Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/25/17

marvel-roundup67We 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.

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Captain America: Steve Rogers 10

captain-america-steve-rogers-10Spencer: 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.

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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.

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Daredevil 16

daredevil-16Michael: 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.

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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.

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Doctor Strange 16

doctor-strange-16Taylor: 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.

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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.

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Hulk 2

hulk-2Drew: 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.

Jen stays cool

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.

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IvX 3

ivx-3Patrick: 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.

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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.

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I don’t know everyone assembled, but it’s almost startling to realize just how many Inhumans have started to pop up in Marvel comics. The future, it appears, is Inhuman.  slim-banner4

Spider-Woman 15

spider-woman-15Drew: 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.

Jess and 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:

Roger and Jess

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.

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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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4 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 1/25/17

  1. Spider-Woman is KILLING me right now. I can’t take it. But I can’t wait for more either. Well done Hopeless, Fish, and Rosenberg. They are CRUSHING it. Can’t wait for #16. Lewis posted a panel from it on Twitter – and shit is gonna go DOWN.

  2. Captain America: With all the discussion of something happening in this issue that needed to be read before the Oath, I felt like the reveal was going to be that Sharon was also HYDRA.

    Because there was one thing that felt like it was missing in this issue. The SHIELD Act is shown to be a moral compromise. No one is happy about it, and in fact, it is shown to be something bad. So I would really like to know why Sharon is pushing something so immoral.

    That isn’t to say that Sharon should be uncompromising in her virtues. There are times where you have to compromise your virtues, and when exactly is the time can be hard to define. Something like the SHIELD Act, hated by everyone, is a great example of something that could be in the grey space. So I wish we got some time to explore why Sharon wanted the SHIELD Act. Other than the vague threat of HYDRA, what specifically made her compromise her values?

    It honestly felt like the dramatic core of the issue. Sharon found something so necessary that she did so much to push it through, only for things to go horribly wrong when the powers are pushed into the hands of Captain HYDRA. So I really wish we got to explore more about why Sharon thought she could compromise here.

    Especially as the idea of when to compromise and when not to compromise in the political arena sounds like the world’s most Nick Spencer story ever,

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    Doctor Strange: Here is an interesting way to look at this issue. One of the key ideas of Doctor Strange is that he chooses life. That is the true essence of Strange.

    Dormannu is a great figure of death, promising not just slaughter, but extermination. Strange stands against him, but more importantly, Strange chooses exorcism over murder. Strange doesn’t use the gun in the flashback, and instead chooses spells dedicated to banishment. Zelma’s rescue is emphasised not an attempt to kill, but a distraction. Only one person doesn’t choose life. Wong, instead, chooses to go to Mr Misery, a creature of pain and death, for help. Wong chooses to fight death with death. And not only does he do nothing to affect the outcome, he just makes everything worse. Very telling.

    Also, I wish Dormannu felt more cosmic this issue. His dialogue felt wrong, felt small and ordinary for a creature that should be beyond our scope. Disappointing, espectially considering Aaron has never had that problem with the THor books

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    Hulk: I like how Drew draws attention to how Hulk isn’t really a superhero, as this book feels, to some degree, what the Hulk would be if it wasn’t written in a time where ultimately, it had to be a superhero story. In fact, this comic is much closer to a modern day Gothic Horror story. There is a lot of pulp (this is a story about a woman turning into a giant rage monster) but the big villain is less a supervillain and more a demonic entity. You could compare it quite easily to Penny Dreadful, though unfortunately without the goddess Eva Green. And it is the big part of the appeal of this book.

    What I like about this issue is that it presents Jennifer at her two extremes. Drew mentions that she is so highly composed during the stressful discussion with the landlord, but the secret is that it isn’t stressful. Not to her. Drew mentions specific triggers, but I think it goes beyond that. Jennifer is a great lawyer, and she is comfortable there. In all honesty, this is her safe space, her isle of stability. In fact, this is her normal. She may be a little shorter and a little less green, but here, everything is as it should be. Quite simply, she doesn’t need to be She-Hulk to deal with idiots like this. Jennifer isn’t a hopeless mess. She has her triggers, but they don’t render her incapable of doing anything. She can live a normal life, as long as she puts the effort into self care.

    Which is why it is so horrible that she is in a world where her specific triggers are the biggest story in the world, without a single warning. And so, without the chance to prepare, she gets triggered. And now, she is hulking out (for all my issues with the art, the anxiety attack scenes are still top notch). It is a very mature way to approach triggers, in how it shows exactly what a person is like when they aren’t being triggered – and the sorts of high stress situations that they can excel in – while showing what happens when they do get triggered – and how specific that is. Hulk is going to end up being a favourite book of mine, I think.

