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 Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, Captain America Steve Rogers 7, Clone Conspiracy 2, Daredevil 13, Gwenpool 8, and Power Man and Iron Fist 10. We discussed Invincible Iron Man 1 on Thursday, so check that out. Also, we’re discussing Black Panther World of Wakanda 1 on Tuesday and Avengers 1.1 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1
Spencer: Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and sadly, it’s not always a force for good. Nostalgia can blind us to the problems of the past, but when it comes to comic books, nostalgia’s greatest crime is that it often causes readers and creators to crave the same stories they enjoyed as children, stopping characters from evolving and changing with the times. The greatest feat of Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman’s The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, then, is that it evokes nostalgia for some of the most famous Spider-Man stories of the past while still managing to move Peter, MJ, and Annie into new territory.
The issue essentially picks up where last year’s Renew Your Vows mini-series left off, with Spider-Man having defeated Regent and his wife and daughter having joined him in his superheroic career. The premise of Renew Your Vows has always relied on a nostalgia for the Spider-Man stories of the 90s and early 2000s, before the events of One More Day erased Peter’s marriage from Marvel’s main continuity, but this issue calls back to those times with more than just Peter’s family; Conway and Stegman also spend a few pages digging into Peter’s classic job as a Daily Bugle photographer, even throwing in what could be construed as a subtle jab to Dan Slott’s current work on the main Amazing Spider-Man title.
Yet, the existence of Buzzbee also shows that Conway and Stegman are interested in moving forward and advancing even classic pieces of the Spider-Man mythos. That goes double for the Parker family — while Peter and MJ spent years married, Renew Your Vows is the first time we’ve seem them raise a child together. Annie changes Spider-Man’s dynamic just by existing, and MJ and Annie aren’t content to let things stop there: as MJ points out, it’s not Peter’s role to keep her and Annie safe anymore. In Renew Your Vows, MJ and Annie are Peter’s partners — powers and all — and that’s new, exciting territory.
The family dynamic is probably the best part of this issue, even out of costume. Conway creates a lived-in, affectionate rapport between the Parkers that’s a joy to read, and Stegman’s layouts emphasize the chaotic, close-quarters natures of family living.
Stegman’s choice not to use borders on his panels means that this page’s many panels tend to run together, creating a crowded, chaotic pace that actually works for this scene, perfectly capturing the often frantic, close-quarters nature of family living. This title’s got a lot more going for it than just nostalgia, and I think it will be a hit with both long-time Spider-Man fans and newcomers alike.
Captain America Steve Rogers 7
Michael: Captain America: Steve Rogers 7 packs a whole lot of story into a comic book issue that is only slightly larger than your standard 22 pages. Steve’s internal monologue parallels and intersects the action on the page throughout the book, across timelines and character stories. I loved how effortless Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz made this familiar device look.
Another thing that makes this issue stand out from previous chapters is that we get to see both HYDRA and SHIELD’s plans of attack and how Steve works within and outside of those parameters. Maria Hill, Steve and Red Skull are each playing their own chess game that they don’t want each other to find out about. Instead of the state-side xenophobia I was expecting from the Red Skull however we see him making some aggressive moves for HYDRA in Sokovia instead. The standout page of the issue is when Skull confronts the dictator of Sokovia.
The Red Skull has laid out his plans for Sokovia to Kamil and expects nothing less than 100% compliance from the dictator Kamil. Jesus Saiz highlights Skull’s utter shock and amusement by Kamil’s question by pulling all extra detail out of the panel except for his booming laughter. He uses the same effect at the end of the page – showing how Kamil has no hope or choice but to accept this deal.
Quick last note: I’m appreciating Dr. Selvig’s role in this book more and more. The doctor asks Steve all of the questions we want answers for, in a way that isn’t heavy-handed over overly-expository.
