Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/7/17

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 3, Black Bolt 2, Daredevil 21, Doctor Strange 20, Hawkeye 7, Rocket 2 and Unstoppable Wasp 6. Also, we will be discussing Nova 7 on Monday and Amazing Spider-Man 28 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner4 All-New Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Patrick: I love it, but Bojack Horseman is one of the least recommendable shows on Netflix. The show is capable of such staggering darkness and emotional honesty, but it presents itself as a juvenile joke factory. The set-up is so cloyingly cynical, trading on burning has-beens and Hollywood hacks against a backdrop stilted animal puns. But somewhere around the sixth or seventh episode, the show reveals itself as a paragon of both realism and absurdity, often simultaneously. On the re-watch, those first five episodes don’t feel quite so trivial anymore because you know just what the show is capable of. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy was already off to a promising start, but issue 3 sets out to show us just what it’s capable of.

And in this case, it means we get a 20-page trippy dream sequence/flashback to the Soul World drawn by Frazer Irving. Fuck. Yes.

Irving, and writer Gerry Duggan, take the opportunity to not just break with style and tone sort forth in the previous two issues, but to blow medium conventions right out window. Irving does very little in the way of paneling, instead letting his painterly flow dictate the pacing of the story. Seriously: Irving is a beast and his commitment to obliterating the way comics usually communicate the passage of time goes a long way toward casting this issue’s atemporal spell.

Gamora’s being led around by a version of herself if she had never left Soul World and resorted to gouging her own eyes out. It is dark, conceptually challenging stuff, and by virtue of Irving’s artwork, it’s also beautiful.

Duggan is effectively cashing in on that beauty, adding this kind of storytelling to the All-New Guardians palette. The series isn’t just smart comedic action with inventive alien design anymore. It is now that, and also this.

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Black Bolt 2

Drew: Serious question: what is the purpose of prison? Is it to punish criminals, or to rehabilitate them? I get that the goal, at least ideally, is “both,” but it seems at least possible to me that those purposes might be mutually exclusive. One is focused on the past, somehow paying a debt to society, while the other is focused on the future, somehow getting a loan from society (you know, assuming that any rehabilitation actually happens). More to the point: symbolically, it forces prisoners to live in the past, putting the life they used to have (both criminal and non-criminal) in the forefront of their minds. I don’t bring this up to kick off an essay on the vicious cycle that prison creates, but to lend context to the prisoners’ fixation on their own pasts in Black Bolt 2.

Writer Saladin Ahmed makes that fixation as explicit as possible, putting words about past deeds and (literal) past lives in just about every characters’ mouth, but it’s artist Christian Ward that injects those preoccupations into our own minds. Carrying on a motif he used so elegantly in the first issue, Ward wreaths Black Bolt in images of his own past, as though they’re constantly present, whispering in his ears. Here, Ward expands that motif, giving Crusher Creel’s memories the same treatment.

Crusher Creel remembers

What’s remarkable is, it’s not clear these memories actually help these characters move forward. Creel mostly uses his memories to illustrate a point about how tough he his, while Bolt is mostly fixated on how he got to prison and who else should be there in his stead. The focus on Medusa at the end may potentially motivate his actions going forward, but it sounds like he might be better served by being in the moment.

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Daredevil 21

Spencer: On more than one occasion Batman has claimed that his ultimate goal is to create a world where he isn’t needed — in other words, a world without crime. It’s a wonderful goal, but also a seemingly impossible one: putting an end to crime would practically require changing human nature itself, and even if a superhero does somehow have the ability to bring this about, the demand from Marvel and DC (and the readers) for more stories necessitates that this goal remain forever a fantasy. Knowing this dooms Matt Murdock’s fledgling plan to end all crime in NYC to failure, which makes the stakes Charles Soule and Goran Sudzuka are building for his mission more important than ever.

