Friday, March 16, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The January 24 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #677:  The authors keep up the pace admirably in this issue.  Just before the explosion hit, Voyager managed to teleport the team to a back-up Avengers headquarters Tony Stark built in the early days of the Avengers.  It provides Toni Ho with a place to work, and she goes about setting up a communications system from fiber-optic cables and TV towers.  Meanwhile, we get our first sight of the actual combatants, as the Grandmaster and a mysterious figure choose from a set of pyramid-shaped objects; Grandmaster chooses earth and the other figure chooses fire.  On Earth, columns of blazing light appear in Cuzco and Rome, and Sam and Rogue put together teams to address the threats.  Cuzco is facing a firestorm, so Sam takes Torch, Red Hulk, Synapse, and Wonder Man.  Meanwhile, a group of “aliens” the team mistakes for the Black Order appears in Rome, so Rogue chooses "heavy-hitters:"  Thor, Hercules, Lightning, and Cannonball.  Dr. Voodoo and Wanda decide to stay to investigate the heroes in stasis, and Quicksilver fumes over Rogue not choosing him.  We’re then treated to one of the funniest sequences of all time when Sam defends his selection as a “heavy-hitter” because he’s “nigh vulnerable when...” and Quicksilver begs him to stop since he’s known him since he was in shortpants.  Rogue’s team arrives in Rome and takes on the Lethal Legion, which makes quick work of them.  Quicksilver arrives to help just as Voodoo and Wanda’s attempt to “unpause” the Vision works.  But, it pauses Quicksilver, and the Blood Brothers seize the moment to pound on him.  Meanwhile, Sam and his team arrive in Cuzco to find other members of the Lethal Legion taking on the Black Order.  In other words, it's all pretty epic.

Detective Comics #973:  From the moment Batwoman’s father gave her the gun capable of killing Clayface, it was pretty clear she was going to have to use it.  But, Tynion does a solid job in making that not seem a foregone conclusion (even though it was), as the Belfry team tries everything it can to save us from the inevitable.  In the end, though, you’re left with the sense Clayface himself wanted it this way.  After Cass injects him with the serum Dr. October developed, he’s appalled by the havoc he’s wrecked and the lives he’s taken in his rage.  Cass tries to convince him he’s a good person, but Clayface refuses to hear it; he realizes he doesn’t get a happy ending.  (In "Detective Comics Annual" #1, "monsters" not getting a happy ending is a theme.)  After all, no one has an answer for the actual problem, namely that he’s absorbed too much clay after the Mud Room collapsed on him.  Even Dr. October’s serum can’t account for the added mass.  So, Kate takes the shot, and we’re going to see where the chips fall now.  With the Belfry destroyed, Tim’s realized his dream is dead.  Tynion made sure to show us how important that dream was to him, as we see in a flashback him telling Batman it was the only time he really felt like he belonged in Gotham.  It nicely sets up the conflict between Tim and Batwoman that Future Tim predicted.  Meanwhile, Lonnie turns on the First Victim for using the protesters as cannon fodder and flees Gotham.  But, before he does so, he gives Spoiler a thumbdrive with clues he’s assembled about the First Victim’s origin.  All in all, Tynion wisely takes out a few irons before adding new ones to the fire.  It helps you feel like you're getting a glimpse into the chaotic lives these characters live, opposed to other series where it feels like you jump from isolated arc to isolated arc.

Doomsday Clock #3: We’re still tracking a bunch of stories here, so I’ll group them together for convenience's sake:

- For reasons we’re not told, Dr. Manhattan moved the Comedian to the DCU (or DCnU, I'm still not sure) before hit the ground after Veidt threw him from the window in the original "Watchmen."  (Wouldn't Veidt be curious why he didn't splatter?)  It seems pretty clear he did so to use him against Veidt, since the Comedian knew exactly when to meet Veidt at Luthor’s HQ.  If so, it seems to mean Manhattan knows Veidt's plan and doesn't want to be found.  Veidt and the Comedian spar, and the Comedian eventually throws Veidt out the window (just as Veidt did to him).  Veidt manages to break his fall, but he’s arrested (in his comatose state, presumably) for the attempted assassination on Luthor, who survived.

- Rorschach gives Batman Korvac’s journal.  We learn Rorschach's family died in Veidt’s attack on New York, so he’s appalled he’s working with him.  After Alfred shows Rorschach to a room while Bruce makes his way through the diary, Rorschach scrubs his head in the shower until it bleeds, trying to scrub away the stain of Veidt.  Rorschach dreams of being stuck in traffic desperate to get to his parents the moment the alien arrives in New York, and it seems the monster's psychic assault is responsible for his mania.  Bruce awakens him from his dream, telling him he knows where Manhattan is.  But, Bruce just really leads him to an empty cell in Arkham Asylum, telling him he belongs there.  (Cold, Bruce. Cold.)

- In a returning motif, a man waits in a nursing home for his daughter and son-in-law to arrive on Christmas Eve while the other residents watch an old black-and-white film.  It stars Carver Colman as gumshoe Nathaniel Dusk.  The case involves a cop’s brother-in-law who was murdered while playing chess with another man.  It’s unclear which one of them was the target of the attack.  A guard at Arkham is also watching the movie, and he tells a friend that one of them was actually a murderer.  (The friend tells him not to spoil it for him.)  Meanwhile, in the annex, we learn Colman "in real life" was beaten to death with the Oscar he won.  In investigating the crime scene, the detectives found a hidden room full of clocks and watches as well as a letter from Colman's mother blackmailing him.  He had told a story of being a simple farm boy who left for Hollywood full of dreams but that story was obviously untrue (particularly given his mother's mob ties).  At this point, it's unclear to me why Johns included this part of the story, but I'm sure we'll see.

- Marionette and the Mime go to a bar, and one of the gang members there threatens her for dressing like the Joker.  She doesn’t recognize the name, and a fight ensues.  I have to say, Frank does a brilliant job here.  We get a hint of sunlight reflecting off the "gun" the Mime fires at the gangster holding Marionette, the only hint he’s actually touching item when he mimes them.

I'm still not sure where we're going, but Johns and Frank make the right call keeping this issue more focused on the "Watchmen" characters and less on the DCU ones.  I found the use of Superman extremely jarring in issue #1 where Batman barely registers here.  Once Johns really starts integrating the two worlds we'll see how happy I am.

Nightwing: The New Order #5-#6:  I'm not sure what story Higgins wanted to tell here.  

First things first, he does a solid job wrapping up the story.  We learn Superman killed Batman under the influence of Black Kryptonite, and it’s the reason Dick detonated the device to remove everyone’s powers.  After he and the Titans successfully break out Jake, they flee to Metropolis, where a depowered Clark is working with Lex Luthor to try to reverse the bomb’s effects.  They believe Jake's DNA possesses the key for Lex to fashion a cure (for reasons I don't know if Higgins every reveals).  But, once Jake donates his blood, Dick is furious Jake has agreed to stay with the Titans and not flee with him.  He calls in Kate and uses a device to induce sleep in Jake; Kate allows them to escape as she and the Crusaders assault the Titans’ HQ.  After awakening, Jake tearfully laments he couldn’t support Dick the way Dick did Bruce, where he (Dick) reminded Batman that the world still had light.  It inspires Dick to have a change of heart just as Luthor is able to repower Clark.  However, Lex has an ace up his sleeve (obviously); he’s created a bomb that will give everyone superpowers.  Unfortunately, it’ll destroy Metropolis in the process.  (Of course it will.)  Jake calls everyone to arms to stop the bomb, and they manage to do so.  Huzzah

If the book ended here, I'd be OK with it.  It wouldn't have been the most scintillating mini-series ever, but it would've told a coherent, contained story.  However, the epilogue confuses the story I thought Higgins was telling.  For some reason, this incident results in the undoing of the power restrictions; the Crusaders stay in place to keep metahumans in check, but for the most part restrictions on their activities and movements are removed.  Conversely, I could see this event reminding everyone why they put the restrictions in place in the first place.  After all, whether they intended to do so or not, the "heroes'" shenanigans almost destroy Metropolis.  Moreover, we get a personal happy ending here — with Jake graduating from college with his parents at his side and naming his infant son after his father, the best man he’s ever known — that feels woefully unwon.  Part of what I liked about this series was that Dick was a complicated and conflicted character; it seemed to undermine the narrative by turning him into a paragon of virtue.  After all, Jake didn't raise an eyebrow that his father happily put people like him into stasis for years?  He also just suddenly forgave his mother after her absence from his life for years?

All in all, I'm not sure I can recommend this mini-series.  It's an intriguing idea, but Higgins just muddies the waters with the random happy ending.

