Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/21/16

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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 12, Civil War II 5, Civil War II Choosing Sides 6, Mighty Thor 11, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 10, and Power Man and Iron Fist 8. Come back on Tuesday for our discussion of Karnak 5 and on Wednesday for our discussion of The Vision 11As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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All-New Wolverine 12

all-new-wolverine-12Drew: It’s hard to ignore the parallels between Civil War II and Minority Report. Both deal with the morality of persecuting people for crimes they have not yet committed, and both tilt at questioning whether or not those crimes would even have happened if not for the attempt to prevent them. Tom Cruise’s character is only set on the course to (kind of) murder a complete stranger when he’s told that he will murder said stranger. A similar paradox is at the center of All-New Wolverine‘s Civil War II tie-in, which has hinged on Logan’s murder of Gabby — an event that was only set in motion because Captain America tried to prevent it. Parsing the mechanics of that paradox might be a fun exercise for the comments, but the point is, if the persecution causes the crime in question, we all understand it as entrapment.

Indeed, I doubt that, in this fictional realm, there’s really any doubt about the dubiousness of that persecution. It doesn’t matter your politics: blaming someone for something you more-or-less forced them to do is essentially the opposite of justice. Writer Tom Taylor walks us deliberately to that conclusion before tying it back to the metaphor at the heart of Civil War II: profiling.

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Obviously, the causal link between profiling and the crimes those profiled might be driven to commit is a bit messier than it is in this story, but it’s a thought that many Americans could stand to consider in this election cycle. The political nature of that message may sound heavy-handed, but the conclusion follows so logically from the events of the issue, it’s all but impossible to argue with them.

That moral may be borrowed from Civil War II, but the events of this issue seem to have a lasting impact on this series going forward, driving a wedge between Laura and S.H.I.E.L.D., and hinting at some kind of heel turn for Gabby in the future. The former is exciting, and the latter is potentially heartbreaking, but both feel like strong choices for a series that continues to move strength to strength. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

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Civil War II 5

civil-war-ii-5Patrick: Drew just identified one of the Civil War II tie-ins that’s probably using the theme of the event better than the main title. That’s because this month’s installment goes easy on the thinky explorations of presumption of innocence in favor of a knock down drag out brawl between… I mean, it’s like everyone. But as this series had been hanging its hat so strongly on its ideas, how are writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez supposed to wipe away all of that high-concept rhetoric? By literally clearing the air space above Manhattan. The opening pages depict a helicopter tour cut short due to excessive superhero activity, and I can’t really think of a better metaphor for this issue. You came to see some weighty ideas tossed around? Too bad – this installment is all punches!

It does help that there are a lot of pretty fights in here. Marquez spends the majority of his pages with the characters at each other’s throats, and while the heroes are occasionally thematically matched, we also get to see dust-ups between characters that probably shouldn’t even meet, let alone have a reason to fight. There’s a rad Magik vs. Sam Wilson Captain America, where she just fucking ‘ports him away to Los Angeles. Bendis’ dialogue for Sam in this exchange is short, but excellent. Sam’s opening volley: “Magik, right?” He doesn’t even know who he’s fighting! So with the “who”s still up in the air, the “why”s are revealed to be even more incidental. The Guardians show up and Bendis has to write around the fact that both Iron Man and Captain Marvel have been on the team in the last two years. Peter Quill fumbles the explanation: “[We are] Supporting a friend. Who I thought was your friend, too.” To which Tony can only respond “I thought we were friends, too.”

Guys, I thought you were all friends. It’s madness, but of course, that’s the point. Marquez gets a brief intermission from the punch-a-palooza to check in with the handful of heroes no battling for god-knows-what-anymore on the roof of the Triskelion.

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Even in peace, they’re not free of the chaos of this event. The copy Bendis has written for the ever-present new crawl is just as assaultive as a splash page of heroes charging in at each other. It’s a careful reminder that the actions of these 100s of heroes reverberate beyond those doing the fighting. That’s partially evidenced by Ulysses’ show-stopping vision, that of Miles Morales killing Steve Rogers Captain America. Kamala tries to comfort Miles before Carol places him under arrest. That’s about as racially loaded as we could ever expect from a big Marvel event, but we’ll discuss that in issue 6 (…or, we’ll just go back to punching.)

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Civil War II Choosing Sides 6

civil-war-ii-choosing-sides-6Spencer: Civil War II Choosing Sides has never really been about choosing sides, which is why it almost surprised me when two different characters explicitly choose sides in this month’s finale. Even then, their choices do more to define them as characters than expound upon the Civil War itself — and make no mistake, that’s a good thing.

