Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/28/16

marvel-roundup50We 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 Sam Wilson Captain America 13, Steve Rogers Captain America 5, Deadpool 19, Ms. Marvel 11, Spider-Gwen 12 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 12. Also, we discussed Spider-Woman 11 Thursday and we’ll be discussing Deadpool Annual 1 on Tuesday so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Sam Wilson Captain America 13

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They say that loyalty is just for those who’ve earned it
Is that why they stole the sofa from your parking space and burned it
You were hoping you could leave here with some teeth still in your head
But your friends on curtain row would rather see you dead

You know who your friends are
You know who your friends are
They’re the ones who want to see you go far
You know who your friends are

You Know Who Your Friends Are, The Pretenders

Drew: The concept of “loyalty” has been radically redefined within my lifetime. As a child, I came to understand loyalty as describing something reciprocal, and therefore negotiated by the parties involved — loyalty between spouses might include some notion of exclusivity that wouldn’t necessarily be true of loyalty between friends, for example. More recently, I’ve come to understand loyalty as indistinguishable from fanatacism, and utterly non-reciprocal; it’s more about falling in line than about agreeing on what constitutes loyalty. As such, people can be fired from their jobs, excommunicated from their churches, disowned by their political parties, all for simply holding an idea counter to those expressed by those bodies — that is, for the infraction of being “disloyal” to them. Charges of such disloyalty have plagued Sam Wilson since Nick Spencer’s first issue — both in-narrative and out — but issue 13 reveals that some of those charges can hurt a lot more than others.

Spencer made a strong case in the previous issue for why John Walker would oppose Sam Wilson, so it would be enough for him to simply play out that scenario, which he does brilliantly. Sam’s solution — to rely on the night-vision of nearby owls — is a clever use of his skills, and gives him an idea for keeping tabs on the AmeriCops: bird body-cams. But, of course, he doesn’t just let that scenario play out; in a heartbreaking final scene, we learn that Steve Rogers himself convinced John Walker to join the fray.

Captain America and US Agent

Er — can it still be heartbreaking if we know Steve is working for Hydra? I think what’s particularly clever about the way this is handled is that it still works from John’s perspective: he thinks the patriotic thing to do is put down the uppity black man who only thinks he’s defending American values. It’s a damning comment on the current political atmosphere, where lifelong Republicans are pressured to follow a demagogue for fear of appearing “disloyal” to the party. In this case, loyalty to Cap’s stated cause would be better served by listening to Sam than by listening to the secret Hydra agent, but nobody’s biases allow them to see that.

Whew. There’s a lot to unpack in this issue. You might need a poli-sci degree to parse all of the subtleties Spencer is weaving in here, but anyone should be able to appreciate Daniel Acuña’s stellar artwork. Acuña manages to nail every beat, from the action in the first half of the issue to the character work in the back half. Not every artist can make conversations as dynamic as they are here, subtly shading our reading with jet-black silhouettes like in the sequence above. It’s a strong issue that seeds a lasting conflict between Sam and Steve — I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Steve Rogers Captain America 5

steve-rogers-captain-america-5Patrick: By comparison, there’s a lot less to unpack — at least socio-politically speaking — in Spencer’s other Captain America book also out this week. Steve Rogers 5 essentially does for Civil War II what the rest of the series has done for Steve’s entire legacy. It’s a secret-history tour of all the tensest moments surrounding the rise and fall of precog Ulysses. This reveals that every outburst of violence can somehow be traced back to Steve and his quest to keep his Hydra identity a secret. The issue asks us to believe the worst of Cap, which shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it’s still extremely hard to see Steve lurking around Ulysses’ Attilanian bedroom waiting to kill him. And it’s even harder when Rogers and Selvig realize that they can’t murder their way out of trouble, so they’ll have to weaponize the Inhuman oracle, effectively creating bigger threats to distract from the steady, present threat of an American symbol corrupted by hate. Artist Javier Pina has the inenviable task of recreating all these moments from Civil War II, but is so smart to only show us the human cost of Cap’s meddling, without any of the mechanics.

hawkeye-v-hulk

The power of this page is absolutely contingent on the reader’s familiarity with Civil War II. If you haven’t been reading, and you’re wondering why I like this page so much, it’s because Clint Barton murdered Bruce Banner based on a Ulysses prophetic-vision (which we now understand to be at least partially counterfeit). These panels are focused on pain and anger and loss, and not on the fact that there is a weird puppet doing everything he can to make sure those emotions keep everyone blind to the root cause of the problem.

Ooof, maybe I was wrong: there is a lot to unpack here.

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Deadpool 19

deadpool-19Michael: Deadpool 19 returns us to Gerry Duggan’s alternating storyline “Deadpool 2099” – a comic that is less about the gimmicks of the far-ish future and more about honoring/betraying family legacy. It is a battle between the daughters of Wade Wilson: Ellie and Warda. Ellie thinks that Warda is besmirching the kinda good name of Deadpool by wearing his colors while Warda is still holding a grudge for the death of her mother Shiklah.

