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 All-New Wolverine 14, Amazing Spider-Man 21, Black Panther 8, Captain America Sam Wilson 15, Deadpool 22, Doctor Strange 14, Jessica Jones 2, Old Man Logan 13, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 12, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 14 and Uncanny Inhumans 15. And come back on Tuesday for our discussion of Silk 14, and on Wednesday for our discussion of Thanos 1! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 14
Drew: There’s a lot that makes Laura Kinney like Logan — there’s the DNA and the claws, obviously, but there’s also the histories of violence both are hoping to escape. Of course, as a young woman, Laura’s journey evokes different real-world parallels. Specifically, those of a twentysomething hoping to start life as an adult; new job, new city, new social circle. Those are elements that might be common to readers, but so are the complications. It’s rare that anybody actually starts their new life from scratch — usually some elements, for better or for worse, survive these transitions. That mix of positive and negative past elements (I’d call it “baggage” if it didn’t feel like it only had a negative connotation) is at the heart of Tom Taylor and Nik Virella’s All-New Wolverine 14.
The negatives are obvious — Laura’s programming can still be recalled with her trigger scent, sending her into homicidal rages that can wipe small towns off of the map. That her programming is still being massaged in this way represents a toxic personality from Laura’s past: Kimura. Anyone who has been lured into destructive behavior with the return of an old friend (or enemy) might recogize this pattern of behavior, albeit on a much smaller scale. Laura has tried simply avoiding Kimura, but that’s clearly no longer an option, so she opts to follow her to Madripoor, though not before escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, a moment Virella plays for full Wolverine badassery.
Which brings me to the positive holdovers from Laura’s life — her friends. Gabby flat-out rejects Laura’s attempts to leave her behind, and Laura’s need to get to Madripoor under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar forces her to call upon Captain Ash, another friend from Laura’s past. Of course, the return of Bellona smashes the positives and negatives together, promising an emotional climax when Laura et al. arrive in Madripoor.
Amazing Spider-Man 21
Spencer: As The Clone Conspiracy soldiers on in its own title, it’s clear that The Amazing Spider-Man has been relegated to filling in the blanks of that story. Thankfully, the blanks Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Giuseppe Camuncoli choose to fill in Amazing Spider-Man 21 are at least a bit meatier than last month’s. Kaine’s tale explains his own resurrection, Spider-Gwen’s involvement in the story, and gives more background on the
zombies Carrion; trying to cram that much exposition into Clone Conspiracy would have bogged the story down, so it’s nice that Slott, Gage, and Camuncoli have a place to lay it all out. If that leaves AMS feeling more like a footnote or an editor’s note for the next few months, well, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it is right now.
Probably the most important information to be found in this issue is about Kaine’s current status and mission: with “The Other” no longer fused to him, he’s decaying and can find no cure, and is determined to go out saving the world from New U. Yet, out of everything we learn this month, this seems like it would benefit the most from being told in Clone Conspiracy itself; I can see the dramatic reveal of Kaine’s disease right now, and it doesn’t need the background this issue provides to pack a punch.
So I guess my biggest problem with Amazing Spider-Man right now is that the creative team aren’t elevating the stories they’re telling above the level of exposition. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using this title to expand upon Clone Conspiracy, but there is a problem with not making those stories as exciting and compelling as possible. Reading this title right now feels like I’m studying for the big test known as Clone Conspiracy instead of enjoying a well-told story.
Black Panther 8
Ryan D: Ta-Nehisi Coates does so many things well as a new-born writer of comics. He has an excellent grasp, above all things, of seeing the big picture about what makes Wakanda the fictional-but-dynamic nation it is. His deep understanding of socio-political movements and power dynamics and how cultures and popular opinions ebb and flow allow Black Panther to be a very deep read. Why, though, would he leave all of that behind to do an issue which is essentially two separate groups of people walking from one point to another?Yes, I am being reductive with that statement, and the stakes for the journeys are incredibly high for the characters involved, but they are so overladen with expository information delivery that there is not much room for this issue to do much. Take this page, for example:
This page shows T’Challa and Eden making a very risky journey into the spiritual plane to rescue the Panther’s lost sister, Shuri. I have no issue with the aesthetics of this issue- the characters are illustrated beautifully by the art crew of Sprouse, Story, and Martin- but I feel as if Coates is not utilizing comics as the visual, and not only literary, medium it is. This is an entire page — preceded by a flashback page and followed by Shuri and her spiritual griot having a nice chat- of directly stated inner thoughts from the Panther to Eden. I find this kind of writing to be extremely flat; I want to be shown how difficult decisions were to be made, not told. We judge a person or character not by what they say, after all, but by what they do, and how they act when presented with a crossroads of two different courses of actions. I feel that Coates here leans too heavily on only one aspect of the storytelling in this issue, and because of that we see T’Challa saying things instead of feeling things.