Clone Conspiracy 2
Drew: Authenticity is fetishized in our culture. It might manifest differently for different people — some people might love classical music played on period instruments, while others might seek out restaurants that most closely approximate the way dishes were made in the old country — but pretty much everyone has some version of this authenticity fetish. The argument is that the old and/or original way is somehow superior to whatever modern bastardization we might be familiar with, but I’m honestly not sure there’s much logic to it. Sure, it’s possible the old version of something might be objectively better, but it’s also possible that the modern alterations actually improve it. But talk of objectivity is probably inappropriate — there are likely trade-offs where the old thing is better in some ways, and the new one better in others (people may prefer the sound of vinyl, for example, but I can’t fit a record player in my pocket). Point is, vilifying a thing for being new may be more of an emotional reaction than a logical one, a fact that Clone Conspiracy continues to take for granted.
It’s clear that Jackal’s plan is somehow terrible, and that Peter will somehow be proven right for his skepticism, but those conclusions all stem from the presumption that authenticity is best. Peter’s objections to Jackal’s clones still stems from the unnatural nature of cloning, but that feels like a limited and selective view of what medical science can and should do — I’m sure Peter would be happy to defy nature if it meant defeating cancer or shocking a patient’s heart back to life. But never mind that, Peter’s suspicion of the inauthentic will be proven right, because the clones somehow become honest-to-goodness zombies.
We learn in this issue that Kaine and Spider-Gwen have been skipping through dimensions, but all seem to share the fact that Jackal’s experiments somehow create zombieism. They hatched a plan to infiltrate Jackal’s lair by having Spider-Gwen impersonate Clone-Gwen, but that plan falls apart in this issue, forcing Gwen and Peter to flee. It all seems way more complicated than just telling Peter not to go into business with New U (an event that apparently needs to happen to cause the zombie apocalypse), but if this issue’s reversals were any indication, there’s probably a lot more going on than we realize.
Spencer: If I made the Retcon Punch schedule — and if our schedule wasn’t made before we actually get a chance to read any of the issues — I would’ve scheduled some kind of full-length crosstalk comparing Daredevil 13 and The Flash 10. Both issues are sidekick spotlights, and while Blindspot and Kid Flash couldn’t seem more difference on the surface, their situations in these two issues actually have a fair bit in common.
For starters, both heroes want to impress their mentors, which leads them into sticky situations. That said, they have remarkably different mentors.
Wally desperately wants to be a hero, and with a bright, sunny mentor like the Flash, who could blame him? Blindspot, though, gets Daredevil, whose life and world are garbage more often than not. It makes Sam question why he’s a superhero at all, and he even considers leaving Muse’s victims to their fate, but ultimately, he can’t let them die. Wally’s desire to be a hero needlessly puts him in danger, while Blindspot purposely puts himself in Muse’s path despite his doubts about being a superhero.
I’m sorry I’ve spent so much of this piece referencing another title, but I just think looking at how this issue’s specific take on a rather familiar sidekick story clarifies and defines Blindspot is fascinating. Writer Charles Soule shows how the details of Daredevil‘s world have shaped Sam into the person (and hero) he is, and that makes him a far more compelling character than he was before.
The same principal applies to the rest of this issue as well. Soule, artist Ron Garney, and colorist Matt Milla create a unique, intricately detailed sewer environment for Muse and Blindspot to play cat-and-mouse in, then use it to their advantage to ramp up the pacing to horror movie levels. Muse, meanwhile, is a fascinating villain for his twisted views of art alone, and that’s not even getting into his mysterious abilities (how does he know so much about Blindspot’s life?). This is a confident, thrilling issue, and this storyline as a whole has really found the Daredevil team hitting their stride. I can’t wait to dig into what happens next.
Patrick: Here’s the thing about comic book fans – you have to work pretty hard to surprise them. We’ve seen everything from clones to time travel to parallel universes to magic to characters who simply have the power to make and unmake the universe. Hell, we’re having a conversation in the comments section of Spider-Woman 13 right now about whether or not a character we saw die is actually dead. We take nothing for granted and are suspicious of everything we’re shown. Being a comic fan herself, that’s Gwenpool’s attitude toward her own adventure, but writer Christopher Hastings relishes the opportunity to show both Gwen and the reader that they have no idea what’s really going on.
