Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 11/30/16

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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 Ms. Marvel 13, Old Man Logan 14 and Uncanny Inhumans 16. And come back on Friday for our discussion of Ghost Rider 1, on Monday for our discussion of Black Widow 8, and on Wednesday for our discussion of IvX 0As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Ms. Marvel 13

ms-marvel-13Drew: Boy, timing sure is everything on inspiring messages, huh? Advice is mostly helpful before you need it — receive that same message when it’s too late and it’s hard not to hear it as “I told you so.” Still, good advice is good advice whenever we hear it, even if the timing makes us less receptive to it. Such is the case with Ms. Marvel 13, an inspiring message about how the massive bloc of non-voters truly could reshape our democracy if only they could be motivated to — a message that takes on a bitter tinge in the wake of our recent election, where a depressing 41.9% of voters (more than enough to tip the scales in any candidate’s favor) didn’t vote.

As I said, good advice is good advice, but I can’t help but wonder if this issue was meant to come out a month ago, when decidedly practical advice about mail-in ballots or visiting vote.usa.gov to register to vote would have had much more immediate value. As it is, this issue feels a bit like the Hillary signs I still see on my neighbors’ lawns — I appreciate the memory of that optimism, but being of reminded of the failure of that optimism also hurts. Fortunately, writer G. Willow Wilson provides a happier ending for the citizens of Jersey City, unexpectedly turning this issue into a bit of welcome escapism.

Indeed, while there are clear parallels to the recent presidential election, Wilson avoids creating an overt caricature of Trump (or his supporters). Sure, the villainous candidate Kamala hopes to defeat is an agent of Hydra, the organization famously led by an aged white supremacist who probably can’t grow his own hair, but we never see his outrageous platform positions or twitter rants. Which, to my eye, allows this issue to age a bit better than it would have, otherwise. This issue isn’t about Kamala fighting a candidate or even an ideology, but apathy itself. It turns out that message is still as timely as ever, so I’ll take it to heart, even if the advice on registering won’t matter for a while.

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Old Man Logan 14

old-man-logan-14Spencer: When it comes to his Marvel Universe incarnation, I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood why Dracula’s such a big deal — in a world of powers and supervillains, he’s not all that special. While Dracula only appears in one panel of Old Man Logan 14, writer Jeff Lemire is still able to sell me a bit more on why he’s so feared. It’s not necessarily his power alone that’s so intimidating; it’s his massive army, and his ability to create as many vampire soldiers as he can sink his teeth into, that’s the real threat. This issue’s cliffhanger finds Logan being bitten by Dracula himself; knowing just what Logan’s capable of, and after watching him intimidate a Sentinel and the Howling Commandos alike throughout this issue, I’m finding the prospect of Old Vampire Logan far more frightening than Dracula himself.

Still, it’s not the threat of Dracula, but the prospect of losing Jubilee and Vampire-By-Night to his thrall that provides this issue with its stakes (pun fully intended). An interesting note about Old Man Logan 14 is that it features no flashbacks, which I think is a first for this series? In a way it makes sense — last month’s installment pretty much brought Logan’s story full circle — but it does seem like a bit of a wasted opportunity to dive more into why Jubilee means so much to Logan.

This issue also finds artist Filipe Andrade and colorist Jordie Bellaire filling in for series regulars Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo. Andrade’s sketchier, more jagged style is a departure from Sorrentino’s for sure, but still fits the tone of Logan’s adventures. Andrade passes the vital test of making Shogo irresistibly adorable (and kudos to Lemire for sticking with his signature “Buh”), but his action isn’t always easy to follow. There’s a couple of layouts that backtrack back and forth across the page without much rhyme or reason, and sometimes what’s actually happening just isn’t clear.

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I’m guessing Manphibian leapt onto that wall between panels two and three, then reached down and tossed the male vampire off the catwalk? It’s not very clear, especially since the previous panels show the male vampire standing on the far side of the female, meaning that Manphibian would’ve had to have tossed him, then leapt to the wall — otherwise he couldn’t have reached him. Despite being such a departure from Old Man Logan‘s norm, this issue is still surprisingly enjoyable, but it’s details like this that keep it from hitting quite as hard as it should.

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Uncanny Inhumans 15

uncanny-inhumans-16Patrick: One of the great and/or alienating things about the X-Men is the stunning amount of baggage those characters bring along with them. And that’s not just the characters’ baggage, but the readers’ baggage with the characters. I don’t think we get to move past Jean Grey or Cyclops killing Xavier, or any number of traumatic things in the X-Past. The Inhumans need to have their versions of those trials to make readers forge those same kinds of attachment to their heroes. In Uncanny Inhumans 15, Charles Soule and R.B. Silva attempt just that, while also acknowledging that we may not know enough about the characters to be carrying so much baggage. Yet.

