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 X-Men 18, Deadpool 26, Moon Knight 11, Old Man Logan 17, Unbelievable Gwenpool 1 and Unstoppable Wasp 2. We discussed Hawkeye 3 on Thursday, so check that out. Also, we will be discussing Nova 3 on Tuesday and Karnak 6 Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New X-Men 18
Patrick: With so many Civil Wars and One Group vs. Slightly Different Group stories, the Marvel Universe may be approaching a point where there is no longer a clear division between hero and villain. Look at Steve Rogers. Or look at A.I.M. But the most complicated legacy of all, that which is committed to extremes of terrorism and do-goodery, belongs to Scott Summers. Writer Dennis Hopeless isn’t the first to point out that Scott’s legacy has a living, breathing avatar in the present, but he does make that concept intensely personal in All-New X-Men 18.
The title page promises a cavalcade of characters from the All-New X-Men series, but Hopeless stays neatly focused on Young Cyclops. Even in the middle of the invasion of New Atillan, with characters are huge as Medusa and Magneto in the mix, the camera stays patiently trained on our boy Scotty. In the first 8 pages, only 4 panels don’t prominently feature him. Penciler Mark Bagley is constantly teasing the other action taking place in Scott’s periphery, even giving us the whereabouts of Inferno and Sabretooth immediately before their fight in IvX 3.
All of which is to suggest that while there is a ton of exciting stuff happening right now, the most important bits are in Scott’s head.
And of course, we get to go directly into Scott’s head via the Inhuman Mosaic. Mosaic hijacks Scott’s mind and inso doing gives him access to Magneto’s memories. This includes the memory of Old Evil Scott dying of M-Pox before the terrigen cloud was destroyed. In effect, Hopeless has not just highlighted the personage of Scott’s legacy, but he has also illuminated the personage of Scott’s beef with that legacy — Emma Frost. Which means a lot of people are embodying some pretty abstract concepts.
[Side note: I don’t totally understand the quality of Hopeless’ writing in this issue. It is occasionally transcendently beautiful — poetic and rhythmic, full of almost Shakespearean levels of assonance and consonance, like when Ice Man rescues Cyclops (“Tone it down a notch, hot-head / Blood-thirsty banter is just bluster”). But then there are times when Magneto sounds like a contestant on Project Runway, or when Hank is accidentally called “Hanks.” I suspect Hopeless is brilliant, but just needs a little more careful editing.]
Michael: Superheroes leave a lot of collateral damage in their wake, both physical and emotional. The type of ripple effect they leave tends to match the thematic effect of the hero and their story. Batman “creates” the villains he fights, Spider-Man loses people close to him and Man of Steel’s Superman destroys cities with abandon. Deadpool kicks ass, occasionally gets the girl and can be a sentimental schmuck but he’s still the perpetual loser.
It’s Valentine’s Day and Deadpool takes his lady love Shiklah out to have an uncomfortable dinner. I’m realizing that I’m not the biggest fan of Shiklah — she slaps our boy ‘pool around and only appears in Deadpool when the plot demands a lovers’ quarrel. It’s like when a TV character becomes a parent but we only see their child when it’s a “parenting episode.”
Scott Hepburn paints the scene of a post-coitus Deadpool and Shiklah: covers strewn about and everything covered with blood, burn marks and holes. I especially like the bit of Deadpool meta self-censorship, as a DP logo bleeps Shiklah’s middle finger and Wade’s genitals are conveniently covered by his phone. Gotta say that’s a small phone though…
Kudos to Gerry Duggan for throwing in Phil Coulson playing a girl power virtual reality game where the princess saves the prince. The Prestons reveal to Coulson that they have some “radical solutions” in place for the inevitable fallout of Deadpool’s war with Madcap. As close as Deadpool has gotten to the Prestons, he’s still a danger to them. He’s like the goodhearted alcoholic brother who can’t help himself. Poor ‘pool.
Moon Knight 11
Ryan D: Jeff Lemire hasn’t been making it easy for us to follow along with Moon Knight, which makes perfect sense- Marc Spector seems to be going through a pretty tough time understanding the goings-on as well. We pick up our over-arching journey with Moon Knight traveling through an odd place called the Overvoid, which features such attractions as Egyptians riding giant dragonflies and imprisoned goddesses, not to mention the ritual human sacrifice which threatens Spector at the end of the issue, all to rescue the soul of Crowley. However, this foray isn’t enough for Lemire, who also pulls back the curtains on Spector’s mental state throughout the years, telling the story of his attempted rehabilitation being interrupted by the calling of Khonshu and the tumultuous relationship with his family. I particularly enjoyed the storytelling during Marc’s stint in the U.S. Marines and being caught nude at night standing in a mine field. We’ve all been there.
