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 A-Force 8, Black Panther 5, All-New All-Different Avengers Annual 1, Old Man Logan 10, and The Vision 10.
Spencer: As a team, the A-Force is built on a foundation of friendship (and, specifically, sisterhood), so it makes sense that the conflict of Civil War II would have an especially devastating effect on them. Ulysses’ visions don’t simply spark ethical dilemmas or disagreements about working habits like they do with the Ultimates; they threaten to tear apart deep relationships between women who had come to depend upon each other for support.
The plot of A-Force 8 is, in a way, Civil War II in a microcosm: in the aftermath of Thanos’ attack (and A-Force member She-Hulk’s coma), Ulysses sees a vision of Nico Minoru killing a young girl, and the team splinters as they try to decide what to do about it. As I mentioned, though, the arguments presented here are less about the ethics of profiling and more about feelings of betrayal and the issues of trust. Nico, of course, feels betrayed, but Dazzler’s particularly hurt by Captain Marvel’s willingness to arrest Nico.
Dazzler never agreed with Carol’s stance, but she joined her in battle anyway because Carol’s her friend; she knew she needed her help against Thanos, so she was there for her. Those kind of relationships are what’s made this team so strong, and now they provide some real stakes as the title moves further into Civil War II territory. The A-Force has a lot to lose.
Once its conflict is established, A-Force 8 transitions into a more straightforward action plot (bolstered by totally awesome guest star Elsa Bloodstone), and really, neither direction should surprise me. I’ll admit that I went into this issue expecting something a bit more somber (like, say, the recent Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat 8), but over the past year Kelly Thompson, her artistic partners (Paulo Siqueira debuts this month), and former co-writer G. Willow Wilson have slyly built A-Force into one of Marvel’s best action books, and that direction grows even stronger this month. By continuing its trademark focus on action and friendship even as it gets drawn further into the grip of Civil War II, A-Force 8 proves itself, not just a successful issue, but a successful crossover as well.
Black Panther 5
Patrick: Over the years that we wrote about Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers / New Avengers / Secret Wars mega-epic, we explored the concept of the Master Morality as it applies to characters that are literally powerful enough to unmake reality. That raised a bunch of compelling questions, but ultimately leaves T’Challa nowhere to grow. With Black Panther 5, Ta-Nehisi Coats and Chris Sprouse narrow in on the answer to the question: is it better to be a superhero or a leader? And in so doing, they find a tension that is both inherent and unique to the character of the Black Panther.
We catch up with T’Challa already on the offensive. The People have started randomly suicide bombing crowded gatherings, so Black Panther turns on his mask and addresses the problem as only a superhero can – by getting a former-Avenger buddy to help him magically teleport into terrorist hideouts and punching his enemies into submission. T’Challa relishes the opportunity for some hand-to-hand combat, even inviting his opponents to land some free blows. I believe we’re meant to relish the action in the same way. Sprouse draws clear, fluid action, allowing the reader to savor every satisfying moment. But Coats seems to be pumping the breaks, cautioning against the romanticization of this kind of character.
I love the consistent shape of T’Challa’s claws between these panels – it makes it so easy to follow his hand from attacking to staid. But even the narration underplays the comic-bookiness of this action, swirling around the inevitability of T’Challa’s role as Damisa-Sarki.
That momentum rolls into a strange meeting that sort of openly acknowledges the kind of weird-ass position T’Challa finds himself in. He calls a meeting of high-level officials from a bunch of Marvel countries – Madripor, Alberia, Genosha – and asks for their advice. Presumably, T’Challa could have asked to see leaders from any country in the world, as super humans are literally everywhere and every governing body would logically have to deal with the same kinds of issues. But in assembling fellow leaders of fictional countries, it becomes uncomfortably clear that they are much more often the bad guys than the good. While it seems it’s so much easier to be the comic book hero, T’Challa’s most effective victory comes when he lets his mask down and turns a POW by relating to him on a human level. On a nationalistic level.
All-New All-Different Avengers Annual 1
Taylor: Comics are often polarizing things. It’s natural, really. People care deeply about the comics they read and have an invested interest in how their favorite series are created and represented in the world at large. This devotion leads to readers who are passionate about the medium and this naturally breeds strong opinions and disagreements. Fan-Fiction is one of the subjects that often divides comic fans. Some see it as juvenile while others see it as art. In the annual of All-New All-Different Avengers, Kamala Khan tackles this issue head on, and by the end of the issue it’s clear she is a fan of Fan-Fiction.
This issue is set up like a mini-anthology, with multiple artists and writers each contributing to write a different “Fan-Fiction” story. Which story you like the best is ultimately up to you, but for my money I most enjoy the second piece about She-Hulk. In it, She-Hulk converses directly with the writer of the Fan-Fic story she’s in. This is the cause of humorous fourth-wall breaking fun.
