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 Amazing Spider-Man 15, Sam Wilson Captain America 11, Silver Surfer 5, Spider-Woman 9 and Vote Loki 2.
Amazing Spider-Man 15
Spencer: The moral behind Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Amazing Spider-Man 15 is pretty clear: don’t let yourself become so wrapped up in your duties (be they superheroic responsibilities/supervillainous plots or far more mundane jobs and interests) that you neglect the people who matter to you the most. In retrospect, it’s actually pretty remarkable how effectively Slott and Gage lined up every element of this arc (from the involvement of Mary Jane, to Regent’s role in the narrative, to even more minor characters like Harry showing up) to help reinforce this theme.
But that’s not what I’m most interested in talking about today. Instead, I want to direct everyone’s attention to this panel:
At first, this looks like nothing more but a cheap (and very funny) shot at this year’s slate of superhero movies (as well as Marvel’s own current event, Civil War II), like something out of last week’s Spider-Man/Deadpool 6, but this isn’t just Slott and Gage aiming for a laugh: this is them walking the walk as well. The early focus of this arc was about Peter and Tony’s petty feud, a clash so juvenile that it actually seemed to justify Regent’s plan, at least for a while. In a way, Slott and Gage are calling out even their own plot, and thus, all similar ones; in that respect, this issue’s moral becomes less about how individual people live their lives and more about what creators should keep in mind when crafting stories. A Civil War can be fun here and there, but creators shouldn’t focus on heroes vs. heroes storytelling to the point where heroes stop being heroes; you have to remember what’s most important about the entire genre. Justice, inspiration, hope, family: these are ideas we must never lose sight of.
Sure, one could argue that making your own protagonists so unlikable for such long stretches of time might be an ineffective way to get that point across (the first few issues of this arc were certainly tough to get through at times), but I still think it’s a neat, and timely, point to make all the same.
Sam Wilson: Captain America 11
Michael: I’m making a lot of sweeping statements in our round-ups this weeks you guys, so here is another one: the work that Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna are doing in the pages of Sam Wilson: Captain America is extremely important. Equally important is that Sam Wilson as a black man remains Captain America simultaneously with Steve Rogers – Hydra plot aside. With the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and (as of the moment I’m writing this) four members of the Dallas PD, the black/police conflict presented in Sam Wilson: Captain America 11 rings painfully true.
As I said last issue I’ve got to give credit to the wonderful balance that Nick Spencer does between tying in Civil War II with his ongoing story with Sam Wilson. Not only does Spencer have Sam align with Tony Stark for the most wonderful obvious reason – Ulysses’ pre-crime powers are profiling – he and Acuna expertly pace the tug of war that Iron Man and Captain Marvel play with Sam. Sam Wilson: Captain America 11 spends just enough time on the Civil War II stuff that he doesn’t rob the more potent plot of the Americops of any juice.
To sum up a larger, more complex national issue “Black Lives Matter” does not mean that “Blue Lives” don’t matter. Spencer bypasses the potential of cop smearing by inventing a clear villain of excessive force: The Americops. The Americops are super-powered police force that has become a major form of law enforcement in the U.S. because of dirty dealings between corrupt business men and (far right) politicians. And guess who they’re targeting most of all? By making these villains essentially faceless, Spencer and Acuna make us look at the larger truths of our current national epidemic.
Silver Surfer 5
Spencer: Norrin Radd is a man bereft in Dan Slott, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred’s Silver Surfer 5. Despite his newfound fame and adulation — gained by saving all of Earth’s culture — Norrin can’t help but mourn the loss of his own culture in the process. It’s a perfectly valid emotion, even if Norrin does briefly engage in a bit of his trademark, infamous histrionics in the process.
Toomie snapping Norrin out of his self-pitying monologue is probably my favorite moment of the issue, but it’s also one of the most important; while it’s never stated out loud, it seems like Norrin might be looking to use what he’s just remembered he still has, his close friends, to rebuild his lost foundation. Sadly, Surfer’s first attempts to do so meet failure (the Fantastic Four have vanished, Uatu is dead [remember that?!]), which would explain why he’s so darn eager to help Dawn. It isn’t just because he loves her (though that’s certainly part of it); it’s because Dawn’s pretty much the only recognizable foundation Norrin has left to rebuild his life on, so he’ll do anything to support her.
