Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/24/16

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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 Steve Rogers Captain America 4, Deadpool 17, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 9, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 11.

slim-banner4 Steve Rogers Captain America 4

Steve Rogers Captain America 4Patrick: I’ve been a booster for Steve Rogers Agent of Hydra, but I can understand where some fans might feel cheated. After all, putting the worlds “Hail Hydra” into his mouth fundamentally negates the image of moral purity Marvel has spent the better part of a century cultivating. Even when Steve’s going against the Avengers, or defying Tony Stark, or renouncing his American citizenship, he’s always motivated by an unerring compassion. No amount of cultural brainwashing should be able to corrupt the Star Spangled Man. But that raises the question of what it means to find truth and justice in service of America, or S.H.I.E.L.D. or even Hydra. Captain America is only an agent of America (or the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D.) when doing so maintains his moral integrity. Turns out, the same can be true for Captain Hydra.

Writer Nick Spencer walks a tricky line in this issue, and he almost seems to relish the opportunity to push his audience further away from Steve Rogers. After the opening flashback (the shape of which doesn’t become clear until the end of the issue), Spencer and artists Javier Pina and Miguel Sepulveda treat us to a graphic rendition of Cap doing some of the uglier things a high-powered military operative might do. Rogers secures a secret base for himself and Dr. Selvig by forcefully taking it from the Red Ghost as his small army of gorillas. With an assist from colorist Rachelle Rosenberg, Pina and Sepulveda make no apologies or excuses for what Steve’s doing: he’s straight-up murdering these gorillas.

Cap Murders Gorillas

Look how they even lean into the Cap iconography in that third panel. So much of what we see is gory to the point of necessarily abstraction, and Red Ghost’s face makes it painfully clear just how horrifying of a sight this is to behold.

But Spencer also makes the case throughout the issue that no group is infallible, and immorality is omnipresent. Sharon Carter uses scare tactics to try to get more power and access from the US government, Maria Hill sells out her Council’s anonymity to flex nuts, and we even get a little peek at the Avengers (who, as we well know from half-ignoring the crossover event, are embroiled in a Civil War). If there is a pure morality demonstrated in the issue, it comes from very human interactions – like Rick staying with Cathy by Jack’s bedside, or even Kobik just trying to make everyone happy. That’s the kind of simple, obvious morality that we expect of Steve Rogers, so when he finally articulates his master plan to restore Hydra to place a strength and power by eliminating the man who as misdirected its focus, you can’t help he cheer for him.slim-banner4

 Deadpool 17

Deadpool 17Patrick: The concept of the Marvel Civil War(s) kind of depends on superheroes’ fundamental natures clashing. Arguably, they’re all good guys, so the only scenario that would get them to war with each other would have to be a conflict of ideologies. Right? Or maybe one of the heroes actually isn’t a “good” guy. Cue: Deadpool. He’s fighting with everyone in his life, but it’s because he’s an inattentive, opportunistic rat-bastard.

Hilariously, the catch-up page at the start of the issue makes a special note about how this story has nothing at all to do with Ulysses or the Inhumans or anything greater than Deadpool and his supporting cast. The majority of the issue is a six-way punch-em-up between Deadpool and his Mercs, and the whole thing is motivated by the pettiest thing imaginable: money. Writer Gerry Duggan crafts a horrifyingly grounded scene of violence all around the semi-comedic premise of a bank heist gone wrong. It’s actually sort of disorienting how quickly Duggan’s tone whips from goofy to terrifying: one minute, Deadpool’s vomiting in his mask (and throwing it at Foolkiller) and the next he’s blindly shooting at police officers. That’s part of the legitimate horror of Deadpool – his invulnerability and psychotic detachment from reality make the most violent act mundane in his eyes.

That’s all well and good when all he’s doing is tussling with the Mercs. After all, they’re all sorta-superheroes. They can take it. But the consequences become much more severe when Wade tries to reconnect with his family. Healing factor can rebuild his rib cage or restore his eyesight, but his relationship with his daughter is still fucked. Ditto his relationship with Shiklah. Her affair with Jack the Wolfman has been hinted at for couple issues and artist Mike Hawthorne refuses to be left out of the foreshadowing game, planting a Chekov’s shotgun right in the middle of a panel.

Chekov's shotgun

We should be able to anticipate the lengths to which Deadpool will go to ruin his own life, but I did not see that last page coming. Shiklah seems just as surprised, declaring that there’s no way Deadpool was going to shoot Jack with her in the bed. I don’t know if we’re still looking for Deadpool’s bottom (no butt puns intended), but Duggan keeps finding new depths.

