Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/17/16

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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 Black Widow 6, Captain America: Sam Wilson 12, Civil War II: Choosing Sides 4, The Unbelievable Gwenpool 5, and The Mighty Thor 10.

slim-banner4 Black Widow 6

Black Widow 6 Patrick: In previous conversations about Black Widow, I’ve made a big deal about how much cool shit artist Chris Samnee doesn’t let us see Natasha do, and issue 6 takes that idea to its logical extreme. We are reminded, at first subtly and in ways we’ve already seen, that Natasha’s badassery is a foregone conclusion, but it somehow still comes as a surprise how damn capable she is.

There’s a little bit of a rope-a-dope at play in this issue, and both Tony Stark and the reader play the role of the dope. In the wake of her involvement in Professor Yinsen’s abduction going public, Nat makes a desperate telephone call to an unseen confidant. By focusing both the emotional weight AND page-space of this spread on a very pissed-off Iron Man, Samnee and co-writer Mark Waid obscure the fairly obvious detail that we never find out who she’s talking to. Add to that that Nat is finally laying all the details of the series’ mystery bare – straightening out a couple of the narrative wrinkles that I know I was personally still struggling to place in context. I’m just as excited to be listening in on this call as Tony is (only, y’know, not quite so angry about it). Samnee then offers the reader a chance to catch up to him, by giving us a flashback to Yinsen’s abduction, telling a story that is visually rich in details right up to the point that Natasha has to actually do something – that’s when the camera pulls wide and her victory is assumed rather than explicitly depicted.

natasha kicks ass naturally

When he snap back to the present, Tony’s already caught up with the Black Widow, and she couldn’t really be in a more pathetic position. She’s broken, beaten, and she knows she’s morally in the wrong – OR IS SHE? Duh – the wounds are an act, as was the telephone call confessional, all in service of getting access to some Stark intel. It’s a great twist, and I just love that Natasha doesn’t even clue the storytellers into what she’s up to. These twists and reveals continue at a fever pitch in the last couple pages, which pack in so many reversals it’d be a shame to spoil them here. It borders on nonsense, but we’re so well-trained to expect to be one step behind Natasha that I don’t question it for a second.

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Captain America: Sam Wilson 12

Captain America Sam Wilson 12Michael: I still find it very surprising that of the two Captain America books that Nick Spencer is writing, most of the attention is given to Captain America: Steve Rogers instead of Captain America: Sam Wilson. I understand that fans are passionate about their hero being a Hydra spy, but the issues of race and politics in Captain America: Sam Wilson continue to be so much more rich and powerful for me. I’m glad that after some obligatory (and well-done) Civil War II lip service, Spencer and Daniel Acuna got to return to this book’s current enemy: The Americops.

I love comic books; they resonate with me on a storytelling, thematic and visual level. Captain America: Sam Wilson however, is a book that resonates with me as an American right now. I suppose it should be noted that I’m very liberal and Nick Spencer is very liberal, but Spencer doesn’t exactly make the statement “the conservative characters are bad guys” in Captain America: Sam Wilson 12.

not my

Surely the Americops and their political backers are the bad guys, but it should be noted that John Walker, U.S. Agent puts a reasonable amount of thought into the matter before deciding to take on Sam Wilson. Paul Keane and his cohorts are unequivocally bad guys, but you can see how they manipulate Walker’s honor and values to bend them to their will. It is unreal how much garbage that Fox News and Donald Trump spew out on a daily basis, infecting good people with hate and fear. I am thrilled as hell to see that being called out in a comic book with Captain America in the title.

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Civil War II: Choosing Sides 4

Civil War II Chosing Sides 4Spencer: What makes Civil War II: Choosing Sides one of Civil War II‘s strongest tie-ins — and a darn good mini-series in its own right — is that, for every disparate character presented throughout this anthology, things are never as easy as simply “picking a side,” no matter what the title may suggest.

