Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/29/16

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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 Black Panther 3, Steve Rogers Captain America 2, Spider-Gwen Annual 1 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 9.

slim-banner4 Black Panther 3

Black Panther 3Spencer: Being a king is an impossible challenge. In Black Panther 3, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (through T’Challa’s internal monologue) likens the role to that of a father, but that’s a gross understatement — it’s more like being a father to several million children all at once, and no matter what you do, you can never keep them all safe and satisfied. Like I said, it’s an impossible challenge, but it’s one T’Challa has no choice but to keep attempting anyway, no matter what fate, his people, or even the country of Wakanda itself seems to throw in his path.

That last point is literal this month, as the spirits of Wakanda’s past rise up on two different fronts — a physical form takes on Black Panther while a more spiritual form reveals itself to Shuri in the Djalia, or realm of memories. Interestingly, both these forces view the past as an important, vital, and currently missing part of Wakanda, while to Black Panther, the past is something that simply beats him down.

the past

Indeed, T’Challa can’t escape the sins of his past. Meanwhile, the Midnight Angels could be said to be looking to the future for their inspiration, but by building a new Dora Milaje to aid their cause, they’re also relying on the customs of the past. I suppose that’s the conflict Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze have established at the heart of Black Panther — the new ways vs. the old, history vs. future, tradition vs. technology, authority vs. the people — and while there’s no easy answers, I think the Angels may have it most right. Mix things up; look to the future, but mine what worked from the past, and maybe you’ll find a solution that’ll work for most of Wakanda.

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Steve Rogers: Captain America 2

Steve Rogers Captain America 2Patrick: HERE IT IS, YOU GUYS! Steve Rogers Captain America 2 is chock full of the “answers” demanded by the loudest corner of the internet. What Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz  posit is that Red Skull was able remake Steve Rogers’ history via the living cosmic cube, Kobik. This much is obvious from the first two pages, and that’s likely what many readers (and even more non-readers that want to bitch about this development) will take away from the issue. What’s important here — and what Spencer and Saiz spend the next 18 pages illustrating — are the methods by which Skull hijacks the history of Captain America. These are methods that we see being used in the world today by small-minded fear-mongers who strive to rewrite American history, even without a reality-altering child-cube.

First of all, I know Red Skull is a bad guy. Really just the worst. There’s a scene early in this issue where Skull, bored with the meal he’s been served, has the kitchen staff execute itself. It’s a horrific panel, and it plays into Skull’s obsession with firearms AND the too common internet refrain of “kill yourself” used as a form of criticism (criticism that Spencer no doubt received in the wake of SRCA1). As repulsive as that is, Skull demonstrates that his fear of the outside knows no bounds, as he commands his henchmen to shoot a child.

skull shoots a child

He’s a rat bastard, and that’s all there is to it. So how does he leverage this bastardness into re-writing Captain American History? By lying to children, by silencing scientists, by posing as a religious leader. I had praised the first issue for challenging the purity of the Greatest Generation, but it seems like Spencer’s satirical target may be both more specific and more current: Red Skull represents those that would distort and misrepresent history to control the masses through fear.

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Spider-Gwen Annual 1

Spider-Gwen Annual 1Taylor: In college I took a survey course on American theater. Being a broad study, we read some of the most well known plays in American history and also discussed some of the big ideas and themes that have pervaded theater throughout the ages. One of the big ideas we discussed about theater was whether it, and art in general, should hold a mirror up to society or try to shape it the same way a blacksmith uses a hammer to shape steel. In the ridiculous Spider-Gwen Annual 1, it would appear it can be used for both.

This annual, like a lot of annuals, forgoes the structure of a typical issue and instead opts for a series of vignettes, most of which are pretty silly. There’s a story about Gwen saving Uncle Ben from the robber at the infamous wrestling match in which he’s killed (in most universes); there’s Gwen hanging out with her fellow female spider-powered women; a story about the Watcher, and perhaps my favorite, a story about Gwen and Captain America.

In this story Gwen befriends Cap and shares with her issues of Captain American dating back 75 years ago. Cap is moved by these issues and goes to share them with a Steve Rogers who is now on his deathbed. There, he shares with Cap that the country always needs someone to inspire hope and fight the good fight. Hilariously, this means that Cap needs to fight a version of M.O.D.O.K. who is Donald Trump.

T.R.U.M.P.

The comedy of this cameo appearance by the GOP presidential candidate aside, we see this issue holding a mirror up to society while also trying to shape it. Here we have to confront that in many ways, Trump – with his xenophobic and sexist rhetoric – is nothing short of some sort of super villain. That so much of the country sides with these should gives us all pause and consider just who it is our country sees when we collectively look in the mirror. However, Captain America then bashes M.O.D.A.A.K. while Rogers says the American public needs to actively fight against greed and fear. In this way we are all being urged to change and shape the future, just as a hammer changes the shape of what hits. Ultimately this is both the most entertaining and emotional part of a wild issue that is deep on meaning and fun.

