Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 2/22/17

marvel-roundup71We 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 Amazing Spider-Man 24, Deadpool the Duck 4, Extraordinary X-Men 19, Hulk 3, IvX 5 and Spider-Gwen 17. Also, we discussed Captain America: Steve Rogers 12 on Thursday, and will be discussing Spider-Woman 16 on Tuesday and Black Panther 11 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Amazing Spider-Man 24

amazing-spider-man-24Drew: This issue, like many of the ASM issues tying in to Clone Conspiracy, feels largely superfluous, filling in beats that were left out of the main series because they aren’t actually essential to the story. Writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage have managed to wring some good moments out of that auxiliary premise, but mostly when focusing on Peter Parker — you know, the title character of this series. This issue, instead, pushes Peter almost entirely to the side, focusing instead on, appropriately enough, a deteriorating imposter-clone in desperate need of a new identity.

I will say, aside from a few issues from the “Spider-Verse” event and Clone Conspiracy, I’m not super familiar with Ben Reilly, so it’s possible his showdown with Miles Warren has more teeth for folks more invested in their history. But this issue definitely doesn’t make that history feel vital. Heck, it’s only in this issue that Miles Warren even discovers that he is Miles Warren, and not another clone, so it’s hard to believe that he’s all that invested in this showdown, either. Unfortunately, it’s Miles that forces this confrontation, apparently out of on obsession with Ben that simply isn’t developed within this issue. They fight for unclear reasons, and Ben leaves him to die for equally unclear reasons.

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Oh, right: Ben leaves Miles for dead. It’s the kind of off-screen, likely not-really-dead comic book death, but it’s still a turning point for this character. Only, again, it’s not really earned in the issue. It’s a heavy moment supported by page after page of fluff — there’s none of the density of Slott’s typical work on the series, instead following mostly one character through a series of largely disjointed events. It’s not the most satisfying read, though it will fortunately be the last tie-in for this event.

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Deadpool the Duck 4

deadpool-the-duck-4Michael: One of the rules of comedy is repetition, a concept that Deadpool readers should be very familiar with. Typically in a story featuring The Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool will latch onto a crazy idea he has and refuse to let go of it for the rest of the issue, or even the rest of the series. Sometimes it works; many times it doesn’t. The “running joke” of this issue? Wade and Howard’s “poor Grandma.” Howard recollects a story about his deceased grandmother and Wade’s warped psyche seemingly absorbs the crippling memory as his own.

Deadpool the Duck 4 finally sees Howard take the wheel of their shared body while Wade is banished to space rock-filled oblivion. The result is…kind of boring. So far, Stuart Moore has made this series heavy on the Deadpool and light on the Duck. Since we’re used to Wade wrestling with the voices in his head, it was easy to accept the idea that Howard the Duck might be among them. Howard seems to realize that taking over their body was a bad idea, too, as he fears for his life before Wade’s “muscle memory” kicks in.

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There’s some odd connective tissue going on for the background characters of this book. It’s revealed that Roxxon’s Basalt is the mother of SHIELD agent Mary, a plot point that the issue itself rolls its eyes at as Moore neglects to write actual dialogue between the two of them at one point.

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The series is at its best with moments like this. Another great example is how Rocket Raccoon (to no one’s surprise) emerges to save the day, but also announces that he has no idea what’s happening.

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Extraordinary X-Men 19

extraordinary-x-men-19Patrick: When NBC’s Thursday night comedies were having a late 2000s resurgence (in quality, if not in ratings), they made a few annual attempts at “green” programming for Earth Day. The Office would commit it’s cold open to some scenes about Dwight setting up a recycling program or something like that, and 30 Rock would embrace the mandate as intentionally-sloppily as possible. But Community and Parks and Recreation were often too involved in their stories and formats to really give a shit about something they were “supposed” to do. On the rewatch, those episodes are all but invisible. Imagine a viewer that was a fan of environmental programming — let’s a assume such a viewer exists — that viewer is going to be bummed when Community insists on making their story about Britta and Annie competing for attention instead of whatever environmental issue is tangentially mentioned (an oil spill, if I remember correctly). Extraordinary X-Men 19 finds me in that unfortunate position where it seems like the series is humming right along, pushing back against the cross-over — and all I want to see is I fight X.

I know, I know, I know — this is why we don’t buy in to cross-overs willy-nilly. Writer Jeff Lemire is almost maniacally focused on telling an Extraordinary X-Men story with the trappings of an IvX story. But it is hard to argue that even the creators don’t view Sapna’s reappearance as something of an interruption. Magik is out on the battlefields of Limbo, beating back Inhumans with her hilariously huge Soulsword when suddenly, the soul of her fallen protégé starts speaking to her from within the sword. They have a heart-to-heart, the quality of which I don’t at all feel qualified to comment on. I don’t know Sapna, and this issue doesn’t do anything to warm me to her. Literally the only other character who can see her or talk to her (or even mentions her in the issue) regards her as a nuisance. Magik keeps telling Sapna that she needs to get back to the battle, and at that point, Iliyana might as well be writing the round-up piece for me.

