Monday, January 16, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The October 5 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man #19Honestly?  I flipped through this issue until I got to the end.  Slott has made it clear since Jay fell ill that he was going to die, sacrificed to amp up Peter's personal investment in the story.  It makes sense, since the Jackal always strikes at the heart of Peter's personal life.  But, the execution (so to speak) is terrible.  First, as a reminder, Jay is only in this situation because of his previously undisclosed genetic condition.  Based on his Spider-Sense, Peter insists that Jay should receive the conventional treatment available for the condition, rather than going with New U's experimental technology.  But, it raises the obvious question of why Jay didn't get the conventional treatment years ago.  Why is he only getting it now that he may die?  (The answer is that Slott needed a hook, but in theory we're supposed to be shooting higher.)  Moreover, Peter is in a difficult position because he can't simply tell Jay and May his Spider-Sense is the "data" telling him the technology isn't reliable.  But, it also stretches belief that Peter would risk Jay's life over his hunch.  We know why the deal is bad, but Peter has no reason beyond his Spider-Sense to know that.  In normal circumstances, I get going with his gut, but we're actually talking about life and death here.  What's worse than death?  In fact, knowing what the deal actually is, I'd say better should've taken it, since it would've at least bought him time.  To make matters worse, Peter recants at the very last minute, urging Jay to get the experimental treatment.  We have all that angst only for him to decide to just go with it at the end.  In other words, I continue to wait for the day when we're free from Dan Slott.

Death of X #1:  First, I have to comment on the "death" of Madrox here.  Peter David's "X-Factor" always seemed to exist more or less outside the other X-books' continuity.  They rarely got involved in the drama occurring elsewhere.  It was one of the reasons why the book was so special.  Madrox's presence on Muir Island -- where Scott and his team find him dying -- feels almost like Marvel forgot how "X-Factor" ended, with an exhausted Jamie retiring and deciding to settle on his family's farm with Layla.  Adding fuel to the fire, Madrox is not only without Layla here, but he's also in his union suit without his trench coat.  It's almost like Marvel went even further, turning back the clock to 1993, when Jamie was dying of the Legacy Virus in Genosha.  However, Lemire and Soule don't even allude to the fact that Jamie was in a similar situation 20+ years ago, dying of the mutant disease du jour.  This total neglect of Jamie's history makes it hard to accept his "death," because it makes his character unrecognizable.  I understand the need to sacrifice a mutant so the X-Men can learn the Mists are poisonous to mutants.  (Actually, Marvel would just be doing it to make the "event" mean something, but you get my point.)  But, this sequence is so disrespectful of Jamie's character that I basically don't accept it.  I hope we'll see Jamie somewhere else, and it'll all be ret-conned.  Of course, starting an event hoping against hope it immediately gets ret-conned probably isn't exactly what Marvel was hoping would be my reaction to this first issue.  But, there you have it.

Dungeons & Dragons:  Shadows of the Vampire #5:  In the end, we don't really get a satisfying resolution to the mystery at the heart of this miniseries.  Strahd gets his hands on the amulet, and he learn he has some hope the amulet will free him from Ravenloft.  Before we can explore that interesting idea, the ghost of Sergei, Strahd's brother, appears, preventing Strahd from using the amulet.  He wants to ensure Strahd is punished for him crimes by being forced to stay in Ravenloft.  However, Delina is able to use the amulet to transport the team somewhere else, though that somewhere else doesn't exactly look all that safer.  The good news is the lack of resolution isn't really too disappointing.  Zub does a great job showing how awesome Strahd is as he easily dismisses the team, even when they seem to have him cornered.  The fact we never learn what Strahd intended to do with the amulet fits with the idea of Strahd as the unquestioned master of Ravenloft, the only all-knowing one among us.  Not surprisingly, Zub also uses darker tones here than we've seen with Delina's team.  Although no one dies, Strahd tells the team the darkness of Ravenloft will follow them, a threat that doesn't feel hollow as they find themselves battered and alone in a range of snow-covered mountains.

Justice League #6:  After this yet-again-rebooted series' disastrous first arc, I admit Hitch has a ways to go to convince me to hang in there.  Despite some uneven art, this issue is an improvement, though not the home run we needed.  Hitch focuses on the League's interpersonal relationships, but it isn't simply to work on characterization.  The threat in this arc has something to do with fear, and Hitch uses the team members' relationships to provide a vehicle for that fear to spread.  For example, Jessica attacks Barry on their first date, and Superman decides to travel to Gotham to kill Bruce for not trusting him. Presumably, Aquaman and Wonder Woman and Cyborg and Green Lantern will come to blows next issue.  Beyond our lack of understand of why the characters are feeling this fear in the first place, their responses to it all feel formulaic; only Jessica's predicament provoked any real emotional response in me.  But, it's better than the last arc, so I'm willing to give it a whirl for the time being.  In the meantime, I keep wondering if we're ever going to see the Rao arc in "Justice League of America" come to a conclusion.

Midnighter and Apollo #1:  As much as I enjoyed Orlando's "Midnighter" series, my consistent complaint was he didn't do a great job explaining why Midnighter was fighting the people he was fighting.  For example, we never learned why Prometheus chose him as a victim in his war against superheroes.  Here, Orlando also doesn't do a great job of explaining Henry Bendix and his beef with Midnighter.  He appeared several times in the first series, and I don't know if we ever really learned more about him beyond having a hand in creating Midnighter.  He's now decided to take out Midnighter, though we're not told why he chose to act at this moment.  (It's possibly because Midnighter has decided to go after him, though, again, we don't know why Midnight would be doing so now.)  But, just like in the original series, these questions aren't as important to my enjoyment as Midnighter's relationships, and Orlando continues to deliver on this front.  I was always surprised in the last series that people embraced Midnighter's violence so readily, but we see Apollo broach that subject here, wondering if Midnighter has to be as brutal as he is.  I'm excited to get insight into the two of them as a couple, something hopefully not ruined by the fact Bendix has hired some demons to bring Apollo to Hell.