The exact details of Matt’s plan are still unclear, except that they involve the legal system, and Daredevil taking the stand in court (which he does in his classic red costume instead of his new black one — I wonder what the significance of that is? Does it seem more trustworthy?). The consequences if his plan fails, though, are crystal clear:

As the man without fear, Matt has the courage to pursue his goal despite the danger involved, and in all honesty, the rewards if he succeeds likely are worth the risk. Knowing that he’s doomed to failure, though, casts this entire enterprises in a different light. Matt’s “discussed the matter over with Daredevil,” meaning he’s acting alone on this. That may be necessary for the plan, but it’s still a bad habit Matt’s developed since regaining his secret identity. Daredevil may be willing to live with the consequences, but if he fails, what happens to heroes with public identities (like his fellow Defenders), or known associates of heroes (such as Parker Industries), or even the more vulnerable masked heroes (such as Miles Moreales or Kamala Khan)? Their freedom has been put on the line without their even knowing it.

It’s still possible Soule may find some way for Matt to succeed without completely upending the Marvel Universe — and either way, I’m excited to see the full explanation of Matt’s plan — but it seems more likely that we’re supposed to be focusing on what may happen if Matt fails, and how he even got to this point in the first place. Bravery is an admirable trait, but it can easily turn to recklessness; in other words, being the man without fear isn’t always a good thing, and acting alone especially has its downsides. As always, Matt Murdock may just be his own worst enemy.

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Doctor Strange 20

Taylor: Much has been made about how weird Doctor Strange’s world is, which makes sense given not only his name but his profession as well. That being said, we’ve all experienced Stephen’s strange world for so long now that it’s beginning to feel, well, normal. After all, there are only so many ways he can get himself into and out of magical trouble. This is all to say that Doctor Strange 20 is a breath of fresh air because it lends a new set of eyes to the world of magic.

After stealing one the last remaining magic wands from the hands of would be evil-doers, Stephen and Zelma escape on a flying motor cycle only to find themselves transported to Weird World. There, Zelma has to fend for herself and Stephen since the latter has taken a poisonous arrow to the shoulder. It is at this point in the story, when it transitions to Weird World that, Stephen’s narration of the issue of the stops and Zelma’s begins.

Zelma’s take on the world of magic breathes some new life into this series, even if it wasn’t getting all that stale to begin with. Whereas Stephen approaches magic with a world weary approach, Zelma still sees it as exciting and new. This change in narration signals a tonal shift on Jason Aaron’s part and it’s to the benefit of the issue. Had Stephen still been conscious in Weird World, he wouldn’t have been surprised by any of what he saw. Likewise, the audience would approach this new setting the same way. However, by shifting the perspective of the issue onto Zelma, Aaron allows us to relish in the true strangeness of this place. Just like Zelma is experiencing Weird World for the first time, so are many who are reading this issue. This means she immediately connects to the audience in a more direct way than Stephen, which consequently makes for a more engaging issue.

This all plays into Stephen’s decision to make Zelma his apprentice at the end of the issue, which seems like the right decision for this series. Stephen’s expertise paired with Zelma’s fascination with her new, deeper world promise to offer Aaron a slew of good story lines and I can hardly wait to read them all.

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Hawkeye 7

Drew: I tend to avoid listing whatever I imagine the specific influences of a given comic to be — because I can’t really know, it ends up being more an exercise in free association than analysis, offering little insight to anything other than my own bibliography. Moreover, focusing on a creative team’s influences diminishes the contributions of the actual creators, offering credit where none may actually be due. And finally, drawing comparisons to older, perhaps better-known work is more than a little unfair, inviting all kinds of unflattering parallels. So let me say that, when I say Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s Hawkeye 7 is the spiritual successor to both Matt Fraction and David Aja AND Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez’s runs, I mean it in all of the good ways.

Indeed, I might suggest that the overall arc of this book is similar to both Fraction and Aja’s run, where fun, formalist early issues give way to deeper family drama. That’s not to say that this issue loses any of the formalist fun — Romero cuts loose with a big double-page action sequence in the back half of the issue — just that it’s now anchored with some very real personal stakes for Kate, complete with some telling flashbacks. Those flashbacks start out innocuously enough, lending essential context to the necklace Kate receives from Madme Masque, but they take on a kind of proustian immediacy as Thompson and Romero begin to transition in and out of them with striking match-cuts.

