Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/14/16

marvel-roundup48We 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 Inhumans 11, Civil War II Amazing Spider-Man 4, Deadpool 18, Gwenpool 6, Mockingbird 7, and Old Man Logan 11. Also, we discussed Uncanny Inhumans 13 Thursday and we’ll be discussing Black Panther 6 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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All-New Inhumans 11

all-new-inhumans-11Spencer: I was quite surprised when I turned to All-New Inhumans 11‘s letter column and discovered that this was the series’ final issue. It’s a crying shame this book didn’t get more time to build an audience — with Charles Soule juggling so many plots and characters over in Uncanny Inhumans, it was nice to have this companion title that could establish a more stable cast of Inhumans and dig a bit deeper into their personalities and relationships.

Those are the exact traits that James Asmus and Rhoald Marcellius focus on in their grand finale. As the issue opens, much of the cast are feeling isolated — work distracts Crystal from her daughter, Gorgon’s son is still in a coma, and Swain’s purposely cordoned herself off for fear of unintentionally manipulating others — and it’s only by trusting their crewmates and opening themselves up to their friends that they can begin to heal. Not every problem is solved in this issue, and not every dangling plot-thread is resolved (I’m curious to see if/when the Sky Spires will be addressed again), but it’s a powerful, positive step in the right direction.

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It’s hard not to get a little misty-eyed over Crystal’s monologue here, especially in light of its meta-textual implications. The All-New Inhumans were no doubt characters that Asmus and his collaborators connected with and enjoyed revisiting again and again, and the same goes for readers of the book. We’re sad to see their adventures end, no doubt, but we’ll always have their companionship via back issues, and, hopefully, can continue to use the lessons we learn from the characters we love to make the world a better place for years to come.

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Civil War II Amazing Spider-Man 4

civil-war-ii-amazing-spider-man-4Spencer: Sometimes it’s hard to write about a comic, not because it’s bad or has nothing to say, but because it makes its points with such eloquence that there’s really no need for me to reiterate them. Christos Gage and Travel Foreman’s Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man 4 has quite a bit to say about fate and responsibility, and makes its points so clearly that it just feels redundant for me to go over them again here; everything you need to know is right on the page, no subtext needed.

So instead, I want to talk about some of the smaller aspects I really enjoyed about this issue. First of all, I appreciate Gage treating Ulysses like an actual character, instead of just a prophecy delivery system. The idea that Ulysses’ own subconscious desires could be shaping his visions is a vital aspect of Civil War II, yet we’ve seen very little of what actually makes this kid tick; watching him attempt to use his visions for good and live up to his responsibilities, and perhaps even assess the morality of his own role within this conflict, is refreshing. I also appreciate the fact that Peter’s adventures lead him to take Captain Marvel’s side in this Civil War; nearly every tie-in I’ve read has featured characters either siding with Tony or turning against Carol after initially siding with her. We desperately needed a big character on Carol’s side, and Peter’s one who comes to it naturally, with over fifty years of preaching about “great responsibility” informing his decision.

Foreman and colorist Rain Beredo’s art is worth praising as well. Foreman’s attention to detail is astounding — just look at the detail in Stromm’s robots or even the row of townhomes in the background as Spider-Man and Clash talk above the city — and he approaches each panel from an unique angle, always emphasizing the characters’ movements in the process.

layoutTake a look at panels one and three here, for example. In the first, the slant of the panel and the motion lines emphasize Peter slamming forward into Stromm, while in the third, the slant and motion lines emphasize the backwards motion of his ripping Stromm’s cybernetic limbs off. This particular page is one of Foreman’s more dynamic layouts, to the point where it might be a little confusing if not for letterer Joe Caramagna directing the readers’ eye in the proper direction. Essentially, this whole team is firing on all creative cylinders. This series will probably have more effect on Amazing Spider-Man than Civil War II going forward, but ultimately, I think it will be remembered as one of Civil War II‘s strongest tie-ins.

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Deadpool 18

deadpool-18Michael: Gerry Duggan does Deadpool best when he’s riding the fine line between sarcastic and sympathetic – and by sympathetic I mean pathetic (I mean that as a compliment, honest!). The varied tragedies of Deadpool’s life make him the biblical Job of the Marvel Universe. Like many times before, Deadpool 18 provides Wade Wilson with a new low: without a wife and without an Uncanny Avengers team. Duggan doesn’t make Uncanny Avengers necessary reading – we don’t need to know the particulars of why the team has disbanded, only that it has.