First thing’s first: establish Gwen’s hyper-competence. With her new marching orders from their superpower-adverse client, Gwen has hatched a plan to kill the Teuthidans. Gwen’s identified all the angles, including the extra wrinkle that those squid-aliens are now working with the NYPD. She orchestrates a plan that utilizes each of her team member’s skills to create pockets of law-enforcement-distraction all over the city, while she and Mega Tony (acting as her healer, of course) “blow up all the Teuthidans.” It’s a smart plan, but it clearly relies on some fast and loose comic book logic – and comic book morality. Gwen explains that these crimes need to be on a small enough scale that the superheroes won’t be first in-line to respond, noting:
It’s hard to argue with her. That IS what the cops are in the Marvel Universe. But look how the artist team of Gurihiru stages that second panel – with all four of Gwen’s support characters flanking her like this. We’re subtly being asked whether we think of these characters as “the witch,” “the healer,” “the leaper” and “the ghost” or if we see them as individuals with value outside of Gwen. Of course, Hastings and Gurihiru help that line of questioning along by introducing us to the woman behind Terrible Eye’s mask – Sarah. It turns out that Sarah is great – fun, charming, even joyful. And, she and Cecil have forged this whole relationship while Gwen wasn’t even around. Sarah even makes a point to explain how much of the multiverse is not understood. It’s a warning that goes largely ignored by Gwen because, hey man, she’s been reading comics for years – nothing can surprise her.
EXCEPT FOR THE THING THAT DOES. The deflating twist at the end of this issue feels incredibly unsatisfying, but that is largely the point. Instead of Gwen’s great plans coming to fruition, they’re all quietly stomped out before they start without any drama. Our disappointment matches Gwen’s. Though, come on, girl, you couldn’t have guessed “Doom-Bot?” That would have been by first guess… after Mystique… or Morph… or Scarlet Witch illusion… or any telepathic character… or Wiccan… or… okay, I see what’s happening here.
Power Man and Iron Fist 10
Taylor: It’s hard to say what makes a cameo appearance by a well-known character successful. For example, Cameo appearances by celebrities on the The Simpsons long ago failed to have any impact. On the other hand, when Spider-Man made his appearance in the Civil War movie, people went crazy. I think the difference is that when cameos become oversaturated they become less special and unique. Spider-Man’s appearance is a big deal because it was his first (and to date, only) appearance in the modern Marvel movieverse. But when Seth McFarlane is the 12th guest this season on the Simpsons, who cares?
This issue of cameos is at the forefront of my mind after reading Power Man and Iron Fist 10. This single issue has something close to 30 named characters in it. Some of them are deep cuts from the Marvelverse while others are A-listers any layman would recognize. This is a dizzying amount of characters but at points this dizziness turns to euphoria. One of these moments occurs when Luke and Danny convene a meeting with other superheroes to discuss their plan to free wrongfully imprisoned inmates.
The roll call of those who show up to the meeting is a veritable who’s who of Marvelverse. Most don’t have a speaking role in this issue and I could see how some might find their appearance as nothing more than a token gesture to excite readers. While there might be some of that here, I can’t help but feel giddy when I look at this spread. This excitement is due in no small part to the artwork of Sanford Greene. His artwork runs a fine line between realism and symbolic drawing which results in a style that is immediately recognizable as his and his alone. That being said, it’s fun to see all of the A-List super heroes reinterpreted by his pen all in once place. From the Hulk’s boyish features to Spider-Man’s diminutive size, all of these heroes have something a little unique about their design that’s fun to notice for anyone who reads comics on a regular basis. This in turn takes what could be a gimmick and makes it into a successful cameo.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?