Friday, March 23, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The February 7 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man #795:  OK, I may not be Dan Slott’s biggest fan, but even I have to admit the Red Goblin (Green Carnage?) is pretty fucking cool.  I love the idea Norman is so arrogant he thought he could control the Carnage symbiote, using it to conquer the world instead of it using him to destroy it.  Oh, well, Norman, you win some, you lose some.  Moreover, Slott really handled the end of Peter’s relationship with Bobbi in a believable way.  Once Peter became just the regular ol’ science editor for the Daily Bugle — and not the globe-trotting head of Parker Industries — Bobbi and he realized they didn’t have much in common.  In a way, it’s actually Slott admitting Peter has always been a street-level crime fighter.  In fact, Slott eventually made it clear he had no intention of permanently turning Peter into Tony Stark; he was setting up Peter for failure so he himself could have this epiphany.  With the boom lowered, we have our Peter back, and his relationship with Bobbi ends with that.  Also, Loki was great here, and I have to wonder if Slott having Peter vaguely remember his deal with Mephisto is a way of telegraphing MJ might be returning to these pages sooner rather than later.  I mean, if Marc Spector can have a kid, can’t Peter?

Avengers #679:  First, I didn’t realize last issue that Lightning was coming from Rome to warn the Peru-based Avengers of the Pyramoid's danger.  (If you recall, I was wondering how he magically knew touching the Pyramoid led (supposedly) to disintegration.)  Focusing on this issue, the authors do a spectacular job conveying how beaten the Avengers feel.  You can feel the air rush from their sails in Peru, with everyone going through the motions in the wake of Johnny’s apparent death.  Lightning is inconsolable for failing to stop him in time, and the creative team - both authors and artists - really convey that hurt, just as they do when Lightning arrives in Rome to tell Rogue.  They really use small moments to convey the breadth of the damage, like Hercules encouraging Falcon in sotte voce to talk to Lightning in his grief while he helps Simon with the lava flows.  The authors also convey Rogue’s fury at their situation (even before learning of Johnny's death).  She once again doubts why she’s with the Avengers, since they’re all strategy and tactics while she wants to burn everything to the ground.  (I can’t imagine how she’s going to feel after learning about Johnny.)  Moreover, the authors somehow manage to fit in here an explanation of the game itself:  Grandmaster is opposing the original Grandmaster.  They were brothers once, but Grandmaster became furious when he learned the Challenger, as he’s called here, started to call himself the Grandmaster as the other Elders (such as the Collector and the Gardener) started to chose names.  As the stakes of their games grew, Grandmaster finally defeated the Challenger in a game whose stakes were nothing short of exile from existence.  The Challenger waited in “the Far Shore” until time ended and (for a reason I don't totally understand) was then able to return to the present to challenge Grandmaster.  With the first round now concluded, the Challenger chooses the Air Pyramoid, leaving Grandmaster with Water (or, as he calls it, Ice).  He also reveals he's been keeping a member in reserve (explaining why the Black Order was down a member vis-a-vis the Lethal Legion).  Dun-dun-DUN!  Also, I love the idea Jarvis has the “Avengers flu,” because he’s been exposed to all sorts of weird stuff during his time with the team.  That said, I don’t get why it’s affecting him now.  I thought he was just hurt saving that kid?  Honestly, this series is kicking ass; it really does feel like the Avengers story to end all Avengers stories.

Batman #40:  King really uses the premise of this story to full effect.  Bruce and Diana don’t kiss (as it seemed they were going to do last issue), but King uses that tension to tease out their relationship.  Bruce admits he loves and misses Selena, and Diana tells him that, as his friend, she’d kick his ass if he fucked up that relationship by kissing her.  :)  Perhaps the most delightful part is Bruce talking about missing Ace and Diana saying she misses her kangaroo, Jumpa.  No, really.  Also, Selena is amazing as always, forcing the Gentle Man back into the breach even when most people would’ve felt bad for forcing him to end his precious time with his wife.  It’s a reminder of how strong she is as a character.  Generally, I hate these stories that pretend decades pass and the character isn’t really any worse for wear.  At least Rick Remender had Steve Rogers age during his 12 years in Dimension Z.  I mean, he raised a child even!  But, here, Bruce is basically just like, “Wow, that was a long 34 years!  Can we get a burger?  I’m famished.”  (If you do, Jokerize the fries, Bruce.  It’s worth it.)  But, King throws in enough great moments to make me look past that original sin.  All that said, it's probably time for some detective-ing.

