Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 27 "Civil War II" Marvel Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I'm current!  Hurrah!

Civil War II #4:  Bendis continues to logically move us from event to event and increases the tension as he does.  The jury acquits Hawkeye, a decision that apparently 87 percent of America agrees was the right one.  Oddly, Carol seems outraged as she tells a now-conscious Jennifer the verdict, even though the incident only happened because she confronted Banner based on Ulysses' vision.  Didn't Hawkeye do what Banner told him to do?  Isn't Carol really responsible here?  Is she only squeamish about killing when she's not the one ordering it?  Meanwhile, Tony has had the chance to analyze the data that he took when he scanned Ulyssess' brain, and it confirms what he expected:  Ulysses' visions are really just guesses based on a complicated algorithm.  Carol initially dismisses the result, until the Beast confirms that Tony's conclusions are correct.  It's here where we're at the point of no return.  Tony asks Carol what level of confidence she needs to have in the data to act, and she basically says any.  (The statistics nerd in me loves that the outcome of this event is turning on confidence intervals.)  Carol decides to continue with using Ulysses' visions to guide her action, but she crosses the line for Tony and his allies when she kidnaps a banker that Ulysses claims is working for HYDRA to undermine the financial system.  Even Maria Hill is nervous, and Carol claiming that they'll get the proof ex post facto isn't exactly an inspiring approach to justice.  Tony uses Nightcrawler to break out the woman, and an outraged Carol asserts that she's going to arrest him.  They go to war as the Guardians of the Galaxy appear to help Carol even the odds.  At this stage, my only real complaint is that it seems obvious that Bendis supports Tony's side of the argument.  Carol is starting to become a caricature of an over-confident general.  It's not exactly outside her character to become that, but we're pushing the limits of that.  I think it would help next issue if we learn that the woman really was a HYDRA plant, since it would support Carol's argument that it might be guesswork but Ulysses is very often correct.

Captain Marvel #7:  Not surprisingly, the Gages do a better job than Bendis of making Carol's position seem like the logical one, though they hint at the weakness in her position.  First, the events of this issue take place before "Civil War II" #4, so Carol still doesn't know about Tony's analysis of Ulysses' powers.  But, she's forced to account for the fact that she committed a sin of omission in not telling the Board that the Inhumans' information about the future came from a precognitive Inhuman.  (I mentioned how I thought that she was a little fast and loose with the truth in my review of last issue, and I was happy to see the Gages hold her accountable for that.)  Carol is able to convince the Board -- and Ulysses, in a private conversation with him -- that they should act on the visions.  Her argument makes sense:  she sticks to the idea that it's giving the tools that people who put their lives on the line every day need to be even more effective.  But, it's still a short-run argument.  Carol ignores Tony's long-run concern, namely that they could be creating a new, sub-optimal future by acting on Ulysses' visions.  But, Carol's myopia here fits with the tactical way that she sees the world:  she sees a threat, she eliminates it.  In a way, this entire event is revolving around Carol adapting (or not adapting) to this new higher level of responsibility that she now has.  She seems to be acting like a soldier, not a general.  The outcome of the event seems to hinge on how she makes the junior-to-senior transition.

Ms. Marvel #9:  This week's tie-in issues are really doing a great job of fleshing out the philosophical arguments that Bendis is raising in the main title.  We learn in this issue that  Kamala's classmate Josh was thinking of starting a fire in the school because he wanted people to feel the pain that he felt when his girlfriend broke up with him.  He doesn't deny that.  But, it's also clear that he didn't commit a crime and that counseling is what he needs.  Instead, the Cadets throw him in the jail that they've developed in an abandoned warehouse in Jersey City.  Wilson is essentially opening up another front against Carol here.  So far, they've treated everyone from Ulysses' visions as criminals based on the crime that they're going to commit.  But, in Josh's case, he's more a screwed-up kid than a future criminal.  Carol's approach doesn't really allow for that level of ambiguity.  (I will say that, given how many people the Cadets have in their prison here, you have to wonder how many visions Ulysses is having exactly.)  Bruno hurts himself when he tries to break out Josh, and it looks like it's going to bring Kamala to Tony's side.  After all, the incident goes to Tony's concern about unintended consequences, since people are getting hurt (and emotionally scarred) from the heroes trying to prevent other people getting hurt.

Also Read:  New Avengers #14

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 27 Non-"Civil War II" Marvel Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New, All-Different Avengers #12:  Waid spends this issue driving home the point that the team is starting to act like one, as each member takes a turn fighting Annihilus in the Negative Zone.  But, it's Vision immediately finding the second Nega-Band to switch places with Miles that got me.  For too long, authors have written Vision as little more than a robot, unrecognizable from his days with the West Coast Avengers.  Waid uses this moment of loyalty and selflessness to remind us why he's been such an enduring character for so long.

