Friday, March 24, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 15 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #20:  I repeatedly put off reading this issue because I knew something bad was coming.  It's a sign of how compelling of a story Spencer is writing, but it doesn't mean that story is always pleasant.  In the end, I was right to be concerned.  It was one of the most moving issues I've ever read.  Elvin is sent to Z Block, New York's version of the Raft.  It was built by the lowest bidder, and it's insecure at best.  Elvin knows what Sam refuses to accept:  he's going to die there.  And, he does.  He's beaten to death by other super-powered prisoners, some of them villains he helped incarcerate; at the end of the issue, he's brain dead and on life support.  I remember Rage's debut in the "Avengers" in 1990.  I remember the shock of discovering he was around my age, and I remember his time with the "New Warriors" feeling like he got a second change at life.  He died as he lived in this issue, fighting a system stacked against him.  I feel sick over it, and Spencer uses that shock to drive home his point.  If I feel this way over a fictional character, it's easy to see how emotionally damaging these events are in real life.  It drives home the point Spencer has been making since this issue started.  Spencer implies Sam gives up the shield next issue, and I honestly don't know how he couldn't.  How could he still believe in a system that resulted in Rage dying this way?  It seems too much to ask.

Mighty Thor #15:  OK, I was initially annoyed the Asgard-Shi'ar War was distracting us from the War of the Realms, but Dauterman is so over-the-top amazing in presenting the grandeur of this war that I honestly don't mind right now.  That super-nova scene?  Spectacular.  Plus, Aaron makes sure to show us it's meant to be distraction:  Loki set this ball in motion to buy him and Malekith some time to plot and scheme.  Will Cul actually find himself grudgingly admiring Thor after they kick Sharra and K'ythri's asses?  We'll see.

Nightwing #17:  Professor Pyg!  I really was worried where Seeley was going with the arc, but I have to say I'm much relieved now.  First, going to Fontevraud Abbey was one of the coolest trips I've ever made so it was amazing to watch Dick's fight with Deathwing happen there.  Over the course of this battle, we come to learn Deathwing is a Dolltron after a Dolltron Robin appears and attacks him.  We also learn Professor Pyg has come to admire -- in his way -- Shawn's art.  That said, Seeley doesn't answer all our questions by the end of this issue.  For example, it's unclear how the "blood" Deathwing administered to Dick caused him to see alternate versions of himself.  Also, I'm not sure how Pyg came to know Dick so intimately that he knew to use Robin Hood themes to taunt him.  Also, is he obsessed with Shawn, or is it more about Dick?  But, Seeley has plenty of time to answer these questions.  In the meantime, the visions Dick has here are helpful in digging around his consciousness.  We learn he viewed his time as Batman as allowing him to be an idealized version of himself where he was in control of who left a situation hurt.  (Notably, he's not proud of that.)  Plus, it helps him realize Damian's anger is driven in part by his fear Dick is replacing him with his new life in Blüdhaven.  This revelation comes after Dick telling Damian earlier in the issue that he thinks he (Damian) suffers the most from Bruce's distraction.  Pulling these threads together, Damian sees Dick as his father, and it makes sense he's worried Dick is leaving him behind (particularly if he becomes a new father).  In other words, Seeley is giving us a really insightful coda to Dick's time as Batman, something we didn't really get given the abrupt shift to the DCnU.  If it means Dick resolves his issues with Damian and we see Damian more, I'm all for it.

Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #12:  The good news is this arc get a lot more interesting here.  Oddy is revealed to be the traitor, but he did it because Terex captured his wife, using her not only as a slave but leverage to get Oddy to give over secrets.  I have to admit it makes sense, and it's nice Oddy doesn't turn out being a two-faced liar.  Meanwhile, Poe finds him trapped in a cave and loses BB-8 and C-3PO in short order as they sacrifice themselves (allegedly) to prevent Terex's advance to find him.  He's left with the frankly hilarious Nunzix as Black Squadron makes its way to Poe's location.  (I'm assuming Oddy gave them the information after the guy he was holding hostage told him Terex had departed the ship.)  All in all, the story flows much better than it has, and Soule injects it with some actual excitement, as we all wait to see how Poe and Black Squadron -- now pursued by Terex's fleet -- are going to survive long enough to save each other.

