Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 3/1/17

marvel-roundup72We 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 Doctor Strange 18, Hawkeye 4, Moon Knight 12, and Silk 18. Also, we’ll be discussing America 1 on Monday and the Unstoppable Wasp 3 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Doctor Strange 18

doctor-strange-18Drew: Superhero team-up! We’ve seen a ton of mediocre team-ups over the years, but the best ones still stand out for finding unexpected ways to thrust two beloved characters together. One of the surest ways to get good results is when the writer happens to be writing the solo series for both characters — as the current “voice” for both, there’s some insurance there that the heroes will be consistent with how they’re portrayed elsewhere, from the turns of phrase they use to the themes that might resonate with them. Such is the case with Doctor Strange 18, which pairs Stephen with Thor, but more importantly, with Jane Foster.

Last month’s cliffhanger established that all of Stephen’s former patients have been infected by Mr. Misery, and now require brain surgery to remove tumors. But, Doctor Strange’s whole thing is that he can’t do brain surgery anymore, so he calls upon the one other superhero M.D. he knows: Thor. Only, you know, that Thor is actually Jane Foster isn’t exactly public knowledge. That gives Thor some pause, but she couldn’t really turn her back on all these people in need, so we get maybe the greatest line in comics history:

Scrub in, Doctor Thor, and let’s get cutting.

This is Jason Aaron at his goofiest, and it’s an absolute blast. When Mister Misery shows up to put a ticking clock on all of these patients, Thor resolves to complete the surgeries with the speed of lightning, melting her scalpels along the way.

Meanwhile, artist Chris Bachalo seems to be having just as much fun, flipping and twisting the grotesque Mister Misery in every way he can. I was particularly impressed at the way Bachalo approached following both Doctor Strange and Thor once the battle with Mister Misery heated up, effectively foregrounding one while following the other in the background:

Doctor Strange and Thor

This layout manages to capture both the massiveness of Mister Misery and the claustrophobia of fighting him, all while tracking what our two characters are across the room from one another. It’s an absolute delight.

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Hawkeye 4

hawkeye-4Spencer: Quite often, when a story has some sort of real-life, political allegory, I end up disappointed when the ending can’t fully resolve that issue and inevitably resorts to fisticuffs and explosions. Not so, though, with Hawkeye 4. Admittedly, Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero have moved past the initial stalking and misogyny that kick-started their story, but the conclusion still successfully tackles an important subject: how and why the hate that fuels those kind of behaviors is created, and how to deal with it.

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Meet Aggregate. He has the ability to empower himself by absorbing the hatred of others, and has been using the Take Back Control meetings and primer patches to amplify L.A.’s hatred, giving him more to feed off of. Whether Aggregate cares one way or another about any of the groups he’s stoking up hate against is essentially irrelevant; his end goal is simply to gain more power for himself. It’s no different for many real life groups (political or otherwise), who preach hate against marginalized groups simply to keep themselves in power. With that in mind, it’s interesting to see how Kate and company deal with Aggregate and his minions. Poor brainwashed Mikka is freed from Aggregate’s control through pure love, and that makes sense; often (although certainly not always), those who have been deceived by this kind of hatemongering can eventually see the error of their ways thanks to experience, empathy, and yes, love. That’s not gonna be enough to deal with the likes of Aggregate, though.

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Instead, Kate has to physically restrain him (in a clever action sequence) and essentially ram the power of pure love (in the form of The Sound of Music) right down his throat. Even then, this doesn’t result in a the kind of joyful reunion it did with Mikka; instead, Aggregate writhes in pain, the hatred forcibly ejected from his body in the form of a sickly green liquid. What this resolution says to me is that, even when dealing with hatemongers like Aggregate, we can’t give up on the principles of love and empathy — but we can’t rely solely on them either. Action, and likely even force, is still required. And we can’t expect a big happy ending — when dealing with the likes of Aggregate, reformation takes a back seat to the priority of stopping them from hurting more people.

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Moon Knight 12

moon-knight-12Michael: Moon Knight 12 is like the third act of movie where the supporting cast comes back to save the hero before sending him on to the climax. Seriously, there’s like three separate deus ex machinas here from Marc Spector’s different personas. It’s hard to tell where the real meaning of it all lies in the present day adventures of Moon Knight 12, which take place in “The Overvoid.”

In a flashback to his days as a mercenary, one of Marc’s targets: “The Wolf” mentions how, as a mercenary, Marc is “broken into pieces” and that he will never be whole again. That’s really the resounding theme of this series — Marc coming to terms with the different pieces of himself.

