Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/10/16

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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 A-Force 8, Black Panther 5, All-New All-Different Avengers Annual 1, Old Man Logan 10, and The Vision 10.

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A-Force 8

A Force 8Spencer: 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.

I don't agree

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 IIA-Force 8 proves itself, not just a successful issue, but a successful crossover as well.

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Black Panther 5

Black Panther 5Patrick: 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.

Black Panther goes

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. 

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All-New All-Different Avengers Annual 1

All New All Different Avengers Annual 1Taylor: 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.

Fan Fic

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.

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Old Man Logan 10

old man logan 10Ryan 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:

Snikt

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.

slim-banner4The Vision 10

Vision 10Spencer: 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.

items

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.

the 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.

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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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8 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/10/16

  1. Black Panther: Ta-Nehisi Coates has been struggling a bit with Black Panther, and first act stuff. Quite simply, he is a fantastic writer of essays, but is still learning how to write a comic. But with this issue, he shifts to the second acct and things are happening, and I am loving it. With Manifold’s introduction, Black Panther is becoming active in a way he hasn’t been before. And with last issue’s reveal of Zeke Stane, and ‘bad guys’ are also striking back (I have to say, I love how Coates does Zeke. Unlike Aaron’s version in Mighty Thor, Zeke Stane feels exactly like he did in Fraction’s Iron Man, doing the exact sorts of plans that he did in the Five Nightmares. And yet, he fits perfectly). The video being sent all around Wakanda is the sort of strike I have been waiting for

    Also, I love just how much thematic work is done with a list of people attending a meeting. Black Panther has been about Wakanda’s most enlightened attitudes coming into conflict with its most regressive attitudes, and nothing shows the nature of the most regressive side by seeing the sorts of people that are the experts at the very thing Black Panther is trying to do

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    Civil War II: The Accused: Well, this is a fucking disaster

    One reason why I was so interested in the Batman Eternals is the idea of giving a big event the chance to slow down and go deep, due to the fact that the faster release schedule makes up for it. This sort of idea is something that I have been thinking about with respect to Civil War II. Because although Civil War II has been fantastically paced, it is fantastically paced for an 8 issue miniseries. And there are stuff that I would love the chance to be expanded.

    One of Civil War’s greatest strengths is that instead of rushing to big apocalyptic fights, it has instead used the chance of its more leisurely pace to give a true diversity of events. We have gone from parties to moral debates to tense standoffs to court cases. But some of the stuff would be awesome to see expanded, like the court case. A court of law is the perfect place to really use the chance to deepen the moral argument, cross examine (literally) the key characters, provide a fresh, original style of conflict to the superhero narrative and have a Denny Crane cameo. But Bendis can’t fit that in there, so instead we get the Accused.

    And the Accused decides not to do any of that. Instead, it is about how Matt Murdock finds a conspiracy trying to railroad Hawkeye into going to prison. Which is a bad idea already, considering Civil War is about clarity, and having two sides in conflict due to a public disagreement. But the real issue is the goal of the conspiracy, a goal that singlehandedly misunderstands Civil War II so fundamentally.

    The goal is to use the court case to provide the reason to push a new version of the Superhero Registration Act. This is so utterly stupid, it hurts. I mean, first of all, Registration has literally nothing to do with the conflict of Civil War II. Civil War II is about profiling. But it actually misunderstands that Civil War II is, by design, supposed to be completely unconnected to the first Civil War. That Civil War II is its own entity, and a successor to the first only spiritually. So we have this book, that works only have literally no idea how the very event this is supposed to be a tie in to works. Urgh

    With DC being a complete disaster (did you hear that Prez, one of DC’s best series in recent memory, is not getting the second miniseries promised, and is instead getting a 12 page special instead?), it is easy to see Marvel as the people who get it. But this is just proof that Marvel have some real idiots who have no idea what they are doing

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    The Vision: After last month’s misstep, this book is right on track again. There is so much to say, with all the symbols (especially Captain America’s lighter, and how it is destroyed when the Vision escapes), but I want to focus on faith. The core of the issue is the prayer, and it a frankly amazing show of faith. The relationship between faith and doubt is well trodden ground, and hear, King fully embraces that to show one of the most powerful displays of faith ever. Viv doubts every part of her prayer. She doubts God’s existence, and doubts whether a synthetic person has a soul. And yet she prays honestly and truly. That is a powerful display of faith.

    But this display of faith is contrasted with the Vision. He begins the issue trying to find a faith that would justify events, and cannot see any doctrine that can. His makes the attempt at prayer, but it doesn’t serve to help him through or bring him closer to his family. Look at how many panels emphasise his disconnect, his lonelieness. The art is fantastic, and in the end, the only thing he has is his memories of him not being there for his son.

    It is no surprise that he decides to leave the house.

    King has done a great job at making sure he doesn’t reach his apocalyptic finale too quickly. Of holding off on the ‘fun’ stuff. And it truly works, really making us feel for the Visions pain. And that is what is going to make the next two issues great. Because by holding it back, he are truly invested in the Vision’s pain, as he Falls.

    • This was the first issue of Black Panther since the first that I actively enjoyed. Coates is working with A LOT of interesting ideas, but he has a tendency to either a) express those ideas explicitly through characters talking about the ideas or b) express those ideas through allegorical stories that his characters are telling. He’s not quite to the point of letting the actions of the characters be the allegory on its own. But, as you mention, Matt, that meeting scene is a great counter example – that role call gives us an awesome idea of what he’s trying to say without explicitly saying it.