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Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 9

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 9Spencer: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl isn’t a title I typically expect to cover “social issues,” but in issue 9, Ryan North and Erica Henderson do exactly that without losing an ounce of the book’s typical charm and humor. It’s a smart, subtle, and wholly entertaining read.

The issue begins with Squirrel Girl operating at her peak, simultaneously talking down Mole Man through her now-trademark empathy and kindness while also effortlessly and nonchalantly fending off Mole Man’s beasts.

squirrels or girls

Really, it’s no surprise that Mole Man would so quickly fall “in love” with Doreen, even if she hadn’t been the first woman to show him kindness in decades. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, either — the problems are that, 1) Mole Man is completely oblivious to the fact that Doreen doesn’t return his affections, and 2) that Mole Man asks her to marry him on the spot. Anyone with half a brain should immediately understand how inappropriate this whole situation is, but Henderson and North still make Mole Man’s fault immediately clear through both Doreen’s words and her body language.

oh oh no

She’s clearly uncomfortable, and at first, Mole Man’s biggest crime is simply being overeager and ignoring Doreen’s discomfort. In fact, when Mole Man later returns with an even grander scheme to win her love, there’s even a slight implication that perhaps Doreen wasn’t direct enough with her initial rejection. That idea is immediately rejected, though, after Doreen’s explicit, direct, even violent rejection is met with a yet more extreme scheme on Mole Man’s behalf.

Like so many men women meet in real life, Mole Man refuses to accept rejection, and that makes him a threat. For a woman without squirrel-irradiated blood, rejecting a man can be downright dangerous: some men respond to a frank rejection with threats and violence, but refuse to acknowledge kinder rejections at all. What North and Henderson demonstrate with this issue is that, for many women, there is no right way to turn down a man, and that the onus falls, not on women, but on men to learn to accept rejection (and to learn not to expect women to fix them or to automatically love them just because they’re kind in the first place!). I’m eager to see how the rest of this story is handled, partially because it sure will be cathartic to see Doreen kick Mole Man’s butt to the moon, but also because most women don’t have that option, and I’m curious to see if/how North and Henderson acknowledge that.

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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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10 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/29/16

  1. One thing I didn’t get about the most recent Cap issue is why Red Skull chooses to use Kubick to alter Steve’s reality. I thought the whole thing about having mind control powers was that it bored him by how easy it allowed him to control people. He claims he wants his foes to be crushed and willingly submit to him. Then, he turns around and uses a cosmic cube to make Steve Rogers his servant without a fight; it just seems like a contradiction to me.

    • Again, I think Skull’s methods are what’s interesting (both to him and to me). He’s not just flipping a switch it Cap’s head, he’s changing Cap’s history and making him believe that Hydra was an important positive force in his life. Crafting the lie of Hydra — having to convince Kobik of it — was part of the challenge for him.

    • I think part of it is the peversity of what the Red Skull has done htat appeals to him. He doesn’t like his psychic powers because he likes knowing that people are actually bowing to him. That he has, basically, broken them.

      The difference between mind control and actually rewriting reality to make Steve Rogers HYDRA is that perversity. To fundamentally twist his mortal enemy like that appeals to the Red Skull in a way that normal mind control doesn’t.

      It is the difference between the Red Skull having Captain America bow to him because he is a puppet, and Captain America bowing to the Red Skull out of, to a certain use of the word, ‘free will’. THe peversity of a Captain America that actually is HYDRA is much better than anothe rpuppet on strings

  2. Black Panther: Wakanda has always been seen as a futuristic city. A key idea of Wakanda is the technology, the future. Which is why it is so interesting that Coates draws attention to the past. But it makes a lot of sense. Firstly, Wakanda has had a lot of recent defeats, and a key aspect of this run is how Coates is using continuity to create a political map. So something is up with Wakanda’s recent strategies. So is it surprising that Wakanda has forgotten something from the long distant past?