Spider-Man 2099 #16:  The revelation that Jameson and Power Pack were deep-undercover Skrulls engineering the superhero-registration debacle to hide an invasion is so brilliant I don't even know what I can say.  David is essentially using the premise of "Secret Invasion" to send up "Civil War II."  It's almost something you'd see in one of the satirical back-up stories Marvel ran in their Annuals in the 1980s.  Moreover, it leaves behind yet another possible future.  All in all, it's a great conclusion to this arc and an inspired use of an event.  Looking ahead, I wonder what Roberta is going to do with the knowledge that her husband, Harry, experimented on her.  Of course, we still have the First out there, which probably poses a more immediate threat to Miguel.

Also Read:  Batman #8; Bloodshot Reborn #18; Nightwing #6

Friday, January 13, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 28 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #5:  This issue is unexpectedly very relevant to the plot of "Civil War II," though I'm not sure where it leaves us.  Although I'm sure a similar theme has been covered in the "Iron Man" series, it's actually the first time I've seen a real exploration into the nature of Ulysses' powers.  First, Cap and Dr. Selvig realize the danger Ulysses' visions pose to their plans, since he could obviously discover Steve's allegiance to HYDRA.  However, they also recognize Ulysses seems to prioritize global-level threats and seem to assume Steve's duplicity would be low on that list.  (It's again why I'm not buying the events of the "Ms. Marvel" tie-in issues, because I don't really think Ulysses is spending all his time trying to identify who plans on robbing a liquor store in Jersey City before the prom.)  Selvig sends some "research" to Bruce Banner, and it provokes the vision that kicks off "Civil War II."  Moreover, Cap's membership in HYDRA means he knows Ulysses' prediction that the woman Captain Marvel arrested for trying to take down the global financial system was wrong:  she wasn't working for HYDRA.  (This part is a little unclear, though.  Steve asks the Skull if she could've been working for an independent cell, but the Skull refuses to recognize that such a cell could escape his notice.  But, of course, Steve's cell exists, so it sort of casts some doubt on the certainty of the Skull's conclusion.)  If you accept the events of this issue are true, then it's impossible to believe Carol's side of the argument, since Steve has proven Ulysses' visions can be manipulated and also incorrect.  It reminds me of "Death of the Family," where the tie-in issues made it clear the Joker knew the Bat-family's identities, but the main issues supported Bruce's insistence that he didn't.  It casts an even greater shadow over an event that I already find to be poorly plotted.

Extraordinary X-Men #14:  It's pretty clear Lemire knows where he's going, though I'll admit it feels like the falcon is getting too far from the falconer.  It stands to reason the two stories he's been telling over the last few issues will converge, but it's hard to see how Sapna and her mysterious benefactor will combine with Apocalypse and a Horseman-ed Colossus.  Lemire ups the ante here even further by introducing concepts like the World Eater (presumably Sapna's benefactor) and the Lattice (presumably the system of portals Sapna manipulates).  As I said, I'm confident Lemire is in charge of the narrative, so I'm not overly worried.  But, hopefully he won't drag out this story too much longer.

Ms. Marvel #11:  The best tie-in issues are the ones where the main event provokes changes in the character's life.  Willow delivers that in spades here, as a paralyzed Bruno tells Kamala he never wants to speak to her again (and announces he's moving to Wakanda) and Ms. Marvel ruptures her relationship with Carol over "predictive justice."  (Willow also gets in an amazing shot at the premise of "Civil War II," as one of the minor characters tells Ms. Marvel she should watch "Minority Report.")  Nothing here is easily fixable.  Under normal comic rules, Bruno would get some sort of neural implant that magically heals him, and we're never talk about his paralysis again.  The entire incident would just be forgotten, part of the group's usual shenanigans.  But, Bruno has finally decided the consequences outweigh the benefits, not only because his accident lost him scholarships but because Kamala doesn't seem to care.  Kamala doesn't really argue with him, and she ends the issue with no one standing by her side (not Bruno, not Carol).  The image on the cover for next issues shows her on a journey of self-discovery, and it doesn't feel like a random "NEW DIRECTION!" arc like Babs' does in "Batgirl."  Willow makes it clear why such a journey is necessary at this point, and I'm intrigued to see where Kamala goes, physically and mentally.

Star Wars #23:  Han and Leia as a couple are obviously an icon of the Star Wars universe, even more so after "Star Wars:  The Force Awakens."  However, Aaron tweaks that status here, giving us an insight into the experiences of everyone surrounding the couple during the time period where they aren't actually a couple.  Han and Leia's race to the bridge to see who gets to be captain is childish in many ways, from leaving such an important role to chance to forcing Luke and Sana to deal with a threat that presents itself during their race.  But, Aaron uses it brilliantly, showing us the awkward period where Han and Leia haven't admitted their feelings to each other while also allowing other characters -- such as Luke and Sana -- to shine.  Although it might elicit some raised eyebrows on the ship (and from the readers), it's a reminder these characters are human and not just icons.