Auran is dead. OR IS SHE? Last issue, Reader and Auran’s daughters, Irelle and Triste, brought a version of Auran into existence based on interviews with other Inhumans about her. It’s one of those ideas that everyone knows is going to be bad, but they do it anyway, because come on: who wouldn’t want to see mom again? Soule and Silva introduce the idea that something is wrong in this incredible cold-open splash before the title page:

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“That’s not how my powers work” is a pretty clear indication that something is fundamentally not right. Rather than starting with the more complex ideas that her personality is off, or that parts of her life experience are just missing all together, Soule leans on a mistake that a fan of superheroes might make: misunderstanding her powers. She’s not Ice Man, she’s not Wolverine, we don’t have 50 years of comics history shoving her abilities down our throats.

It’s a such a good science fiction question: how could anyone not-you ever hope to replicate all of you? Soule seems insistent on the answer: “they can’t.” That might be kind of off putting, but I kinda like the meta-assertion that an artist always needs to put something of themselves into a character to complete them. Otherwise, she’s just running around like a lunatic with ill-defined sound powers. In a world with Black Bolt’s voice, you gotta be clearer about what those powers are – right now, faux-Auran (Fauxran?) is armed with one of the strongest powers in the Marvel Universe.

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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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8 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 11/30/16

  1. I have three things to say about Ms Marvel. I’ll start with the good stuff, because I am going to fucking savage it by the third point.

    Firstly, I love the idea of Ms Marvel doing a Get Out and Vote campaign. That is what makes Ms Marvel special. She is probably the best example of a Superhero of the People because the idea of her dressing up in a costume to do basic social activism is just so perfect, in a way it isn’t for other characters. Of course this is Ms Marvel’s response to Chuck Worthy’s campaign. This is the sort of thing that Ms Marvel does. And I love that Wilson sees the election as fertile ground for such a perfect example of what makes Ms Marvel unique.

    Secondly, Marvel should be ashamed that this came out after the election. Forget about this issue being inspiring, this issue is a PSA. It has two pages dedicated to Ms Marvel responding to every argument of why you shouldn’t vote. Hell, half of her lines don’t make sense if you assume she’s talk about her local election, instead of explaining voting to the readers. Why else would she make a point about discussing how different states have different rules about Mail In Voting.
    If you want to make a comic about inspiring and informing people about voting, make sure it comes out before the actual election!

    Thirdly, fuck this comic.
    I’ve made a point several times about how important I think it is that art is truthful. What truthful means differs between the story. What truth is depends on a lot of things. And in many ways this comic was truthful (I just praised how true it was for Ms Marvel to do a Get Out and Vote campaign). But when it comes to the politics, it is full of lies. Something that is especially grievous considering we had an election defined by lies and fake news.

    Drew rightly states that Chuck Worthy isn’t a caricature of Trump (in fact, he seems to be more of a mockery of Milo Yiannopoulos). But he very clearly represents Trump. The three candidates are each very representative of particular figures in the election. Trump is obvious, but we also have the one no one likes and the pie in the sky choice. Basically, we have Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And it is here that the comic gets atrocious.
    Dislike of Hillary Clinton is a complex phenomena. Did you know that Hillary Clinton is often quite popular when in power? It is only when she is running for election that she is unpopular? When she was Secretary of State, she was treated as this big, awesome badass. By the end of her term, she was the most popular politician in Washington. But, historically, the moment she runs for higher office, her popularity plummets. Many articles have been written about this, but these two are great starters: http://qz.com/624346/america-loves-women-like-hillary-clinton-as-long-as-theyre-not-asking-for-a-promotion/ and http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/11/1537582/-The-most-thorough-profound-and-moving-defense-of-Hillary-Clinton-I-have-ever-seen
    These are a great example of how sexism influences our perception of Hillary Clinton. And there is so much more. Like how the Right and the Left will happily trade conspiracy theories about her, despite the fact they have the exact opposite view of her. One thinks she is an evil communist, the other thinks she is a secret Republican, yet they delight in trading the same conspiracy theories.
    Hillary Clinton is flawed, like every politician, but to treat her dislike like any other politician is fundamentally dishonest (and I just want to make clear, ignorance is no defence against dishonesty). But this comic goes one worse. Not only does it set up a clear Clinton surrogate, talk about how unlikable s/he is and refuse to contextualize that dislike, it also erases many of the things that make her special. Let’s ignore the fact that this comic doesn’t go into anyone’s policy, and therefore the fact that Clinton ran the most progressive platform ever, was to Obama’s left and had policies that would have been seen as revolutionary were it not for the fact that Bernie Sanders was running bigger, impractical versions of the same policies. Clinton was revolutionary simply because she was a woman running for president as a major party candidate.
    So Ms Marvel shows Clinton as unlikable, erases the sexism that makes her so unlikable AND erases the very thing that makes her exciting. This may not sound the a big deal, but I want you to imagine this book releasing before the election, like it was obviously supposed to. If you were undecided, what effect do you think this issue would have on your opinion on Clinton? What effect would an issue that represents Clinton as both unpopular and nothing special have on your opinion? It won’t have a huge effect, but it would have a small effect. And if it causes just one person to change their vote (even subconsciously), then the fact that it is dishonest is criminal. Just as it would be if this comic represented Trump in a dishonest way.

