Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/31/16

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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 All New Wolverine Annual 1, Civil War II Choosing Sides 5, Howard the Duck 10, Ms. Marvel 10, Silver Surfer 6, and Spider-Gwen 11 — and come back on Wednesday for our discussion of Astonishing Ant-Man 11! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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All-New Wolverine Annual 1

All-New Wolverine Annual 1Michael: Rather than go off on a long tangent about annuals – as I’m prone to do – I’ll just say that annuals are weird, atypical comic book experiences. There. Moving along! All-New Wolverine Annual 1 provides us with a Freaky Friday scenario that we’ve seen played out many a time in comic bookdom. In this instance the body swap is also a dimension swap between Laura Kinney and Spider-Gwen. Since this is a Freaky Friday story, it must hit all of the familiar beats before returning the heroes to their respective bodies. It’s a conventional and predictable story but Tom Taylor is such a delight to read it makes for an entertaining story.

All-New Wolverine is a book that has been showcasing female heroes alongside Laura for the most part, so it makes sense that Spider-Gwen should be yanked into our 616 dimension. I’m not all that familiar with Spider-Gwen so I had to do some researching to confirm that yes, she does often have conversations with an imaginary Spider-Ham; which is awesome. Since Gwen’s in Wolverine’s body, Marcio Takara draws Peter Porker as Wolver-Hampton – which is a nice Tiny Toons reference.

hampton

All-New Wolverine Annual 1 isn’t as effective as the continuing adventures of the ongoing series but it does serve a purpose. The whole issue is about Gwen and Laura getting to know the strengths and weaknesses that come along with each other’s powers – getting to know one another. In turn it gave a platform for someone like me to read a book that I love while simultaneously getting to know a new character. Learning!

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Civil War II Choosing Sides 5

Civil War II Choosing Sides 5Spencer: There’s a special kind of conflict implied by the term “Civil War.” This isn’t just a battle, but a battle between family, between those who are supposed to be allies. The main Civil War II mini-series has done a fine job showing how a fracture this momentous could possibly form amongst the superhero community, but it hasn’t exactly had time to dive into the emotional ramifications of friend turning against friend. For that, we turn to Civil War II Choosing Sides 5.

The issue’s best entry, Chip Zdarsky and Ramon Perez’s Alpha Flight story, effortlessly pinpoints how those emotional ramifications are the true tragedy of Carol and Tony’s conflict.

wrong opponent

In an especially Zdarsky touch, this insight comes via real-life Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tries to make both Alpha Flight and Tony Stark understand that they’re being needlessly stubborn and unwilling to compromise. It seems unlikely that either side will take his advice to meet each other in the middle, but who knows — perhaps the realization that both sides are hurting is exactly what they need to show a little empathy?

Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s Nick Fury serial, “Post Prologue,” reveals that a Nick Fury Life Model Decoy has sparked a civil war within S.H.I.E.L.D. itself (making this story more of a metaphorical tie-in than a literal one, even if this conflict was kickstarted by Carol and Ulysses). This pits Nick Fury Jr. against the twisted image of his father, but this conflict is almost an advantage for Junior, as it allows him to move out of his father’s shadow and claim his own place within S.H.I.E.L.D. Maybe a family vs. family conflict isn’t that bad if the family already doesn’t get along in the first place? Or is that outcome just as sad in its own way?

The only story that finds some unabashed optimism is Enrique Carrion and Annapaola Martello’s Colleen Wing story. I’ll admit it’s a slightly off-kilter tale — so much, from Misty and Colleen’s falling out to Colleen’s quest and its resolution, takes place off-panel, and it’s much more about Misty Knight than Colleen — but I love how, when faced with the prospect of being drawn into a down-and-out battle with her “sister” over one of Ulysses’ missions, Misty chooses to abandon the Civil War altogether and stick with her friend instead. It’s a best case scenario for the other two tales, even if it’s also the most unlikely outcome for them.

What does it mean that all three of these stories seem to be condemning this Civil War more than choosing a side one way or another? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion on that.

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Howard the Duck 10

Howard the Duck 10Patrick: I’ve always seen Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck as something of a vanity project. While it’s true that a lot of Marvel’s quirky series sell “charm” and “personality” over “plot”or “action,” most of those series rely on the personality of their characters. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is empathetic and energetic because that’s who Doreen Green is; Ms. Marvel is enthusiastic and focused on justice because that’s who Kamala Kahn is; Gwenpool is boastful, but insecure because that’s who Gwen Poole is. But the tone of Howard the Duck is based less on the titular duck and more on the two doofuses making this thing. After like twenty-issues of gently teasing the fourth wall, Zdarksy and Quinones finally insert their own avatars directly into the book.

