Friday, June 23, 2017

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

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #22:  The best line in this issue is when Sam tells Scott Lang that there's no point trying to save America because America never wanted them in the first place.  Again, Spencer gets right to the heart of the current state of affairs in America politics.  From the pro-HYDRA guys in the diner telling Sam they're fine with HYDRA so long as they get manufacturing jobs to the mobs harassing Inhumans, Spencer paints a picture using colors we see every day in the newspapers.  It gives this issue an energy missing from the main series (and I think the main series is still pretty solid).  Sam's decision to avoid the other heroes' attempts to save the day and instead focus on the little people feels right.  He's still smarting from the lessons he learned as Captain America, but he can't turn his back on people in need.  Characterization is hard to do in an event this big, but you can tell Spencer's been with Sam a long time reading this issue.

Moon Knight #14:  The devastating part about this issue is the revelation it won't continue.  The creative team has provided a definitive take on Moon Knight, one that seems impossible to imagine another creative team changing.  But, it is possible.  We've seen Jason Aaron back off the amazing work Al Ewing did with Loki on "Loki:  Agent of Asgard," turning him again into the God of Lies instead of the God of Stories.  I hold out hope Aaron is only portraying other Asgardians' unchanged view of Loki, and the Loki Ewing delivered to us in "Loki:  Agent of Asgard" #13 will one day appear.  But, it's a reminder that a 14-issue series isn't enough to cement a changed narrative.  Lemire so brilliantly brings Mark to a conclusion here, as he embraces his other personalities, referring to himself in the royal "we" as he dismisses Khonshu and finds peace with his illness.  I was never a huge Moon Knight fan before this series, but now Marc Spector is pretty much my everything, a feeling I remember from the end of "Loki:  Agent of Asgard."  I worry anyone else will lead him astray, resurrecting previous incarnations for him because it fits with whatever event is currently destroying the Marvel Universe.  That apprehension and fear is the perfect sign of how amazing of a story the creative team told and how grateful I am that I got to experience it as it unfolded.

Spider-Gwen #20:  It's difficult to follow all the people coming after Harry and, by extension, Gwen in this issue.  Wolverine wants the bounty on his head, even though I'm not sure who put out the bounty.  S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. want Harry?  I thought he went rogue from Silk, not S.H.I.E.L.D.?  But, S.H.I.E.L.D. sent Shadowcat to capture Harry, so, if Logan is working off a S.H.I.E.L.D. bounty, why would they double up their agents?  Or, are they freelance bounty hunters?  That would make more sense.  It can't be the Hand, since Matt already had Gwen going after Harry.  Maybe we don't know yet?  In a way, this confusion helps sell Gwen's decision here to turn her back on Murdoch  and stand with Harry.  Too many people are asking her to trust them, so she sticks with the one person she can trust.  The only problem, as she herself reminds Harry, is that she and her father have a lot riding on that deal with Murdoch.  Latour hasn't portrayed Murdoch as someone easily outfoxed, which means I don't think this one is going to turn out well for Gwen.

Teen Titans Annual #1:  Time-travel stories are the worst under the best circumstances, but this one joins the mile-long list of ones that make no sense whatsoever.  The resolution of this story comes when the Teen Titans and the Titans travel into the past to try to stop Deathstroke from saving Grant.  (They're worried doing so will change the present, lest you think they're just mean.)  They unexpectedly find themselves face-to-face with the Teen Titans of that era.  Damian decides to kill past Wally (for reals), cutting off Deathstroke's connection to the Speed Force at the source.  That would make some sense, I guess, except for the fact it doesn't make any sense in the context of previous events.  After all, even if Deathstroke doesn't have Wally's access to the Speed Force, he still has Kid Flash's.  (Speaking of this conundrum, Wally somehow managed to keep his access to the Speed Force despite Deathstroke using it to charge his battery, but Kid Flash lost his access for the same reason.  Maybe the writing team explained that at some point, but I've got bigger fish to fry.)  At any rate, to make matters more confusing, Deathstroke apparently doesn't need their powers, because he's learned how to connect to the Speed Force on his own.  As such, I'm not sure why Damian's action does anything at all.  All it seems to do is restore Kid Flash's access to the Speed Force, though Priest never explains why it would do so.  At any rate, Kid Flash rushes into the Speed Force to save Deathstroke lest he get loss in there.  But, he doesn't know what he's doing, so Wally has to go save him from getting lost in the Speed Force.  (Yes, by the end of this issue, I was just desperately hoping no one said "Speed Force" again.)  Then, everyone hugs (for reals) to give Wally a connection to the present, and everyone lives happily ever after.  I mean, other than Wally, who apparently now has a pacemaker after Damian killed him in the past, and Deathstroke, who quits the mercenary business because he has all the sads.  Everyone else is totes happy.  The only real winner seems to be Dick, because no one ever learned about his Lazarus contract with Deathstroke, a contract that still doesn't make sense to me and seems completing incidental to the events of this arc.  In other words, this event might have started off well, but it quickly disintegrating into the usual nonsense we get from time-travel stories.

