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 15, Clone Conspiracy 3, Deadpool 23 and Unworthy Thor 2. We discussed Moon Knight 9 on Thursday, so check that out. Also, we’re discussing Nova 1 on Wednesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 15
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Drew: This sentiment has been paraphrased and adapted to virtual meaninglessness, and while I’m not exactly sure what it means to refute that life is a destination, I know for sure that stories are all about journeys. Indeed, one of our most fundamental heuristics for understanding stories is Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey,” which isn’t called the “hero’s destination” for obvious reasons. But, of course, not all journeys are created equally. Even within the same narrative, while the larger journey from A to Z is satisfying, the smaller legs from B to C or whatever might be decidedly more perfunctory. When it comes to serialized storytelling, we tend to describe those perfunctory chapters as “putting the pieces in place,” more or less acknowledging that how those pieces get to where they’re going isn’t particularly satisfying on its own. Such is the case with All-New Wolverine 15, an issue that foregoes many of the thematic richness that has defined the series in order to set the stage for a grander reckoning with those themes.
And I do think a grander reckoning is coming. This series is all about Laura grappling with her past, and there’s no more acute manifestation of her past than Kimura. This showdown had to happen, and in many ways is the ultimate destination of this series. So I’m willing to forgive the largely superficial story that gets her there. Captain Ash double-crossing Laura doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning to this series, and the confrontation with Bellona is basically non-existent, but neither of those were really the point of the issue — Laura simply needed to be put in a no-win situation so she would surrender herself to Kimura.
While I can forgive this issue intellectually, appreciating what it’s setting up, that doesn’t quite make it interesting. Indeed, this issue is kind of a boring mess. There’s exactly no tension until Laura suddenly discovers that Ash is traficking children, at which point Ash also reveals her double-cross, at which point Kimura’s forces arrive to take Laura away. Laura saving the day is such a foregone conclusion that Taylor doesn’t even bother introducing the problem until about a third of the way through the issue. Like I said, it’s only there to force Laura’s hand. It works, but it’s far from the inspiring meditation on escaping one’s past I’ve come to expect from the series.
Clone Conspiracy 3
Spencer: Honestly, I’m surprised it took an Amazing Spider-Man event about raising the dead three full issues to get around to the temptation/possibility of resurrecting Uncle Ben. If that beat’s a bit predictable, I think that’s okay; it’d be worse if he somehow never came up at all. The big surprise instead comes from the face beneath the Jackal’s mask: not Miles Warren, but instead Peter’s clone/brother, former Scarlet Spider Ben Reilly! The one-two punch of Reilly and Uncle Ben finally shows why Peter would consider working with New U, and further emphasizes the power New U holds over most people. After all, who doesn’t have a dead loved one Jackal could use as leverage over them? Most people aren’t righteous or calculating enough to resist that temptation (as Kingpin is); the kind of very human weaknesses that would lead one to work with New U are especially built into the very DNA of Peter Parker as a character. Maybe Gwen should have told him why New U’s plan is such a bad idea, huh?
My favorite moment of Clone Conspiracy 3, though, comes from one Anna Maria Marconi.
Anna Maria continues to bring the practical spirit of Superior Spider-Man to Peter’s Post-Otto adventures. She’s the one who thinks outside the box by thinking within it: realizing that Kaine may carry the cure within him, that they should call the cops, that helping New U fix the Carrion problem even if it means getting kidnapped is a better solution than letting them just take Kaine. I continue to adore the way writer Dan Slott uses Anna Maria to poke holes in typical superhero comic tropes by showing where practical, common-sense responses would be more effective. The fact that Anna’s plan to call the cops backfires (because Jackal’s already infiltrated them) just further shows the reach and power of New U: with Clone Conspiracy 3, the event finally lives up to the latter part of its title.
Patrick: The solutions to any given problem in an issue of Deadpool are bonkers. Sure, it technically makes sense that Preston and Adsit could pop Deadpool into a cremation oven to burn out any potential virus inside of him, but it’s such a zany concept that it’s almost totally divorced from reality. Hell, Deadpool’s such a good punching bag (and/or punch line) that we don’t even give a second thought to the pain the characters experiences in this process. His outsized screams are played for laughs, for crying out loud.