Take the Punisher, for example. As presented in Chuck Brown and Chris Visions’ opening story, Punisher uses his own form of prediction and profiling (some simple detective work) to figure out where a group of thieves are going to strike. This would seem to present him as being on Captain Marvel’s side, but things aren’t that simple.

the unpunished punished

The Punisher sees flaws even in Carol’s program, and he’s here to fill in those cracks. He doesn’t really believe in Carol’s cause, and he’s certainly not on her side; as always, the only thing Punisher believes in is himself and his own brand of justice.

Over in John Allison and Rosi Kampe’s Power Pack story, meanwhile, the Powers family don’t see why they have to choose a side at all.

Complicated

As Katie so eloquently states, things are complicated, and she changes her mind all the time. Picking to blindly support either side would only reduce this complex conflict to a black-and-white matter, and that’s no good. This entire story is thoroughly charming and sweet, but this small moment here shows just what Choosing Sides is all about.

As always, the Nick Fury serial is the outlier (as gorgeous as Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s art is, and as flawless as their storytelling is, the plot itself remains elusive), but otherwise, Civil War II: Choosing Sides continues to spotlight the charm and complexities of Marvel’s C and D list characters.

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The Unbelievable Gwenpool 5

Gwenpool 5Taylor: About a year ago I took an “Intro to Comics Drawing” class. On the first night, our teacher told us that to be a comic artist a person must accept drawing the same thing over and over and over again. This advice might seem trivial and mundane, but it’s only when you start drawing a comic of length that the truth of it sinks in. Drawing the same character, scene, or object again and again can get tiring if you aren’t the patient type. That being said, it’s fun to read comics done by professionals because you get to see how artists keep things interesting for the reader and themselves when they are drawing the same thing twelve times over.

In Gwenpool 5, artist Irene Strychalski keeps things interesting by using varied and unique camera angles in lot of her panels. She accomplishes this by setting the camera in positions I’m unaccustomed to, such as above a speaking character and over their shoulder. Take a look at how Strychalski varies her angels in this conversation between Gwen and Cecil.

The Angles Duke! The Angles!

The first two panels have the camera positioned, more or less, over the shoulder of each speaker in the conversation. The angle then changes so we view the scene from two off-kilter overhead viewpoints. The fun in this shifting of perspective is twofold. First, there is a nice parallel between the two top and two bottom panels; they are similar, but different. Second, these are angles I don’t see often, especially in scenes heavy on dialogue. A lot of times dialogue scenes position the viewpoint at about the height of the viewer. That’s done here, but in an intimate fashion with the over the shoulder look. That trend is totally subverted in the third and fourth panels and makes what could be pedestrian scene between two people new and interesting.

I don’t want to give the impression that Strychalski had to use these unique perspectives to make the story interesting, though. Gwen is a positively charming character and her discovery of Miles Morales on the train is a ton of fun. The two instantly have chemistry and I enjoyed this issue the whole way through based on the force of the characters alone.

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The Mighty Thor 10

The Mighty Thor 10Spencer: The Mighty Thor 10 is an absolute delight in pretty much every conceivable way; I don’t even know where to begin singing its praises. Maybe with the humor? At one point Silver Samurai brags, “It’s the most sophisticated vault I’ve ever seen. If I don’t have it open in two minutes, I’ll commit seppuku.” It’s like a line out of an Adult Swim show, or some other brand of absurdist comedy (and I mean that as a compliment). Or there’s the following sequence:

BERSERKERS

Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman show off some primo comedic timing with this bit. The cut from that first panel to the second is just a riot, with even the panel structure playing into the pay-off; the first panel is rigid, square and straight, but the second looks as if it’s been knocked off kilter by the shock of the joke (it reminds me of when anime characters hear something so wild that they just collapse on the spot). And the poor Mindless Ones, staring across an expanse of empty space at their bizarre opponents, utterly mystified? Comedy gold.

Now I wouldn’t say The Mighty Thor 10 is “a” comedy, but comedy certainly informs almost every aspect of this issue. The goals, skills, and dialogue of the characters — from the Roxxon guard’s speech to Kurdle and Krill’s absurd tunnel vision to even Sir Ivory Honeyshot’s choice of weapon — are so thoroughly over-the-top that they can’t help but to elicit a chuckle. And thankfully, the characters themselves generate much of the humor naturally: each antagonist has an entirely different agenda, and cares about nothing but achieving it. Agger wants to escape, Exterminatrix wants to kill Agger and doesn’t care if New York dies in the process, Kurdle and Krill are too focused on Thor to care about anything else; the way these various agendas clash and overlap, with only poor Thor and Roz Solomon capable of even trying to clean up the mess, generates some great laughs, but it also sparks some even grander action.

