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 17, Deadpool the Duck 3, IvX 4, Power Man and Iron Fist 13, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 17 and Unworthy Thor 4. We discussed Black Widow 11 on Thursday, and will be discussing Ms. Marvel 15 on Monday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 17
Drew: Whether it’s a vague allusion or an explicit quotation, one artwork referencing another always makes my head spin. While references don’t always achieve this, they are often a way of cramming the meaning of an entire work of art into another, allowing the referencer to stand on the shoulders of the referencee. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the referenced artwork might make its own references, and so on, in a kind of Russian nesting doll of meaning. Obviously, being actively aware of every reference (and reference that work references, etc) is impossible, but I can’t help but be drawn to references to works that are themselves largely referential — that extra twist makes us aware of the complications surrounding the act of referencing, forcing us to consider why that choice was made in the first place. Such is the case with All-New Wolverine 17, which doesn’t just feature quotes from The Adventures of Pinocchio, but to a specific translation of it.
This issue allows us a glimpse into Laura’s head as she’s enraged by the trigger scent — her friends set up a controlled experiment to allow Jean Grey to intervene telepathically. What we learn is that Laura retreats into a memory of her mother reading Carol Della Chiesa’s translation of The Adventures of Pinocchio, effectively hiding from the terrors her body is busy unleashing. The reference to Pinocchio as a story makes a great deal of sense for Laura, whose own identity issues are tied up in having been manufactured — on not being a “real” person. But, of course, the fact that we aren’t reading Carlo Collodi’s words, but a translation of them only underscores the tension surrounding Laura’s identity: she’s a clone, a facsimile, an altered version of something that came before.
And writer Tom Taylor really does focus on the Della Chiesa’s translation, not just giving us the gist of the story, but highlighting and celebrating the specific language Della Chiesa used.
There are plenty of explanations why Taylor might have chosen to make the reference so explicitly to this particular translation, but the effect is the same: drawing our attention to the specificity of the choice, making us acutely aware that it is a translation. Even Laura’s most deeply held memories are of facsimiles.
Of course, The Adventures of Pinocchio is all about a facsimile becoming real, through pain, sacrifice, and love. There is little doubt that Laura has been through all of these many times over, which makes the ending so cathartic. She may not have wood body parts that could be made flesh, but her transformation at the end of this issue feels every bit as profound as Pinocchio’s. But then, Pinocchio’s story more or less ends when the tension between his wooden body and human desires is resolved, making Laura’s future decidedly uncertain.
Deadpool the Duck 3
Patrick: There’s a weird relationship between the creator and the audience. On one hand, it’s the creator’s job to deliver the audience’s expectations — like our expectations for meaningful resolutions, for consistent internal logic, etc. But on the other hand, a creator should challenge the reader to consider stories and characters beyond our expectations. Otherwise, what would be the point of actually reading anything? Stuart Moore and Jacopo Camagni’s Deadpool the Duck 3 seems to delight in this tension between giving the audience what they want and subverting it entirely. It’s an exhausting exercise, one that might just genuinely convey the feeling of Deadpool taking over your body.
The issue starts with a bad-ass Deadpool the Duck raid on a secret Roxxon facility “somewhere in America.” DtD is jumping around, slicing up guards, diving under shields, and shooting his way through doors in a mad montage of Deadpoolian action. But the rug gets yanked out from under us in the most uncomfortable way.
That’s right, instead of attacking an evil Rooxon laboratory, DtD blows a hole through the armored door of a preschool classroom. I’m all for Deadpool being a provocateur, but it’s hard to dial the character back from “school shooting.”
Moore and Camagni know this, of course. Camagni’s Children of the Corn-esque designs for this room of toe-headed preschool students go a long way toward steering us away from how horrifying this moment should actually be. But this school rampage is also a weird narrative cock-block that prevents us from getting to the resolution of the cliffhanger from the previous issue until we’re 9 pages in. What’s more, that resolution tosses the moral question of whether to let the Janitor die on an exploding space station is similarly elided with the casual, off-panel discovery that there is a second escape pod. And then none of that matters because Wade steers his escape pod into the Janitor’s flight path, and the dude explodes anyway. That’s frustrating enough to have Howard rage quit the corporeal team up, but it’s just as frustrating for the reader.
Spencer: The war between the mutants and the Inhumans has escalated as far as it has because both sides are determined that the only way to save their species from extinction is to wipe out the other. Early in this event I speculated that once the fact that the Terrigen cloud is dissipating becomes public knowledge it could bring both these factions together, but that they’re probably too set on the idea of war to let that happen. I’d reckon that may still be the case, but in IvX, Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule show that compromise may still be on the table, even if takes a fresh set of eyes to attain it.
While Inferno, Iso, Reader, and Grid have close ties to the Inhuman reader family, the rest of this crew act more as independent agents: Quake works for S.H.I.E.L.D, Synapse’s interacted almost solely with the Uncanny Avengers up to this point, Moon Girl never wanted to be an Inhuman in the first place, and though Ms. Marvel’s allied with New Attilan on multiple occasions, she’s also been an Avenger, and is friends with mutants (a fact we’re reminded of when Mosaic shows up in the body of her Champions teammate, Cyclops). These kids aren’t so deep in war or devoted to their cause that they can overlook the murky morality of what they’re being asked. That may make them the only ones who can stop this conflict.
Javier Garron fills in for Leinel Yu on art this issue, and it’s always frustrating when a mini-series needs to bring in a guest artist. Garron puts in inconsistent work throughout the issue, with some sequences (including the above) looking chunky or awkward. That said, Garron’s also responsible for my favorite moment of the issue (and perhaps the entire mini-series): Mosaic possessing Magneto.