I fall off of Deadpool and catch up again a lot, but I’ve basically stayed the course when Gerry Duggan and then co-writer Brian Posehn started working on the character in 2014. The way that Duggan has structured the Deadpool 2099 arc to be about family makes me realize how much he has built up for Wade Wilson in these two plus years. Even though Warda may hate him he still has Ellie and Preston; Deadpool has a family now.

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Scott Koblish reveals to us Old Man Deadpool’s 2099 getup: a flowing pimp trench coat and gigantic boots; sounds about right. Koblish throws in a couple of double page spreads in Deadpool 19, including the fight between Warda and Ellie in the opening pages. It’s a series of panels of varying shape, size and placement that is a little disorienting but the action has a clear through line. Ellie smashes Warda through the top right panel and she bursts through the glass on the following panel on the next line. Though she refuses to call Deadpool dad, she’s clearly got some love for ‘ol Wade, and defends his teeny tiny honor.”

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Ms. Marvel 11

ms-marvel-11Ryan M.: The power of Ms. Marvel 11 can be found in the first and last scenes of the issue. In between, Kamala stands up for what she believes is right at the risk of alienating her hero, executes a pretty good plan, provokes Basic Becky’s comeuppance and goes for Greek with Iron Man. All of that is good stuff, but is made small by the sight of Bruno struggling to stand from his hospital bed or his pitiful form as he tells Kamala that he doesn’t want to see her again.

Each issue of the arc has opened with a short flashback. Some have contributed thematically, others offering origins. This issue, we see a moment that occurred off-page during Kamala’s time as Ms. Marvel. Its meaning can only be understood in reverse. When we see Kamala stumbling away from the hospital in two different shoes, we see her first steps into a life without Bruno working to keep her safe. She has also lost her faith in and the trust of Captain Marvel. If neither Bruno nor Carol believe in her, what does Kamala have left?

It’s a great ending. It doesn’t offer the kind of quick-hit satisfaction of happier ending, there is something more deeply affecting to end with Kamala walking alone into the sunset. The opening vignettes in each issue of the arc are there to reinforce the idea that the women in Kamala’s bloodline have the strength and endurance imbued by faith and hope. Even though she is at a low point, rejected by both her best friend and her idol, Kamala has that same ability to maintain hope. She asks herself “who am I now?” but the reader knows. I can’t wait to watch her discover it for herself.

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Spider-Gwen 12

spider-gwen-12Spencer: Spider-Gwen 12 is one helluva timely issue. Gwen tears apart Frank Castle’s psychology rather easily (even as she struggles to fight him physically), realizing that he’s lost himself in his work, that if he can’t bring Spider-Woman in, then he feels like everything he’s lost and done means nothing.

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When I read Gwen’s monologue here, I can’t help but to think of today’s political climate, of politicians who use fear to get citizens on their side, who make marginalized people into villains so that they can be the hero. It’s repugnant, and it makes me so happy to see writer Jason Latour, through Gwen’s words, so openly rally against it.

The phrase “hide behind a badge” also makes me think of the rash of racially motivated killings by police we’ve seen come to light over the past few years. Much like Castle, these officers use their power to prey on those they hate, and use their position to avoid ever facing the consequences. Like Castle, they don’t deserve their badges. George Stacy, though, very clearly did, as he shows when he decides to turn himself in to police.

accountability

Preach it, George, preach. George knows that his position makes him more accountable, not less. It’s a message that desperately needs to be proclaimed, and Latour and Robbi Rodriguez do so boldly.

That’s why it’s such an emotional sucker punch, then, when Gwen seemingly turns aside from her father’s example, enlisting Matt Murdock’s criminal expertise to free George. It’s a poor decision that should lead to some fantastic stories, and I’m both excited and dreading seeing how it will play out.

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Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 12

unbeatable-squirrel-girl-12Taylor: Our everyday life if full of surprises. A free doughnut at work; an unexpected slap on the butt; a dead rat on your porch. Surprises are always about context and whether they’re a delight or a displeasure depends on on the who, what, where, why, and how of it. Squirrel Girl 12 is all about surprises and while they might be displeasing to the characters experiencing them, they are pleasurable to read.

Doreen and Nancy head North to Canada to spend a week in a cabin with Doreen’s mom and without electricity. It’s enough to make Doreen go crazy until her mom sets her on the case of a missing cupcake. What starts out as a mundane trip soon turns into a surprising battle with a man who has the ability to split into smaller portioned clones of himself. Doreen unintentionally finds this dude’s hideout when she lifts up her mom’s cabin expecting to find a mouse. The resulting lilliputian is as unexpected as it is original and fun.