This scattershot of narrative would not be able to breathe without artist Greg Smallwood’s ability to make choices about the somewhat nonsensical reality of the Othervoid and excellent choices with page composition. The page composition, in particular, works beautifully and thematically. Just look at how he renders this absurd action scene of dragonfly jousting:
While throughout most of the issue, Smallwood experiments between a myriad of panel sizes and placement on the page- some of them featuring gutters, some bleeding into the side of the page — and then more steady, consistent panel beats, evenly spaced through a page. Here, though, we see a really delightful use of Moon Knight’s obvious but effective pyramid motif, which I think really helps sell this preposterous scene and make it feel completely set in the world created by Lemire’s text. The combination of all of Smallwood’s tactics give an unhinged — dare I say schizophrenic — feel to a comic dealing directly with mental illness and disorder.
While I have no idea where this journey will take us, I am intrigued with how this arc will tie into Marc Spector’s fight for sanity in the “real” world, in a series which always keeps us guessing which way is up. I love when art forces the audience into a similar state to the characters in the narrative, and sure, I’m bewildered, but I like it.
Old Man Logan 17
Drew: As far as superhero origins, Wolverine’s are about as complicated and indistinct as they come. Indeed, the milestones that might define other character’s origins (genetic mutation/scientific experiment/joining superhero team) don’t quite account for the character as we know him. That origin only gets more complicated when we’re talking about Old Man Logan, where we have to factor in an apocalyptic villain uprising, a massive case of mistaken identity, a vow of pacifism, a second life as a quiet farmer, the eventual breaking of that vow, and then the miraculous transplantation back to the present day in the current Marvel timeline. That kind of long, complicated history can be an asset, but it also means that Old Man Logan’s core themes can’t be accessed as easily as repeating, for example, that with great power must also come great responsibility. Point is: issue 17 draws key parallels to some of Logan’s history, but the potency of those parallels may be lost in the volume of that history.
I mean, the reveal that Jean Grey is psychologically manipulating Logan, planting unreliable visions in his head, should immediately evoke the visions Mysterio used to make Logan kill the X-Men. And it might still — this issue ends with that reveal — but those parallels are complicated by the rest of Logan’s history (including his history with Jean). More importantly, they’re pushed back by all of the adventures he’s had since shedding his commitment to pacifism. I mean, he can’t be that concerned about psychological manipulation, because he was more than happy to pop his claws to fight of the Brood, right?
Of course, there have been so many twists and turns in this arc, I hesitate to say that Jean really is behind all of this. I’m not closely following current X-Men continuity, so I have no idea why Jean would look the way she does, let alone why she would want to attack Logan in this way. Something else is almost certainly behind that development, which might just push my fatigued twist-tolerance past the breaking point. Maybe this will finally address Logan’s history in a way that allows this series to put it to rest for a while, but I’m losing patience for that eventuality.
Unbelievable Gwenpool 11
Spencer: Gwenpool describes her vampire-slaying adventures in The Unbelievable Gwenpool 11 as a “distraction from [her] more existential woes,” and it’s easy to look at this issue through a similar lens. Christopher Hastings and guest artist Myisha Hanes use this issue as a bit of a palate cleanser, a zany one-off adventure meant to shake off the more somber tone of the surprisingly emotionally heavy arc that preceded it. It’s an unmitigated success. Hastings and Hanes are clearly having a blast with this issue. I got at least one big laugh out of each page, and I love the variety of jokes that they tell; even the format of the story itself is a joke, with the final page’s twist delivering a brilliant punchline to an issue-long set-up.
But even when she tries, Gwen can’t fully shake her existential woes. The villain of the previous arc — Vincent Doonan, the Doombot who wanted to destroy everyone who wasn’t “normal” — makes a televised appearance early in the issue. That’s what pushes Gwen to take on a challenging job as a distraction, but it also means that Doonan’s presence hangs over the issue. With Doonan still fresh in our mind, it’s hard not to see much of this story as a rebuttal of his entire worldview: the inhabitants of Doodkill are all unnatural monsters and freaks, but they’re also as normal and seemingly “wholesome” as they come — wholesome enough that they even convince Blade to leave their community in peace. It shows that Doonan’s definition of normal (and who was or wasn’t normal) was flawed from the start.
But then the ending happens.
At first glance, that undoes the whole moral — the freaks were evil all along! Actually, though, I think it only reinforces it; it shows that there’s always a “price” to the kind of picket-fence normality Doonan desired. Even normal people have their skeletons, prices they paid and sacrifices they made to gain and maintain their placid lives. Maybe that’s been the moral of this entire saga — it’s not the strange and unusual you can’t trust, but those who try desperately to be anything but. It’s certainly been true for Gwenpool so far.
Unstoppable Wasp 2
Ryan M: What is remarkable about The Unstoppable Wasp is what is not remarked upon. In this issue, Jeremy Whitley offers us a diverse group of girls and rather than spend any time talking about the importance of same, he just lets us live in a world where all of these ladies are just living their coolest lives. For real, the first image that Elsa Charretier offers includes a lady riding her bike wearing a cute skater skirt, fedora, and sunglasses with a basket full of cookies. If that’s not, #bestlife, I don’t know what is.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
All-New X-Men.MU: Jeremy Whitley is proving himself quite a talent. This issue was quite packed, trying to tell two different stories. The story of Laura and Gambit and the story of the All-New X-Men enjoying Mardi Gras, before it all comes together in a giant monster attack.