Kate's flashbacks

The effect is a sense that Kate’s memories are an unstoppable force, sweeping over her, even as she battles a whole roomful of goons. And with good reason: those flashbacks quickly establish the mysterious circumstances of Kate’s mother’s death — the very case Kate is now working.

Note also the way Romero drops lines from those flashbacks, including panel borders in their entirety. Those memories only exist in Kate’s head now, so their forms can’t be fully separated, floating in the ether of her mind without a solid anchor. That motif comes to a head when Kate confronts her father at the end of the issue — while he’s inked conventionally, Kate stands alone in a sea of white.

Kate and her dad

This was the last thing Kate expected to see when she walked into the room. That white space helps connect this moment to those memories that seem to implicate her father in her mother’s death, leading us to all kinds of conclusions that will doubtlessly be proven false in the next issue. Like Kate, we don’t know what happens next, so we’re left floating in that negative space.

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Rocket 2

Patrick: It took me a little bit to wrap my head around the noir-meets-fairy-tale format of Rocket. There’s this ungainly wall of text along the left gutter of most pages, sometimes providing insight into Rocket’s process, sometimes explaining the intricacies of whatever space nonsense is happening elsewhere on the page, and sometimes just really hammering in a joke. It’s a handy device, but it also critically alters the pacing of the issue allowing for totally different kinds of jokes to be layered on top of each other. Writer Al Ewing and artist Adam Gorham have created an astoundingly adroit joke- and story-delivery machine.

The moments when the reader transitions over from the text-heavy portions to the more traditionally comic-book portions end up being my favorite. It’s like Ewing has talked his way into a premise so juicy that he has to explore with his good buddy Gorham, so that’s where the comic kicks in. In fact, the narration is so rambling and full of insane specifics that it also reads like expert improv — and those break-out scenes read like one of the performers recognized a funny idea and wanted to play with it. The joy of premise-based improv scenes is that the performers and audience are already in agreement about what’s funny about a scene before it even begins. The performers need only deliver what they already know to be killing. Ewing stumbles into this idea that Rocket has a frog-esque lawyer that Rocket off-handedly refers to as “Froggy.” BAM — comedic premise: this is a blind, alien Foggy Nelson. If this is true, what else is true?

You can see the tail end of the text setting up the premise, but them Gorham takes over to actively show the funny scene. Rocket’s co-defense attorney is obviously, hilariously, some kind of reverse Daredevil, cursed with losing his radar sense as a young boy, but blessed with the gift of sight. It’s a fun riff on the absurdity of Daredevil, and it seems like something Ewing and Gorham just sort of stumbled into and decided to have fun with.

That same basic idea is on display when the Technet is fighting amongst themselves. There’s even a moment where Ewing names one of the characters “Scatterbrain” and simply lets Gorham depict what his powers must be. (Hint: it involves scattering someone’s brain.) The narration admits that “In space, super-fights got weird” but that’s really just an acknowledgement that following creative impulses leads to some rad shit. So, sure, there’s a heist and a land-grab and a set-up behind all of this, but the real fun comes from the spur of the moment storytelling.

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Unstoppable Wasp 6

Ryan M: There is a lot to enjoy about The Unstoppable Wasp. We have Nadia’s irrepressible optimism, even after an entire childhood of abuse in the science class of the Red Room. Also, Jeremy Whitley gives us a diverse crew of girl geniuses who want to work together to use science to make the world better. Add in the bright world that Elsa Charretier builds, where even our villain is both grotesque and somewhat silly as she leans on a cane as if about to perform a Bob Fosse dance number.

I love all of those things about this series, but perhaps my favorite bit is Jarvis. He has been loyal and supportive of Nadia’s endeavors throughout. Whitley gives him both a paternal and service role. In this issue, he lets the GIRL crew stick their hands in his skull, for goodness sake! He is an adult that Nadia can and does trust, even with her past. To put more of a fine point on it, Jarvis represents the ability Nadia has to heal from the darkness of her childhood and face her life with openness. Her speech to Mother in the climax of the issue reinforces this notion.

It’s not a revolutionary idea, but there is power in the sentiment of closing the door on your painful history and choosing to live a good life. Nadia doesn’t know that she is about to experience the collapse of her first friend in her arms, but rereading this sequence with that in mind only reiterates her strength. Yes, should Nadia lose Ying, it will be a dark time for her, but we have every reason to believe that her spirit cannot be broken.