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #4:  OK, now we’re getting somewhere.  The team enters the egg and encounters a group of dead X-Men.  Older Hank comes to the conclusion the Phoenix created this world as an incubator for Jean.  It's realized only Jean works as a host, but it bumbled its previous attempts to control Jean, so it's trying to get it right time.  It fits with Jean’s conversation with Annie earlier in this issue that she had a dream she was a goddess and the goddess was tying to prepare her for something (as we saw last issue).  Kitty hypothesizes the Phoenix lured the X-Men into the egg because it wants a fight to finish Jean’s conversion into the Phoenix (in a violence-begets-violence kind of way).  Younger Hank wonders if the manifestations in the real world weren’t Jean trying to send a warning to the X-Men.  Kitty suggests they send in someone to talk to Jean, to try to convince her not to succumb to the violence.  Young Scott offers to go, but Logan tells him that Jean isn’t the Jean he loves: it’s the Jean he loves.  Kitty reminds Logan he’ll have to kill Jean if she starts to become the Phoenix, and he confirms he knows.  I have to say, Rosenberg really nails down one of the key questions this miniseries had to answer with the Phoenix finally realizing only Jean will do.  It answers the “why now?” question:  it’s time because the Phoenix has explored other options (as we saw in “Avengers vs. X-Men”) and has now settled on Jean.  But, I’m curious to see if that means Jean is going to somehow be able to control the Phoenix?  I guess we'll see.

The Wild Storm #11:  Man, this series gets creepier and creepier.

- The Doctor and Jennie Sparks are lying in bed together (yay!), and Jennie tells the Doctor IO and Skywatch are going to go to war.  She sought out the Doctor because she believed she’d be one of the few people like her on the side of the human race.  The Doctor asks if there are others like them, and Jennie says there are; the Doctor suggests they go find them.

- Mitch and his team reveal they have a plan for stealing information from Skywatch.  They obviously can’t launch any more satellites into orbit, because it’s not part of the Treaty with Skywatch.  But, they plan on using the satellites' "information exchanges" against them.  (I think.)  They'll fake a global hack of satellite communications, flooding Skywatch with North Korean bots and slipping in an infiltration package amidst the bots.  The package would then steal the information it needs, and then be ejected with the bots as Skywatch's defenses expel them.  (I couldn't help but think of the "float away with the rest of the garbage" line from "Empire Strikes Back.")  The incursions' goal seems to be confirming Cole and his wild C.A.T. are working for Skywatch, an obvious breach of the Treaty.  They plan on using that information to essentially offset IO’s theft of the Breslau suit; in other words, they're trying to equal a wrong with a wrong.  Miles OKs the plan.  (Of course he does.)

- The Ginger, as Henry calls her, asks Bendix why he’s so eager to break the Treaty, since it means exposing IO and Skywatch to an unsuspecting public.  Henry acknowledges that it would be a disaster for the public to learn that all these agencies have medicine and technology they don’t have, particularly given humanity outnumbers them.  Bendix then reminisces somewhat fondly when the two sides came close to war before, when Skywatch attacked a science city IO was operating with the USSR because it was building launch facilities (something the Treaty didn't allow them to do).  It was supposed to have been a non-casualty event according to Bendix, but it’s hard to believe that, as we see their ships were armed to the teeth.  The city fired on the incoming ships, and Skywatch returned fire, leaving only 35 people alive of the 20,000 who lived there.  One of the survivors, to Henry’s regret, was John Lynch, the IO director.

- At Halo, Angie perfects her suit due to Marlowe’s facilities, though ominously has some leftover liquid after taking out the suit and reconstructing it.  (I’m sure that’s not significant at all:  just “leftover screws,” as Angie says.)  Meanwhile, Kenesha is planning their incursion into IO when Cole gets a call.  He meets Zealot on a rooftop, and she warns him IO knows he’s alive and believes he’s working with Skywatch.  He says that’s insane, but she notes he has a teleporter so it’s not so crazy.  Cole asks for more information, grabbing Lucy’s arm, and she reminds him she taught him pretty much everything he knows about combat.  He backs off a bit, and she tells him to remind Marlowe she has a code and to say hi to Kenesha.

X-Men Blue #20: As everyone says in this issue, we’re dealing with a time-travel story, so everything I write here is going to be complicated.  The X-Men make short work of the Brotherhood, primarily because Hank pulls in the previous teams they’ve met — X-Men 2099, Generation X, etc. — to help.  The Brotherhood flees, and the kids reunite with a now-freed Professor Xavier.  Xavier explains how he sent a post-temporal suggestion through the timestream once he realized the Brotherhood’s plan, which is why Magneto built the time machine.  The kids point out time has changed, since the original Brotherhood are now dead in the past (murdered by the future Brotherhood posing as the X-Men).  But, when they return to the future, the original Brotherhood isn’t dead.  Jean takes it as confirmation Xavier was right when he said it means the children are destined to return to the past the exact moment they left, as if they never left.  It’s the only way to explain why the present (their future) doesn’t change due to their presence in the present.  They’re all bummed by that, particularly Bobby, who would be destined to remain in the closet for at least another decade if they return to the past.  It’s definitely an interesting open question I'm intrigued to see them explore.  Bunn doesn’t just end there, though.  Magneto uses the time machine to catch the future Brotherhood trying to return, and Bunn implies Magneto kills them.  It raises the question what happens to the team and Magneto now that the main point of his desire to work with him seems to be resolved.

Also Read: Amazing Spider-Man #794; Marvel Two-in-One #2; X-Men Annual Blue #1

Friday, March 9, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The January 17 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom, Inc. Omega #1:  (Man, that’s a title.)  This issue is fun.  That said, I can’t say this event has been the best plotted one I've ever read.  I’m pretty sure if I re-read it I’d be able to find all sorts of glaring plot holes.  (Like, I still don't really understand how Maniac just happened upon his spitting power and how it didn't really require any effort or resources.  Also, I’m not sure I buy the idea Price could only possess someone once because they developed anti-bodies in their blood after the first exposure.  That just seems...convenient.  See?  Plot holes.)  But, Spidey is pretty hilarious in this issue, from his abortive attempt to rally Flash (only to realize Anti-Venom's healing factor would heal Flash's wounds and eliminate the need for Spidey to rally him in the first place) to Spidey tripping on his way to tell Flash about the anti-bodies.  So, overall, I’m going to call it a win.  As I said earlier, it recalls the excellent “New Ways to Die!” story from the “Brand New Day” era, and that alone is reason to give it a read.  Also, I’m glad to see Peter and the Cat in a better place.  I mean, it makes no sort of sense she'd suddenly stop hating him.  After all, it was Dr. Octopus (as Spider-Man) taking everything from her that inspired her to hate Spidey.  It doesn't make a lick of sense she'd be so blasé about it happening again, particularly when he's more directly responsible for her downfall this time.  (Again.  Plot holes.)  But, I'm just glad the feud is over.  Similarly, I’m glad Eddie convinced her to give up her attempt to become a crime boss, because I never really bought that either.  (Man, I have not been happy with "Amazing Spider-Man" for a while.)  Again, Eddie’s appeal doesn’t really make sense — in a way, he’s just mansplaining to her that she never wanted to be a crime boss in the first place — but I’m just glad she’s no longer a bad guy (#bringbackthecat).  In other words, Spidey is fun here and the Cat is who she should be, so I'll take it.

Avengers #676: The authors dive right into the mysteries the first issue of this event raised, namely who the mysterious Avenger is and why the Earth was planet-napped.  Color me impressed and intrigued.

The Avenger is revealed to be Valerie Vector, a.k.a. Voyager.  She was (allegedly) a founding member of the Avengers and (allegedly) stayed with the team for a long time, including the transition to the Cap-led team in issue #16.  However, in the "Let the Game Begin" arc (according to Comic Vine), the Avengers were forced into a competition as part of a wager between Grandmaster and Kang (as happened in those days).  In issue #70, Voyager (allegedly) faced Victory, the Electromagnetic Man, but her “portal field” reacted with his powers and she was (allegedly) thought lost in the ensuing explosion.  In the present, she tells the gathered Avengers she wasn’t lost, but “removed from normal existence."  She watched time pass helplessly from the void.  It was only when the Earth was stolen that she was somehow re-synced with the Earth again.

First, I have to give an incredible amount of credit to the art team here.  A lot of Valerie’s history is told through flashbacks to famous moments in Avengers’ history.  Valerie is inserted into these moments in the same art style as was prevalent at the time, and it’s fun to see.  But, the best moment is her depiction as lost in time, where she floats above a series of “Avengers” covers, showing the passage of time through the progression of issues.  It’s so remarkably clever.  It makes it clear the entire creative team is bringing its A game.  Moreover, the editors successfully use some winks and nudges in the “as seen in” boxes to hint it’s not the full story.  Everyone (allegedly) remembers Valerie when she appears, so it almost seems like her story is true.  But, her appearance is obviously way too convenient, and I can’t wait to see what the authors have planned.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, we get to the heart of the matter:  the Black Order and the Lethal Legion appear and immediately engage in battle.  However, two disembodied voices (who I wouldn’t be surprised to learn were Grandmaster and Kang again) remind the parties of the rules and send them to their respective corners until the “Pyramoid” appears.  (I again have to praise the art team.  The fight sequences are spectacular, so life-like you feel like you’re right there watching them.)  At the urging of the disembodied voices, the two teams go their corners, and we learn Earth was chosen as the location of their conflict because of its “designated obstacles,” i.e. the Avengers.  The Black Order decides to take out the Avengers preemptively, and they explode Avengers Mansion just as the team was coming to some agreement on how to survey the situation in a world without communications systems.