The All New X-Men stuff is the weakest, since it suffers a slight conflict in what it wants to be about. The big theme of this issue is identity, with a focus on Laura’s identity and how that has changed since the days she was with Gambit. But the All New X-Men section can’t decide if it wants to be about the other X-Men’s struggles with identity, or what happens to the group identity when Laura isn’t there. One is good character work, the other is is important set up for the finale, but both don’t go together. Honestly, as great as the individual scenes are, Evan’s discomfort in a church or Bobby going to the LGBTQIA ball ends up being distracting.
Because the Laura stuff is really strong. Jeremy Whitley proves to be the perfect choice to continue her adventure when Tom Taylor eventually leaves. Whitley understands Laura’s exact place in her life, and uses Gambit to explore that shift she has gone through. He even makes a point to explore Laura’s yellow and blue colours, as opposed to her old fashion of leather and fishnets. Gambit struggles to see Laura as someone who has grown past the little girl he put under his wing, but when he finally sees what she is like with the X-Men, he learns just how Laura has changed and how much better things are. And it has that arc, without sacrificing the complexity of Laura and realising that she can be part of the X-Men and be everything she is now without having some of that old stuff still there, as she abandons the parade to eat ribs alone with Gambit. Good stuff
Has a terrible art mistake, though. There is a net trap scene, and the idea is that Laura can’t cut her way out because all her limbs are pressed against Gambit. Until we later get a panel clearly indicating that Laura’s boots is perfectly placed to cut the net
All New X-Men: I really don’t think IvX is for me. There is some decent stuff in this issue. I love seeing what Cyclops did during the battle. A fantastic sequence, but struggling from the fact that the Muir Island stuff is so much worse. It doesn’t feel right. The story of IvX has moved past Cyclops, to the point where it feels wrong that everyone cares about Young Scott. His presence is meaningful for select people, especially Emma. But feels unnatural that now that events have moved past Cyclops, that Young Scott is important. Quite simply, after attacking New Attialn, everyone is Cyclops
And then the big finale doesn’t really work. Mosaic serves as a good excuse, but also ends up being pretty clumsy in implementation. And Emma’s statements to Magneto feel wrong. I’m pretty sure Emma’s goal wasn’t to destroy Cyclops’ legacy. Wasn’t Emma’s actions, from her perspective, entirely about Scott?
Nowhere near the quality I associate with Hopeless
Monsters Unleashed: This needed more stuff with Elsa and Moon Girl. As we shift from the statement of the premise to the actual story, it is wasted to spend this much time with ordinary superheroes just punching giant monsters. Especially, as I explained last time, when you have heroes like Thor in play, the heroes are too powerful to make the monsters anything other than an infinite army of mooks. In fact, that is why the best part of this issue was Captain Marvel’s scene. With not enough main plot, Captain Marvel actually introduced a new iteration. That while every other superhero was fighting the monsters that landed, Alpha FLight was forced to let them all through too focus on monsters so big that if they landed, the world would die on impact
Nova: I caught up with this beautiful looking book, and I have a feeling that the writers don’t understand what the Cancerverse was. Richard Rider didn’t die. That would be impossible. Because that is the whole point of the Cancerverse.
Still, the stuff they are doing with Richard Rider is great. I love their approach to him as a mentor. He’s got the knowledge, but honestly isn’t as badass as he feels like he should. There is something wonderful about how dorky his plans end up being, even as he gives good advice. Stalling to make a plan is fantastic. Doing so with Braveheart is hilarious (though it also reminds me that I need to reread Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men).
What makes it work is just how much heart there is. It isn’t surprising that next issue, Richard is going to be revisiting Gamora. Because ultimately, no matter how horrifying Richard’s body has become, his soul inside is still full of the heart he once had. I would love Sam to get a bit more attention, but Richard is proving to be a really strong character, taking advantage of the unique specifics of his ‘death’ (even as it feels like they got things wrong)
Gwenpool: Last issue, Gwenpool, annoyed at how being responsible didn’t go according to plan because it didn’t erase her past of irresponsibility, decided to go into a suicidal spiral of missions and dive deeper into the escapist fantasy that has always fed her worst impulses.
But here’s the thing. Gwen can’t escape the fact that she has had her eyes opened, if only slightly. Confronted with what was supposed to be self destruction via escapism, she is forced into more complex situations and can’t step away from what she learned last arc.
It is amazing how astonishingly clever this book actually is
Wasp: Yeah, Jeremy Whitley’s thing is basically casually introducing diversity like it is no big deal. It is a big part of what makes is stuff really good, is how ha manages to both make it seem like no big deal and create a big theme about how big a deal it is. Feminism is the theme, inclusive feminism is just treated as if there is no version of feminism worth mentioning that isn’t inclusive. It is actually a big part of what makes books like this work. Unstoppable Wasp needs Nadia to be finding people that we so often ignore, and treating them normally.
Combine that with the celebration of science and how it treats even characters like Alexis, who is utterly supportive and clearly someone Taina cares for and respects the opinion of, even as she get angry when Alexis breaks her stuff. Ryan is right. THis book is developing into something really special