I’d never heard of White Fox before, but writer Christina Strain and artist Sana Takeda immediately made me fall in love with the character. Strain smartly uses the Ulysses conflict to explore Fox’s abilities, heritage, and past, painting a surprisingly clear picture of White Fox in just a scant seven pages. Takeda’s soft lines and colors and adorable animal designs likewise do much to ingratiate me to this character.

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I mean, just look at this: don’t you want a White Fox ongoing right this second? I know I do. Ooh — or a Squirrel Girl crossover, stat!

Over in Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s “Post Prologue,” meanwhile, Nick Fury Jr. defines himself by choosing his “own” side, thereby acknowledging the weakness of every side (including S.H.I.E.L.D.) and thereby finally claiming his name as his own. Most importantly, it gives Fury an intriguing position within S.H.I.E.L.D. — a man who knows all their secrets and won’t hesitate to betray them if they cross him — and it’s one I would love to see explored further.

Just the fact that Jessica Jones is investigating Ulysses for Tony leads me to believe that she’s already chosen her side, but the “evidence” (or lack thereof) she finds may only weaken Tony’s case — Ulysses is about as milquetoast as they come. Jessica Jones as a character is practically tailor-made for writer Chelsea Cain — Jones is about as flawed and human as they come, yet Cain manages to highlight each of her imperfections while playing them off as charming and humorous. The fate of the frog and the dragonfly suggests a dark, cruel future for our heroes, but I hope the future is more kind to this creative team: I’d be thrilled to see Cain tackle Jessica Jones again in the future.

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Mighty Thor 11

mighty-thor-11Patrick: Like the Roxxon island itself, this issue spends much of its run-time in total free-fall. The reader’s entry point is confronting confusion, head-on. Literally. That very first panel makes us stare into the unbelieving faces of the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that can’t quite wrap their heads around what they’re seeing: Thor and Jane Foster in the same place at the same time. “Hey” the reader asks himself or herself, “how is this happening?” It’s a question repeated by Thor in the comfort of that opening spread, all carefully laid out with panels at easy right angles to one another. But then the island starts to fall from the sky and panels tumble over each other to depict some absolute chaos on the way down.

Artist Russell Dauterman is an absolute genius at staging this action, at first cluttering the page with too many panels, and gently allowing the reader to understand the action in the falling room. While Thor et. al are battling, the background behind those tumbling panels is completely white – for as much as they’re concerned, there’s nothing outside of that room until Dario and Exterminatrix are dealt with. But the second they are subdued, that white background becomes the sky below the falling island, and the reader is reminded that there is so much more going on here. All of this is rendered in such close shots that it’s a breath of relief when Dauterman finally pulls wide, appropriately on the moment Thor saves the day.

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With confusion quelled, it’s time to get some clarity, right? Writer Jason Aaron offers half an explanation for the appearance of multiple Jane Fosters – one is a projection of the Mjolnir itself. That begs a whole host of other questions, but not quite as severely as the final panel which finds Thor thunderbolted away to who knows where? We’re promised a Secret History of Mjolnir next time, so maybe that’s where we find clarity.

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 Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 10

patsy-walker-aka-hellcat-10Ryan M.: In Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 10, Kate Leth puts Patsy in a confrontation with a demon who doesn’t really know her. It’s as if Belial read her Wikipedia page and is using that to drum up the anger and self-loathing that must exist before you agree to be a demon. But Belial doesn’t hit any of her triggers, aside from her annoyance that her mother’s writing made high school seem too pleasant. Patsy isn’t holding on to the anger from her times with Buzz or Daimon and even Hedy’s face isn’t able to drum up any of the rage Belial hopes. It’s clear throughout that Patsy is not going to fall prey to the demon’s tricks and will get herself out of hell, but Leth and Brittney Williams make the time there worthwhile.

Williams suffuses each panel’s shifting reality with a combination of Pop-Art style and visual distortion. As Patsy moves from moment to moment, its feels like the static of the world gets turned up until it overwhelms her. In the first panel below, you can see the texture penning her in from all sides. It’s such a seamless way to reinforce the “wrongness” of the world even as the demon forces Patsy to return to real moments from her past. The issue makes clear that Patsy is through with her past, which in turn give the reader a chance to fully invest in her future.

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Power Man and Iron Fist 8

power-man-and-iron-fist-8Taylor: Another week and inconceivably another innocent black man shot by police. At this point the narrative is well known; Police pull a black man over calling their racial profiling “suspicious acts;” the black man cooperates with police; he is then shot. While these horrible stories are the ones that often make the headlines, there’s many more like it that don’t. These involve people who have been arrested for the crime of having a certain color of skin instead of an actual crime. If that sounds like a story out of a comic book, it is, but it’s also the sad truth, which is the whole point of Power Man and Iron Fist 8.

