Comic Reviews 5/25/16 – Welcome Back + Marvel, Steve Rogers: Captain America #1

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Welcome Back #8

In its (second) final issue, Welcome Back reminds us that, beneath all the reincarnating and endless war, it’s a story about star-crossed lovers. And more than that, this issue seems to preach the power of love to help people rise above and break a cycle of violence.

So how do Mali and Tessa end up stopping the endless Sequel war while captive in Tessa’s mom’s heavily guarded fortress, and seemingly every other Sequel still hunting them?

Well, I’m not gonna spoil it here, but it’s a perfect ending to the story. Not only is it cleverly built up over the past few issues, it’s incredibly thematically resonant, a clear ending for Mali and Tessa’s arcs that clicks into place with the plot. It’s sappy, and a little hamfisted when the narration starts talking directly to the reader, but that doesn’t entirely ruin it.

Welcome Back was a fun little love story that didn’t let up on the gore, and once it found its pace, became and impeccably plotted character driven one that’s just the right length.

 

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Starbrand and Nightmask #6

The final issue of the arc opens with Kevin and Adam confronted by Libra, the avatar of cosmic balance, who explains why the universe has it out for the Starbrand of Earth. Meanwhile, the new Kree Starbrand heads to destroy Earth so it can never become a threat to the Kree.

This arc closes with some revelations about Earth’s place in the Marvelverse, and Kevin’s place as its Starbrand.

The resolution is clean if a little underwhelming for both the reader and Kevin, although getting there in this issue does give us some awkward humor.

This issue’s greatest weakness is that Kevin slips into unrelatably stupid at some points, and an existential crisis he has just seems to fizzle out.

 

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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #7

Lunella wakes up from her terrigen-cocoon with seemingly nothing about her changed. Relieved, but still curious, she goes back to her life, balancing school and home with superhero-ing with Devil Dinosaur. But a visiting Kree looking to bag an easy inhuman trophy might be just what Lunella needs to trigger her new abilities.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is starting its second arc off strong, establishing the status quo before throwing in the arc’s twist at the very end. I’m excited to see how the story of Lunella’s new Kree rival ends up unfolding, because there seems to be something of an Invader Zim bend to the whole thing.

And probably best of all, the comic continues to be easily approachable, and enjoyable, for readers of all ages.

 

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Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #6

Guest artist Natasha Allegri (Adventure Time, Bee and Puppycat) takes Patsy and crew on a daytrip to Coney Island, but they’re vacation is interrupted when Arcade (looking a lot like Fujimoto from Ponyo) decides to turn the amusement park into one of his murderworlds.

This issue is a breather between the last arc and the next, and Allegri’s lighter, bouncier, pastel art gives the book a nice relaxing summer’s day-off mood. If I weren’t familiar with her art style from stuff like Bee and Puppycat, I would probably complain that every character in this book has an incredibly similar body shape; but 1. Every superhero has essentially the same body type, conventionally attractive; and 2. Allegri does a great job with each character’s wardrobe, and the overall coloring of the book, that everyone remains visually distinct.

This issue is deliberately light and fluffy on plot, but enjoyable nonetheless – a sweet pastel macaroon of a comic.

 

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

Squirrel Girl and the New Avengers stop a giant tree lobster from destroying New York using her knowledge of entomology, but Squirrel Girl’s real problem is finding a date. After the best depiction of writing a dating site profile in comics, we get the dating montage where Doreen goes on first dates with all types, including C-List villains, a sentinel, and a superhero truther.

Squirrel Girl continues to bring the humor, including the best background restaurant jokes outside of Sex Criminals. Being a version of a dating story trope, this issue isn’t as formally inventive as some previous issues, but is still full of Squirrel Girl charm and wit.

 

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Ms. Marvel #7

It’s Ms. Marvel vs. Spider-Man…at the tri-state science fair. Miles and Kamala lead their respective teams (New York and New Jersey) at a science fair where they’re competing for a scholarship, and Kamala tries using her powers to get a sneak peek at the competition.

Like Hellcat, this issue feels like a breather before Kamala joins Civil War II, but still a meaty one. While the book keeps things humorous with on-point refernces to tri-state rivalry, and the goofieness of the science projects, including those in the backgrounds; it’s weighted by the real struggle and competition that some students go through in order to get into, and then pay for, a meaningful college experience.

 

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Doctor Strange #8

Strange goes spelunking, using the last of resources in a search to find any remaining sources of magic on Earth, before the Empirikul can catch up to him and his colleagues. And at the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Empirikul discover Stephen’s biggest secret.

If the last couple issues showed us Strange at his lowest point, this issue finally show him crawling his way back up from rock bottom, and giving his all. But the book still positions this hope in opposition to tremendous overwhelming odds that somehow, continue to only get worse. I’m really excited to see how this arc eventually ends and Strange gets his mojo back.

 

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Daredevil #7

After their fight, Daredevil gets through to Elektra and agrees to help find her daughter; but their only clue will lead Daredevil to realize this conspiracy goes much deeper than a kidnapped child…

Daredevil looks like it’s finally turning its focus to the big question that’s been hanging over the book since issue #1, how did Matt get everyone to forget his secret identity? And it’s doing so in such a smart, and deeply noir inspired, way. Adding this to the last issue, it feels almost cliché: the woman going to the detective to look for something missing, the single clue that turns out to be a red herring, and things adding up to an even more complicated conspiracy.

I’m excited to see how closely Daredevil sticks to the hardboiled script, and really excited to finally find out how Daredevil messed with everyone’s memory.

 

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Steve Rogers: Captain America #1

This is one hell of a first issue, working on all the levels that any single first issue should, and that any single Captain America book should. We get action as Steve, and his partners at SHIELD, former 90’s sidekicks Jack Flag and Free Spirit, plus Sharon Carter and Rick Jones on support, stop a suicide bomber from blowing up a train in the middle of New York City. We get a Steve who’s disappointed in victory because he couldn’t save the bomber, and he knows that there are hundreds of other misguided young men he’s unable to save. And through the comic, we get his narration that re-establishes why he’s a hero, and spliced through the story is a flashback to when Steve met the first person to inspire him to heroism in his childhood. Basically, if you didn’t know anything about Captain America, this issue would make the perfect crash course.

And then there are the villains. We’re first introduced to the Red Skull, who’s new tactic to recruit for Hydra involves using same sort of xenophobic rhetoric that spews daily out of Donald Trump’s mouth, albeit a dozen times more articulate, to rile up poor young white men. Then there’s Baron Zemo, who has gone full cackling supervillain. I could only hear him speaking in a Skeletor voice as he claims that he’s the one true leader of Hydra, and tries to rebuild by paying z-list super-villains.

I won’t talk about the twist at the end of this issue, because by now it’s been blown way out of proportion. However, I will say that I like it. It successfully plays off the reader’s expectations and sets up real emotional stakes. This isn’t The New 52; it’s not One More Day; and it’s not The Death of Superman. This is the first issue of a new Captain America series launched in the year of his 75th anniversary. It’s a first issue that goes out of its way to mention the involvement of reality warping weapons and bring up previous weird transformations of the character (ie: werewolf-cap). I have a strong feeling the twist is there to set us up for a story that reminds everyone why the idea and character of Captain America has endured for so long, not shit all over that legacy.

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