Amazing Spider-Man #1.6:  In 30 years of reading "Amazing Spider-Man," this arc is the greatest assassination of Peter Parker's character that I've ever read.  Amazingly, Molina even admits in the letters page that the editors probably should've been more involved in the series than they were, since he's never written a comic book before.  It's not even just that Peter acted uncharacteristically.  It's that he often just acted insane.  For example, he berates the Santerians for "killing" Julio to sever the link to the demon trying to enter our world through him.  Although he insists that they could've found another way, he has no suggestion what it could've been.  Is he such a genius that he can now suddenly cure death?  It seems the only other way would've been for God himself to resurrect him, but Molina goes to great lengths to show us Peter doesn't believe in God.  Except maybe he does now?  Also, is Peter Catholic?  Have we established that?  Even if he is, he doesn't have a parish priest?  He just heads to a miraculously empty St. Pat's?  I could continue, but I don't think that it's necessary.  Given how weak the main series also is, I just wonder if the editors are coming to work anymore.

Black Panther #4:  I could really just read Ramonda arguing with Changamire every issue.  Changamire believes himself to be morally superior to the kings and refuses to provide information on the Great Mound massacre to Ramonda, asserting that he won't do the work of her agents.  In other words, he's the pacifist who relies on others to keep him safe and refuses to acknowledge that.  But, Ramonda isn't having any of it, lecturing him that philosophy never built a well or fed a child.  Changamire laments a lack of wisdom in Wakanda and the fact that it was supposed to be a "Golden City."  However, he provides no roadmap on how to make it so.  As we learn, even his pupil, Tetu, has resorted to Zeke Stane providing him (I think) with the technology that grants him his powers.  How will Changamire feel about that?  He is essentially alone atop the hill.  That said, Coates doesn't make it that simple, as we're also seeing the results of Ramonda being too operational.  After all, her by-the-book condemnation of Aneka inspired the revolution that she and Ayo are now leading.  The fact that I haven't even mentioned T'Challa yet in this review just shows what a complex and detailed story Coates is weaving.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #3:  Spencer ups the ante in this issue, as we settle into the reality that Kobik has rewritten Steve's history to make him a HYDRA sleeper agent.  Here, Darth Steve communicates via hologram with an Emperor-like Red Skull, explaining his success in killing Baron Zemo and Dr. Selvig (after sending their jet into a building) but acknowledging his failure to eliminate Jack Flag.  The Skull obviously orders Steve to take out Flag, but Spencer shows that Steve is bucking his programming:  he crushes the communications device and then asks Dr. Selvig, revealed to be alive, if he's ready to do what needs to be done.  That said, we don't know what Steve thinks needs to be done.  Does he think that the Skull lacks honor?  (He mentions that he was upset that the Skull's plan wouldn't let Flag have a proper funeral and that he tried to save the agent sent to blow up the train because he felt that it was the waste of a good agent.)  Even if he's rebelling against the Red Skull because he doesn't agree with his methods, he is still likely seeing HYDRA as a tool to take down S.H.I.E.L.D.  In other words, we're not wrapping up this story quite yet.

Extraordinary X-Men #12:  The "Apocalypse Wars" have been...odd.  They were seemingly billed as a cross-over event, but the three series involved in the "event" never actually connected.  "All-New X-Men" told the story of Evan trying to save En Sabah Nur in the past, "Uncanny X-Men" told some sort of story about Archangel and Warren in the present, and this title focused on stopping Apocalypse in the future.  However, Lemire seems almost to run out the clock quicker than he expected.  Storm is forced to bring a dying Apocalypse to the present with the team to save Colossus, but Apocalypse transports Colossus into Clan Akkaba's clutches.  However, it's unclear when this Clan Akkaba exists.  Plus, I'm really, really, really tired of Colossus always playing the patsy.  First it was Juggernaut then it was Phoenix and now it's Apocalypse.  Enough.  Really.  We also get some dark vision of a future that Sapna creates when she breaks bad, but I'm really struggling to care about that story.  It might be interesting on its own, but Illyana's tutoring of her in magic has been mostly a distraction.  I'd rather Lemire have taken the time to tie up the Colossus story before leaping into yet another story about an apocalyptic future.

Mighty Thor #9:  I don't remember the Silver Samurai being anywhere near as cool of a villain as he is here, but I invite him to return as often as he wants!  He's particularly awesome considering that he's part of the Sinister Six (or so) that Aaron has assembled here, working with Oubliette to learn all of Dario's secrets.  In fact, this issue is all about excellent pairings:  Jane and Roz are a fun (and tense) duo looking to save New York from the Agger Imperative, and Dario and Oubliette hate each other so much I expect that they'll be dating when the dust settles.  We've been a little wobbly in this series lately, but I think Aaron is at his best when he leaves behind the Asgard shenanigans and focuses on Jane operating in the real world.