Also Read:  Generation X #2; Occupy Avengers #7; Secret Empire #3; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #7

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

Batgirl #11:  Unfortunately, I'm officially done with this title now.  I love Babs, but she's had a rough run lately in terms of creators.  This tale eventually just spun completely beyond Larson's control, as she makes no attempt to explain how Ethan's data mining led to him being able to control people's thoughts over WiFi via something he calls "murmurations."  Instead, she explains how "murmurations" are also what you call flocks of starlings and the Danish word for starling is "black sun."  Coincidence!  Except it's...not.  It's fiction so I'm not really sure why Larson wants us to be impressed by these connections.  I'd rather she explain how exactly Ethan's power works. But, things go from bad to worse as Babs lectures Ethan rather than helping him as his suit overloads.  Larson can't pretend Babs doesn't realize it's happening, as she herself says she's not going to let him "fry."  But, she does exactly that, and he suffers burns over 90 percent of his body.  Barbara Gordon as the Punisher isn't really my bag of tea.  I'm outtie.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #2:  Given how proud Ben is that he doesn't rip off Cassandra Mercury's arm when she opens fire on him, David seems to be implying the main struggle of these first few issues is going to be Ben learning how to overcome his baser instincts.  It's still unclear why Ben has said instincts, though I'm guessing we're going to blame all of his questionable behavior on the torture he suffered at the Jackal's hands and leave it at that.  In the meantime, the parameters of this series are starting to take shape.  When Mercury's daughter miraculously awakens after Ben touches her, Mercury is convinced he cured her and agrees to bankroll his research into her daughter's disease.  Ben knows he didn't do anything, but he's happy to take the cash.  With Kaine hot on Ben's trail, David seems to be taking inspiration from the '70s "Incredible Hulk" TV show:  Ben is going to solve someone's problems, probably for money, as Kaine tries to bring him to justice.  If that is David's plan, I'm down with it.  The only real question from this issue is how Ben managed to crush Mercury's gun without touching it.  He lies to her at one point in this issue, telling her he used telepathy to awaken her daughter.  But, maybe he at least has some form of telekinesis now?  (It was my first thought when he crushed the gun and thus I was surprised when he denied he had telepathy.)  I guess we'll see.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #17:  This issue has some bright moments even though it largely covers ground we're already trod.  Spencer uses a journalist interviewing Steve on live TV to review the realities of HYDRA's America, from the concentration camps for Inhumans to the mutant nation on its border.  The only new information we get in this issue is insight into Steve's secret deal with the mutants.  As expected, he offered Magneto his own nation to get the mutants off the map, since he couldn't handle taking over America and fighting the mutants.  (Publicly, as agreed with Magneto, Steve claims the mutants illegally seized the land.)  We're not clear on why Steve insisted on making Xi'an the head of the country, but I'm pretty sure "Secret Empire:  United" will fill in those details.  Otherwise, the issue mostly involves Steve justifying his action by delivering far-right talking points about bringing economic and physical security to people who craved it.  He's admirably good at delivering said points.  The only problem is when the journalist mentions Las Vegas, something Dr. Faustus explicitly forbade her to do.  The TV feed is cut, and she's thrown into a prison cell for "endangering national security;" you get the sense she's lucky to be a prisoner and not dead.  Overall, Spencer uses this issue to remind us that a certain percentage of Americans -- a parallel to Donald Trump's oft-mentioned 38 percent -- will find a way to dismiss the destruction of Las Vegas as either a conspiracy theory or a justifiable act.  The closer these justifications come to real-life ones, the more depressing it gets.