Danny, aka Iron Fist, has been thrown in jail for striking an officer who was arresting a man for a crime he has yet to commit. While locked up, Danny befriends many inmates, all of whom claim to be innocent. The kicker is that instead of saying they’re innocent, they really, truly are. Predictive Justice has landed these inmates in jail for crimes not committed. The creative team of David Walker, Sanfrod Greene, and Flaviano don’t pull  any punches when showing us what type of people have been profiled by Predictive Justice.

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In all three cases highlighted here, these men were arrested without doing anything wrong. All of these men, among many depicted in the issue, also happen to be men of color. The statement is clear — Predictive Justice profiles unfairly against black men. Within the world of the comic these men haven’t committed any crimes but in theory they would have in the future if they hadn’t been apprehended. The analogy being drawn to real life is clear. Black men are often victims of police (unfairly) judging them a danger to society. We hear about those who pay the steepest price in the news, but how many innocent men are sent to jail who we here nothing about? Power Man and Iron Fist dares us to consider that notion and the reality of it is bound to rankle those who care about the characters in the Marvel universe and our own alike.

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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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2 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/21/16

  1. All New Wolverine: I think this is the first book to do a ‘trying to change the future causes the future to happen’, which is interesting. Especially as we know that Ulysses ability is ultimately incredibly powerful statistics. So Ulysses actually made a prediction that Logan would attempt to kill Gabby (in all honesty, a pretty easy prediction considering what Logan knows), and Captain Marvel tried to stop it.

    So the question is, did Ulysses save Gabby? Or was Gabby, with her healing factor, always going to survive, and did Ulysses accidentally let Logan off the hook by messing up the arrest. Unfortunately, these questions aren’t brought up. Which is a shame, as it kind of causes everything to collapse. The ending is built upon characters having an incorrect idea of how Ulysses works, and therefore, Laura’s arguments are garbage. Frustrating.

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    Civil War: It is amazing that Bendis of all people is creating an event where each issue works as a discrete chapter in a greater whole. First Issue was the Instigating Incident. The Second Issue was Tony kidnapping Ulysses. Third Issue was the death of Banner. The fourth issue was the trial. The fifth issue was the fight. Each issue is its own chapter, but ends with a major cliffhanger that changes the shape of the event, and makes the next issue something else. Generally impressive, but especially impressive from Bendis.

    This is one big fight scene, and there is not too much to say otherwise. A bit quippy at times (I didn’t like how casual Tony was about his line to the Inhumans. Felt like it should be angrier). Patrick is right that the high minded ideas are gone – that’s the whole point. THings have escalated to the point where there is nothing but anger. THe fight has consumed everything.
    Though there are some things worth bringing up. Firstly, Carol is right that Tony is projecting. For all of Tony’s good arguments, he is trying to seize control of the superhuman community out of response to Rhodey’s death. Carol also is, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. Second, why the hell does Peter Quill and Rocket agree? Gamora and Drax would love Ulysses (and Groot would support the person in the argument he cares for the most, but probably leans closer to Ulysses), but Peter and Rocket are all about freedom. The idea of something like Ulysses goes against what they value.

    But the real stuff to discuss are the bookends. Firstly, the beginning, with the helicopter. As part of Bendis’ strategy to actually ‘treat each chapter like a chapter for once’, he chooses not to start the issue where he left off, but to cut to the helicopter. And it is for good reason. Because Bendis wants to play this fight scene for horror. That’s why so many fights involve the hero being taken out of play. That’s why the Guardians need to lose something important, their space ship. That’s why we have the section of all the other characters looking at the travesty with horror. And so, we have the beginning. The tourists want to see superheroes. They want to see shining beacons of heroism. Instead, they get a SHIELD message and a perversion of what they are supposed to be. What is happening is a horror.
    And as a finale, another vision. I won’t focus too much on Captain HYDRA’s death. It will surely give SPencer some fun, but the main book won’t be about Captain HYDRA. The main book will focus on the fact that the greatest hero in the Marvel Universe is going to die. The new prediction shows that this is the consequence of the war. It does several things. Firstly, it takes the horror that the fight has been and truly rams it home. Secondly, it complicates the issue. While the first Civil War was basically a war story, with how quickly people joined teams, Bendis is actually making a point to constantly force characters to reevaluate as an even more complex issue occurs. What happens to Team Tony when the future predicts that they are the bad guys? Do they stick to their guns, or do they take into account that Ulysses is in most cases highly accurate? And thirdly, if you call what Ulysses does profiling, what does it mean that a Black Man has been profiled to be a murderer?