Spider-Gwen #10:  This issue is a confusing jumble, in part because Latour is struggling to tell the Punisher story and explain the events of "Spider-Women," particularly as they relate to Gwen's powers.  In this issue, Castle recruits Kraven the Hunter to capture Gwen so he can photograph her without her mask.  While Gwen fights Kraven and his animal minions, George manages to stop Castle (and destroy the film).  After Castle and Kraven flee, George tells Gwen that he called the police, to reveal how over the edge Castle is.  However, Gwen panics, knocks George unconscious, and then flees.  I more or less get this part, particularly since it's hard to see how George is going to explain why Castle was after Gwen without revealing her identity.  It's the part about her powers that left me lost.  First, Gwen tells George at breakfast that "she" is the only one that can make the isotope that runs her doodad.  I think she's referring to the Earth-65 version of Cindy Moon, but I'm not sure.  Given her connection with Captain America, can't Gwen get S.H.I.E.L.D. or somebody to reverse engineer the isotope?  At any rate, Kraven managed to swipe the isotope and break the doodad, leaving Gwen powerless.  He seems to have swiped it for Castle, since he refers to the isotope as paying his old debt to Castle.  But, how did Kraven know to swipe the isotope?  Did he realize that Gwen was using the device just in the short time that he spied on Gwen?  Did Frank notice it when she used it at the hot-dog shop?  What good does the isotope do Frank, particularly if even Gwen can't get it reverse-engineered?  It's not like knowing how Gwen gets her powers is going to help him prove that she's Spider-Woman.  As I said, it's messy (and not just because the copy on the bio page for Kraven needed serious editing).

Also Read:  Uncanny Avengers #11

Monday, August 1, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The July 20 and 27 DC Edition (HERE BESPOILERS!)

Batman #3:  The set-up -- of Gotham and Gotham Girl's parents seemingly giving away their identity to an F.B.I. agent that 30 years of comics-reading experience tells you is not to be trusted -- is great.  Of course he's not to be trusted.  But, I totally didn't see it coming that he was Matches Malone.  It was a great start to the issue.  Looking at the two main Bat-titles at this stage, King and Tynion are both telling stories of logical conclusions.  If the Colony in "Detective Comics" details the military deciding to reverse-engineer Bruce's technology for its own purposes (see below), we learn that Gotham and Gotham Girl are inspired to become who they are because Batman once saved Gotham and his parents' lives.  They throw themselves into charity work and eventually face a dangerous "situation" in a developing country where they working as aid workers that they seem unable to prevent.  We're led to believe that this experience inspires them to use their father's wealth to buy their powers, after he tells Matches that they asked for him to wire a substantial amount to them.  Over the coming issues, King is clearly going to test their earnestness.  Batman asks them to keep an eye on the city so he can investigate Kobra, after they followed up shooting down the aircraft in issue #1 with blowing up a bridge in this issue.  As we saw last issue, Hugo Strange is working with Amanda Waller to use Psycho-Pirate to do...something.  All we know is that he plans on somehow rewiring Gotham's thoughts to make them...better.  He seems poised to start with Gotham and Gotham Girl.  Not nefarious at all, that Hugo Strange, no, not at all.

Detective Comics #937:  First things first:  can I just tell you how happy I am that we can like Tim again?  He probably suffered the most under the reboot, turning into an arrogant and drippy tool.  As we learn in this issue, he's still a genius:  after all, he constructed his own network of Bat-trains using Gotham's abandoned subway tunnels.  But, he's also Tim again, like when he humblebrags about his ability to get into the Colony's computer systems for a "milli-second."  His charm is back, and I'm thrilled to see it.  But, Tynion isn't just nailing the characterization.  The plot is great as well.  I loved that the Army decided to create the Colony in the wake of Batman's success during "Zero Year," taking down the Riddler when they couldn't.  As I said above, it's a rare moment in comics where actions have repercussions and motivations make sense.  The Army isn't wrong that a team of Batmen could take out threats before they happened and hiring a Tim analogue to reverse-engineer Batman's weapons makes total sense.  Plus, we know understand that the Colonel was keeping tabs on the Bat-family because he wanted to recruit them.  (I still don't know how Clayface became part of the Bat-family, but I'm willing to just go with it.)  I can't wait to see Bruce, Kate, and the team go to war with the Colony, because, man, someone using Bruce's idea for their own ends?  Mad, he will be.  In other words, we have a well plotted and scripted story that has me excited for the next installment:  "Detective Comics" may hold the record for me for the most consistently strong run.

