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: Sam Wilson 19, Captain America: Steve Rogers 11, Clone Conspiracy 5, Deadpool 27, Doctor Strange 17, Invincible Iron Man 4, Old Man Logan 18, Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 15, Silk 17, and Uncanny Inhumans 19. Also, we discussed The Ultimates 2 4 on Thursday, and will be discussing The Mighty Thor 16 on Tuesday and Daredevil 17 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Captain America: Sam Wilson 19
White people still ask me why Mookie threw the can through the window. Twenty years later, they’re still asking me that. No black person ever, in 20 years, no person of color has ever asked me why.
Spike Lee, on Do the Right Thing
Drew: We’re now coming up on the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing, but it sure doesn’t feel like much has changed: the cycle of cops killing unarmed black men, their communities erupting in anger in response, and white people just not getting what the big deal is continues to this day. When I first saw this film, it was in school, and was followed by a discussion of whether Mookie “did the right thing” — the kind of discussion that only a roomful of white people can have. Answers ranged from “No” to “Yes, because he helped defray the violence against the white people,” but there wasn’t a whole lot of understanding the incidents of the film as part of a larger real-world problem. Of course, at that time, Rodney King was a distant memory and BLM was still years away, so my young white peers (myself included) genuinely thought the kinds of systemic racism brought up in the movie were artefacts of another era. That’s a harder illusion to maintain today, where cameraphone videos put the violence in front of us on a regular basis, though I’m not sure white people are any better at understanding why that violence lead to riots.
It should be noted that the destruction of property that concludes Captain America: Sam Wilson 19 has a few differences than the one in Do the Right Thing — most importantly, that it isn’t in response to a death, but to an unequivocally unjust jury verdict. Either way, Sam saw this case as a powderkeg from the start, and did everything he could to keep it from blowing up. He gambled on his video evidence exonerating Rage, but it ended up only making his inevitable conviction more blood-boiling. He tried to put out the fire, it’s just the water he used turned out to be gasoline. It’s unlikely the verdict will stand — Sam has already tracked down the real culprits — but the damage is already done, driving at least one kid to take matters into his own hands.
Writer Nick Spencer knows to let this moment play out silently, allowing the audience to project what they know (or don’t know) onto Angel Unzueta’s matter-of-fact sequence. It’s hard not to be reminded of Mookie silently emptying the garbage can before hurling it through Sal’s window — his motivations are either patently obvious or completely unknowable, depending on who you ask. The result is something shockingly similar to watching Do the Right Thing all those years ago; a portrait of the world around us as a Rorschach test.
Captain America: Steve Rogers 11
Patrick: Since Cap uttered the phrase “Hail Hydra,” the character has been something of an uncanny parallel to the rise of mainstream white nationalism in the American politics. We’ve all felt that sickening sink in our stomachs when reading that Steve Rogers has been a bad dude all along precisely because it feels like we’re coming to that realization about the parties and systems that currently govern us. The A.V. Club’s review of Civil War II: The Oath 1 harshly criticized the timeliness of the story’s themes, essentially burning a couple hundred words begging for an (Captain) America worth believing in. (Our own conversation was less critical of the issue, but expresses a lot of the same existential dread.) But while writer Nick Spencer has been very good at addressing the controversy that Hydra Cap represents, up until this point, he had not addressed the controversy that Hydra Cap is. Issue 11 finally takes a shot at tackling fan disbelief directly.
The centerpiece of this issue is a scene between Steve and Helmut Zemo. Whatever history Kobik has rewritten for Rogers is apparently a little hazy for Helmut. Readers are granted a view of history from Steve’s perspective, and through that perspective, we see these two as fast friends, making sacrifices for each other and sharing father figures. That’s supposed to grind against what the reader knows of these characters, just as it grinds against Helmut memories. The best moment of this whole issue is when Steve starts to speculate on all the reasons Helmut might not remember the events correctly, spouting a lot of fans’ initial reactions to the infamous “Hail Hydra” moment.
Smartly, Spencer also folds Helmut’s doubts into a running theme of disinformation. Rogers admits that he’s unable to prove anything, but promises that he a) will explain and that b) in the meantime, Helmut will just have to trust him. Helmut takes that action, and while Steve clearly believes it to be true, readers know better. Cap was changed by the Cosmic Cube.