Iceman #10:  Grace does the best with the cards he’s dealt here, as he has to abort his plan to move Bobby to Los Angeles as a result of the imminent cancellation of this series.  That said, Judah not unreasonably decides Bobby’s life is too insane for him, recalling Colossus has punched him and Daken has stabbed him in just 24 hours.  Moreover, Kitty says she's failed as a boss, acknowledging Bobby has been underutilized; as such, she offers him leadership of a team.  All that works.  The problem is the fight between Daken and Iceman still makes not a lick of sense to me.  I just don’t understand why Daken had such a mad-on for Bobby, unless I’m missing some significant shared past beyond his appearance in this series.  Based on his comments in the letters page, Grace seems to be using this conflict to work out his own personal demons, with Bobby refusing to embrace nihilism like Daken does.  I'm all for that, but it would've been nice if the conflict itself made sense.  Is Daken just mad Bobby is happy?  But, this optimism, if you will, also has Bobby weirdly assert that he refuses to be mad at Daken over killing his boyfriend (as far as he was aware at that time) lest he stoop to his level.  Um, no.  Being sunshine and light doesn’t mean that you just let the murder of your significant other roll off your back.  I get Grace is essentially writing this issue under duress, but the whole problem this series has been trying to address is Bobby’s inability to live his own authentic life.  (Has Grace read the "Velvet Rage?"  I feel like he has.)  Artificially repressing his emotions to make sure Daken doesn’t “win” is the same as him staying in the closet lest he upset everyone else:  it’s still letting someone else dictate his feelings.  In other words, the resolution to their fight undermines the narrative Grace has been pushing, and I don't see how he resolves it in the last remaining issue.  (Also, in a case of pet peeve #1, Bobby doesn’t save Anole from a fire, not only remotely, in this issue, which is a shame, because I'm pretty sure Anole would've enjoyed that.)

Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1:  Any issue involving Kang and Adam Warlock is destined not to make a lick of sense, and this one is no different.  As we saw in “All-New Guardians of the Galaxy” #150, Kang has resurrected Adam Warlock.  Cool.  We learn he has done so at the end of time.  Um...less cool, I guess, just because, ugh, time travel.  Duggan then spends several pages (helpfully) reminding us of Warlock’s history.  In sum, he was the most advanced artificial intelligence humanity ever created, and he received a temporary soul after he lived inside the Soul Gem for a time.  Somehow, upon exiting the Soul Gem, he got his own permanent soul, though I didn't totally follow that part.

After telling Adam his own life story, Kang recalls Warlock’s stand against Thanos and informs him someone is again trying to collect the Infinity Stones.  Warlock wants Kang to rush him to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but realizes they’ve probably tried that and failed.  In fact, Kang admits they've unsuccessfully tried to change the past 112 times.  However, this time, he sends Adam to Rama-Tut in ancient Egypt, hoping it'll be a better staging ground from which to prevent disaster.  Kang instructs Warlock to collect the Soul Gem and give him (Kang) the Time Gem.  Shortly after Warlock departs, an unknown figure kills Kang.  If it’s possible, Rama-Tut is even more inscrutable than Kang.  He takes Warlock to a planetarium he's built, tells Warlock he has located the Soul Gem in 2018, and points out a planet where the heavens will crack.  Rama-Tut warns Warlock they have to be careful, because Kang’s death at the end of time means someone already possesses the Power Infinite (i.e., someone has assembled all the gems together).  As such, Rama-Tut can’t just send Warlock to 2018, since this person would know.

(OK, let's just pause here a bit.  This part makes no sense.  Somehow, the mysterious figure didn't know Kang sent Warlock to Rama-Tut, but knew Kang sent Warlock...somewhere?  After all, he killed Kang presumably for sending Warlock...somehow, but I don't get why he couldn't just trace where Warlock went.  His omniscience seems wonky.  Also, wouldn’t it have been a better idea for Warlock to get his hands on the Soul and Time Gems before 2018, when we’re allegedly at the point of calamity.  After all, Kang says - before he’s annihilated - he’s changed the past.  Why not change it all the way if the goal is to avoid the premature end of time?  Wouldn't it make more sense to send him to, say, 2017 when no one was looking for either gem?  Ugh, time travel.)  

At any rate, apparently Magus will be there to great Warlock.  Warlock is surprised, but not as surprised as he is when Rama-Tut stabs him in he back (literally, but not figuratively).  Rama-Tut informs Warlock it’s the easiest way to get him to 2018 without the mysterious figure's notice.  He won't die; they'll just slow his regenerative process so he awakens in 2018.  (I’m also not sure why the mysterious figure couldn’t notice that either, but whatever.  It's part of his crappy omniscience.)  At any rate, it’s probably best just to focus on the fact that someone successfully puts together the Infinity Stones in 2018 and brings about an end to all time, except Kang has now changed the past by successfully inserting Warlock into a more advantageous time.  Let’s just go with that, shall we?

Nightwing #38:  Sam Humphries, whatever you do with this series, thank you for giving us Dick Grayson as a stripper.  You really understand us.  (That said, I was devastated Guppy actually killed his father.  Humphries is really playing for keeps here.)

