Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/7/16

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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 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.

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All-New Wolverine 15

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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.

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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.

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Clone Conspiracy 3

clone-conspiracy-3Spencer: 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.

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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.

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Deadpool 23

deadpool-23Patrick: 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.

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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.

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Unworthy Thor 2

unworthy-thor-3Taylor: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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2 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 12/7/16

  1. Wolverine: There are some bright spots in this issue. I love how even with the stakes as high as they are, Laura goes above and beyond to help on the boat during the storm. The scene is primarily exposition, drawing attention to the shipping containers before the second half springs the trap. But the fact that Laura will so easily go into a dangerous situation just because it is right is always fantastic. Nothing in the storm came close to her actions in, say, the first issue (which I still think is basically perfect), but the fact she makes the choice in the middle of this story arc says a lot about Laura.
    I also love that even though Bellona is the bad guy, such emphasis is placed on her more heroic side. Bellona was interesting in the first arc on how she was on a knife’s edge, and her choice to go with Kimura was a woman desperately trying to make the best choice in what she felt was an impossible situation. She lacks the innocence of Gabby, yet wasn’t a monster. And I love how that remains.

    But the real problem with this issue is that it renders so much meaningless. Drew discusses how it is putting pieces into place, but it does that by rendering a decent portion of the plot worthless. What was the purpose of Laura making the choice to go to Maridpoor? Yeah, it shows that she is proactive, instead of hiding. But she never gets to investigate anything, and the whole plot thread just… never goes anywhere. If she had been hiding, and been betrayed, things would have been more elegant. If she had been captured in the course of her investigation, things would have been more satisfying. Instead, neither happens. The story just kind of stops to have a bunch of character motivated but unsatisfying plot movements to get things in place to where the story really wants to be.

    There should have been a better way to get something as simple as ‘Laura investigates with Gabby, but Bellona finds her. Laura is forced to surrender to protect lives, but Bellona’s love for Gabby means Gabby is allowed to escape’. One that is active, and doesn’t involve things just happening so we get to the real meat.

    Despite that, I can’t wait for the real meat

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    Unworthy Thor: There are certainly lots of great stuff about this book. I love how Odinson uses the fact that his power has been stripped from him as an excuse to indulge his base excesses. No wonder he is no longer worthy. If it was simply the need to be worthy that made Odinson exercise restraint, he was never worthy in the first place.
    And Gorr haunting Odinson in his dreams is amazing. I love how the camera makes Gorr look so powerful, looking down at us. With so much of the Thor story at the moment focusing on Maliketh, the choice to place Gorr front and centre is fascinating, and pregnant with possibility. I think as we enter a new phase of Aaron’s story, things are about to turn in a very interesting direction (worth noting: Jane’s reasoning for picking up the hammer is the belief that people need a god who cares).
    And Odinosn being so out of place, in the literal ruins of his life, inhabited by those not of his world – in any definition of the word – works.

    But the story doesn’t entirely work. Part of it is that Beta Ray Bill just disappears. And as great as the art is, especially with the facial expresssions, I think it is astonishingly unclear with the nature of Odinson’s capture. Despite devoting two whole pages to it, the shots are too close or too wide and obscure what is happening. I’m confused of the geography of where everyone and everything is with respect too each other. Honestly, this is just the worst part of an entire fight that doesn’t really work. While Dauterman’s work in the main Thor books is full of fantastic action (I forgot to comment about Thor last issue, but Epting proves to be nearly as good as Dauterman. Some really good action, in a book that continues to be utterly excellent), Coipel has everything come out of nowhere, with too many enemies existing solely as explosions. THere is a two page spread full of Beta Ray Bill and Odinson fighting, yet only two bad guys.

    And that is, I think, the real problem. Unworthy THor is an emotional story, where the art needs to emphasize every aspect of a character’s face. And Coipel excels at this. But it is also an issue built around almost constant action. And Coipel is pretty terrible at it. And it really hurts the book

  2. So…does Ben Reily just have a really good Jackal impression, or does Peter Parker just really not know what his voice sounds like? Either way, it seems like maybe he should have known that it was Ben under that mask sooner, lol

    On another note, I’d be interested to go back to the last issue of ASM to see if they specifically ever call the person running things in one of those alternate universes “Peter”. Maybe that was actually Ben Reily all along, and we only thought it was supposed to be Peter Parker…

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