Uncanny Avengers #21:  Perhaps the most interesting part of this issue is what doesn't happen.  Based on the cover (in a great example of pet peeve #1), Cable and the Red Skull should be fighting here.  If you recall, Cable erased his consciousness in issue #19, asking Belle to implement the "Lifeboat Protocol."  I assume it means his consciousness is somewhere else, and the cover to this issue implied he would be fighting the Skull on the astral plane.  It doesn't happen, though.  Instead, in a moment of brilliance, Deadpool slams Magneto's helmet on Rogue; he apparently found it in the ruins of the Westchester school, where he went to seek help from the X-Men.  Freed from the Skull's influence, Rogue is able to defeat the Skull and takes his body to the Beast at New Attilan to perform brain surgery.  (We appear to be pre-"IvX" here.)  This story apparently concludes next issue, and I wonder if the Avengers are going to go find Nate in the astral plane after they (presumably) get back Xavier's brain next issue.  I guess we'll see.  Despite the cover problem, though, this issue is another bang-up one, with some really great characterization, particularly when it comes to Deadpool and Rogue.  Duggan shows how Rogue has come to respect Wade and the sacrifices he's made to save the team, and I look forward to see how the team treats Wade after the story ends.

The Wild Storm #2:  OMG, if you're not getting this series, get it now before it's too late!  (Seriously!)  This issue might as well have been titled, "The Hunt for Angela, or Revelations."  We learn a lot about the current state of play in the Wildstorm universe as the various intelligence agencies scramble to get their hands on Angela.  First, Miles huddles with his team at IO to review the situation.  We learn Angela was a low-level researcher who shouldn't have had access to the technology she used to create her flight suit.  IO only had that technology because they stole it from Skywatch, who didn't know they had it.  But, now Skywatch does, so Miles thinks the only hope for maintaining their non-aggression pact is to get Angela, strip the technology from her, and return it to Skywatch.  Meanwhile, Marlowe has tasked Cole Cash's son to take his C.A.T. team to find Angela, presumably to keep IO from getting her.  (He refers to them as a "tumor that started out as an intelligence service" who's secretly running the world.)  Cole, Jr.'s colleague Kenesha (who I don't recognize from the previous iteration of Wildstorm) tracks Angela to an abandoned IO base in Montauk around the same time an alarm from that installation alerts IO to her presence.  Adrianna teleports Cole, Jr. and Kenesha to Montauk as Miles dispatches a team as well.  Dun-dun-DUN!  In other revelations, Cray tells his therapist he has an inoperable brain tumor, the Division is the investigative arm of Skywatch (run by Henry Bendix), and Zealot is tasked with finding Angela (though they don't know she's Angela).  Basically, at this point, we're in an arms race.  We don't know why Angela built the suit or why everyone is doing what they're doing, but I'm guessing we'll get more information when everyone fights each other next issue.  Beyond the amazing script from Ellis, Davis-Hunt continues to be brilliant.  The drama and tension that sings throughout this issue is because of his ability to keep the "camera" squarely on the characters; the silent sequence where Angela makes her way through the base in Montauk to her living quarters and cries after becoming human is spectacular.  Seriously, people -- get this series.

Also Read:  Batman #19; Ms. Marvel #16; Spider-Man #14; U.S.Avengers #4

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The March 8 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Detective Comics #952:  Tynion answers all our questions virtually at once in this issue.  First, he confirms Shiva is running the League of Shadows, though implies she is so deadly she herself might be the entire League.  Ra's al Ghul tries to reason with her after she eliminates his League of Assassins (apparently all of them), but fails.  However, she learns from him that Cass is her daughter, and her visit to Gotham is about seeing if she's worth her time.  When Cass refuses to kill her, Shiva decides she's not.  Meanwhile, Gotham descends into chaos as Batman is wanted for the murder of Mayor Hady.  Colonel Kane warns Kate that Shiva's only goal is destruction; Batman won't be able to reason with her, and he begs Kate to run.  Perhaps the most important conversation is the one Shiva has with Batman, telling him his ability to defeat her in the past came solely because she allowed him to do so.  After this issue, you believe her.