Back in New York Brain Drain is is having his own misadventure. During his daily rounds BD keeps running into the same crook again and again. Or at least it appears to be the same crook. As Brain Drain later finds out, all of these “twins” are actually part of the same man. His registering of this phenomenon is priceless.

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 Oh dearest Brain Drain, welcome to humanity. No, we can’t split it clones of ourselves, but we are frequently surprised and most of the time these surprises aren’t to our favor. There’s something so charming about BD in this issue. Perhaps it’s his innocence or maybe it’s the fact that he is reformed super-villain, but whatever the reason, he’s what makes this issue a delight. His processing of the Marvel version of New York in all it’s eccentricities is so straight laced and without judgment. Being the wise readers that we all are, we know better than Brain Drain, but his marvel at the Marvel world reminds of a time when it was enchanting because of it’s oddity. Long live Brain Drain and may a piece of him long live in us all!

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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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One comment on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 9/28/16

  1. Captain America, Sam Wilson: Damn, I love how crafty HYDRA Cap is in this issue. Creates the perfect method of having Sam Wilson taken down without breaking cover.

    Honestly, I felt like this issue was a weird one. The politics don’t entirely add up. For example, Sam beats Walker by luring him into a dark tunnel where he has the upper hand. Which works, but takes the fight from the public streets and hides it. A big idea of this issue is not just the fight between the heroes, but the fact that this is public. Spencer draws our attention to the fact that the news is covering this. And yet, Sam Wilson, who is characterised by his political savvy, never seems to approach this fight with any of that understanding. By taking the fight to the dark, he killed the chance to create a message. In fact, he probably shot himself in the foot by showing him as the man who ran when the righteous US Agent appeared. It felt odd to see a Sam Wilson so uninterested in the implications of his actions.

    And secondly, there is his plan for the Americops. There is a comparison to body cameras, but I don’t feel that is the first thing that comes to mind. Firstly, body cameras are run by the lawful government, and not a third party like Sam Wilson. Secondly, body cameras are something that is agreed upon by participants – the way the deal works is that the when the cops become cops, they make an agreement to follow the rules.
    Sam Wilson is not the lawful government. Nor have the Americops agreed to this sort of monitoring. Which means this isn’t body cameras, but Sam Wilson making a decision to spy on the Americops.

    I mean, what we have here is PRISM. Sam Wilson is now spying on the entire world. Yes, Tony Stark has created an algorithm that focuses on only what Sam Wilson is interested in, but that is also how PRISM worked. Remember that at the start of this series, a big deal was made of Sam Wilson’s opposition of a PRISM Analogue.

    Sam Wilson is now spying on the entire world, and he will strike you down if you break his rules. Superheroes will always be a little fascist (I think the Jessica Jones TV Show is the closest a superhero story has ever been to not being fascist), but this is extremely fascist. Sam Wilson is now standing above literally everyone in the world (because he is literally the only person not being spied on), and is the sole arbitrator of this new moral order. If you disappoint Sam, you get punished.

    Of course, we all agree that the Americops are bad. But the fact that the only thing that justifies Sam Wilson is the fact that we broadly agree with those parameters, and trust his judgement. And that’s the problem. Any system that works on the sole foundation of ‘let’s hope that Sam Wilson is a good person’ is a bad system.

    In a week where the actual fascist Captain America did an array of unforgivable things, Sam Wilson beat Steve Rogers for ‘most fascist Superhero of the week’ by far.

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    Captain America, Steve Rogers: Well, the big problem with this issue is that nothing Steve Rogers did was anywhere near as fascist as Sam Wilson. But in all honesty, this was pretty good, as Steve Rogers finally gets to be a bad guy.

    I honestly think the first thing to state is how fun this is, in that way a horror movie is fun. I have described this story as a horror story, and this issue is all about enjoying the scares. Seeing everything that Steve Rogers is doing in the background of Civil War II is so much fun, in the same way as we enjoy a slasher movie. It is fun to see Steve Rogers suddenly cancel the attack on the Avengers party as the start of Civil War, or to see him manipulate events such that Banner dies. Especially when Spencer and Pina focus on the emotional cost. They have their fun playing around with the good stuff.
    And the best part is how Spencer takes advantage of this book’s premise to create a Secret History of Civil War II without undercutting Civil War II. This doesn’t contextualise anything – the events of Banner’s death are still the actions of the same characters, for the same reasons as we initially understood (I don’t care for the description of the vision as partially counterfeit. Rogers didn’t fake anything, he put events into motion that led to the vision. There is no reason to think the vision is less trustworthy than it was before). Spencer just uses this as the chance to have a lot of fun with his premise. It actually creates a great tie in, because we have a major, meaningful story that exists only because of Civil War II.

    Honestly, Patrick, you have done a great job unpacking everything about this issue. Really good fun.