The problem is that, despite his best efforts, Deadpool is not an island. Wade’s vulnerability, and therefore the real storytelling stakes, come in the form of his relationships. Even Agent Preston, who has been in a nearly indestructible robot body for several years, as a tenuous emotional connection to Wade. This issue is all about juxtaposing those feats of Deadpoolian invulnerability with the emotional recoil of living Deadpool’s intensely alienating life. The former might be more narratively impressive, but shit yo, it’s super fun to Preston and Deadpool straight kickin’ ass.
I don’t know whether to credit that immaculately crumpling car to Mateo Lolli or Paolo Villanelli, but man does it look cool. Plus, hey look! A cat in the second panel!
But Preston and Wade become much less easy to celebrate when they give their friend Agent Scott Adsit a belly-search or Madcap. It’d be an invasion of his privacy no matter what, but Preston and Wade set upon him at his home, at night, and needlessly destroy his things. There’s an anxiety that comes from having so much power, but no way to direct toward actually fixing the situation that you’re in. That’s what ends up tearing Preston and Deadpool apart by the end: all of their home-invasions, and body-burnings, and finger-breakings bring them no closer to finding out where Madcap is, or saving the kids.
I’ll have to admit a little bit of Deadpool to discuss the issue’s big reveal. At the end of the story, Deadpool uses a payphone to call the future, and then out pops Stryfe. I don’t really know Stryfe beyond the broad outline, but I gather that he’s a Cable-clone from the far flung future who once tried to give all the mutants a deadly virus. This raises a bunch of questions: will that mysterious vial heal the kids? Is that a solution Wade had the whole time but he didn’t use it because it’s humbling? Can Stryfe be trusted? Is Terrigen-induced-M-Pox just a repeat of this classic Stryfe storyline? Oops – that last one might be a question for a different series.
Unworthy Thor 2
Taylor: As hero and a comic, Thor is at odds with the rest of the Marvel universe. Most every other hero or series takes it cues from pseudo-science, arcane magic, or just plain old regular folks. Thor, on the other hand borrows most of it’s characters and motifs from Norse religion. This has always created a tension between Thor and his counterparts that stems from two very different origin points. In Unworthy Thor 2, these ideas clash quite literally and hint, once again, at what makes so Odinson unworthy of Mjolnir.
In this issue, Thor finds himself locked in battle with the Collector, who has somehow managed to get a hold of a version of Mjolnir from another universe. Unable to lift the hammer, he hopes that the Odinson can tell him the secret of wielding the universe’s most powerful hammer. However the Collector overlooks that the Odinson is not worthy of picking up Mjolnir, which is a fact that haunts him in his dreams.
In his dream, the Odinson is crushed by not one, but several Mjolnirs falling from the sky. In his agony, Gorr, butcher of gods, delivers the Odinson a message: “What if the godless age doesn’t need you?” With this one line, so much is made clear about the Odinson and perhaps why he no longer is worthy of carrying Mjolnir. In this modern age when religion is on the decline and people have no need of gods, could it be that the Odinson is doubting his use to the universe?
In a lot of ways this reason for the Odinson’s unworthiness makes sense. Like I said, Thor has always been at odds with the rest of the Marvel universe being that he’s, well…a god. Every other hero is basically a human in some capacity so there’s always been a narrative tension when including Thor in the pantheon of regular, mortal heroes. And in the modern day, isn’t this as it should be? With fewer and fewer people practicing a faith of any sort, it is legitimate to question if a hero based on a a god has any place in our modern day pantheon of heroes. Reinforcing this notion is the fact that in this series so far Thor has basically been having a sci-fi adventure in space, battling monsters and spaceships on his cosmic goat.
Just in case we weren’t sure the Odinson, an old fashioned god, was battling the modern day, here we see him throwing a spear at spaceships. He is literally doing battle with modern technology using his archaic strength and weapon. If that doesn’t show that the Odinson Thor is is out of place in the modern Marvel universe, I’m not sure what does. All of this hints at the idea that the Odinson feels he is unworthy to be Thor because he himself doesn’t think there is a place for Thor in the modern day. If that’s true or not, on multiple levels, I guess we’ll see.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?