“Meet” Chipp and Jho.

chipp and jho

They might be aliens — as indicated by their purple skin, pointy ears, and mildly-different names — but their concerns are transparently aligned with their human counterparts. They want to protect Howard, while also keeping his life interesting. Last issue introduced us to Mojo, a monstrous intergalactic TV executive that was trying to adapt Howard’s life to film, but these two are actually doing the work to make the character worth exploring in the first place. The difference here speaks to the role comics frequently play in our culture – as a kind of experimental creative foundry, forging new ideas in relative obscurity to eventually be co-opted by Jabba-the-Hutt-esque film and TV producers. I really like getting to see Jho and Chipp interact with their fellow alien creators, allowing Zdarksy and Quinones to express their own insecurities about how Howard holds up against something more socially meaningful (like Black Panther) or just a more optimistic version of the same kind of goofy they’re going for (like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).

This is obviously super self-indulgent, but I’d argue that this has always been part of the series’ identity. From Gwenpool to Biggs the cat to endless “editorial” notes from Zdarsky, it’s like Chipp and Jho have always been characters on the pages of Howard the Duck. It’s just only now that the characters have put their skin in the game that they may have to answer for what they’ve done to poor Howie.

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Ms. Marvel 10

Ms. Marvel 10Taylor: One of the things that’s make someone a hero is that they always “do the right thing.” However, if the last 30 years or so have taught us anything, it’s that the definition of “the right thing” is totally up in the air. Doing the right thing becomes an even more confusing idea when the very people you look up to and trust ask you to do things you feel aren’t right at all. As Kamala Khan finds out in issue 10 of Ms. Marvel, doing the right thing sometimes feels awful.

This awful feeling cuts in two ways for Kamala. First, in doing the right thing and following her idol Captain Marvel, Kamala has inadvertently placed her best friend, Bruno, into a coma. Understandably, this is devastating to Kamala and ultimately it leads her into confronting Captain Marvel about the rightness of the predictive justice.

Marvelous

Of course this is no easy task for Kamala. Imagine you take a physics class where Einstein is your professor, and one day you have to tell him he got the theory of relativity wrong. That’s basically what Kamala is doing here. I can only imagine what this must feel like for her as she is not only confronting injustice, but her namesake.

The difference between Kamala confronting Carol and feeling bad about it and seeing Bruno and feeling bad about is a matter conscience. Kamala knows that predictive justice is wrong even though it’s good in theory. Kamala also knows that Captain Marvel is wrong and disobeying makes her feel bad, but she knows it’s what must be done. In making this choice, Kamala is moving more towards being a mature super hero. One who doesn’t always follow, but one who leads. While that might invert the typical Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel scales, it’s something Kamala seems ready to take on.

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Silver Surfer 6

Silver Surfer 6Drew: The cover of Silver Surfer 6 promises a celebration of the character. It’s not exactly misleading — I’m not sure Dan Slott has ever written a comic that doesn’t celebrate his characters — but it’s also not really the point of the issue. Norrin gets his due, of course, but this volume has always been less about him, and more about the relationship he shares with Dawn. In some cases, as with the 50th anniversary issue a few months back, Norrin will take center stage. This month, however, finds Dawn at the heart of this issue, sinking into her own variation on that classic Silver Surfer ennui.

Actually, Slott and Michael Allred manage to nod to that ennui offering up a classic Surfer pose and sentiment:

Sad Surfer

…which mostly serves to lampshade how different their run is from that kind of alienated outsider stuff. Heck, even this example doesn’t last longer than one whole panel — note the excited fan pointing out the Silver Surfer at the bottom there. Norrin may still be inclined to fits of melancholy, but Earth has embraced him. He’s no longer the alienated outsider. It’s an interesting place to take the character, effectively flipping his worldview.

Dawn undergoes basically the opposite, feeling so unloved and unwanted by her mother, she can’t bear to be around the rest of her family. Suddenly, Dawn’s the one who wants to leave. Suddenly, Dawn’s the one who can’t go home. It’s a reversal that’s only effective because of how well we know these characters by now. Dawn’s turn towards depressive wanderlust is so shockingly against everything we know about her, we understand the depth to which her reunion with her mother has shaken her. Norrin’s reaction is subtler — he wants to stay for dinner, or at least say goodbye to Dawn’s family — but is also building upon a much longer history of isolation. It’s powerful stuff, and promises a very new direction for this series going forward.

