Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 5/24/17

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 All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther 14 and Jean Grey 2. Also, we will be discussing I am Groot 1 on Tuesday and Captain America Steve Rogers 17 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner4 All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Spencer: There’s quite a bit I love about the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but one aspect which has really stood out to me is their sheer imagination, scope, and ambition. Very few of the characters are human (and only one from Earth), each new world is not only gorgeous, but visually distinct from the last, and the sky’s the limit in terms of alien abilities, technology, and landscape. Throughout Bendis’ run on the Guardians comics, I often found myself frustrated by how often he returned to the well of Earth (be it incorporating Earth characters or literally returning to the planet time after time), so I’m excited by how fully Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder embrace the movies’ aesthetic. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is their imagination run wild, practically exploding onto the page with childlike enthusiasm.

Seriously, just about every page of this issue — especially once the Guardians enter into the Collector’s fortress — is a visual feast, with Kuder cramming every corner and background of every scene with fun visual details.

In this sequence I not only love the hints of the depths of the Collector’s collection (the Futurama-esque head in the jar; I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a cameo of some sort), but the way Kuder foregoes gutters entirely and instead uses the space between panels there to give his final panel more vertical space, show off more of the background, and create an entire new plane for the Guardians to be attacked from. Duggan’s no slouch either, coming up with one of the more inventive heist scenarios in recent memory in the form of the Collector’s endless, almost insurmountable security system. The fact that the Collector seems almost omnipotent within his domain (and thus shouldn’t even need his security system at all) is not only a fun punchline to the heist, but a chance for Kuder to create a “gasp out loud” moment as well.

Seriously, Kuder’s sense of scale here is outstanding (we never get to see the Guardians appear large, even when only the Collector’s finger is in the panel). This sense of spectacle permeates the issue, and it’s a sight to behold.

There are two small moments, though, where the creators’ boundless sense of imagination seems to fail them. While the cliffhanger does advance the “Groot army” subplot ever-so-slightly, it still feels like a retread of the first issue’s cliffhanger, and the scene where the Wraiths bring the Guardians’ worst fears to life feels a little half-baked — other than Rocket’s, each Guardian’s worst fear either is either too generic (Groot’s is essentially just “death,” which doesn’t tell me much about him as a character) or too abstract (Gamora’s being turned to stone). Still, it’s a moment that barely takes half a page, and largely exists to show off how Drax’s worst fears overwhelm even the Wraiths, which, if it isn’t exactly original, is certainly an effective character moment.

That’s another area where All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 2 improves upon its first issue, finding more chances for its cast to show off both new and old facets of their personalities, even though we still have no idea why some of them changed so drastically in their time apart. The fact that Duggan keeps much of the cast at a distance, describing how they’ve changed through Star-Lord’s internal monologue, is surprisingly effective here — Quill doesn’t have much more idea of what Drax or Gamora are going through then the audience does, making him, once again, a perfect audience surrogate.

slim-banner4

Black Panther 14

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

Drew: I’ve always interpreted these lyrics as being about taking things for granted — that we can’t truly appreciate something until we no longer have it. But there may be a more literal meaning here: that we may just straight up not know all of the things something does until it’s no longer there. This comes up a great deal in environmental causes when, say, flooded out communities quickly learn about the heretofore unknown flood-mitigating properties of the now demolished wetlands. But it also happens when a person leaves our lives (say, a coworker), and the little, invisible things they did are suddenly sorely missed. It’s not clear to me if the Wakandan gods are closer to people or elemental forces, but their absence reveals the same kind of surprises — we didn’t appreciate all the things they did until they stopped doing them.

One thing is clear: they may have been holding back the wrath of the older gods, protecting Wakanda from those snake men (and other monstrosities). That’s not exactly the kind of threat one considers when imagining a “forsaken by the gods” storyline, but it reveals a much deeper spiritual history in Wakanda, opening T’Challa up to an ancient, all-but-forgotten religion. In this issue, that religion manifests itself in the form of Zawavari, a sorcerer who has pledged to assist T’Challa in his quest to find the gods.