IvX #6:  I've read a lot of bad events in my day, but this one is possibly the worst.  (I know.  I don't know if I even said that about "Fear Itself," and my review of the last issue was basically a screed about Matt Fraction and his personal responsibility for the series being so terrible.)  The resolution comes when the NuHumans simply explain to Medusa that the Terrigen Mists will kill all the mutants, something the X-Men apparently didn't think they had time to tell her.  (I know.  "Hey, Medusa, it's Storm.  Look, sorry to bother you, but it looks like the Mists are going to exterminate mut...you know, never mind, I'm just going to invade.  See you soon!  Kisses.")  Then, Emma goes crazy and displays Inhuman-killing Sentinels she secretly had Forge make.  (Apparently she wasn't over Scott, despite the fact, if I'm not mistaken, they haven't been together since "Avengers vs. X-Men."  I guess bitches be crazy, yo.)  She destroys Ennilux, and Havok uses a transporter to escape with her, paying off his debt to Scott.  In the aftermath, Medusa abdicates her throne but doesn't explain why, and she ditches Johnny Storm for Black Bolt because she loves the latter and the former was simply her duty.  (I would've guessed it was the other way around, but whatevs.)  The main problem with this resolution is neither Medusa's nor Emma's actions make any sense whatsoever.  Medusa claims she would've gladly destroyed the cloud had she known it was killing mutants...even though she totally 100 percent knew thatSure, she might not have known it was going to kill all of them in two weeks, but she was definitely aware the cloud was lethal to mutants.  The whole point of Crystal's team, as I understand it, was to help NuHumans cope with their abilities and save mutants from the clouds.  Along those lines, she had Black Bolt murder "Scott" for destroying the other cloud.  It seems reasonable for the X-Men to conclude she wouldn't just hit a button to destroy the remaining cloud, as she does here.  Moreover, Emma justifies her actions in part because she's furious Black Bolt killed "Scott," even though she knows full well he didn't.  Even if you take the resolution at face value and ignore these problems, Lemire and Soule are telling us this entire "war" could've been avoided with a simple phone call.  I just don't know what to say.

Nova #4:  I know I'm supposed to be upset about the Cancerverse eating Sam's little sister, but I've waited for years to see Richard Rider and Gamora go on a date and kiss and I will not be denied my happiness.  I will not!  Pérez does a great job in particular with the wordless panel showing Sam's and Richard's dates in parallel.  At this stage, these characters really have nothing in common other than their helmets, but something about this sequence in particularly does a great job of having them occupy the same space.


Also Read:  Captain America:  Steve Rogers #13; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #5; Titans #9

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not-Very Deep Thoughts: The March 1 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The Clone Conspiracy Omega #1:  First, unless you're really, really invested in Rita Clarkson, the doctor who helped Ben at New U, you can skip this issue entirely.  In the aftermath of last issue, Ben tips off some angry family members to Rita's location so he can be on hand to save her life when they attack her.  In return, Rita goes all damsel-in-distress and hands Ben her IRA since he doesn't have any cash.  (Rita doesn't believe him when he admits he arranged for the guys to attack herApparently doctors can be idiots.)  Shouldn't she be in jail?  Everyone is pretty clear as they're cleaning up the scene of the crime that she's in trouble.  Shouldn't they prevent her from going to her "favorite watering hole?"  At the very least, wouldn't you want to be able to prevent her from withdrawing her life savings, given she's likely a flight risk?  I guess not.  Beyond Rita's story, Slott uses the same shtick he did in the "Amazing Spider-Man" tie-in issues, filling in moments between the scenes in the main series.  The problem is these scenes still make no sense.  Peter is irate with Kaine for not telling him sooner that everyone was going to become Carrion zombies...even though I'm fairly certain he did tell him.  (Is he mad Kaine didn't tell him the clones would dissolve?  Isn't that what clones do?)  Moreover, Ben still suffers from a lack of consistent characterization, even under Peter David.  As you can see in his manipulation of Rita, he's still in full Bond-villain mode here, and I struggle to see why any of us would want to read his new title.  He isn't a nuanced villain, like Dr. Doom or Magneto.  He's as crazy as the original Jackal, and I can only tolerate him every fifty issues or so.  [Sigh.]  Meanwhile, the Rhino has all the sads, the Lizard's family turns into lizards like him, Jerry's wife is suing Peter, the Kingpin gives Peter Norman Osborn's whereabouts, yadda yadda yadda.  Who the fuck cares at this point?

