Clone Conspiracy #5: It's hard to believe Dan Slott wanted this event to end this way, in utter and total chaos. OK, some of the chaos he probably wanted: Slott generally likes not wrapping up stories neatly, like when he left it unclear if the Rhino and Silver Sable died at the end of "Ends of the Earth." The fact we're not clear on which heroes or villains died or survived here fits with that approach. But, once again, it's the science -- or lack thereof -- that really causes the confusion. First, one of the New U scientists reveals they kept the original bodies of some of the people they cloned in stasis. This part makes no sense. First, to the extent Slott has laid out the science used to make the clones, it seemed clear Ben needed all the remains of a body to clone it. However, here, it seems like you don't even need any of the remains, if they could keep the bodies of people they cloned in stasis. Moreover, they allegedly did so in order to cure the people's maladies. But, how did they "cure" Hobie? He was shocked to death by Electro! [Sigh.] The science is even more unclear when it comes to why some clones survived and others died. Slott shows the clones differing in terms of their sturdiness as they disintegrate at different rates once Ben broadcasts the signal; for example, Gwen is alive to watch her father turn to dust. But, Slott never addresses why they would disintegrate at different rates. Why were some clones more stable than others? No idea. Moreover, we have a great example of pet peeve #3. All the resurrected "good guys" die: Jean DeWolff, Marla Jameson, Oksana, Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, etc. The only exception seems to be the Lizard's wife and son, because Curt figured out a cure, but he only had enough for the two of them. But, all the villains seem to have lived. Spider-Gwen mentions she saw "some" bad guys dissolve, but the only evidence of a dead bad guy we have is Otto's arms, and, since we know Ben survived (due to his new series), it seems likely Otto did, too. Peter says (again) it's always the villains who return, but that doesn't make sense just because Peter said it. In the end, all "Clone Conspiracy" seems to have done is resurrect virtually every Spider-Man villain since he started his career. I'm not fundamentally against that; in fact, it's pretty cool. But, it would've been better if Slott had done it in a careful and methodical way. Instead, we get a cheap ret-con that destroys the reputation of a great character to accomplish it. I wouldn't call that a win.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #11: Based solely on the increasing number of issues of other series connected to this one, we finally seem to be getting somewhere. Spencer mostly manages to stick the landing as Steve walks Helmut through their "new" history. Over the course of this conversation, Spencer invites us to start asking questions I admit hadn't dawned on me before. (It's a good sign he's really in control of this narrative.) After all, if Zemo doesn't remember the new history -- where he and Steve were friends at HYDRAwarts -- then did it really happen? Did Kobik change Steve's history, or did she just change Steve's memory of his history? On the other hand, for this new history to be true, someone had to de-age Zemo; otherwise, he would be in his 90s. Rogers alludes to someone doing exactly that, but he never reveals who did it. Similarly, in the new history, Arnim Zola took Dr. Erskine's place as the head of Project Rebirth. But, does everyone else know that? These questions are important because it calls into question Helmut's state of mind at the end of the issue. Is he pretending to believe the new history when he embraces Steve, or does he really "remember" it? At this point, I would guess Kobik didn't re-write everyone's history, mostly because Steve doesn't seem to have a coherent view of the new world order he believes HYDRA is going to bring. He talks about using the Chitauri invasion to wipe away the current world, which he deems wrong. But, we still don't know what he finds so wrong about it. What values are guiding HYDRA that will make the world better to Steve's mind? I don't think Steve really knows. In other words, it seems like Kobik has just brainwashed Steve to support HYDRA and made limited changes to support this outcome. She tweaked history a bit, like putting Zola in charge of Project: Rebirth, de-aging Zemo for reasons we still don't understand, or creating Sinclair as her agent of change. It seems like Zemo does remember this new history if everyone "remembers" Zola as the head of Project: Rebirth. Spencer makes it clear this moment of revelation may be near: Taskmaster has found a tape of Cap saying "Hail HYDRA" (and possibly showing him shoving Jack Flag out the plane). In other words, Spencer significantly raises the tension here, as he seems to be going the route I think we all fear: the public becoming aware of Cap's betrayal rather than Kobik eventually "correcting" his history. At this stage, I honestly don't know which one I'd rather.
Deadpool #27: I'll hand it to Marvel: when they recommend you read this issue at the end of "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #11, they're not kidding. A trio of future Captain Americas arrive in the past to prevent Rogers from creating his "Secret Empire," but Cap, Agent Coulson, and Deadpool make short work of them. However, Coulson stumbles upon Cap putting a gun in the hand of the last future Cap they killed, retroactively justifying his order for Deadpool to shoot to kill moments before. Coulson is shaken and starts to put two and two together, from Kobik restoring Steve to his younger age to Dalton's murder leading to Maria's ouster and Steve becoming the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director. Between that and Taskmaster's discovery at the end of "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #11, the net is starting to tighten here.