Titans #3:  I don't have too much to say here other than noting Abnett seemed to confirm here that Kadabra is from the future but also a victim of Dr. Manhattan's machinations.  He knows Wally and Linda should know one another but don't and that Dr. Manhattan is behind it.  Abnett has Kadabra claim he threw Wally into the timestream, but Dick isn't buying it, a sign it's probably not true.  I have to wonder though how much truth we're going to get since DC doesn't seem to be in a hurry to address the Dr. Manhattan situation.

Also Read:  Batgirl #3; Bloodshot Reborn #17; Captain America:  Sam Wilson #13; Captain Marvel #9; Detective Comics #941; New Avengers #16; Spider-Gwen #12

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 21 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Civil War II #5:  Given how ridiculously delayed this issue (and entire series) is, it's absurd that the only significant event in this issue is Ulysses' vision of Miles holding an impaled Captain America in front of the Capitol.  I have no idea how many issues we have left, since Marvel has a habit of adding issues when a story is already going badly.  But, it's getting harder and harder to stay engaged here as the schedule slips and the story doesn't progress.  It feels like we're heading to a big revelation about the true nature of Ulysses' power, but it's getting harder and harder to see how that's going to lead us to a resolution.  If Tony is proven correct and Ulysses' biases impact his predictions, does Captain Marvel just shrug and apologize?  Does Clint then produce a still-alive Bruce Banner and say, "Hey, the other guy was a LMD, I was hiding Banner in a cave, gotcha!"?  If Carol is proven correct, do we have predictive justice forever in the Marvel Universe?  That's always seemed unlikely, which partly explains why this series has lacked any drama, since it's been pretty clear what the conclusion was going to be from the start. Beyond just the unwieldy plot, we have a huge characterization problem here.  I subscribe to a lot of series with tie-in issues, and the events in those issues don't seem to be well represented in this main title.  For example, Kamala and Miles have made up their minds here to join the anti-Carol forces, despite the fact they haven't come to those conclusions yet in their own series.  Peter very explicitly made the decision to support Carol at all costs at the end of "Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man," but he's shown (I think) emerging from the shower while the fight occurs as if he's just a bystander.  The original X-Men are shown in the title page as siding with Tony, but we don't see them (as far as I can see) in this issue, despite the obvious draw of a fight between "old" Iceman and young Iceman.  In fact, in their own series, they're not even in the same place -- Hank is hiding in his lab, Scott is still recovering from his beating at Toad's hands, and Evan and Idie are helping Bobby score some peen in Miami.  In other words?  It's a mess.  It's hard to believe Bendis and the editors planned for us to be where we are now, but it doesn't matter, because here we are.

Civil War II:  X-Men #4:  Just like the main title, this series seemed to have been going in one direction but veers significantly as a result of a vision Ulysses has.  Here, Magneto finally makes his way to Ulysses.  However, Ulysses shows Magneto a vision of Storm's team and his team essentially killing each other, so Magneto leaves New Attilan before it gets to that point.  The problem is that said vision doesn't really make much sense.  If Magneto did kill Ulysses, it seems much more likely his team would be facing the Inhumans and Carol's side.  Sure, Storm and her team would be part of that larger squad, but it seems unlikely they'd be the only ones coming after Magneto and his team.  But, nothing about this event has made a lick of sense, so I don't know why it'd start now.

Justice League #5:  Honestly, I have no effing idea what happened here, just like the last issue.  I get Hitch is setting up some other story -- one focused on whatever the Kindred was trying to achieve here.  But, you have to make sure the actual story you're telling makes sense, and this one didn't at all.  Magic singing crystals in Atlantis?  An alien race called the Purge that looked like Cyborg?  Three hidden bombs in the Earth's core?  It just made not a damn lick of sense.  I don't understand how an editor could've read this story and thought, "Oh, I totally see where Hitch is going with this one, how clever!"?  I'll give it one more arc, but "Justice League" just went to the top of my "cancel" list after this one. 

Mighty Thor #11:  There was a period there a few issues ago where I felt like this series was dragging, but, man, it is not any longer.  Aaron and Dauterman are just on fire here.  Both of them do such an amazing job crafting characters.  I want Exterminatrix and Silver Samurai to battle Dario and Thor every issue.  Aaron does such an excellent job of giving everyone a distinct voice.  I loved Jane's conversation with Roz at the end, as Roz babbles after Jane shares her secret.  But, it's not all about characterization.  The plot is also getting more interesting by the moment.  Aaron totally plays up the likelihood a shape-shifting Loki helped Jane keep her secret identity, but instead we learn it was an apparently sentient Mjolnir.  It speaks to the point Aaron has frequently made, about how Mjolnir speaks to Jane -- now literally -- in a way it didn't to Thor.  Meanwhile, in the background, we've still got the war in the Ten Realms and now the war between Dario, Exterminatrix, and the Silver Samurai.  When you add in Dauterman's rendering of Jane holding up a gold-clad Roxxon Island before it crashes into New York, you realize it's a golden age of Thor indeed.  (Sorry, I couldn't help myself on that one.)

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #18; Batman #7; Nightwing #5

Monday, January 9, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 14 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New X-Men #13:  I love everything about this issue.  As a 40-year-old gay man, I can say we should all be so lucky to have a Romeo walk into our lives at Bobby's age.

Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man #4:  Gage almost sells me on the outcome of this story, but unfortunately doesn't quite get there.  I just don't believe Peter could go through this experience with Clash and not see how Ulysses' predictions can become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Peter says it wasn't Ulysses' prediction that caused the Clash situation, but the poor way he (Peter) handled the information.  I can buy that to a certain extent:  Gage focuses in this issue on the importance of learning from our mistakes, and Peter is essentially saying the situation came from his mistake, not the prediction.  Peter also comments on how he could've stopped the infamous burglar if someone like Ulysses had warned him, showing how Peter might be thinking more emotionally than rationally.  Honestly, they're better arguments than I thought we'd get here.  ButPeter has to realize the potential to lose lives as a result of people making mistakes based on Ulysses' predictions is just as high as losing them because someone didn't act on the information.  After all, the Clash situation is a reminder that even people like Peter can use the information badly.  As such, it's probably better not to flush everyone's civil liberties down the toilet based on a 50/50 shot at a predication resulting in a better outcome.  I feel like Peter would know that.  As such, even after Gage's impressive delving into Peter's thought process, I still don't buy him joining Carol's side.

Detective Comics #940:  Tynion does something clever here by immediately disabusing us of the notion Tim is dead.  I was rolling my eyes throughout the panels coming after his "death," just because we've been here so many times.  Tynion did his best to engage me, and he almost got me when Bruce's hands shook as he read Tim's acceptance letter to Ivy University.  But, at this point, a Robin dying is as interesting as heroes fighting due to a misunderstanding.  It's why I retroactively liked this issue when we discovered someone had instead whisked Tim off the field in the nick of time.  Tynion wasn't trying to be Slott swearing Peter Parker is really dead, and I appreciate that.  At this point, we're still left with someone questions.  The mysterious figure says he wanted Tim off the field because he had too many "connections," but he also clearly wanted him alive -- otherwise, he would've just let him die.  Kate's father alluded to a Big Bad out there as justification for his actions, promising Kate will eventually understand why he did what he did.  Is the Big Bad the same person as the mysterious figure?  How does Tim figure into that plan?  Somehow, I think the answer to that question isn't coming anytime soon.

Spider-Man 2099 #15:  SO.  MUCH.  HAPPENING.  We learn the Power Pack we saw at the end of last issue is our Power Pack, because their powers slowed their aging; we also learn Alex has been missing for decades.  David reveals that the mysterious CEO of Alchemax is a still-living J. Jonah Jameson, another departure from whatever passes for the main 2099 timeline at this point.  Also, Harry Mendez is still Roberta's husband in this new timeline and still subjected her to experiments; but, in this timeline, she died and they didn't have children.  I also finally realized in this issue, with the appearance of Black Widow 2099, that the characters in the van are a combination of the Avengers and Defenders we saw in "Secret Wars 2099."  However, I don't believe we're seeing an extension of that timeline.  After all, Miguel was CEO of Alchemax then.  According to this issue, the Sinister Six stole Alchemax from Jonah, not Miguel.  As such, I think we've had at least three timelines in the last few issues:  the Maestro timeline where 2099 is a radioactive wasteland, the "Secret Wars 2099" timeline where Miguel was CEO of Alchemax, and the Sinister Six timeline where Father Jennifer was Goblin 2099 and Gabe worked with Kasey (as Payback) to help her.  However, it's possible this one is a fourth timeline:  simply because Jonah took back control of Alchemax from the Sinister Six in this timeline doesn't mean it's the same one we saw.  And the mystery deepens...

Also Read:  Black Panther #6; Spider-Man #8; Uncanny Avengers #14

Friday, December 30, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 7 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #6:  At the end of the last issue, it retroactively seemed like this first arc was about introducing Gotham Girl as a major player.  The focus was initially on Gotham and shifting it to Gotham Girl was clever.  It was a send-up of the traditionally male-oriented focus of comics (where men's pain is the only pain that matters à la "Women in Refrigerators") as well as a re-interpretation of Bruce's origin story itself (with Claire having a more direct role in her parents' murder than Bruce did).  However, I got a little worried when King implied this next arc was essentially going to be "Gotham Girl:  Year One," with the end result being Bruce dying...again.

But, it feels like King must've read all the outraged blog posts about that prospect, because in this issue he appears to be telling us he was just kidding.  Instead, it seems the narrative that closed issue #5 was really just part of Claire's delusional state, caused by Psycho-Pirate's attack on her as well as the trauma of losing her entire family.  Bruce reveals his identity and story at the end of this issue to save her, since her one-woman war on crime means she's rapidly draining her life energy.  Although emotional, it's a weirdly anti-climactic epilogue.

King seems almost to apologize for this misdirection by setting up an even better arc:  Amanda Waller reveals the entire ordeal was Bane's fault, since he just wanted to get his hands on Psycho-Pirate.  Now, I'm not saying it makes much sense.  Waller says Strange created the disasters in Gotham to attract Psycho-Pirate without explaining why they would attract him.  (For his part, Strange apparently received a lot of venom from Bane in exchange for Psycho-Pirate.)  It's been a while since I read issue #5, but it seems King is saying Gotham and Gotham Girl just happened to become superheroes at the wrong time; Strange and Psycho-Pirate's actions never really had anything to do with them.  Unfortunately, King doesn't elaborate on why Bane needed Strange to get Psycho-Pirate.  After all, it seems like he could've been captured without Strange's elaborate plan to destroy part of Gotham to attract him.  But, regardless of how convoluted it is, it does set up Bruce's upcoming invasion of Santa Prisca, so I'm not complaining.  (Well, too much).

Justice League #4:  I have no fucking idea what's happening here.  We're got the Kindred who seem to want to end the world to save it and the Purge who want to convert humanity into cyborgs.  Maybe?  It's also unclear if the three bombs in the Earth's crust were planted by the Kindred, the Purge, or someone else.  Possibly?  Again, I really have no idea.  All anyone does is talk in riddles, like it's a Jonathan Hickman comic.