    Oh, and Marquez’ art continues to be amazing. I am still surprised that Civil War II is actually good. THere is a risk that this prediction is going to lead to a rehash of issue 3, but so far, Bendis has proven that he can make each issue a new story. So I can’t wait for Issue 6.

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    Civil War – Changing Sides: Can Chelsea Cain write more comics? She gets Jessica Jones so perfect. I’ve discussed just how well she manages to give Bobbi Morse a complete psychology, and she effortlessly manages to do the same with Jessica Jones. She has the advantage that Jessica Jones already had one of the most complete psychologies in comics, but that still doesn’t mean it is hard to fit EVERYTHING into an anthology story. The story itself is limited by the fact that it cannot be important – the very premise meant that if it was, Bendis would be writing it. But Chelsea Cain writing Jessica Jones… With Tom King both locked up in an exclusive contract with DC and apparently doing a disappointing Batman book, can she replace the Tom King size hole in my heart? (She is going to have to pull off the next issue of Mockingbird to have any chance)
    Oh, and I love how Sampson’s art is a throwback to the classic Alias book. Especially considering even her appearance in Bendis’ own SPiderman book uses the Krysten Ritter look for her.

    THe other stories are pretty ordinary. The White FOx story has truly beautiful art, but features a character so obscure that it is all introduction. Instead of making active decisions, it is one big explanation why White Fox makes her choice. I now know who White Fox is, but with only the backstory, I need something more if you want me to care for her. But I agree with SPencer. I want a White Fox, if that means more Takeda art.

    Nick Fury story is Nick Fury story. Not much else to say. Has always been decent enough.

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    International Iron Man: I don’t think this fits with Gillen’s story. I don’t think it fits with everything around Arno Stark. But honestly, the biggest disappointment is that Amanda Armstrong’s SHIELD backstory felt like the least important part of Amanda Armstrong’s story. I want to know more about Amanda, but the fact that Tony’s biological father is a generic HYDRA agent has nothing to do with anything. Honestly, I feel this would have been better if the two issues were spent with TOny actually spending time with Amanda

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    Mighty Thor: And so ends what was a great, fun story, with a real mystery that next issue will reveal. Between Aaron and Dauterman, the action is perfect. I love the description of this being entirely freefall, and this issue is a fantastic piece of action, building mystery, developing subplots and creating so many iconic shots. You guys already showed one of those amazing shots, but what of Jane staring at Mjolnir with the sun behind her? Amazing. And ending with a fantastic scene with Roz that shows exactly why Jane is great.

    THough I’m slightly disappointed that Agger is imprisoned. I wish Agger’s defeat done is a story where the leads were more active. Instead, it was Exterminatrix and Silver Samurai that took down Agger. Basically, Agger fell from a coincidence. If we use the Pixar rule Drew was discussing in the Archie post, this is fair use of a coincidence, as Agger states that without him, Maliketh is more dangerous than ever. It is a coincidence that puts characters in trouble. Still wish that Jane, Roz etc were more active in Agger’s defeat.

    But the action… This is still one of Marvel’s best, because of everything else.

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    Patsy Walker: I disagree about the idea that Belial misses all of Patsy’s triggers. There is a sorrow to this issue that comes from Patsy having to confront the issues. I think the difference is that Patsy is actually in a good place at the moment, and knows how to cope. Her triggers hurt, and it isn’t comfortable for her to be faced with every mistake, but she is in a place where she can face her weaknesses without being overwhelmed. Ultimately, it still hurts. But that is all

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    Power Man and Iron Fist: I remember when Ferguson happened, I was, to some degree, happy. Not because of Michael Brown’s death, but because finally one of these deaths had become public. It went from that thing no one talked about to Black Lives Matter. We were finally talking about it. And every time another case comes up, I remember that there have actually been several that are forgotten (this masterful article shows just how easy it is for that to happen: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/an-interactive-guide-to-ambiguous-grammar).

    So I love that this book is actually making us confront that. It actually even makes the reader complicit – by focusing initially on reformed supervillains, we think that for all the evils that Predictive Justice have done, that no one they are targeting is entirely innocent. Except they are. And it does this while keeping the book’s unique feel. I love how it combines all of this with an affectionate parody of Blaxspoiltation

    Also, having done my big Thunderbolts reread, I’m just going to get constantly annoyed every time I see Songbird using her powers with the harness. Surely there is some note in the Marvel offices on every hero about whether their powers come from a gadget.

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