I can’t say I’m thrilled to see the Black Order, because I associate it with the terrible incursion storyline Hickman forced on us.  (I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I'm still not buying it.)  Looking at its previous appearances on Comic Vine and Wikipedia, I've actually read almost every issue where its members have appeared, from the "Infinity" event to "The Unworthy Thor."  But, I still don't understand anything about them.  They're all pretty much interchangeable amoral bad guys.  I’m not familiar with this alien Lethal Legion, and I’m doing my best to avoid going to Wikipedia to do research, because I feel like it could spoil the surprises the authors have in mind.  But, this initial fight sequence shows how great of adversaries these two teams can be, so I’m perfectly happy to give the authors a chance to rehabilitate the Order for me.

Given everything that happened, you’d be forgiven for thinking this issue was confusing, but it’s really not; the authors did a great job of keeping up the momentum while not rushing anything.  They don't address all the mysteries, obviously.  We have smaller ones, like why Beast was so concerned over Jarvis’ scans or how the folks pulling the strings decided which heroes to “pause.”  We also don’t know what the stakes of the conflict are.  But, after two issues, I have to say my expectations are high now for one of the best Avengers stories of all time.  (No pressure, guys.)

Generation X #86:  Strain is clearly clearing the decks before this series’ last issue, but she manages to do so in a way that doesn't feel rushed.  Jubilee visits Quentin on Krakoa and remembers Nathaniel’s warning, that Quentin wants to feel like he’s wanted even if he doesn’t admit it.  Quentin is terrible as usual, bragging to Jubilee the Phoenix gave him part of its power (in “Mighty Thor”) so he doesn’t need anyone.  But, when Jubilee learns the school has disappeared, he’s right there with her as they race to the scene.  Meanwhile, as Monet goes all horror-movie villain on the kids, hunting them like prey, Chamber and Husk try to buy the kids some time to escape.  Benjamin saves Nathaniel from falling debris, and the confluence of his heroism and their impending death inspires Nathaniel to kiss Benjamin through his shirt.  When Monet eventually touches Nathaniel, we see moments from his past, where he’s abused by his mother (with his father’s knowledge) and learns his boyfriend is attracted to someone else (even though he hasn’t acted on it).  Nathaniel has alluded to these moments in the past, so it’s nice to see Strain get the chance to make Nathaniel a fully formed character before the series ends.  Speaking of happy endings, Jubilee and Quentin arrive, and Monet strips Jubilee of her amulet and throws her into the sun.  Panicked at the thought of losing Jubilee and her promise to give him someplace to say, Quentin exhaust his Phoenix powers to cure her of her vampirism, probably the nicest thing he’s ever done.  I can’t wait to see how everyone rallies to take down Monet next issue.

Mighty Thor #703:  I haven’t written a lot about this series lately because it’s going so smoothly.  But, I had to compliment this issue.  Everyone is on fire here.  First, other than Peter David, I just don’t know if anyone plays the long game as well as Jason Aaron does.  The moment where Jane is standing in front of the hammer, with her friends standing there wondering what she’s going to do, brings together a storyline he’s spent years crafting.  I legitimately had no idea what she was going to choose, but I expected to see Jane as Thor saving Asgard from the Mangog at the last minute.  Seeing her return to her hospital bed instead makes me happy, because, as everyone keeps telling her, the world needs Jane Foster just as much as it needs Thor.  Dauterman and particularly Wilson bring their A game here, and it’s a helluva A game.  I didn’t know half the colors Wilson uses to show the Mangog’s march to Odin existed.  But, it all comes together spectacularly, as Odinson arrives to convince Odin to at least die wearing his boots and swinging his sword.  Father and son bonding time to come!  It seems pretty clear Odinson is going to prove worthy again by defeating Mangog.  But, Aaron has also been implying Mjolnir has its own agenda, so we shall see.  What a great time to be a Thor fan.

Nightwing #37:  This issue is...terrible.  In theory, it should be a great issue, because it’s the origin of Dick’s beef with the Judge.  But, it's just not.  We begin with Dick approaching a casino owner he knew in his early days as Robin; she was known then as Baby Ruthless, a teenager fighting crime in Blüdhaven to save her dad’s bodega.  Bruce and Dick were investigating a series in murders in Gotham committed by unsuspecting pawns in possession of the now-famous golden casino chips.  The people they killed were responsible for building Blüdhaven’s first casino, and we learn the Judge, at least then, was mostly focused on stopping the casinos.  The Dynamic Duo and Baby Ruthless foil his plan to crash a barge carrying radioactive material into the construction site (thereby rendering it uninhabitable).  However, Robin’s overeagerness allows the Judge to escape.  Dick also alludes to fighting him in college, a story I’m sure we’ll see.  But, the big development is Baby Ruthless reveals she quit her costumed career when King Sturgeon took over the Judge’s gang.  (I’m not sure why she quit being a crime fighter when Sturgeon took over the gang; she states it like they were connected, but I don’t see the connection.  Also, I'm not entirely sure why the Judge left either.)  Dick realizes Sturgeon might be the key to stopping the Judge, but Guppy is poised to kill him (his father) now that he's in possession of a certain casino chip.  Guppy's plight really infuses this issue with emotion.  We see some thugs bullying him into helping retrieve something from the bay, and then he's embarrassed when they won't give him a share of the take.  He tries to tell his dying father he's running his own gang, but he also doesn't have the money to buy the medicine his father needs.  But, Guppy's plight is overshadowed by the terrible narration Humphries uses throughout the issue.  In theory, we should believe Dick and Ruthless are having a conversation about the good ol' days, not just spouting text blocks as they are here.  It’s the problem when you try to retroactively create an arch-nemesis and ally for a character all in the same arc; you’re going to have to rely a lot on flashbacks.  But, the narration is so awkward it’s hard to focus on anything else.  We’re supposed to believe Dick feels great guilt for allowing the Judge to live and continue to kill people, but mostly I just rolled my eyes.  I'm not hopeful it's going to get better either because we still have to get through the college incident.  [Sigh.]

Rogue and Gambit #1: All I know is I would’ve loved to have seen the looks in the pitch meeting when Kelly Thompson suggested sending Rogue and Gambit to a couples retreat that may also be a mutant-conversion camp.  I honest to God cannot think of a better premise of any mini-series ever.  I love Thompson’s work on “Hawkeye,” so I’m so excited to see what she does here.  From the start, she gets down Rogue and Gambit’s relationship perfectly:  not too clear, not too vague.  The awkward space between those positions is front and center here.  It’s hard to do that, particularly with dialogue that sounds natural and not a recitation of talking points, but Thompson strikes exactly that balance here.  (I loved Rogue teasing Gambit that Deadpool is a better kisser.  But, I also appreciated the vulnerability Gambit showed when he told Rogue it felt like he was the only one trying to lift their mountain of baggage anymore.)  I was caught by surprise when Rogue said she’d lost control of her powers, because I don’t remember that from “Uncanny Avengers.”  (Wikipedia says I should've known that.)  Regardless, I can’t wait to see where we go here.

X-Men Gold #20: I’ve been hit or miss on this series for a while, and this issue is a good example why.  Guggenheim rushes the ending in a way that makes no sense to me here.  He’s got a pretty great “out of the frying pan, into the fire” scenario, with the X-Men trapped on a hostile desert planet somewhere in the Negative Zone.  Kitty is with a dying Peter in a sandstorm, Storm has to fight off a spider-like creature, and Logan is with the rest of the team in the ship trying to find a way off the planet.  Instead of drawing out the dramatic tension for two or three issues, we get deus ex machina after deus ex machina.  Storm somewhat miraculous stumbles upon Kitty and Peter in the storm, Ink has a healing touch that stabilizes Peter, Kurt finds an inter-dimension portal generator he just happens to recognize from his time on the Dartayan ship (even though I imagine he was in the brig and not the engineering bay), and Storm “digs deep” to summon electricity to power the generator (even though we firmly established her powers don’t work on this planet).  Despite everyone’s doom and gloom predictions, they’re basically in “danger” for 15 minutes or so until the problem is solved.  It’s all just too easy.  So far, everything about this series is like that:  we stop just short of something significant or profound happening every time.  Hopefully “X-Men Red” soars.

