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 Captain America: Steve Rogers 10, Daredevil 16, Doctor Strange 16, Hulk 2, IvX 3, and Spider-Woman 15. We discussed Deadpool 25 on Thursday, and will be discussing Civil War II: The Oath 1 on Tuesday and Black Panther 10 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Captain America: Steve Rogers 10
Spencer: I can’t say that I’ve ever had much faith in politics or governments, but whatever little I had has (quite understandably, I’d say) been destroyed by recent events. Captain America: Steve Rogers has been uncomfortably prescient when it comes to current events, and when I look at the story Nick Spencer and artists Jesus Saiz, Ted Brandt and Ro Stein, and Kevin Libranda have put together in issue 10, all I can see are the many reasons governments fail to do what’s right for the people they’re supposed to be representing.
As condescending as Senator Townes is here, he has some legitimate concerns; yet, once Sharon namedrops Captain America and essentially threatens to get him kicked out of his Majority Leader position he immediately concedes. Right there is, for my money, the number one problem in politics: politicians more concerned about maintaining their own status and wealth than they are about protecting their constituents. Sharon is a problem too, though; sure, I would trust her to use S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newly expanded powers, but granting S.H.I.E.L.D. those privileges in the first place is only inviting trouble. What happens when someone less scrupulous than Sharon — say Maria Hill, or even Steve Rogers — gains access to them? Suspending rights, even in a time of crisis, is a perilous path: just look at how laws like the Patriot Act have lead to greater and greater abuses of power and privacy, practically paving the path to our current regime (which, if it isn’t quite fascist yet, is well on its way).
Then there’s Steve, the “politician” who is hoping to use his position to bring about his own twisted agenda. That just screams Trump and the GOP; even Steve’s relationship with Red Skull reminds me a bit of how Trump is almost definitely the puppet of Putin and/or Pence. I trust people over governments and organizations, but that’s because I can pick and choose the people I trust; when it comes to the government, you’re forced to endure people who rarely have your best interests at heart, even in the cases when they genuinely think they do. Steve’s plot in this issue reminds us of how simple luck and celebrity can grant power to people who don’t at all deserve it. I don’t need a comic to sell me on how scary that is: we’re living it.
Michael: There has been an air of mystery in Charles Soule’s Daredevil and we’re starting to get some answers. Right off the bat Daredevil 16 answers the question Ryan and I had last issue: “why did Daredevil put a bounty on his own life?” Answer: to draw out Bullseye, the only man Daredevil knows who’s been able to recreate Daredevil’s radar sense so he can give it to the blinded sidekick Blindspot. That little tidbit is straight out of Mark Waid’s previous Daredevil run – I love when writers connect and build upon past continuity like that.
Similarly, one of my favorite pages in Daredevil 16 is the image of Daredevil being overtaken by a mob. Goran Sudzuka draws a “who’s who” of major Daredevil players – both friend and foe – swarming Daredevil, ready to tear him into pieces. All of this is taking place inside Matt’s mind as he contemplates letting go and allowing Bullseye to kill him. Daredevil is a character full of guilt and regret so the visual of all of the friends and enemies he’s ever known ripping him apart is very fitting.
Soule presents a lot of heavy ideas as Bullseye’s approaching bullet is juxtaposed with Matt’s conversations with the Father Jordan. Jordan explores the concept of evil in the world as an obstacle we must overcome to build a better world. Bullseye himself is more of an obstacle in Daredevil 16 than an actual villain. He doesn’t get any dialogue and besides the bullet that Daredevil deflects, he doesn’t land a blow.
Doctor Strange 16
Taylor: When people begin to struggle with something they’re usually good at, they usually go back to the basics. Basketball players practice freethrows, musicians practice scales, and writers return to a favorite book or the bottle, depending on their disposition. For Dr. Strange, things are a bit different, just as they always are. When a de-magiced Stephen has to take on all of his archenemies, he has no choice but to go back to things that made him a powerful sorcerer in the first place if he hopes to survive.
Just as Stephen is about to be killed by three of his nemeses Dormammu shows up to save the day. Er, well, not exactly. He shows up to kill Stephen too and wants to make sure that no one else beats him to the point. Stephen takes a beating and after many futile remembers how he defeated Dormammu when he first encountered him many moons ago.
Strange uses and exorcism spell to send “Dormie,” as he’s affectionately known, back to the nether realms. The difference is that in the past, strange had to use this spell because his control of magic was amateur at best. In this instance he has to use it because there just isn’t enough damn magic left in the whole world for anything else. While it’s a last ditch effort it at least saves the day for now.
This highlights what Stephen is actually best at, and I’ll you hint, it’s not magic. What Jason Aaron is showing us here, and in the previous couple of issues, is that Stephen’s greatest strength is his resourcefulness. Just as in the past when he had a gun, here Stephen finds that the weapon he wields, a magic knife, are useless against his foe. With his back up against a wall Stephen always manages to pull through because there’s no measuring just how resourceful he can be. Here, just as all masters due, when he’s in trouble he returns to the basics and it serves him well.
