Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 7/6/16

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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 Amazing Spider-Man 15, Sam Wilson Captain America 11, Silver Surfer 5, Spider-Woman 9 and Vote Loki 2.

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Amazing Spider-Man 15

AMSSpencer: 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:

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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.

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Sam Wilson: Captain America 11

Sam Wilson Captain America 11Michael: 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.

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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.

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Silver Surfer 5

Silver Surfer 5Spencer: 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.

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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.

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Spider-Woman 9

Spider-Woman 9Ryan 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.

flashesBy 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.

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Vote Loki 2

Vote Loki 2Ryan 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…

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…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.

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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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2 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 7/6/16

  1. Amazing Spider-Man: Dammit Spencer, you pretty much wrote what I felt down to the word, except with better words and punctuation. I’m sure I’ve said this once or twice (or 50 times) here: Spider-Man is the main reason I collect comics. I am nearing completion of my Spider-Man comic collection: I’m at least 98% on American Spidey comics printed since 1975.

    And I haven’t loved this run of Amazing Spider-Man. The best Spider-Man stories lately have been elsewhere. Ultimate Peter, Ultimate Miles, Superior… all have been better than Amazing. And this volume included TWO painful to read Peter vs. friend fights (remember the (what I considered horrible) Johnny Storm fight when Johnny learned that Parker Industries was in the Baxter building)). Which is why this arc finale was so satisfying to me. I don’t think it was a great arc (it was fine), but this was a great conclusion.

    Some points:

    This is why Mary Jane is the best. Screw Gwen Stacy, Spider-Gwen, Gwenpool. Mary Jane is the best female character in the Spidey-Verse and she’d been put aside for way too long. Slott has done a good job of keeping her on the periphery of Spider-Action for a few years now. Her characterization here made me very happy (and double that for what Bendis is doing with her – that is the only reason I’m still reading Iron Man).

    This is why Miles Morales is the best. He’s EVERYWHERE right now. I don’t think you can pick up a Marvel comic without running into him. Slott gets him, Bendis gets him (obviously). That’s a very good thing.

    The meta-commentary on super-hero fights was obvious even to me, which is saying something. I’m not sure I got it completely unless Slott really has an objection to something going on at Marvel. Slott can’t complain about Civil War the movie: It’s arguably the best Spider-Man movie ever made.

    Was there something deeper in the MJ/Peter/Regent deja vu scene? Was that Slott laughing at all of us for buying the same damn story with the same damn characters last year and now this year? Is that a hint that there is a crack in the universe that Richards is creating? Who actually remembers Secret Wars? Is it dumb for me to have thought that some remembered it?

    I really like Giuseppi Camuncoli on art. He’s been one of my favorite Spider-Artists for a while.

    I was interested that Christos Gage was co-writer.

    I’m interested in if the ‘family’ thing at the end (and then the big family thing at the end) indicates a tempo change for this comic. I think that world traveling Peter was going to be moderately shortlived no matter what, but I’m wondering if this is going to be the impetus in the story to bring Peter more back to his roots. Evolution of comic book characters is weird – it was widely assumed that Miles would be taking over Peter’s role as New York’s Spider-Man, but he’s turning into as global of a character as Peter already.

  2. Captain America: Sam Wilson: With this story, I am really getting into this book. The first arc’s fiery rhetoric was hurt greatly by a weak structure and gratuitous Capwolf, which lacked any real purpose other than to make jokes about CapWolf. Here, however, Spencer seems to be balancing everything much better. We will, of course, see just how well he balances the Americops with Civil War, but so far, this is so much closer to what I wanted. And the connection between profiling and police racism is so close that I can see Spencer connecting them

    Though I am interested in the fact that Sam holds back because of lack of evidence. Because while there are many reasons for Sam to be carefully entering the political minefield that is police brutality (because Sam is right to be careful with his approach. Ultimately, the important thing is acting in a way that gets a result), I find Sam Wilson complaining about lack of evidence weird as in the real world, we have plenty of evidence. In fact, I believe, the Alton Sterling video came from a group dedicated to filming police in order to be there when events like that occur. Lack of evidence is not the problem. It is the fact that no one important is willing to care.

    Still, Spencer seems to be on a much more focused track this time. I’m really looking forward to the next issue
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    Spiderwoman: You could accuse this of being a ‘setting the pieces in place’ issue, but why it works is that it builds a story around it. Instead of Jessica and Carol just talking, the Wendigo events are used as the perfect way to show the initial relationships that define the starting point of this story.

    Also, at some point I am going to have to write a big thing about Civil Wars, modes of discourse and everything and why it is important that superheroes fight each other. The opening speech of this issue just built more of that eventual essay

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    Vote Loki: I have just finished watching the final season of the Thick of It, which is an amazing examination of spin doctors and the culture of leaking. The Thick of It is an amazing show for many reasons (a comedy designed to look super realistic/documentary style to the point, yet able to create fantastic moments of almost slapstick visual comedy, and can then turn the slapstick comedy into a dramatic point. This show is so amazingly structured). It is especially interesting watching the show after having read the Atlantic’s article on how American Politics went insane (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/how-american-politics-went-insane/485570/), and how well the show contextualised leaking as part of how government works. It is extremely powerful satire, because of how meticulously it represents what it is satirising (spinoff movie In the Loop has had political insiders in both Washington and London say ‘that’s exactly how the War in the Middle East happened’)

    So maybe I’m being harsh on Vote Loki by comparing it to the Thick of It. But it is such a great example of what makes the great political comedies work. It goes into the trenches, and is fearlessly looks for every bit of muck it can find.

    And Vote Loki just doesn’t have any of that. With this issue, it has made very clear what Vote Loki is. Each issue is built around a single joke, with a political/media context. The first one was an issue long ‘people don’t read past the headline’ joke, the second one was an amusing mashup of the Thor mythos and ‘Freedom of Religion’. The problem is, the jokes are so surface level. There is very little actual point.

    I usually love Hastings work, but this feels outside his wheelhouse. He can crack a few jokes using political concepts (Freedom of religion in a world of Norse Gods walking among us is a great joke), but while that sort of thing is great to have in a comedy, you need more than just that.

    There is a better story about Loki running for president than ‘Hey, some of his voters will actually also be his worshippers!’. There is so, so much more to this concept than currently being explored. And I so want to see this book dig deeper. But so far, it is going so, so surface level.

    Prez: Second Term returns in October, right? I honestly think I’ll just wait for that. I gave Vote Loki two chances, and it just seems to be far too shallow

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