    And then there is Bernie Sanders. Where Clinton’s strengths are erased, Sanders’ weaknesses are hidden. Throughout the primary, it was clear to many that the Sanders campaign had major issues with sexism, racism etc. And the actual fallout of of Trump winning has made things even clearer. Sanders will mention racism, but the equal treatment of human beings is always treated as something secondary to ‘the important things’. Meanwhile, he is frequently dismissive of the idea that the Democrat party have helped disenfranchised minority populations instead of the White Working Class. And then, of course, was his scathing remarks aimed at the woman who dared to ask him for advice in her dream to become the second ever Latina Senator. But none of this is new. This has been part of Sanders campaign from basically day one, and the fact that Sanders was so roundly rejected by minority populations in the primaries was quite clearly connected to the fact that he didn’t care.
    Yet Bernie Sanders’ character is depicted as a disabled woman who appears nonwhite. Hell, the closest thing we have to a signifier that Bernie Sanders is a revolutionary candidate in this comic is her status as ‘not a white man’. Sanders has not only had his sins erased, but been given the opposites as signs of greatness. Once again, dishonest.

    And then there is the whole ‘don’t sit on your arse, go out and vote third party!’ moral. Duverger’s Law is a political science concept that discusses how in political systems like America, two party systems naturally emerge. If you lived in a nation with a political system like MMP, you could vote for third parties. But in America, you can’t. The very electoral system is rigged towards two parties. And a third party vote, by virtue of not belonging to the Democrats or the Republicans, is a wasted vote. Because any candidate popular enough to have a chance in America’s system would be a major party candidate. Donald Trump is living proof of this. He is not a True Republican. He breaks so many of the Republican party’s cherished stances, and yet he won the Republican Primary because if you are popular enough to seriously compete in the US Election, you are popular enough to win a primary. Meanwhile, Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson was given less than 0.1% of a chance by FiveThirtyEight.

    And that’s the thing. Voting is a responsibility. When you use your vote, you have to be responsible. You have to vote not for the person you want to win, but instead vote for the option mostly likely to lead to the best possible future. And the difference between these two ideas is meaningful. It is about balancing policy with elect ability. Finding the compromise of ‘will fulfil your vision’ and ‘will win’. Voting for someone who can’t win is irresponsible, as you are giving up your ability to influence the actual result. Elections matter, and it is your responsibility to influence the actual vote so that the best possible option occurs. Presidents matter. Elected officials matter. Who is in power will influence the world, even if it isn’t immediately noticeable. So instead of wasting your vote on someone who can’t win, make sure you vote

    Now, this is a very pragmatic idea. It is much more romantic to vote for the person who fits you perfectly, than to have to make the pragmatic choice towards the best future. Superhero stories are escapist entertainment. Superhero stories are power fantasies. I understand the argument that because of this is a superhero story, it should instead go for the romantic fantasy than the cruel reality.

    But here’s my problem with that argument. Surely there is space, in superhero literature, for the idea that ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’?

    • Just a small addendum to my argument. If you want to read a book all about the fantasy of having the candidate that perfectly represents you getting into power, read DC’s Prez. Not only does it deftly avoid the irresponsible pitfalls that Ms Marvel falls into, it is one of the best books in recent memory.

    • You’re definitely not wrong, but I think it might be too much to ask what amounts to a PSA to take a political stand condemning the irresponsibility of candidates like Sanders (or Stein, who I actually read as the parallel to the third party candidate that won). This issue bends over backwards to avoid controversial issues, focusing almost entirely on a GOTV message. And I think that’s right. Third party voters/Bernie-or-bust types definitely need to face reality, but I don’t think Ms. Marvel would ever really be the place to have that conversation. Maybe that’s me not asking enough of my comics, but I get that Marvel wouldn’t want to alienate readers by overtly condemning one way of voting over another — Kamala doesn’t even say “don’t vote for Worthy,” she just encourages people to vote. “You should vote” is a completely inoffensive message in a way that “you should or shouldn’t vote in this way” isn’t. I can understand wishing Marvel was willing to take a stand on something like this, but I think that expectation is probably unrealistic.