Drew: The Hulk, as a concept, isn’t really a superhero. Sure, there have been stints where “Dr. Green” or some other incarnation can act as an indestructible force of (violent) good, but that arguably robs the concept of the exact thing that makes it compelling: that these “powers” are an unpredictable curse. For Bruce Banner, that curse manifested as a Stevensonian rumination on the duality of man, but for Jennifer Walters’ current series, that curse much more closely resembles panic attacks. It’s as much a comment on superheroes as Banner ever was, it’s just commenting on a different part of the superhero mythos. That kind of harmony with the earliest Hulk stories means that Jen isn’t tied to superheroics in the strictest sense, which allows Hulk to adopt a much more human scope. Issue 2 doubles down on that scope, keeping us in Jen’s shoes as she struggles to cope with her trauma.
At the start of the issue, she seems to be doing great — she’s feeling productive, and while she’s a little self-conscious about acting “normal,” she’s taking even the more stressful parts of her job in stride. Indeed, she maintains her composure even when the conversation with her client’s landlord goes south.
It’s hard to imagine Bruce Banner keeping such a cool head under these conditions. No, it seems Jen’s triggers are quite specific, though unfortunately, they’re also the stuff of national news, so even at the park she can’t escape them.
She suffers another attack, this time retreating to her office, where her new office assistant Bradley is able to offer some support. It highlights just how in need of support Jen has been all along, but Bradley makes up for lost time with an impressive amount of care and empathy. Unfortunately, that landlord isn’t nearly as patient, and his impetuousness forced Maise Brewn to maybe order some kind of supernatural attack on him? It’s the world of superheroes nibbling at the margins of this series, which might actually be the perfect fit for this series — Jen doesn’t really want to deal with all of that superhero stuff right now, but try as she might, she can’t completely avoid it, either.
Patrick: In our previous discussions about IvX, we’ve praised the puzzle-box nature of this narrative. This is probably the closest a comic book can come to exploring the ins and outs of strategy in a large conflict, and that’s only really possible because we’re so familiar with the abilities of each of the many moving parts. Or are we? To this point, writers Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire have remained admirably agnostic in their allegiance to one side or the other, but as the X-Men launched the attack, much of the focus has been on answering the question of “how do the X-Men pull this off?” Those answers have been twisted, complex and whip-smart. But no matter how complete a plan appears to be, there are always flaws, and issue 3 starts to let us see those flaws through the eyes of Karnak. Or, more generally, through the eyes of the Inhumans who are slowly discovering their advantages.
In fact, Karnak’s victory is largely symbolic. He escapes from Jean Grey’s mind-illusion-prison only to discover that he’s… somewhere much weirder.
Welcome to “The World,” home to the Weapon Plus program and totally outside of normal time and space. This is another one of those X-advantages – the characters have been around so long and have had so many stories written about them, that they have access to all of the fucking weirdest sci-fi things, places and concepts. Hell, even Limbo tracks as a location that the NuHumans may not even be aware of. The X-Men have the benefit of this insanely long, and insanely deep, publishing history. So what have the Inhumans got?
Novelty. Sure, the Royals have been around forever, but Emma et al. made sure to disable them all right away. Where the X-Men are at a disadvantage is that there are so many new Inhumans that they cannot plan for. This is exemplified by Iso and Inferno — two Inhumans that are new to this decade — taking down Forge and (more tellingly) Old Man Logan. This is very pointedly turning into a fight between old and new. That makes the young team of Inhumans that Ms. Marvel is assembling super exciting.
Drew: My friends have a cat that loves to hunt. I think that’s true of most cats, but this one is particularly good at it. So good, in fact, that she literally does it for sport, capturing things she has no intention of eating just for the fun of it. Apparently (and sorry if this is a little gruesome), she’ll actually catch and release squirrels, basically to prove that she can. I know this is an odd intro to Spider-Woman 15, but I kind of feel like our emotions are the squirrels to whims of Dennis Hopeless and Veronica Fish, who have used the previous few issues to demonstrate just what they could do to us if they really wanted. This issue lets us off the hook just long enough to let us know that they were just playing with us before capturing us once again with another heart-wrenching cliffhanger.
Don’t worry, everyone, Roger wasn’t in that porcupine suit, after all. Even better, he wasn’t dead, either — he had just gone into hiding after Hobgoblin’s attack to protect Jess. It’s a satisfying enough explanation for what we knew couldn’t be a real death, but the real magic comes when Jess confronts her newfound feelings for Roger.
Of course, this only makes the prospect of losing Roger even more tragic, so when he’s captured at the end of the issue, I genuinely don’t know if Hopeless and Fish might really pull the trigger this time. That uncertainty makes for one hell of an ending (though I might be getting close to my limit of fake-out tragic or happy endings for these two), putting an even more important relationship in even more peril.
I would be remiss to not note just how effectively Fish sells that ending though. Look at how effective these choices are:
We see Roger from Jess’s perspective as he’s dragged away by the Hobgoblin, then a reverse to Jess from Roger’s perspective as Jess reaches out to him. But it’s that final shot — still presumably from Roger’s perspective, just much further away — that really breaks my heart. They were so close to happiness just moments ago. There’s still a fight to be had, but how it will end is anyone’s guess.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?