Batman #17: The problem with this issue is a retroactive problem from last issue: we're supposed to believe the Legion of Robins went after Bane, he defeated them, and he then strung up their bodies in the Batcave, all without Batman knowing. Moreover, Bane essentially repeats that feat in this issue, taking Bronze Tiger, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, and Duke hostage. I'll admit it amplifies the tension nicely. Alfred pretends to be Jeremiah Arkham, evacuating the wing nearest the "Joker wing" of the asylum so he can safely ensconce himself with Claire and Psycho-Pirate there. It's clear the finale of this arc is going to happen at that door, the line in the sand Bruce is going to make clear Bane can't cross. It's also clear how difficult that task is going to be with seven of Bruce's allies (including the League of Robins, now held in stasis under Superman's care at the Fortress of Solitude) no longer in action. In other words, it's Bane vs. Batman, period. But, I'd be a lot more excited about that if getting us here had been a more believable journey. If Bane can take down the Robins so easily, how could Batman even remotely have a chance of stopping him?
Captain America: Sam Wilson #19: This issue is painful to read because, just like Rage, we all know how it's going to end. Sam's belief in the system is admirable, but Spencer reminds us why we are where we are as a country. It's OK for the Americops to testify against Rage in their masks, but it's something else entirely for Sam's surveillance system to be used as evidence. The only uplifting part of this issue is the revelation Speed Demon finally got a dog (presumably not Inspector, the dog he stole -- and eventually returned -- from the little girl in "Superior Foes of Spider-Man"). In other words, Spencer is delivering a tour de force of political and social commentary. I'm not sure it's going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's certain mine, and I applaud him for it.
Nightwing #15: Even though it seems to veer into "women in refrigerators" territory at the end, I love this issue. We get to see Dick not only through the eyes of a girl falling in love with him but through the eyes of his friends as well. I loved Wally laughing at what a cornball Dick is after Dick reveals he asked Shawn on their first date by appearing in her apartment with roses in his Nightwing costume. (Wally also slaps him on the back for that, noting that girls love the tights. Dick comments how they usually seal the deal. Indeed, Dick. Indeed.) Shawn calls Randy after they sleep together for the first time, and Randy (who might be gayer than I thought) asks for all the details. After Shawn gives them to him, Randy observes he knew Dick was wilder than an "acre of snakes" because no one can be as sweet and boring as Dick. (Seeley, now you're just teasing me.) In his conversation with Barbara, Dick summarizes this entire period of his life as taking her advice: he's putting down roots because he's no longer swinging as far as he can on that trapeze, as far as he can swing away from his feelings and other people. We even get a "man-chat" between Jason and Dick! In fact, it's Jason who encourages Dick to see through Shawn's anger, saying that people with anger just need someone to help direct it. Moreover, guest artist Minkyu Jung does an amazing job throughout these stories showing us exactly why girls love the tights. (He should feel free to put Dick in leather pants all the time.) He also becomes the first person possibly ever to manage to differentiate between Dick and Jason. In fact, if Seeley didn't end the issue with the possibility of someone killing Shawn, I'd be the happiest camper in the world.
The Wild Storm #1: My memory of the Image era of comics is hazy at best. I mean, it was twenty years ago. I remember Wetworks (mentioned here), though I don't know if I remember Michael Cray. Do I remember International Operations? No. Do I remember Miles Craven? No. Do I remember Jacob Marlowe, Voodoo, Zealot, and Angie Spica? Yes, but I don't remember too much about them. But, Ellis makes it immediately clear it doesn't matter. He establishes all the players and the relationships between them by the end of this issue: you don't need to dive into your back issues of "WildC.A.T.s." Ellis invites you to feel that frisson of excitement when you recognize a character, but then gets you to focus on the story he's telling right now. Moreover, he tells that story essentially in one, long rolling shot through the streets of New York. I've never really seen that done in comics, and it's awesome. That innovation alone is worth your money. But, also, the story is good. Like, really good. It appears we have three groups at play, and at least two of these groups are at war with each other. We start the issue with Zealot killing a dude she was interrogating for "the Division," and she calls in a clean-up crew to take care of the mess. She then heads for coffee at the same shop where Craven is having coffee with his husband. They're approached by Angela as she tries to go around the bureaucracy she feels isn't giving her what she needs to continue her research. She leaves in a huff but reveals she's been experimenting on herself when she morphs into a flight suit and saves Marlowe as he falls from a building. At the International Operations (IO) base, we learn Craven is the head of the agency as he grills Cray, the guy who tried to kill Marlowe. Cray informs us his plan went haywire when a bomb exploded; meanwhile, Marlowe tells his compatriot Adrianna (a.k.a., Void) that it wasn't a bomb -- Cray somehow interfered with his "spur." (Did I mention Marlowe appears to be an alien and he's probably at least 150 years old?) Cray is the head of IO's Wetworks team, and he tried to kill Marlowe because he and his company Appl...I mean, Halo...have too much influence over the global economy. Or, to bottom line it, IO is at war with Halo, but we don't know anything about the Division and its possible allegiance. Post-rescue, Marlowe has activated his CATs in an attempt to find Angela, but Craven may have an advantage since he recognizes her from surveillance footage of the rescue. In other words? Wow. I don't think I've ever read so dense of an issue that flowed so beautifully -- narratively, conversationally, and graphically. Davis-Hunt is a goddamn treasure, evident not just in his attention to detail in the sequence of Angela turning into her robotic form but from the jaunty way Craven is standing at the end of the issue, conveying the exasperation he feels as he laments aloud how hard it is running the world. I couldn't be more excited about this series. To use a cliché, forget everything you know about Wildstorm: we're now in the Wild Storm.
Also Read: Mighty Thor #16; Spider-Man #13; Star Wars: Poe Dameron #11; U.S.Avengers #3