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 20, Amazing Spider-Man 27, America 3, and Silver Surfer 11. Also, we will be discussing Rocket 1 on Tuesday and Ms. Marvel 18 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: We’ll sometimes talk about comics creative teams as a kind of hybrid author of the work. It’s not my favorite analogy — it minimizes the value of collaboration, playing into notions of auteurship I don’t totally agree with — but it gets one important piece right: you can’t change one part of the team without effectively changing the series. Which is to say, Tom Taylor/David López is different from Tom Taylor/Marcio Takara is different from Tom Taylor/Nik Virella is different from Tom Taylor/Leonard Kirk. It’s obvious enough that All-New Wolverine would look different under each of those artists — they all have distinctly different styles — but the more important piece is that it feels different under each of those artists, as their sense of pacing and flow deeply affects the way each issue is read. Even with the same writer, different artists can drastically shift the tone of a series.
This isn’t the first issue of Wolverine Kirk has pencilled, but this one highlights his penchant for building compositions around a central figure. Look at how effective that is in this issue’s big chase scene:
The central compositions make for an incredibly fast read. Compound that with a straightforward left-to-right direction of motion and some manga-inspired “subjective motion” lines, and you have a remarkably propulsive sequence.
Of course, the real value of Kirk’s approach to composition is in isolating Laura Kinney. She’s isolated when talking with the Marvel Universe’s greatest minds at the start of the issue, isolated again when her physiology becomes the subject of study climaxing in her literally being branded the messiah. Laura may be getting better at letting others get close to her, but the universe seems to be determined to set her apart. It’s a theme that’s 100% there in the writing, but Kirk’s sense of composition absolutely drives it home.
Amazing Spider-Man 27
Patrick: I had a harder time getting into Spider-Man than most people I know. The crumminess of his incessant jokes actually annoyed me — and not in a “it’s so grounded and relatable how annoying he’s being” kind of way. But at some point, you just gotta get wise to the fact that this is how the character is written — it’s who Peter is. What’s the harm in that, anyway? After all, he’s slingin’ webs around New York City fighting dudes in their pajamas, surely he’s allowed to have a little fun, right?
Amazing Spider-Man 27 puts Spidey into one of those contexts that’s so serious, so globally significant, that it becomes difficult to watch him quip his way through it. Spidey and Sable kick off the issue by invading her home country of Symkaria. Their goal is to shut down the exploitative weapons manufacturing industry that Norman Osborn has been running there, so it’s clear (to us) that they’re the good guys. The citizens of Symkaria aren’t as easily convinced, and they need their chosen hero, Sable to stand up for the revolution. She’s deadpan and sanctimonious, and artist Stuart Immonen draws her as a figure out of space and time.
Like, which of those panels is she supposed to be in? It looks like she’s lit by the second panel from the left and lit from the first panel on the right. But it’s her level-headed seriousness that almost instantly earns the support of the Symkarians.
Sable’s not the only one who takes this deadly seriously — poor Bobbi gives up her badge before ultimately betraying S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s not 100% certain why she’s doing this, but she does believe herself to be helping her friend Peter in his hour of need. The point is, there are a lot of noble people putting a lot on the line to do the right thing. And then there’s Peter. Pete’s still fighting Goblins, which is a Spider-Man trope so old that it feels intrinsically tied to Spidey’s origins. Writer Dan Slott taps into that primordial energy by recalling that famous Joker scene from Tim Burton’s Batman at the beginning of the issue. Osborn is having his bandages removed after another round of plastic surgery has left him permanently disfigured. The surgeon makes some excuses, but the damage has already been done.
So, okay: that’s what we’re channeling here. Spider-Man vs. Norman Osborn has underpinnings of Batman vs. Joker. It is SO WEIRD to me that Spider-Man’s tone snaps right back to inane quip-o-rama. He’s obsessed! He even makes Bobbi acknowledge the quality of his Scarface impression. I do believe Slott’s tracking Peter’s regression in this issue, and has him get tripped up when one of Sable’s Wild Pack dudes cracks a joke ahead of him. It’s a such a weird quirk of the character, and it feels so out of place amid a revolutionary war, but I think that’s the point. Everyone has something principled to fight for — but Peter’s still slingin’ webs at dudes in pajamas.