Also Read:  Deathstroke #19; Detective Comics #957; Pathfinder:  Runescars #1; Rebels:  These Free and Independent States #3; X-Men Blue #4

Monday, June 19, 2017

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

Flash #22:  Williamson does what he can here, given the editors' clear instructions to give us a peak behind the curtain without drawing it back entirely.  As expected, Thawne encounters Dr. Manhattan, who destroys him, likely because he doesn't want anyone to be able to identify him.  (I'm still not sure how Thawne recognized him, but I feel like that's a story for another time.)  As Barry and Bruce are left flailing in the timestream, Jay Garrick calls to Barry.  Barry says his name, allowing Jay to rescue them.  However, Barry doesn't recognize Jay the way he did Wally, causing Jay to seemingly disappear back into the timestream.  Williamson makes it clear both Barry and Bruce are shaken by this arc's events:  Bruce was unable to save his father and Barry was unable to save Jay.  The biggest unanswered question is why Dr. Manhattan would risk exposing himself by arranging this experience in the first place.  After all, Barry and Bruce are clearly committed to investigating the incident now.  But, it seems less an accidental oversight than an intentional mystery, presumably one to be answered later.  Meanwhile, in an ad after the issue concludes, we're told the "Doomsday Clock" event is coming in November as the blood on the smiley-face button morphs into Superman's shield.  I'm not sure if I'm excited, but, if I am, King and Williamson handling this cross-over event with such aplomb got me there.

Secret Empire #2:  Spencer avoids the "Age of Ultron" trap here by making the heroes' next steps pretty damn logical.  Tony eventually reviews the thumbdrive the new Patriot brought him, revealing a message from Rick detailing the truth behind Steve's betrayal.  (He hacked into Hydra's files to get the information.)  Hawkeye wants to lead a team to track down the pieces of the Cube, but, since Dr. Selvig was smart enough to hide them outside HYDRA territory, he and his team have to get smuggled past the (very secure) border to do so.  On the other hand, Natasha feels it's a fool's errand.  She recalls all the people they lost in previous attempts to prove Steve was a clone or a LMD and argues (pretty convincingly) Steve would want them to kill him if he knew how he was being used.  Miles doesn't necessarily agree with her, but he feels his destiny is to kill Steve (per "Inhumans vs. X-Men") so he and the Champions join her.  (Yes, I'll be getting "Secret Empire:  Uprising.")  Meanwhile, Clint and his team are on the border in a Mos Eisley sort of town.  Ant-Man leads them to Sam, who helped him smuggle Cassie across the border.  Let's just say Sam isn't too thrilled to see them.  In the Darkforce dimension, Dagger is killing herself to provide the only light the city gets while Kingpin is providing help to the population with the request that people remember his help when the sun "returns."  Throughout the issue, Spencer does an excellent job keeping up the pace while still taking us through all the steps necessary to make these developments feel organic.  But, it's the last page that brings an honest-to-goodness surprise.  Seriously, these sorts of developments are usually so telegraphed that it's rare to be surprised anymore.  However, a rugged-looking Steve Rogers saving a mysteriously glowing woman from members of the Serpent Society and asking her for help to get home?  Let's just say I don't think I'm as cocky about knowing what Spencer has in mind as I was.

