Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 5/3/17

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 Hawkeye 6, Spider-Gwen 19 and Unstoppable Wasp 5. Also, we discussed Jean Grey 1 on Thursday and will be discussing All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 1 on Monday and Secret Empire 1 and Black Bolt 1 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner4 Hawkeye 6

he·ro
/ˈhirō/

noun
1. a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Drew: It goes without saying, but “noble qualities” are in the eye of the beholder. What one person views as noble, another might view as crass or naive. And yet, the majority of heroes in western culture are remarkably similar: stubborn idealogues who refuse to back down. (Oh, and they also all tend to be white dudes.) Steadfastness certainly can be a noble quality, but in an age where ideological differences so quickly curdle into tribalistic dogma, we may be in more dire need of compassion and empathy. Those are traits Kate has in spades, and become increasingly handy in her team-up with Jessica Jones.

Writer Kelly Thompson plants the seed early on, allowing Kate to joke about the burden of helping people she doesn’t like very much.

TOO GOOD!

It’s the kind of ideological conundrum we might expect of any hero — the obligation to help those in need is more important than the hero’s personal opinions — but it’s also much easier to implement in this abstraction. When put into practice, when an actual dragon is threatening the lives of innocent people, exactly what “noble qualities” kick in end up defining our heroes.

For Jessica Jones (who is about as stubborn as it gets), that means punching dragons, but for Kate, the compassion extends that extra bit further to reach out to her would-be enemies. She’s not compromising her values at all, she’s just seeing the humanity in her opposition and building on some common ground. It’s a truly heroic quality, and ends up being a much more effective solution than Jessica’s fists. I’ll spare making the easy “hero we need” joke, but, y’know, let’s see Batman do something like that.

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Spider-Gwen 19

Spencer: Spider-Gwen‘s greatest advantage over other superhero books from the Big 2 is that Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi have an entire alternate universe that they can shape however they please without worrying about other titles’ continuity. Not only does this create the opportunity for plenty of exciting cameos and re-imaginings — this month brings us new takes on Wolverine, Venom, and Eddie Elsa Brock — but for some of the most complex world-building on the stands. It’s mostly a blessing, but occasionally a curse — reading Spider-Gwen feels like immersing myself in a fully-realized world, but keeping its story straight takes three times the brainpower of almost every other title I follow.

Coming off of a three month crossover, Spider-Gwen 19 is more bogged down by the weight of its own plot than usual, devoting more than half of the issue (five pages in Captain Stacy’s jail cell, seven pages in Osborn Tower) to explicitly spelling out Matt Murdock’s plans, Harry Osborn’s current status, and the science behind Venom. It’s no doubt necessary to get this new storyline rolling, and I appreciate that the creative team do their darndest to keep things light through humor and strong character beats, but it’s still an almost overwhelming amount of exposition. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a more intuitive way to deliver all this information, even if that just means splitting it up and doling it out in bits and pieces throughout the storyline. As much as I appreciate the attempt to get everybody on the same page, we really don’t need to know every single fact here up front, right?

With all that exposition out of the way, though, I suspect the rest of this storyline will move at a much more manageable pace. In the meantime, it’s the little moments in which Spider-Gwen 19 excels, from the Mary Janes piecing together the clues surrounding Gwen to her choosing to help Osborn because he reminds her of her own father to even simple details such as the sound effects.

Yup, even seemingly minor notes like this do a lot to make Spider-Gwen‘s world feel real and stand out. This is such a unique and distinctive title, and if keeping it that way means that it occasionally tries to do too much or simply has to lay things out a bit inelegantly, I suppose that’s a small price to pay.

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Unstoppable Wasp 5

Patrick: For someone with so goddamn many secrets, Nadia is quick to reveal herself to others. That appears to be one of the driving forces behind her decision-making in issue 5 of Unstoppable Wasp, which finds her old world (Ying and the Red Room) colliding with her new world (G.I.R.L.).

