Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 10/26/16

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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 Civil War II 6, Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme 1, Ms. Marvel 12 and Silver Surfer 7. We discussed The Vision 12 on Thursday, so check that out. Also, we’re discussing Captain America: Steve Rogers 6 on Monday and Deadpool 21 on Wednesdayso come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Civil War II 6

civil-war-ii-6Spencer: Objectivity is nice in theory, but nearly impossible to actually attain; our perspectives shape every bit of information we take in and every bit of work we put out. With that in mind, I’m starting to realize that part of why Civil War II has been a hard read for me is because I’ve been expecting the characters to approach the issues surrounding Ulysses with objectivity, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. More than any other issue in this series, Civil War II 6 highlights that each and every character’s stance in this conflict is rooted deeply in their opinions, feelings, and perspectives on the world. It’s actually rather enlightening.

The character who benefits the most from this approach is Captain Marvel herself. I’ve never quite been able to understand why she’s had such a harsh, unyielding stance throughout this series, yet this month Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez explain her motivations quite clearly through a couple of surprisingly understated, emotional beats. The first finds Carol reduced to tears by the thoughts of those who have died because of the Civil War — this is affecting her, no matter how stiff her lip — and the second is a seemingly throwaway line of dialogue that’s actually rich in meaning.

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To Carol, having knowledge of the future is a responsibility: if she can prevent a tragedy and doesn’t, then it might as well be her fault. This could be read as a somewhat selfish motivation, but I actually find it admirable. It really humanizes Carol’s role in this story; she enforces her predictive justice so harshly because she simply couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t. I still don’t agree with Carol’s methods, but at least I can finally see where she’s coming from, and that makes Civil War II click for me in a way it hasn’t in the past.

The most heartbreaking example, meanwhile, is Spider-Man. Miles quickly becomes a pawn for both Tony and Carol, with neither character giving much thought to his perspective on Ulysses’ vision.

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Miles’ perspective, of course, is absolutely shattered. Miles didn’t just see the vision, remember — he experienced it, lived it as if it was real. The idea that he could even be capable of killing someone is just gutting Miles, and the adults in this scenario are too caught up in their own problems to realize it.

Ms. Marvel realizes it, though. The young heroes rally to Miles’ side — even the ones who don’t know him — because they’re all in the same boat, and their shared perspective creates an instant kinship. Star-Lord, likewise, is sympathetic to Carol because of his own experiences as a king. I always appreciate this kind of attention to characterization and continuity, but especially within an event book, which are often primarily plot-driven. Civil War II is still a slick event, but there’s some real thought and heart going into it, too.

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Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme 1

doctor-strange-and-the-sorcerers-supreme-1Patrick: There are a lot of big, weird, twisty ideas in the first issue of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. Time travel, invisible monsters, Doctor Strange drained of magic. By the time our heroes are assembled, we’ve got a teenage Ancient One and an elder Wiccan among the ranks, so it’s clear our notions of what is normal are being challenged left and right. Artist Javier Rodriguez is more than game to play into this narrative weirdness visually. Strange and Merlin’s trip through “the backroads of time” is positively bizarre. The pair scale each other’s shoulders before repelling down Merlin’s beard, all the while dodging both memories and parasitic memory leaches. Their relationship with time in this moment is so fucked, not only do they encounter their own skeletal remains, but also their embryonic fetal selves.

It’s trippy stuff but I think most of the strength of the issue comes from the simpler symbols and graphic gestures. Take, for example, the very easy and natural way Merlin brings them into the backroads of time. Rodriguez takes a rectangular panel — something very standard in comics — and begins to rotate it in 3d space, along an axis the page can’t actually express. Strange and Merlin stay in 2D, but are swallowed up by this insane intersection of 2 and 3 dimensions.