Avengers #5:  I still have no idea what Waid is doing here, but it's fun to look at del Mundo's art so I guess I'll have to live with that.  People seem to love what Waid is doing.  I admit it's super-cool to see the present Avengers interact with the former teams, chosen for how they can help implement Sam's plan to take down Kang.  But, the story still makes no sense to me.  At one point, future Vision claims Sam inspired the Avengers' rallying cry when he said it in front of the original members.  If that's true, why wouldn't they themselves remember that?  Present Wasp never said to Sam, "Hey, did I ever tell you you're the guy who coined 'Avengers Assemble?'  By the way, you become Captain America at some point."  I could also talk about how it makes no sense Kang's minions can "mine" time or how it's unclear how the Avengers identified which links in Kang's billion-year long supply chain were the most essential.  But, I guess I'm just supposed to go with it.  It's like Xena said in that episode of "The Simpsons:"  if something happens that doesn't make sense, a wizard did it!  (Only, this time, the wizard is a synthezoid named Vision, at least in the latter case.)


Hawkeye #4:  OMG, Jessica Jones!  Mentor in awesomeness and private-eyeing!  Twist I did not see coming!  First things first:  frat-boy Greg was the looming figure at the end of last issueAs suspected, he's been using the TBC stickers to prime hate, allowing him to absorb it and become, in Kate's words, a third-rate Hulk.  In possibly the best denouement of the year, Kate is able to lure him to an outdoor sing-along "Sound of Music" performance, and the positivity that comes with that causes him to de-Hulk.  (Seriously, that's just effing brilliant.  I've never seen that in comics before.  I love the idea of Thompson sitting around thinking, "OK, what's the most positive thing I can imagine?  Positive, positive, positive...")  You'd almost think everything worked out well, as Kate ends the issue happy and with her new crew in place.  Rivera even agrees she's getting a nickname!  But, then we go dark.  Greg asks to see Kate, and he mentions he should've recognized "the resemblance."  Kate believes this comment connects him to her father, and we learn she's in Los Angeles (and stalking surfer Brad) to find her father.  But, Greg blows up before he can say anything else.  (Suspicious.)  Thankfully, when Kate arrives at her apartment, Jessica is there with Brad.  Dun-dun-DUN!


Midnighter and Apollo #6:  I often struggle with violence in comic books.  Modern authors are aware of the challenge this violence presents in a way that, say, Stan Lee wasn't.  But, at some point probably every month, I have a moment where I think, "Why am I reading stories about super-powered beings beating on each other?"  But, Midnighter bottom lines it here rather nicely (and in his boxer-briefs to boot).  He tells Apollo he's going to keep on killing bad guys so people don't have to live without someone they love.  He can't imagine anything worse, after coming close to it in this adventure.  Honestly?  That's a pretty solid reason.  Moreover, we learn Apollo chose his name not because he thought of himself as a sun god, but because Apollo turned his lover Hyacinth into something better when he thought he was going to lose him.  Midnighter doesn't ask for redemption, and Apollo doesn't ask permission to give it to him.  They are who they are, and thank God they are the type of people to play sexy, half-naked chess in their apartment.  In other words?  I fucking love these two.  

Moon Knight #12:  This issue couldn't be more exciting.  Lemire and Smallwood's pacing is really spectacular.  First, we have Marc unexpectedly being joined by his alter egos in the Overvoid, who help him rescue Anput and escape with Crawley.  This entire sequence is amazing, from the smugly bemused look on handsome Steve's face to spaceman Marc facilitating their escape with his spaceship.  (Spaceship!)  It's like a great pulp film come to life.
  But, it's Marc's adventures in Saudi Arabia as a mercenary that really leap off the page for their realism.  Lemire is giving us a ring-side seat to Marc's descent into darkness.  Frenchie advises him not to meet the crime lord giving them jobs, but Marc chases the money, wanting more.  When we meet the Bushman, it's clear why Frenchie was nervous.  I've always known Marc was a mercenary when he became Moon Knight, but it was always sort of a throw-away piece of information, like how Peter Parker won a science fair as a kid or something.  It was just part of the background.  But, Lemire is walking us through this period, and it's amazing to watch.  It's really a chance to get to know this character, and I feel like, in the end, I'll be able to call myself a legitimate Moon Knight fan.  That's exciting stuff right there.