It’s all very light on action, but that stinger at the end — wherein Task Master finds footage of the “Hail Hydra” moment that set the internet on fire — is so juicy and pulpy and exciting that any flagging pace is totally forgiven.
Clone Conspiracy 5
Spencer: Despite being the final issue of a major event, Clone Conspiracy 5‘s best moments come when Dan Slott and Jim Cheung slow down enough to pay attention to the people trying to survive the havoc at New U. Jackal gets a gleefully insane monologue that shows how far he’s fallen from his supposedly heroic roots (he brags about not reviving Kaine with the rest of the world, showing that good intentions take a backseat to enforcing his will), J. Jonah Jameson shares a uncharacteristically humble sentiment, and Peter and Otto get a shared moment that acknowledges everything they’ve been through together in the past few years. Perhaps most significant are the (second) deaths of Gwen Stacy and her father. Captain Stacy gets a reversal of his original death, asking Gwen to protect Peter (instead of the other way around), and Gwen gets to go out on her own terms.
In its own way, gaining agency over her own death is quite a victory for the victim of one of comics’ first fridgings.
These smart, satisfying character moments (as well as the issue’s resolution, which finds Peter and the survivors of New U learning their limits and vowing to use New U’s findings in more ethical ways) help Clone Conspiracy go out on largely fulfilling note, even if its actual action (and the actual solution to Jackal’s attack) is a tad underwhelming and simplistic. In the end, this finale is less about action and more about character, and in that area, it fully delivers.
Michael: As “Secret Empire” approaches we are likely seeing the beginning of the end of “Hydra Cap.” Steve Rogers’ more insidious nature started to show for readers in Civil War: The Oath and for characters it starts in Deadpool 27. A group of time traveling, Captain America-inspired ruffians arrive at the Lincoln Memorial to stop evil Steve in his tracks. Once he realizes what they’re up to, Cap uses the mad dog Deadpool to take out these loose ends for good — which he does.
Oddly enough one of the first people in-story who seems to be on to Steve’s nefariousness is Agent Phil Coulson, who goes underground at the end of the issue to evaluate what he just witnessed. Deadpool 27 is an odd place for all of this to happen — and since it’s written by Gerry Duggan instead of Nick Spencer I wonder how it will fit into the endgame of the “Hydra Cap” story. Over the past year we’ve seen Steve plot against, betray and murder some of his friends. His taking advantage of Deadpool seems to be one of the more egregious offenses, however.
The superhero community has a complicated relationship with Wade Wilson but he comes to it from a place of admiration. Wade looks up to Cap and appreciates the opportunities Cap has given him. To have Cap take advantage of Wade’s blind loyalty and killer instincts seems far more manipulative than past offense of his. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wickedness of it all but I also feel for our boy Wade — the puppy that the universe eternally kicks.
Doctor Strange 17
Drew: I’ve never been a huge video game fan, but even I recognize the impatience in watching my MP bar slowly fill, and especially the feeling of vulnerability after spending all my MP on a power-up. That’s more or less exactly the situation Doctor Strange finds himself in here, trying to track down Wong (and stay alive in the Sanctum Sanctorum), even though he’s recently used up all of his magic defeating Dormammu. It forces Strange back into the mostly non-magical world that made the fallout of the Empirikul’s attack so thrilling, framing it as a simple expenditure of MP.
That may not sound particularly groundbreaking — superheroes have been allocating their resources (or suffering the consequences) since at least the first time Spider-Man ran out of web-fluid — but this issue is built around what Strange does instead of finding Wong. That is, he doesn’t have the magic to do what he needs to do, so he just bargains his way to whatever he can. In this case, that means helping the Man-Thing defeat “nazi ninja vampires” in exchange for some magical algae.
It feels like a non sequitur award for a side-mission, but that algae ends up being just the item Strange needs to fend of Mister Misery’s next attack: erasing all of Strange’s progress (in the form of people he saved as a surgeon).
