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 19, America 2, Captain America: Steve Rogers 15, Nova 5 and Royals 1. Also, we’re discussing Hawkeye 5 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
All-New Wolverine 19
Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades. When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?
Drew: All-New Wolverine has been fantastic at creating a real sense of change for its characters. Where other series might be content with a more episodic villain-of-the-month approach (or villain-of-the-arc, as the case increasingly seems to be), writer Tom Taylor has never allowed this series that kind of neutral resting place. Laura Kinney has been almost constantly on the move, with her status quo changing so often that it could hardly be called a status quo. Issue 19 illustrates this concept beautifully, establishing just what Laura’s life looks like in the wake of defeating Kimura, only to dramatically shake it up with the arrival of an alien virus.
What’s remarkable to me is how effortlessly this issue works as a jumping-on point. It’s not just the kicking off of a new arc, this is the introduction of a new Laura Kinney, complete with a new costume and a new sidekick (or, at least, a newly more official sidekick). Taylor cleverly splits the issue between introducing the threat of the virus and showing us what Laura’s new life is like. She and Gabby are still working out the kinks, but are ultimately quite effective.
Meanwhile, Riri Williams manages to divert a crashing alien spaceship to Roosevelt Island, inadvertently exposing its residents to an alien virus. The only alien on board, a little girl, utters Laura’s name before dying, drawing Laura to the scene. Outbreak control is decidedly outside of Wolverine’s wheelhouse, but she leaps in with characteristic fearlessness.
A new arc also brings a new artist, and while I’m not enamored of Laura’s new costume (what can I say? I liked seeing her in the classic Wolverine digs), Leonard Kirk paces all of the action and joke beats perfectly — both key to making this series work. It’s a solid start for an arc that just happens to double as meaningful growth for its protagonist. Who could ask for more?
Spencer: Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers is probably my favorite comic book run of the past decade, and that not only got me unreasonably excited for America, but it left me with very specific opinions on how America Chavez should be handled. I’ve been trying to put those thoughts aside and simply embrace Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones’ take on the character, but there’s one aspect of this title’s portrayal of America that simply won’t stop bothering me: she talks way too much.
The very premise of America is meant to challenge America, so it doesn’t bother me at all when the normally uber-competent hero is shown to be rash and impulsive, or completely outside of her comfort zone. What simply doesn’t ring true to me, though, is the America Chavez who keeps a running commentary of her every thought, or the America Chavez who throws around immature, rude expressions (“uhh, byeee”). America’s the strong, silent type, and the most mature member of every group she’s ever joined, and dialogue like the above doesn’t serve that aspect of her personality at all. Elsewhere, Rivera has a few instances of dialogue that feel awkward and/or too expositional, so I’m thinking this may simply be growing pains as Rivera gets used to working in the medium of comics. On a broad sense I think she has a strong handle on who America is; I just hope to see her fine-tune the details and execution a bit as time goes on.
One things this book doesn’t lack, meanwhile, is imagination — in fact, America 2 is overflowing with bizarre, wonderful ideas, characters, and scenarios, to the point where it almost worries me. Rivera and Quinones don’t leave themselves the space to actually dig into any of these concepts, meaning they essentially have to present the idea then move on to the next scene. The fact that the creative team is already picking up on threads they left hanging last issue (Imani on Maltixa, Lisa) and seeding ongoing plots for the future (the plan to “help” America) has me hopeful that all these disparate plots will eventually come together into something special, and even if they don’t, there’s plenty of joy just to be found from the sheer audacious amount of high-concept ideas alone, but there’s also the possibility of ideas getting lost in the shuffle. America is a book with plenty of heart and potential, but that often feels fractured and just ever-so-slightly off. I hope to see the creative team learn and grow along with America herself as the series continues.
Captain America: Steve Rogers 15
Ryan M: Power gained through force is inherently short-lived and facile. Without underlying ideals, a leader’s power is reliant on relative strength. In Captain America: Steve Rogers 15, writer Nick Spencer explores the idea of strength and power dynamics. Red Skull’s reign as leader of Hydra ends with his death, but Spencer seems to be suggesting that it was always meant to be temporary.
As proof of his position, Skull explicitly cites his strength. While a respect for hierarchy is important in an evil organization, it’s that reliance on power rather than leadership that allows Cap to dispose of him in the present. Skull is now feeble. His choice to gain Steve’s allegiance through threat and intimidation seventy years ago rather than appealing to Steve’s beliefs makes him disposable. The 1945 scenes play out with Skull in a dominant position throughout. Even the use of his henchmen is more akin to giving a dog some table scraps than an act of defense.
It’s easy to root against a Nazi, especially as he threatens the modern world with nuclear war, but Spencer goes a step further here in revealing him as a man without core ideals beyond the advancement of his own power. When Steve says that, even as he had to compromise himself to serve Skull, he never stopped believing in the dream, it’s an indication that Steve remains an idealist.
