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 Inhumans Prime 1, Old Man Logan 20 and X-Men Prime 1. Also, we’ll be discussing Black Widow 12 on Monday and Spider-Woman 17 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Save the cheerleader, save the world.
Hiro Nakamura, Heroes
Drew: I’m happy to admit that Heroes was never good, but I’d still argue that this line, delivered by a time-traveling hyper-competent version of the heretofore hapless Hiro, represents one of the most thrilling turns in TV history. Mostly, it was exciting because it hinted at a world where Hiro had clearly been through a lot — he was now fluent in English and wielded a sword like a goddamn action hero — suggesting that the show would eventually justify its title. The similarly promising-but-never-quite-good Misfits featured a remarkably similar twist, though, like Heroes, never really made good on that promise. I don’t know why, but I’m still a huge sucker for those “this will get interesting, I swear” reveals. Inhumans Prime 1 — a prologue of sorts to Al Ewing’s upcoming Royals series — features one such reveal, promising to tell the secret history of Terrigen.
Fortunately, this reveal doesn’t require any of the main cast to time-travel — at least, not exactly. The Marvel Universe is already crawling with characters from the future, but this one actually relies on a character from another universe: Noh-Varr. As a Kree (from the Earth 200080 Universe), Noh-Varr is apparently more familiar with terrigen than any of the Inhumans, remarking upon their odd behavior around recreating the substance. That’s when he remembers that, unlike the Inhumans in his Universe, the Inhumans in this Universe…
Basically, my excitement over this issue boils down to that “yet.” He’s identified a situation that will absolutely change — especially if he has anything to do about it. Which: he does, given the last panel of the issue.
What happens in between is standard 0 issue housekeeping. Writer Al Ewing mostly just checks in with the various Inhumans, reiterating points Charles Soule already covered in his Uncanny Inhumans finale. Ewing does get to cover the arrest of Maximus the Mad, which unfolds in satisfyingly chaotic fashion until being resolved in about the least climactic way possible. It’d be disappointing if the issue ever seemed all that interested in that battle, but the real meat of the issue hangs on its very first and last pages, which mostly just hint at what the premise of Royals will be. As an issue, it’s not that satisfying, but as a hype piece for Royals, it couldn’t have been more effective. Forget what’s happening on Earth — I want to know what terrigen is!
Old Man Logan 20
Spencer: Taken on its own, Old Man Logan 20 is a fun issue. Jeff Lemire has found a fantastic foil for Logan in the form of classic (if minor) Avengers villain Asmodeus, whose mix of pompous bluster and low-class lifestyle each seem specifically tailored to push Logan’s buttons. The two together are a blast, and that’s by far the best thing this issue’s got going for it.
I’m a bit more perplexed (and fascinated) by what Lemire and Filipe Andrade are doing with the structure of this series’ narrative. While this issue is billed as the second and final part of the “Gone Real Bad” arc, it largely serves as a prologue to the upcoming “Past Lives” storyline, an excuse to send Logan’s spirit careening throughout the lowest points of his history. While both its parts have their charm, “Gone Real Bad” doesn’t stand on its own as a story. Any real conclusion to the emotional beats — be they Logan’s reckless mission, his comeuppance at the hands of a treacherous Asmodeus, or even Miles Morales’ newfound beef with him — won’t be resolved until after “Past Lives” (if they’re resolved at all), meaning all this story has to lean on is its plot, which, again, exists more to set-up the events of “Past Lives” than to be anything meaningful on its own. It’s a slightly puzzling choice — if Lemire wanted to tell a story about Logan visiting his past, did it need this much justification?
The one advantage I can see of telling the story in this manner is that it’ll make Logan super grumpy. There’s no incarnation of Logan who would be happy about being forced to relive the darkest moments of his past, but he’ll be especially frustrated that it’s distracting him from the mission he chose, his mission to rescue Banner’s son from the Wastelands. That extra layer of motivation will likely be an interesting facet of “Past Lives,” but in the meantime, I don’t know how well it justifies this storyline. There’s still good to be found in Old Man Logan, but it’s not coming together the way this series does at its best.
X-Men Prime 1
Patrick: I’m of the opinion that comic books don’t owe their readers anything. But then again, I also try to base my read on a book off how the work elicits an emotional reaction reaction from me, effectively asking what the reader owes comic. A thrilling layout on the page? I owe the book wonder. A funny juxtaposition of words and action? I owe the book a chuckle. A stunning reversal? I owe the book a gasp. X-Men Prime 1 seems almost maniacally focused with squaring away the last couple years of X-Men stories with the stories that make up the X-canon (y’know: whatever those are). It’s an apology, of sorts, that writers Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak and Cullen Bunn must have felt they owed the audience. In delivering this apology, they’ve neglected to tell much of a story of their own.
The bulk of the issue follows Kitty Pryde as she returns from her tenure with the Guardians of the Galaxy and reclaims her rightful role as leader of the X-Men. The script is almost transparently dismissive of Kitty’s time in space and her relationship with “men named Peter.” Storm, who is trying to convince Kitty to take the job of X-Men leader, is also extremely apologetic about her recent past, wherein she followed Emma Frost to an ill-informed war against the Inhumans. But — and this is a crucial distinction — Storm is not penitent in any way that would cause her to atone for her mistakes and repair relationships with the Inhumans. She only wants to say she was wrong and then disappear. Kitty keeps her in the fold, insisting (somewhat pointlessly) that Storm is “the heart and soul of the X-Men,” a nostalgia-tickling argument that apparently works for Storm.
The whole issue is like that: bringing up two different version of X-Men history and deciding one should be honored while the other should be dismissed or forgotten. When Kitty runs in to Colossus in the X-Men mansion, the artist (I can’t tell if it’s Ibraim Roberson or Leonard Kirk) gives their past the whole romantic novel cover treatment.
I mentioned that I couldn’t quite determine who drew the image above, but there is a conclusion we can draw about the kinds of artists enlisted for this endeavor. They too are a break from the kind of artist we’ve seen on the main-line X-Men books over the last several years. Under Brian Michael Bendis’ pen, boldly graphic renderings by comic book weirdos like Fraizer Irving, Chris Bachalo and Andrea Sorrentino filled the X-landscape. Ibraim, Kirk, et al. have a decidedly more grounded approach to drawing these characters, effectively rejecting the form along with the stories from the Bendis era.
And then there are the original X-Men, who tease young Cyclops about his time in the Champions before reiterating why they’re in the present and articulating what must be the time-travel-logic-aficionados’ gripes with their existence. It’s the writer’s way of saying “yeah, we can’t believe this shit either” with a wink and a nudge that must be intended for someone else. It all feels dangerously regressive for the X-Men, acknowledging recent developments, only to immediately gloss over them. Maybe that’s what Prime means, and the next issue will just start telling stories within the new status quo. Maybe this issue is really only for the people who thought the X-Men owed them something.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?