Teen Titans #8:  Maybe it's because this cross-over arc has three writers, but this issue made little sense to me.  First, we have Kid Flash deciding to spend the day with some older guy with a cool car.  I get he misses his father and likes working on cars, but going for a joyride and then burgers with a stranger (with an eyepatch) you just met is a pretty clear no-no, teenage superhero or not.  Then we've got the weirdness of Dick's deal with Deathstroke, which drives the tension of this issue.  We don't know what it is yet, but I feel like we're not going to get a satisfying answer in the end.  Deathstroke seems to have kidnapped both Wally Wests to activate some sort of battery that will not only resurrect his son but make himself more powerful.  But, what would Dick have to do with that?  Is the deal completely unrelated and just so happens to come to light when Deathstroke is being all villain-y?  Seems unlikely.  Percy actually does a solid job in scripting the tired "good guys initially fight as a result of an obvious misunderstanding" bit; the rumble on the roof of Titans Tower actually sounds the way I think it would, all chaotic and jumbled.  But, for Percy to sell this issue, you still have to believe Kid Flash not only spent the day with Deathstroke but also then helped him with his time-travel plans even after he revealed himself.  I just don't believe even a rookie would be that naive, but there you go.

The Wild Storm #4:  Not a lot happens in this issue, but it's beautiful to behold:  Davis-Hunt and Buccellato are geniuses, truly.  After the Wild C.A.T.s escape Angie's bunker via Void (before one of the surviving members of Razors 3 detonates a grenade), the action stops and everyone gets a moment to breathe.  Miles recaps the last two issues for his husband over wine and leftovers, and we then get our first prolonged exposure to Henry Bendix.  We don't learn much, other than the fact he prefers spending his time in his enormous space station orbiting Earth (as opposed to Earth itself) and he engages in a whole lot of bluster with everyone other than his assistant, Ms. Pennington.  (I don't know if it was a conscious choice, but Pennington looks a lot like Carol/Cheryl from "Archer," which makes it all the more awesome.)  We conclude the issue with Mike telling Miles his brain tumor is inoperable and Miles asking him if he wants to keep working.  Meanwhile, Angie walks along a deserted highway (after initially crashing into the ocean when she fled the bunker at the start of the issue).  Ellis does a great job keeping us guessing mostly because his characters are all in the same situation:  no one really has any clue what's happening.  That said, Henry Bendis, Miles Craven, and Jacob Marlowe aren't exactly the types of guys who handle that well, so we'll see where we go.

X-Men Gold #4:  Guggenheim's telling a number of stories here, and they're all pretty great.  First, we've got the mundane.  Kitty, Kurt, and Rachel easily take out some members of the Serpent Society as they rob a bank.  Kitty is anxious to get the fight concluded so she can get to her meeting with the city about hooking up the Mansion to the sewer and water system, a clever reminder of the team's struggles to get itself established.  (I'm also intrigued how they're going to pay that rent bill the city presented them earlier.)  Plus, Guggenheim is reminding us Kitty wants to improve the X-Men's visibility not just by eliminating mutant threats, but regular ones, too.  Then, we're got the mysteries.  Dr. Reyes informs Colossus the alien-looking guy from the Brotherhood is actually an alien; in fact, he's an alien whose language is even unknown to the universal translator.  Meanwhile, Logan and Storm go all "X-Men:  SVU" when they convince a NYPD detective to tell them more about the  murder of a mutant.  (This entire sequence is great, in part because Guggenheim uses the pacing and phrasing of "Law and Order."  It makes me realize I would 100% read a comic where Logan and Ororo just went around town solving crimes.)  But everyone has to put their day on hold to help Remy.  You see, he swiped some nanites for Bolivar Trask's granddaughter.  (Before you worry, he didn't know who she was when he took the job; he took it explicitly to find out the buyer's identity.)  Trask planned on connecting the nanites to an artificial intelligence for military (and, allegedly, non-mutant killing) purposes, and Remy decides to stop her.  But, he sorta accidentally breaks the containment tube and the nanites fly into Trask's computer system.  Given the amount of anti-mutant AIs on your average Trask computer, the nanites bond with such an AI and become a nano-swarm Sentinel.  Ooopsie!  Remy obviously glides over his role in creating said Sentinel when he calls for help.  (It's all part of his charm.)  Seriously, it sounds like Guggenheim would've been rushed given how much happens here, but the pace is really fun, a sort of "day in the crazy life" approach.  It's a great start for this new arc.

Also Read:  Batman #23; Generation X #1; The Mighty Thor #19; Nightwing #21; Star Wars #31; U.S.Avengers #6