Monday, March 5, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The January 3 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #150:  To overuse an expression, this issue doesn’t really represent an end, but a beginning. The Guardians and Nova Corps make short work of the invading Raptors.  Scott realizes they can see the Raptor's enormous ship through its force field, meaning light can penetrate it.  He manages to hitch a ride on a photon and then embiggen, wrecking the ship.  However, it's not all a win.  Peter’s inability to keep his mouth shut means several Corps members who weren’t exactly all that committed to the cause overheard him talking about the Power Stone to Rich.  They subsequently get out word to their various bookies, bosses, and masters.  Oblivious to this development, Peter drops off Drax at the planet where the Power Stone is located after Drax decides to quit the team (since he keeps accidentally killing people, as he did during the fight on the ship).  Afterward, the team plans on making its way to Telferina to take on the Gardener and his mad Groots.  (Gamora wanted to go after the Stones, but she lost that argument.)  The most significant development is Adam Warlock’s resurrection, as he busts free of a cocoon to find himself face-to-face with Kang!  Dun-dun-DUN!  Duggan has made it clear this story is the beginning of a much larger arc, likely leading to an Infinity Stone-related cross-over event this summer or fall.  I’m OK with that in theory, but he’s still got to dance this dance well.  Any long-time reader of Marvel Comics has been down this seemingly infinite (heh) road many, many times before.  It’s going to be a challenge to make it feel new, but we'll see what Duggan's got.

Astonishing X-Men #7:  Soule makes it clear a lot is going on here.  First, Xavier isn’t exactly Xavier.  He asks the team not even to call him that, preferring “X.”  He speaks as if he’s as young as his body, raising the question whether he’s really in control here or if he’s somehow blended with Fantomex’s mind.  To this point, Psylocke visits Fantomex in the Astral Plane to make sure he made this decision voluntarily.  He concedes Psylocke’s concern that X might've coerced him into doing it, but he also feels happy with the outcome, something Psylocke has to concede to X when she returns.  Soule drops several hints it's not that easy, though.  For example, Psylocke remarks to Fantomex that her Xavier wouldn’t coerce Fantomex into accepting his (X’s) proposal, but here X makes everyone in the British special-forces command room forget all about the Shadow King’s attack.  (Is X maybe more of a blend of the Shadow King and Xavier, rather than Fantomex and Xavier?  That said, I question Psylocke's certainty that "her" Xavier was so morally upstanding.)  X says erasing their memories is one of his “gifts.”  He delivers another "gift" when he draws the negative energy the Shadow King spread through London into one giant ball. (X apparently has gifts for everyone, like giving Warren control over his Archangel persona just like that.  By the way, Warren saved London when he successfully re-directed the missile the special-forces folks fired at it, giving X the chance to draw together the negative energy.)  The resulting energy ball is so huge Bishop searches his end-of-days database, which informs him the “green sun” over London presages the “Mindkiller Apocalypse,” which sterilizes 97 percent of the Earths in the multiverse where it appeared. We learn how that likely happens when X tries to disperse the ball, but it explodes instead, revealing Proteus has returnUIKeyInputDownArrowed with X. Bad move, X.

Batman #38:  Wow.  After firmly establishing Bruce’s relationship with Selena, King turns his focus to more typical storylines.  Of course, I mean “typical” in the “Batman” context as “disturbing.”  Here, we’re treated to a mentally ill pre-teen who has his butler kill his parents so he can become the next Bruce Wayne.  Yeah.  But, the most interesting part of the issue is King using the crime as a way to show how Selena accepts Bruce completely for who he is:  she sleeps through him waking up one night talking his way through the crime, she barely notices him swiftly leaving dinner after he realizes the pre-teen did it, etc.  In other words, King continues making the argument they’re in it for the long haul, these two, because they understand each other so well.

Batman: White Knight #4:  The best line in this issue is one of the best lines of the year.  When a female African-American news anchor notes Napier’s social-media war on Gotham elites is working, her white male partner asks disillusionedly whether Batman is supposed to tweet back.  This exchange is insightful, because it helps advance the narrative Murphy is pushing, namely Bruce doesn’t know how to change with the times.  The main tension of the issue comes from Duke, here a former cop and community organizer in Backport, endorsing Napier for city council, embracing him as Backport’s white knight.  But, the real development is Jack convincing Gordon to embrace his plan:  getting Batgirl and Nightwing to join the Gotham Terror Oppression (GTO) unit, where they share their technology with the GCPD and join an elite task force of vigilantes and cops to take out super-crime.  Napier gets Gordon by noting the $3 billion a year going to the Batman Devastation Fund could’ve been buying the GCPD the equipment it needed if Batman had only shared his technology.  It’s a compelling argument, and it continues to isolate Bruce.  Not only does he not tweet, but his megalomania is being more directly exposed; it’s clear he wants to be in total control, even if it means GCPD lives.  Murphy also ups the pressure on Jack, too:  Other Harley turns herself into the Neo-Joker, getting the Mad Hatter (I think) to re-hack his control bands, instantly providing her with an army.  (I have to say, the only weakness I see here is how Napier took his eyes off the Hatter.  Given his control of the super-criminals relied on controlling the control bands, it seems an unforgivable mistake.)  It seems pretty clear we're building to, as they say, an "explosive conclusion."