Writer Jeremy Whitley writes Nadia with so much honesty, it’s almost subversive. If the character has a self-preservational bone in her body, it’s sophisticated enough to recognize the social value of telling the truth over a cascade of ass-covering lies. And, like, Nadia’s got shit to hide. She puts her science gathering on hold to lay her cards out on the table: she and Ying are former assassins and former evil scientists. No deceit, no excuses, no apologies — simply a statement about who she is and who she was. This ends up being one of the most relatable moves in the issue, as Nadia invokes G.I.R.L.’s empathy the same way Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier do — through drawings.

Because Nadia is using the same tools as our storytellers, it’s hard to separate her depictions of the truth from the literal events taking place within the issue. In effect, it makes her confession feel more real, because we are experiencing it in much the same way the girls of G.I.R.L. are.

Man, that makes me nervous about Nadia executing on a plan that requires a little deception… The character has been so honest and so earnest that it seems insane that she’d be able to turn it off, even for a second!

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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 5/3/17

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy: Lots of Guardians of the Galaxy released today. All New, a one shot from Hastings (that unfortunately suffers from being a story where only Rocket does anything, and wanting Mantis in it without having Mantis as a Guardian) and this. I picked it up to give Starlin a try, being such an important part of Cosmic Marvel. Which is interesting, because it is hard to ignore the fact that this is by a writer who has such a particular place in Cosmic Marvel. On the one hand, the Guardians literally drink at the iconic Knowhere bar, Starlin’s, which is named after Starlin. On the other hand, Peter Quill, Knowhere, the Guardians of the Galaxy are all constructions from a time after Starlin, specifically designed to give Cosmic Marvel a grounded element to go alongside Starlin’s celestials.

    So you have a new cosmic artefact, you have Pip the Troll, you have fantasy elements, that are obvious Starlin elements. But you also have the Guardians discussing money troubles and the need for a good gig is so obviously new (to the point where Starlin actually struggles with the Guardians crooked ways. Gamora stops Drax from selling his blood as a hallucinatory stimulant, because it is illegal. A weird distinction for her to make). Still, he does the Guardians stuff decently, with the idea of the Guardians setting up a joint slush fund to combine their financial assets being a wonderful disaster because no one has financial responsibility. The best part of the comic is what each Guardian did that cost so much money.

    But it suffers from the fact that the story just moves so fast. Starlin wants to address the Guardians’ less alturistic sides, and wants to set up the story in a more interesting way than ‘they find a gig’. But it ends up feeling forced. It feels like a roleplaying game where the players are fighting the GM, and the GM railroads the plot so things get back on course.

    Still, the shock of the heart attack completely rewriting the gig is a fun idea, though seemingly ruined by the fact I don’t think it matters except to have an excuse to get all the Guardians in the room for the real plot to begin. Which would be unfortunate, even if it does lead to a cleverly done cliffhanger as Pip makes his appearance and the established rules come into play.

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    Hawkeye: Drew, Batman is exactly the hero who would save the day like Kate did. Don’t let the fact that Rebirth’s version of DC’s heroes only stand for white supremacy let you forget that they used to stand for better things

    But onto Hawkeye, what I marvelled at was how while feminism is tied into the story while rooting it in noir tropes. Thompson wants to discuss body image and societal pressures on woman, but so effortlessly ties it into the intrinsic structure of how noir works. Instead of having the genre and the theme as separate, parallel strands, it uses the genre tools to discuss those themes in the way to maximise empathy. The grandeur of this issue isn’t that Kate saved the day with empathy, but that the issue is designed to have us make the same discovery. Kate’s arc is our arc. We want to solve the case.

    The book takes our natural approach to try and solve the mystery, and carefully guides us to make the same realisation. It isn’t just about Kate making a beautiful speech about how hard it is being a girl. It is about us understanding how that very important idea, and what that means. Mysteries are built, in part, on empathy. As it is only by understanding others perspective that we can solve the case. Thompson exploits that to make us empathise with a truly important theme. A much better approach than just telling us and hoping it sticks. Masterful.