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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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3 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 6/7/17

  1. Is it three times that makes a thing a pattern? Does that mean, after three successive volumes of Hawkeye featuring flashbacks to troubled childhoods that “flashback to troubled childhood” is an essential part of Hawkeye storytelling (at least in its modern conception) in the same way that, say, fourth-wall-breaking jokes are an essential part of Deadpool storytelling?

    • I’m not entirely sure we can call Kate’s childhood troubled. If you ignore Lemire’s work (and you have to, because it doesn’t make sense. It is inconsistent with Heinberg’s work, it is inconsistent with Fraction’s work. It is inconsistent with literally every writer who discussed her family), Kate’s childhood was generally pretty good. Her problem wasn’t she had a bad childhood. Just an ignorant one.

      Thompson, as is sensible, is ignoring the Kate backstory stuff Lemire’s run. It is simply impossible to use. So Kate is now close to her mother again, and no longer knew her father was a bad guy until she discovered it in Fraction’s run. And I don’t think what Thompson shows is a troubled childhood.

      Kate certainly had her tragedies. Her mother died. But that is something that many children unfortunately suffer, and I wouldn’t call it troubled. Kate is obviously ignorant of what her mother is talking about at camp. It was a weird day that means so much for to Kate now that she knows the truth about her father. But ultimately, nothing we have ever seen suggests Kate has had that unfortunate childhood except for her mother’s death and her rape. Which are both tragedies, but independent events that do not reflect a pattern. Kate’s life was generally quite good except for the moments that they weren’t. Hell, Kate’s reminds me a lot more of Bruce’s childhood in the Telltale Batman series, a generally happy childhood shrouded in ignorance about his own privilege. Both great childhoods, that reflect an ignorance about the evils that lay hidden behind closed doors.

      I’d say that childhood flashbacks are certainly a key part of Hawkeye storytelling, and the effect that family has on who we are today. But I think talking about troubled childhoods specifically is a bastardisation of what Kate’s childhood actually was. The only writer who backs your take is Lemire, whose work is contradicted both by every writer of Kate before him and Thompson now.

      Childhood is important. But not specifically troubled childhoods

  2. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: The first two issues were great, but I was honestly felt exhausted when I saw that this was on sale. But damn, did this issue re-energise me. A big part of this is structure. The idea of doing issues like this every third issue is a great idea. It means the main story is a more manageable 18 issues a year, while providing the space to make the world richer through flashbacks.

    But this was also an amazing issue. Cosmic scale has already been a key part of this run, but this issue takes that to a whole new direction. A truly trippy use of the cosmic nature. I love how the Soul Gem, so often relegated to ‘part of the Infinity Gauntlet’, being more interesting than ever. It is honestly hard to discuss, except to be at awe with Irving’s work. Left me speechless the first time I read it. Best issue of the week, by far.

    What this issue is is a statement of intent, in a way that even the first tow weren’t. Duggan is proving just how cosmic and weird he is getting, and just how character focused he is getting. And if really is going this deep? We are in for a treat.

    Also, I’m interested in how attention was drawn to Adam Warlock and Phylla-Vel, especially Phylla Vel (Warlock is often connected to the Soul Gem). I hope this suggests that Duggan has some plans with Phylla, as she is a favourite. I am the one weirdo who knew of the Guardians before the movie was announced, because I picked up the first volume of Annihilation: Conquest at the library. Thanks to that, I was introduced to Phylla-Vel and Peter Quill, and fell in love with both of their stories. As someone who was a fan of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, I saw Phylla, going around like an Errant Green Lantern Paladin, and wondering why Green Lantern could never be that good. Really hope she returns

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    Black Bolt: I kind of wish Black Bolt didn’t speak. It is one of the most interesting ideas about him, and the visual possibilities of leaving him mute are fantastic. It could be a fantastic experiment, and allows for those great moments where Black Bolt does use his powers – it is always great to see what word he chooses when he decides to finally speak and destroy everything. I know he has to be powerless, because Black Bolt’s whole point is that he is dangerously overpowered. But I wish they just used the gag.