Justice League #1:  Hitch starts this issue essentially with the end of the world, as the Justice League tries to respond to the fact that every fault line in the world became active.  It's an interesting premise, because it shows the Justice League incapable of fully confronting the threat.  Cyborg is trying to stop a runaway train, Flash is finding a missing girl:  it's micro help in the face of a macro event.  The event itself is initially portrayed as a natural disaster, but two threats that could possibly be behind it reveal themselves over the course of the issue.  First, we have what appears to be the Brood (if we were in Marvel Comics) invading Gotham and, I believe, Johannesburg.  Then, we have a power calling itself the Kindred taking over people and stripping the Flash and Green Lanterns of their powers.  (The victims' eyes glow red, making me wonder if it's not the Red, like in "Earth 2.")  At this stage, it's unclear how the two entities are connected (or if they are).  As interesting as it all is, it's also just a mess.  I get that Hitch is trying to show us the Justice League overwhelmed.  But, instead of just the League feeling confused, I am, too.  Sometimes it's good to be confused, since it helps you feel what the characters are feeling.  ("Civil War II" #3 was a good example of that.)  It doesn't feel that way here, though.  Hitch makes the threat so enormous -- an extinction-level event, as we learn -- that it's obvious that the heroes are going to win.  It's not the X-Men losing the 600 embryos in "Extraordinary X-Men:"  the League literally can't lose because DC Comics isn't closing shop.  Hitch can still keep it interesting by giving us insights into the characters as the League confronts this threat, but it's not clear how well he's going to do that from this issue.  I guess we'll see.

Nightwing #1:  So far, so good here.  Dick has traded in Spyral for the Parliament of Owls, and we open this issue with him preventing Kobra from assassinating an Italian parliamentarian.  (Kobra is really getting around lately:  they're blowing up airplanes in "Batman," they're assassinating leaders here.  I don't really know much about them, so I wonder if DC is peppering their series with references to them in advance of a larger event later.)  However, the Parliament is unhappy with Dick's non-lethal methods, and he's being paired with a Parliament-approved operative named Raptor for "training."  Seeley also makes it clear that he's playing the same type of long game that he did in "Grayson," since this issue opens with Raptor taking down a woman seemingly working for the Parliament itself.  Is he some sort of double agent?  It's unclear at this stage.  However, Seeley might overplay his hand a bit when it comes to Raptor.  Like Tiger, he's portrayed as significantly better than Nightwing, declaring that Dick needs a better mentor than Batman was.  (Nightwing is unaware that he trailed him and fails to even remotely hold his own against him in their fight.)  Plus, he seems to have a fight computer similar to Midnighter's.  As such, this series seems exactly like "Grayson" but with the names (Spyral, Tiger, Midnighter) changed.  I mean, I liked "Grayson," so I'm not necessarily opposed to that.  But, hopefully Seeley has some surprises in store here to make it feel less derivative.

Titans Hunt #1-#8 and Titans #1:  I finally read "Titans Hunt," and I seriously recommend it for anyone that found themselves confused while reading "Titans:  Rebirth" #1.  It firmly establishes the new status quo for the Titans.  Four years ago, the Teen Titans were forced to forget who they were as a team so that a demon (I think) named Mr. Twister could not use their powers to open a gateway to bring an even more dangerous demon to Earth.  (Maybe Dr. Midnight himself?)  We learn that Twister began whispering to Lilith (the telepath that performed the mindwipe) a year before the events of "Titans Hunt," making her remember the team's past.  She tries to protect the rest of the team, but the other Titans are eventually reminded of the truth, and they assemble to take on Twister.  In a nice move by Abnett, the team is able to defeat Twister because they're no longer as easily manipulated as they were as teenagers.  Abnett even leaves a cliffhanger for "DC Universe:  Rebirth," since Dick realizes that one of the ten of them -- Wally, as we know (but they don't know) -- is still missing.  In other words, if I'm following the story correctly, we're essentially dealing with a ret-con within a ret-con:  only because Dr. Midnight messes with the DC Universe's history does the Titans' encounter with Mr. Twister result in them forgetting each other.  In other words, the Titans didn't just lose the ten years that Wally informs Barry that everyone in the DCnU lost:  they even lost the four years that they would've had together in the DCnU had Twister not intervened.  When I initially read "Titans:  Rebirth" #1, I thought that they got back that five years when they remembered Wally.  But, now it appears that they only got back this year or so that they were actually together.  In this issue, Lilith plums the depths of Wally's mind for hints of Dr. Midnight (even though she doesn't know that she's looking for him).  However, her probing awakens Abra Cadabra, who claims that he's responsible for disappearing Wally.  That revelation works in the framework that "Titans Hunt" established, the ret-con within the ret-con.  At some point after Twister broke up the Titans, Wally was then thrown into the Speed Force.  I'm definitely intrigued to see where Abnett goes with that.  (Also, Wally looks, um, handsome, particularly on the variant cover, and I'm excited to see more of him, too!)