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 18, Captain America Steve Rogers, Old Man Logan 19, Power Man and Iron Fist 14, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 18 and Unbelievable Gwenpool 14. Also, we discussed IvX 6 on Thursday, and will be discussing Nova 4 on Monday and Man-Thing 1 and Silver Surfer 9 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 18
Drew: It’s a testament to how strong All-New Wolverine has been that this issue — a perfectly satisfying conclusion not only to a six-part story arc, but also to Laura’s entire relationship with Kimura — feels like a step down in quality. That may be mostly due to last month’s issue, which delivered a much more intensely personal climax as Laura worked to tame her killer instincts, leaving this one to feel a bit like falling action, even though it features Laura’s final showdown with Kimura. There are more epic fights in this one, for sure, but I think this series may be at its best in its quieter, weirder moments.
But holy hell are the fights here epic. Like, Wolverine in an Iron Man suit epic. It’s absurdly big, which I suspect is why writer Tom Taylor ultimately brings it back down to just Laura and Kimura, staring into each other’s eyes as Laura drowns Kimura. It’s an unsettlingly quiet moment after pages of bombast, and it works:
Artist Nik Virella sells the everloving snot out of the intensity of this moment. Like I said — it’s a testament to how good this series is that this issue isn’t personal enough. We’ve been spoiled.
Last month, I wondered where this series could go after reconciling with Laura’s past, and this issue only reinforces that question. And let me be clear here: it’s not that it can’t go somewhere, it’s that it can go anywhere. Freed from her past, Laura can now determine her future, but that’s totally uncharted territory for this character. It’s an exciting new world, established by these last two monumental issues.
Captain America Steve Rogers 13
Patrick: Any time there’s a super-villain team-up, I gotta ask how all those homicidal, anti-social, sociopathic personalities ever agreed to work together. I mean, I let that question go, because sometimes it’s more rewarding to have fun than ask questions, but the thought often lingers on my brain for just a touch too long to be comfortable. Captain America Steve Rogers 13 follows Baron Zemo as he collects a single — seemingly trivial — member of his villainous coalition: the mysterious Bob Hoffstetter.
I haven’t cracked who or what Bob is supposed to be. If he’s a reference to Cap lore, I haven’t been able to dig that info up. I originally suspected that his name could be a reference to the hapless Bob, Agent of Hydra, acting as a stand in for all the other schmucks who are trying to live a normal life, but then also work for Hydra. Whatever the case, Zemo has identified him as a crucial part of Cap’s plan, and very gradually pitches him on the concept of family and working together for a common cause. He ties him to a chair too, but the pitch is sincere and vulnerable. Zemo is oddly exposed as he bares all his fears and insecurities, while the flashback plays a successful Invaders raid on a WW2 era Hydra compound as tragedy. It’s almost grueling — too much time spent sympathetic to Zemo — but Bob finally acquiesces. And that’s when the magic starts: Nick Spencer and artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt wordlessly tell this same story 16 more times.
It’s like, every single two-bit baddy in the Marvel Universe (including several I don’t recognize). That’s a stark contrast to the cover of the issue, which works to remind us that Cap wasn’t alone fighting Hydra and the Nazis in the first place — both the Invaders and the US Army were always fighting with him. Zemo is building that following back on the Hydra side, one C-List villain at a time.
Old Man Logan 19
Spencer: Old Man Logan is a hard book to sum up. Just explaining why this version of Logan is running around in the current Marvel Universe is hard enough, but then there’s the question of what the book’s actually about, what Logan’s goals are. What’s interesting about that question is that Logan’s motivation seems to fluctuate wildly from arc to arc. It’s to Jeff Lemire’s credit that the narrative tangents he sends Logan down never feel out of character or improperly motivated, but nonetheless, they don’t exactly make him look all that stable.
Maybe that’s the point, though. Logan’s latest mission (to return to the Wasteland to rescue the Hulk-baby he left behind) is mostly just met with incredulous stares.
It’s not hard to understand why. Logan’s flip-flopping, and Lemire’s returning to the structure that defined Old Man Logan‘s first arc (Logan’s determined to do something that’s quite possibly insane, Marvel’s greatest heroes show up to try to talk him out of it), but which he had since moved on from; it feels like regression. It’s entirely possible that the feeling is intentional on Lemire’s part, that we’re supposed to be frustrated by Logan’s bizarre character arc, but that doesn’t always make for a satisfying read. This is probably an issue that will read better once we have a clearer idea of where it’s heading; as of now, it’s hard to tell whether it’s Logan who can’t let go of the Wastelands, or Lemire.
I’m also thoroughly missing Andrea Sorrentino. That’s not a knock against Filipe Andrade, whose work is actually quite well-suited for Old Man Logan — Sorrentino’s just an impossible act to follow. Sorrentino elevates this title to a different level, and without it, any issues with the writing just become that much more apparent.