Artist Eric Koda gets to play around with some cool textures while inside the Soulsword, but it’s hard to be too enamored of this word when 90% of the issue takes place in a formless non-space.

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So, I don’t know: shame on me, I guess. The experience of reading this issue has all the stink of “cross-over event issue” with virtually none of the payoff. If Sapna’s semi-corporeal form ends up being the lynchpin of the whole series, I’ll have at least a glimmer of recognition. Otherwise, I’m writing this one off as kind of a dud.

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Hulk 3

hulk-3Spencer: Hulk‘s pace is feeling a bit slow to me. Much of this third installment is spent giving brief nods to all the plot points established in the first two issues (such as Jen’s “stalker,” Florida Meyers) and turning those issues’ subtext into text. While I appreciate the extra details to Maise’s backstory, there’s a certain amount of subtlety lost in explicitly stating that, yes, Jen is so interested in Maise because she sees so much of herself in her.

The centerpiece of this issue, though, is the conversation between Jen and Hellcat. Patsy’s reappearance answers a lot of questions about what kind of contact Jen’s had with her old life, while also providing an important contrast between Jen and Maise, who are otherwise so similar.

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Jen can’t just return to her old life because it brings too many painful reminders of who she used to be, who she isn’t anymore (a point beautifully made by Jen seeing her She-Hulk reflection in the elevator door), but even as she works to rebuild a new, stable life for herself, she’s still grateful for Patsy’s insistence on keeping tabs on her. She’s counting on Patsy not disappearing because she knows she needs her, even if it’s painful to see her right now. That’s the difference I see between Jen and Maise. Jen is hurt, but is still confronting some of her fears by trying to build a new life. Maise has locked herself in her apartment, essentially giving up. It’s a decision Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon frame as a poor one by having Maise literally embrace darkness, by having her turn to a violent, mysterious force to “solve” her problems the moment her own attempt to deal with them fails. Maise’s decisions are understandable, sure — Tamaki and Leon are still doing a fantastic job of showing how draining, exhausting, and soul-crushing dealing with trauma can be — but more than ever we can see how vital, and worthwhile, it is to face your fears and try to rebuild your life anyway, no matter how slow or difficult the process ends up being. In that sense, Jen is leading by example.

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IvX 5

ivx-5Drew: Between Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, awareness of (and impatience with) with superheroes fighting one another has never been higher. I’ve seen plenty of think-pieces over the last several months, but I’d say that superheroes fighting over deeply held ideological beliefs is actually less cynical than the much more common “let’s you and him fight” trope, where superheroes fight often as the result of a misunderstanding, suggesting that these “heroes” jump to violence before even settling whether or not they are on the same side. Most comics fans have resigned to accept this trope to some degree — it really is ubiquitous, despite how dumb it is — though repeating it too often can foil that resignation. Such is the case with IvX 5, which introduces another “let’s you and him fight” nested within the larger one that defines the series.

In defense of the series as a whole, the premise largely mitigates its tropiness by setting it within the context of a larger conflict. When you get down to it, the mutants’ attack was preemptive in a very “let’s you and him fight” kind of way, but the rest of the premise was strong enough for us to look past it. Sure enough, this issue reveals how receptive the Inhumans (or, at least the NuHumans) would have been to stopping the utter extermination of the mutants, only for that newfound truce to fall apart again when the mutants come charging in again.

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This is the moment, and writers Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule can’t help but hang a lantern on how silly it is — Storm acknowledges that the NuHumans may not understand why they’re being attacked, and Cyclops has time to rattle off a response that somehow isn’t “Stop! They’re helping us now!” Unfortunately, the rest of the issue doesn’t exactly make up for these shortcomings — the Inhumans are all rescued without any real event, and Moon Girl dazzles an unsuspecting Forge as if he were a sitcom bully. It all looks the way it does to put the pieces in place for the finale (which I genuinely do think will be fun), but it’s just a bit too predictable to really have any energy on its own.

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Spider-Gwen 17

spider-gwen-17Spencer: Who doesn’t love a good team-up? There’s something fun about seeing two characters who wouldn’t normally interact hang out; Spider-Gwen team-ups are especially fun because Spider-Woman’s otherwise such an isolated character. Gwen’s adventures with the heroes of Earth-616 give her a chance to find peers who understand what she’s going through in a way her civilian friends on Earth-65 can’t, and it turns out that Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy make especially strong partners.

Spider-Gwen 17 is part four of a crossover between this title and Bendis’ Spider-Man book, and while this installment does make a fair bit of progress in these kids’ mission to find Miles’ father (and his evil Earth-65 doppleganger), Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez appear to have more pressing priorities than plot. First and foremost, they wanna have fun. This issue is a blast: from the running gags about multiversal misunderstandings to the charmingly awkward rooftop chat between Miles, Gwen, and eventually Ms. Marvel, Latour and Rodriguez take full advantage of this opportunity to mingle both their leads in worlds — and with characters — they wouldn’t normally interact with.