The side arc of the spiritual training montage comes to an end, and I am somewhat glad to see it happen. Do not get me wrong: I love and cherish the boldness with which Coates shows characters reclaiming their birthright and cultural heritage as Shuri did with the tales rediscovered on this quest, as they are essential components for the modern Wakanda and characters within. My problem occurs when that becomes a handy plot device instead of important fabric which is stitching together the entire world.
It will be interesting to see T’Challa’s reaction and differences in his attitude or behavior now that his sister is back in the land of the living. I feel a bit torn. Though I feel the need to deeper connect and empathize with the Black Panther, the opening scene of this issue featuring the dialogue between him and The Crew did not land with me, and I missed the presence of Wakanda as a character. So I do not know whether I need more micro or macro from Coates, but I hope he finds the balance soon. This title could be, with some adjustments to the craft of visual storytelling, as enjoyable to read as it is conceptually interesting.
Captain America Sam Wilson 15
Patrick: The Captains America have been a source of controversy over the last year or so. That is fitting, I suppose, as the last 18 months of presidential election have made all the ugliness in American politics and culture a regular topic of conversation. It is, of course, incredibly important that we have those conversations – racism, sexism, corruption, greed, incompetence, fear, those things don’t go away when we’re not talking about them. Writer Nick Spencer steers in to controversy with both flavors of Captain America under his pen so frequently, he’s become a rare beacon of calm, angry truth on social media. And again: that’s all awesome. I envy Spencer’s courage and stamina to fight with such voracity. Captain America Sam Wilson 15 takes a break from aggressive political messaging to remind us that maybe it’s important to have fun too – especially if you’re a medium designed with maximum fun in mind.
Sam and company head to D-Man’s first wrestling match in years. It’s a charity event that brings back all the superstars of old to raise money for homeless children. That’s one of those causes that’s so innocuous, you’d have to be a fucking monster to take a political stance against it. Spencer is making a choice to be intentionally apolitical here – the charity is unquestionably a good thing. The apparent drama of the issue emerges when D-Man meets his opponent, a wrestler by the name of Battlestar that he was shitty to back in his wrestling heyday. But whatever fears D-Man has melt away when everyone in the stadium instantly recognizes an easy villain in the event coordinators absconding with garbage bags full of donation dollars. That’s when both the wrestling match and the comic go right for pure escapist spectacle.
Artist Angel Unzueta spends most of the issue cautiously drawing perfectly squared characters locked in conversation, and this turn to action is positively liberating. It’s a true reminder of the fun inherent in these things, and makes a solid argument for chasing this fun, even when the world seems to be a giant pile of shit. Thanks, fellahs, I needed that.
Michael: There was an innate sense of joy that I felt while reading Deadpool dressed up like Spider-Man as he robbed a bunch of mobsters. Deadpool is mostly id – the anarchist part of ourselves that decides to forgo the rules and see what happens when you become the bad guy in a video game.
Gerry Duggan always allows Deadpool to have just enough insane, slightly amoral fun before he brings him back to center. In Deadpool 22 that center is the constant that is Wade’s family: Ellie and the Prestons. Amidst his search for Madcap and finding a way to pay the rent, Wade finds comfort and humanity in his strange little family. It should be no surprise then when that family is the thing that Madcap comes to attack – or rather has Wade attack himself. By issue’s end it becomes clear to Wade that he has inadvertently infected his family somehow, as they convulse in horror in their matching Christmas sweaters.
Artist Matteo Lolli sells Duggan’s trademark Deadpool humor throughout the issue, especially in that Spider-Man robbery. Wade robs the racetrack, ruins the race and mistakenly smacks a horse across the face with a big sack of money. There’s a couple of fun jabs at Marvel: Deadpool as Spider-Man claims “look out I’m Doc Ock again!” while Johnny Storm laments about how he used to be a part of Marvel’s first family and now he’s a glorified bag man.
Doctor Strange 14
Taylor: Like a lot of people I recently saw the Doctor Strange movie and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. There’s probably a bevy of reasons for this, but what I like most about the film is how it’s not afraid to be weird and just go for it. This pioneering spirit derives from the comics which also delight in being weird and different and it’s a pleasure to see that Doctor Strange 14 is no different.