Also Read:  Batman #39, Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #299, Star Wars #42

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The January 10 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #675:  And away we go!  First, I have to thank the writing team for starting off this event with the Living Lightning (now just Lightning) as he’s one of the few gay characters in the Marvel Universe.  The authors not only put him front and center here, but they also show him as a red-blooded gay man as he awkwardly (but successfully) asks out Detective Dan.  It’s still a big deal to me, particularly after Marvel seems to be responding to the people who want their comics maler, straighter, and most importantly whiter by de-diversifying its line-up.

But, Lightning isn’t just there as a set piece.  The action gets going almost immediately after he busts some thieves and ponders how he should be doing more with his life as a former (West Coast) Avenger.  Detective Dan tries to console him, saying he's still doing good work, but they're both startled when the Sun seems to go nova.  We quickly learn someone has stolen the Earth, causing all hell to break loose:  the loss of the ring of satellites around the Earth has crippled global communications, and the change in the Earth's geospatial position has unleashed a series of natural disasters.  The various Avengers teams leap into action, and the art team does a great job of showing the magnitude of their effort.  (Hercules catching the rolling globe the Atlas statue was holding was a particularly nice touch, and Carol’s dumb-founded expression as she stares at the space where Earth and the Moon used to be is hilarious.)

The authors kick it up a notch as several of the more prominent heroes are put, in Rogue’s words, on "pause."  Someone sends out an emergency distress symbol that manages to get through the communications black-out, and we’re only left with:  Synapse, Voodoo, the Human Torch, Thor, Falcon, Lightning, Toni Ho, Roberto, Cannonball, Red Hulk, Wonder Man, Beast, Scarlet Witch, Hercules, Rogue, and Quicksilver.  The (young) Wasp arrives to inform everyone Jarvis might die from injuries he sustained in trying to save a child, but she leaves in tears when Rogue suggests they don’t have time to help him.  (Rogue correctly asserts Jarvis would understand.)  Beast leaves with the Wasp, and the loss of his intellect seems like it's going to prove Rogue’s point that it’s a bad idea to divert important resources from the task at hand.  Then, a mysterious white-haired woman is revealed to have sent out the call.  The mystery isn't just her identity; it's that everyone seems to know her.  In fact, her likeness appears on the statue of the founding Avengers.

All in all, I’m really excited.  This issue felt like a classic Avengers story (particularly when Quicksilver got catty with Rogue).  The authors accomplish their main goal here, making us believe they’re telling so huge of a story they have to do it weekly.  “Batman Eternal” failed to convey that sense of urgency, which is why it eventually became a chore to read.  But, 16 issues is different than 52 issues, so hopefully it’ll be an easier task to stay on message.  At any rate, I'm in it to win it.

Old Man Hawkeye #1:  I didn’t read “Old Man Logan,” but reading this issue makes me feel like I should’ve.  Logan makes an appearance here, with Clint asking him if he wants to join in getting revenge on the super-villains who wiped out the superheros 45 years earlier.  Why did he wait 45 years?  It’s because Claire Temple told him he only has a few weeks or months before glaucoma robs him of his eyesight.  Time is ticking, in other words.  But, Sacks doesn’t jump right into that story.  We begin with Clint working a job for a guy named Mr. Hammer (I’m assuming some connection to Justin Hammer), transporting cargo through Tannenbaum Gorge in South Dakota.  When a group of crazed Madroxes attack the truck asking for MGH, Hawkeye wonders whether Hammer has gotten him involved in something illegal.  (I wonder what the definition of “illegal” is in this world.)  Clint takes out all the Madroxes but one, and it's him missing his shot at that one that brings him to Temple.  Next time we see Clint, he’s at Logan’s homestead in California, where Logan rebuffs his attempt to recruit him.  Then, he’s in Hammer Falls, Nevada, visiting his daughter, Ashley Barton, who isn’t too keen to see him.  Meanwhile, the Venom symbiote attacks and consumes the one Madrox Clint didn’t murder in the hijacking attempt, and Bullseye realizes Hawkeye is active again when he finds the other Madroxes' bodies.  Reading the Wiki entry on “Old Man Logan,” I’m intrigued to see where Sacks goes here.  We know how the story ends, so we know Clint doesn’t get his revenge.  But, sometimes it’s about the journey.

Phoenix Resurrection — The Return of Jean Grey #3:  The gang finds Jean’s coffin is empty and realizes they need to find her.  Hank offers to rebuild Cerebro, but reminds everyone they don’t have any psychics.  So, Kitty tracks down Emma, who approves of the $*#!^ she’s become.  Kitty tells her Jean has returned, and Emma suggests she’s at a plateau in New Mexico that she knew meant a lot to Scott.  Kitty brings the whole gang to the plateau, and Magik uncovers a dome that had been trying to hide itself.  A door opens, and the X-Men prepare to enter the dome.  Meanwhile, Waitress Jean flees a version of her costumed self who appears to her.  Rosenberg seems to break what I thought was a rule here, as “Mr. Patch” and Dr. Reyes both appear, despite them not being dead.  Whatever.  It’s time to wrap up this story.  It’s starting to feel a little Keystone Cops, with everyone chasing something we all know they’re going to find.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #10:  After issue #5 saw Anakin firmly rejecting redemption and embracing his apprenticeship to Darth Sidious, I was surprised here when he destroyed the memory crystal.  Jocasta essentially goads him into it, saying she understood Palpatine wanted to make more Darth Vaders from the children on that list.  She asks what he wants, and it's a good question.  Did he destroy the crystal because he was just happy someone cared what he wanted?  Did he do it because he didn't want the competition?  Gillen doesn't tell us, keeping (for now) Vader's motivations unclear.  I'm hoping we continue to see more moments like this one, where Vader's role as a committed villain comes under question.

Titans #19:  This issue is a great example of why I’m canceling this series.  Abnett relies on the old shtick of the Justice League condemning the Titans’ actions, which worked when they were young adults but doesn’t work now.  Batman says Donna and Wally need to be fully assessed.  But, he doesn’t mention Wally is hurt because his son stabbed him in the heart.  It also takes Roy to mention Donna is under suspicion because Diana lied about the fact she was made of clay.  Dick makes a half-hearted attempt to make these points to Batman, but then reverts to a disappointing-son role that he’s never, ever held.  It’s character assassination all around, and I won’t stand for it.  Bruce's insistence they failed at their mission also just doesn't make sense.  As Wally mentions, they nabbed Mr. Twister, Psimon, and the Key and defeated Troia.  What did they do wrong?  Not cause enough property damage, like the Justice League does?  Remember when Bruce gave a college scholarship to the girl who hacked Amazon and destroyed a town (in "Justice League "#11)?  I could continue, but I won't.  I’m done with this one, unfortunately.

The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #4:  It’s clear the point of this series is for Michael to kill the Wild Storm versions of DC heroes:  he took down Green Arrow in the first two issues, we’ve seen reference to Bruce Wayne, he eliminates the Flash here, and Trelane sends him after “the Aquaman” next.  All these missions seek to steal the technology the “hero” (or “victim”) is using, but it’s unclear why Skywatch wants this technology and how it's going to use it.  It’s also unclear why this series needs to exist.  Ellis has made it clear he's telling an integrated story, so presumably the technology we see in this series will play some sort of role in the ongoing struggle between Halo, IO, and Skywatch in the main title.  It’s just unclear what it is yet.  Also, the terrible art on this series makes me realize how important John Davis-Hunt is to the magic of the main title.  So far, this series just seems like a random series of hits whose conclusions are foregone.

X-Men Blue #19:  OK, I totally, totally didn’t see that coming.  The denouement here actually makes a time-travel story make sense!  It turns out the reason why the X-Men saw themselves when they initially returned in time was that it was actually the future Brotherhood, lead by Charles Xavier II, pretending to be them.  It’s why in all the possible futures we've seen they were trying to enslave either human- or mutantkind.  As such, it also now makes sense why the timestream is collapsing due to their absence; the team actually has been missing form the timestream.  It turns out the Brotherhood created a Cerebro that puts Professor X under their control, amping up their abilities considerably.  Honestly, I didn’t see how Bunn could possibly resolve this storyline, but he actually stuck this landing.  This story might’ve just risen to “classic” level in my book.  I really enjoyed the Brotherhood’s initial appearance under Bendis, and I love the idea that they took the fight to the past since they failed in the present and the future.  