Meanwhile, T’Challa may soon also be learning the value of (by way of losing) Asira’s…confidence? Loyalty? Life? It’s not 100% clear exactly what Zenzi and Doctor Faustus have in mind for Asira, but the threat is definitely there. Asira (and apparently Zawavari) is a deeper cut in Black Panther lore that I can really identify, so it could be that the threat is very specific to her relationship to T’Challa. Unfortunately, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t give us much in the way of introduction for her (indeed, it took me a minute to recognize that the woman captured at the end of the issue was the same one T’Calla was skyping with in the opening pages). I’m sure we’ll learn more about who she is and what she means to T’Challa, but in the meantime, I worry that I won’t know what T’Challa had until she’s gone.

slim-banner4

Jean Grey 2

Patrick: If the first issue of this series was Young Jean Grey coming to terms with the unwieldy legacy of OG Jean Grey, then issue two is Jean accepting the legacy of the motherfucking Phoenix. That’s a tall order, and one that requires getting a lot deeper into X-Men lore. Y’see, about half a dozen mutants have played host to the Phoenix in the past (and for Quentin Quire, also the future) and understanding what that thing is capable of means understanding the experiences of all of them. Writer Dennis Hopeless stares right down this barrel and doesn’t offer any kind of soothing platitudes to our heroine. Growing old, dying, losing loved ones: these are the mundane tragedies we all experience by virtue of being alive, but the Phoenix brings a brand of suffering that is simultaneously more personal and more global.

So, first, the global perspective: Jean straps into Cerebro, which dutifully drops waypoints on a map so she can touch base with Colossus, Magick, Rachel Grey, Quintin Quire and Hope. That’s us zoomed way out. Even when Jean catches up with Hope, the perspective needs to zip back out to reveal a whole nest of Reavers underground.

Artist Victor Ibáñez uses this brilliant diorama view, letting the cut-away view of the floors and architectural beams in lieu of panel dividers. He’s tying the bigness of the space to the bigness of comic books, linking the threat the Phoenix poses to the medium itself. And comics are inherently big, spectacular stories. This is also the only way to drive home how personally devastating being possessed by the Phoenix is. Quentin — who uses a tool as violent as a psychic gun to trigger his demonstration — shows Jean the ravaged mindscapes of her fellow Phoenix hosts. It’s all alarmingly graphic, with Quentin’s mind in particular being populated throngs of flaming zombies. The message is clear: no matter what she does, Jean Grey will struggle, suffer, and die. That’s maybe a little bit more nihilistic that I care to read, but Jean’s on a philosophical walkabout, and I recognize that that’s a phase we all go through. Hell, in that way, Hopeless may be writing one of the most accurate teenagers I’ve ever read.

slim-banner4

The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

Advertisements

One comment on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 5/24/17

  1. All New Guardians of the Galaxy: With this issue, I turned from being impressed to loving this book. I think this could turn into something special. Spencer has already discussed the sensational way the pages in this issue go big, full of visions that match the imagination that the movies have done with things like the Nova Corps ships, the Quantum Asteroids and Ego’s surface. But the book also does the small moments so well. I love the first page, with them just sitting in the Milano’s cockpit. Even outside the Collector’s mind bending fortress, this book is sensational with visuals. I love Drax just standing there, I love Peter’s slouch. I love Gamora working out (this seems to be something they are really emphasising, which I actually love).

    Energetic, weird, cosmic, and rooted in these fantastic characters it is what Guardians should be. I don’t have a problem the Groot Army cliffhanger, I think that is legitmate development. We actually get introduced to the ‘evil Groot’, complete with what I bet will be his single phrase he can say. But the fear scene was a bit generic. Rocket’s is ripped from the first movie, Groot’s is boring and Gamora’s is really generic for a character that really could have something imaginative. Peter’s is actually the right one – he formed the Guardians of the Galaxy because he blamed himself for the Phalanx Invasion. But the specificity of Earth is really wrong. Still, other than that one scene, this book is amazing. When this was first announced, I was disappointed Duggan wasn’t working with Weaver. But Duggan and Kuder are truly sensational together. Creating the Guardians of the Galaxy book I’ve been waiting for.