Spencer: I was rough (although fair as well, I believe) on America 2, so it brings me a lot of pleasure to tell you all that America 3 has improved greatly, and specifically on some of the issues I pointed out last month. While America’s dialogue (courtesy of writer Gabby Rivera) still bugs me some, at least there’s less of it, and less expositional/snotty chatter especially. Pretty much everything America says this month is blunt and gets directly to whatever point she’s trying to make, making her feel much more like the America Chavez I know and love than she has the last few issues.
The best moment for America comes during her scene with Storm (which Rivera and artists Joe Quinones and Stacey Lee wisely focus most of the issue on, giving it the needed time to breathe that previous issues didn’t always have). Storm’s trying to teach America to open up her senses and use her powers in new ways through meditation, but America knows that she learns best through fighting, not thinking, and her strategy pays off. This is who the America Chavez of this series needs to be: as supremely self-confident and in touch with herself as she’s ever been, but also aware that she needs to learn and willing to do so in her own way.
Much like the previous issue, America 3 is still overflowing with imaginative concepts, but again, this time around the creative team actually slows down enough to dig into them, making everything feel much more cohesive. In fact, it’s with this issue that the themes of this series finally start to become clear: America is about the ways families can guide, support, and inspire us, be they our blood ancestors or the family we’ve chosen for ourselves. The mysterious Madrimar, who appears to be one of America’s ancestors, is guiding her through a journey of self-discovery from afar, using a community of powerful female mentors including Peggy Carter and Storm. Meanwhile, America remembers how she grew up with love because of the people who accepted her like family, even if she wasn’t technically their blood.
This is important because it allows America to approach the Chavez Guerillas (who kidnapped her ex, Lisa) with that same compassion rather than hate. The Guerillas and the Leelumultipass Phi Theta Betas all look to America the way she once looked towards her adopted families, and it’s powerful to see America learn to pass that inspiration down to the next generation and be there for people the way people were once there for her. I think the days of America Chavez being a true loner may soon be in the past.
Silver Surfer 11
Drew: Is there anything more frustrating than being late, in spite of your best efforts? It only ever seems to happen when the stakes are at their highest (a job interview, a friend’s wedding, a flight, etc) and always caused by something you couldn’t have anticipated (unseasonable weather, a fluke traffic snarl, a malfunction on public transit). It’s the kind of thing we only notice when it conforms to those specifics, but it’s hard not to feel like the universe is conspiring against us, setting forth the oddest circumstances just when they’d be the least convenient. Such is the case for Dan and Norrin in Silver Surfer 11, albeit with stakes decidedly higher — and inconveniences decidedly less likely — than anything I have ever experienced.
Time has passed quickly since Dawn’s last visit to Earth, and her twin sense tells her that Eve is in labor. She’s determined to get back in time to see the birth of her niece, but with over half a billion light years to travel, that’s a tall order. What’s worse, Norrin is already committed to defending the Pollen Nation from invading Bearbarians. It’s the kind of absurd detail that Dan Slott and Michael Allred have made a defining feature of this series, and tips us off that this story will be more of a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-style comedy of errors than a tragedy.
Which is good, because their primary obstacle is pretty absurd — a warrior with a bruised ego, determined to face Norrin in combat. When escaping and feigning defeat fail, Norrin is forced to quickly wallop the poor guy, further destroying his sense of self. It’s the first hint at tragedy in an issue that played Norrin and Dawn’s struggles for comedy, but it isn’t the last. When they finally arrive in Anchor Bay, Dawn is disappointed to see that she missed the birth of her niece. But that isn’t the only thing she missed.
It’s a brutal twist, made all the more unexpected because we’re expecting a punchline, of sorts. Slott and Allred lead us to believe we know what this story is, only to abruptly yank the rug out from under us at the last moment. It’s devastatingly effective.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?