Natasha Allegri’s art is adorable and lends to the comedic nature of these interruptions. While the artwork is funny, it points to the idea that Fan-Fic is often done by amateurs who may be lacking in artistic or storytelling skills. Instead of poking fun at this, however, Allegri asserts that fan-fiction is something anyone can do (just look at the motivation She-Hulk gives you above!) regardless of skill. Through the comic her and She-Hulk encourage the creation of Fan-Fic, even if the results are sometimes less than stellar. For me I find this to be a wonderfully inclusive message. Yes, some people get payed to make comics and yes some Fan-Fic is really bad. Still, what underlies both endeavors is that they are a labor of love. The message of this annual issue seems to be that regardless of skill or knowledge, the world of comics is inclusive and a place of storytelling for all.
Old Man Logan 10
Ryan D.: I really do not understand how Jeff Lemire does it. How does he consistently find himself writing series paired with artists who can flawlessly match his tone and develop the universe? While it would pain me to claim that Old Man Logan’s team fits better than Lemire and Nguyen on Descender, the ten issues thus far have been visual treat after visual treat, matched with a simple story built to give space for Lemire’s minimalistic and lovely character work.
Issue 10 is aptly titled “The Well,” and catches readers up on the threat which captured both Logan and Lady Deathstrike, the latter serving as bait for the former. Trapped by his captors, Logan struggles to escape. As simplistic as this premise sounds — and is — Lemire does an incredible job of telling an individual, almost stand-alone story in the context of a greater character journey. The dialogue is used with intent, the caption boxes always filled with a truly authentic voice from Logan’s inner thoughts, the exposition never forced, and all supported by so much loving art.
This art works so well, it has become my benchmark for quickly grabbing a title off the shelf at a comic shop and flipping through pages to show a friend what artists are achieving in mainstream comics nowadays. Andrea Sorrentino draws pages which are sometimes sprawling epics or abstracted dream sequences, but they are always effective. The use of perspective in dialogue scenes is remarkable. While there are several stand-out pages in this one issue, one being an incredible, Picturesque, panoramic two-page spread that takes your eyes wherever it wants, there might be a spread more remarkable:
I love the rigid panels, each a different, tight snap-shot of the struggle taking place, full of love for the onomatopoeia, utilizing that harsh red-background visual device which first in both stylistically and thematically (props to color artist Marcelo Maiolo). The thing that really strikes me, though, is the idea that this page would not function in any other medium; even film could not completely replicate this comic page. Stunning stuff.
Old Man Logan remains a must-read in my pull list. I think it is one of the best Marvel titles offered right now, and I dare anyone to point out better art in the current Marvel line-up. No, really, is there any better? Let me know in the comments! If you aren’t reading the best thing to come out of Battleworld, I recommend giving it a go. My one wish is that we get to see more dynamics between Logan and Deathstrike, but I’m sure upcoming issues will deliver. Logan’s in Japan, after all, and with the way this issue ended, we are guaranteed a slobberknocker.
Spencer: In The Vision 10‘s letter page, writer Tom King talks about the “insanity” of setting the entire story solely within the Vision’s house. As limiting as that premise sounds, though, it’s actually an ingenious basis for this story. Not only does their house-arrest provide an intimate look into the grief that the Visions literally cannot escape from, but it also highlights the ways in which the Vision home has become a character in its own right.
I mean, our homes are largely defined by the things we fill them with, right? Well, King and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta have made sure that their readers are intimately familiar with the items that fill the Vision home.
The lighter, the piano, the water vase, even the school mascot pennants hanging in Viv and Vin’s rooms; what could be mere decoration in any other title already have meaning to The Vision‘s readers. Those meanings, though, change drastically in the aftermath of Vin’s death. The piano is where Virginia and Victor once happily played music together; now Virginia sits there blankly, the piano’s vibranium insides taken by the very man who killed her son.
The most important item in this issue, though, is the cigarette lighter.
That the lighter is a “metal that has lasted” implies that there are many that don’t (such as, perhaps, Vin?), and the fact that Vision is able to use this lighter to pierce Iron Man’s shield and escape his captivity is just chock full of symbolism. First of all, it’s Vision, again, using the very metal Victor was “high” on when he accidentally killed Vin to break free of his restraint, which is a powerful, foreboding image. Then, though, there’s the fact that the lighter is a gift from Captain America, and that the lighter appears to be broken during the escape. Vision destroys an artifact that so aptly represents Victor Mancha and the Avengers? That’s practically prophetic.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?