Maybe I’m hitting the video game analogies too hard, but it’s hard not to with Frazer Irving’s slick CG art. Not that it looks like a video game, necessarily, but it certainly has a distinctive, shimmery quality that would lend itself quite well to atmospheric cut scenes. Someone with a bit more fluency in video games will have to corroborate whether this issue truly relied on video game pacing and grammar, but either way, it was a fun little read that sets up a totally new challenge for Strange next month.
Invincible Iron Man 4
Spencer: Riri Williams spent the first few issues of Invincible Iron Man finding her feet as a superhero (mostly) on her own, so with issue 4 it’s time for Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli to integrate her more into the Iron Man mythology. In doing so, they not only highlight Riri’s strengths as a hero, but how much she still has to learn as well.
Pepper Potts pleasantly surprised me this month. While I was mostly aware of Pepper’s more recent history (such as the Rescue armor), I didn’t quite realize how competent she had become in the field — which, in Invincible Iron Man 4, is best shown by her valiant hand-to-hand fight against Tomoe’s techno-ninjas. It makes sense, though — if you’re going to be a superhero, you need to know how to handle yourself, even if stripped of your weapons. It’s a skill Riri hasn’t fully mastered yet, but for now, she’s got scrambling and improvising down to an art-form — and that’s a good sign that she’s got what it takes to learn.
It takes the Tony Stark A.I. to fill in Riri on Tomoe’s powers and backstory, but once he does, she quickly hatches a plan.
That plan, though, relies on Tony having already created the virus needed to take down Tomoe after their last encounter. What I see here, then, is that Riri very much has the skills needed to be a superhero, but this early in her career, she still needs the history, resources, and support provided by Stark’s company in order to save the day. Riri earns her place in the Iron Man legacy by showing that she knows how to use it to its fullest potential. The only things missing, though, are the unique qualities Riri brings to the Iron Man legacy — in that sense, I can’t wait to see this series’ focus again return a bit more to Riri’s more personal perspective.
Old Man Logan 18
Ryan D: Old Man Logan 18 reads like a car crash, and a visually striking one at that. With the past arc splitting Logan from the Wasteland to a space station with Puck to save Alpha Flight, the Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino jerk the audience from place to place in the same manner as the titular character. Replete with smash cuts or creative transitions, Sorrentino again finds his feet amidst the chaos and treats readers to incredible page composition and visuals. As Drew lamented last issue, though, is this narrative pushing the Old Man to new ground, or is it bogging him down in the character’s lore?
Featuring Jean Grey seemed like an easy way to explain the reality-trip which Logan faces here, but part of me hoped that she played the role of red herring, and that there may have been bigger forces at play aside from her psychic manipulations and the Brood; however, this issue proves that it was Jean under the Brood’s influence the whole time. The important thing about this arc and how it changed the main character- as good arcs do- was to provide a springboard for Logan to jump back to the Wasteland to take care of some “unfinished business”, i.e. discovering the fate of Bruce Banner’s child, a child which Logan was charged to protect. The reveals here did not disappoint me, per se, but I do wonder whether there aren’t more pressing stories to tell with the character of Logan in this world before we send him back to the Wasteland from which he came.
Bigger issues aside, I find this series to be a joy to read, nine times out of ten, if only for Sorrentino’s superb work. Lemire must be thankful that, between this title and Moon Knight, his artists can give his ideas such incredible visual clarity. I could fill my room with posters of Sorrentino’s mind-boggling two-page spreads:
That remarkable image is just one of three of those aforementioned spreads in this issue alone. The kid is an all-star.
Taking Logan back to the Wasteland makes this past arc feel a bit filler-esque, as complicated and fun as it was, due to the fact that it took place in a bubble off-world, and a lot of it being in Logan’s head. I love learning more about Logan’s time in that dystopian nightmare, but I’m just as interested — if not more — about how it makes him act in the Marvel landscape. But I have faith in this creative team to deliver.
Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat 15
Ryan M: Much of Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! has been about her establishing an adult life, separate from her youth. She has built a community of friends, carved out a career, and distanced herself from her mother. In Patsy Waker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 15, she faces the tiger she built with all of her childhood fears and disarms it with an honest expression of the anxieties of adulthood.
