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.
Patrick: 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.
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.
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.
Drew: 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.
Civil War II 1
Michael: 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.
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.
Moon Knight 3
Mark: 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.
Old Man Logan 7
Spencer: 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:
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.
Taylor: 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.
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.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?