Half of the issue deals with the fallout of Wade finding his wife Shiklah, and their subsequent attempt to kill one another. The remainder of the issue shows us how decent Wade can be, through the eyes of his former teammate Rogue. Deadpool can be a dirty sonofabitch, but the scenes he shares with Rogue are him being a genuine human being sharing his pain. He’s not trying to get into Rogue’s pants or anything he’s just asking Rogue to look out for her maybe-mutant daughter if she becomes an X-Man someday.

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For being a crazy person, Wade is kinda sorta making some healthy life choices for himself in Deadpool 18. After he kills the Werewolf that was sleeping with Shiklah, she beats the ever-living crap out of him. She seems amused by the end of it all and asks Wade to come back home with her. Wade – a man who’s spent the better part of his life being a bad punchline – wisely declines.

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Gwenpool 6

“Something’s wrong. Murder isn’t working and that’s all we’re good at.”

Nichelle Nichols, Futurama

gwenpool-6Patrick: No one has a flawless role model, but you’ve really got to feel for poor Gwenpool, who takes obvious inspiration from one of the more deplorable heroes in the Marvel Universe. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Deadpool, but he is… I believe Michael used the term “a dirty sonofabitch.” That’s accurate. He kills people willy-nilly, and his fourth-wall-breaking digressions literally trivialize the experiences of everyone else in his world. In Gwenpool 6, Gwen discovers just how alienating it can be to try to emulate one superhero from someone who finds so much success emulating another.

Of course, we’re talking about Miles Morales, who’s been around the block so many times, it might not be fair to say that he’s emulating Peter Parker anymore. Miles is his own Spider-Man, and he has internalized a lot of Peter’s social quirks and values, but they are genuinely his values. Gwen, on the other hand, lets the superficial connection she has to Deadpool — i.e., fourth-wall breaking — to dictate her morality. It’s an amazing story – writer Christopher Hastings sets up a world where Gwen’s pseudo-prophetic comic fandom gives her the ability to save lives, so we are initially on-board with Gwen’s actions. She confuses the hell out of poor Miles with talk of the Ultimate Universe and Secret Wars, but ultimately drills in to something useful: this kid Damian was going to detonate a bomb at the school.

That’s the groundwork for another happy-go-lucky Gwenpool adventure! Yay, let’s go home! But hold on: there are consequences to being like Deadpool, consequences to thinking your life is a comic book and the people you meet are comic book characters. When Gwen and Miles confront Damian, Miles goes into to superhero-counselor mode, trying to talk through the problem. Gwen takes aim and fires. She misses — thankfully — and artist Irene Strychalski makes the reader sit in that moment immediately thereafter, camera at an uncharacteristically dramatic low angle and with unexpected gritty detail filling out her cartoony designs.

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This all leads Gwen to some pretty dark places. It’s really no surprise that these kinds of characters become villains (oh, Superboy Prime, originator of the site’s name!) but it’s heartbreaking to see that path slowly unfolding before her.

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Mockingbird 7

mockingbird-7Ryan M.: The murder investigation  in Mockingbird 7 plays out like an episode of Murder, She Wrote. We have a locked room mystery, quirky characters, a strangely accommodating Captain, suspects that seem incapable of murder, and Lance Hunter in the role of the dedicated sidekick. I love cozy mystery, so I found the rhythms of the story comforting, even as Chelsea Cain offered surprising moments of levity throughout. Cutaways and digressions characterize the series, and Cain is not holding back in an issue that takes every opportunity to explore what in another book might be a throwaway joke.

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The page from The Boy Scouts Guide to Field Guide to Tracking acts as an exploration of a Hunter’s line. There is something really confident about using half a page not just to contextualize a joke, but to explore it’s implications for half a page without furthering the plot. It’s the attitude of, “I think this will be fun, so I’m going to show it to you.” The little moments like this, or the flight of fancy about Cruise Ship Bootcamp are not only fun, but they give us insight into how Bobbi’s mind works. During her investigation, she presents herself as a capable and focused super-spy with little time for nonsense, whereas the reader knows there is someone really clever and fun beneath that veneer. Which makes it all the more upsetting when her mask slips for a moment when  Lincoln Slade touches her. Her expression becomes uneasy and you can see her fear. Of course, she quickly regains an angry sort of control, but we know that this confrontation isn’t easy for her. It’s a great place to leave the issue, because we know both that Bobbi will handle him like a boss and that it will be an internal challenge.