Also Read:  All-New, All-Different Avengers #14; Moon Knight #6; Nightwing #4; Spidey #10; Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #6

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 31 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man #17:  This series is a lot better now that we have an actual plot and not constant shenanigans related to Peter trying to balance his role as Spider-Man with his responsibilities at Parker Industries.  Slott imbues this issue with legitimate suspense as Peter has Hobie spy on the Jackal and his crew.  (Can I just say how thrilled I am to see Hobie every time he appears?)  Plus, Slott adds intrigue as he fills in another piece of the puzzle:  the people he resurrects need to take a pill every day only he can provide.  It explains why anyone he's resurrected (or anyone whose loved one he resurrected) is beholden to him.  But, Slott doesn't make it that simple.  The Jackal keeps insisting he's the good guy here.  It's not his usual paranoid schemes of destruction.  He resurrects Hobie after the new Electro accidentally kills him, and Hobie is seemingly convinced of the Jackal's bona fides after the Jackal shows him his grand plan.  Is Hobie really convinced the Jackal is building a better world?  Or, does he have to say he is to keep the pills coming?  Only time will tell, I guess.  At any rate, for the first time in a while, I'm legitimately intrigued where Slott is going with this series.  It feels like a Spider-Man story and not a reductive Iron Man one.  Color me a happy camper (for now).

Ms. Marvel #10:  Given the backlog I'm currently trying to address, I've trying to identify books I can drop.  Since "Ms. Marvel" is one of my newer series, it's always on the list, since we don't have as much of a history.  Then, I read an issue like this one, where Bruno's injuries provide Kamala her Uncle Ben moment, and I realize this series isn't going anywhere.  The best moment of the issue is when Kamala realizes everything before Bruno getting hurt felt like make-believe, as if she was just playing hero.  It's a sentiment to which we can all relate.  We've all had the moment when it's time to put on our big-boy pants.  It's particularly profound when it happens because you can no longer listen to a person you admired or trusted (as Kamala experiences with Carol here).  At some point, you have to find your own way, and Wilson does an amazing job of showing us Kamala getting to that point here.

Spider-Gwen #11:  The problem with this series right now is we're still dealing with the hangover of "Spider-Women."  Despite having read this series from the beginning, I have no idea who some of the characters we see here are.  Reed Richards knows Gwen's secret identity and designs her tech, but we're not given any insight into how she met him.  Did they go to high school together?  It seems that way, but it's unclear.  We also have Jesse Drew the spy.  I vaguely recognize him from previous issues, but I don't really care enough to research it.  The unfortunate part is that these questions distract from the larger story, namely Frank Castle's pursuit of Spider-Woman.  Latour has infused this plot with all sorts of drama, from the fact that Castle isn't wrong about his suspicions about Spider-Woman and Captain Stacy to the difficult position Jeanne DeWolff faces as a result of Castle's dogged pursuit of Gwen and her father.  But, "Spider-Women" keeps getting in the way, and I hope we can put behind the "powerless" shtick and resume the great story Latour was telling.

Spider-Man 2099 #14:  During his long run on "X-Factor," David proved to me over and over again to trust him.  Every time we seemed to get far from where I thought we were going, we wound up getting there brilliantly.  This issue is no different.  Since Marvel brought back Miguel, I've wondered whether an already complicated timeline would be further complicated to the point of absurdity.  However, David has made it clear that we're beyond that concern now.  I can't count how many timelines we've already seen since Miguel has returned -- I think we're on our fourth, after the "original" one, the Maestro one, the "Secret Wars 2099" one, and the current reality.  But, David seems to be ready to use "Civil War II" to create a definitive one.  Similar to what DC did with "Flashpoint," it's not going to matter what came before.  He'll be able to take the better parts of the previous series -- like bringing back great supporting characters we haven't seen in a while  -- and ditch the worse parts -- like ignoring the disastrous developments of "2099World of Tomorrow" and "Manifest Destiny."  For example, great characters like Ghost Rider 2099, Hulk 2099, and Punisher 2099 are returned to us (after, I believe, they were all killed in "2099:  World of Tomorrow").  In other words, David is using the unintended consequences of time travel to correct the editorial mistakes of the past.  Moreover, the story at hand is just as interesting -- if not more -- than the larger continuity developments.  Alchemax and its fellow corporations have used an Anti-Powers Act to neuter the heroes, an homage to the original "Civil War" event.  In a way, I can see these tie-in issues feeling more genuinely like the continuation of "Civil War" than "Civil War II" does.  Leave it to Peter David to accomplish that.

Tokyo Ghost #10:  This series has been, without a doubt, one of the best I've ever read.  It's the one I keep telling people who don't read comics to read.  I've been struggling with its core message of unplugging -- from the Internet, from negativity -- since the election, and I'm glad I wound up reading this issue after it.  I really do wonder if it'll take someone like Debbie to save us, to unplug us forcibly, because no matter how much I say I want to get off Facebook or stop obsessively reading the news I just can't do it.  Davey Trauma is always there, lurking.  Debbie is the hero we need, but, as someone mentions in the letters page, we may never really get her.

