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 Deadpool 20, Gwenpool 7, Moon Knight 7 and Old Man Logan 12. Also, we’re discussing Clone Conspiracy 1 on Friday, Howard the Duck 11 on Tuesday, and Daredevil 12 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: Whenever someone is telling a particularly dark and gritty Superman story, comic book fans like to trot out various stories of Superman helping a suicidal woman (it’s always a woman, no I don’t know why) as a way of showing how the character is supposed to be heroic. Those are usually nice stories, but I hate the prescriptive entitlement that comes from that. “SEE, THIS IS HOW YOU DO SUPERMAN, DUMMY!” is the subtext. But like, it’s art — there should be a good way to tell any story with Superman. Gerry Duggan proves the reverse of that to true be as he puts Deadpool in Superman’s shoes as Wade tasks himself with saving a suicidal woman the only way he knows how. (And, yes — it’s a woman. Again, I still don’t know why.)
What makes Deadpool uniquely qualified for this mission is that he has no shortage of experience putting his foot in his mouth. No matter what he says to Danielle, whether it’s a joke or a sincere attempt to reach out to her, she deflects him, sometimes aggressively. Duggan stubbornly refuses to give Wade a set of magic words to make her feel better, and even by the end of the issue, all we know is that she’s seeking help. There are no assertions that tomorrow is going to be a better day or that life is worth living or anything like that. Deadpool does show Danielle an exciting evening, but it’s punctuated by violence which she is neither good at or comfortable with.
The only time Danielle does appear to be engaged is when she’s smashing up the hacker’s hardware. Artist Matteo Lolli shows this moment of genuine expression without depicting a full-on freak out. She takes some swings, yells a little and then calmly drops the bat.
A less disciplined storyteller would have had her on the ground in tears, seconds away from a total nervous breakdown. But that’s not the kind of story this is — there are no absolutes. Danielle’s not raving and Deadpool’s not automatically empathetic. It’s a measured and patient story, which isn’t always what we expect from the Merc with the Mouth.
Patrick: Here’s a fact about me that you can file under “no shit, Patrick”: I love meta readings. If there’s a way that the struggles of the characters somehow mirror the struggles of the creators, I unconsciously zero in on it, pointing my nose at it like a good critical bloodhound. I’ll admit that this is just as frequently a weakness of my analysis — all art is necessarily partially about itself, but that can often leave more compelling reads on the table. The Unbelievable Gwenpool 7 (or Gwenpool: Head of M.O.D.O.K. 1) takes a scenario that begs for meta-analysis and flips it on its head. This character isn’t revealing any great truths about comics or superheroes or genre fiction, but about how much it sucks to make compromises.
Gwen Poole, formerly a regular our-Earth girl currently trapped in the Marvel Universe and head of a mercenary group, starts the issue mired in the kind of adventure that is now rote for Gwenpool. The Teuthidans, a race of squid-like aliens that Gwen pretended to kill in issue 1, are hunting her down. Gwen is able to throw them off her trail by dressing a pig up her in costume. I should specify: she dresses a cute widdle piggy (oink oink!) in the Gwenpool costume.
Gurihiru makes this adorable, of course, but the more miraculous thing is that it works. Gwen’s reasoning is that the Teuthidans can’t tell Earth creatures apart because “they’re racist.” Batroc the Leaper calls her out on this — how on earth could she possibly know that? But Gwen brushes it away — she assumes that the aliens are racist, but struggles to come up with the comic-precedent for it. Ultimately, Gwen’s confidence seems to be its own superpower. Whatever she believes will be an effective way for her to combat her enemies will be an effective way to combat her enemies. That requires a kind of wacky logic that only a self-aware fictional character can really access, but it makes her a totally charming hero.
But that’s when the real conflict arises. M.O.D.O.K.’s only client turns out to be the normalest of dudes, and the only thing he wants is for his normal world to be undisturbed by all this comic booky nonsense. That means sending Ghost Cecil away from their meeting, which has an immediate effect on Gwen’s self-confidence. She’s really got no choice but to turn the power of her mercs on the weirdness the very weirdness that makes Gwen special.
Moon Knight 7
Drew: It’s fascinating to me that we have codified countless philosophies of acting into schools of thought or specific techniques focusing on how an actor should or should not interact with the character they are portraying. All of these methods are concerned with delivering a compelling performance, but many of them also deal with simply understanding and emphathizing with the character, suggesting that actors rely on, for example, emotional recall or imagined experiences. Curiously, we don’t use the same vocabulary when talking about simply reading — we undoubtedly modulate techniques to understand what characters are feeling, though I doubt anyone would think to call them “techniques.” I bring this up because Moon Knight 7 requires such an unusual array of techniques — and cycles through them so rapidly — that it is almost as remarkable as the story itself.
I want to be clear here: the difficulty isn’t either of the settings. I don’t live in a sci-fi colony on the moon or in a stylized 1970s New York, but imagining how I might feel in either of the situations presented is standard practice in reading genre fiction. Instead, the challenge comes from the way these two worlds interact — while it’s easy enough to empathize with feelings of confusion or fear, the way Marc flits between two realities has no precedent in my lived experience. (The closest I can get are those times when I panic thinking I forgot something important, only to remember that “something” was part of a dream.)
But, of course, lived experience isn’t the only technique available to us as readers — writer Jeff Lemire and artists James Stokoe and Francesco Francavilla can carry us to totally alien emotional states, though it places the burden on them to help us imagine what that would be like. Fortunately, these creators are more than up to the task, interleaving their narratives in truly disorienting ways.
It’s remarkably effective, though key to its success is that Lemire gives us just enough to hold on to throughout these sequences. We may not understand how much Marc remembers of each of these worlds, but we understand exactly what is at stake in both of them, tying all of the metaphysics to an emotional anchor. It manages to somehow be exhausting to read while leaving me wanting more.
Old Man Logan 12
Spencer: While Old Man Logan 12 still features its titular character’s perspective, narration, and flashbacks, Logan is not the man at the center of this issue: that honor belongs to the young Silent Monk. The Monk is the only character in the issue with any power — he uses his telekinesis to immobilize Logan, and his authority to call off his attendant, Sohei. Writer Jeff Lemire further emphasizes the Monk by comparing him to our protagonist, Logan — just like Logan back in this series’ first arc, the Silent Monk is paralyzed by fear over a future that no longer exists.
Artist Andrea Sorrentino follows Lemire’s lead, highlighting the Monk’s central role in this issue by literally making him the center of the action.
Sorrentino and artist Marcelo Maiolo work in perfect harmony here. Sorrentino places the Monk’s mighty show of power dead-center, with its effect on the characters radiating outwards; Maiolo likewise frames the page in reds and blacks, but leaves the center a blinding yellow, drawing the eye to the Monk and his explosion at the center of the page.
Together, this presents the Silent Monk as being in full control of the issue’s events, and that makes it all the more momentous when Lady Deathstrike is able to reverse those odds, disabling the Monk and returning control over the narrative to Logan.
This page flips the script on everything that came before: the reds and yellows of the surface are replaced with the cool blues of the well, and now it’s the Monk who is at Logan’s mercy, immobilized by the threat of a snikt to the head just as Logan was once immobilized by his telekinesis. It’s a testament to this series that I’ve got no idea what Logan will do with him from here, but however it plays out, I know that Lemire, Sorrentino, and Maiolo will continue to take full advantage of every aspect of the medium in order to present their finale.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?