It’s an affecting moment in an issue that is otherwise a playful delight. Patsy’s illness gives us some fun costume changes, a tiny and then giant Jubilee and a few character beats for Sharon. Leth gives Sharon more depth as a character in this issue. We see both her natural desire to do good and her conscious awareness of the risks she is taking with her property. Ending the issue with Sharon’s beloved building zapped out of existence could prove to be a great way to build on this exploration of Sharon’s character.
I know I already mentioned that Jubilee came in three sizes in this issue, but Brittney Williams’ work is worth pointing out again. Little Jubilee was made even more adorable than usual with her little fists pumping at every small victory. It’s impressive that in a series where every character rank somewhere between adorable and ultra-adorable, that Williams is able to find fresh depths of cuteness. Even Patsy’s germ-expelling sneezes have a sense of whimsy.
After nefarious ex-boyfriends, a girl gang, a witch, and a villain who tries to out cat-pun her, it is a relief for Patsy to have a conflict that isn’t about her defeating a baddie. Now, she has to contend with the unintentional effects of her reality-bending cold. Taking personal responsibility is another step to adulthood, which Leth and Williams will likely make adorable and charming.
Taylor: It’s easy, when watching a zombie movie, to forget how truly horrifying it is. Maybe that’s because zombies have been around for a while in so many stories they fail to be moving. But the idea of seeing the dead reanimated is truly terrifying and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to see someone you know who had died, resurrected. That’s the case in Silk 17 when New-U resurrectees start to disintegrate in horrifying fashion.
Caught in the bowels of the New-U headquarters Cindy has to fight her way out with Hector and Mattie Franklin. They’re successful and eventually put an end to the disaster, with some help from Spider-Man, but it comes at a cost. Mattie, who was/is a role model for Cindy is killed when all the New-U clones are destroyed.
Seeing Cindy hold the empty costume for Spider-Woman hammers home the really scary thing about zombies and the undead. Sure, the idea of people rising from the grave is terrifying, but more than that, imagine seeing return from the grave only to see them lost once again? It’s a frightening idea and perhaps hints at why people find zombies so scary and an endless source for horrific story telling.
The only exception to all this horror is Hector, who hilariously dies again and is cast into ghost form once more. This is twice Hector has died and twice he has become a ghost so the horror of seeing death acts as a foil to all the death elsewhere. It’s a weird bit of comic relief in this issue that also serves as a reminder that he and Cindy shared something real and romantic in this arc. Will that kiss lead to more or will corporeal differences intervene?
Uncanny Inhumans 19
Patrick: Emma Frost is the shit. You can put her up on a list with the most bad-ass, influential revolutionaries in the Marvel Universe. The trick she pulls surrounding Cyclops’ death metastasized the Mutant resistance to the Inhumans’ free-roaming Terrigen cloud, and actually gave her people a fighting chance. But her heroism (or villain-ism, depending on how you view the conflict of IvX) is destined to play out in secret as only a handful of Mutants know the truth of her actions. Also, she’s a liar, literally presenting false realities to further her agenda, so it’s hard to celebrate her too much. That makes for some very exciting dynamics on the X side, but what about the on the I side? Uncanny Inhumans 19 reminds us that Maximus the Mad is always waiting in the wings to complicate matters.
Maximus takes Lineage, Triton and the Unspoken into the belly of some ancient sea-beast to start collecting ingredients for more Terrigen. We could actually stop right there at the set-up: nothing would be more disruptive to this war right now than the knowledge that Inhumans can simply create more of the poison that’s currently circling the globe. Literally no other Inhuman or Mutant is considering this as a possibility, either as a reason to make more war, or to broker a peace, and it’s unclear which Maximus wants to do with it. What is clear is that he wants to be the one in control of this resource when it comes time to make either peace or war. He’s a relentlessly ambitious character: a wildcard in the truest sense of the word. His unpredictability plays out during this fetch-quest as he hands one of his compatriots — The Unspoken — over to the Fish Queen in exchange for some of those raw materials for Terrigen. He’s even one step ahead of Lineage, who thinks he can out-betray Maximus the Mad (yeah, right, buddy).
Charles Soule writes Maximus as endlessly smart, and even charming, as he slithers and backstabs his way back to power. I love this shit-eating grin on the final page.
And just like Frost, he believes himself to be the hero of his story. It’s a masterful stroke for an Inhuman character this conflict too conveniently forgot about.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?