Also Read:  Bloodshot Reborn #17; Spider-Man #7; Star Wars:  Han Solo #3; Uncanny Avengers #13

Monday, December 26, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 24 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batgirl #2:  OK, I admit, it's exciting to see Babs on the road.  Larson has thrown the deck of cards into the air and we'll see where they land.  Babs is in a sort of controlled free-fall; she's never been an erratic "On the Road" type, but here she is.  She leaves Kai in this issue less because she's worried he's trouble (and he clearly is), but more because she doesn't want to be tied down.  Meanwhile, she's trying to improve her skills as a fighter, but she's still Barbara.  Her eidetic memory provides her clues about the identity of the villain who attacked Kai last issue, whether she likes it or not.  It's tweaking the Batgirl formula, where Barbara is recognizable if different.  I'm hoping Larson can keep us in this place as long as possible, after Fletcher and Stewart struggled to do so in the previous iteration of this series.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #4:  This issue is not a smooth read.  I'm OK with Spencer entertaining the idea of Steve as a sleeper agent for HYDRA, since it's pretty clear it's going to end with him being returned to normal.  After all, Spencer isn't going all Slott and claiming he's going to remain a HYDRA agent forever.  But, the hook isn't enough to keep us going here.  Steve sounds hypnotized as Spencer is forced to drag out his dialogue to get it to work as a framing device.  But, he stretches it too far.  He uses it to cover everything, from Maria's fight with the S.H.I.E.L.D. governors to Sharon's presentation to Congress to Kobik's interactions with the Thunderbolts.  Throw in there flashbacks to Steve's new childhood and Rick Jones joining Free Spirit at a bedside vigil over Jack Flag and it's just too much.  We also have an example of pet peeve #2, since Steve isn't even in the same room as Carol and Tony, let alone putting himself in the middle of one of their arguments (as shown on the cover).  In other words, it's not Cap as a HYDRA agent that's a problem -- it's Cap as a boring expository device that's the problem.

Star Wars #22:  This issue really fulfills the promise of this series, as Han, Leia, and Luke steal an imperial Star Destroyer.  It's the sort of amazing untold story you expected to be out there, and it's one only a comic book could tell.

Titans #2:  On one level, I'm glad "Titans" is the front-line series exploring the impact Dr. Manhattan had on the DCU, because I'm at least moderately interested in the answer.  On the other hand, it could get old fast.  When Kadabra isn't sending the Titans against clones of their younger selves for convoluted super-villain reasons, he's pondering how Dr. Manhattan was involved in breaking time.  This part gets confusing, as all time-travel stories -- good or bad -- do.  In Kadabra's time, Linda and Wally haven't met yet, but it's difficult to see how that would happen.  Sure, in the original DCU, Linda and Wally would've already met.  But, in the current DCnU, Wally didn't exist.  Kadabra is implying Wally existed in his time, so is Kadabra from a third U?  I guess it's also possible he's from the future, but it doesn't seem to be the case.  I guess we'll see.  I just hope it's five or six issues from now, not 50 or 60 issues.

Also Read:  Detective Comics #939; Dungeons and Dragons #4; Extraordinary X-Men #13; New Avengers #15

Friday, December 23, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 17 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #5:  The twist here isn't the death of Gotham, since comic-book rules require that a hero-gone-bad has to die.  It isn't even that Gotham Girl is the one to do it or that their powers are based on depleting their life energy.  It's that Gotham Girl will one day kill Batman to save him and/or Gotham (the city or the person).  In presenting us with this revelation, King refers to a point in the future where Gotham Girl has married Duke, so it's unclear to me if DC intends for Gotham Girl to be a permanent character.  It all feels a little "Elseworlds"-y to me.  Either way, I really hope we don't spend too much time on a dead Bruce story, since, by Rao, we've had enough of them.  (I will throw in a nod here for King in having Alfred comment on the ridiculousness of Thomas Wayne taking his bepearled wife and precocious son through Crime Alley at night.  Seriously, talk about an idiot.)

Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man #3:  This issue is solid.  Harry does a great job of laying out the ways Peter has helped Clayton and foreshadows Clayton not being able to stop himself from screwing up his latest chance to change.  His need to be special is his addiction, and Gage frequently compares it to alcoholism to drive home the point.  When Spidey makes it clear Clayton has to give up the vehicle for his addiction -- his sonics -- for Peter to save him, it's finally too much for Clayton.  As sad as this turn of events is, it feels true, a testament to how carefully Gage has constructed the story.  Gage isn't just tearing down Clayton; his experiences and personality lead him  to this point, like Cyclops' lead him down the path he chose.  That said, I'm still wondering how Peter emerges from this experience convinced Carol is correct.  It seems to me the obvious lesson is that acting on Ulysses' visions can cause events to happen instead of preventing them.

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #12:  Reading this issue after the election, I have to think Spencer deserves an award for being the only pundit to predict the results.  Using John Walker as the agent of the shadowy group of conservative leaders seeking to take the shield from Sam is brilliant.  Spencer tries to treat them fairly, though it's clear they're the villains of the story -- the Charles Koch, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeff Sessions of the Marvel Universe.  But, after all the ink spilled on this election season, it's still probably some of the most insightful commentary I've read about our differing perspectives.  As I've said previously, this series is the best one on the stands now.

Nightwing #3:  I'm still not buying this idea of Raptor as Nightwing's mentor.  Even if you buy the idea Bruce didn't teach Dick everything he needed to know because their moral codes didn't align (with Dick hewing more Robin Hood than Bruce), it ignores the years Dick spent on his own as Nightwing.  I don't understand why Raptor just can't be his partner.  Along those lines, I also don't buy this idea of Raptor wanting to betray the Parliament of Owls, but Seeley is hopefully going somewhere with this revelation.  At least, I hope he is, because it's all feeling like a mess right now.