    Though is it me, or does the flashbacks seem really weird? Isn’t Steve Rogers’ memories supposed to be of a past of an idealised version of HYDRA? If Kobik loves HYDRA so much, why did she think this sort of past would be best? Whitehall and Fenhoff do not appear to be the sorts of characters that Kobik would think represent HYDRA, after all of the Red Skull’s stories about how great HYDRA are.
    We know Kobik is acting oddly, trying to hide with the Thunderbolts and making it impossible for Steve Rogers to contact Bucky and therefore find her. Is she playing a deeper game? Because why did Kobik give him this past, where he was basically abducted to a HYDRA camp, and the leadership is full of those that are ruthless at best?

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    Captain Marvel: This had a real problem of suddenly getting a plot. This had been doing a good job at showing Captain Marvel building her program around Ulysses, placing every effort into finding a way to make it work in a way that was fair and ethical. The story of Captain Marvel trying to deal with the ethics, politics and other problems with Ulysses provided a great counterpoint Stark’s ‘Shut it down’.

    Except now there is a plot about everyone being manipulated for an evil plan. Which is so much less interesting than Captain Marvel’s struggles to using Ulysses in the effective, most ethical way possible. And considering how few people seem to be on Team Carol, we don’t need her fighting Alpha Flight

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    Doctor Strange Annual: Magic is weaponized metaphor.

    Of course, all superpowers in comics are metaphors. They are all metaphors for power, which is why ‘With Great Power comes Great Responsibility’ is the underlying theme of every superhero story. And, of course, the metaphors are deeper than that. Krytonian/Time Lord genetics and the Super Soldier Serum are metaphorical representations of Superman, the Doctor and Captain America’s positions as paragons of humanity. Luke Cage’s bulletproof skin cannot be divorced from his metaphorical representation of Black pride. And there is a reason that the first Spiderman got rid of the webshooters and gave Peter Parker the ability to naturally produce sticky white fluid.

    But magic literally is metaphor. Both in universe and out. And that’s what I like about this issue. Clea returns, to discuss the fact that Strange and Clea are still technically married. The discussion is about whether, after the changes both have been through, especially recently, they need to actually move on.

    Except because this is magic, the big problem is that they have a magical bond with each other that was formed on their marriage and after the Death of Magic, too much of their own magic is tied up into this bond when they need every scrap. Because magic is literally metaphor.

    And this issue is literally about the rules of a series of different spells, where the rules are all instances of the metaphoric being made literal. And this allows us to get a much deeper understanding of Doctor Strange, by seeing how these rules interact and what they mean.

    The actual writing wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, but I had so much fun with the magic

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    Ms Marvel: What I really like about this is that Ms Marvel messes everything up and gets everything wrong. Whatever side you are on in the Civil War, you can’t say she did a good job. The plan was good, except it only served to prove that predictive justice works when Hijinx does exactly what is predicted and blows up a bomb. Her attempts to talk to Captain Marvel go utterly wrong where instead of discussing the issue, she brings up Rhodey, making Carol so angry that the discussion is killed immediately. And, in her previous actions throughout the arc, Bruno is righteous in his condemnation. He’s been screwed.

    The concept of a superhero Civil War works best when the issue is a complex one where there is no easy answer. And part of the success of Civil War II is a very well chosen topic (even if I wish more comics, including the main event, would give Captain Marvel some time to explore the nuances, like they have with Iron Man). And what Ms Marvel has done is fully embraced that complexity, by telling a story where Ms Marvel is completely out of her depth. Faced with the complexity of Civil War, she messes up. And that hurts. But I can’t wait to see how she grows in response to all of her mistakes.

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    New Avengers: I think no line is more representative of all the flaws of New Avengers than ‘You can rehabilitate him on your own time, Doreen’. This is a book where character goes to die. Far too interested in being a big battle with lots of ‘fun’ to actually be about something. Yeah, it is cute when Tippy the Squirrel causes Vermin’s rats to go on strike. Or Wiccan just overpowering Asti. But anything of meaning, anything that makes this more than a light bit of fun relying on plot reversals, is missing. And as we get to the end, New Avengers has run out of reversals. With the exception of a last page cliffhanger, this issue could be summed up as ‘Stuff Happens’. That’s all

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    Thunderbolts: I actually really liked this issue of THunderbolts. Not entirely sure why I was still reading it, but this issue was actually kind of worth it. After the latest vision, of Miles killing Steve Rogers, Bucky decides to go out an assassinate Miles. Totally underestimates Miles, due to lack of intel, ending up with SHIELD capturing him. Very simple, but works for two reasons. Firstly, it uses the Civil War stuff really, really well. Secondly, the ending has massive implications. Thunderbolts is part of a major story about Steve ROgers being HYDRA, and the implications of Bucky being arrested by SHIELD is massive. We know this will reverberate across the story.

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