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.
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.
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.
Captain America: Sam Wilson 12
Michael: 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.
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.
Civil War II: Choosing Sides 4
Spencer: 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 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.
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.
The Unbelievable Gwenpool 5
Taylor: 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 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.
The Mighty Thor 10
Spencer: 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:
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.
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.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?