    Also, could I just say I love Gamora’s current character design. When I first saw it, I didn’t know if I liked it. But now that I’ve seen it in action, it is most certainly Gamora’s best look. In fact, it is up there among the best redesigns around (though post-Conquest Star Lord is still the best)

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Black Panther: I keep reading this book because Ta Nehisi Coates’ is always interesting, but this issue was exhausting. THigns seemed to be improving (even if the Crew is still a much better book), but this issue really shows why it is hard. THere is some stuff I love. The King’s prerogative line, the fact that Zenzi and Zeke Stane appear to be shaping up to be the major villains of Coates’ entire run. But it was tiring.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Secret Warriors: While, this book got crap quickly. I think they are going for a ‘each each built around the perspective of a single character, with genre changing to match’. Which is a real problem when this issue’s perspective is from Dante’s. Last issue worked because ‘spy drama with crazy team’ is a good premise. ‘Inhuman team with a lack of identity’ isn’t, and it is made really worse that Dante is not Daisy. He’s not too interesting, and the genre styling he is associated with is the most generic and boring. Which makes this issue generic and boring.

    Also, this issue makes clear the real problem the Inhumans line has at the moment. There is no core book. Or, at least, the Core book is for some reason Ewing’s Royals. Which is a problem, as Ewing’s book is a ‘let’s take a bunch of characters and have them leave the core to enter new territory. Inhumans status is currently vague, because the current status quo is completely and utterly missing a status quo. We need an Attilan book that actually explores this stuff, that states what the status quo is like for the average Inhuman, like X-Men Gold does for the X-Men. Like X-Men, Inhumans is about a social group. So there needs to be something that provides the status quo for that social group. That is missing. Not Royals, which is in space. Not Black Bolt, which is set in prison. And not Secret Warriors, which is intentionally an oddball team mostly made up of Inhumans who break from the status quo.

    It also leads to the Inhumans books reflexively endorsing the Royals book’s anti-democracy message. Without any effort being made to explore Iso or the Inhuman status quo, they exist solely as plot points to be endangered. Iso can’t be anything but an incompetent leader unable to fix problems, and whenever things get bad, the Inhumans always go ‘why can’t we have Medusa back’. Which isn’t a good look, especially when Ewing’s book treated the idea of the Inhumans having democratic rule as a laughable idea, and that the Royal family are simply better than the commoners.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Annihilation Era Guardians of the Galaxy: Been reading the complete Annihilation Era stuff, which has been great

    Annihilation is an honest to god great event. The build up is weak – of the four miniseries that build up to the event, only Nova works. It is the only one that manages to pass the test of having an important character, having importance to the plot and involving the Annihilation Wave. Silver Surfer is probably the other closest one to working. It exists only to set up his and Galactus’ capture in the main series, but it is important. But Super Skrull barely matters, just being a war story involving characters who, in the main event, feel vestigial, and Ronan barely involves the Wave. In all honesty, the main characters of Annihilation were Nova, Star Lord, Drax, Phylla, Moondragon and Thanos, and more focus should have been placed on them in the build up.

    But with the exception of Ronan and Super SKrull wandering off at the end to do something completely different, Annihilation is a fantastic event. A war story, that truly focuses on the feeling of sheer impossibility. The stakes are never higher, and you really get the feeling that the characters have been changed. It is clear why Richard Rider turned from teen hero to adult with responsibilities. THe event so perfectly dramatises fighting against the impossibility, made even better by the fact that they lose the Annihilation War. They fail, and end up creating a small guerrilla squad of rebels who are forced to save the galaxy in a suicidal assassination attempt. It is no wonder why this book kick started the Marvel Cosmic Universe, and Marvel need to get the Fantastic Four rights back so that we can have a Guardians of the Galaxy movie where they fight Annihilius.