Uncanny Avengers #12:  This arc was heading for a pretty solid conclusion.  Although Duggan seemed to skip a few steps in getting Ultron onto the Quinjet that the Avengers plan on sending into the sun, he compensates by giving us a pretty stellar (heh) battle royale. The Avengers' plan goes pear-shaped pretty quickly as Ultron manages to trap Rogue, Torch, Voodoo, and Wasp on the Quinjet with Vision, upping the drama.  Even though it seemed unlikely Duggan would kill five of the more prominent members of the Marvel Universe, he does a good job of showing the Avengers struggle with their plan now that they're directly confronted with its goal.  In other words, it's a lot harder to kill someone who sounds like your friend when you actually have to hear him begging for mercy.  Moreover, Duggan changes the stakes at the last minute:  we learn Ultron has murdered billions of people throughout the galaxy, keeping alive enough people so they could hear him blame it on the Avengers each time.  It's the perfect beyond-the-grave revenge.  But, it's cheapened when Duggan saves Ultron at the last minute, hiding him in a neutrino.  (Yeah, I have no idea either.)  I thought Duggan was going to give Ultron the greatest gift possible - a legacy of generations of victims visiting their revenge on Earth.  Instead, it's just another Ultron story, with him yet again magically avoiding death.  The only log Duggan added to this fire was the most nonsensical save in a long history of nonsensical saves.  But, I guess now Ultron can return at the right moment so the Avengers can make it clear he acted on his own.  Do we even have to go through the story if we know how it's going to end?

Also Read:  Civil War II:  X-Men #3; Mighty Thor #10; Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #5

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 10 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New X-Men #12: For the most part, this issue is a solid look into Laura's psyche as she goes on a bunch of solo missions Cyclops original meant for himself.  He can't do them since he's still recovering from his encounter with Toad, and she can't relieve her boredom by playing video games.  However, she's frustrated to learn someone else has made his way through the hit list before her, and it's no surprise when she learns it was Warren.  Hopeless also provides us insight into Warren's thoughts, as we learn the powers he got from the Black Vortex are slowly consuming him.  Laura understands this need to engage in violence, and their shared bloodlust brings them together again.  Warren also apologizes for making her feel bad about said lust, explaining the "fire" is messing with his head.  This part is the only area where I raised an eyebrow.  Hopeless is essentially trying to make it seem like Warren was more scared by what he recognized of himself in Laura than by Laura herself.  It makes sense, but I also can't help but feel like it's a ret-con, like Hopeless hadn't originally intended to go this route.  We never really got a hint that Warren was motivated by anything other than his inability to be in a relationship with someone who he watched essentially get murdered every day or so.  If we had seen those hints, it would've been easier to accept what Hopeless does here.  But, since this issue is pretty much the first time we've mentioned Warren's new powers in this series, it feels like an overly convenient device to get them together, for whatever reason.  That said, I am glad to see them together again, so I shouldn't complain too much.

All-New, All-Different Avengers #13
:  Whoa, I did not see that coming.  I figured Vision would learn a lesson about free will, recognizing his own struggles
with emotion and logic and leaving Kang to live his life the way he saw fit, an enemy to face in his prime.  But, we do not get that ending here.  Instead, the wraith-like figure we've seen assisting Vision throughout his journey into Kang's past whispers a secret to him, leading Vision to kidnap an infant Kang and, presumably, put him in the wraith's care.  Waid makes it clear with this cliffhanger that he's playing a very long game here.  It's the type of story we used to see in the '80s and '90s, where we got hints of threats lurking in the background as the Avengers confronted more immediate problems.  It's more proof to me that Waid is going back to basics in this title.  Everything feels like the good ol' days, before Bendis made the title feel like a TV show written for people with ADHD or Hickman turned it into an art project.  On a side note, Waid gets ahead of the main series a bit when he reveals that Black Panther and Spider-Man both join Carol's side.  I'm not surprised about T'Challa, but Peter surprises me, particularly given the developments so far in "Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man."  I guess we'll see.

All-Star Batman #1:  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm not a fan of Scott Snyder's Bruce Wayne.  I love his Dick Grayson.  But, his Bruce Wayne is not someone I recognize.  He's an arrogant yet incompetent sociopath.  He seems to be motivated more by defeating his foes than by saving innocent civilians.  But, I'm glad to say Snyder seems to be taking a different tack here.  This Bruce seems to have learned a lesson or two.  (Given his failures over the last few months, it's about time.)

The premise of this series is Bruce is taking Harvey Dent to a "house" to cure him of his Two-Face persona.  Harvey goes willingly, but Two-Face puts up a fight.  Here, Snyder alludes to an information network Dent had as a District Attorney that allowed Two-Face to defeat his foes in the underworld.  This network is at the center of the carrot/stick approach Two-Face takes here in motivating people to help him.  First, he pledges to release all the secrets he knows if Batman isn't stopped.  Snyder makes it clear how good Harvey's network is when a scared Alfred takes down the Batplane.  But, Two-Face goes on step further:  he offers the fortunes of the wealthiest mobsters in Gotham to anyone who stops Batman.  Even the denizens of a truck stop -- near where the Batplane crashes -- are motivated to take down the Bat for the money.

It's here where Snyder shows the sort of genius we saw in the "Black Mirror" in "Detective Comics."  Although we still don't know anything about this "house" or how it can cure Harvey after all these years, Snyder sets up a "Cannonball Run" that makes sense in the context of the characters.  It's clear why it's going to be a challenge for Bruce to cross the finish line.  Moreover, we're treated to a back-up story of Bruce starting Duke's training.  If the primary story shows Bruce as caring more about saving Harvey than he does about defeating Two-Face, this story shows him having learned a lesson.  He's going to put Duke through the Cursed Wheel, a condensed composite of all the lessons Bruce learned in his adolescent travels.  But, he realizes Duke isn't a Robin:  the need to dominate him like he did the other Robins is absent.  We also get a hint that a villain not named Jason has gone through the Wheel.  This story doesn't obviously connect to the main story right now, but it's clear it will, so I'm intrigued to see where we're going with it.  Overall, it's a solid start that gives me hope I'm going to like where we're going.

