Friday, March 2, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The December 27 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #12:  I feel like I’ve lost the plot a little here, because David is really leaning into the Slingers’ history as if I should be as familiar with it as Ben’s.  I don’t know who Black Marvel or Cyber is.  I vaguely remember the “Cyberwar” cross-over “event” when they renamed all the Spider-Man books “Scarlet Spider” in the ‘90s, but it wasn’t exactly the best era of storytelling.  After all, you probably had to buy all four books to even remotely understand the plot, as Marvel was doing back then.  It’s not impossible to enjoy this story here without recognizing these two characters; after all, the main drama of the issue is Ben wrestling with trying to be a good guy by turning himself into the police for his assault on Thorne.  But, David is assuming a level of comfort with the Slingers that I don’t have, so I find it hard to understand everyone’s motivations.  For example, why does Ricochet really care about Ben and whether he becomes a good guy?  Wasn't Prodigy working with Black Marvel?  Did he know he was dead and/or a bad guy?  If so, is he dead, too?  I'm also having trouble following some developments related to the title itself.  For example, I don’t have any memory of Kaine protecting a veterans’ shelter, as he's apparently doing in this issue.  David is a master of slowing weaving mysteries issue-to-issue.  But, when the main plot relies heavily on intimate knowledge of a 12-issue series that happened 20 years ago, it's hard not to just feel confused about everything.

Doomsday Clock #2:  OK, here we go.  

We start with security-camera footage of Marionette and the Mime breaking into an office of some sort and demanding the contents of the vault.  It's a little confusing, because these images are shown while Veidt's voice-over narration recounts how the Minutemen's appearance in 1939 caused "every wannabe gangster and low-rent thug" to seek out a woman dubbed "the Tailor's Wife" for an identity and costume.  At first, I thought the duo was robbing her shop, but I don't think it's the case; it seems more like they were robbing a bank.  But, we focus a lot on the teller here, so I'm not sure.  At any rate, Dr. Manhattan appears at the scene but doesn't kill Marionette or the Mime, possibly because they have a child.  (He repeats the word "Babum" to himself twice as he looks at the photo of the teller's child.  Yeah, I don't get it either.)  Johns reveals Veidt is telling the present-day Rorschach this story as justification for recruiting Marionette and the Mime.  He needed people who come from Jon's past.  He couldn't get Laurie to agree to help, and, even if he did, he was worried Jon would be upset to see her with Dan.  As such, he's hoping somehow Marionette and the Mime convince him to return to this Earth.  (This part seems a stretch to me.  It's not like Dr. Manhattan was buds with Marionette and the Mime.  But, as Lex Luthor says later, Veidt doesn't really have a great track record when it comes to his schemes achieving his desired goals.)  At any rate, the team assembles, and Veidt reveals every person has a "quantum fingerprint" comprised of the "four fundamental forces of nature."  They follow Dr. Manhattan's fingerprint to the universe where he fled, just in time to escape the nuclear bomb the Russians (I'm assuming) have launched at New York.  (I think they did so as part of the escalation of tensions Johns described last issue, but I'm not 100% sure, to be honest.)

Initially, it seems obvious we're all supposed to believe this new universe is either the DCU or the DCnU, but Johns calls that into question almost immediately.  We're introduced to Bruce Wayne as he's taking a Rorschach test (heh), something Wayne Enterprises' Board demanded he do for insurance purposes after he answered a test too honestly seven years earlier.  In this Gotham, people are rallying against Batman after the "Supermen Theory" has spread around the globe like wildfire.  We learn in the appendix that Markovian geneticist Dr. Helga Jace advanced the theory several weeks earlier; it claims the U.S. government created metahumans after Superman's appearance, explaining why most metahumans are concentrated in America.  The government did so by activating the "metagene" that 12 percent of the population possesses.  However, the U.S. government encouraged the subjects to claim an outside event -- such as accidental exposure to an ancient energy source or a flight-or-fight response triggered by danger -- led to them developing powers.  The theory seemed to be confirmed when leaked documents showed Rex Mason, a.k.a. Metamorpho, was a willing participant in the procedure Stagg Industries used to give him powers; they were all under contract with the U.S. government.  These documents contradict the aforementioned "accidental exposure..." origin Metamorpho previously claimed; in fact, he had criticized Stagg for the "accident."  Moreover, several of Metamorpho's "archenemies" confessed they were part of the scheme, agreeing to become super-villains in order to undergo their own transformation.  Adding fuel to the fire, Kurt Langstrom admits the "accident" that led to him becoming Man-Bat happened while he was working for the U.S. Department of Metahuman Affairs.