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Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 9

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 9Spencer: Patsy Walker is a creature of distraction. At her best, Patsy is too excitable and hyper to worry about her problems; at her lowest, she’ll purposely bury herself in activity in order to avoid dealing with them. Sometime this is harmless; other times it’s reckless. Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams never cast judgment on Patsy in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat 9; in fact, they highlight that Patsy’s current bout of distraction is due to the fact that there’s really nothing she can do about She-Hulk’s coma.

helpless

This confession creates a bit of a dark undertone to Patsy’s otherwise fun karaoke shenanigans with her friends, a darkness that’s only heightened by Hedy’s shady dealings with Hellstrom and Mad Dog and eventually culminates with Patsy being banished to an alternate dimension, forced to confront a dark vision of Jen. Hellstrom says that Patsy will be forced to feel what he feels, but, if anything, it seems more likely that Patsy will be forced to confront her own feelings, the ones she’s been hiding from but now has no choice to confront head-on. Whether that will be a good or a bad thing, well, it looks like that’s still up in the air.

Despite this fairly serious through-line, Leth and Williams still fill the issue with plenty of heart, humor, and plot. Beyond Patsy’s feud with Hedy, we also get to see more of Tom’s personal life (and how that contributes to Ian’s crush on him, which mostly plays out adorably in the background), catch up with Jubilee and Shogo (Leth clearly has fun riffing on Jubilee being a vampire, and I’d wager money that she’s included in this book almost solely so that Williams has an excuse to draw pointy teeth as often as she wants), and Leth even sneaks in a homage to a famous Twitter joke. Through it all Williams is at the top of her game, switching ably between styles sometimes from panel to panel, and mastering nuanced facial expressions.

harried

I mean, look at Patsy’s face here — with just that one line beneath each eye, Williams transforms Patsy from her usual chipper appearance into someone who looks stressed, tired, and harried. Overall, this issue is a strong start to the next arc, and gives readers plenty to look forward to in upcoming months.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 11

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 11Taylor: The charm of Ryan North’s writing in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and elsewhere is that it is wonderfully geeky. This isn’t to say his writing is exclusionary, it’s quite the opposite in fact, as North is always sure to explain to readers just where his geeky stories and humor come from. This quality of North’s writing is embodied in Doreen Green, who is a total nerd who always finds a way to make her friends, and enemies, feel included in her references.

In issue 11 of Squirrel Girl, Doreen and North are at the height of their geeky humor. Trapped in a nightmare by Nightmare, Doreen uses her newfound knowledge of computer programming to hack her dreams so that she emerges sleep with her sanity intact. While that’s a fun premise, the execution is not. Again, North’s strength as a writer is that he always explains his jokes. In this instance, he devotes pages to explain computer programming plot points to the detriment of the issue.  

Comp Sci

Timing plays a huge part in landing a joke and here North devotes several panels to the task. The problem is that by the time he gets to punchline, the time for the joke arrive has long gone. North goes to great lengths to explain computer programming here but it significantly gunks up the flow of the issue with over-explanatory dialogue that isn’t nearly as fun as most of North’s other writing.

I almost feel bad complaining about this aspect of the issue, however. As always, it’s clear that North has great enthusiasm for the subject he’s writing about. I have no doubt that North is fascinated by computer programming and it’s no fun to stifle that. Still, this enthusiasm doesn’t shine bright enough to lighten up an issue that is waylaid by more technical explanations than the usual fun and witty banter I’m used to.
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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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4 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/24/16

  1. Deadpool also had a metajoke that I liked a lot. When Preston told Deadpool that he wasn’t going to be able to stay on the Avengers for very long, he asked if she was “reading ahead” and then mentions that he’ll see her for dinner on Sunday (because Deadpool, somehow, IS reading ahead in his own comic). I think Duggan’s been taking it easy on this style of meta joke because he’s tied that kind of humor to Wade’s psychosis so thoroughly in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. But fuck man – it’s back.

  2. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it is so damn weird to make Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat acknowledge the events of Civil War II. It just doesn’t seem like the series is equipped to deal with the super-self-serious storybeats of the crossover. Not in a bad way, of course, just in a “that’s not what it does” kind of way.To really deal with Jen being in a coma, it’s like this would have to become a totally different series. COMICS, you so weird.

  3. Captain America: THis story will begin soon. This story will begin soon. THis story will begin soon.

    The first issue was truly amazing, an intelligent action story that built the horror of HYDRA, before the final twist. The second issue was exposition, the third was clean up on the first issue, and this issue is literally every character standing in their own rooms setting things up. I understand the scale of this story, but I can’t wait for it to get going.