Youngblood #8:  Bowers is really getting going here.  The team tracks down a missing hero, Superstitious, to a freighter in the East China Sea.  They find her unconscious in a room filled with religious artifacts, but, before they can spring her, a fanatic tells them she’s the key to being invited to the next world after the coming Apocalypse.  (Of course she is.)  Then Interpol arrives and tries to arrest the team for ruining their months-long operation (to what aim, I don't know).  But, Man-Up destroys the freighter by embiggening in a burst of enthusiasm.  Later, Dolante complains to Vogue that Horatio (a.k.a., Man-Up) needs to leave the team because he’s reckless, but she’s not so sure.  Meanwhile, someone named Task is revealed to be underwriting this new iteration of Youngblood.  He asks Doc Rocket (his ex-girlfriend) to dinner, and it inspires Dolante to take up Vogue’s offer to meet her at a club.  (It's New Year's Eve.)  He’s just a little surprised to find Horatio there, too, kissing her.  Dun-dun-DUN!  Perhaps the most interesting part of this issue is Supreme is the one to save Superstitious in the wake of the freighter explosion, and Superstitious marvels at how little she knows about her powers and comments how important she is to this world.  Superstitious then sends her to another galaxy.  Dun-DUN-DUN!  I don’t really get the good-guy vibe from Superstitious, so I’m intrigued how she got on Vogue’s list of missing heroes in the first place.  I guess we'll see.

Also Read:  Bloodshot Salvation #5, Detective Comics #972, Ms. Marvel #26, Venom #160, X-Men Gold Annual #2

Monday, March 5, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The January 3 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #150:  To overuse an expression, this issue doesn’t really represent an end, but a beginning. The Guardians and Nova Corps make short work of the invading Raptors.  Scott realizes they can see the Raptor's enormous ship through its force field, meaning light can penetrate it.  He manages to hitch a ride on a photon and then embiggen, wrecking the ship.  However, it's not all a win.  Peter’s inability to keep his mouth shut means several Corps members who weren’t exactly all that committed to the cause overheard him talking about the Power Stone to Rich.  They subsequently get out word to their various bookies, bosses, and masters.  Oblivious to this development, Peter drops off Drax at the planet where the Power Stone is located after Drax decides to quit the team (since he keeps accidentally killing people, as he did during the fight on the ship).  Afterward, the team plans on making its way to Telferina to take on the Gardener and his mad Groots.  (Gamora wanted to go after the Stones, but she lost that argument.)  The most significant development is Adam Warlock’s resurrection, as he busts free of a cocoon to find himself face-to-face with Kang!  Dun-dun-DUN!  Duggan has made it clear this story is the beginning of a much larger arc, likely leading to an Infinity Stone-related cross-over event this summer or fall.  I’m OK with that in theory, but he’s still got to dance this dance well.  Any long-time reader of Marvel Comics has been down this seemingly infinite (heh) road many, many times before.  It’s going to be a challenge to make it feel new, but we'll see what Duggan's got.

Astonishing X-Men #7:  Soule makes it clear a lot is going on here.  First, Xavier isn’t exactly Xavier.  He asks the team not even to call him that, preferring “X.”  He speaks as if he’s as young as his body, raising the question whether he’s really in control here or if he’s somehow blended with Fantomex’s mind.  To this point, Psylocke visits Fantomex in the Astral Plane to make sure he made this decision voluntarily.  He concedes Psylocke’s concern that X might've coerced him into doing it, but he also feels happy with the outcome, something Psylocke has to concede to X when she returns.  Soule drops several hints it's not that easy, though.  For example, Psylocke remarks to Fantomex that her Xavier wouldn’t coerce Fantomex into accepting his (X’s) proposal, but here X makes everyone in the British special-forces command room forget all about the Shadow King’s attack.  (Is X maybe more of a blend of the Shadow King and Xavier, rather than Fantomex and Xavier?  That said, I question Psylocke's certainty that "her" Xavier was so morally upstanding.)  X says erasing their memories is one of his “gifts.”  He delivers another "gift" when he draws the negative energy the Shadow King spread through London into one giant ball. (X apparently has gifts for everyone, like giving Warren control over his Archangel persona just like that.  By the way, Warren saved London when he successfully re-directed the missile the special-forces folks fired at it, giving X the chance to draw together the negative energy.)  The resulting energy ball is so huge Bishop searches his end-of-days database, which informs him the “green sun” over London presages the “Mindkiller Apocalypse,” which sterilizes 97 percent of the Earths in the multiverse where it appeared. We learn how that likely happens when X tries to disperse the ball, but it explodes instead, revealing Proteus has returnUIKeyInputDownArrowed with X. Bad move, X.

Batman #38:  Wow.  After firmly establishing Bruce’s relationship with Selena, King turns his focus to more typical storylines.  Of course, I mean “typical” in the “Batman” context as “disturbing.”  Here, we’re treated to a mentally ill pre-teen who has his butler kill his parents so he can become the next Bruce Wayne.  Yeah.  But, the most interesting part of the issue is King using the crime as a way to show how Selena accepts Bruce completely for who he is:  she sleeps through him waking up one night talking his way through the crime, she barely notices him swiftly leaving dinner after he realizes the pre-teen did it, etc.  In other words, King continues making the argument they’re in it for the long haul, these two, because they understand each other so well.

Batman: White Knight #4:  The best line in this issue is one of the best lines of the year.  When a female African-American news anchor notes Napier’s social-media war on Gotham elites is working, her white male partner asks disillusionedly whether Batman is supposed to tweet back.  This exchange is insightful, because it helps advance the narrative Murphy is pushing, namely Bruce doesn’t know how to change with the times.  The main tension of the issue comes from Duke, here a former cop and community organizer in Backport, endorsing Napier for city council, embracing him as Backport’s white knight.  But, the real development is Jack convincing Gordon to embrace his plan:  getting Batgirl and Nightwing to join the Gotham Terror Oppression (GTO) unit, where they share their technology with the GCPD and join an elite task force of vigilantes and cops to take out super-crime.  Napier gets Gordon by noting the $3 billion a year going to the Batman Devastation Fund could’ve been buying the GCPD the equipment it needed if Batman had only shared his technology.  It’s a compelling argument, and it continues to isolate Bruce.  Not only does he not tweet, but his megalomania is being more directly exposed; it’s clear he wants to be in total control, even if it means GCPD lives.  Murphy also ups the pressure on Jack, too:  Other Harley turns herself into the Neo-Joker, getting the Mad Hatter (I think) to re-hack his control bands, instantly providing her with an army.  (I have to say, the only weakness I see here is how Napier took his eyes off the Hatter.  Given his control of the super-criminals relied on controlling the control bands, it seems an unforgivable mistake.)  It seems pretty clear we're building to, as they say, an "explosive conclusion."

(Update:  After posting this review, I re-read “Batman:  White Knight” #3, where Neo-Joker frees Mad Hatter.  I still don’t entirely understand how Harley found Hatter or, as I mention here, why it took so long for Jack and Harley to realize he and the super-villains were gone.)

Phoenix Resurrection:  The Return of Jean Grey #2:  Rosenberg spends most of this issue on Waitress Jean, revealing her world is populated by dead people, such as Jamie Madrox, Thunderbird, Annie (presumably her friend who died), and, as we saw last issue, Sean Cassidy and Scott.  We learn she's been suffering from bad dreams, including one where she died on the moon.  Meanwhile, on Earth, Kitty reveals all their psychics are either missing or incapacitated.  The only one left standing is Cable, but he's also taken off the board when he tries to use Cerebro to find the Phoenix.  However, he glimpsed some coordinates before the feedback rendered him unconscious.  Kitty sends Beast and Jubilee with teams to hunt down the psychics while she, Old Man Logan, Dazzler, Rogue, and Bobby lead their own teams to track down the Phoenix.  It all gets interesting when these storylines collide.  In Waitress Jean's world, Magneto appears in her diner.  Unless you count his disappearance from the timestream in "X-Men Blue" as him "dying," it means his presence in Waitress Jean's reality is an anomaly.  Rosenberg draws a line under that when he has an earlier version of Magneto confront Bobby's team.  During the fight, the team hears him ordering a cup of tea (clearly at the diner).  Rosenberg shows how these realities are blending together, at least in some way.  The issue ends with Magneto reappearing at the diner (after concluding the fight with Bobby's team) and asking Jean if she feels better.  She says she does as she sees an image of the Phoenix burning the town around her.

Spider-Man #236:  First things first:  when did Miles get glow-y webs that incapacitate people?  I've been reading this series for a while, and I do not remember glow-y webs that incapacitate people.  Venom blast?   Yes.  Glow-y webs?  No.  Beyond that problem, this issue is mostly solid, as Bendis is bringing a number of pots to a boil.  Ganke inadvertently reveals Miles' name to the Spider-Man fan he's dating, and Miles is shocked to discover his Uncle Aaron is still alive.  But, it's still hard to tell where Bendis is going with it all.  For months now he's been implying Miles is going to give up being Spider-Man and, if he's going to have that happen on his watch, he only has four issues left to do so.  Right now, it's hard to see how he's going to wrap up all the loose ends out there.  Beyond the ones I just mentioned, we also still have the status of Miles' parents' relationship and the reformed Sinister Six's now-numerous plots to steal the Helicarrier.  Bendis isn't the strongest at these sorts of complicated stories, and it seems a monumental task for even someone like Peter David or Nick Spencer to stick this landing.  We'll see how it goes.