    Annihilation: Conquest manages to fix all of the problems with Annihilation. The miniseries are better chosen, with each character being key to the story. Nova, Peter Quill, Phylla-Vel and Wraith all have tales that matter to the story of Conquest, and shift the characters to where they need to be for the main event. Even Wraith, a crappy character who is basically a sidekick to Ronan in the event, works structurally. Because they understand that he’s a sidekick, and understand his story is about where he is placed in Ronan’s story. The other advantage is that there is no massive time skip between the miniseries and the main event, so instead of feeling like you missed half of the interesting stuff (how was the army formed? Where did Peter Quill come from?), the characters end in the same place they begin the event. Peter is running guerilla warfare, Quasar as found Adam Warlock and Wraith and Ronan have escaped the Kree.

    The main event isn’t as strong as Annihilation, but also doesn’t have a significant part of the climax be about what Ronan and Super Skrull do after they wander off. The best part is how, while it is still a war story, it is a different war story. The shift towards Peter Quill’s Dirty Dozen team and Quasar’s Frodo-like quest means this isn’t a story about an army, but a resistance. They’ve already lost, and the Phalanx won. Helps make a point of difference.

    From here, we get the two main ongoings, Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Nova is really well written, but lacks direction. It does weird stuff like forgetting about Richard’s relationship with Gamora, or getting caught up in Earth in weird ways (placing Richard Rider on Earth during Secret Invasion is a terrible idea, after the Annihilation War. And also means that when they do the ‘Nova Corp gets reestablished’ thing, the focus on Earth means the series forgets about the rest of the Galaxy, which ignores the initial premise of ‘the entire Galaxy is a mess after the War, and there is only one Nova deal’. It needed to be cosmic, and too often it wasn’t. The other problem was it just sort of ran out of ideas at the end, just at the wrong time. The final story is a generic story that acts as New Warriors repairwork when it should be focusing on the Nova Corp and the Cancerverse. It creates this thing where Nova begun as a key part of Cosmic Marvel and then just drifts away. Which is a shame, as, again, the writing was really good. I love the relationship between Richard and the Worldmind, and the fantastic stuff they did with the Worldmind, especially during the Ego stuff. And I love the focus on semi-hard sci fi, really exploring what it means for Richard Rider to have gravimetric powers.

    Guardians of the Galaxy is much, much better, as you’d expect from a run so good that it inspired a movie less than 5 years after the run started. Something as simple as the video diaries that are interspersed with the story do such a great job at selling the premise of a band of misfits barely keeping things together. The stakes are high, the characters are strong and it really dives into the potential of this premise. The fact that the world always seems rigged against the Guardians is great. Perpetual underdogs, doing the biggest events around. Missing the je ne sais quoi to make it truly special, but a great run that is the spine of the Cosmic Marvel. Its tie in with War of Kings is genius, telling a second event alongside it, contextualising the final page of War of Kings and raising the stakes even higher by showing how the second event made everything that happened that much bigger. The book is constantly committed to the overarching story of cosmic Marvel, never losing its way.

    War of Kings is actual the story the Inhumans need, which is why it is a shame that it has kind of been forgotten. This is basically Superhero Cosmic Game of Thrones, complete with a focus on the way the actions of Kings ultimately hurt the nation/galaxy as a whole. It matches the strengths of GoT well (and the flaws, like the difficulty of trying to show the effect on the ordinary people when your cast is full of rulers. Though Crystal does a great job at focusing on that). Collateral damage and opportunity cost is a massive theme here. When both of the previous events were about underdogs fighting for survival, this isn’t. Both the Inhumans/Kree and the Shi’ar are powerful, and the most important thing is stopping the war, not winning it. Constant discussion by Crystal and the Guardians are about the impact this has on the world, before finally ending with the Fault, Collateral Damage literalised. It is fitting that the next event happens specifically because no one would listen to the people talking abotu the dangers of War of Kings. Things get worse specifically because no one listen to Star Lord.

    It is a shame that the event isn’t stronger. After Guardians of the Galaxy did an amazing job prepping it, Thanos Imperative is disappointing. Not bad. But disappointing. Well written but half baked. The villain who is key to the build up in Guardians is removed from play instantly, Nova does nothing all event except fight on the frontlines where nothing matters, and instead only the Guardians do anything. And that stuff is hurt by no real sense of progression, with things like the AI Resistance in the Cancerverse feeling like a distraction, ultimately. Still, a decent enough ending to what was actually a pretty great era

What you got?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s