Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The December 20 Marvel Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Champions #15:  I know it’s clichéd to say so, but Viv really is the heart of this team.  This series has been hit or miss for me for a while, but Waid does a really great job of putting everyone’s emotions on display in this issue.  He uses Nova deciding to quit the team as his lens for their despair.  Nova saw Viv as the only member of the team who didn’t condescend to him; without her, he just doesn’t want to be there anymore.  The Avengers make everything worse through their own condescension, and my only complaint here is Waid didn’t have Kamala and Scott realize they do the same thing to Sam as they complain Falcon and Thor do to them.  But, it’s a minor complaint.  Kamala rallies to remind Sam he -- and not all the geniuses -- saved the day on Counter-Earth.  He confesses to her he just misses Viv, in a moment that makes me tear up a bit just writing about it.  Similarly, the Wasp trying to convince the Vision not to activate the new body he’s constructing for Viv is equally poignant.  The Wasp says it would dishonor her memory, but the Vision’s grief is so real here you understand why he might not care.  We’re also introduced to a mystery I never realized was out there as the Wasp asks Vision whose engram is the source of Viv’s personality.  Meanwhile, Viv discovers she’s where the High Evolutionary is, some plane of existence where they’ve essentially becoming data streams.  They’re aware Vision is trying to rebuild Viv in his basement, and the Evolutionary wants to piggyback on Viv’s data stream when the Vision eventually unifies it with her (synthezoid) body.  Viv refuses and somehow discovers how to travel to her father on her own.  Waid does a good job with this moment, since you think it’s just the Vision activating her body.  You’d be wrong, though, because we now have two Vivs!  I've made the decision to call it quits with this series, because it's too inconsistent and I have other stories out there I'd like to follow.  But, this issue was a great way to end.

Marvel Two-in-One #1:  Chip Zdarsky is one of my favorite authors lately, so when I saw Marvel green-lit him taking out Ben and Johnny for a stroll I was on it!  I’m glad I was, because this issue is everything I ever wanted it to be.  In a way, this series should really be titled “Marvel Three-in-One,” because Doom is poised to play a pretty significant role in it.  He reveals to an appalled Ben he raided the Baxter Building in the days after the incursion ended (of course he did), but he couldn’t find a clue that explained the Richards’ disappearance.  The only clue he thinks might exist was in an orb he couldn't open; Reed left it for Ben.  Doom gives it to Ben, and he opens it.  Reed reveals the device will play a recording based on the circumstances of his death:  in this case, if he, Susan, Franklin, and Valeria no longer exist in the Universe.  He directs Ben to a place only they know -- the location of their first adventure -- to recover a device called the Multisect, which allows access to the nexus of the multiverse.  He's obviously concerned it'll fall in the wrong hands.  He also beseeches Ben to keep exploring with Johnny, and he becomes the third voice pressing Ben to resolve issues with Johnny:  Ben himself has memories of Susan pleading with him to take care of Johnny as Battleworld dissolved, and Spidey earlier expressed his concern to Ben that Johnny is losing control.  When Ben finds Johnny, he’s literally in free fall.  But, Johnny reveals it was a test because he’s losing his powers, something he sees as an existential threat.  The best part?  Allegedly reformed Doom is watching from the shadows, clearly wanting to get his hands on the Multisect.  It’s this revelation that proves to me this series is going to be great.  Zdarsky manages to advance this story on three axes — emotion, humor, and intrigue — and I can’t wait to see where he goes with it.  I wasn’t a regular reader of “Fantastic Four,” mostly because I wasn’t a fan of Reed or Sue.  (Sorry.)  As such, this series is tailor-made for me.  It seems obviously it’s laying the groundwork for an eventual relaunch of “Fantastic Four,” and I’m OK with that.  In fact, it’s exciting to be on the ground floor of that.  In other words, I highly, highly recommend this book.