Star Wars #41:  Jesus, everything goes to hell in this issue.  But, we learn lessons!  Luke and Chulco go to the Temple of the Central Isotoper at the edge of the blast crater, and the priests have them stare into the Abyss and meditate.  Luke realizes he's so desperate to understand the Force and the Jedi that he's risking his soul by walking down the path without a guide.  However, Chulco fails to learn that lesson:  he proverbially falls into the Abyss and to the Dark Side.  He attacks Luke, who is forced to stab him with his lightsaber.  Chulco awakens from his mania in time to warn Luke of the strength of the Dark Side and then dies.  Meanwhile, Ubin engages in a suicide mission to try to take out the Leviathan (the "Continent-class crawler" the Imperials deployed last issue).  She fails, but Benthic told Han and Leia about her plan so they're able to rescue her.  (Han delivers possibly the best line of this series:  "I'll tell you how we save the galaxy!  We don't all die before we save the galaxy!")  Meanwhile, Chewie and his shipmate arrive in Jedha space, only to fail to pass through the quarantine.  The Imperials open fire, and Luke arrives just in time to save them, thanks from a tip from the Central Isotoper priests who heard the ship's distress signal.  They arrive at the base, where Chewie gets medical treatment and Leia reveals he secured an item for Shu-Tron that could save the day.  I have to say, Gillen is really killing it here.  This entire story has been a joy not just because "Rogue One" is probably my favorite "Star Wars" movie, but also because he's really forcing these characters into difficult positions, even for them.  I mean, Luke is forced to finally learn an actual lesson and not whine about it.  Who would've thought it?

Also Read:  Captain America #697, Hawkeye #14, Iceman #9, Jean Grey #8-#10, Nightwing #36, X-Men Gold #19

Friday, March 2, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The December 27 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #12:  I feel like I’ve lost the plot a little here, because David is really leaning into the Slingers’ history as if I should be as familiar with it as Ben’s.  I don’t know who Black Marvel or Cyber is.  I vaguely remember the “Cyberwar” cross-over “event” when they renamed all the Spider-Man books “Scarlet Spider” in the ‘90s, but it wasn’t exactly the best era of storytelling.  After all, you probably had to buy all four books to even remotely understand the plot, as Marvel was doing back then.  It’s not impossible to enjoy this story here without recognizing these two characters; after all, the main drama of the issue is Ben wrestling with trying to be a good guy by turning himself into the police for his assault on Thorne.  But, David is assuming a level of comfort with the Slingers that I don’t have, so I find it hard to understand everyone’s motivations.  For example, why does Ricochet really care about Ben and whether he becomes a good guy?  Wasn't Prodigy working with Black Marvel?  Did he know he was dead and/or a bad guy?  If so, is he dead, too?  I'm also having trouble following some developments related to the title itself.  For example, I don’t have any memory of Kaine protecting a veterans’ shelter, as he's apparently doing in this issue.  David is a master of slowing weaving mysteries issue-to-issue.  But, when the main plot relies heavily on intimate knowledge of a 12-issue series that happened 20 years ago, it's hard not to just feel confused about everything.

Doomsday Clock #2:  OK, here we go.  

We start with security-camera footage of Marionette and the Mime breaking into an office of some sort and demanding the contents of the vault.  It's a little confusing, because these images are shown while Veidt's voice-over narration recounts how the Minutemen's appearance in 1939 caused "every wannabe gangster and low-rent thug" to seek out a woman dubbed "the Tailor's Wife" for an identity and costume.  At first, I thought the duo was robbing her shop, but I don't think it's the case; it seems more like they were robbing a bank.  But, we focus a lot on the teller here, so I'm not sure.  At any rate, Dr. Manhattan appears at the scene but doesn't kill Marionette or the Mime, possibly because they have a child.  (He repeats the word "Babum" to himself twice as he looks at the photo of the teller's child.  Yeah, I don't get it either.)  Johns reveals Veidt is telling the present-day Rorschach this story as justification for recruiting Marionette and the Mime.  He needed people who come from Jon's past.  He couldn't get Laurie to agree to help, and, even if he did, he was worried Jon would be upset to see her with Dan.  As such, he's hoping somehow Marionette and the Mime convince him to return to this Earth.  (This part seems a stretch to me.  It's not like Dr. Manhattan was buds with Marionette and the Mime.  But, as Lex Luthor says later, Veidt doesn't really have a great track record when it comes to his schemes achieving his desired goals.)  At any rate, the team assembles, and Veidt reveals every person has a "quantum fingerprint" comprised of the "four fundamental forces of nature."  They follow Dr. Manhattan's fingerprint to the universe where he fled, just in time to escape the nuclear bomb the Russians (I'm assuming) have launched at New York.  (I think they did so as part of the escalation of tensions Johns described last issue, but I'm not 100% sure, to be honest.)

Initially, it seems obvious we're all supposed to believe this new universe is either the DCU or the DCnU, but Johns calls that into question almost immediately.  We're introduced to Bruce Wayne as he's taking a Rorschach test (heh), something Wayne Enterprises' Board demanded he do for insurance purposes after he answered a test too honestly seven years earlier.  In this Gotham, people are rallying against Batman after the "Supermen Theory" has spread around the globe like wildfire.  We learn in the appendix that Markovian geneticist Dr. Helga Jace advanced the theory several weeks earlier; it claims the U.S. government created metahumans after Superman's appearance, explaining why most metahumans are concentrated in America.  The government did so by activating the "metagene" that 12 percent of the population possesses.  However, the U.S. government encouraged the subjects to claim an outside event -- such as accidental exposure to an ancient energy source or a flight-or-fight response triggered by danger -- led to them developing powers.  The theory seemed to be confirmed when leaked documents showed Rex Mason, a.k.a. Metamorpho, was a willing participant in the procedure Stagg Industries used to give him powers; they were all under contract with the U.S. government.  These documents contradict the aforementioned "accidental exposure..." origin Metamorpho previously claimed; in fact, he had criticized Stagg for the "accident."  Moreover, several of Metamorpho's "archenemies" confessed they were part of the scheme, agreeing to become super-villains in order to undergo their own transformation.  Adding fuel to the fire, Kurt Langstrom admits the "accident" that led to him becoming Man-Bat happened while he was working for the U.S. Department of Metahuman Affairs.

Bruce wants to ignore it all as noise, dismissing it as paranoia that Russia and Markovia are spreading.  However, Lucius encourages him not to do so.  He's afraid the Board is losing its faith in Bruce and will sell Wayne Enterprises to Lexcorp, exposing their "special projects."  Bruce is less concerned, because Lexcorp is facing charges of industrial espionage for trying to steal Wayne Enterprises' work on the metagene.  However, the appendix also implies Lexcorp has made better strategic decisions to acquire companies that were part of the U.S. government's program, whereas Wayne Enterprises has struggled to do so.  (I'm assuming Bruce hindered the acquisitions in part to hide his connection to the program.)  Lucius stressed he needs Bruce as Bruce, not as Batman, particularly given the "Supermen Theory" protests.  In other words, Lucius is trying to convince Bruce a sea change has happened in terms of the public perception of metahumans, while Bruce just wants everything to continue as normal.  

Returning to the travelers, Rorschach locks up Marionette and the Mime while he and Veidt go after the smartest men in the world:  Lex and Bruce.  Veidt approaches Luthor with a proposal, claiming he'll help Luthor achieve everything he's ever wanted if he helps him.  (It's not clear what he wants Luthor to do, though.)  Before Luthor can answer, a shot is fired:  Veidt dodges it, but it hits Luthor, possibly killing him.  The Comedian steps from the shadows, shocking Veidt.  Meanwhile, in the Batcave, Batman confronts Rorschach, who's been making his way through the Cave and expressing disgust at its various mementos.

I don't really have much to say here.  Johns is still setting up the story, so I'm giving him space to do so.  At this point, I'm still not feeling the forced combination of the DCU/DCnU and the "Watchmen" universe, but we'll see where we go.

Moon Knight #190:  WHOA. I did not see that coming.  I thought Bemis was going to drag out revealing what exactly it was Jake had been doing, the secret the Truth revealed to Marc Jake was keeping last issue.  I figured 15 or 20 issues from now, dun dun DUN, we’d learn Jake was actually Marc’s mysterious new nemesis.  But, no.  Bemis revealed it right away, and it makes the most sense.  I mean, what greater weakness would Marc Spector have than a child he never knew he had with Marlene?  It addresses his lack of family, something Bemis underlines in a flashback where Marc tells Marlene he used a grenade to kill his brother after he killed his girlfriend.  (Yeah.)  The only part I don’t get is the Sun King’s initial lie to Marc, that he'd been sleeping with Marlene for two years.  Given he immediately reveals Marlene’s secret to Marc, it seems unnecessary to try to rattle him in this way.  He didn’t really need to disarm Marc if he was going straight to the heart.  But, I’m also not sure if it’s the secret Bushman earlier told the Sun King's army he had on Marc.  They all seemed surprised to see the photo of the girl, so maybe Bushman just knew where Marlene lived?  I’m sure Bemis will let us know.  I also have to praise the art here:  Burrows, Ortego, and Lopes really hit a home run with the image of a demonic Marc looming over Jake and screaming, “What have you done?”  What have you done, Jake, indeed.