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It’s as easy and cool as the metaphor that writer Robbie Thompson sets up on page 1 (and calls back on page 20). “Locks are magic. Doors are magic.” Rodriguez dutifully flashes a panel of a lock and another of a key. When those simple and obvious symbols return at the end, they are together — not only in the same panel but one having opened the other. We don’t totally know what it means, in the logic-based sense, but we know that it’s terrifying. This is another place where Rodriguez’ designs really sing – the Forgotten have an amazing frightening design, with roman numeral emblazoned on their toothy faces suggesting some kind of unexplainable order. It’s primal, scary stuff, and the Supremes (yes, I will call them that) just lost their leader. Game on.

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Ms. Marvel 12

ms-marvel-12Ryan M.: My grandmother lived in the same town for almost ninety years. As a newlywed, she moved a mile up the road from her family home to the house where my mother grew up and I would visit on holidays. I grew up in the next state over and, though I could point out where my great aunt used to own a flower shop and knew the best place to get subs, their hometown was never mine. Obviously, Wilmington, Delaware and Karachi are not the same place, but I deeply related to Kamala’s ambivalence of belonging in her grandmother’s home in Ms Marvel 12.

Kamala is struggling right now, and, sometimes, the only thing to do is to go get a hug from your grandmother.

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It’s not just affection either, G. Willow Wilson gives Naani some real truths to lay on Kamala. Without her mentor and her best friend, Kamala is going to have to depend on herself. Early in the issue, Kamala muses that she will find “the missing pieces of her life” on this visit to Pakistan. What bears out, is that Kamala is the same girl in Karachi as she is in Jersey City. She feels out of step with everyone else, she makes friends with a grumpy but sensitive guy down the hall, and she rushes off to fight baddies without weighing the consequences. It’s an interesting interlude, because these are not external conflicts. Kamala is struggling with herself. Yes, the water cartels are a threat to the city, but Kamala’s choice to improvise a Ms Marvel costume to stop them is played as an internal issue for her.

These internal issues are played against a backdrop that reflects Kamala’s emotions. When Kamala and Kareem ride horses on the beach, it looks like an image from a travel brochure. Mirka Andolfo suffuses every day scene with a yellow light that is both warm, inviting and contrasts with the look of Jersey City. One page after the idyllic horse ride, we get Kamala and Kareem standing on their balconies, this time a yellow glow on their faces from the explosion mere steps away. Kamala cannot escape what she calls the “bad stuff” but that may be because she carries it around with her. The loss of Bruno’s friendship and Captain Marvel’s respect cannot be outrun. While the time in Karachi felt too brief, it’s good to know that Kamala is returning home to face her new normal.

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Silver Surfer 7

silver-surfer-7Drew: I’m such a sucker for hang-out stories — stories where the conflicts never put anything important at risk, allowing us to bask in the personalities of the characters and their universe. And few narratives have more appealing characters and inventive universes than Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s Silver Surfer, which makes issue 7 — a kind-of sort-of date night for Norrin and Dawn — an absolute delight. Even more delightfully, the issue stealthily puts quite a lot at risk; not only in the high-stakes game of poker Norrin ends up playing, but also in the way Norrin now treats Dawn.

As the issue opens, Norrin is seeking ideal places to take Dawn, leading them to visit planets made of trampolines, planets covered in puppy-bunny-kittens, planets covered in cotton candy, and finally, a planet that seems to be a giant ball-pit. In short, he took her to a state fair, checking in with Toomie for dating advice.

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I’m so charmed by these characters and the universe the inhabit, that keeping the stakes at “state fair” levels wouldn’t bother me at all. But when Dawn realizes Norrin has been taking her only to the safest corners of the universe, she takes umbrage at being treated like a child, insisting that they take risks together. So Norrin takes her to the Casino Cosmic, where literally anything can be risked, from ones clothing to their ability to see the color red. Those stakes are silly enough to almost not really matter; the real point is that Norrin and Dawn have moved past the “cute destination dates” phase of their relationship into real emotional vulnerability — at one point, Norrin literally risks losing Dawn, but his fearlessness is precisely what keeps them together.

