Amazing Spider-Man #18
This issue shows us what Doc Ock has been up to since Spider-Verse; how he got into the Living Brain, and his plan to rejoin the living.
This issue also serves as a great recap for anyone needing to brush up on the events that Superior Spider-Man ended on through the beginning of the current arc. And because we’re seeing it through an entirely new perspective, the story feels fresh.
The first important thing of note this issue covers is that we’re following a Doc Ock from before the ending of Superior, one who was never humbled by Green Goblin or sacrificed himself to save Anna Maria. This Doc Ock is, for all intents and purposes, still a villain. But that doesn’t mean he’s unsympathetic. Just like during Superior, Slott manages to write Otto as supremely arrogant and cruel, but human. He’s driven equally, if not more so, by his desire to be back with Anna than to take revenge on Peter.
And probably this story’s greatest accomplishment, it manages to set up a character revival without feeling at all cheap or unearned. It’s clear that Slott planted the seeds for this story years ago, and it’s thrilling, as a reader, to watch them bloom
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #10
Patsy takes a trip through hell (or something similar) in order to get back home, and on Earth, Patsy’s friends convince Mad Dog and Hellstrom that they’ve been tricked.
Patsy’s hell tour is a trip through her past, a good chunk of which takes its stylistic cues from the Archie-esque books Patsy Walker debuted in. There’s one panel in particular that’s exactly the kind of thing Roy Lichtenstein would rip-off.
It’s not exactly experimental – the style change is mainly a shift in color tone – and/but the dialogue is as smart and naturalistic as previous issues.
Through this series, Karnak has been unflappable and unstoppable, a stoic machine of a man. In this issue, he finally faces something that gets a stir out of him: his own ego.
Karnak interrogates one of Adam’s followers, The Painter, a psychic who takes Karnak into his own ego. Where Karnak has been able to find the weakness in all things, The Painter seems to find a flaw in Karnak. And if you thought Karnak was scary before, then you haven’t seen him with his jimmies rustled.
This is peak Ellis, a better-than-thou character humbled by their own history, and he pulls it off aces with Karnak. He’s helped by Boschi and Brown’s great illustrations and coloring that blends and melts away to fit tone and scene changes.
Now, if only this book could keep a schedule…
The Vision #11
Vision faces every hero in his way between him and revenge against Victor Mancha, and Virginia tries to cope with the fallout of telling Viv the truth about CK’s death.
This is another very heavy issue of The Vision. There are a couple panels that I, as a dog lover, found deeply disturbing. With this issue, Virginia becomes one of the most haunting characters in comic book history, even just a conversation with her daughter is still and creepy. Meanwhile, Vision has gone almost full terminator, insisting that while he would appreciate the other heroes’ cooperation, he does not require it. And when neither characters are speaking, the narrator telling us of Vision’s earliest memories – being born by Ultron to destroy the Avengers – over scenes of Vision fighting the Avengers is incredibly chilling.
Honestly, this series is an instant classic.
Power Man and Iron Fist #8
Danny sticks things out in prison while Luke struggles to come up with a plan to get him, and all the other innocents locked-up with him, out.
Like last issue, the backbone of this issue is Luke’s crumbling under the pressure of having a friend in jail, though this one does a bit better job of explaining why: the whole thing hits way too close to home. Luke’s origin story involves a false arrest, and his inability to help his friend makes him feel as helpless as he felt when he was imprisoned. It’s a story that hits hard, especially given the current political climate, a climate of systemically racist arresting and imprisonment without trial – something this story confronts directly in scenes with Danny in jail.
This series also manages to use Civil War II to its advantage again, with Captain Marvel swooping in at the end to arrest Luke based on Ulysses’ profiling.
Power Man and Iron Fist continues to be an incredibly smart and sensitive book that, like Sam Wilson, is tapping into one of the greatest problems facing the country right now.
Civil War II #5
It’s a big hero fight issue. Everything looks amazing, and Bendis manages to give almost everyone involved some good lines. That being said, this is a fight that doesn’t do any heavy-lifting plot-wise or character-wise, and the ending of the book repeats a plot-point that was already done and resolved once in this series.