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Old Man Logan 11

old-man-logan-11Drew: Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile has a simple enough premise — it’s a choose-your-own-adventure comic — but that simplicity belies an elegance inherent in that fusion. As with any choose-your-own-adventure, the branching narrative forces you to flip back and forth across numerous pages, but the graphic simplicity of the comics medium allows the reader to take in incidental bits of narrative as they flip through the pages. In prose, adjacent pages can be ignored as blocks of text, but in comics, those pages can be consumed at a glance, allowing every page of Meanwhile to resonate with the energy not just of what could be, but what has been and what will be — a distillation of whatever excitement choose-your-own-adventure stories offer. Old Man Logan 11 doesn’t necessarily celebrate reader autonomy in the same way, but it does manage to explore some of the bizarre formal hiccups that make Meanwhile so remarkable.

To get right down to it, there’s one sequence in particular that took my breath away.

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True to form, artist Andrea Sorrentino sees to it that every issue has at least one show-stopping layout, but I might argue that this one takes on unique narrative significance. The page leading into this finds Logan and his foe engaged in seemingly identical fights in both timelines: his original, Old Man Logan timeline, and the current one. We can think of these as moments of reminiscence or deja vu for Logan — he lived through the first fight, and can remember it during the second — but we can also think of it as an alternate reality version of the same fight (the perspective his adversary might have of these two threads). The result is something that couldn’t adequately be expressed in prose or on film — particularly as the fights diverge into seemingly opposite outcomes.

I suspect the Old Man Logan purists will object to Logan popping his claws in the flashback story — and I have to admit, it does render his refusal to fight in Mark Millar’s original a little hollow — but I’m so enamored of this sequence, I don’t really care. Frankly, this issue makes a strong case for why this character works in the current timeline — the connections across time seem perfectly designed for the comics medium. This series still takes its time getting anywhere (which is odd, given how much faster it reads than anything else on my pull), but so long as its breadcrumbs are this enticing, I’ll follow that path anywhere.

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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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6 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/14/16

  1. Spencer! I was also shocked to discover this was the All-New Inhumans finale! I’ve always been intrigued by these guys, but it’s really taken the one-two punch of the All-New + Uncanny series to make me really excited for them. It’s a great cast of characters, and I mean that both the superlative and size senses of the word. Chrystal was fucking hilarious in this issue — major props to Asmus for writing like a dozen killer straight-man jokes — and everyone else is so well articulated and likable.

    In the letter page there’s a cover for IvX #0, which I must have missed. I’m all for the Inhumans fighting the X-Men if only because it suggests we’ll eventually get another A+X-style anthology series. If there’s an I+X, I’m gonna start pitching to Marvel right fucking now. I wanna see Krakoa and Lockjaw team up! Or Inferno and Ice Man! Or Reader and Magik!

    • I’ve been meaning to catch up on Inhumans, and sad that All New has concluded. I did like that Marvel has actually tried to turn the Inhumans into a franchise, and the conception of the Inhuman State, the idea that the Inhumans are an actual nation and political force, instead of a superhero team. So it is sad to see one of the central books getting cancelled.

  2. I’ve been saying for a while now that I think Jeff Lemire’s greatest strength as a writer is finding killer artists to work with, knowing how to shape his story to suit their strengths, and then sitting back and letting them take the spotlight (And I mean no disrespect to Lemire with that — it is very much a skill), and this installment of Old Man Logan supports that fully. Goddamn, “breathtaking” is putting those few spreads mildly; Logan’s claws bursting through the layout-dragon’s mouth like a tongue nearly got me pregnant.

    I don’t even NEED anything to happen; Sorrentino can turn 20 pages of Logan fighting into a revelatory experience. I’m flabbergasted here.

    • I’m inclined to agree, but when issue 7 ended with Logan’s decision to mercilessly hunt down bad guys that might hurt any of the people he cares about, it was hard not to feel like the whole series had gone in a great big circle.

  3. CWIIASM: So Travel Forman pointed out to use on Twitter that the lettering on the page I posted is actually incorrect — and yeah, I can see it now. The panel I called panel 3 is actually 2; Peter knocks Stromm to the ground, rips his arms off, and then bends them before going back in for more. Looking at this page, I’m not sure how the intended reading order would actually fit into this page, and I’m not sure whether that’s Gage’s fault or Foreman’s.

    Either way, I still adore Foreman’s work here and throughout the rest of the issue, but this page isn’t the stellar example of a creative team working flawlessly together I may have thought it was at first.

    (Writing for Retcon Punch has helped me better analyze and think about artwork so much, but man, there’s always so much room for improvement.)

  4. Gwenpool: Love the comparison between Miles And Spiderman to Gwen and Deadpool, but I approached this differently. To me, it was less about taking inspiration from Deadpool as it was about fans. There is always that person who asks ‘Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker?’. There is always that fan who talks about why heroes don’t just kill everyone.