Maybe grand action is something we’ve come to expect from Dauterman and Matthew Wilson by now, but The Mighty Thor 10 may just surpass anything we’ve seen from this team before. Wilson lets Thor’s blinding lightning engulf entire pages; panels shake and rock as attacks hit (most notably, when Agger breaks free of his restraints); at one point, the panels cascade in and out like an hourglass, growing larger and smaller as the battle ebbs and flows (when Thor catches a bullet, the panel grows outwards; when the bullet poisons her, the panel shrinks inwards).

For all the spectacle, though, I’m most impressed by Dauterman and Wilson’s ability to pack so much story into such limited space.

the panel that told stories

Just in this panel alone we’ve got Thor and Roz’s conversation, Thor’s battle against some goons, and Mjolnir’s own battle in the background; three different plains of content in a single panel! The stuff Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson manage to pull off in The Mighty Thor never fails to astound me. Even the cliffhanger’s beyond pale — this can’t be the “real” Jane, so who is it?! Who in Asgardia has discovered Jane’s secret? It should be a crime for a book to be this good.

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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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7 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/17/16

  1. Generally, I’m a fan of Nick Spencer’s, but this week’s Sam Wilson: Captain America felt kind of problematic to me. It felt like Sam was talking down to other African American characters this issue–especially Rage. I mean, he flies into a situation where the Americops had been brutalizing an African American community, and he seems mad at BOTH sides: the Americops for being racist dickheads and the black citizens for…making for bad press by fighting back, I guess? It seems to me that it’s not really a white writer’s place to tell African Americans (real or fictional) what their response to systematic violence (such as at the hands of the [Ameri]cops) should be.

  2. Reading all my comics, I just noticed something. I don’t think a single book I am reading is pro-Carol. Which books are? Who is on Carol’s side in the Civil War?

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    All-New Wolverine: The great thing about Wolverine’s Civil War II tie in is that it is basically about what happens when two different profiles have different results. Ulysses has his vision, Logan has his memories. Both have a high degree of accuracy, but also have mistakes – Ulysses is an incredibly complex prediction and Logan’s is memories of a similar but not exact universe.

    One of the big things that makes the Civil War issue complex is the fact that everything is time sensitive (as Spiderwoman demonstrated this week). To use Ulysses, you have to act fast. You can’t fully assess everything. And yet, when you don’t have full information, mistakes can happen.

    If the briefcase it the example of how Ulysses can go wrong by being an incorrect prediction, All-New Wolverine is how things can go wrong when the only information you have is a vision. A disaster still occurs.

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    Captain America – Sam Wilson: I think I agree with Jeremy here, in that it felt kind of problematic.

    Not entirely sure that I would crucify Spencer for tell black people how to react to systemic violence – what he’s doing is very different to the usual people being criticised for that. He isn’t doing respectability politics, and is instead taking the approach of wanting to be strategic (which is reflective of real social movements).

    Spencer has a black man wanting to be strategic, but doesn’t actually have Sam Wilson do anything strategic. It feels like if Sam gets his way, nothing will happen, and the same situation will simply spring up the next day.

    Still, I liked how they did John Walker, though I wish they didn’t have him spout Trump rhetoric. Spencer wants to position him as conservative, but reasonable, and I feel that he should be ‘grudgingly voting for Trump’ camp. Leave William Burnside for the Donald Trump camp

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    Civil War – Choosing Sides: I feel that you are giving the Puisher’s opinion on the Civil War a bit more complexity than it deserves, because the Punisher doesn’t do nuance. To me, Castle is just adapting to the new status quo, finding the new space that requires the Punisher. He’s pro-Carol, I mean, he certainly isn’t complaining that all these crooks are getting arrested. It is pure Punisher. Any system, no matter how good, needs a vigilante to go even further. Carol’s system is nothing more than a better system than the one before

    With the Power Pack, there is something lovely about it. Civil Wars are inherently political. There is a reason they happen when Real World Politics is fired up. So there is something nice about a story that embraces how ordinary people react. Which is, not much. For everyone like me that checks FiveThirtyEight every day (Trump has a 13% chance of winning the election, if we ignore the Polls-Plus model that I have strong doubts about when faced with an outlier candidate like Trump), there are people who treat it just like the Power Pack. Something which isn’t more important than spending time with your big sister.