(Update:  After posting this review, I re-read “Batman:  White Knight” #3, where Neo-Joker frees Mad Hatter.  I still don’t entirely understand how Harley found Hatter or, as I mention here, why it took so long for Jack and Harley to realize he and the super-villains were gone.)

Phoenix Resurrection:  The Return of Jean Grey #2:  Rosenberg spends most of this issue on Waitress Jean, revealing her world is populated by dead people, such as Jamie Madrox, Thunderbird, Annie (presumably her friend who died), and, as we saw last issue, Sean Cassidy and Scott.  We learn she's been suffering from bad dreams, including one where she died on the moon.  Meanwhile, on Earth, Kitty reveals all their psychics are either missing or incapacitated.  The only one left standing is Cable, but he's also taken off the board when he tries to use Cerebro to find the Phoenix.  However, he glimpsed some coordinates before the feedback rendered him unconscious.  Kitty sends Beast and Jubilee with teams to hunt down the psychics while she, Old Man Logan, Dazzler, Rogue, and Bobby lead their own teams to track down the Phoenix.  It all gets interesting when these storylines collide.  In Waitress Jean's world, Magneto appears in her diner.  Unless you count his disappearance from the timestream in "X-Men Blue" as him "dying," it means his presence in Waitress Jean's reality is an anomaly.  Rosenberg draws a line under that when he has an earlier version of Magneto confront Bobby's team.  During the fight, the team hears him ordering a cup of tea (clearly at the diner).  Rosenberg shows how these realities are blending together, at least in some way.  The issue ends with Magneto reappearing at the diner (after concluding the fight with Bobby's team) and asking Jean if she feels better.  She says she does as she sees an image of the Phoenix burning the town around her.

Spider-Man #236:  First things first:  when did Miles get glow-y webs that incapacitate people?  I've been reading this series for a while, and I do not remember glow-y webs that incapacitate people.  Venom blast?   Yes.  Glow-y webs?  No.  Beyond that problem, this issue is mostly solid, as Bendis is bringing a number of pots to a boil.  Ganke inadvertently reveals Miles' name to the Spider-Man fan he's dating, and Miles is shocked to discover his Uncle Aaron is still alive.  But, it's still hard to tell where Bendis is going with it all.  For months now he's been implying Miles is going to give up being Spider-Man and, if he's going to have that happen on his watch, he only has four issues left to do so.  Right now, it's hard to see how he's going to wrap up all the loose ends out there.  Beyond the ones I just mentioned, we also still have the status of Miles' parents' relationship and the reformed Sinister Six's now-numerous plots to steal the Helicarrier.  Bendis isn't the strongest at these sorts of complicated stories, and it seems a monumental task for even someone like Peter David or Nick Spencer to stick this landing.  We'll see how it goes.

Star Wars #41:  Jesus, everything goes to hell in this issue.  But, we learn lessons!  Luke and Chulco go to the Temple of the Central Isotoper at the edge of the blast crater, and the priests have them stare into the Abyss and meditate.  Luke realizes he's so desperate to understand the Force and the Jedi that he's risking his soul by walking down the path without a guide.  However, Chulco fails to learn that lesson:  he proverbially falls into the Abyss and to the Dark Side.  He attacks Luke, who is forced to stab him with his lightsaber.  Chulco awakens from his mania in time to warn Luke of the strength of the Dark Side and then dies.  Meanwhile, Ubin engages in a suicide mission to try to take out the Leviathan (the "Continent-class crawler" the Imperials deployed last issue).  She fails, but Benthic told Han and Leia about her plan so they're able to rescue her.  (Han delivers possibly the best line of this series:  "I'll tell you how we save the galaxy!  We don't all die before we save the galaxy!")  Meanwhile, Chewie and his shipmate arrive in Jedha space, only to fail to pass through the quarantine.  The Imperials open fire, and Luke arrives just in time to save them, thanks from a tip from the Central Isotoper priests who heard the ship's distress signal.  They arrive at the base, where Chewie gets medical treatment and Leia reveals he secured an item for Shu-Tron that could save the day.  I have to say, Gillen is really killing it here.  This entire story has been a joy not just because "Rogue One" is probably my favorite "Star Wars" movie, but also because he's really forcing these characters into difficult positions, even for them.  I mean, Luke is forced to finally learn an actual lesson and not whine about it.  Who would've thought it?

Also Read:  Captain America #697, Hawkeye #14, Iceman #9, Jean Grey #8-#10, Nightwing #36, X-Men Gold #19

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