Jeff Lemire shows us that Marc’s personalities were not so simply exorcised as Marc believed, but only Marc can face the challenge ahead.

marc

There’s a Campbellian quality that’s present in the mystical narrative of The Overvoid. Marc essentially makes a(nother) deal with the devil by agreeing to rescue Anubis’ wife in exchange for Crawley’s soul.

Greg Smallwood continues to relish in the Moon Knightiness of the book: dealing in the blinding whites of the negative space between the borderless panels. Comics art is choreographed to move your eye from left to right and zig-zag to the next line. With that white negative space it feels like the panels are forcefully shifted by our gaze and that zig-zag is more evident.

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Moon Knight continues to be a series that I think I know what’s going on but am also completely ready to be proven wrong.

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Silk 18

silk-18Spencer: Silk 18 is a bit of a reboot for the character, using the tragic ending of “Clone Conspiracy” as a wake-up call for Cindy Moon. Addled from watching her predecessor die (again) and her mentor lose his job for his role in the New U fiasco, Cindy’s questioning her entire life, and she’s not entirely wrong to; everything about her current status quo has been influenced by other people, from her job at the Fact Channel (which she took to find her parents, which she has since succeeded in doing) to her superheroic lifestyle (which she’d been groomed for by Ezekiel). The question on Cindy’s mind now is: what does she want to do with her life?

It’s a question that could come across perhaps a tad bit selfish under a lesser creative team, but Robbie Thompson and Tana Ford channel the turmoil Cindy is feeling throughout the entire issue (the pain just bubbles up in those graveyard sequences especially, and the frantic cuts in Dr. Sinclair’s office capture her scattered state of mind perfectly — and I continue to love that the creative team portrays therapy as a vital, healthy, and helpful aspect of Cindy’s life), tapping us directly into her pain, loss, and unmoored sense of confusion. Perhaps more importantly, Thompson and Ford base their new direction for Cindy on a vital part of her personality.

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Cindy Moon has to help those in need; it’s a part of who she is. That’s why her decision to work for Mockingbird at S.H.I.E.L.D. just makes sense: it will not only allow Cindy to help people for a living, but to find the most effective way to do so. It’s a smart decision on Cindy’s (and Thompson and Ford’s) behalf, and one I’m glad to see her make.

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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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One comment on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 3/1/17

  1. Doctor Strange: This is one of those perfect teamups, an idea that needed to happen. What make sit work is the number ways that it works. Iconic Marvel Doctor team up. Jane uses her expertise to do what Doctor Strange iconically can no longer do. The humour of Thor doing surgery. The sort of thing that is just fun to see happen

    And it does that alongside telling a story about Doctor Strange taking responsibility for the pain he caused. The dialogue makes it explicit, but what I really love is how he eats the brain tumour.

    This is a very simple issue, a fun side issue digression to demonstrate Strange’s character development and have some fun with Thor while Aaron is still writing both books (apparently he is coming to the end of his Doctor Strange run!). But really good.

    And I love that Strange could always tell that Jane was Thor. Ultimately, a key part of Strange is that he sees beyond what everyone else sees. He sees infinity. He looks outside of himself. The ability to pierce Jane’s transformation is the sort of thing that fits perfectly, both as part of his power set and as a greater thematic statement of who Strange is

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    Hawkeye: I still remember picking All New Wolverine up on a whim, and how that first issue was essentially perfect. How amazed I was at just how good it was. Basically got everything right. And you know what, I think it happened again?

    I can’t believe this book of all books managed to pull it off. I did not have high hopes for this book, because of my previous experiences with Kelly Thompson’s work. And my enjoyment of the book always came with qualifications. Especially after my savaging of issue 2 and how it screwed up the execution of its theme of misogyny. And yeah, before I talk about how perfect issue 4 is, let’s not forget something. Issues 2 and 3 were supposed to expand the thematic scope of this story from misogyny to hatred in general, and it did not manage that transition well. Issue 4 is hurt by this. But on its own merits, Issue 4 is sensational.

    The first page, most notably, does not show Kate tied up. We are in closeup, unable to see the bindings. All we can see is her face and the top of her uniform. There isn’t even a background, just blackness. Which means that the only colour comes from the purple below her. And the last three issues have trained us to see purple has superhero, and purple as Kate in control. And the facial expression is just as perfect, constantly seeming relaxed, playful. Comfortable. Desptie what we know in issue 3, Kate is comfortbale and in charge. Combine that with ‘I can’t believe this is written by Thompson, this is actually great’ dialogue, that builds up to the pitch perfect ‘…you work out, bro?’ (also worth crediting the letterer for how they placed the dialogue) and you have a sensational first page.