    Still, this book is amazing. Another example, alongside Valentine and Cain, of a writer from outside comics prove he is just as great at comics’ unique challenges. And of course, Ward’s art is the perfect complement. The way he can so easily drift between reality and fantasy is amazing, with panels like Medusa in the background so effortlessly done.

    But the thing that really interests me isn’t the fixation on their pasts (though this is essential. Prison is a place where you cannot move forward, and so find yourself trapped, repeating the past. What this means for the characters should be important going forward). What really interests me is Spyder. Ahmed wants to use this book to critique the prison system, with a key idea being the way that COs, who have all the power, abuse it. The Jailer is essentially trapped in a power fantasy, buying into the idea that these people, by being crooks, are evil men that deserve to be punished. And with the Spyder, we see how insidious this can be. How Spyder, in an attempt to get something similar to humane treatment, is now complicit. Prison is a structure where you only get privilege if you are willing to abuse those below you. Powerful criticism. I’ve heard people compare this to the Vision, and while I’m not willing to go that far, I’d put it on the same level as Mockingbird. Fantastic

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    Doctor Strange: It is fitting that a story about the Death and Rebirth of magic ends with Doctor Strange taking a new apprentice. I hope Zelma continues, even if she was absent from issue 21.

    Still, I’m a bit disappointed in this issue. The idea is simple. SHow a basic, weird Doctor Strange adventure where circumstances push Zelma to the forefront. She proves herself, and then placed in a situation where she has the choice to be Strange’s apprentice. SO she embraces the weirdness, and the story comes full circle.

    Except while Zelma is a character with great potential, I don’t think she’s a great character yet. Aaron was so busy with Strange, he never got the time to fully flesh out Zelma, and it hurts this issue. Does this issue set up great potential? Yes. But as a finale of Aaron’s run, Zelma just isn’t a strong enough character to make this issue a success. Made even worse by the presence of Weirdworld, which is quite simply not weird enough. It is a disappointing ending, an ending with a whimper. A real shame

    I hope Zelma can become a great character, but she ins’t yet. WHich means Aaron’s Strange doesn’t get the ending it deserves

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    Hawkeye: This is some careful character work. The subtleties that Thompson places on Kate’s characterisation are so well done, how she changes her persona to reflect the graver circumstances. Her jokes and silly lines have a more serious tinge, and of course, the scene with Dectective Rivera show how more so than ever, Kate’s persona has shifted. Also notable? A lack of green. As soon as she receives the necklace, she removes her hoodie, and is fully superhero. This isn’t about the truth, it is about busting heads. WHat little green there is (like in the lobby, or the Crazy 88esque fight), is overwhelmed by the purples. While Kate’s flashback is nothing but purple.

    Thompson is using Kate’s history well. Taking both halves of her life, Heinberg’s stuff with Kate’s mother and Fraction’s stuff with Kate’s father, and tied it together as a cohesive whole, to create a personal story. I honestly could keep talking about this for a long time, but to get into the depth I want, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. A great issue

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    Iceman: As the only X-Men book that looks to be doing something different, this actually feels like it has a purpose to exist. And it is actually really interesting. A story about a man struggling with taking the first steps after finally understanding his sexuality, and starting to come out.

    One of the cleverest things is to build a lot of this issue around one of the few good moments of the second X-Men movie, where Bobby came out as a mutant to his parents. His parents play a big role, and this issue focuses on how they don’t understand his experiences as a mutant. They don’t understand that being a mutant is something that Bobby is, not something that he becomes when he chooses to. They even has this idea that being a mutant is something immoral. They get this idea that Bobby may have killed the Purifier, because that’s what happens when you are a mutant. Between this, and the general disconnect they have, it creates tensions. Tensions that make Bobby uncomfortable and confused, and show why he is struggling with coming out. Things are so complex, and he doesn’t want things becoming more complex. It is a great character piece, showing off who Bobby is outside of ‘gay’, while being a story all about being gay. A clever balance

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    Jessica Jones: I think Bendis should stop the idea of actual cases and just do a relationship drama. Maybe this book doesn’t need to be noir anymore? At least, maybe it shouldn’t for Bendis? Maybe this should just be about Jessica’s life, whatever that entails.