Phoenix Resurrection:  The Return of Jean Grey #1:  For the record, I am totally OK with Jean returning.  Marvel did the unexpected with Jean Grey, putting her almost in the same category as Uncle Ben:  everyone else seemed to return from the dead except them.  It was a wink and a nod to her past, where she seemed to die and be resurrected on an almost constant basis.  The only surprising thing left to do with her character was let her stay dead.  She's been dead for 14 years, almost a third of the time she was actually alive.  In so doing, Marvel successfully reset her character by making us believe what we had come never to believe:  she could really die.  As such, it's time for her to return.

Rosenberg makes it clear he's not going to rush the story, as we're left with more questions than answers in this issue.  First, we're introduced to two Jeans.  In Annandale-on-Hudson (the original Jean's hometown), two kids find a seemingly dead girl in the street, recalling the moment Jean's powers manifested (when her friend Annie died in her arms).  A child Jean appears on the scene, and she renders these two children in the same state as the seemingly dead girl:  they're all bleeding profusely from the head but show no wounds.  (The two kids eventually are revealed to be comatose but otherwise fine, even with the bleeding.)  The other Jean is a young-adult waitress who lives with her parents (not Elaine and John, as far as I can tell) in an existence the creative team somehow makes you feel is from the 1950s.  It includes her sweater-clad boyfriend Scott (wearing those familiar ruby-quartz glasses) arriving with flowers for dinner.

The action starts when Cerebro sends the X-Men to Annandale-on-Hudson to investigate the weird circumstances surrounding the children.  In so doing, Beast discovers three odd energy signatures that Kitty sends three teams to investigate.  Kitty's team encounters the usual blank-masked henchmen at the abandoned Hellfire Club mansion in New York, and we're treated to scenes that feel like they could be straight from the "Dark Phoenix Saga."  Rogue's team encounters Seamus Mellencamp, one of Magneto's former Acolytes, at a monastery in France, which Rogue notes is odd because Seamus is dead.  Finally, Logan's team encounters his younger self at the North Pole.  Did I mention Waitress Jean also seems to serve Sean Cassidy?  All these moments recall in their own ways Jean's past.  It makes sense because Rosenberg mentions in his letter to the readers he's trying to pay homage to that past.  That's clear in this issue, and we'll see where we go from here.

Spider-Men II #5:  The premise of this mini-series was that we were finally going to discover what Peter found when he Googled Miles’ name after they first met.  The answer is...nothing.  Despite his dramatic “Oh, my God,” comment that concluded the original "Spider-Men" mini-series, Peter reveals here he found nothing.  We learn it's because the Kingpin wiped all mention of the Earth-616 Miles from the Internet because Earth-616 Miles was his friend and simply wanted to live a nice life with his wife.  But, she died, so the Kingpin then helped transfer him to another Universe (seemingly the Ultimate universe) where she was alive.  That’s it.  It’s the whole story.  Along the way, Peter blurts out the fact he’s uncomfortable with Miles being Spider-Man, and Miles correctly deduces it’s because Peter views Spider-Man as his specific pain.  It make sense, I guess.  But, it really has nothing to do with the point of this event.  I get Bendis wasn’t obligated to reveal the Earth-616 Miles as some sort of secret bad guy, but he certainly heavily implied he was throughout the earlier issues of this series.  Moreover, Bendis had sold us on the idea that the Earth-616 Miles was "our" Universe’s analogue of "our" Miles.  But, he wasn’t — they just two dudes who shared the same name.  It’s anti-climactic to say the least, and I kinda of want my money back.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - The Storms of Crait #1: The problem with this issue is that Acker and Blacker treat their subjects too reverently.  Aaron and Gillen have excelled at their individuals efforts in this corner of a galaxy far, far away because they’ve treated these iconic figures as people first, foibles and all.  Sure, even they have trouble having Leia make a mistake, but they compensate for that reverence by at least explaining her motivations to us.  Acker and Blacker don’t accomplish that here:  Leia is all knowing, Luke is all whining, Han is all bluffing.  Even Han’s affection for Leia is too explicitly stated.  On top of that, the issue just doesn’t make a lot of sense.  For example, [whatever the bad guy's name is] decries Leia for being just like her father, seeing past the good in a person just to the secrets he wants to keep.  But, everyone -- including [whatever the bad guy's name is] himself -- spent the whole issue saying they’re exactly not like that, that they see the past the secrets to the good in people.  I think Acker and Blacker are implying [whatever the bad guy's name is] is ranting because he knows he’s fallen to his baser nature, failing to take the opportunity Bail and now Leia offered him to be noble.  But, they don’t actually make that argument; I’m making it for them here.  Also, I don't even know how to discuss the moment where Wedge Antilles goes on a 'roid rage.  It's like they just whacked him in there because they always dreamed of writing a comic where he appeared.  In other words, you can safely skip this one.

X-Men Blue #18:  The most interesting part of what Bunn is doing here is the fact the original X-Men seem to almost always be the bad guys in whatever future or past they visit.  However, he kicks it up a notch here.  When Emma Frost shows young Jean the vision of how the team turned against the rest of mutantkind, wanting to enslave them, the older Jean sees the younger Jean. Younger Jean is shocked, because her presence shouldn’t change a memory.  But, she seems to realize it’s part of a large, cross-time assault, something Hank also realizes.  At least, I think that's what it is.  I’m legitimately interested to see where this one goes.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #793, Detective Comics #971, Hawkman Found #1

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The December 20 Marvel Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Champions #15:  I know it’s clichéd to say so, but Viv really is the heart of this team.  This series has been hit or miss for me for a while, but Waid does a really great job of putting everyone’s emotions on display in this issue.  He uses Nova deciding to quit the team as his lens for their despair.  Nova saw Viv as the only member of the team who didn’t condescend to him; without her, he just doesn’t want to be there anymore.  The Avengers make everything worse through their own condescension, and my only complaint here is Waid didn’t have Kamala and Scott realize they do the same thing to Sam as they complain Falcon and Thor do to them.  But, it’s a minor complaint.  Kamala rallies to remind Sam he -- and not all the geniuses -- saved the day on Counter-Earth.  He confesses to her he just misses Viv, in a moment that makes me tear up a bit just writing about it.  Similarly, the Wasp trying to convince the Vision not to activate the new body he’s constructing for Viv is equally poignant.  The Wasp says it would dishonor her memory, but the Vision’s grief is so real here you understand why he might not care.  We’re also introduced to a mystery I never realized was out there as the Wasp asks Vision whose engram is the source of Viv’s personality.  Meanwhile, Viv discovers she’s where the High Evolutionary is, some plane of existence where they’ve essentially becoming data streams.  They’re aware Vision is trying to rebuild Viv in his basement, and the Evolutionary wants to piggyback on Viv’s data stream when the Vision eventually unifies it with her (synthezoid) body.  Viv refuses and somehow discovers how to travel to her father on her own.  Waid does a good job with this moment, since you think it’s just the Vision activating her body.  You’d be wrong, though, because we now have two Vivs!  I've made the decision to call it quits with this series, because it's too inconsistent and I have other stories out there I'd like to follow.  But, this issue was a great way to end.

Marvel Two-in-One #1:  Chip Zdarsky is one of my favorite authors lately, so when I saw Marvel green-lit him taking out Ben and Johnny for a stroll I was on it!  I’m glad I was, because this issue is everything I ever wanted it to be.  In a way, this series should really be titled “Marvel Three-in-One,” because Doom is poised to play a pretty significant role in it.  He reveals to an appalled Ben he raided the Baxter Building in the days after the incursion ended (of course he did), but he couldn’t find a clue that explained the Richards’ disappearance.  The only clue he thinks might exist was in an orb he couldn't open; Reed left it for Ben.  Doom gives it to Ben, and he opens it.  Reed reveals the device will play a recording based on the circumstances of his death:  in this case, if he, Susan, Franklin, and Valeria no longer exist in the Universe.  He directs Ben to a place only they know -- the location of their first adventure -- to recover a device called the Multisect, which allows access to the nexus of the multiverse.  He's obviously concerned it'll fall in the wrong hands.  He also beseeches Ben to keep exploring with Johnny, and he becomes the third voice pressing Ben to resolve issues with Johnny:  Ben himself has memories of Susan pleading with him to take care of Johnny as Battleworld dissolved, and Spidey earlier expressed his concern to Ben that Johnny is losing control.  When Ben finds Johnny, he’s literally in free fall.  But, Johnny reveals it was a test because he’s losing his powers, something he sees as an existential threat.  The best part?  Allegedly reformed Doom is watching from the shadows, clearly wanting to get his hands on the Multisect.  It’s this revelation that proves to me this series is going to be great.  Zdarsky manages to advance this story on three axes — emotion, humor, and intrigue — and I can’t wait to see where he goes with it.  I wasn’t a regular reader of “Fantastic Four,” mostly because I wasn’t a fan of Reed or Sue.  (Sorry.)  As such, this series is tailor-made for me.  It seems obviously it’s laying the groundwork for an eventual relaunch of “Fantastic Four,” and I’m OK with that.  In fact, it’s exciting to be on the ground floor of that.  In other words, I highly, highly recommend this book.