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Spider-Gwen 11Patrick: Geez, guys, between this and Howard the Duck, I feel like I’m reading the Mega Meta Marvel Motherload over here. Gwen Stacy’s going through a bit of an identity crisis – is she the hero of Earth-65? is she part of the greater Marvel multiverse? is she merely a defender of her own identity? Gwen’s inner conflict tracks the identity crisis this series has had to face. Born out of a Spider-Man crossover event, Spider-Gwen was only a few issues into its alternate-universe run before having to reboot for Secret Wars. And then the series was only standing on its own for half a dozen issues before engaging in a crossover with Silk and Spider-Woman. I really enjoyed all of those interruptions: Spider-Verse, Secret Wars and Spider-Women are some of my favorites from Marvel over the last couple years, but it means that whatever this series is supposed to be has been left ill-defined by writer Jason Latour.

This story arc, appropriately titled “Weapon of Choice” sets out to change that. The issue starts with a lot of the same imagery as the first issue of Spider-Gwen (the 2015 series, not the #1 from this series (which also came out in 2015)). Gwen’s perched atop a graffitied billboard that’s calling for Spider-Woman’s head. In this issue, she’s not in costume, just sitting up there impotently. While she’s up there, she witnesses the Bodega Bandit — who has moved on to just stealing hamburgers, so he should really embrace is identity as the Hamburglar — and does nothing to stop him. In issue one, Spider-Gwen thwips on down there and kicks the dude’s ass, but now she just shouts at the guy and waits for the shop owner to stop him herself. It’s a powerful set of images, reaching back into Spider-Gwen’s admittedly shallow history, that has nothing to do with on-going threat posed by Detective Frank Castle. But what’s important about that moment is that it forces Gwen to consider what she wants to be. Turns out that “Gwen Stacy with Spider powers” isn’t an inherent slam dunk – the character (or the creator) needs to make a decision about what this story is.

Latour sends Gwen through her rolodex of identity options, checking in with Jesse Drew, the 616-Avengers, her fellow Spider-Women and even the slightly sideways versions of the heroes in her universe. It’s like Latour is trying on those identities for the series before ultimately popping back to the silly conflict that started it back in 2015, and again like 12 pages ago:

gwen and the bodega bandit

This leads Gwen back to embracing her powers. In the final page, Latour delivers a great twist on the old amazing spider-idiom: “Now, while I still have the power, stopping him is my responsibility.” That suggests that it doesn’t really matter how Gwen defines herself, all she has to do is what she thinks is right. Definition will come in time.

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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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5 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 8/31/16

  1. I think an interesting aspect to the All New Wolverine Annual was its call for peaceful resolutions and understanding. When you literally have characters body swap with each other, it’s pretty explicit that the author wants to pass along a message of “walking in someone else’s shoes”. What is an interesting development, though, is that Laura isn’t made just to walk in Gwen’s shoes, but Red Hornet: ostensibly, the villain of the comic.

    It’s the parallels between the two that make for a good read. Both Laura and Red Hornet have taken up the mantel of paternal figures who inspired them, and both of of those figures, Logan and Hornet, were violent men. Despite this, though, Laura and Red Hornet are able to go against their initial desire for violence; they are upholding the legacy of the men they held dear, but they are not afraid to reject aspects of their characters that were imperfect. In retrospect, Taylor really knocked this one out of the park in terms of writing.

    Also, seeing Jonathon the actual Wolverine in a mask was freaking adorable.

    • Honestly, I would argue that it is the theme of the whole Wolverine book. The book is always about Laura trying to transcend the past that defines her (both Laura’s past as X-23 and Logan’s past as Wolverine). From the very beginning, the guiding words of this book has been ‘you’re the best you are at what you do, but you don’t have to do it’. It is part of what makes All New Wolverine so good – the constant wish to transcend the violence of the past and actually be a better type of hero.

      And yeah. Jonathon is the best

  2. All New Wolverine: I have to say, this was not what I was expecting. I really thought that this issue would have a much greater focus on Gabby. Between the awesome cover and the latest issue of the main book, I was hoping for an issue that would focus on what Gabby brings to the table. To bring this to Michael’s stuff about annuals, it would be the perfect representation of what an annual is – a story that is disconnected to the main story, but supplements it.