Garron’s command of body language here is phenomenal — this may be Magneto’s body, but it’s got the posture of a surly teen. The panicked, shadow-cloaked eyes, the hunkered shoulders and awkward strut — all absolutely sell that Magneto’s not in control of his own body. I wish Garron’s work throughout the rest of the issue lived up to this moment, but I’m glad we got to see this play out regardless.
Power Man and Iron Fist 13
Taylor: The key word in the title Power Man and Iron First is “and.” More than being simple a series about either of these characters alone, it’s about them purposefully together. Regardless of what happens to each character the constant of this title is that they are choosing to exist and work together. This is the soul of the series and while it’s something most know to be intrinsic to the the stories being told here, there’s always a payoff to seeing if affirmed in ink.
Luke and Danny are hot on the trail of Alex Wilder and because of that he is desperate. Everyone in New York knows this and people are quickly choosing sides and making alliances in preparation for the battle to come. While forming their plan of attack, Danny makes a confession to Luke.
Basically he admits to Luke that he hung around him because he was afraid of being alone. The expectation that Luke will flip out is high, but instead he reaffirms his and Luke’s relationship. This comes despite his having lost Jessica and his daughter because of his involvement in too much fiddle-faddle fighting bad guys. That Cage would pledge his friendship to Danny shouldn’t come as a shock, but what’s moving this scene is that Luke is essentially putting Danny on par with his family. Luke could easily have chosen Jessica now, or earlier, but Danny means just as much to him as his wife and kids. Maybe that’s misguided but maybe it’s also telling that two men can have such a deep and meaningful relationship without letting society judge them for it.
It’s amazing that this scene is fit into this issue at all. The first two thirds of the issue unfold like a cop procedural but quickly spin out of control. Early on we get scenes of Luke attending a funeral, some bad-guy plotting, some detective work, and some more plotting. Things explode later into the weird and occult when Alex harnesses voodoo street magic to summon a demon. It’s all so great and well thought out that it’s easy to miss the wonderful brothership between Luke and Danny, but perhaps that’s just proof of how interesting and layered this series has become.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 17
Spencer: I don’t talk enough about Erica Henderson’s contributions to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which is a crying shame, because she brings so much charm and enthusiasm to the title, and is a vital part of its success. There’s so much I like about Henderson’s work on issue 17 — such as the sheer excitement on Doreen’s face throughout her encounter with Melissa Morbeck and the tall vertical panels throughout her jetpack-aided battle with the Rhino — but what stood out to me the most are her fashion choices.
I love Brain Drain’s “disguise,” Nancy’s new hairstyle, Doreen’s stylish jacket/hat combo, as well as Morbeck’s elegant, elder-stateswoman look on the next page. I’ve always gotten the impression that fashion is a passion of Henderson’s, and just like writer Ryan North’s passion for programming, it adds a lot of distinct personality to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
It’s important that the creative team behind Doreen Green’s adventures follow their passions, because that’s such an important part of who she is as a character. This month’s installment reminds readers of Doreen’s many passions — computer programming, crime-fighting, talking to animals, seeing the best in people — before twisting the knife by turning them against her. Morbeck plays at being a mentor and indulges Doreen, dazzling her with her ability to talk to all animals and offering her unlimited funding for her crime-fighting crusade, but actually has sinister intentions for the
unbeatable ungroundable Squirrel Girl. I’m horrified to see how Doreen will take this betrayal; I have no doubt that Morbeck’s master plan is evil, but there’s something especially despicable about preying upon and undermining a person’s passions. Doreen isn’t the kind to let Morbeck rob her of her zest for life, but I do think this will end up being a particularly personal mission for her.
(North and Henderson actually sell the theme of passions from the very first page, which is devoted entirely to an excerpt of Nancy’s “Cat Thor meets Dog Hulk” fan-comic, a passion project of hers. The story is delightful, and I’d love to see a whole issue of Nancy’s animal Avengers. You hear me, North/Henderson/Marvel?!)
Unworthy Thor 4
“I hear ’em every day: the rhythms in the canyons that will never fade away,
the ballads in the barrooms left by those that came before.
They say you gotta want it more
So I knock on every door.”
“Another Day of Sun,” La La Land
Patrick: How much of being worthy is wanting to be worthy? Jason Aaron and a small army of loyal Thor artists make the case that Odinson’s desire to wield Mjolnir is the defining characteristic of the hero. As a neat little tie in to the lyrics I pulled above, Unworthy Thor 4 is a parade of artistic talent showcasing a handful of artists that have helped to shape Aaron’s vision of the character over the last five years. It’s a little bit of an extension of a story that has been teasing its secrets for a touch too long, but I’m a sucker for this kind of character exploration. I mean, hey, if it gets Frazier Irving, Esad Ribic and Russell Dauterman art in the same book, I’m all for it.
Each of those heavy hitters gets to take a crack at drawing Thor at various stages of his relationship with the mighty Uru hammer. Irving shows us the ancient history – a time before worthiness, when all of Thor’s thoughts were on how he could lift the thing. Ribic gets Thor in his glory days — appropriate considering his work on the “Godkiller” arc at the beginning of Aaron’s run. Even at his peak, Thor is still maniacally focused on Mjolnir, which appears in practically every panel. Check it out – the romance here isn’t between Thor and Jane, but between Thor and his weapon.
Of course, Dauterman is left to draw Odinson and Jane in the immediate aftermath of unworthiness. This is the modern era of Thor, where we all know it’s Jane playing around with Mjolnir, but Odinson does not, and Dauterman has been carrying that story for about two years. The scene itself is brilliant, lingering on this same pedestal, now lacking one magical hammer.
These flashbacks tell the story of the man who “want(s) it more” than anyone else. That’s enough to put the resolution of Unworthy Thor on hold for one more issue.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?