Amazing Spider-Man #16:  [Sigh.]  I'm really, really trying to keep an open mind.  After all, the revelation that the Jackal (or, at least, someone calling himself the Jackal) resurrected the loved ones of Spidey's rogues gallery makes sense.  Peter becomes aware of this technology when one of the Jackal's scientists -- representing "New U Technologies" -- approaches him, JJJ, Jr., and May about using it to cure Jay of his mysterious hereditary disease.  (Side-bar:  Jay apparently didn't tell JJJ, Jr. about said disease, despite the fact it appears early intervention can help.  That seems...dickish to me, but I'm trying to stay positive.)  Peter asks to vet the technology and excitedly declares to Anna Marie that he can basically cure death with it, since it regrows organs without any flaws an accident or disease might have caused.  It's here where the story (once again) goes off the rails for me, because it shouldn't take Anna Marie to warn Peter about the ethical issues this technology would cause.  But, Peter doesn't care, calling New U to use it on an employee hurt in an industrial accident.  The Jackal mentions to his minions it's not "part of his plan," making it clear that using it on Jay was part of the plan.  But, he does it anyway, in part to build up Peter's belief in the technology.  But, Peter realizes something might be wrong when the employee sparks his Spider-Sense.  Ruh-roh!  Maybe moved a little too fast there, huh, Parker?  At any rate, the stakes go up even further when the Jackal's scientist reveals to JJJ, Jr. that they've resurrected Marla.  Also, it's pretty clear that Doc Ock is going to use the technology to resurrect himself.  [Sigh.]  At least the letters page announces they're launching a "Renew Your Vows" series.  Can I just read that instead?

Black Panther #5:  The brilliance of what Coates is doing here is clear when you realize you pretty much agree with everyone but T'Challa.  When he interrogates the boy turned terrorist, I was totally on the side of the "terrorist" as he spat back T'Challa's indignation.  After all, T'Challa was gallivanting with the Avengers as Namor drowned his village and the Black Order made his brother beg for death.   The "evil men" behind the revolution are offering him something T'Challa is not:  security.  Similarly, when T'Challa looks down on the "counter-revolutionary" masterminds, I rolled my eyes as they did.  Again, T'Challa clearly thinks he can be feared and loved simply because he demands to be, while the masterminds remind him he actually has to provide the aforementioned security to be feared and loved.  T'Challa thinks that he can just dismiss the revolutionaries as dishonorable and be done with it, but it's not that simple, as I'm sure he's going to learn.

Darth Vader #24:  We learn two conflicting lessons in this issue.  First, Darth Vader is more man than machine, contrary to Cylo's comment at the end of last issue, as he uses the Force to will his body into motion, killing Cylo and reactivating the machine parts of his body.  But, that "man" isn't Anakin Skywalker, as we learn through a series of hallucinations where he not only kills Anakin but Padme.  He truly is Darth Vader.  We end the issue with Vader going after one loose end (Cylo-VI?) and Aphra appearing before the Emperor to tell him she knows some stuff he needs to know.  I have no idea where we're going from here, but it's going to be good.

Detective Comics #938:  This issue is solid, though I had to read it twice to follow all the twists and turns.  Tynion starts the issue by showing us the Colonel's motivation to join the Colony, pledging to a young Kate at her mother's gravesite that he'll do everything he can to ensure no other family has to endure what they have.  (He's actually already agreed to join the Colony when this conversation happens.)  Frankly, it's a pretty solid motivation.  In the present, a now-freed Bruce sends Tim to hack into the Colony's servers to get more information about the Gothamites the Colony is targeting.  In so doing, Tim encounters Ulysses, hopefully kindling a new arch-nemesis for him.  He also realizes the military has no idea how far beyond its remit the Colony has gone.  Once Tim has the information they need, the team flees.  Realizing the military will shut down the Colony once Bruce shares with them what it's done, Ulysses convinces the Colonel to unleash drones he built (against the Colonel's orders) on the intended targets.  The problem is they're not 100 percent sure of the intel that they have; as such, the Colonel is authorizing the murder of innocent civilians.  It's...dark.  One question going forward is how right Bruce is in his insistence the League of Shadows is really a myth.  After all, Tynion worked with Snyder during the era, where this level of confidence from Bruce usually meant that he was wrong, like how he was sure that the Court of Owls didn't exist or the Joker didn't enter the Batcave.  Will it be more of the same here?  If it's not, then you have to wonder why the Colony still believes the League to exist, given the time and resources they've had to get to the truth.

Spider-Man 2099 #13:  Due to my move, I stopped reading comics the week I started this review; it's now December, not August.  As such, my recall of previous issues is a little...dim.  David is telling a fairly complicated story at this point, with numerous timelines in play, and I admit the delay in reading this issue left me fairly confused at parts.  After all, we're dealing with at least the third iteration of the 2099 Universe in just this run.  But, David seems to be implying this iteration of the 2099 Universe is close enough to Miguel's* that he has a shot of actual reconstructing his timeline.  Of course, he can't do that if he's in an Alchemax prison, where he seems to be headed after the Punisher quickly disposes of him.  (I added the asterisk here as a reminder that even the baseline timeline that Miguel is trying to resurrect is different from the one we saw in the original run.  But, you're all probably tired of me mentioning that, so I'll just stop here.)

Also Read:  All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1