    Because the stuff with Jessica and Luke is so great. Once we see Luke, everything gets better. Whether it is the quick touch of showing how connected Luke is to the community, to everything with Jessica. How he reacts to Jessica’s jokes about prison, the cute, intimate shower scene (with just enough to show that not everything is 100% perfect). The Maria Hill jokes, Luke joking on Jessica’s privileged upbringing, and Jessica’s response. A beautiful, intimate character piece, and Bendis really feels happier doing this stuff. He should keep doing it, instead of trying to force cases everywhere. Forget about telling a serious, important story about Maria Hill, and fully background the cases. Never let them be important, except to move the drama along. Jessica is about to be in Defenders, so save the Jessica doing casework for that book

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    Secret Empire – Brave New World: An anthology book! After Civil War II’s was so good, this one has got to be great, right?

    I think the Invaders story is going to be the anthology long story there always is, and it is pretty boring. A lot of it is exposition and set up, while suffering from the fact that it can’t do too much with one of Secret Empire’s key locations, Atlantis

    Whitley messes up for the first time with his piece. Maybe I’d like it better if I knew more about the current Giant Man, but considering how much of this issue was recap, I shouldn’t need to. We learn everything we need to know about Raz, except the family stuff that makes up this story. Now, this story is by far and away the best story of the issue, but the ending doesn’t work as well as it should, as we don’t understand enough about Raz’s connection to his family to understand why he makes the choice he does. It is actually surprising, considering Whitley does so much else well. Raz’s father is given all the character needed to stand out, except in the most important way

    Meanwhile, I think there are a bit too many writers who don’t understand Gwen Poole. Sh eis a meta character, but in a very different way to Deadpool or Ambush Bug. This felt like an Ambush Bug story, to be honest. Completely wrong sort of hijinks for Gwen, and generally not a coherent story

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    Spiderman: THis was disappointing. What brief stuff we’ve seen of Lana in this series has been great, but she’s always been sidelined. A shame that the first time she gets a real moment to herself to be a hero, she gets beaten senseless so Miles can get mad. A textbook fridging. Hell, Lana doesn’t even get a good showing. The start, despite Bendis’ careful dialogue, makes her seem shallow and not truly invested in superheorics. It instantly reminds me of the New Warriors in the original Civil War.

    So you have half an issue dominated by Lana, who has no story herself, and just has things happen to her so that Miles can have a story. And the rest of the issue doesn’t do enough to justify it. A real disappointment from Bendis

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    Unstoppable Wasp: You know what is really cool about this issue? They take comic book science seriously. I was a little bit disappointed that the Vision’s powers were the answer, as I thought any version of ‘grab it and pull it out’ was a bit of a simple solution to what this challenge was. But what I love is that they take the Vision’s powers seriously, and consider how he must work. That is science. Science is more than a cool factoid, but it is about process, testing and all the different necessary layers.

    The girls have to focus on how the Vision works, assemble the parts neccesary. Thigns liek the Vision’s skin is important, and we see a real scientific process. One of the reasong I love Warren ELlis’ Iron Man: Extremis is its science. Not the accuracy, Extremis makes no real sense scientifically. But the process and philosophies of science. And Unstoppable Wasp is the same. Who cares that the Vision’s powers make no real world sense, the book can still be scientific if we just commit to treating the stupid ideas seriously and celebrate the process.

    Meanwhile, Nadia’s scenes are powerful. While the key idea is GIRL proving than can save the world without Nadia, it is still great to see Nadia come face to face with her demons and move forward. The only thing that didn’t work was Daredevil. Matt Murdock has been present in the story, but him coming to save the day doesn’t feel like a natural payoff. I’d rather play it off as a joke. He finally arrives, only to be too late, with Nadia and GIRL have already saved themselves. Would have been much better.

