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-Star Wolverine 16, Captain America: Steve Rogers 9, IvX 2, Mighty Thor 15, Ms. Marvel 14, Power Man and Iron Fist 12 and Silk 16. Also, we discussed Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 16 on Thursday and Deadpool 24 today, and will be discussing Daredevil 15 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 16
Spencer: Throughout the “Enemy of the State II” storyline Laura has been a victim of her own past; Kimura has returned to turn Laura back into the weapon she perceives her to be, using techniques and devices from Laura’s time as X-23 (such as the trigger scent) to do so, her aunt and cousin are in danger because of it, and Laura’s also been betrayed by her own clone, Bellona, who she tried to help back in this series’ premiere arc. Aside from being a part of Laura’s past, what both these threats have in common is that Laura bears no real fault for them; she can’t be held accountable for Kimura’s creating her, Bellona’s defection/betrayal, or even for her aunt and cousin being beloved family. It seems appropriate, then, that Laura’s salvation comes in the form of Gabby; Gabby, too, is a part of Laura’s past, but one she’s directly responsible for saving, protecting, and nurturing. Even in an issue where Laura is dehumanized as much as possible, her attempts at redemption continue to serve rich dividends.
Nik Virella generally provides strong pencils for the issue, but there seems to be a weird disconnect between her art and Tom Taylor’s script. For example, when Gabby’s in the ship’s infirmary, another patient points out that one of her bones has broken through her skin, yet we can see Gabby rather clearly in that panel, and there’s no bone. Or, when Tyger Tyger’s guards come to evacuate her, Tyger mentions that she has guests and even addresses them at one point, yet Virella oddly keeps the guests off-panel the entire time. In this case, it’s possible that she’s purposely trying to obscure the guests (perhaps it’s Gambit, who shows up in the issue’s cliffhanger), but the execution still makes for a disconcerting read — things would work better if we saw someone shrouded in shadows, or just their feet, or even if they responded to Tyger from off-panel. It feels like she’s talking to thin air or something.
Then there’s the reveal of Tyger’s LMD.
This sequence just doesn’t play. The “real” Tyger is essentially revealing herself in the third panel, meaning the second makes no sense. Where is she standing in that panel? Why is she looking over her shoulder? If she’s looking down over her shoulder at her LMD’s decapitated head, then she either needs to be standing on the opposite side of the hallway (where Laura’s standing), or standing with her back to Laura before turning around to face her in panel 3. Even panel 1 frustrates; while the bare feet and scars means that we’re looking at Laura here, Virella confuses things by swapping directions. Laura is approaching from the left in panel 3, but from the right in panel 1; Tyger approaches from the right throughout the rest of the sequence, and since its whole purpose seems to be introducing the real panel, it means that, on first glance, the first panel comes across as Tyger entering the room instead of Laura approaching her. There’s so much about the storytelling here that’s just not intuitive, which is frustrating when the story itself is so strong.
Captain America: Steve Rogers 9
Drew: You know, we’ve often referred to this series as Steve Roger’s Superior Spider-Man — that is, a series that gives an iconic hero one hell of a heel turn — but I’m starting to think that Superman: Red Son might be a better point of reference. In that story, like this one, the difference is less about changing the heroic qualities of the character, and more about changing the culture that cultivated those qualities. It emphasizes the role nurture plays by insisting that the nature is otherwise the same. We’ve been able to suspect for a while now that Steve’s ascension to Captain America was part of a Hydra mission, but issue 9 reiterates that he was selected for that mission for the very same reasons we always thought he was selected to be Cap: his bravery and determination.
The flashbacks make this explicit — you could more or less swap the conversation Mr. Whitehall and Dr. Fenhoff have about him with Colonel Philips and Dr. Erskine’s dialogue from Captain America: The First Avenger without really changing anything — but his present day actions remind us how dangerous bravery and determination can be in the wrong hands. You see, Maria Hill’s tribunals is going to come down to a single vote, which Steve sways by having one of the council killed. This seems to assure that Hill will be removed as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and maybe jailed?), undermining her plan to rebuff the Chitauri attack we learned Steve is orchestrating back issue 8.