    • From an interview with the writer of The Accused:

      In searching for the truth behind Banner’s death, Murdock will stumble upon a mysterious conspiracy in “The Accused” that Guggenheim says has something to do with the first “Civil War’s” Superhero Registration Act. “I’ll say that it has something to do with the Superhuman Registration Act — the piece of legislation that was the flashpoint (am I allowed to say flashpoint?) of ‘Civil War’ 1. I like the idea that there’s a little connection back to the original ‘Civil War.'”

      ——

      I guess he thought there’d be a fun story in finding a small connection between the two Civil Wars. To be fair, other than writing some bad Spider-Man 10 years ago and the (supposedly good) trial of Punisher, I’m not sure what he’s really done for Marvel. I know he’s an Arrow guy.

      • The idea of having a small link is alright, but here it is all consuming. And it is all consuming on an issue which should be treated as a pretty core tie in. The simple fact is that this issue doesn’t work as a Civil War II tie in. The story is literally disconnected from Civil War II.

        If Civil War is a heated debate, the Accused is the idiot who makes a point about a completely different debate and walk of smug and satisfied.

  2. I”m amazed that on Marvel’s ANAD initiative I bought nearly every series – and in this week’s breakdown I’ve only read one of what you’re talking about here. I think that shows some of the weaknesses in ANAD, but also I knew that there was no way I was going to read EVERYTHING Marvel. So I dropped stuff, sometimes because one issue just didn’t hit me.

    Like Black Panther. I feel slightly vindicate in reading Patrick say, “This was the first issue of Black Panther since the first that I actively enjoyed,” because the response to it was so overwhelmingly positive and I just didn’t get it or care for it at all. I guess I knew it would improve – the writer is a crowned genius and all. I guess I’m just not too sad to be missing out on this even if it’s only taken one arc to start to get its stride.

    Vision: I didn’t expect prayer. I just read Godless the other day (which also talks about faith and the purpose of it) and… dammit, I don’t have anything to share. The faithless attempting faith because they have to believe in something, even if they know its not true makes a compelling story. This 12 issue series is going to go down as one of the best comics of the 2000s.

    • I don’t know if it is a weakness of ANAD Marvel that you only read one. In fact, it is a strength you nearly everything. There will always be bad books, and we dropped stuff like A-Force and All New All Different Avengers quickly because they started so badly. And there will always be books that don’t fully connect, like Black Panther for you and Lemire’s work for me. Especially as the nature of the schedules sometimes means that some weeks, it just so happens you have a light pull list. I had only three books this week, and one was a poorly chosen one shot. But next week, I have eight.

      But the existence of bad books isn’t a fault with ANAD Marvel, but with Marvel’s talent acquisition. But Marvel and DC could serve to improve their talent acquisition, as there are always a few too many writers who are always, at best, only ‘good enough’.

      And the existence of books like Black Panther that don’t grok with you but grok with others is a feature, not a bug. Everyone has different tastes. Which is why I will never complain that Mark Waid is getting work, even as I find is work so poorly executed.

      • I’m enjoying a lot of the goofier things happening at Marvel at the moment: Gwenpool, Squirrel Girl, Deadpool, Howard the Duck and so on. I recognize that it’s a lot of the same tone, but it just fucking works for me. There are also just series that I think work and have something to say — like Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Vision, Cap, Cap, Widow, Thor — so I’m generally very excited about Marvel, even if the whole “Civil War II thing” doesn’t move me all that much. Plus, I feel like the middle-quality series are quite a bit better than the middle-tier at DC (again, at least for me). I’m enjoying both Inhuman series, I like Daredevil, I like Moon Knight.

        Honestly, I’ve also got a lot of goodwill left over from Secret Wars – I’ll probably ride that for the next two years (at least) and sample MOST of their output until they do something to really earn my distrust.

        • There is actually a long list of stuff Marvel has done that deserves our goodwill

          – Secret Wars
          – Civil War II (I won’t call Civil War II anything but above average, but that is also the highest praise you can give an event not called Secret Wars. Even Jason Aaron, who writes Thor, Doctor Strange, Southern Bastards and Star Wars, and deservedly won an Eisner Award for Best Writer, still produced Original Sin)
          – Civil War II tie ins that integrate with the stories already being told, letting everyone tie in in a natural way, instead of interrupting their stories to be forced into an event.
          – Pushing top tier characters like Captain America, Thor, Doctor Strange and Black Panther into interesting places, creating strong stories with something to say
          – Pushing the goofier side of Marvel’s universe like Gwenpool, Squirrel Girl, Deadpool, Howard the Duck and Patsy Walker
          – Creating great books with mid tier characters like Wolverine, Spiderwoman, Mockingbird, Power Man and Iron Fist and Ms Marvel
          – Pushing diversity in race and gender
          – Whatever the hell they did to create the Vision
          – Not writing DC Rebirth

          And that’s ignoring the stuff I haven’t been reading, like Daredevil, the Inhumans (which I have been meaning to try) and stuff, but if Marvel announce a book, my general response to be intrigued. That doesn’t mean I’ll like it. Slott’s books usually have great ideas that he can never execute properly, Lemire rarely inspires me, James Robinson has the worst dialogue in the business and Waid runs his ideas into the ground while writing with a surprising incompetence. And there is a list of things they can improve (better diversity of sexuality, fix the Avengers line, give Captain Marvel the support needed to actually make her a top tier character, push further into making Cosmic Marvel interesting. But currently, I’m willing to give them a try with anything, and it is rare for either of the Big Two to be in that position

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