Power Man and Iron Fist 14
Taylor: For all their spectacle, costumes, and witty dialogue, superhero stories are really just an allegory for our own regular and boring lives. Sometimes these allegories are heavily veiled, but others times they are barely disguised at all. Such is the case for Iron Man and Iron Fist, where the line between reality and fiction is barely perceptible.
Danny and Luke are still on the hunt for Alex Wilder, a man who was sent to Hell but who has returned and is now peddling drugs to the people of New York. Of particular befuddlement to our heroes is just exactly what type of drug it is that Alex is selling as it turns people into something close to zombies. With nowhere else to turn they ask Doctor Voodoo who in turn offers a suggestion.
The drug that Alex is selling is actually demon blood that eases suffering for the user. Too much use of the drug leads to someone being possessed. While these results are steeped in magic it takes only the barest scrutiny to realize that this is an allegory about drugs in real life, which also eases the users suffering for time and which also possesses them in a manner of speaking. While all good art should reflect on our society in some way, the fact that this supernatural drug is exactly like drugs available in our world seems a bit lazy. Why not just have Luke and Danny fight an actual drug dealer as oppose to a supernatural demon one? True, the argument could go the other way and how you look on it really is a matter of taste.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 18
Drew: Who doesn’t love a good heel turn? Allies are fun, but there’s nothing quite as thrilling as an ally turned bad (or an ally who was never really an ally). Besides: Squirrel Girl’s cup runneth over with allies. I mean, with pals like Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk (and Nancy) at her side, who needs an Edna Mode-style seamstress to the superheroes? Hell, a villainous Edna Mode just sounds like a good premise. And it is.
Writer Ryan North paces out that reveal perfectly, establishing Nancy’s suspicions long before Doreen catches on. It riffs on Doreen’s faith in humanity, sure, but it also leaves room for some laughs as the reality of the situation dawns on her:
I defy anyone to find a moment where a superhero saying “aw man” isn’t hilarious.
It’s always easy to focus on North’s text — especially his distinctive-as-ever marginalia — but artist Erica Henderson is working her ass off selling every one of these moments. 16-panel grids are a rarity in modern superhero comics, and not only does Henderson tackle two in this issue, she manages to make them legible and interesting, even as they cover the talkiest part of the story. This is far from the flashiest artwork in the issue, but it might demonstrate the most skill — every joke here is paced perfectly, and I’m particularly fond of the care Henderson takes ending each line with an image that directs the eye back to the left. This is fiddly, technical stuff, but Henderson is absolutely nailing it.
Unbelievable Gwenpool 13
Patrick: Wait wait wait wait wait: Gwen doesn’t read Deadpool? Her criticism that Deadpool is “just a little too ‘LOL memes!’ for (her)” is fair enough, but so too is her instant recoil at the realization: “Wait. Is that how you see me?” This issue seems to be making the case for the irreverent fourth wall breakers as the real truth-tellers. Between the D&D references and the Mortal Kombat jokes and the gratuitous violence, there are real messages about feeling inadequate and the need for empathy.
Empathy has been kinda tough for Gwen, who too frequently sees her friends as characters in a comic book (and background characters at that!). This issue even takes it one step further, as Gwen visualizes her team’s fight against Deadpool as a game of Dungeons and Dragons, reducing a life and death struggle to figurines on a board.
Those chibi figures sure are cute, but there’s no clearer representation of Gwen’s fucked up view of her friends than this grid right here. The whole fight melts away as soon as Gwen is convinced to see herself in the same light as everyone else. Thing is: she doesn’t get there by seeing everyone else as real, but finally recognizing herself as fake. Writer Christopher Hastings is so smart here, realizing that only Deadpool would have the knowledge to convince her of her own triviality. She’s an alternate-cover joke that spun off into a story in the back-ups to Howard the Duck — how much more trivial could you get?
Gwen spits back the equivalent of a “takes one to know one” and the issue comes to a stand still. Why value anything, why do anything if none of it is real and you recognize it as fiction? Deadpool sums it up nicely.
“We all just live here. Don’t we?” These people and these lives are worth fighting for, not necessarily because they’re real, but because they’re all they’ve got. Gwen and Wade team up and beat up Arcade, but the real resolution comes later, when Gwen embraces this fully for her team. She gets Tony an interview and a job at Parker Industries, and lets Terrible Eye go off to NYU. Gwen’s letting go of the whole institution of M.O.D.O.K., and decides to be a little more human, even in the comic book world.
(Of course, that’s all slightly undermined by Gwen murdering a bunch of people so Cecil can inhabit a new body, but what can you do? Baby steps, I suppose.)
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?