Er — maybe that’s his plan? There’s a lot of moving parts, so it could be that the Shield plays into those plans. Or not. Maybe, given his close relationship with Sharon Carter, he sees an opportunity to give her a win, cementing her position as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. That is, of course, assuming that the vote really doesn’t go Maria’s way, which I guess it still could? I’m clearly terrible at guessing what Cap’s plan here is, but with the flashback’s assuring us that he has many of the same qualities we’ve always associated with the character, you can bet he’s not going to stop until his goal is reached.
Patrick: Forget the politics: that “v” in the middle of this title means violence. (I know “v” stands for “versus,” but I’m being rhetorical here.) All the planning, backstabbing and maneuvering has lead up to this point: the mutant’s attack against New Atillan. The second issue of this series trades in all of that jockying and positioning for the blows to which all of this must come. Even the quieter moments — like the tender exchange between Johnny Storm and Medusa — have a spark of chaotic energy.
That’s should be source of comfort, even strength for the Inhumans. But there’s a violence inherent in their superhuman powers. Fire powers. Super strong hair tendrils. These aren’t tools of peace, they’re tools of war, and that’s exactly what we’re starting to see right now.
And artist Leinil Francis Yu excels at these discrete slices of violence. Just like anyone working on an Inhuman title, an X-Men title, or an IvX title, Yu has an enormous number of characters to render in this issue, sometimes in epic page-swallowing battle stances, sometimes in wide, dynamic action scenes, and occasionally in one-panel cameos. Heroes like Cyclops, Flint, Nur and Ice Man all flicker across the page, casually asserting that we’re not just mashing together faceless armies: these are our heroes.
Or are they? One of the toughest scenes to read in this issue is the confrontation between Armored Medusa and Young Beast. Poor Hank gets wrecked, and he’d be bested were it not for the mutant’s battle strategy of teleporting dangerous Inhumans away to Limbo. Both Magik and Nightcrawler are hard at work pursuing this markedly less violent option, and that makes it easier to defend the morality of the Mutant invasion. But on the flip side, the mutants also have some of the more violent actors in this theatre of war, including two fucking Wolverines and a Sabretooth, all three of whom are menacing as fuck. I really love seeing that tension between the Mutant’s best intentions and their fundamental nature. It’s interesting that it took pivoting to the Inhuman’s perspective to get us there.
Mighty Thor 15
Drew: Perspective matters in Mighty Thor. It mattered to some degree in Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s previous Thor, which necessarily kept the identity of its protagonist a secret, but it’s absolutely essential here. In issue 15, each character’s perspective is essential in each scene, from the dramatic irony of Cul not knowing that Jane Foster is Thor, to Heimdall missing Gladiator’s attack because he blinked. Indeed, the conflict of this issue hinges on the limits of its characters’ perspectives — while the Shi’ar understand the target and reason for their attack, we and the Asgardians do not.
Point is: perspective is essential in this issue, which is why Dauterman is so indispensable. He opens the issue adopting Heimdall’s perspective, putting his “blink” in between panels to emphasize just how inconsequential it was. It’s a clever trick, but Dauterman manages some much more intriguing perspective feats later in the issue, as he simulates shallow focus effects.
This issue is full of these effects, always with an out-of-focus object in the foreground, with an in-focus subject in the background. It adds depth to the scene, sure, but it also ties the perspective to a specific location in the scene — we can’t image that we’re far away, looking through some kind of telephoto lens (or just using the magic of comics to see all things in focus); instead, we are acutely aware that “we” (for lack of a better word) are extremely close to the action here, looking at Jane basically just over Cul’s shoulder. When that effect is deployed later, it means we’re up close with the action, even as we have no better perspective on why it’s happening.
That tidbit is saved for the very end of the issue, which sets up some new surprizes (and new perspectives to consider) for the next issue. For now, it’s enough to know that this creative team is so attuned to perspective that our ignorance is very much by design. They know what they’re doing, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Ms. Marvel 14
Ryan M: When life gets tough, it’s sometimes best to retreat into the places you can depend on for comfort. For me, that means reading romance novels about Navy SEALS and curling up under the afghan my grandmother made me to take to college. As we see in Ms. Marvel 14, Kamala Khan prefers virtual combat with her guild in World of Battlecraft. In the opening pages of the issue, we can see why. The world is fantastical and strange, her team works together with minimal conflict, and she doesn’t have to deal with any of her real life angst. The art is so beautiful in this sequence. Takeshi Miyazawa makes me want to abandon Navy SEALS for an MMORPG.