    Which leads to Aggregate smashing her into the machinery, freeing her. And Kate struggling to get up. Which is perfect. I love the effort placed in the struggle to get up (since I am remembering the perfect All New Wolverine 1, it reminds me of the effort placed in just how much damage Laura was taking). Kate was in control, but she was still captured. You have to earn your escape. Perfect consequential storytelling. Her actions had consequences. She escaped, but she got hurt doing so. Which is how it should be, as being captured isn’t the sort of thing that should be resolved without a cost. Combine that with ‘as if sass needs a point’, which highlights who Kate is outside of her carefully crafted plans even as it explains her pan, and the scene is perfect. Then, clever panelling makes the ‘bomby pin’ obvious, drawing attention to the sort of panel that is easy to skip over, so that we understand exactly what is happening next page.

    Kate’s escape is done fantastically, communicated exceptionally. Things as simple as that third panel, as Aggregate blinded, Kate untying Mikka and the stairs in the background,are amazing. One panel, telling nearly every piece of pertient information of the scene. And followed by the next one, that shows Aggregate recovering in the foreground as Kate and Mikka escape in the background. And then Kate smashed through the panel onto the next page, in a simply but effective payoff to Kate’s observations last issue.

    And now, at the perfect time, the story escalates. She’s in a room full of controlled people. Bellaire’s colouring is amazing. The colours are mostly muted, with the exception of some very bright yellows. Our eyes are instantly drawn to the yellow stickers that activate that Hate Plague, priming us for the second panel just before we get to it. But Mikka’s similarly bright skirt builds a link between Mikka and the stamps. Developed further in the second panel, where Kate and Mikka are in silhouette – except for the stickers on Mikka’s neck. The art also draws our attention to Kate’s friends, through the use of empty space in the cloud of Archer Vision, while also cleverly positing a guy so that Kate’s friends are both noticed and backgroudned.

    Which leads to Kate having to fight her way out. Every panel shows her struggling, shows her fighting people off or running away. We can see that Kate is in trouble. But I also love why she’s running away. Because she needs her bow. This works for multiple reasons. First, it is a great setting detail that Kate couldn’t walk in with her bow, and had to keep it nearby. Second, it creates an easy, story motivated way to have a reversal of circumstances – Kate reaches bow, she starts winning again. Third, it forces storytelling into the fight – Kate has a specific objective instead of a general objective. Fourth, Kate’s attempts to run through is a more interesting fight dynamic than normal punching.
    But of course, this is combined by fantastic panelling. I love how Kate is being dragged back inside as she reached for her bow in the second to last panel. How helpless she looks, compared to how in control she is once she has her bow. The combination of those two panels are amazing. It uses the nature of comics perfectly to fudge the fight choreography perfectly so that the two people attacking Kate disappear, to instead show a sudden change in control. Kate struggles, she struggles, she gets her bow, instant shift in power dynamic. Add a caption providing the context to make sure we understand Kate is bluffing, just to keep the issue’s morals on the right, and things work perfectly

    Also important to praise the colouring. The room itself is blue, but Kate’s objective bow is outside, in orange. We see her move to the new ‘zone’ and reenter, the colouring providing powerful shorthand for showing how Kate both left and reentered. But more importantly, the colour turns from blue to red as Ramone kisses Mikka and breaks the Hate Plague. The colouring subtly escalates the colour, and the scene gets more and more passionate. But red is not just the colour of passion, but of danger, leading to the scene with Kate showing yet another reversal.

    Page turn also shows this danger, by breaking the 180 rule. This emphasises the change, but it also uses orientation to shift the power from Kate (who, after a helpless sprint to the left of the page/backwards, and regained control and therefore a orientated facing right) back to Aggregate, who is now looking to the right (also, love how Aggregate is the frat-cute guy. In an issue where Kate is in superhero mode/her most competent moments, love how this reminds us of the messed up parts of her). The camera pans around him as he powers up, making him the centre of the scene. Everything revolves around him.