Rogue and Gambit #2:  I don’t have a lot to say about this issue, because it’s so great it really speaks for itself.  Thompson does a thoroughly amazing job of making you feel like you’re eavesdropping on a conversation between two real people.  Rogue’s confession to Remy that she doesn’t acknowledge the first time they met — under the sway of the Shadow King — is electric; she’s standing close to Remy in a dark room telling him she wants their first moment to be something only they own.  Remy is so overwhelmed even he’s speechless.  Also, the art is some of the best I’ve ever seen, honestly.  You can tell how much care Pérez put into each panel, and it augments the sense of reality Thompson’s dialogue conveys.  This series is one of the best ones of the shelves, and, if Marvel knows what it’s doing, they’d hand the keys to Thompson full time.

Spider-Man #237:  This issue is supposed to be an emotional tour de force, as Lana is verbally beaten into submission by her abusive mother and Aaron tries to have a man-to-man talk with Miles.  But, something doesn’t work exactly.  The scenes with Lana are the most affecting, as I totally believe her evil mother uses her love for Miles against her.  But, Aaron and Miles’ interactions fall flat, as it’s Aaron monologuing and Miles sputtering.  Miles coyly admits he knows why Aaron was resurrected, but otherwise it’s mostly just Aaron pontificating like he’s a freshman hipster who just took his first philosophy class.

Star Wars #43:  This issue is an excellent conclusion to Gillen’s equally spectacular opening arc.  We pick up where we left off last issue, with Trios holding Leia at gunpoint.  However, Trios has Leia punch her and then blast out the camera feed so she can reveal she’s the one who leaked the Leviathan's plans.  She tells Leia about her hatred of the Empire given Vader’s murder of her father, and she’s excited about the fact the Empire is the weakest it's been in 20 years.  However, she also says she can’t jeopardize Shu-Torun any further, as they’re already being punished for their previous rebellion.  As such, she prefers, if you will, to remain strictly anonymous.  That said, she says the Empire is unaware of Shu-Torun’s true production and that they have quite a stockpile of material.  Leia notes the Rebellion is in need of a fleet, and Gillen gives us a hilarious moment where Threepio expresses excitement about being able to engage in diplomacy to negotiate the deal.  At that point, it’s just a mater of executing the plan to have the Leviathan walk into the hole the Imperials blew in Jedha.  Ubin offers to sacrifice herself and a rearguard to prevent the Imperial troops from taking command of the Leviathan before it falls, but Han has Ubin come with him to get the Falcon, using it to rescue everyone from the bridge before it plummets.  Later, Leia encourages Benthic to join the Alliance, noting the point of an Alliance is he can still do his thing while they do their thing.  The best part is Han giving Ubin his medal from “A New Hope” (though he denies it’s actually his medal).  He tells her the benefit of surviving is medal ceremonies, but he’s really telling her to have hope (i.e., to stop trying to sacrifice herself.)  Gillen’s done such a great job with their dynamic that this moment is really emotion.  It shows a new side of Han, not something easy to do.  I can only imagine how popular this TPB will be, but, honestly, Gillen never made it feel like he was writing for the trade.  Every issue was great and, like Voltron, they’re even better together.

X-Men Red #1:  This issue is fine, as Taylor does a good job establishing Jean's team's modus operandi.  A young child is left in a car as it's carjacked, and his sonic scream manifests itself given the threat to his life.  It blows out the windows for a city block before Jean's able to use her powers to calm him, and she's later appalled when she sees a man on TV using the incident to suggest genetic testing in utero so mutant children can be aborted.  She decides the United Nations need to recognize mutants as a nation, since it goes badly when they try to become a state, so she gets Namor and T'Challa to recognize them.  However, during a conversation with the British Ambassador (in full view of video cameras), she comes face-to-face with a disturbing presence who lets Jean know she doesn't approve.  Brilliantly, it's Cassandra Nova, and she explodes the British Ambassador's head, making it look like it was Jean's fault.  It's an intriguing premise and a helluva start.  My only real (though significant) complaint is we're barely given any time with Jean.  I'd be thrilled if Guggenheim was using this premise, as we don't really need to get to know Kitty anymore than we already do.  Guggenheim could focus entirely on this intriguing plot at hand and Kitty's response to the threat.  But, we haven't seen Jean for years.  Kurt makes a comment about being thrilled Jean is back, and I felt the same way.  In fact, Taylor does a great job of conveying the sense only Jean would think up this plan to turn the mutants into a nation, making you realize what the X-Men have been missing in her absence.  But, given how big of a deal it is that we do have her back, you would've thought we would've spent a little more time focused on her resurrection, particularly in terms of what it means for her personally and for her friends.  Like, are we not going to get a girl's night with Ororo?  Instead, we're thrown immediately into a team dynamic and global plot, and it feel premature.  I assume Taylor is going to address these issues as we move forward, but it felt like a mistake not to do so right from the start.

Also Read:  Batman:  White Knight #5; Hawkeye #15; X-Men Gold #21

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