This image of a straight-forward battle contrasts with the rest of issue quite well. Here, we know who is involved and their allegiances are clear. From the moment, pages later, that one of her guild mates breaks anonymity, Kamala is struggling to find her enemy and figure out why they may be targeting her. In the game, Kamala is a hero with a team to fight alongside. Once her game is over, she returns to a life without her best friend and her mentor.
G. Willow Wilson doesn’t let us forget about Kamala’s recent losses. Instead of relying on Bruno to quickly find the identity of her guild mate, Kamala is up late into the night figuring it out on her own as Captain Marvel looks down at her from a poster on the wall. Even though Bruno is gone, the Circle Q is still the first place Kamala goes when she needs to hide out. Again, her comfort is taken from her when her enemy speaks from every screen. Kamala has lost the people and places that she turned to for support and comfort. It’s an exciting place for Wilson to have taken her because I honestly don’t know what Kamala will do next. It’s like the opposite of a comfort zone.
Power Man and Iron Fist 12
Spencer: All the worldbuilding David F. Walker and Sanford Greene have been doing over the past few issues pays off in spades in Power Man and Iron Fist 12. All three of Harlem’s competing gangs (plus Luke and Danny) are brought together for a (literally) explosive finale, which works to redefine each faction and their relationships with each other, as well as set up what each group wants to do next; it works just as well as an introduction to the next arc as it does a conclusion to this one.
Perhaps more importantly, it manages to give each group their due time in the spotlight. We see signs that, for all his power, Alex Wilder isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is, and nor is Tombstone as washed up as he might first appear. Luke and Danny, meanwhile, not only get to play a major role in the assault, its lead-up and its aftermath, but also get a few opportunities to just bounce off each other and be best buddies again, which there just hasn’t been enough of since the first arc.
Ah, I’ve missed moments like these.
If I have one complaint about this issue, it’s Walker’s handling of Black Cat. Her plan just isn’t smart. I don’t know whether she was actually thinking Raymond could take down Tombstone’s group or if she just liked that he was dumb enough to manipulate, but either way, there was never a chance of her plan succeeding; this isn’t the ruthless, hyper-competent Black Cat I’ve come to know over in the current Spider-Man books. I assume that Felicia is meant to assume the role of the outsider who just doesn’t understand Harlem enough to make it there, but I just don’t know if she’s a good fit for it. This is made all the more frustrating by Felicia being one of only two women in the entire issue (and the other, Black Mariah, has done nothing this whole arc besides just kinda hang around Alex Wilder). Still, it’s a minor complaint; this was otherwise a fun issue, and if this title stays on this wavelength for a while, I wouldn’t complain.
Taylor: We tend to think of Superheroes as being invulnerable and we also tend to think that’s a good thing. While being able to not be hurt definitely falls in the plus column, it’s interesting to consider what that would mean if it included a heroes emotional state. While Cindy Moon isn’t emotionally invulnerable, it seems like she sure wishes she was sometimes. In the current story arc she find herself 3000 miles away from her family investigating New-U and their clone conspiracy. This is all in an effort to distance herself emotionally from her family because she is scared of the feelings that having her family finally in her life might give rise to.
It’s while here that she finds Hector no longer a ghost but a real life corporeal clone. He’s living in Haven, an idyllic fake community built deep below New-U’s headquarters. Cindy is relieved and stunned to see her friend alive once again and it doesn’t take long for him to explain the difference from being alive and dead.
Hector explains that he was a ghost because he was unable to let go of his anger and feelings. However, when he did let go that allowed him to be alive once more. With his prompting, Cindy “let’s go” and drops her emotional guard and plants a big ol’ kiss on her undead friend. It is only by acknowledging her anger and her willingness to drop it that Cindy is actually able to enjoy the good things in life, like love. In this way the issue sends the message that it’s only by being vulnerable that we, and heroes, are able to truly live.
However, as soon as this emotional and climatic moment happens an alarm sounds that drives Hector to transform into Spectro once more and attack Cindy. I can only imagine what this means for Cindy’s emotional state. If when she drops her guard for the first time in years she is attacked, how will Cindy ever learn to be vulnerable again? My heart breaks for her in this instance because I’m worried about what this means for her next steps.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?