    Also, thank god Lucky finally turned up. We were missing him.

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    Jessica Jones: It is interesting that Bendis seems to be leaning a lot on espionage these days, between Spiderman and Jessica Jones. It feels like there is a spy book just bursting out, that he wants to write.

    Doing an arc about Maria Hill is interesting, with Bendis crossing over the two most important characters that he created for the Marvel Universe. And in just how different they are. Jessica is defined by her ordinariness. Despite everything, she’s an ordinary woman in the world of the extraordinary. Maria Hill, meanwhile, lives and breathes the extraordinary. Hill lives in a world where every action she makes has the world on the line. Where Jessica struggles with decisions to use her payday to invest in Dani’s college fund or buy new boots, Maria Hill thinks about AIM and Zodiac. It is no wonder they are so utterly opposed to each other.

    Oh, and that panel of Jessica making the choice between boots and college is perfect.

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    Nova: So it was nice to see that Richard Rider didn’t die in the Cancerverse. After all the doubt, it is great to see that they do know the Cancerverse.

    In some ways, this is just the Guardians of the Galaxy comic which explained how Star Lord and Thanos got out, repeated. Only difference is that the Worldmind is in Rich’s place. Though much better, because it is one issue, with beautiful art. But what makes this work is how it shows the only way out is through abadoning someone else to stay, and that is the crux. In Guardians, Rich sacrificed himself. But here? He abandoned the WOrldmind in a moment of weakness. I love how his ‘resurrection’ is a failing. He did the wrong thing, and has to face the consequences of selfish actions. It helps makes resurrection more meaningful. Rich did something wrong when he resurrected himself, and he actually needs to make an effort to correct his sins

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    Unstoppable Wasp: In WHitley’s pirate comic, about pirates who do pirate things, he made a point to put in a character who doesn’t like pirate things. She dresses in unpractical dresses and doesn’t do the things everyone else does. But she’s treated just as much as part of the crew as everyone else. It is one of the joys of Whitley’s work. Whitley loves to take an idea, like pirates, and create a diverse group where every sort of woman can find their place as a pirate. But he also opens the space up for people who don’t want to be a pirate. Just because you aren’t like the others, doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the group.

    Which is why I love Alexis is this issue. Because the idea that Alexis isn’t part of GIRL is never even considered. In every panel, she is part of the group. Even during the big two page spread, she is treated just as much part of the team as everyone else. Maybe, without the supergenius of her sister, all she can do is provide burgers for everyone. But that doesn’t make her any less. And that’s the beauty of this book.

    Honestly, the fact that we can just enjoy hanging out with these characters is beautiful. With this issue, we get our proper introduction to Ying, and Whitley does such a great job at showing the ways she’s distinct. Part of it is her backstory aligning her closer to Nadia than to the others. But it is also her straightforwardness. Her dark humour, that everyone hates but she loves (even when she isn’t telling the joke).

    The idea of diversity, of the way difference makes us better, is throughout this book, and what makes it so strong. This book is one you want to read just to hang out with the fun characters. But that same thing is also what makes it meaningful. All our cast are distinct, with their own tastes and skills. Everyone brings something else to the table. They even make a clear distinction between that character’s specialities in chemistry, biology, engineering etc instead of doing a Reed Richards ‘specialist in everything’. Hell, even something as simple as one person bringing coffee and another bringing chai latte builds this idea. I really love it.

    Also, Patrick, I wouldn’t worry about Nadia ability to deceive. Last issue proved just how different she is when she uses her assassin training. The problem isn’t if she can deceive, it is how scary/wrong it is for her to tap that dark side of hers.

    And the fact that we have a Mark Waid villain. Knew there was going to be a problem with reading a book spinning out of Waid’s Avengers. I last saw Mother boring the shit out of every reader in a particularly incompetent issue of Black Widow, so not the most interested in seeing more of her. Though at cyborg Mother is more interesting

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