    Though am I the only person who keeps looking at Jennifer in her coat and scarf, and thinking Jessica Jones? While purple has always been a colour associated with Jennifer (and dressing her in green would be so wrong), it also reminds me of Jessica Jones’ own colour palate. And while the coat is wrong for Jessica, how Jennifer wears the scarf reminds me a lot of how Jessica wears her scarf in the Netflix show. I would love it if Jennifer’s look could feel a bit more different to Jessica’s

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    Infamous Iron Man: WHile nowhere near as strong as the other Iron Man book, Doom misadventures are going strong. This is more typical Bendis, in many ways. Each issue is its own idea, but lacks a strong sense of beginning and ending, as the story instead just flows. Here, the big idea is that Doom returns to Latveria, and sees just how careless he has been with his attempt to step down from leadership. Because, of course, this is Doom’s big problem. He wants to be a hero, but doesn’t know how. It is sobering to see a Doom who has to admit constantly that he is a mess. Usually, it would be out of character, but Hickman’s work makes this so natural, and Bendis is doing a great job at getting things just right. Doom does things with complete certainty of his righteousness, but then has to acknowledge the outcome because that is what he does now.

    No Ironheart, sadly, but really good

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    IvX: Patrick, I love your comparison between the X-Men’s long weird history v the Inhumans newness, and the intellectual look at the puzzle box. But I think that reflects the great weakness of the story. Just because you use a puzzle box, it doesn’t mean you neglect character. There is a reason that Mockingbird, famous for its fantastic puzzle box, was one of the most character focused comics around. Because it was the character that truly made the book great.

    I keep talking about how I want this to be a war story, and I keep feeling like it isn’t doing enough. From an intellectual level, you can appreciate Iso taking Forge out by using his machine against him. But I keep wanting more. Think about how Rogue One played its war scenes for drama. People can debate whether it worked (I certainly felt it did, but am looking forward to a rewatch to prove it). But it tried to make things dramatic. Or think of the climax of the Civil War movie. Tony is truly hurt.

    IvX tries to give drama a small look, with Inferno spending a panel horrified. But imagine if we lingered at it a bit. Imagine if Inferno truly thought he had killed Logan, and Iso couldn’t so confidently tell him that Logan was alive. Imagine if Inferno left thinking he had truly killed Logan, because he didn’t realise that Old Man Logan had a weaker healing factor. Imagine if Iso’s attack on Forge was less clever and more ruthless. Make the characters feel dirty for doing what needs to be done. It felt like there is so much more that could be done. First rule of Civil Wars, they should feel like horror stories

    Also, is it me, or is the ending structured really weirdly. The last page completely confused me, as I kept trying to work out why it was meaningful. What was so special about Black Bolt’s prison, that made it that much more meaningful than the fact that Karnak is trapped in the World or Medusa’s Court are trapped in Limbo with no exit? It is basically just a high security cell. There are a hundred fates that I can think of that do a better job of justifying Emma’s statement and being a more dramatic turn than something as simple as ‘Black Bolt was put into a cell designed to imprison Black Bolt’. Meanwhile, the true turn in the story, the true cliffhanger, was Ms Marvel’s team preparing their attack on New Attilan, is blown early. That should have been the last page. Instead, we are scratching our head on why it is meaningful that… Black Bolt was put into a high tech cell.

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    Spiderwoman: Roger can’t survive, can he? I can’t see a satisfying ending of this arc where Roger stills stays as part of the team. It would be disappointing, considering the start

    In fact, I think this arc is following the five stages of grief. First, Jessica was in denial & isolation, refusing to believe it and thinking of a more complex answer. In this issue, she was angry. Furious, and on a warpath in a ways he wasn’t last issue. But then Roger returned, for bargaining. Bargaining is actually shown literally, with a Roger who actually exists to bargain for. Not surprising that Jessica kisses him, if we look at this as her bargaining phase. She is willing to do something she wasn’t, in an attempt to ‘keep’ Roger. If I validate his feeling for me, then he can survive this… And next issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually tries to bargain with Hobgoblin for his life.

    Which means we have a dark path to go. Because bargaining never works, which is why we go onto depression…

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    Thanos: I’ve been far to generous on this book, partly because I wanted to see how you guys responded to it and try an compare our views on Lemire. But Thanos just punches things again. This is not the book that is going to fix Thanos. Shame

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    Thunderbolts: THis continues to be the most 90s book ever, which is why it is a shame it is so connected to the comic that best reflects today. Despite a cover that suggested being about Mach-X and Songbird’s relationship, most of it is filled up with showing off Bucky’s new arm, recapping the Man on the Wall stuff and a generic mission. A shame. I’d rather Abe and Melissa don’t get back together, as I think it works better if this is a relationship that they have moved on from as they moved past their Thunderbolts phase and became legitimate heroes (especially Melissa). Go full La La Land with their relationship, complete with that ending (I truly, truly love that movie). And honestly, I think Melissa and Bucky would be very interesting, if we are playing matchmaker. But it is so busy putting the recaps, the exposition and the generic enemies that it never gets time for their relationship. You get a sweet scene at the end, but there should have been so much more.

    The things I read for Nick Spencer’s big ideas (that reminds me. Should try and catch up with Uncanny Avengers for the same reason)

    • If you actually read the end of issue 12 of Spider-Woman on the last page it says “Up Next: The 5 stages of Grief” So, I think you might be right.

      • Great catch.

        It is honestly a fantastic way to structure a story like this, especially when you can use genre elements to reveal a character is actually alive just so you can do the bargaining stage with an actual bargain.

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