    Instead, we get a fun Freaky Friday story. Honestly, I do love how it finds such fresh ground in the trope by using superheroes. Neither character fully understands their powers, and comic circumstances appear because of that, instead of the many other more typical comic misunderstandings. Laura underestimating Gwen’s strength when kicking down the door, followed by Gwen reminiscing about all the treasured possessions she accidentally destroyed, is a fresh version of the trope, and Taylor later tops that moment with the most hilarious moment in the issue – the darkly comic instance of Gwen truly messing up Laura’s powers.

    Ultimately, the comment at the end of Michael’s review is basically what it is (though maybe not taking into account the inverse – SpiderGwen fans reading the annual and being introduced to All New Wolverine). This book tells a basic All-New Wolverine story (Laura tries to be both the best version of Laura and the best version of Wolverine, while dealing with the legacy of the worst aspects of both pasts (Gabby is the legacy of Laura as a weapon, while the villain is the legacy of Logan the killer)), while having a guest star that serves as a way to introduce readers to Spider-Gwen while also giving an excuse to introduce SPider-Gwen readers to Wolverine. It does its job

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    Civil War II: Choosing Sides: Coleen WIng is a character I keep meaning to learn about. I’ve learned about Misty Knight because of her current importance in things like Sam Wilson, but Coleen Wing is the one character in the Heroes for Hire franchise I don’t have a strong handle on. So I was disappointed that this story did so little to teach me about Coleen. Even the important Coleen stuff, like her current problems with Misty, are only alluded to. This has a pretty good basic story of Misty rejecting that special kind of conflict Civil War implies. Just wish it built the context of Coleen adn Misty a bit more

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    Ms Marvel: I complained that last issue was mostly stalling, but damn this was great. It was the first time I didn’t want to punch Bruno in his face. Hell, it even implies an interesting future direction with Bruno.

    There are so many great things, like how Kamala’s friendship with Bruno acts as a kind of genesis to her real superpower – empathy. Everything about it, from it being taught by her parents to being foundational to her social group is perfect.

    It continues on, with Kamala’s defeat of Becky being the perfect example of action as theme – Becky preaches victory without accounting for collateral damage, where Kamala instead rejects that for more careful application of power, which perfectly states their positions in the debate. A really good issue

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    Spiderman: This continues to truck along well. Bombshell/Lana gets introduced, which actually is the perfect time, there to provide a strong counterpoint to Miles’ Civil War II difficulties. And I like her unique counterpoint. Instead of being on Captain Marvel’s side, she just wants to bury her head in the sand and ignore it.

    It actually works really well. Lana isn’t bad – she’s a superhero who happily lets Miles join her on patrol (and I feel that is worth emphasising. She was patrolling before she bumped into Miles). But she doesn’t want to deal with the major ethical conflicts. If with ‘Great Power comes Great Responsibility’, Lana’s argument is that she’s responsible enough. She can be a superhero without getting into the violent, complex philosophical debate that is Civil War.

    And this forces Miles to take the opposite approach. Realise that he wants to stand for his values. Lana’s arguments makes sense. They are slightly incorrect, but the core is true. In fact, that core ‘if you don’t like the road you’re headed down, turn around’ is exactly what Miles does, just for the opposite of what Lana wants.

    There is also a great subtle story of Bombshell missing her friend. We discussed Lana’a appearance briefly in a previous issue, and here, we get a payoff. With Miles so busy, Lana misses him. She’s making the attempts, and it hurts that she doesn’t get to spend time. Her missing Miles informs her arguments, but there is also a fantastic, purely visual story of her worry that the bridge between them is so large, and her putting the effort to bridge that gap and just enjoy being with her friend again. There is a real beauty to that stuff, that I utterly loved.

    And I have to say, I am loving the Jessica Jones stuff as well. Miles’ mother is getting all sorts of fantastic, powerful moments trying to deal with Miles. There is some real powerful moments happening, and I can’t wait to see where it goes now that Jessica and Luke are confronting Miles.

