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 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.
Sam Wilson Captain America 13
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.
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.
Steve Rogers Captain America 5
Patrick: 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.
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.
Michael: 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.
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.”
Ms. Marvel 11
Ryan 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.
Spencer: 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.
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.
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.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 12
Taylor: 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.
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!
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?