Bruce wants to ignore it all as noise, dismissing it as paranoia that Russia and Markovia are spreading.  However, Lucius encourages him not to do so.  He's afraid the Board is losing its faith in Bruce and will sell Wayne Enterprises to Lexcorp, exposing their "special projects."  Bruce is less concerned, because Lexcorp is facing charges of industrial espionage for trying to steal Wayne Enterprises' work on the metagene.  However, the appendix also implies Lexcorp has made better strategic decisions to acquire companies that were part of the U.S. government's program, whereas Wayne Enterprises has struggled to do so.  (I'm assuming Bruce hindered the acquisitions in part to hide his connection to the program.)  Lucius stressed he needs Bruce as Bruce, not as Batman, particularly given the "Supermen Theory" protests.  In other words, Lucius is trying to convince Bruce a sea change has happened in terms of the public perception of metahumans, while Bruce just wants everything to continue as normal.  

Returning to the travelers, Rorschach locks up Marionette and the Mime while he and Veidt go after the smartest men in the world:  Lex and Bruce.  Veidt approaches Luthor with a proposal, claiming he'll help Luthor achieve everything he's ever wanted if he helps him.  (It's not clear what he wants Luthor to do, though.)  Before Luthor can answer, a shot is fired:  Veidt dodges it, but it hits Luthor, possibly killing him.  The Comedian steps from the shadows, shocking Veidt.  Meanwhile, in the Batcave, Batman confronts Rorschach, who's been making his way through the Cave and expressing disgust at its various mementos.

I don't really have much to say here.  Johns is still setting up the story, so I'm giving him space to do so.  At this point, I'm still not feeling the forced combination of the DCU/DCnU and the "Watchmen" universe, but we'll see where we go.

Moon Knight #190:  WHOA. I did not see that coming.  I thought Bemis was going to drag out revealing what exactly it was Jake had been doing, the secret the Truth revealed to Marc Jake was keeping last issue.  I figured 15 or 20 issues from now, dun dun DUN, we’d learn Jake was actually Marc’s mysterious new nemesis.  But, no.  Bemis revealed it right away, and it makes the most sense.  I mean, what greater weakness would Marc Spector have than a child he never knew he had with Marlene?  It addresses his lack of family, something Bemis underlines in a flashback where Marc tells Marlene he used a grenade to kill his brother after he killed his girlfriend.  (Yeah.)  The only part I don’t get is the Sun King’s initial lie to Marc, that he'd been sleeping with Marlene for two years.  Given he immediately reveals Marlene’s secret to Marc, it seems unnecessary to try to rattle him in this way.  He didn’t really need to disarm Marc if he was going straight to the heart.  But, I’m also not sure if it’s the secret Bushman earlier told the Sun King's army he had on Marc.  They all seemed surprised to see the photo of the girl, so maybe Bushman just knew where Marlene lived?  I’m sure Bemis will let us know.  I also have to praise the art here:  Burrows, Ortego, and Lopes really hit a home run with the image of a demonic Marc looming over Jake and screaming, “What have you done?”  What have you done, Jake, indeed.

Phoenix Resurrection:  The Return of Jean Grey #1:  For the record, I am totally OK with Jean returning.  Marvel did the unexpected with Jean Grey, putting her almost in the same category as Uncle Ben:  everyone else seemed to return from the dead except them.  It was a wink and a nod to her past, where she seemed to die and be resurrected on an almost constant basis.  The only surprising thing left to do with her character was let her stay dead.  She's been dead for 14 years, almost a third of the time she was actually alive.  In so doing, Marvel successfully reset her character by making us believe what we had come never to believe:  she could really die.  As such, it's time for her to return.

Rosenberg makes it clear he's not going to rush the story, as we're left with more questions than answers in this issue.  First, we're introduced to two Jeans.  In Annandale-on-Hudson (the original Jean's hometown), two kids find a seemingly dead girl in the street, recalling the moment Jean's powers manifested (when her friend Annie died in her arms).  A child Jean appears on the scene, and she renders these two children in the same state as the seemingly dead girl:  they're all bleeding profusely from the head but show no wounds.  (The two kids eventually are revealed to be comatose but otherwise fine, even with the bleeding.)  The other Jean is a young-adult waitress who lives with her parents (not Elaine and John, as far as I can tell) in an existence the creative team somehow makes you feel is from the 1950s.  It includes her sweater-clad boyfriend Scott (wearing those familiar ruby-quartz glasses) arriving with flowers for dinner.

