Monday, July 18, 2016

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

Batman #1:  I'm probably supposed to have a lot to say about this issue, but I don't.  Some nutjob from a terrorist group that uses a cobra as a symbol gets his hands on an RPG and shoots a plane.  Alfred and Duke help Bruce propel himself onto the plane.  He just so happens to have a spare set of engines with him, so he's able to redirect it (as if he's riding a horse) from crashing into Kane Plaza to crashing into the Gulf of Blackgate.  He expects to die (again) in the crash, but he doesn't, thanks to the timely intervention of Gotham and Gotham Girl.  If you've been following the hoopla surrounding "Rebirth," you know that they're mysterious new heroes set to challenge Bruce's belief that Gotham is his city.  But, because of said hoopla, their appearance on the scene is pretty anti-climactic.  Sure, we know nothing about them now, but we'll learn all we need to know -- likely in nauseating detail -- over the course of the next few issues.  The only real mystery here is that a shadowy figure killed the terrorist that fired the RPG and then uttered the phrase, to no one in particular, "Observe the clock, Batman."  Creepy.

Civil War II #2:  Again, I don't really have much to say here, but this time it's because Bendis so perfectly anticipates what I expected to happen after the events of last issue:  Tony kidnaps Ulysses, the Inhumans want revenge for the affront, and Carol asks for a shot at bringing in Tony before the Inhumans go to war.  Along the way, Carol and Tony have possibly the best banter ever.  (Really.  I usually hate Bendis' banter, but this banter is top-notch.)  Now we just have to see if the Hulk kills everyone next issue.

Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man #2:  Gage does here what the best tie-in issues do, using the premise of "Civil War II" to advance a character's ongoing storyline.  In this issue, Peter may create a self-fulfilling prophecy, when Ulysses' prediction that Clayton Cole will again take up his Clash identity drives Peter to push Clayton into doing just that.  Peter realizes his mistake, but it might be too late, as Clayton puts in a rush order on his Clash costume with the Tinkerer.  Although ostensibly Peter's fault, Gage isn't totally easy on Cole:  after all, he was secretly building his Clash uniform again.  Gage also gives us some great insights into Harry along the way, as he warns Peter that it's hard to put aside the limelight that the costume brings.  My guess is that this experience with Cole is going to put Peter firmly on Tony's side, believing that the unintended consequences of acting on Ulysses' visions aren't worth it.  But, it's really the characterization that makes this issue, and it makes me wish that someone would finally pry "Amazing Spider-Man" from Slott's hands and give it to Gage.  (This issue actually came out July 13, but I read it by accident, mistaking it for "Civil War II:  X-Men" #1.  Just like Ulysses, you're seeing into the future!)

The Dark Knight Returns:  The Last Crusade #1:  Azzarello and Romita tell a pretty straight-forward story in this one-shot.  For most of it, it's about Bruce having to face the fact that he's at the limit of what his body can take.  It's not just the pain, but that opponents like Killer Croc are starting to get the drop on him.  He's forced to acknowledge that he's getting closer and closer to the moment where he'll fatally slip, allowing an opponent to kill him.  They have a great sequence here where Croc is really close to doing just that, prompting two reactions in Bruce.  First, he's surprised, because he figured that the end would come with him being outsmarted, not beaten.  (It's an interesting insight into his thinking, because it reminds us that he sees himself as a detective and not a brawler.)  But, he also shows real fear at the possibility of Croc eating him, something that we don't usually see in him.  After this sequence, Bruce may still be fighting the idea of retirement, but he also seems resigned to it.  His concern is that Jason Todd is too violent, though Alfred walks him through the ridiculousness of that position, poking holes in his argument by using his own behavior at Jason's age against him.  It's here where the story goes off the rails a bit.  Instead of a retirement story, we learn that this issue is really a reimagining of "A Death in the Family," as Jason goes to take on the recently escaped Joker to prove that he's ready (after overhearing Alfred and Bruce's conversation).  Of course, he isn't ready, and the issue ends with the Joker's goons beating on him and the Joker excited about the torture that he's going to inflict on him.  It's not that it's a bad reimagining of this scenario, but it is a rushed one.  The entire sequence feels tacked onto the end like the creators hadn't originally planned to go this route but the editors made them do it.  It's still worth a read, but you're not going to be able to help feeling like you're missing a few pages.