This issue is just another example of why Silver Surfer continues to be such a fantastic book — it isn’t just the good ol’ fashioned action and sense of gee-whiz wonder, but it’s the deep, real emotions Slott and the Allreds pack into each and every issue. Dawn reuniting with her mother promises to be a veritable powder keg of emotion, and despite the best intentions of every character involved, I’m still sensing danger on the horizon. But who knows, maybe I’m wrong — I can’t wait to find out for sure.
Ryan M.: In the first panels of Spider-Woman 9, writer Dennis Hopeless, through Jessica, posits that Super Heroes bring about the apocalyptic events that plague them and that their hubris is their weakness. The issue ends with Jessica taking on Carol’s project to check the more minor of Ulysses’ visions. Despite her ability to verbalize the crux of every near-world-ending event, she also is game to have her hand in this newest venture. What is Jessica doing in the meantime? She is on assignment in Canada investigating Wendingo. The Wendingo were men, but once they ate human flesh, they were transformed. The key to their origin in their reduction of self to their most base. In a much less gross way, Jessica’s avoidance of Carol is her own willingness to live down to her own base instincts. She won’t allow Carol to finish her pitch, in a stubborn effort to keep herself from engaging with another world-changing event. Ultimately, it was inevitable that Jessica would help Carol with Ulysses. What is so fun about an issue that is nominally about getting characters into place for a later story, is that Hopeless and artist Javier Rodriguez commit to telling a dynamic and often horrific story. In one instance, Rodriguez eschews traditional panels and gutters for a two page fight scene in which Spider-Woman and a Wendigo tussle down the slopes, with the mountain coming in at all sides, adding to the movement and disorientation of the moment. A few pages earlier, he uses the opposite technique.
By tightly focusing the reader’s attention and offering images in a clearly sequential manner, the tension of the moment is heightened. The symmetry of the skier and the mountie in the two sets of panels in the lower right also offer a bit of relief from the more specific and varied images of the other panels. That kind of relief also allows the reader to notice the missing skis and gun on her own. This kind of sophisticated command of the medium makes for a story that exceeds the expectation of a table-setting story. The storytelling has me primed for some compelling stuff as Jessica investigates some of Ulysses’ lesser predictions.
Vote Loki 2
Ryan D.: Faith is a sticky word. In our age of blistering, unprecedented technical evolution and a world culture which, for the most part, calls for education and rationality. Faith, essentially a belief in something which is not based upon empirical proof, could come with the smack of ignorance, yet still pervades the world, which largely practices belief in a religion. Enter Vote Loki 2. This issue picks up straight from the first, with the God of Mischief on the campaign trail, gaining significant hype thanks to the media circus of the United States – particularly from the hero of our story, Nisa Contreras, whose scathing editorial on Loki’s campaign seems to be lost since the Trickster manipulated its headline. Writer Christopher Hastings and guest artist Paul McCaffrey treat the readers to rally Loki holds in a football stadium in Texas…
…capturing all of the spectacle and pomp seen in these rallies, wherein the candidate is treated more like a rock star attraction than a political entity. The silver-tongued (which is an example of stock epithet, the former English teacher in me points out) Loki, then, seems perfectly made to play this role.
As Nisa chases down a lead, she stumbles across a cadre of Loki supporters performing a ritual on a goat in the name of Loki, which is published. Loki spins this discovery into a point in his political platform, rather elegantly. His official fund, after all, is very purpose called “America the Faithful.” We, the people, seem to need for candidates to be larger than life; as soon as they don the mantle of a political party, they become representative of ideas and ideals which are much larger than any single person. Loki, as a Norse deity, has had cults throughout history, but now he plays as a cult of personality. I am very interested in seeing what the fallout will be for the characters and America itself as the line between church and state is seemingly erased. While Spencer and I agreed that this series showed some appeal in our review of number one, I think this title may have just gone from cheekily apropos to intriguing. And that’s no lie.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?