Friday, April 6, 2018

Not-So-New Comics: The March 14 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #684:  We finally learn the truth about Voyager in this issue, as she reveals she's Grandmaster's daughter.  We also learn the Hulk is apparently more or less immortal now, which actually makes a lot of sense the way the authors present it.

If I'm following the story the authors are telling correctly, Grandmaster gives Voyager powers appropriate to each game he's playing, and he then uses her to make sure he wins.  Her current set of powers allows her to move through space and time and she can also use them to "move" through memories somehow as well.  As a result, she was able to implant the false memories about her in the Avengers' minds.  Apparently, the parasite in Jarvis’ memory center prevented her from altering his memories.

I have to be honest, I feel like everything related to Jarvis has been plain old bizarre.  I don't understand why the authors spent so much time making him immune to Voyager's powers.  I'm pretty sure all the events that have happened so far would've still happened in the same sequence if he hadn't been immune.  It just meant Hank accepted he was telling the truth when he woke from his coma, because Hank had been inside his brain.  But, this knowledge doesn't have any impact on the story; Voyager is still able to swipe the spirit Pyramoid.  Moreover, the authors didn't have to use some cockamamie excuse that her teleportation powers somehow allow her to alter memories.  As the daughter of an Elder of the Universe, it would've been totally believable that she had advanced telepathic powers as well.  But, whatever.  It is what it is.

All that said, Voyager's motives are less clear than we first thought.  She seems tired of helping her father rig his games, so it's unclear what she plans to do with the spirit Pyramoid.  I guess we'll see.

Meanwhile, the authors make the compelling argument the Hulk is immortal.  They review all the times he’s died and survived, and they imply he survives because his rage keeps a spark of life alive in him each time.  I totally buy that.  The authors do require a pretty significant knowledge of Hulk’s history to understand the nuance of the story they’re telling.  I accept I'm not going to follow everything about every character, and they do include a helpful guide at the end of the issue tying the events to specific issues of the various Hulk titles.  But, the entire sequence is made confusing through the use of a third-party narrator talking about a door (presumably to resurrection) that I didn’t quite follow as a metaphor.  (I think the Challenger was the narrator, but I'm not sure.)

At any rate, the authors right the ship once the Hulk is fully resurrected, showing how awesome he is as he tears through the skeleton team guarding the back-up HQ where Toni is working and Voyager has fled with the spirit Pyramoid.  (This part is clearer now.  Last issue, I thought she was in a bunker in the hospital, but now it's clear she teleported to the HQ once she grabbed the Pyramoid.)  The other teams are racing back, but the only thing standing between the Hulk and Voyager right now is...Iron Red Hulk!  Awesome sauce.  (Also, I’m pretty sure Hulk killed Captain Glory and Mentacle. R.I.P., Mentacle.)

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #15:  You don’t really have to pick up “Damnation” to follow this issue.  David makes it clear enough Dr. Strange’s attempt to repair Las Vegas allowed Mephisto to open his “Hotel Inferno” on the Strip, unleashing hordes of demons onto Vegas like “Inferno” did to New York.  In his usually brilliant fashion, David uses the event to advance the series’ plot, revealing the little girl who kidnapped Aunt June works for the Diogenes Initiative.  It apparently has an augur on staff who predicted this event, and the girl instructs Ben to find the Midnight Sons.  When he does, he drives a cement truck into a group of demonized Avengers poised to attack them.  Yeah, it’s pretty great.  I’m guessing we’re going to learn Ben is immune to demonization because of Death’s hold on him, but we’ll see.  It’s all very reminiscent of the “Circle of Four” event in “Venom” from a few years ago, but David does his best with the hand corporate has dealt him.


Detective Comics #976:  Man, Tynion is really playing a long game here.  First, I love Bruce admitting Batgirl was right.  He so rarely admits fault, but it's important he do so here, as he uses this fault as justification for shutting down the Knights program.  Tynion goes beyond that, though.  Bruce tells Tim he has Batgirl monitoring the city so he can talk to Tim, and it doesn't take an empath to draw the same conclusion as Tim, that Barbara has raised in Bruce's esteem over Tim.  Tim responds as you'd expect an increasingly traumatized teenager would, fleeing the Batcave in a rage.  Meanwhile, Kate is getting her revenge by taking over the Colony, creating exactly the sort of peace-keeping force Tim wanted the Knights to be.  With Ulysses offering to show Tim his future self's history, it's not hard to see how dangerous these unstable boys feeling the sting of rejection could become.  Tynion is possibly showing us the start of Tim following in the footsteps of Jason and becoming an enemy, and it's gripping to watch.

