Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 7/20/16

marvel roundup40

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

Astonishing Ant-Man 10Taylor: 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.

Reality TV Bites

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

Black Widow 5Ryan 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.

bw fire

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

Patsy WalkerSpencer: 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:

Patsy and Jen

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

The Ultimates 9Spencer: 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?

One comment on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 7/20/16

  1. All-New Wolverine: Damn, this is clever. Taylor recognises that Old Man Logan is a mashup of Ulysses and Captain Marvel – knows the future and wants to change it. Meanwhile, Laura is all about freedom/agency. You have Civil War II is miniature. Taylor sets up the differences between Wolverines during the burglar scene, with Logan preparing to kill the mysterious invaders and Laura preferring to see who they are (two things to add here. Love how Laura reminds Logan that this is her apartment, considering it was Logan’s first. Just as Wolverine is now Laura’s title. Secondly, the idea of two burglars accidentally breaking into Laura’s apartment and not knowing how screwed they are is a great image, even if they should have recognised Laura’s outfit). The tensions are set, and then we get the ‘vision’, Old Man Logan knows Gabby’s future. Or at least, what happened in Logan’s timeline. He knows Gabby is good (I love ‘That’s the kind of thing an interdimensional dystopian Future grandpa might be proud of’), but Gabby’s future is something Old Man Logan wants to avert. But Laura doesn’t care – she believes Gabby should be given every chance to live her life her own way, and therefore refuses to set the future cage Gabby’s choices. And then we have the inciting incident. Ulysses has a vision of Logan killing Gabby, and SHIELD is sent after Logan.

    Civil War was being played out in miniature in Laura’s apartment, and then all of a sudden the real Civil War crashed through the window… on the wrong side. Which speaks to a weakness on Captain Marvel’s side quite interestingly. She has sabotaged her own sides efforts because she lacked enough information. A fascinating twist on Civil War. Looking forward to seeing how the twin futures being foretold by Ulysses and Old Man Logan conflict in future issues.

    Also, I just love the character work. Taylor gets a tension between Laura and Logan perfect. Both the tension between interdimensional dystopian Future father and daughter and the tension between two different Wolverines. I just love how it manifests in the smallest pieces of dialogue, like an argument over guest etiquette and the fridge.

    This book just continues to always be a little more interesting than it should be


    Patsy Walker: I mentioned last month that I wasn’t interested in a traditional Civil War tie in for Patsy Walker, but was interested in how it Patsy Walker version of a Civil War II tie in. I was hoping for a tie in that discussed the central conflict, but in the Patsy Walker approach. Where Civil War isn’t a big war, but a fight between that larger friend group that you aren’t that close to and in the end, all you can do is yell at them for being idiots and march out going ‘Fuck this, I’m out’. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.

    Still, that doesn’t mean it was a bad issue. Just a nice, powerful story about Patsy’s relationship with Jenn. Spencer, I love what you said about how it ‘deals with these difficult emotions without ever fully giving into them’. That’s what I love. It is an issue about mourning, but one built on the idea that the world continues and Patsy has to move forward. That she has to deal with her sadness even as the world shifts and changes.


    Spiderman: I may stop talking about this book. Not because it is bad. I do enjoy it, but it is hard to talk about. This issue has some great stuff. I love how Tony goes to Miles in part for the hope of a different perspective on Civil War. I love how Miles goes to his father to discuss Civil War. I love all the plot points around Jessica Jones. But this is a book that has a hundred subplots at once, and is best discussed in large chunks. You can’t discuss this book any other way


    Thunderbolts: I guess the reason I’m reading this is mostly because of Spencer’s Captain America. Though there is some joy in how retro the book is. It feels like the really old Thunderbolts back when Busiek was writing it, which creates an interesting feeling unlike any other book. Especially now that Moonstone is making plans, and the familiar dynamics of the team are returning. If it can get those rhythms right, it could end up as quite fun, even if it isn’t ‘good’. And the Bucky moment at the end is proof that on occasion, it will try for more powerful character work.

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