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But this issue’s heart, of course, comes from the budding friendship (possibly romance?) between Gwen and Miles. Latour and Rodriguez do a great job of showing how much these two have in common — besides their abilities and maturity levels, both also have pretty bad case of Parker luck (both are broke, Miles sits on his sandwich, etc.) — but also how they support, challenge, and understand each other. Gwen offers Miles help at a time when he needs it more than ever, and Miles shows Gwen that there are better crime-fighting options available to her than the ones she normally feels forced to take back at home. While this pairing seemed weird to me on paper (what’s the age difference between them, anyway?), they work surprisingly well on the page, and that makes this a team-up I’d be glad to revisit.

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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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2 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 2/22/17

  1. Hulk: Hard to know what to say about this that you didn’t already so perfectly say, Spencer. It makes a lot of the subtext, text, as the needs for exposition are required. Some great visual storytelling with the elevator, and great use of Patsy.

    The only real insight for me to provide is to bang that old drum again about the evils of the three act structure. Using a structure that describes the middle as a ‘middle’, there quite literally isn’t a story happening. All the pieces that have been set up are not being shifted to the place they need to be for the finale. This is why we need to think of structure not in a simplistic ‘beginning, middle, end’ but as a skeleton that holds the entire story up, a skeleton where each act serves a significant purpose to the overall story. And where we try and spend as little time setting things up for the climax as possible

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    Infamous Iron Man: As much as Bendis is attacked for writing for the trade, he actually gives each issue a strong individual idea. At his worst, his issues rely on the sort of chapter ends that are designed to have you read the next chapter immediately, which is not possible on a monthly schedule. But one of Bendis’ tricks is to use the chapter break to significantly change the way we perceive the storyline. For example, telling an entire issue from the Green Goblin’s perspective.

    And here, Bendis jumps forward in time, so that instead of seeing the events that follow, we instead see characters narrate the events. Which creates a dual narrative. Because this is not just a story about the events themselves, but what the events themselves mean to the character telling the story (to see the ultimate example of this idea being explored, watch the Grand Budapest Hotel, which layers stories in stories to explore how the telling of a story affects all participants).

    And so we see the events from the perspectives of Ben Grimm, whose telling of the story is also the story of him coming to terms with the fact that Doom is now a good guy, and from the perspective of Doom, who views the reveal of his mother with anger and betrayal. Kind of Rashomon-like, but instead of being about how events are influenced by the character’s perspective, it is about how different character’s perspectives were influenced by the same event.

    Which fits really well with the final moment, where we go to our third participant of events. No story told here, just the objective camera. Where we learn that the events were masterminded by the Maker, the perfect Fantastic Four villain to be Doom’s arch nemesis. The Maker has authored this issue, and Doom and Ben, as the particiapnts/readers, are the people influenced by the Maker’s writing

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    SpiderGwen: Again, Spencer, you say may most of what I want to say. Latour does a great job at pushing the plot forward and enjoying digressions (the most notable thing about this crossover is the difference in density between Latour and Bendis. Completely different ends of the spectrum. Bendis luxuriates in the scene, finding every little bit of story he can find. While Latour runs through stuff as quickly as possible, not leaving enough time to fully explore an idea but going through ideas like wildfire. Makes a unique combination).

    But the important thing is how Miles and Gwen work together. We know this is going to end in romance, and it is great seeing how it comes together. A great example of how foreknowledge informs events – Gwen’s discussions about why they can’t be friends has a very different meaning since we know from the first panel how this would end. Gwen’s true concern is about her feelings for him, and her own self doubt.

    Also, Miles’ frustration with Ms Marvel turning up is great

    • Oh, and I made the choice not to discuss it because I didn’t have anything to say, but I actually feel that the fact I don’t have anything to say is, itself, something to say.

      Thunderbolts: 20th Anniversary Issue of one of Marvel’s best premises of all time. Whose first issue is among the most iconic comic book moments of all time by providing one of the greatest twists of all time. One that had Kurt Busiek, the guy who begun Thunderbolts, write a story. One that had the return of a major Thunderbolts character. One that had the return of Baron Zemo to the Thunderbolts. One that had Zemo, working for Steve Rogers and knowing Steve is HYDRA, face to face with Kobik, in a major turn in Spencer’s greater Captain America story and the build up to Secret Empire.

      Doesn’t this feel like a story that I should have something to say? Something that should trigger something other an apathy? The closest thing I have to say to an insightful comment is that the story has yet to justify why Jolt is worth bringing back, when the characters have evolved to no longer need her.

      Closest thing to an emotion was when Songbird sonic scream ‘Fuck you, Zemo’. That was a great idea

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