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 Astonishing Ant-Man 10, Black Widow 5, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 8, and The Ultimates 9.
Astonishing Ant-Man 10
Taylor: If there’s anything to be learned from the recent Kimye/T-Swift fiasco (and that’s really a big “if”), it’s that you don’t mess with reality TV stars. The reason these people have camera crews following them around everywhere is because they’re good at creating a scene, in both senses of the word. Unless you want to get caught up in their drama it’s best just to steer clear of them altogether. Taylor learned that lesson the hard way when she tried to go head to head with Kim Kardashian’s certain brand of crazy… er,drama, and has to pay the price. In Ant-Man 10, Scott Lang learns this same lesson and while the teacher of it isn’t as malevolent, the price of it certainly is.
This lesson happens when Scott is trying to save his daughter from Darren Cross and while he’s successful, his victory proves fleeting. It turns out that Darla is the star of a reality television show and they filmed virtually all of Scott’s crazy heist. As such, he’s going to jail, the victim of documented burglarizing.
This development seems a little like the deus ex machina, ensuring the series can continue with a new plot arc, but overall it fits with what I’ve come to expect from Ant-Man. Scott is always so close to being a good hero, yet he always falls short. In this case, he overlooked Darla’s reality TV show and now he’s in jail. This is the result of Scott not sweating the small stuff. While this might make Scott seem like a cool dad, it turns out that the small stuff does actually matter. Not only would he be a better hero if he thought about it, he would also be a better dad. His failure in this issue is just another link in the chain that is his continued short-comings throughout this comic. Hopefully his time in jail will teach him something and we’ll see him grow into a better hero as the series goes on.
Black Widow 5
Ryan M.: There is something tragic about every character other than the hero in genre fiction. No matter their perspective, power, or even self-sacrificing righteousness, the narrative will not afford them the kind of support that is saved for the protagonist. In Black Widow 5, Agent Elder gives up his life in order to stop the dissemination of classified information. These choices work in contrast to Natasha’s fight to stop the release of personal information. What Agent Elder does not and could not know, is that he is a character in a series called Black Widow, not Agent Elder of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this story, he is merely a player in the story of the world’s best spy. Even Tony Stark, clad in his Iron Man suit and racing to target her, doesn’t get it. Natasha is going to be tested, and she may fail, but she is not going to fall.
That kind of narrative invincibility is not meant as a dig against the story that Chris Samnee and Mark Waid have developed over these past five issues. Instead, it’s a reflection of how grounded and believable a character like Elder is. He is ultimately a sacrifice at the altar of his own belief in his agency. His fatal flaw comes before he pulls the pin out of that grenade. When he meets Natasha, he believes he has her fooled and, even after she reveals that she is trying to help him, he doesn’t trust her. It’s that lack of trust that seals his fate. Knowing his dedication to his mission, it’s clear that Natasha couldn’t have stopped him from dying for the cause. While Elder ends his life with a successful and heroic gesture, the emotional weight of the scene lays on Natasha’s soldier as depicted by Samnee.
Natasha sits, unmoving in the aftermath of the explosion. Her body, kneeling in defeat, her shoulders hunched over. She is watching her hope burn away. It’s the last we see of Natasha in the issue. It’s a dark moment for her and with the release of her secrets and Iron Man on his way to get her, things are likely going to get worse. Luckily, Samnee and Waid are great at making things worse for her and better for the reader.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat 8
Spencer: Say what you will about Marvel’s recent events (though I’d venture that Civil War II and especially Secret Wars are above average crossovers), but their tie-in issues have been knocking it out of the park lately. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat 8 is one of the best event tie-in issues I can remember reading, with the events of Civil War II providing a somber backdrop to a story featuring the characters and themes Kate Leth and Brittany L. Williams already spent the past seven issues developing.
The issue revolves around Patsy and her friends coming to grips with the news that She-Hulk’s been injured, and is currently in a coma. Leth and Williams don’t just have to depict grief and loss, but also uncertainty — nobody knows when, or even if, Jen’s going to wake up, and that leaves her friends (who can’t even visit Jen, a thought that seems to visibly pain them) unsure of how to proceed. By the end of the issue Patsy and co. have established something at least resembling a new normal, but the hole Jen’s absence leaves in the group of friends is still quite obvious. Leth and Williams manage to plainly deal with these difficult emotions without ever fully giving into them, still sneaking some of their trademark charm and humor into the issue, keeping their cast of characters recognizable and fully human even in one of their darker moments.
The best scene in this issue, though, is the five page flashback to better times with Jen and Patsy. Regular readers of this series no doubt care about She-Hulk already, and Leth and Williams make it clear how important she’s been to their cast, but actually getting to see Jen and Patsy interact really drives home how much Jen’s going to be missed. These five pages fully capture Jen and Patsy’s close, playful friendship, and the full depth of their relationship is best felt in the following scene:
That silent moment in panel 3 just floors me. Jen and Patsy are so fully comfortable together — that silence truly speaks to how well they care about and understand each other. In truth, that moment speaks more to their bond than even Jen’s attempts to help in the panels that follow — Jen’s presence was all Patsy really needed to feel safe. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat 8 is such a bittersweet, poignant issue. It’s masterful work, and I have a feeling that it’s gonna stick with me for quite some time.
The Ultimates 9
Spencer: In just about every respect, the Ultimates’ mission to rescue the Infinaut goes perfectly; indeed, it is the ideal example of the Ultimates’ mission statement. Working together with no hierarchy and mutual respect and admiration for one another (an aspect of the title I mentioned enjoying way back in the first issue), the Ultimates are able to solve a world-ending threat with no violence, save the life of the Infinaut, and open up the door to relations with a new dimension. Through this mission, writer Al Ewing takes every great quality of this team (and this title) and multiplies them to the Nth degree — even Kenneth Rocafort’s typically bombastic and detailed art is kicked up a notch.
The typical detritus Rocafort often scatters throughout his pages’ gutters, the debris within the panels, the Infinaut’s massive size and the way he bursts through the borders of the panel all combine to truly bring to life the idea that the Infinaut has broken through the barrier between dimensions. What grand work.
So, in light of all that grandeur, why does it feel like the Ultimates are falling apart? Blame that on Civil War II. A team that operates the way the Ultimates do — with no hierarchy, with no violence, with shared ideas — has to have similar goals, values, and morals in order to keep functioning, and the arrival of Ulysses (and Carol’s championing him) is changing that. Forget Thanos, or Anti-Man, or even Philip Nelson Vogt; the greatest threat to the Ultimates is their own inability to come to a consensus about Ulysses, or to even discuss it in a reasonable manner.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?