Having barely escaped one of Nightmare’s nightmares (he really has to to get a new nickname), Stephen finds himself in another trap. This time Satana, daughter of the devil, wants to trap Steven in her own special version of hell so she can parade him around as a tourist trap. Her plan is to kill Steven by having him eat some weird bacon, and the plan would work is Stephen didn’t foil Satana’s it in a similarly weird way.
Sensing that he will die soon, Stephen shrinks his astral projection and journeys into how own bowels to do battle with the nefarious piece of bacon that plans to kill him. In case you were wondering what that looks, let me provide a visual.
Chris Bachalo’s art is perfect for this bizarre sequence. The offending piece of bacon looks like a sandworm from Beetlejuice only with more eyes and tentacles thrown in for good measure. It’s unclear where this monster begins and where it ends and that makes for some busy and frankly, confusing, panels. Normally that would be a bad thing, but when the sequence being animated involves the hero slaying a piece of bacon in his own stomach, it’s perfect. This artwork feels perfectly at home with such a strange storyline and it makes this issue a delightful and unusual read.
Jessica Jones 2
Spencer: When I discussed Jessica Jones 1, I mentioned how I found the mystery surrounding Jessica’s life more compelling than her actual case, but after reading issue 2, I think I’m going to flip-flop on that idea; Jessica’s case takes an interesting twist this month, while her personal life dives head-first into tropes I had hoped it would avoid.
The mystery surrounding Jessica Jones — why she’s hiding her and Luke Cage’s daughter, why she ended up in prison — is starting to feel less like a case the readers are meant to solve and more like Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos stretching out their story by withholding information for no logical reason. Okay, maybe “no logical reason” is harsh, as Jessica’s dumpster fire of a life can explain a lot, but without knowing why she was in prison or why she’s so determined to hide Danielle from even her own father, it’s hard to empathize with Jessica. If I knew the reasons why then maybe, just maybe, I could justify Jessica’s decision, but instead she just comes across as an unreasonable jerk, which makes it hard to care about how tough Jessica’s life is right now.
Hell, maybe Jessica has good reason to hide Danielle, but without knowing why ourselves, it just looks like Jessica won’t tell Luke for no other reason than sheer stubbornness. Jessica and Luke dance around each other’s questions and avoid telling the truth in a way that feels realistic in concept, but frustrating and unnatural on paper.
That extends to a lot of the dialogue, really. I don’t think Danielle is referred to by name even once in this issue, which is especially frustrating coming from Luke. “Where’s my daughter” makes sense, but his asking “where’s the baby” is just weird — it’s like Bendis is trying to turn the phrase into arc words by inserting it into places where it makes absolutely no sense. (Also, I’m pretty sure Danielle is supposed to be older than this by now, but I digress.)
Meanwhile, Jessica’s actual case becomes much more interesting when her client winds up dead, suggesting more twists than last month’s “his life has been retconned” premise originally suggested. I have no idea what’s going on with that story and can’t wait to see Jessica figure out the answers; if only Bendis could strike the same balance with her personal life.
Old Man Logan 13
Drew: It looks like I’m on Wolverines duty this week, but I’m glad of it, because Old Man Logan 13 resonates with many of the themes I mentioned in the All-New Wolverine 14 piece, above. Specifically, the notion of escaping your past. That’s a theme that’s been a key part of Wolverine’s mythos from his very inception, but it’s not until this issue that I really appreciated how cleverly the premise of this series allows him to interact with his past. That is, rather than running from it, he’s running towards it, albeit with the sincere hope that he can change it. He’s still scarred by where he’s been, but those memories lend hope to his second lease on life.
Logan’s battle with the silent order comes to a head as the Silent Monk goes full Kaneda, transforming into a grotesque colossus. Logan manages to convince the Silent Monk to peer into his memories, managing to truly win the battle with compassion, rather than violence (though violence definitely plays a role in getting there). That victory might be emotionally satisfying enough, but writer Jeff Lemire twists the knife by juxtaposing it with Logan’s memory of starting his family with Maureen. Suddenly, he isn’t just saving a young boy, he’s saving the memory of his son.
That resolution comes across much more effectively than Logan’s umpteenth resolution to remain a pacifist. I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen him make and break that resolution now, but it’s certainly more than enough to render the gesture meaningless. Maybe this is the time he does it that lasts until the end of the original Old Man Logan, but even then, we know that he won’t really keep that promise (also, it seems likely that he’ll break it sooner to find more memories to mine for this series). I suppose that reveals the greatest weakness of this series, though with strengths like this, we might just have to forgive them.
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 12
Ryan M: Part of what makes Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat a favorite series of mine is the joy that permeates each issue. Most of that energy raditates from the title character, with Kath Leth and Brittney Williams having established Patsy’s energy, loyalty, and weakness for cat print. In the latest issue, the fun is sidelined for a more dramatic plot, but the established world and characters have it still feeling like the book I love.