    And I love the possibilities of Yin collapsing. Despite Whitley’s generally positive tone, he loves to make getting through stuff like this an actual, legitimate challenge. It reminds me a lot about Raven the Pirate Princess, with Ximena’s injuries. THere is no magic solution where everything can be back to the way ti was. There is no magic solution to having Yin fine. It will be a real struggle. And I’m looking forward to what is going to happen (my guess? The Red Room’s tech were also treating some sort of illness/disability Yin has. Without that, Yin is going to have to properly face that)

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    Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Under Pressure: Damn, this game actually suffers from unfortunate timing. It was obviously timed to be released alongside the movie, but can’t help but suffer the fact that Vol 2 came out and did everything better. Guardians find themselves dividing against each other, forced to see if they can keep their family together? Been there, done that. Fantastic action sequence with great soundtrack choice? The COme a Little Bit Closer scene is better than the Sparks ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’, regardless of how great the music is there. The Guardians find themselves having to make peace with Nebula? So much is similar, and it kind of hurts the game. There is a reason that Drax is probably the best part. His compulsive eating gag is fantastic and new, and more importantly, he has the most original arc – he feels purposeless now that Thanos is dead.

    It is still good, though. Yondu was disappointing. The voice actor can’t escape being a deeply discounted Michael Rooker, and he doesn’t get time to be unique. He’s just there, and doesn’t do much or express much character. And when he finally does, it is mostly yelling at Peter because Rocket stole his ship. THere is one great joke with Yondu and Rocket, taking advantage of the fact that in this continuity, this is the other Guardian’s first meeting with Yondu. Other than that, he is boring.

    And the rest of the story is just ‘learn about how Rocket’s past was about being experimented on again and again’, and ‘find Nebula for plot reasons, complicating Gamora’s wishes to properly reconnect wit her’. Both very similar to what the movies have done. Done well, but not well enough when compared to what I think will og down as one of Marvel’s best. Some of this problem is coming just after Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2’s surprisingly similar thematics, but I think another problem is that this episode intentionally slowed down one of the few parts that was different. Telltale slowed down the plot, saving the big plot moment for next episode, so that we could spend more time with the characters, doing important character work now that the plot set up is done. Unfortunately, this was the worst thing that they could have done, when the movie was just about to be released. They lost nearly every point of difference they had.

    Interestingly, though, this really shows just how great and powerful the other point of difference Telltale has. Gameplay. While the actual story was a little disappointing, the choices were breathtakingly difficult. I was already annoyed at myself for having escalated Drax’s existential crisis with my decision making last episode, and with pissing off Gamora out of greed (hey, I am playing Peter Quill). And here, despite everything, I just made things worse, even as I tried to do the right thing. The choices here are hard.

    What makes them work so well is that they aren’t as simple choices. The first choice? The Guardians know that Nebula is about to go on a rampage to find Thanos’ corpse, and the Guardians need to grab her before she disappears to help stop Hala and learn about the Eternity Forge. But Rocket, with the knowledge that he could resurrect the one good person from his life as an experiment, wants to go to Halfworld instead. Do I do what is the best thing tactically and heroically, or do I help my friend? What is worse is that it makes you have to make this choice several times. At first, I told Rocket privately that Nebula had to come first. So he got angry and ran off with a Ravager space ship. Faced with this new situation, I then had to, twice, make the same decision, with the new context that a Guardian was missing. And so this time, I chose family, going to Halfworld and pissing off Gamora. Because Rocket needed me.
    And then later, someone needs to guard Nebula. Drax, looking for purpose, volunteers. But Gamora wants to, to have a chance to reconnect with Nebula. And when I chose Gamora, Drax feels that this is more proof that he is meaningless with Thanos dead. The actual plot was weak this episode, but the choices have rarely been this brutal.

    And I think the choices are just going to get harder. Guardians has proven to excel at building difficult choices by using the Guardians’ nature as a family to force you into positions where you have to hurt someone. Because this is a close knit family unit. Because you care about the Guardians and want to do everything to keep your relationships with them strong. They matter, because the moment after, you have to spend time with them, and they are upset. Even when the series is at its weakest, these choices are strong. And next episode? Next episode appears to be when everything explodes. When the drama spins out of control and the Guardians are really tested. What choices will Peter face when that happens? Next episode sounds like it will fix the big problems with this episode, so here’s hoping

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