The action starts when Cerebro sends the X-Men to Annandale-on-Hudson to investigate the weird circumstances surrounding the children.  In so doing, Beast discovers three odd energy signatures that Kitty sends three teams to investigate.  Kitty's team encounters the usual blank-masked henchmen at the abandoned Hellfire Club mansion in New York, and we're treated to scenes that feel like they could be straight from the "Dark Phoenix Saga."  Rogue's team encounters Seamus Mellencamp, one of Magneto's former Acolytes, at a monastery in France, which Rogue notes is odd because Seamus is dead.  Finally, Logan's team encounters his younger self at the North Pole.  Did I mention Waitress Jean also seems to serve Sean Cassidy?  All these moments recall in their own ways Jean's past.  It makes sense because Rosenberg mentions in his letter to the readers he's trying to pay homage to that past.  That's clear in this issue, and we'll see where we go from here.

Spider-Men II #5:  The premise of this mini-series was that we were finally going to discover what Peter found when he Googled Miles’ name after they first met.  The answer is...nothing.  Despite his dramatic “Oh, my God,” comment that concluded the original "Spider-Men" mini-series, Peter reveals here he found nothing.  We learn it's because the Kingpin wiped all mention of the Earth-616 Miles from the Internet because Earth-616 Miles was his friend and simply wanted to live a nice life with his wife.  But, she died, so the Kingpin then helped transfer him to another Universe (seemingly the Ultimate universe) where she was alive.  That’s it.  It’s the whole story.  Along the way, Peter blurts out the fact he’s uncomfortable with Miles being Spider-Man, and Miles correctly deduces it’s because Peter views Spider-Man as his specific pain.  It make sense, I guess.  But, it really has nothing to do with the point of this event.  I get Bendis wasn’t obligated to reveal the Earth-616 Miles as some sort of secret bad guy, but he certainly heavily implied he was throughout the earlier issues of this series.  Moreover, Bendis had sold us on the idea that the Earth-616 Miles was "our" Universe’s analogue of "our" Miles.  But, he wasn’t — they just two dudes who shared the same name.  It’s anti-climactic to say the least, and I kinda of want my money back.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - The Storms of Crait #1: The problem with this issue is that Acker and Blacker treat their subjects too reverently.  Aaron and Gillen have excelled at their individuals efforts in this corner of a galaxy far, far away because they’ve treated these iconic figures as people first, foibles and all.  Sure, even they have trouble having Leia make a mistake, but they compensate for that reverence by at least explaining her motivations to us.  Acker and Blacker don’t accomplish that here:  Leia is all knowing, Luke is all whining, Han is all bluffing.  Even Han’s affection for Leia is too explicitly stated.  On top of that, the issue just doesn’t make a lot of sense.  For example, [whatever the bad guy's name is] decries Leia for being just like her father, seeing past the good in a person just to the secrets he wants to keep.  But, everyone -- including [whatever the bad guy's name is] himself -- spent the whole issue saying they’re exactly not like that, that they see the past the secrets to the good in people.  I think Acker and Blacker are implying [whatever the bad guy's name is] is ranting because he knows he’s fallen to his baser nature, failing to take the opportunity Bail and now Leia offered him to be noble.  But, they don’t actually make that argument; I’m making it for them here.  Also, I don't even know how to discuss the moment where Wedge Antilles goes on a 'roid rage.  It's like they just whacked him in there because they always dreamed of writing a comic where he appeared.  In other words, you can safely skip this one.

X-Men Blue #18:  The most interesting part of what Bunn is doing here is the fact the original X-Men seem to almost always be the bad guys in whatever future or past they visit.  However, he kicks it up a notch here.  When Emma Frost shows young Jean the vision of how the team turned against the rest of mutantkind, wanting to enslave them, the older Jean sees the younger Jean. Younger Jean is shocked, because her presence shouldn’t change a memory.  But, she seems to realize it’s part of a large, cross-time assault, something Hank also realizes.  At least, I think that's what it is.  I’m legitimately interested to see where this one goes.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man #793, Detective Comics #971, Hawkman Found #1

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