    Learn from the past so you don’t repeat it is a highly important idea (as evidenced by Trump’s campaign), and I like how it seems to be just as key here. Wakanda has forgotten a key part of its soul, and it leaves Black Panther weak

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    Captain America: I never expected this book to skewer the Greatest Generation, considering any story had to end with Captain America as a hero again. To me, it was always about the rise of Trump, and the way that we can let fascism enter the very highest levels of power through not paying attention/treating it seriously. Which is what has happened here, as the Red Skull as made his move in the margins of the narrative. Patrick described it perfectly, though it is worth emphasizing how innocent Kobik is. She is certainly a bad guy, just like the bomber from the first issue, but one whose villainy comes from ignorance. And that is the secret of how people like Trump come to power. They prey on ignorance

    I think Kobik is going to be interesting to watch, as the story goes on. As Red SKull says, he is taking a compassionate touch. But what that means is that Steve Rogers has been transformed into a member of Kobik’s view of HYDRA. I wonder what will happen, then, when Kobik realises that the Red Skull does not fit in her idea of what HYDRA is. Because the HYDRA the Red Skull is selling to her in his bed time stories is not the real HYDRA. What happens when Kobik’s HYDRA meets Red Skull’s HYDRA? A very interesting ideological battle

    In all honesty, as much as I loved the first issue (a great exploration on the evils of HYDRA/fascism before the sensational gut punch of ‘evil is closer than you think’), this one is nowhere near as good. Quite simply, for every great character moment the Skull has (and there are a lot), there are two more moments that are ‘here’s what actually happened’. Lots of recontextulizing of plot with very little recontextualizing of story. Basically, this issue was the explanation needed so that the real story can begin. And even as this series is testing what little faith I had in fandom (this issue has caused yet another controversy, that can be best summed up as ‘I don’t want to admit I was wrong, so let’s keep attacking’) and people’s literacy (it is a sad sign how this book has proven how people have no idea how to read a story), I can’t wait for the next issue

    Also, this book has some great lines. After last month’s Jezebel joke, I love ‘Which means you must aim lower’

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    Mockingbird: Why did you drop Mockingbird from your roundups because of Summer Hours? I know you had to make choices on what to cover, but Mockingbird is still one of the best books on the shelves.

    This month, we have Hawkeye. Which leads to fantastic double meanings with the word Chemistry, sexy Clint Barton, flirtation and an honest look at both the strengths and weaknesses of their relationship. The fact that it explores such a deep continuity thing as that with a character who was basically wallpaper until this series is even more impressive.

    They don’t go into actual continuity details (thankfully. I don’t need to be reminded that Mockingbird, like Captain Marvel, was raped. It is sad how hard it is to find a major female character that hasn’t been sexually assaulted in comics). Instead, it builds dynamics. And the dynamics are rooted in character delightfully. The chemistry double meaning is the perfect example, both in their sexy spy chemistry and their colder moments where Bobbi gets overly analytical/controlling, like the scientist she is. And it all still exists today, where they flirt but Bobbi is still controlling through taking advantage of her access to Clint’s private files and her refusal to let Clint in on the plan in any way.

    Their dynamic is built up so well in such a small amount of time, you understand why they once loved each other, why they no longer are married, but also why Bobbi trusts CLint enough to do her right – very important as Bobbi takes risks to deal with her mystery.

    I am still loving this book. THe combination of deeply personal look at a generally forgotten character and the energetic fun creates one of the freshest superhero comics on the stand. Love it.

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    Spiderman: kaif will be happy, as this book seems to be finally exploring some of the stuff around ‘What the hell happened in Secret Wars?’ Still, this book is trucking along as it always does. Lots of stuff done well, but a hundred small advancements instead of one big advancement, just like Invincible Iron Man (which is why I can’t wait to read this as a trade instead of as an issue).

    But what I love is just how Ultimates this book is. All of Ewing’s stuff with the Maker and the Ultiamtes is not really embracing that stuff, but Bendis is still keeping this book with all the stuff that made Ultimate Spiderman what it was. Which is great, as Ultimate Spiderman is one of the most important books of the 2000s. Not just in that Bendis is continuing the police station gag (this time, a Rebirth reference. Though I have no idea why the woman is in a short white dress with bunny ears. Don’t see how that references Rebirth). But also having some of the things that gave the book really interesting texture, like how despite treating Secret Identities as an important rope, having Miles unmasked by taking advantage of the fact that just because you know someone’s face, it doesn’t mean you have any idea who that person is. Keeping that Ultiamte texture helps this book stand out and be its own things, instead of being subsumed into what everyone else is doing

    Also, I like how Jessica Jones seems to be accidentally learning every superhero’s secret identity with her investigations. Good fun

    • We’re still pulling Mockingbird (along with Silk and Uncanny Inhumans, which we also neglected to cover this week), and just because we didn’t cover this issue doesn’t mean we’re dropping coverage for the entire summer. Mockingbird was one of the issues this week that was “up for grabs,” meaning any staffer could claim it and write about it if they felt so moved. For time’s sake (I LOVE writing for this site and feel kinda aimless without it, but I’ve also had time for little else lately and wanna take advantage of a lighter load over the summer), I limited myself to claiming only ONE up for grabs title this week, and ultimately, I felt like I could write a stronger piece for Squirrel Girl than I could Mockingbird or Silk. It’s probably my favorite read of the week, and likely the most vital as well.

