Steve Rogers: Captain America #7
It’s surreal reading this series after the election, what with the Red Skull being somewhat analogous to Trump.
In this issue we see how the Skull and Hydra are taking over bits of Eastern Europe, like the fictional Sokovia, their armies being seen as liberators from those countries’ dictatorships while still teaching their borderline Nazi ideology. And Steve moves a few pieces in his chess game towards killing Skull.
Hydra’s advance in Europe highlights some of the more uncomfortable parts of the global rise in conservative fascism in places like Russia, France, Germany, the UK, and as of today the United States. That demagogues can be seen as heroes by some is representative of much more complicated problems. And while Rogers is now nominally evil, he’s doing what he’s pretty much always done – stopping the Red Skull. What is it about this time that also makes Steve a villain? Compared to SHIELD?
Maybe not the easiest book to start this week’s reading with…
When Muse kidnaps four people for his next art piece, Blind spot has to keep everyone alive before Daredevil can show up, including himself.
After the 3rd panel in this issue, it’s all Blindspot. He’s our narrator, he’s our focus as he chases Muse through sewers – where Daredevil can’t reach him – and tries to rescue the kidnappies. We see how he’s become a much more competent crime-fighter since training with DD, but still has some ways to go. Through his inner-monologue we learn how he’s questioning why he continues to fight now that he saved his mother, why he keeps risking his own life for people who otherwise treat him so poorly.
Power Man and Iron Fist #10
PM and IF start the rebuilding efforts after the fight at Rykers, and try to recruit other heroes to help them figure out whose records were changed by Agnitus software and make sure that they get justice for their wrongful imprisonment. Meanwhile, the Harlem criminal underworld is scrambling. Tombstone tries to patch the cracks in his empire, Cottonmouth and Piranha team up with Black Cat, and Cockroach and Black Mariah join a new player in the Harlem underworld.
This issue is very much the re-setting the pieces on the board after last arc. PM and IF don’t actually accomplish much in the book, instead, talking about what they plan to do in later issues. The criminal side of things is much more interesting as they make allegiances that will shape the threats and maps of the arc to come.
Also, the world’s tiniest nitpick. The issue as a panel were Daredevil is using a smartphone. How does that work?
After getting shot in Beto’s body and rushed into the ER, Morris jumps into the body of an EMT and rushes to the hospital where his own body still is.
A cool quirk of this series so far that I hope I continue to see is that each issue has the opportunity to be a little like an anthology as well as a serial. Every body that Morris jumps into tells its own story, and this EMT’s story of why people call him “Cap” is a highlight of this issue.
That’s not to the deficit of the story as a whole either. This issue has a great sense of momentum as Morris races to the hospital, having to get past all the security that his father hired, as well as the NYPD and SHIELD in order to get to his body. And we’re already seeing Morris change as a character, becoming slightly more empathic with every body he jumps into.
The Clone Conspiracy #2
Doc Ock has Spider-Man beaten, but instead of killing him, Jackal has Ock spare Peter so that he can take him on a tour of New U and convince him to team up for the greater good. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Spider runs from zombies and dimension-hops, working with a partner to prevent an apocalypse on every world.
The Scarlet Spider cold open is more confusing than intriguing, dropping us into a mission with no bearings and an unknown (though easily guessed) connection to the story at hand. The rest of the story works better, with Peter being guided through New U like an angry dog on a leash, distrustful of and barking at every new development Jackal shows him. If Spider-Man weren’t the designated hero, his suspicions of the Jackal would seem unreasonable; that is until the book ends with characters from a different dimensions intervening to justify them. That ending however, does open up so many other questions that I’d be disappointed if Slott just hand-waves away.
The issue is very entertaining though. Doc Ock’s short fight with Peter where he explains that he’s not a clone (and how that is, again) does a fantastic job at showing us the threat these revived villains place to Spidey and the world. Meanwhile, Jackal trying to give a tour to Peter as he continually calls him a madman provides does a neat trick where the juxtaposition of Spidey’s of wrongdoing and the strangely civil clones of super-villains like Doc Ock and Lizard makes Spider-Man look kind of unreasonable; even up to the point where Lizard is chasing Spider-Man through a vent while telling his wife to remind his son to eat his veggies.
Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1
Spider-Man seems to have mostly gotten the hang of balancing work, family, and superheroing, although having MJ around to help with the latter two makes them a lot easier. But somebody is planning to use Regent’s power-stealing tech for their own benefit.
We actually get a pleasantly surprising amount of Peter’s domestic life in this issue. After a quick opening fight with Scorpion, the focus turns to untangling Annie from some webs, making pancakes, and a shopping list. Peter actually seems to be in a good place with the Bugle and Jameson, having built a drone to help with the pics. There’s some superhero work to be done by the end, but even then, MJ shows up to help using a version of Regent’s tech that Spidey made so that she can tap into his powers. This story gives us a Peter who, for the first time, finally seems to have everything figured out, who is happy.
The issue also has two back-ups. The first is a cute funnies-type that shows us a day where Peter has to look after Annie alone; and the second has MJ looking after Annie while designing their costumes. Both were refreshing little stories that act a bit like a digestif to the book. I hope they continue, even if they add another dollar to the book’s cover-price.
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1
This is a rough first issue. The main story shows us how Aneka and Ayo, the Midnight Angels first met during Ayo’s Dora Milaje training. A big problem is an over-reliance on thought bubbles (This and Batgirl, are thought bubbles coming back?) that over-explain and state everything so matter-of-factly, and reduce much of the dialogue to small talk the characters use to disguise their thoughts. I don’t want to make any assumptions about Roxane Gay’s familiarity with writing dialogue (I’m more familiar with her essay work), but this is not her best.
The plot of the story, of Ayo and Aneka fall in love during the former’s training, and having to hide their feelings because of the Midnight Angel’s military no-fraternizing policy is fertile ground for a story, but, despite a scene that takes place during a raid on Atlantian spies, plays out more like a rom-com than anything else.
The back-up story, written by Yona Harvey and Coates, that shows us Zenzi’s backstory and tells why she hates Wakanda, gives us insight into her character and makes her much more interesting. Raised in Wakanda’s poor southern neighbor, Niganda, Zenzi was raised jealous of Wakanda’s prosperity. She escapes Killmonger’s fascist rule in Niganda by fleeing to Wakanda, using her powers to kill the men trying to kill her on the way.
James Bond #11
MI6 escapes Eidolon’s ambush with an ambush of their own, but Hackwood gets away, with Bond giving chase.
This is an action heavy issue, basically and ambush/shootout, with some flashbacks that show how the ambushes were planned, followed by a car chase. Both are handled extremely well, with some humor – like a mercenary talking about how long it’s been since getting a job – spliced in. We already knew that this team can handle a slick, clean action issue, and they’ve done it again; though, this feels a bit underwhelming for the book’s penultimate issue.
Jon Shipwright continues his strange lonely journey to find someone, and runs into a man performing a sky burial who lives at a bar in a town with a large bell.
This issue manages to fill in more backstory, but this series remains as open-ended and mysterious. We’re now more familiar with the nature of Shipwright’s journey, and slightly more about what our setting is, but anything can still happen. It’s still hard story to really describe, closest thing I’ve seen that compares is El Topo, but I’m enjoying the mystery, how details are slowly coming together to form these characters and this world.