    There is some quite clever stuff. The sheer amount of effort being put into this story is clear with the Quasar scene, which reveals that the Thunderbolts book is much more closely connected to the story than previously thought – an impressive achievement considering how important we already thought Thunderbolts would be because of Kobik. The scene with Freedom Spirit or whatever her name is and Rick Jones is great, being wonderfully human. There is something so right about discussing the Blacklist. Partly because it is such a trashy show whose appeal literally comes down to James Spader’s dialogue, but also the story similarities (though at least the cast of the Blacklist know that Spader is a bad guy). The final page twist is the perfect combination of taking advantage of Kobik’s interpretation of HYDRA and of the fact that ultimately, while Captain HYDRA is evil, he is made from the same template as Captain America, and therefore has the same moral certainty.

    Just looking forward to the story actually beginning. Of people acting, instead of setting things up.

    Also, I’m surprised that Sharon Carter’s policy proposal was so extreme. I understand why Captain HYDRA approves, but why does Sharon? Because she had previously been set up as the woman who embodies Steve’s values the best while Steve is evil.

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    Captain Marvel: Been reading this only because Captain Marvel is so central to Civil War II, and hope we get some stuff like this in the main series. It is just a great issue of Captain Marvel trying her very best to make sure Ulysses works as well as possible. What makes it work so well is that instead of being like the other tie ins, that focus on the problems, this issue is about solving the problems. It shows a Captain Marvel who is relying on Ulysses, but a Captain Marvel who is building an infrastructure to make it work. Black panther and Clitn Barton are used as powerful sounding boards, and ultimately it is about addressing nearly every fault and saying ‘that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed’. Really goes in deep, like wondering if Ulysses’ current geographic location biases the vision, considering the need for him to absorb data. THe only weird thing is what Ms Marvel and Miles!Spiderman are doing working with Carol, when I thought they jumped ship to Tony’s side quite quickly after Banner’s death.

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    International Iron Man: Not much to say. Full issue flashback mode, but a flashback of Tony’s mother. Which means we still need to understand the shape of the story. What is interesting is that Bendis gives her a SHIELD past that is both necessary (because of Howard’s connection to SHIELD) and let’s Bendis make the reveal have implications across the Marvel Universe while creating two people who are honestly very ordinary and very human. It looks like Bendis will have his cake and eat it to, a game changing reveal that also doesn’t do any of the bad shit you would expect from the hackiest answer to ‘how do we make the reveal of Tony’s parents a gamechanger?’, like making him related to Doctor Doom or something. I’m impressed

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    New Avengers: This book is much better than it was, but I think it is only here that there was an issue I actually liked. The secret to New Avengers becoming readable was the shift from underwritten missions to mad plot reversals, and this issue is basically, 100% plot reversals. The New Avengers unleash the plans that have been in place since issue 3, and the issue is full of contextualising previous events to create all sorts of payoffs. Again, the concept of character is basically nonexistant, but this issue succeeds entirely on the joy of seeing competent people be competent. Basically, the most enjoyable part of the roller-coaster.

    On the other hand, this issue tried its hand at two major character moments, that can both are fit mostly to be laughed at. The White Tiger subplot is resolved in such a boring manner. It wants to feel like both a massive plot reversal and a major character moment, but the story was so underwritten that what is supposed to be a powerful claiming of identity feels trite and uninteresting. And the Toni/Pod stuff again suffers from being underwritten, and I find myself shrugging my shoulders at what is supposed to be a tragic moment (honestly, it feels like it is supposed to be a ‘be careful what you wish for’ moment for Toni that just falls flat).

    Also, there is something wrong with how quickly Toni Ho weaponizes the Rescue armour. The whole idea of the original Rescue suit is that it is an Iron Man Suit that isn’t a weapon. That is part of what made Rescue such an interesting hero. Pepper didn’t want to fight, she wanted to help. Meanwhile, Toni (who is Yinsen’s daughter!) turns it into a weapon and kills someone immediately. Luckily she will quickly be the new Iron Patriot, as that doesn’t seem to be what Rescue should be about

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    Patsy Walker: I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t been said by Taylor. I categorically disagree with what Patrick said about this book being unable to handle Civil War. There has always been an undercurrent of tragedy to this book. Patsy’s Pollyanna attitude has always been placed opposite to her darker history (whether it is all of the hell stuff, or the exploitation of her youth by her mother. And here it is again. Patsy is struggling to deal with She Hulk’s coma, and is being forced to confront it through the appearance of her ex-boyfriends. Partly in how they represent all her baggage that she is trying to deal with, but also because of being sent to the Realm of Reflection.

    This is Patsy doing what she always does. The Pollyanna woman always moving forward now has to deal with her past baggage coming back to bite. Last time it was comics, not it is literal hellish exes.

    And I am so happy that Hedy is still around

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