    And this was actually the one time I came away praising the Nick Fury Jnr story. Is it just an attempt at taking the aesthetic choices of the current Black Widow story and applying it elsewhere? Yes. But that means we get a ‘Samnee Black Widow’ story that isn’t as boneheadedly stupid to suggest Black Widow doesn’t know how to use a power drill or throw a rock. Samnee’s aesthetics are so good that seeing that sort of art in something better written is worth it (even if Nick Fury Jnr story isn’t great writing)

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    Gwenpool: What is it with Hastings getting artists I’m not a fan of? I do wish Gwenpool had better art. Though while I have problems with the art, the use of camera angles is really clever in this issue. I mean, let’s look at the four panels you highlighted. Each one is built around drawing emphasis to the most important figure, but each one also positions the character in where they are in relation to other characters. Each panel keeps the characters in the same orientation(with Gwen on the right), despite the shifting angles, except the fourth one. As we reach the punchline (Gwen’s confident control being shown to be hilariously wrong when she doesn’t get that Cecil can’t hold books) comes with a sudden change in orientation, shock us at the punchline.

    COmbine that with the always charming writing (I love Gwen’s ‘explanation’ for her powers), and we have another great issue. Just wish I liked the faces more.

    Also, I really want Gwen to meet Steve Rogers soon. There has got to be a lot that they can play around with the idea that Gwen hasn’t read the first issue of Spencer’s series

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    Mighty Thor: Aaron and Dauterman are still the best. So much to praise. Real high energy, insane ideas while rooted in the epic backbone of the book. I didn’t care for Exterminatrix in Original Sin. But under Dauterman’s pen, Exterminatrix’s look doesn’t seem so indulgent. It feels real, and the choice to have her put Agger in bondage regalia helps turn her look from ‘sexy’ into a legitimate villain gimmick. And she also just a fun villain, discussing how she isn’t a Thor villain etc. Meanwhile, Agger’s evil is also fun, even as it is scary (with the hulks), SHIELD acts as a fantastic villain and I can’t wait to see how the climax is explained. In truth, there is just so much perfect in this book. Still the best

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    Mockingbird: Last week, I praised Civil War II tie ins for how flexible they are. They truly are done is a way that naturally ties into existing story arcs, and Mockingbird is a great example. For its Civil War II story arc, Mockingbird isn’t going to be punching superheroes, she is going to be solving a murder mystery on a cruise ship. Why? Because being a Civil War tie in doesn’t mean punching people. Instead, it can be about how Bobbi tries to get away from the world during Clint’s trial, and how her marriage with CLint affects her relationships now.

    Meanwhile, the use of the nerd cruise is a perfect setting, both in how Clint’s suddenly cancelled speaking engagement hangs over everything and the fact that Bobbi is so out of place (my favourite touch is Bobbi dressed up and playing Dungeons and Dragons).

    This continues to be an amazing series

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    Power Man and Iron Fist: Jessica Jones was written well! Jessica Jones was written well! We actually have an issue where Jessica gets to be a smart, competent private eye instead of a nagging wife. Even her more wifey moments come less from ‘don’t do that thing’ and more ‘I know what you are like at these types of moments, so breathe and think’. She’s not the killjoy, but a supportive character who quite simply isn’t the lead of this comic book. Fantastic

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    Spiderwoman: Damn, I love how they set up the big climax of this issue. Jessica gets perfectly positioned in the place of understanding the power of Ulysses and understanding her own best’s friends worst impulses. It creates a lovely balance, until things explode in the finale.

