon and not properly prepared, and paid the price. That’s not an argument against Ulysses. THat’s an argument for better Quick Response Procedures.

    Personally, I would have had Tony do something at the party that forces Ulysses out of the battlefield, and then their lack of foreknowledge leads to not being prepared for Thanos, leading to Rhodey dying. Captain Marvel tries to pull rank, Tony protests and the war starts. Otherwise, the inciting incident had to be something ambiguous. Ulysses sees something, and Captain Marvel’s attempt to change the future makes things worse. Here, things didn’t. According to FCBD, they evacuated the base successfully (though the FCBD also had Ulyssess get the vision three hours before at the Triskellion when going for tests, and not in the middle of the night. This is why you don’t force Bendis to write two different optional prologues). But even if we discount the FCBD issue, Thanos, one of the biggest threats in the Marvel pantheon, has been successfully captured.

    If you want Carol to make the mistake, make sure it has to do with the ethics of Future Crime. Because the poor choice of inciting incident does hurt what was a great issue in every other respect (except for She-Hulk also dying)

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    Invincible Iron Man: This is going to read so much better in one go… It is easy to say nothing is happening, but stuff actually is happening. Lots of stuff is happening, but there are so many puzzle pieces in play that each issue (while having a clear overarching story) has so many different characters handling so many different things that it feels like there is very little progression (even as there is).

    On the other hand, the Avengers doing a spy mission with no technology sounds really interesting.

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    Spiderwoman: Damn, it is impressive when a comic manages to pull off an issue long fight scene. Imaginative, through a strong use of shifting geography and imagination to constantly refresh the scene. And it begins with a lovely statement character beat of Jessica excited to going biking again and ends with a lovely affirmation of who she is, both as a superhero and as a mother. Great

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    Sam Wilson, Captain America: Decided to catch up with this, since I’m now committed to following the other book (I may consider Duggan’s Uncanny AVengers, which apparently has some crossover and I wanted to try, but I believe the three main book are Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers and Thunderbolts). I do like Nick SPencer a lot. I love Morning Glories, constantly interesting. I loved many of his really early superhero works like SUpergirl and Iron Man 2.0, where he gave typical stories a great twist and I loved Superior Foes.

    But this didn’t really work for me. There is so much great here (Serpent Solutions is really clever, as is the finale) but there are some real problems. It often reads as too selfaware, making jokes about how the Serpent Society used to be the type of bad guys you fight in a Cold Open while inner monologuing and making every Capwolf joke it can.

    The Capwolf joke was a really big piece of indulgence. I won’t fault Spencer for taking ideas from when he grew up reading Cap. Brubaker did, to great acclaim. But actually having Capwolf return is exactly the same sort of stuff I criticised DC Rebirth. It serves no purpose than to have Capwolf back. You can take inspiration from a previous era’s sensibilities without wholesale stealing of plot points for no reason.

    I also don’t care much for Misty Knight. Has this weird mix of spending nearly every part of the book being sidelined and then getting involved in what seems to be over reactions to her sidelined status. Her presence feels like a variant of the ‘Strong Female Character’ problem (hopefully everyone knows what I mean. When creators who don’t understand what Strong Female Characters are, and instead creates a bad female characters). Her outfit doesn’t make things better (and on female characters, I felt Diamondback deserves more of an ending)

    The comic has all sorts of good ideas, but there is so much stuff that needs improving. I love its commitment to being political, and the fact that Spencer actually understands the issues. There’s a great a sense of humour at times, and I quite liked the setup of Diamondback, both for its non-judgement and because I like the idea of these characters having lost their chance for education being superheroes and having to make lives afterwards.

    And Pleasant Hill is a bit of a mess. THe need to have everyone else have stuff for their books means that the Captain America book has very little to do. The riots never get a real sense of existence because they are all happening in other books, which almost makes Pleasant Hill feel empty except for Zemo barking orders. But I love how Spencer wrote Zemo (and Welcome to Pleasant Hill was very clever with how Kobik diagnosed what Zemo needed to fix, as he is a man who could be so different if he could get over his father’s death), and it is interesting to read after the big Captain America twist, with Steve changing his opinion about Sam’s recent stuff ‘randomly’ (and the latest issue had something really similar, with the fantastic sequence where Steve sets out his plan to deal with Maria Hill, tricking Sam into compromising his beliefs that have been his strength in what appears to be a plot to seize control of SHIELD for HYDRA. For all my issues, that was great).

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    Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man: It is impossible to discuss Matt Fraction’s Iron Man without discussing alcoholism and self-destruction, and it becomes a truly massive part of World’s Most Wanted. Tony Stark literally plans to destroy himself as part of his plan to deal with Dark Reign, and it is pretty obvious that it has more to do than just keeping the Superhero Registration Database out of Osborne’s hands. And so that’s what he does. It is truly massive, international blockbuster about a man destroying himself out of self hatred of everything that he is (both from his past and as part of the first Civil War). And what truly makes it dramatic is the extent. It isn’t just that he’s wiping his mind and destroying his legacy. He burns down relationships by sleeping with both Pepper and Maria Hill, while forcing them to escape his shadow and develop into their own people. Pepper even becomes Rescue (a fantastic choice that more writers should use). It is honestly fantastic.

    Especially followed up by Stark Disassembled, where he gets his rebirth, but only by facing the central fear of who he is. He ends reborn, and fresh. No Stark Industries, no Iron Man suit, no memory of anything up to Extremis (a get out of jail free card, but saved by the simple look of horror when TOny learns what he forgot).

    And now TOny has a great challenge. He is reborn, but can he rebuild? Can he get everything back, without turning into everything that sent him into his self destructive spiral? I mean, haunting his mind were great, impossible monsters whose very idea scared him – an idea he thought up, and knew could never be released.

    I forgot just how well Fraction balanced blockbuster comics with a highly personal look at TOny Stark. Looking forward to rereading Stark Resilent

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