      • This issue didn’t need to discuss the irresponsibility of third party candidates to be responsible. It simply could have… not included them. We could have just had it come down to Worthy and the Mayor. Get rid of the Clinton subtext, make it a race between those two and have the mayor win. Hell, you could probably keep the Clinton subtext in if you wanted, and it wouldn’t hurt the story that much. If you want to keep Marchesi, combine the Mayor with either Worthy or Marchesi.

        A choice was made to include third parties into the story. And the fact that the concept of a third party candidate was introduced means that there is a duty to approach that topic responsibly. If Ms Marvel isn’t the place to have the conversation about third party voters (the fact that the first arc of Ms Marvel was about Kamala stopping millennials from a self destructive path out of the warped idea that it would help means I disagree), leave it to Sam Wilson or another book, and avoid discussing third parties. But since the choice was made to include third parties, it is fair to criticise them for being irresponsible in the portrayal.

        And the reason I read Marchesi as a surrogate for Sanders, not Stein, is that I don’t think anyone took Stein seriously except as a ‘if I can’t vote Sanders…’. Marchesi was supposed to be the sort of politician who excited Mike, and Stein simply doesn’t fit that description. Sanders is.

        • Well, the fact is that nearly twice as many people didn’t vote in this election as those that voted for any one candidate. If the 42% of non-voters had rallied behind any person (Clinton, Trump, Sanders, Stein, Biden, whoever), that person would have won in a landslide. I think that is an empowering message after an election where both candidates were so unpopular (irrespective of the validity of their unpopularity) — non-voters really could shift American politics in any direction, if they could only be motivated to do so. That’s an easier message to wrap up an optimistic PSA with than, say, acknowledging that no candidate is perfect and that we all need to compromise a bit because that’s how democracy works. I appreciate that the latter is a more practical message, but I also appreciate that Wilson might have wanted something more upbeat to end the issue with.

        • The problem with the idea that all those non voters would have rallied behind any single person is that there is utterly no evidence that there is a magic candidate that can get all of those voters. It is easy to say that there is a magical policy like Single Payer healthcare that will motivate all these people, but that ignores the fact that Single Payer healthcare was on the ballot in Colorado, a state that voted Bernie in the Primaries and Clinton in the Election, and it was destroyed. Only got 20% of the vote.

          And it is also built on the idea that the voters are monolith. Looking at some data, this is not the case. Looking at a survey from 2006, nonvoters tend to lean towards liberal directions. But they very clearly aren’t monolith. Nonvoters were in part made up of ‘Trump doesn’t represent my conservative values’ and ‘Clinton doesn’t represent my liberal values’. Not the easiest combination of voter to unite under one candidate. Nonvoters could change US politics, but if you want to tell a story about that, you need to do a lot more than what this issue actually did.

          And I do think it is easy to have this issue have an upbeat ending without dishonest representations about third parties. I gave a suggestion, which was get rid of the Clinton subtext and only have two parties, and merge some characters. What if the story was about Marchesi v Worthy, and the incumbent mayor was nowhere to be found? No irresponsible treatment of third parties, but also an upbeat ending where the awesome candidate wins.

          It would be a story about how getting out to vote can cause positive change, and it would do so honestly. All by removing the third party stuff and reducing the story to just Marchesi and Worthy

        • I’m willing to accept some degree of hyperbole/magical thinking in an appeal to non-voters. It’s highly unlikely that any one person’s vote will decide an election, but I’m comfortable with a GOTV message stating that every vote matters. Same thing goes for longshot candidate — of course not all non-voters would rally behind one candidate, but the point is that they could have a huge impact if they decided en masse to vote. This is like a first-grade lesson on why people should vote — as with first-grade lessons on history or science, it’s simplified to the point of being a little misleading, but it gets enough right to prepare us for more nuance in second grade.

        • I’m fine with hyperbole. But I think that by going into third party voters, you go beyond hyperbole. There are many longshot candidates that exist without the need to break Dreuver’s Law. Hell, Trump is one of them. Every model suggested he would lose, and FIveThirtyEight, who gave him the best odds, only gave him 30%.

          So you could easily do a longshot without irresponsibly invoking third parties. What if Worthy was instead the mayor’s new adviser, using his position to set policy? Marchesi is the only opposition, but doesn’t have enough support.

          You are right that Ms Marvel taught a good lesson. But there has to be a way to teach that lesson without teaching a bad lesson at the same time? I said in the original comment, that if this was released before the election, and its false representation of Clinton provided the tipping point to one undecided person’s vote, then that would be terrible. The same idea applies. If this issue came out before the election, and provided the small push towards voting third party thanks to its irresponsible misrepresentations, then that would be terrible.

          There has to be a way to teach first grade voting lessons without also teaching the exact opposite lessons to the ones on the second grade syllabus. We can tell a story about how if everyone gets out and vote, a longshot candidate can win without the irresponsibly using tropes around third parties. Especially during an election where the stakes were as high as this one

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