    And damn that ending. It is the perfect use of dramatic irony. We all know what has happened, and Jessica hasn’t. The build up is amazing (helped by Jessica moving, which shows both everyone looking at a TV and truly giving things a sense of a ticking bomb). When things go wrong and Jessica just stops moving… Chills

    Amazing

  3. I think this is the week where I finally got sick of Civil War II. Matt’s right that most of the tie-ins are finding varied and natural ways to weave the crossovers into their narratives, but too many of them are just too similar. After reading All-New Wolverine, Spider-Woman, and The Ultimates essentially back to back, I feel like all three are variations of the same conflict, and it’s getting boring to me, despite the fact that all three of those issues are good (hell, I’d say Spider-Woman was great) in their own way.

    Power Man and Iron Fist, Mockingbird, even Cap: Sam were all much more enjoyable to me as CWII tie-ins this week because they were going far off in their own direction with the premise instead of sticking with the old “mad at Carol/defying Ulysses’ predictions” angle.

    • Honestly, I agree with the broad point but disagree with the titles you mention. Thr fact that Sam Wilson and Power Man and Iron Fist share a ‘bad guys profiling the future in a waythat doesn’t involve Ulysses’ is making me more tired than Spiderwoman’s unique take, which took advantage of Jessica’s skills as an ivestigator and focused primarily on Jessica’s role as Carol’s best friend (and looks to be continuing with Jessica investigating Banner’s death). To me, that is a new area, instead of the exact same moral conflict.

      Last week, when discussing the terrible Accused one shot, I praised Civil War II for its diverse range of events, and I do wish more tie ins focused on the court cases and funerals. That is why Choosing Sides is good, it is focusing on Ms America at a funeral, or Kate during the trial, or Power Pack at university. So wish more tie ins focused on that side.

      I mean, there is a reason no event has ever had better tie ins than Secret Wars. Everything was different

  4. There are a lot of female leads in Marvel right now, aren’t there. I’ve dropped Black WIdow, Gwenpool, and Mockingbird (even though I think both BW and M-bird are well made I still just don’t give the first rip about those characters and ugh Gwenpool), but I did read Thor and Spider-Woman.

    Thor and Spider-Woman: These are still great and I wish I had more to say about them other than I can’t wait for Thor’s reveal and Spider-Woman’s resolution.

    I guess I liked the Ultimates, but I didn’t understand America’s actions (and I don’t have an Avengers 0 handy to figure it out) and I don’t understand the empty briefcase (and I don’t have Secret Wars II issues yet, I’m waiting for the trades). I don’t understand why they didn’t think Thanos would escape and… I really don’t think this was a great comic to think about.

    Web Warriors – This thing is consistently nuts. It’s great. Spider-Verse was fun and this remnant of it isn’t discussed much but it’s really good. Spider-land has some fun stories right now.

    Daredevil/Punisher: This mini finally ended. I’m not sure what the point was other than trying to capitalize on the Netflix series. I’m always a little confused about Punisher’s relationship with DD and Spidey – I don’t know how many times he’s teamed up/encountered Cage and Iron Fist. Those might be good.

    Civil War Tie ins: Gods of War and Spider-Man. Hercules is a character that I’m starting to really like and it’s interesting to read his view of how the Marvel world views him and how it really does. The Spider-Man tie in features Clash and is quite good even though I didn’t really like the Clash origin.

  5. Yeah, the briefcase in Ultimates is explained in Civil War II, I believe (I would be surprised if they are talking about a different briefcase).

    I didn’t care for Mockingbird as a character, but I am now transfixed by the Mockingbird book. I happily follow writers I like, so am glad to keep reading the excellent Mockingbird. If I have to choose between two books, I’m going to put good writing over a character I love every time. It means I get to read things about characters I aggressively don’t give a shit about, like the Vision, even if it sometimes feel like I will never read a Catwoman or Black Widow book again.

    And I would try Gwenpool. I had low hopes, because of the gimmicky nature, but the choice to distance her from Gwen Stacy actually helps a lot. Instead of being a marketing gimmick, she is a legitimate character that is worth a try

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