    And this is Gwen. Gwen comes in and goes ‘I’m going to do this right’ and decides to shoot someone. She’s got that ‘comic book fan’ morality, where the bad guys are bad, and therefore by virtue of being bad, deserve to be treated badly. She’s internalised it so much that even the idea of being the anti hero to Miles’ hero was not her first expectation. But, of course, those ideas are fucking toxic, and Miles treats her exactly as he should.

    If the first arc was about how dangerous being in the Marvel Universe is, this arc is about how real it is. Gwen has now learned enough to be competent, and her understanding of the danger has meant that she has been justly rewarded by the narrative (between getting her friend back as a ghost, a positive, and being placed in charge of the mercs, a much more complex reward). But now that Gwen is competent enough to be part of the universe (and before she has to deal with the high stakes of her new position), there is another problem she needs to work past. Her own toxic ideas of what being a superhero means. Just because it is a story doesn’t mean you can kill people because they’re bad guys. And that is what Gwen has to deal with.

    And it leads to the final line of the issue, one that is surprisingly wise. “This isn’t fun”. When we read Spiderman, cracking jokes while he fights a guy dressed in a Halloween costume, we are entertained. But under all of the entertainment, the truth is that for these characters, it isn’t fun. These are their lives, and they are intense lives where they constantly risk death to fight for higher ideals that seem impossible to attain. And that truth is the most important thing a superhero can teach us. And is she wants to be Gwenpool, instead of Gwen Poole, that’s what she needs to understand.

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    Mockingbird: This book continues to be a fantastic balance between legitimate character study and wonderful lightness. Gags like the favourite drinks, the DND stats for the suspects and the boy scout’s guide (I love the Ms Marvel joke) create a wonderful atmosphere and build character, while small character choices like Bobbi downing Chardonnay as a way to deal with the insanity around her do so much (there is a lot of cleverness here. It isn’t like Bobbi is getting drunk, which would be boringly predictable. It is quite simply that Bobbi feels the need to indulge when things get frustrating. Great, tiny piece of character that really helps give Bobbi Morse a real psychology. In fact, little stuff like this make me think Bobbi Morse may have the most complete psychology of any character of any character in any of Marvel’s book.)

    But another great part of this is how Cain quickly turns things around. We go from ‘Cadet Training 101’ to a chase, and the story quickly turns more serious. This is in part thanks to the script understanding how tone is changing, but also thanks to murder suspect Niemczyk’s art creating a new tone and Rosenberg’s colours so effortlessly showing the shift into the solemn vigil. The combination of everyone’s effort really makes the tension fly through the roof. Especially if, like me, you have suddenly realised exactly who the villain is.

    In fact, there is only one problem I have this issue, which is generally amazing. I really don’t care for how Bobbi places the focus in her internal narration on how he was the cause of Bobbi’s divorce. I understand the need to exposit it so we better understand their conversation. But the divorce is the least important thing about her relationship with Lincoln Slade. Especially considering what is being far too generously described as stalking.

    Cain makes the choice to discuss Lincoln Slade, and if she’s going to do that, she needs to do it properly. I trust her to do it well, but this isn’t the best start. Because Lincoln Slade isn’t her stalker, nor the man who broke up Mockingbird’s marriage. He’s worse than that. He’s her rapist. And all the stories that Chelsea is referencing with respect to Lincoln Slade is centred around her rape. The fact that Bobbi’s internal narration seems to ignore this is a bad sign.

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    Spiderman: ‘You’re lucky. I had two Moms. I would have killed for either of them to be half as cool’. Damn, that line got me. Especially as, unlike the MCU, both of Jessica’s mothers were actually good people. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage do a perfect job throwing everything Miles needs to hear, about everything, at him. A powerful conversation, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Miles goes with this. A great moment of the classic Spiderman ‘here’s what you need to hear and understand, instead of getting lost in confusion’.

    Meanwhile, the Civil War section does a great job in showing the divide between Carol and Tony just before Banner’s death. What I like is how in this case, TOny is the unreasonable one. Carol gets a scene to be more moderate, which has been missing so far in the main narrative, and Tony is riding the moral high horse, being a massive dick because of just how sure he is that he is right. Really helps show how someone can be Team Carol, because currently, there is not enough effort being put into her side.
    And as they cut to what happens after Banner dies, it is really powerful, with Tony angrier than ever and a truly distraught Ms Marvel. THe powerful mourning between three kids realising have their dreams die is great.

    Both parts of the comic are pretty disconnected to each other, but this is one of those Bendis stories that monthly issues isn’t built to sustain. Doesn’t mean he isn’t doing good work here

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