In the end, Norrin and Dawn’s adventures are still about cute destinations, and with Norrin nearby, Dawn is never truly at risk, but the growth here is about knowing that they can take risks together. That growth may be essential as future issues promise to test them more — a foreboding onlooker suggests that their current path will lead “only to heartbreak,” which I suppose is what any of us risk when entering a relationship. Indeed, for all of the off-the-wall concepts and puppy-bunny-kittens, this issue might just feature one of the most potent analyses of the emotional risks involved in dating I’ve ever seen in a superhero comic. The puppy-bunny-kittens are just a bonus.

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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 10/26/16

  1. Civil War II: There is a reason that Civil War II began with loss. Because the point is that they can’t have an objective conversation. Rhodey is dead. Tony’s best friend is dead. Carol’s boyfriend is dead. They are grieving, and trying to get whatever control they want. Hell, Tony’s already admitted that he’s probably having a nervous breakdown. But Carol’s just as bad. They were never going to approach this with objectivity. In fact, I refuse to call Civil War II a story about Ulysses’ powers. Civil War II is about how grief can pull us apart. Ultimately, that’s why Tony and Carol are fighting.

    And the thing is, Carol’s right about responsibility. She does have a responsibility, from seeing the vision. Uncle Ben died because Peter Parker had knowledge, and didn’t act on it. He let the thief go. That is the key to ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’. If you have the power to effect the outcome, it is your responsibility to do so. This is finally the Carol stuff that I’ve been wanting.

    Because there was another moment that is very important to Carol that you missed. Carol looking at New York, a city still standing because of the choices she has made. THe reminder that her ways have actually been a net positive. Saved the world from the big cosmic threat at the start. Saved the world from Thanos. That’s important. After Carol has been positioned as the bad guy, we get a sudden inversion is sympathies. We have spent so much time in Tony’s head, seeing everything from his perspective and have complained about how unreasonable Carol is. But it all changes with this issue.

    I predicted a swap of sympathies in this issue, and that is what happened. THe most interesting thing is actually what happens with Tony this issue. Or more accurately, what doesn’t happen with Tony. In this issue, Tony is treated like Carol has been. In this issue, Tony’s scenes are procedural and plot focused. We don’t get an insight into his grief, or his motivations. Just his actions. Tony is doing dangerous, irresponsible stuff, forcing the vision in a desperate attempt to prove Carol wrong. Yet we aren’t given a sympathetic ear. Instead, this issue focuses entirely on Carol.

    When Carol is more alone than ever, Bendis suddenly shifts the entire narrative’s perspective and changes the main character from Tony to Carol. Who was once the antagonist is now the protagonist. Tony is now the ‘villain’. It is a surprisingly complex and nuanced choice. I kept complaining again and again that Carol was getting shortchanged, but Bendis has actually built the structure around that, and created a much more interesting story because of it.

    I was really disappointed with the first issue of Civil War II, but it is clear that Thanos wasn’t about Ulysses. It was about trauma. The inciting incident was never about Ulysses, ti was about hurting Tony and Carol so that in their grief, they would lash out horrifically and turn against each other. And after spending so much time seeing it from the perspective of Tony, we finally get to see it from Carol. And it completely changes our understanding.

    Civil War II is honestly a lot clever than anyone would have expected.

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    Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer Supremes: The art is fantastic, finding all sorts of imaginative ways to demonstrate the trippiness that should be part of Doctor Strange.

    Which is why it is a shame that the story is so bad. The whole ‘Hero is recruited, and joins a team in the middle of fighting random bad guys, which leads to a lot of punching until a major threat appears’ is a cliche. In fact, it is so cliche, it feels like you could literally download a template, where all you have to do is fill in the names.

    Just really disappointing. Outside of 3 pages of imaginative art, I can’t find a single reason to read another issue. Shame. I was really looking forward to this

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