Mighty Thor #702:  As always, the story here is excellent.  Odinson makes a lovely and impassioned speech to Jane, telling her she needs to take care of herself because the Realms need Jane Foster as much as they need Thor.  It inspires her to throw away Mjolnir...and confront Odin over his absence, which isn’t exactly what Odinson had in mind.  But, it works, though not because Odin agrees to her plea to dispatch Asgardia to save the Realms:  Jane’s speech awakens Freya.  She agrees with Jane that Asgardia must act, but it may be too late:  Jane collapses on the steps of Odin’s citadel as the Mangog arrives at Asgardia.  But, as compelling as that story is, the art is just spectacular.  From beautiful Hercules and Odinson to dying Jane, Dauterman and Wilson infuse every panel with life-like wonder.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #298:  OK, I like Zdarsky (see above), but it made not a lick of sense for Peter to web up the window in the taxi cab so the driver didn’t see him change into Spider-Man.  The minute he webbed up the window, the taxi driver knew it was Spider-Man; it didn’t make a difference if he saw Peter change into the costume or not.  He would still know the guy sitting in his back seat was Spider-Man.  COME ON NOW, PEOPLE.

Spider-Gwen #27:  Latour does a great job of showing all paths converging on a final confrontation.  First, Gwen hardly seems bothered by the symbiote’s push for revenge.  She tracks down the dirty cop who opened her father’s cell for the Rhino (who then beat him into a coma) and is on the verge of killing him when the Punisher appears.  He reveals he has Gwen exactly where he wants her:  isolated from her family and friends and ready to embrace his violent approach to crime.  IT WAS ALL HIS SCHEME!  (Though, I'm not honestly sure how he theoretically pulled the strings.  I don't remember him setting any of these events into motion, to be honest.  He didn't really know George would ultimately turn himself into the police to end his (the Punisher's) crusade against Spider-Woman.  That was the fork in the road, and I don't think he forced George to make the choice he made.)  Gwen is appalled on some level, claiming she’ll never be like him.  But, she also accepts his cell phone to stay in touch without too much hesitation.  Also, her decision to let the dirty cop go free (threatening him if he doesn’t confess his crimes) seems more a decision born of convenience than conscience.  Meanwhile, Foggy is finally confronting his handiwork, realizing he’s always allowed Matt to manipulate him as he sits by George’s bedside.  When the dirty cop calls for help, he stands by helplessly as Matt sends the Hand to kill him.  The surprise is Gwen’s decision to ask Uncle Ben for help, revealing her identity to him.  It seems an attempt to rein in her own impulses, using Ben's conscience in place of her own.  It's maybe a sign she's still in there somewhere.  To overuse the metaphor, Latour is very carefully weaving this web, but it’s hard to know its final shape at this stage.

Star Wars: Dr. Aphra #15:  RIP, Flufto.  This entire issue is great.  Triple-Zero gives Aphra a ship full of mercenaries as staff on a mysterious mission; the only catch is she has to jettison one of them to make the ship light enough to fly.  (She chooses a fairly obnoxious Alderaan prince pretending to be a mercenary; he was off-planet during Alderaan’s destruction at the Pleasuredome VII.  Of course he was.  He then has to face a group of rampaging brutes on his own.)  Along the way, she successfully guesses Tripe-Zero wants to swipe something from the workshop of Tambor, the Techno Union’s leader.  We learn the Union was the most successful separatists when the Empire took over the galaxy, though clearly "success" is a relative term there.  (Aphra put two and two together by realizing their guide was from Skako Minor, where the Union was located, and their last job on Somelik focused on Clone War data.  It doesn't necessarily make sense to me, but it did to her.)  However, the guide Triple-Zero hired to escort them on Skaka Minor betrays them, turning over the prospective looters into the Imperials in the hope they’ll leave Skako Minor.  (They don’t.)  But, Aphra has an ace up her sleeve as always, namely Flufto, the cute little Pokémon-looking creature she’s carrying throughout the issue:  he’s really a bomb, and she uses him to take out the Imperials.  Good times.  Meanwhile, now-Lt. Tolvan is saved form the firing squad after word reaches the executioner that Inspector-General Thanoth nominated her as his legatee.  (She was going to be executed over her three demerits for her failures at Eadu, Yavin, and Somelik.  But, she’s saved when it turns out the ”investigative branches” allow for four demerits, rather than three demerits like the field corps.  Her executioner was going to continue with her execution because he didn't know that, earning him his third demerit...and his own execution.  Sloppy, as Tolvan said.)  Her first order of business is to ID Aphra, who she previously dreamed was rescuing her.  (Sexy time!)  However, Thanoth’s reports are redacted with a code that she learns was only available to the man for whom he was serving as adjutant:  Darth Vader.  Dun-dun-DUN!

Uncanny Avengers #30:  Over the course of three volumes and 62 issues (by my count), this series has consistently been the Avengers title to me as far as I concerned.  It felt like the authors of this series were the only ones to hit the right formula for an Avengers book:  a clever villain thrusting some outlandish scheme on the unsuspecting heroes, interpersonal strife and personal shortcomings that almost doom the team’s attempts to foil said scheme, a romantic spark along the way, and a final stand of inspiring heroism that saves the day.  In particular, Remender's stories felt like Avengers stories because failure often drove them:  Thor’s arrogance as a young man set up the Earth’s destruction (by empowering Jarnbjorn to cut a Celestial’s armor), Rogue’s initial and profound distrust of Wanda opened the door to the Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain and then almost ruined Wanda’s plan to save mutantkind from the Apocalypse Twins.  Zub continues that trend here, as Pietro’s arrogance led to Synapse’s injuries and consequentially his departure from the team.  But, we also have the heroes who rise to the occasion, often at great personal cost:  Havok restores Earth even though it costs him his daughter, his relationship with Janet, and his face; Rogue holds together the team after Steve Rogers disbands it to defeat the Red Skull; and Deadpool survives the Red Skull’s brutal assault on him to get Magneto’s helmet to Rogue, allowing her to escape the Skull's control and defeat him.  It’s all...Avengers-y.  The good news is the series is coming to a close as all the Avengers series converge as a weekly series.  I can’t say I’m bothered by that; I reluctantly came to admit I loved “Brand New Day” in “Amazing Spider-Man,” so if they can pull off something similar here, I’m all on board.  But, in case “Uncanny Avengers” doesn’t return after that series, I just want to take a minute to mourn one of the best corners of the Avengers universe.  To me, the creative teams preserved the Avengers during one of the more inconsistent times of their history, and I thank them for that.

X-Men Gold #18:  I'll say right off the bat that the Negative Zone War is leaving me happier than previous arcs in this series.  Guggenheim does a solid job of faking us out a bit here.  It makes perfect sense for Kologoth to offer back Kitty and Kurt since his plans for the planet don't involve a group of outside do-gooders poking around the place.  However, when the team arrives to collect Kitty and Kurt, they discover Kurt is missing.  (Guggenheim reminds us of Kurt’s status quo here; he’s immortal because he’s exiled from heaven.  As such, he survives the impaling from last issue.  It makes me less mad about it, retroactively.)  Kologoth informs the team Kurt is dead, mainly because he really wants them to leave.  The team realizes Kologoth is lying, since they know Kurt can’t die.  As such, they correctly deduce Kologoth just doesn’t want them mucking around the place.  A fight ensues (of course), and it seems Kologoth didn’t want them there because he's resurrected his god, Scythian.  Ruh-roh!  Also, I’d like to praise Guggenheim for including some critical letters in the letters page.  One thing I hated about “Brand New Day” was Steve Wacker’s child-like rejection of any criticism of the book.  Guggenheim publishes an extremely thoughtful critique of his decision to reunite Kitty and Peter, and he responds with an equally thoughtful justification that he also acknowledges might not satisfy the writer’s concerns.  Respect and dialogue: it’s nice to see.

Also Read:  All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #149, Generation X #85, Ms. Marvel #25; Venom #159