New Mutants:  Dead Souls #1:  As someone who possesses every issue of the original "New Mutants" run, including the cross-over event with "Dazzler" during "Secret Wars II," I'm obviously game for this mini-series.  Rosenberg makes it clear he's got big plans.  Shan has hired Magik, Boom Boom, Rictor, Strong Guy, and Wolfsbahne to work for her company, Hatchi Corporation.  Their first job is taking out a bunch of zombies attacking a hurricane-relief center Hatchi is running in New Orleans.  It turns out the foreman (allegedly) stole a ring from a dead woman who happened to be a witch, and she "overreacted" by infesting the area with zombies.  (Removing the ring apparently forced her soul to get stuck in Limbo because it broke certain seals of protection she had put on the neighborhood, hence the ability of a dead woman to "overreact.")  Oddly, Magik just lets her go once she reunites her with her ring, something Shan finds objectionable.  After all, she was responsible for killing a not insignificant portion of the town.  But, Rosenberg makes it clear something else is going on here, as the foreman himself didn't really know why he stole the ring and Shan refuses to answer Rictor's question why Shan needs paranormal investigators in the first place.  Rosenberg also does a solid job establishing the status quo of each character, as Shan says she settled for this crowd because everyone else from the New Mutants -- Cannonball, Magma, Skids, and Sunspot - had their lives together.  But, something feels...off here.  I think it's the fact the paranormal angle feels somewhat forced, but I think that might be on purpose.  I'm definitely willing to give Rosenberg some space here.  That said, if he really wants me for the long haul, Shatterstar should be popping up soon.

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #301:  This issue is really all about Joe Quinones, given his ability to nail the retro look this issue needs to make you believe it's happening in the past.  It's his ability to distinguish between older (and extremely handsome) Peter with younger (and so young) Peter.  The look of shock on both JJJ, Jr. and Peter's faces as they confront how young he really was is both hilarious and moving.

Star Wars:  Darth Vader #13:  This issue is really interesting, because it serves as a prequel to the story Gillen is telling in the main title, namely the fall of Mon Cala.  The Emperor sends Darth Vader to help Governor Tarkin take over Mon Cala for two reasons.  First, he believes it is time to show the Empire's citizens that the Empire isn't a successor of the Republic, but an entity unto itself under his sole control.  Second, he believes King Lee-Char is receiving help in negotiating the terms of a trade agreement from a Jedi, and he wants Vader to crush him.  (In the main title, Lee-Char is being held prisoner, and Mon Cala is suffering under the Empire's thumb as punishment for its rebellion.)  Tarkin is urging caution among his troops, reminding them Mon Cala has many resources they don't want to destroy.  However, upon Vader's arrival, the Imperial ambassador's ship mysteriously explodes, prompting Tarkin to launch the invasion.  Soule has made it clear this fight is a proxy for Vader's internal struggle, as we begin the issue with him replaying his fight with Obi-Wan on Mustafar in his mind but this time winning.  Is Obi-Wan the mysterious Jedi helping the Mon Calamari?  We'll see.

The Wild Storm:  Michael Cray #6:  One of the challenges of this series is that Cray is essentially unstoppable.  As Dr. Shahi suggested, he begins to converse with his parasite here, allowing him even further control over his ability to detonate matter.  (As we see with him detonating Curry's manor from the shore, he doesn't even have to touch it anymore.)  But, it also means no one really poses that much of a threat; his fight with Aquaman is over in minutes if not seconds.  He also continues to fail Trelane, as he refuses to turn over Curry's research to her.  Trelane herself acknowledges she probably has to kill him now, as it's the second time he failed to provide her data (after the Flash destroyed his research before Cray could recover it).  He seems to know he's on his own at this point, and he weeps over the creature he's becoming.  We learn he's going to seek out Jonathan Constantine, who tortures a seer to death to learn more about Cray.  It's just hard to know what the outcome is here.  If IO and Skywatch have set Cray loose, where does he go from here?

X-Men Blue #23:  Holy shit, this issue is an effing barn-burner.  We have multiple threats building at once.  First, Emma Frost and Havok are working with Bastion and Miss Sinister to launch Mothervine, some sort of artificial intelligence (I think) that will quadruple the mutant population within a year and help bring about secondary mutations.  (Bastion wants more mutants just so he can slaughter them, and Alex and Emma assume Miss Sinister wants to rule them all.)  Meanwhile, Miss Sinister's agents are tracking someone, and Bloodstorm and Jimmy are on their trail.  However, since they're not from our Earth, they don't recognize Xorn when he reveals himself to the trackers.  The Raksha arrive at Magneto's house to inform him they fought some Hellfire Club goons right there in Madripoor, and Magneto realizes it's time he takes out Sebastian Shaw, even though Briar is pretty sure it's just Emma trying to distract him.  If it is, it works, as Magneto goes after Shaw, but is surprised when Shaw reveals a secondary mutation (thanks to Mothervine):  he can now collect ambient kinetic energy.  In Madripoor, Gazing Nightshade uses her powers to see Lorna believes she can save Alex from his inversion, but Bunn complicates matters when Ferris presents her a necklace he found in Jean's effects:  Malice is back!  In other words, this series isn't really about the original X-Men anymore.  It may be in the future, but Bunn is clearly using their absence to advance some long-simmering plots, bringing Alex and Emma from the shadows and even raising the possibility of Alex getting cured.  Based on this issue, though, that might be too optimistic of a read of the future.

Also Read:  Astonishing X-Men #9; Falcon #6; Marvel Two-in-One #4

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