    But also, this page is why shifting from misogyny to generalised hate was such a good idea, no matter how badly it was accomplished. My worries about generalised hate was that it would dilute the message, go for a general ‘hate is bad’ instead of specifically investigating misogyny. But instead of being diluted, it uses the generalised hate to find a core truth of the way the people exploit how hate for their own gain. The parallels to Trump are clear – Aggregate feeds hate, which he then exploits for personal power. No different to how Trump lies and how he feeds misogyny, racism, homophpbia etc as a strategy for the White House. The only difference between Aggregate and Trump is that turns freakish when feeding on hate, while Trump always looks like a freakish orange gnome in a suit that doesn’t fit. But jokes aside, Aggregate is the perfect villain for a hate based story. There is no better way to deal with this. I thought issue 2 meant it was going to bungle the thematics, but instead, we have the perfect thematic capstone to the story.

    Oh, and Aggregate beats Kate around, because this is a book that lives up to the threat. Facing a powerful bad guy, you will get thrown. The BOOM panel is always a classic way of showing impact, but the one I really love is the final panel. Kate firing an arrow, while beneath her the ground is damaged by Kate slamming into it. Kate’s costume is dirty, and she feels hurt, especially when the panel before emphasised pain.

    Which leads to, as Spencer described, a very clever action sequence where Kate beats Aggregate with the Sound of Music. I do love how the whole ‘wrap up the villain’ thing is done, just different enough from every other version of the trope. But the most important thing is how the Sound of Music, a movie about resisting Nazis with positive music, saves the day. Not subtle, but worth emphasising.

    When Kate returns home, everyone is there. I still don’t care much for the characters, the last three issues were weakest with these guys. But this scene is perfect. I love we see Kate realise that they are her new anchor points. But I also love why they become her anchor points. Not because they helped her – the most helpful did relatively little this issue. But because they came back. Kate has been feeling lost because she’s had no one. She still has America, and a couple other of her closest friends. But she’s lost every father figure she’s had quite recently (let’s just ignore Lemire’s Hawkeye run, because the stuff it did with Kate’s father made no sense at all. It amazed me just how badly the editor was doing their job, there. Lemire’s thing often appears to be ‘pretending to be consistent with the previous guy, even as I get everything wrong’ (Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Thanos… Has he done the same with Old Man Logan yet?). Kate needs new anchors, and people willing to come back, people who, after all of the shit is finished, are looking out for her are exactly what she needs. Other issues need to make these characters good, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are used perfectly here.

    And then, we get the finale, at the police station. Kate wears a purple dress with a green jacket – having solved her first case, she has been successful as both a detective and a superhero, and she has reached the first steps in her path to unify these disparate parts of her identity (is that why the top half of her dress is mostly white? She’s started the process, but there is still a long way to go, and so her dress uses white space to keep the colours mostly separate, and to show the size of the chasm left to fill?). Rivera’s relationship with Kate is perfectly demonstrated by the ‘Yeah, that’s not going to be my nickname’ ‘Okay, we’ll work on it. The important thing is we agree there will be a nickname’. Still antagonistic, but getting closer.

    The interrogation/explosion is perfect ‘finished the case, only to discover a much bigger mystery, and here we finally learn why Kate went to LA. I really didn’t like how it was holding this information back, but in retrospect, it is perfect. Because we get the shock of learning the reason Kate arrived at the same time that Kate gets shocked that this case has to do with her greater case. We aren’t given the distance to observe Kate’s struggles with her father, as we are forced to be there right with her, dealing with the shock that everything here is more than just West Coast supervillainy, but the most intensely personal threat Kate could face (well, actually there is someone else who is probably even more personal, but her father is the only personal threat that is a major part of Kate’s current narrative).

    And then we have Jessica Jones show up. Which is fantastic. Just when Kate needs a mentor to start the next stage of her detective career, we get who is probably another of Kate’s anchor points, the woman who supported her from the very beginning of her life as a Young Avenger. Love how the captions and dialogue actually connect Jessica Jones to the word Anchor Point. Just a perfect issue

    And yeah, I can’t wait to see what Kate and Jessica get up to together, as Jessica is the perfect mentor for Kate. Not just because Jessica was there at the very beginning, supporting Kate. Not just because Kate is trying to become a private detective, Jessica’s area of expertise. But also because Jessica is one of the few who know Kate’s secrets, and there is a shared bond of experience between them that no other hero can match. The ways that Jessica and Kate are both the same, and the ways that they are different makes Jessica such a fantastic mentor character for Kate. Can’t wait to see what happens, especially if Thompson keeps this level of writing.

    Damn, every so often, an issue like this, that sneaks up on you with jsut how perfect it is, comes along. Always the best surprises. Top of my list for best issues of 2017

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