    Also, I have to say, I really love Bombshell’s costume. Works really well to me. Her purple, white and black colours are atypical, making her stand out, but go really well together. Her coat makes her kinetic and shows movement really well, and aspects like the collar means that it does so better than, say, a cape. And it balances Bombshell’s attitude with the fact that she isn’t an anti hero

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    Young Avengers: So, I’ve been focusing my rereads on DC and Indie stuff, because I read plenty of modern Marvel while my DC pull list is empty after the tragedy of DC Rebirth (I am honestly waiting for DC to have something that interests me. It really doesn’t look like there is any). But a friend wanted to start reading some Young Avengers, so I decided reread the first volume alongside him. I had actually forgotten how bantery the book could be at times. So much banter and quips.

    The strength of the book is just how character focused the stories are. From Iron Lad’s wish not to grow up into Kang the Conqueror, to an MGH story built around Patriot’s destructive wish to be a hero and a finale based around everyone needing to accept their identities when Hulkling’s threatens to cause an intergalactic war, all the stories are base don the characters having to navigate there own issues. The Young Avengers team isn’t even set until the very end. Across 12 issues and a special, it is constantly changing as Iron Lad disappears, a new Vision is reintroduced, Patriot quits and returns and Speed joins. A very Soap Operay story, but one that really works.

    It also helps that the characters are strongly written. Each character quickly finds themselves in all sorts of strong dynamics simply because of how strongly they are characterised. There is probably a bit too much pairing up – the dynamics and the romantic relationships are generally one and the same. As much as they say that Kate and Cassie have become best friends, a majority of Kate’s interactions are either with Patriot or Speed, her love interests.

    I also love how the Avengers are used – especially Jessica Jones. The Avengers provide the perfect sounding board on the ‘how does everyone see these kids’, and Jessica Jone is very cleverly used. It seems odd that all of these characters knew that Jessica Jones was Jewel, despite the fact that the whole point of Jewel was that she fell through the cracks and was forgotten. I know that these are supposed to be superhero fanboys, but that doesn’t mean they need to know everything. But Jessica Jones as the hero where everything went wrong acts as a great coutnerpoint to the Young AVengers successes, and her pregnancy means she actually gets an arc about learning to be a mother while giving her a pleasingly imperfect surrogate mother position to the Young Avengers.

    I have to say, I would have loved to see more of this era of Young Avengers. Because the characters together was just always so great. Kate Bishop immediately jumps out as a fantastic character, between her perfect introduction, her constant activity (despite never being the focus of a storyline, no character is more committed to propulsive storytelling than Kate, using her disregard for rules and authority, alongside her powers to talk her way out of everything, to constantly push the story forward. And she managed to almost single handedly take out Kang, until the Vision messed everything up. But Patriot is also fantastic, both for the fantastic use of Josiah Bradley and doing the Black Captain America thing long before Sam Wilson did (just like Sam, Patriot is used for some fantastic moments of racial examination).

    While the stories are also appropriately character focused, the plotting can be messy. Especially the Kang story, where people end up attacking Kang because he is there regardless of their actual opinions on the central conflict. And the book does a bad job at setting up certain ideas, like the fact that by the end of the book, Kate is supposed to be the leader of the Young Avengers (which is what was supposed to be the case, according to Children’s Crusade). But the book is really good. And it is a reminded of why it is a shame we don’t have a current Young Avengers book. Instead of wasting these characters in disappointing Ewing team books or limbo (where the hell is Patriot?), I wish Marvel would find someone else to follow Heinberg and Gillen’s footsteps (Noelle Stevenson still hasn’t got a comic after her amazing Secret Wars Runaways).. Ah well, at least we are about to get a Kate Bishop ongoing comic

    Also, it is a tragedy that Kate Bishop loses her sword after Issue 7. I understand that this volume’s arc for Kate was all building up to that final moment where Captain America grants her the name Hawkeye, and so archery was always going to be her focus. But I loved the idea that she grabbed every weapon she could to fight Kang, and I love the idea that she fought crime, at first, as just Kate and used anything that could help. I think the idea of a Kate Bishop who was willing to swap from archery to other weapons was an interesting one, and wish it was used. And yet, after using a sword of Shocker on the front page of the bugle, the sword just disappears. Honestly, the power of Captain America giving Kate the Hawkeye name would have been even better if she wasn’t so obviously an archer. If it was one of her talents, but Captain Americ agave her that name because, as they say in the comic, only one other Avenger would stand up to Captain America like Kate would.

    • Yeah, what he said about Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man. I thought this was the best Ms. Marvel issue this volume. The opening scene at the school was not only formative for Kamala but her family as well. I think this is the most I’ve liked her parents, who have been strong characters, but this made it so that… damn, it just worked.

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