What does it mean, then, when Commander Carter’s motivations are articulated with an argument that echoes Skull’s words of strength as power? It unclear what the consequences might be, but Carter is breaking protocol on several fronts. She is acting without Steve’s approval and against the council’s directive. It’s an escalation but perhaps a necessary one. Carter is addressing an enemy revitalized by new leadership and that leader is a true believer.
Spencer: When Kyle Rayner became the Green Lantern, it was after DC killed off all prior Lanterns and destroyed all established aspects of the mythology. Rayner was left to operate alone for years, but when the Lantern Corps eventually returned Kyle was immediately integrated into it and able to take advantage of being part of the Green Lantern franchise.
Something similar happened to Sam Alexander when he became Nova, but with one notable difference — every remaining aspect of the Nova Corps has only brought him pain. He’s had to collect the helmets of dead teammates, been tricked by a false father, and now Rich Rider, the only other legitimate Nova he’s ever met, has brought the monstrous forces of the Cancerverse straight to his family. It’s enough to drive Sam mad — in a devastating moment, he can’t help but wonder why everyone lies to him, a wonderful use of the character’s continuity by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez — but it’s not even the only relic of the Corps causing Sam pain in Nova 5.
The Worldmind, of course, was the sentient supercomputer in charge of the Nova Corps, comprised of all the minds and experiences of every Nova and Xandarian who has ever lived. The long history Rich and the Worldmind share make it a perfect villain for the elder Nova, but to Sam, it’s simply the history of the organization he’s dedicated himself to returning to threaten everything he’s ever cared about.
Thankfully, Loveness and Perez remind us all (through Rich) what’s really important about being a Nova.
It’s not the Corps or Xandar or the living supercomputer that make Novas special; it’s the fact that the step-up when they need to, whether it means saving the universe or simply protecting their family. That already makes Sam one hell of a Nova, no matter what the ghosts of the Corps’ past may think.
Patrick: For as much as I liked Charles Soule’s years writing for the Inhumans, his stories always had an improvisatory quality to them. Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity had established a giant cloud of terrigen floating around, transforming secret Inhumans all across the globe, and Soule reacted to that. It’s an energetic series, full of new characters and discoveries, but seldom focused enough to address a goal beyond “let’s collect these new Inhumans.” Royals writer Al Ewing picks up Soule’s toys — some of which he invented, and some of which have been in the toy box forever — and crafts a story based around his own authority. Ewing isn’t along for the ride, he is the ride.
A lot of that authority is established in the first few pages. The very first text in the issue establishes that we are five thousand years in the future, and befitting such a far flung date, nothing looks like you would expect it to. Artist Johnboy Meyers crafts a fruturescape I can only describe as The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones — a world of oddly uniform white skyscrapers that pierce the ubiquitous cloud-cover and which is navigated on pterosaur-back. It’s a bold bit of visual storytelling and Meyers’ Kirby-esque angularity sells the otherworldly quality. Mind you, it’s all a bit disorienting, and Ewing plays right into that confusion with borderline nonsense narration about “crystal towers” and “pierzoelectric vibrations” and “astral-ghost forms.” It’s not until we finally see the very aged Black Bolt that we’re able to put any of this future hoopla into perspective.
I love this design, by the way. The flowing robes and up-turned crescent moon scythe give him a Middle Eastern Grim Reaper look, but the trim on the robes still makes him definitively Black Bolt. A chyron in the next panel identifies this as “The Last Inhuman.” This is how Ewing starts the series, by asserting that he knows how this all ends. Mind you, that’s some pretty long-form storytelling he’s trying to get in front of there, so his next prediction, uttered a few pages later by The Last Inhuman himself, caries a little more urgency:
“And I alone am left to tell it. To tell of the seven who sought the secret of the odyssey. Seven went forth and only six returned….”
There we go! Those are stakes and consequences we can understand. I didn’t even add that emphasis on “seven” above — that’s all Ewing (or possibly letterer Clayton Cowles). Now the reader is playing along: who are these seven, and what happened to one of them? The very next page shows a panel with some classic-ass Inhumans in it (Crystal, Triton, Gorgon, Karnak, Lockjaw, Medusa and Black Bolt), and I know I immediately counted them up. Seven! Ewing and Meyers are giving us enough information to start forming our own opinions about story they teased in the first five pages. When the team is finally assembled, only about half of them were in that original line-up: Crystal, Gorgon, Medusa and Black Bolt are joined by Flint, Swaim and Noh-Varr. Those last three are kind of wild cards — Marvel Boy isn’t technically Inhuman, and Iso is quick to point out that Flint is “not even a royal.”
It’s enough confidence to move this crew of seven into outer space to search for the Kree homeworld and origin of terrigen. Ewing is seemingly unsatisfied with that as a cliffhanger and instead introduces one more — Medusa says she’s dying. Now, is this like the seven Inhumans and we’re already making incorrect assumptions about what that means? Or is this our answer to the “which one doesn’t return” question?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?