Moon Knight #1-#4:  I knew that Lemire, Smallwood, and Bellaire had me in the scene from issue #4 where Khonshu appears to Marc in a bathroom stall while he's at the urinal.  Everything about this scene is so great:  Lemire putting the characters there, Smallwood making it so realistic, and Bellaire creating a great atmosphere.  My only previous exposure to Moon Knight came as a loyal reader of "West Coast Avengers" in the '80s.  I was always intrigued by him, but he had back story in the way that Spider-Woman had back story.  In other words, it was complicated.  I had flagged this series as a possible pull, but it wasn't until "Black Knight" and "Red Wolf" got canceled that I felt that I had some time for it.  I'm glad that I took the plunge.  The creators are telling a wonderfully original story, and, after four issues, I honestly can't say what reality is and isn't.  Is Marc insane?  Is he sane?  Maybe he's both?  I was disappointed when Lemire's "All-New Hawkeye" got canceled, but reading this series makes me feel like I got a reprieve.  I highly recommend it.

Spider-Gwen #9:  This issue is extremely difficult to follow if you (like me) didn't read every part of the "Spider-Women" event.  First, Gwen has apparently lost her powers; she has a "power-up" device that she can use to temporarily become Spider-Woman, but once the device's charges are exhausted she's done.  Second, a picture of her shaking hands with Captain America has been released, apparently making the public re-assess their view of Spider-Woman.  (I was surprised by this development, since I feel like this picture was taken quite a long time ago.  Why is everyone just reacting to it now?)  Moreover, Captain Stacy has done his part in helping the public change its mind about Gwen, releasing a video on YouTube that details why the police and the public rushed to judgement on her guilt.  (Again, I don't think that this event happened in this title, but it's possible that it did in one of the "Spider-Women" issues.  That said, we might be seeing it for the first time here.)  At any rate, this last development is the catalyst for the events of this issue, as Frank Castle decides to present his case to the District Attorney.  He in turn tells Castle that he's not touching it given the now positive view that the public has of Spider-Woman.  Frank doesn't handle that well, stalking Gwen and confronting her in front of her friends when he stops a robbery at the hot dog place.  In a rage, Gwen powers up and attacks him in front of her friends, later fleeing.  Latour does a great job of showing how overwhelmed Gwen is:  she previously lamented the fact that she didn't get a choice in getting her powers, but now that she has one it's too much to handle.  But, this message is undermined by the confusion that I felt since I really had absolutely no idea what was happening for most of the issue, since I didn't read "Spider-Women."  Hopefully it'll be easier to follow next issue, because I refuse to be forced to read an event retroactively that I didn't want to read in the first place.

Ttans:  Rebirth #1:  I cannot explain how excited I am to be part of the Titans.  I'm not a long-time DC Comics reader, so I missed the Titans era in the '80s.  I imagine that it would be like someone who didn't read Marvel Comics getting excited about reading "Avengers" if they brought the original team together again.  You get a chance to be a part of something that mattered.  I loved Dan Abnett during his work with Andy Lanning, and he's just as good here as he was then.  He hits all the right emotional notes, and I choked up a bit as the Titans remembered Wally and Wally exulted in feeling their love for him.  As he himself says, he's lost a lot, and you can feel his commitment not to have it happen again.  The Titans feel the same way, horrified that they forgot Wally and angry at the idea that someone made them forget him.  Moreover, Abnett directs us to the "Titans Hunt" mini-series, since it seems to serve as a prequel to "Rebirth:"  apparently, someone named Mister Twister was responsible for the Titans not remembering each other (at least as far as they know).  At any rate, this title seems like it's going to be front-and-center as we figure out the mechanics of the "Rebirth," and I'm really excited to be on board.

Uncanny X-Men #8:  Bunn really loses me here, to be honest.  First, we have Fantomex and Psylocke at each other's throats over some betrayal that I don't understand because I didn't read "Uncanny X-Force."  (For all the ranting that Fantomex does here about Besty's betrayal, you'd think that he could've actually mentioned what it was.)  Then, we learn that Fantomex is there at Magento's invitation, allegedly to kill Betsy, though we're given no idea why he would want to do so or why he would choose then and there to do it.  Finally, we learn that Clan Akkaba wants Betsy there to summon the Archangel drone, though we don't know why.  After all, they cut off Warren's wing:  why would they just another Warren with wings?   If you were a long-time reader of "Uncanny X-Force," this issue might make more sense to you.  For me, I spent most of it wishing the Wikipedia entry on Fantomex was more current.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #14; Archangel #1-#2; Civil War II:  X-Men #1; Dungeons & Dragons:  Shadows of the Vampire #2; Spidey #7; Star Wars #20; Star Wars:  Han Solo #1

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