Mighty Thor #702:  As always, the story here is excellent.  Odinson makes a lovely and impassioned speech to Jane, telling her she needs to take care of herself because the Realms need Jane Foster as much as they need Thor.  It inspires her to throw away Mjolnir...and confront Odin over his absence, which isn’t exactly what Odinson had in mind.  But, it works, though not because Odin agrees to her plea to dispatch Asgardia to save the Realms:  Jane’s speech awakens Freya.  She agrees with Jane that Asgardia must act, but it may be too late:  Jane collapses on the steps of Odin’s citadel as the Mangog arrives at Asgardia.  But, as compelling as that story is, the art is just spectacular.  From beautiful Hercules and Odinson to dying Jane, Dauterman and Wilson infuse every panel with life-like wonder.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #298:  OK, I like Zdarsky (see above), but it made not a lick of sense for Peter to web up the window in the taxi cab so the driver didn’t see him change into Spider-Man.  The minute he webbed up the window, the taxi driver knew it was Spider-Man; it didn’t make a difference if he saw Peter change into the costume or not.  He would still know the guy sitting in his back seat was Spider-Man.  COME ON NOW, PEOPLE.

Spider-Gwen #27:  Latour does a great job of showing all paths converging on a final confrontation.  First, Gwen hardly seems bothered by the symbiote’s push for revenge.  She tracks down the dirty cop who opened her father’s cell for the Rhino (who then beat him into a coma) and is on the verge of killing him when the Punisher appears.  He reveals he has Gwen exactly where he wants her:  isolated from her family and friends and ready to embrace his violent approach to crime.  IT WAS ALL HIS SCHEME!  (Though, I'm not honestly sure how he theoretically pulled the strings.  I don't remember him setting any of these events into motion, to be honest.  He didn't really know George would ultimately turn himself into the police to end his (the Punisher's) crusade against Spider-Woman.  That was the fork in the road, and I don't think he forced George to make the choice he made.)  Gwen is appalled on some level, claiming she’ll never be like him.  But, she also accepts his cell phone to stay in touch without too much hesitation.  Also, her decision to let the dirty cop go free (threatening him if he doesn’t confess his crimes) seems more a decision born of convenience than conscience.  Meanwhile, Foggy is finally confronting his handiwork, realizing he’s always allowed Matt to manipulate him as he sits by George’s bedside.  When the dirty cop calls for help, he stands by helplessly as Matt sends the Hand to kill him.  The surprise is Gwen’s decision to ask Uncle Ben for help, revealing her identity to him.  It seems an attempt to rein in her own impulses, using Ben's conscience in place of her own.  It's maybe a sign she's still in there somewhere.  To overuse the metaphor, Latour is very carefully weaving this web, but it’s hard to know its final shape at this stage.

Star Wars: Dr. Aphra #15:  RIP, Flufto.  This entire issue is great.  Triple-Zero gives Aphra a ship full of mercenaries as staff on a mysterious mission; the only catch is she has to jettison one of them to make the ship light enough to fly.  (She chooses a fairly obnoxious Alderaan prince pretending to be a mercenary; he was off-planet during Alderaan’s destruction at the Pleasuredome VII.  Of course he was.  He then has to face a group of rampaging brutes on his own.)  Along the way, she successfully guesses Tripe-Zero wants to swipe something from the workshop of Tambor, the Techno Union’s leader.  We learn the Union was the most successful separatists when the Empire took over the galaxy, though clearly "success" is a relative term there.  (Aphra put two and two together by realizing their guide was from Skako Minor, where the Union was located, and their last job on Somelik focused on Clone War data.  It doesn't necessarily make sense to me, but it did to her.)  However, the guide Triple-Zero hired to escort them on Skaka Minor betrays them, turning over the prospective looters into the Imperials in the hope they’ll leave Skako Minor.  (They don’t.)  But, Aphra has an ace up her sleeve as always, namely Flufto, the cute little Pokémon-looking creature she’s carrying throughout the issue:  he’s really a bomb, and she uses him to take out the Imperials.  Good times.  Meanwhile, now-Lt. Tolvan is saved form the firing squad after word reaches the executioner that Inspector-General Thanoth nominated her as his legatee.  (She was going to be executed over her three demerits for her failures at Eadu, Yavin, and Somelik.  But, she’s saved when it turns out the ”investigative branches” allow for four demerits, rather than three demerits like the field corps.  Her executioner was going to continue with her execution because he didn't know that, earning him his third demerit...and his own execution.  Sloppy, as Tolvan said.)  Her first order of business is to ID Aphra, who she previously dreamed was rescuing her.  (Sexy time!)  However, Thanoth’s reports are redacted with a code that she learns was only available to the man for whom he was serving as adjutant:  Darth Vader.  Dun-dun-DUN!