Ian’s arc started in the first issue as he was a meta-human that Patsy helped reform even before he was her roommate. While Ian’s friendship with Patsy and his budding romance with Tom have developed, Leth hadn’t given us much in the way of backstory. This feels true to the way adults get to know each other. A new friend doesn’t need to supply a resume. First, you get to know and fall in friend-love with the person that they are now. Later, finding out what they were like in high school or hearing about the time that they lived in a weird artist colony simply color in what you already knew. Leth and Williams put us on the same path with Ian. When we see him in his relationship with Zoe, the character is recognizable yet clearly not the Ian we know. The flashback shows Zoe as both a bad roommate and girlfriend and Williams is sure to show us how deeply unhappy Ian is in every panel. Zoe is a monster, alternately demanding and dismissive. Leth gives us this in the first act of the issue, so that Ian’s hero reveal feels even more powerful.
It’s a great moment for Ian and seeing Patsy so proud of her friend gave me the kind of happy buzz I expect from this series. Yes, Black Cat seems to have built minions out of one of Patsy’s buds, but I have faith that the problem will be solved with some level of charming fun and adorable cat imagery.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 14
Taylor: Squirrel Girl isn’t like a lot of other comics. While it would be an oversimplification to say that most superheroes use violence to solve their problems, you can’t exactly say they don’t resort to it often. That’s precisely why Doreen and here crew are such a breath of fresh air in the comics world. Instead of using their fists they use their words and their brains. And then sometimes their fists, but you get get the idea.
Tasked with defeating the evil Enigmo, a villain who can divide himself into smaller, dumber clones of the original, Doreen and company seem at a loss. Even with a good Enigmo on their side, the ramification of one of his parts never returning to to his body, Doreen and Ant-Man can’t seem to overcome their foe. It is then they have the idea to make Enigmo join together into one huge version of himself, thereby causing his bones to break under the pressure of his combined weight.
If that seems like something out of a comic book, well it is, duh. But! it also happens to be grounded in science, as Ryan North is sure to inform us.
Unlike previous instances where North has shoehorned science stuff into his issues I feel like this time it works better than most. True, the flashback to the professor’s lecture isn’t the smoothest, but the transition out sure is. His assertion that knowledge of physics will save everyone on the planet is fun in isolation but the reveal that he says that everyday is just golden. This once again proves that Squirrel Girl is one of the smartest comics on the market today, and not only because of the science and philosophy it throws at us. Unlike other heroes, Squirrel Girl is able to solve problems in unique ways almost every month. That ingenuity is what makes the comic truly a gem.
Uncanny Inhumans 15
Patrick: I love Reader. He is easily my favorite new Inhuman – partially because he’s got this amazing aesthetic that’s like a modern-cowboy version of Zatoichi. Plus he’s got a dog! But his power is also one of the more unique and bonkers abilities out there: rather than shooting fire or reading minds or controlling some kind of element, Reader reads physical objects into existence. Since he can’t see, that means he needs to read off little Braille cards he caries around with him. Writer Charles Soule has invented a character just so nuanced and strange that it’s remakable he’s already able plump the depths of what this power actually means. This exploration doubles as a mediation on what it means to writes long-running characters, in one of Uncanny Inhuman‘s tightest issues to date.
Auran is dead. Since she passed, her daughters have been collecting interviews and stories about their mother. Her partner, Frank McGhee, aka Nur, kicks off the issue by relaying one such story. Soule is having his cake and eating it too, fulfilling the implicit contract of the fake “#1” on the cover of this issue by catching the audience up with some basic facts about how this era of Inhumanity came to be and the roles of our main characters in that dynasty. There’s a reason for the narrative within the context of Irelle and Treste collecting stories about their mother. The sisters will eventually bring these stories to Reader and ask him to create Auran. Arguably, Auran is only “real” when one of us is reading about her, so there’s a clear connection between us and Reader. When we read Frank’s retelling of their first meeting, the character may as well be alive – we’re experiencing her as much as we would if she had never died.
Soule and artist RB Silva also do a kickass job of making Reader someone we want to identify with in this issue. He’s a classic scoundrel – picking up chicks at the bar, stopping fights before they start, having an adorable dog. Silva draws him with a swagger and a smirk to beat the band, even as he’s marching up to a trio of Shi’ar dudes that are clearly bigger than him.
I really want Reader to be a breakout character. I’m always curious as to when that’s going to happen for an Inhuman (other than Kamala, of course).
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?