      Mockingbird’s a book I’m still having trouble getting a handle on to be honest. Like, it’s a very enjoyable read, I get a kick out of each issue, but I haven’t quite figured out an angle to approach it from yet in terms of writing about it. I think I might have to wait until the puzzle box is finished before fully understanding what the book is all about, and I straight-up didn’t understand the full story behind last month’s issue 3 at all. I like the take on Bobbi (and Clint and Lance) and it’s a stylish, fun spy/superhero book, but I haven’t quite cracked its broader themes yet.

      • Yeah, I completely expected that you guys were still reading it. But I love talking about Mockingbird, so would love to see more writing about it from you guys.

        The question on the broader themes is a complex one. Currently, my answer is womanhood. On the one hand, that feels too broad. On the other hand, considering how rarely we get to explore those themes, does it need to be more specific? To me, it is about exploring topics such as sexuality (issue 2), gender (issue 3) and intimacy (issue 4) from the perspective of a middle aged woman. To me, so far, the book has less of a broader theme as it has a broader perspective, if that makes sense? Each issue its own theme, but filtered through the same perspective

  3. now that you mention it,this cap twist reminds to Bioshock Infinite,where a group took the idea of US´s “fathers” and transformed it into a nationalistic and xenophobic ideology… which,sadly,as a Venezuelan i´ve lived through since i was a child :S

    I say this because you touched a great point that is,why didn´t Spence choose to rewrite the whole world ala House of M? instead we have 2 options: 1) Kobik only changed the real history of Steve,or 2) she only changed his memories. The 2nd is the right one(otherwise,Skull wouldn´t have remembered Steve´s original life) but why? beyond narrative possibilities(what happens when Steve finds out something that couldn´t have happened if he was Hydra the whole time?) the answer is what demagogues have known all along,people don´t know history at all and they could use that to change the perception people have,doesn´t matter of it´s true or not because people will never verify it. This way the metaphor is much more interesting and complementary to the way Skull was recruiting in the 1st issue or ISIS uses religion to do it in real life… will be fun to see how a liberal like Spencer handle these issues through a character so specific like Captain America

    • I really think you’ve got it. I love that point about demagogues and history. I mean, that first issue did a great job at showing the horrors of such toxic nationalism/xenophobia, the evil power of demagoguery and made a point of truly showing us how evil HYDRA is, before hitting us with that twist. And I don’t think enough people are actually discussing the twist with the context of how Spencer is using HYDRA.

      And I think the other important part of the twist is how it removes the safety. Superhero books do a great job at keeping things safe, largely because we know that as much of a threat as fascism is, we know that things are sacred. For example, we know that as much as a threat as fascism is, it will never in any real way infiltrate the Avengers. We are always safe. Which, in real life, we aren’t (Donald Trump being the current poster child). Spencer has removed the safety net. That’s why he didn’t do a House of M style thing. He wants us to feel the threat of fascism exist within everything that is supposed to safe. He wants every book in the Marvel Universe to have to take this into account. He wants it to be a key part of Civil War II. He wants you to feel the danger of the idea that the Avengers doing anything is a world where one of their leaders is fascist. Because what makes fascism scary is a bunch of men in green jump suits. It is the fact that it can grow and take over legitimate institutions – like the Avengers.

      Can’t wait to see what Spencer does with all of this now that he has finished his homework and justified it

    • I think there’s a third option: That Kobik actually altered Steve’s real history, but allowed Red Skull to remember so that he can appreciate her gift to him. It’s not necessarily that she wants credit, she just wants Red Skull to know that she helped Steve “see the light.” I think this makes sense for two reasons: 1) Spencer has been insistent that it isn’t mind control, and 2) if it was mind control, Red Skull woudn’t need Kobik for it. As Jeremy mentions in the first comment, Red Skull wasn’t happy with mind-controlling his foes, so he looked for an alternative. It looks to me like Kobik presented an actual alternative, and not just more mind control.

      • The problem with any discussion of real history being changed is that it comes with the need to explain how history has been changed. I am pretty sure that nothing before Pleasant Hill has gotten changed by Kobik rewriting Steve. However, it isn’t mind control. Captain America has been literally transformed, and is a fundamentally different entity to the one before Kobik. The current Steve Rogers is, for all intents and purposes, a completely different entity. The ‘real’ Steve Rogers no longer exists, and a completely different entity is standing there instead, an entity whose memories don’t really make perfect sense but exists.

        Imagine if Steve Rogers, pre Pleasant Hill, could be expressed as a set of numbers, 12345678. During Pleasant Hill, Kobik rewrote reality. And so, even though before Pleasant Hill Steve Rogers is 12345678, after Pleasant Hill, the Marvel Universe is expressed as 12345679. Quite simply, Steve Rogers is literally a different thing to what he was before

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