Uncanny Avengers #30:  Over the course of three volumes and 62 issues (by my count), this series has consistently been the Avengers title to me as far as I concerned.  It felt like the authors of this series were the only ones to hit the right formula for an Avengers book:  a clever villain thrusting some outlandish scheme on the unsuspecting heroes, interpersonal strife and personal shortcomings that almost doom the team’s attempts to foil said scheme, a romantic spark along the way, and a final stand of inspiring heroism that saves the day.  In particular, Remender's stories felt like Avengers stories because failure often drove them:  Thor’s arrogance as a young man set up the Earth’s destruction (by empowering Jarnbjorn to cut a Celestial’s armor), Rogue’s initial and profound distrust of Wanda opened the door to the Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain and then almost ruined Wanda’s plan to save mutantkind from the Apocalypse Twins.  Zub continues that trend here, as Pietro’s arrogance led to Synapse’s injuries and consequentially his departure from the team.  But, we also have the heroes who rise to the occasion, often at great personal cost:  Havok restores Earth even though it costs him his daughter, his relationship with Janet, and his face; Rogue holds together the team after Steve Rogers disbands it to defeat the Red Skull; and Deadpool survives the Red Skull’s brutal assault on him to get Magneto’s helmet to Rogue, allowing her to escape the Skull's control and defeat him.  It’s all...Avengers-y.  The good news is the series is coming to a close as all the Avengers series converge as a weekly series.  I can’t say I’m bothered by that; I reluctantly came to admit I loved “Brand New Day” in “Amazing Spider-Man,” so if they can pull off something similar here, I’m all on board.  But, in case “Uncanny Avengers” doesn’t return after that series, I just want to take a minute to mourn one of the best corners of the Avengers universe.  To me, the creative teams preserved the Avengers during one of the more inconsistent times of their history, and I thank them for that.

X-Men Gold #18:  I'll say right off the bat that the Negative Zone War is leaving me happier than previous arcs in this series.  Guggenheim does a solid job of faking us out a bit here.  It makes perfect sense for Kologoth to offer back Kitty and Kurt since his plans for the planet don't involve a group of outside do-gooders poking around the place.  However, when the team arrives to collect Kitty and Kurt, they discover Kurt is missing.  (Guggenheim reminds us of Kurt’s status quo here; he’s immortal because he’s exiled from heaven.  As such, he survives the impaling from last issue.  It makes me less mad about it, retroactively.)  Kologoth informs the team Kurt is dead, mainly because he really wants them to leave.  The team realizes Kologoth is lying, since they know Kurt can’t die.  As such, they correctly deduce Kologoth just doesn’t want them mucking around the place.  A fight ensues (of course), and it seems Kologoth didn’t want them there because he's resurrected his god, Scythian.  Ruh-roh!  Also, I’d like to praise Guggenheim for including some critical letters in the letters page.  One thing I hated about “Brand New Day” was Steve Wacker’s child-like rejection of any criticism of the book.  Guggenheim publishes an extremely thoughtful critique of his decision to reunite Kitty and Peter, and he responds with an equally thoughtful justification that he also acknowledges might not satisfy the writer’s concerns.  Respect and dialogue: it’s nice to see.

Also Read:  All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #149, Generation X #85, Ms. Marvel #25; Venom #159

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