Nightwing #17:  The good news is we don't get confirmation Shawn is dead here.  The bad news is the guy who seems to have kidnapped her calls himself Deathwing so her survival isn't looking so good.  The issue starts with Dick taking down a hilariously ridiculous group of criminals called the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Lest you think they're all cool like the X-Men's version, they're a bunch of small-time hoods wearing horse-head masks.  (Seriously.)  Dick makes short work of them.  Then, Damian appears suddenly; he's traveled from San Francisco because he's bothered by people on Twitter claiming Dick is the true heir.  He tries to challenge Dick to some sort of duel, but Shawn calls at that moment to tell Dick she may be pregnant.  Dick doesn't have patience for Damian's antics and tackles him, dismissing him as a hormonal teenager.  He picks up a pregnancy test on his way to Shawn's apartment (I'd love to know how exactly he swung that in his costume) and discovers Shawn is missing.  He's distraught just as Damian arrives, having followed him.  This next part is amazing as Damian apologizes in his way:  he tells Dick he's sorry they fought and urges Dick to apologize for being terse.  Seeley gets Damian, y'all.  At any rate, Dick leaves Damian again, but Damian finds the pregnancy test and realizes Dick is in trouble.  He meets Dick with their old Batmobile, and Dick realizes he needs help:  as Damian said, he's emotional and he's going to get himself killed without Damian.  It's touching in the way it's always touching with these guys:  it's not like they ever hug, but the love is there.  Moreover, Seeley makes it clear why Dick is going to need Damian.  As I mentioned, the perpetrator of the kidnapping is a guy named Deathwing.  We meet him at the scene of the crime Dick stopped at the start of this issue.  He's now  killed the Horsemen and the cops Dick had someone call to arrest them.  This guy is definitely playing for keeps.


Spider-Man 2099 #21:  I'll admit we have a lot going on here.  Electro 2099 is after Sonny, probably on behalf of the Fist and probably because Sonny knows something he shouldn't know.  However, he has amnesia, though it's not clear to me the Fist knows that.  Miguel manages to save Sonny and capture Electro.  He plans on interrogating Electro into telling him when the Fist attacks Times Square, and we learn it's this attack that destroys New York and allows Nueva York to be built.  However, I'm still a little confused by this revelation.  First, if Miguel knows the Fist attack creates Nueva York, then it can't be the event that altered his future; it's the event that essentially created his future.  After all, the reason he's stuck in the present is because his 2099 was eliminated.  Maybe this attack creates Roberta's 2099 not Miguel's 2099?  If so, it makes sense she knows the Fist attack that created Nueva York in her 2099.  But, again, if Miguel knows about it, it doesn't seem to be relevant to his goal of re-engineering his 2099.  In fact, he has to let it happen.  If it is the event to create the alternate future (possibly Roberta's), then we still don't know how Miguel created the Fist in the past.  Since they already exist, it implies this action-forcing event has already taken place, but it's unclear what it is.  As I said, it's a lot.


Star Wars #29:  This story has been on a slow burn, but Aaron throws some kerosene on the fire in this issue.  The concept of "stonepower" as the syncretic version of the Force has been intriguing, mostly because its practitioners could obviously learn a thing or two from Yoda.  They do so here, but it's not the lesson Yoda wanted them to learn.  After he discovers the stone the Rockhawkers prize is part of a living mountain, he re-awakens the mountain.  We learn he's the last remaining giant who used to live on this world, before the power-hungry humans reduced them to rubble.  Yoda and Garro leave the mountain as its lava (i.e., blood) starts flowing, and Garro reveals its secret to his fellow Rockhawkers as a way of getting in good with them again.  A disappointed Yoda returns to the Muckwhackers to prepare them for war, correctly predicting the Rockhawkers will send the revived mountain after the Muckwhackers .  But, Aaron kicks up the story a notch when Luke arrives on the planet in the present to learn the fate of the mountain.  (No, he didn't finish the story first.  Is that a convenient device?  Yes, yes, it is.  But, is Luke also enough of an impatient idiot to make it believable?  Yes, yes,  he is.)  An older Garro -- the man we likely saw last issue talking to Ben on Tatooine -- greets him, telling Luke he's the last of the Rockhawkers and he's going to help him end the war.  Given the body of the giant is buried in the sand next to where they're standing, I'm intrigued to see exactly how Luke is going to do that.


Also Read:  Batman #18; Champions #6