Green Arrow #7
The 2-part Emi arc started last issue ends here with a gamble against the Clock King and a fight against a dragon. Honestly, neither conclusion feels that climactic, but the story didn’t set up anything too big, so I can’t really fault it. A quick little arc, and it wasn’t too bad. And there’s a literal fight against a dragon, so can’t really complain about that.
An adorable issue of Clark, Lois, and Jon going to their local town fair. Really, not much more to say. Very slice of life, lighthearted and cute. A nice respite after the weirdness of the last arc with the Eradicator.
Batman #7 + Nightwing #5 (Night of the Monster Men #1, #2)
It’s Batman, the Detective Comics crew, and Nightwing against Hugo Strange’s army of monsters. And while the Bat-Family is battling giant Cronenberg babies and dragon-things, the rest of Gotham has evacuated, squeezed into a tiny cave.
The set up feel like the beginning of an Arkham game, only instead of beating up thugs and supervillains, Batman is up against Godzilla. It’s a weird match up, with Batman and Bat-Woman aiming to tie up rampaging beasts while Gotham evacuates. Nightwing actually has the more traditional Batman detective story, as he’s the one trying to find Strange and his source of whatever is turning corpses into dragons.
But as unusual of a Batman story as this may be, that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. Batman swooping along-side 50ft creatures as he tries to tie them up or set them on fire – all of this in the middle of a storm, naturally – allows for some really cool looking panels and page-layouts from the art teams on both books. And while this isn’t the smartest or most thematically resonant Batman story, seeing the Bat-family take on a Justice League sort of threat without any powers (barring Clayface, who’s on evacuation duties) is still quite fun.
Lois invites Batman and Diana over to the farm for dinner so that they can finally get to know their Earth’s new Superman.
For such a marquee title, this first issue is surprisingly low-key. Lois does most of the narration, talking about how important it is that the trinity sit down and get to know each-other so that they can all grow together. She’s worried about Clark building walls that will make everybody’s life more difficult, and thinks she could stop that by sharing him with their new world’s existing heroes. If you were to take away some early super-powered stuff, this really would just be a simple dinner-party story. Clark and Bruce end up bonding over their respective sons, while Lois and Diana talk about the men they love.
Besides the cool, even-handed narration and dialogue; Francis Manapul also lends his considerable talents to the book’s art. If you’ve liked any of Manapul’s recent work, then this is more of that: bold lines, inventive panel layouts, and a pastel and golden-hour color palette. For my money, this is DC’s best looking book right now.
Very excited to see how this series continues to develop. Looks like it’s in very good hands.
Black Hammer #3
This issue focuses mainly on Barbalian, this book’s Martian Manhunter analogue, who doesn’t seem to have the same dark twist on his powers that Gail represented for the Shazam formula. He’s a Martian sent from his home planet to investigate Earth, where he quickly becomes a superhero and disguises himself as a cop named Mark Markz. In the present, he tries going to church to find out if maybe he can belong there.
Meanwhile, Abe takes his relationship with Tammy – the diner waitress, who is annoyed that he never invites her to his place.
Using the Martian Manhunter as a metaphor for the disguising yourself in order to belong isn’t a new idea in the same way that Gail aging while her hero identity stayed young was for Shazam, but it’s still good material for a story, especially because this comic looks like it’s taking it slightly further, and in a slightly different direction than what DC has done. Regardless, the book is still very well written – these characters all feel like fish out of water, heroes or not – and is beautifully drawn.
The Wicked + The Divine 1831
This special issue takes us to the Pantheon of 1831, where instead of becoming pop-stars, the gods became some of English’s most famous writers. And here we join Marry Shelly, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Claire Clairmont as Woden, Lucifer, The Morrigan, and Inanna respectively, during their famous trip to Lake Geneva, where they plan on spending their final weeks.
The book wastes no time getting to all of the WicDiv and Romantic tropes you’d expect from the crossover, culminating in a finale that echoes the most famous story to come from the real life Geneva vacation.
Stephanie Hans’ art and colors are fantastic, perfectly capturing the Gothic/Romantic tone that these writers codified in their fiction with deep reds, piercing blues, and long shadows.