Comic Reviews 11/16/16 – Marvel and Black Hammer

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Amazing Spider-Man #21

If you’re still confused by the cold-open and ending of last week’s Clone Conspiracy, then this issue clears it all up, explaining how Kaine is alive, how he met Spider-Gwen, and what they’ve been up to.

Largely because of its different main character, this issue has a completely different feel from other Spider books. The overall tone is darker and more urgent. Kaine has already lived through the end of the world that Peter doesn’t even know he has to prevent yet, and operates with a precision and sobriety that Peter doesn’t. Considering all the work Kaine does in a lab, sequencing genomes and using deductive logic to find a patient zero, there are easy parallels to be drawn between this issue and a typical Batman story.

One mark against this issue, and it says more about just crossover structure rather than the issue itself, is that it feels like this exposition should’ve been in the main Clone Conspiracy book rather than a tie-in.

 

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Spider-Man #9

Following the vision of him killing Steve Rogers, Miles has disappeared, and his friends go looking for him.

This might be the perfect issue to showcase Bendis’ skill and style as a writer, because it’s one where he’s allowed himself to have lots of dialogue and very little plot. Ms. Marvel and Nova rummage through Miles’ stuff and end up running into and explaining themselves to Jefferson. Bombshell and Goldballs team up to look for Miles, and have time to establish a rapport and just rap. Ganke meets up with Danika Hart (the Spider-Man obsessed vlogger), and the two also have to kill time during a stake-out for Miles. Bendis is one of the best in the business at writing naturalistic, character-driven dialogue; and while in other books that sort of thing can distract from the plot by being drawn-out or cyclical, in this issue, talking is about all these characters can do with each-other.

 

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Black Panther #8

T’Challa says good-bye to Misty, Storm, and Luke Cage; and starts on his new journey to bring his sister back. And in the Djalia, Shuri has one last story to tell before going back to the world of the living.

It could just be the comparatively small scope – there’s no ideological posturing in this one – but this is the most solid issue of Black Panther yet. Ta-Nehisi Coates can undoubtedly write a damn good comic.

Shuri is the heart of this issue, realizing that she’s going back, and coming to terms with the responsibility that she’ll have to take on. Fittingly, her last Wakandan myth is about one of their earlier Queens – a woman made of stone. Meanwhile, T’Challa finally comes to terms with the sacrifice he let Shuri make, and puts life and country on the line to correct it.

Lots of comic books try and use the death of a character as a pretense for awe and import. This issue foes the same thing for bringing a character back. This actually is something big.

 

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #15

Sam and Joaquin take a day off to watch D-Man wrestle an old rival for charity, of course, heroes never really take a day off.

This was simply a light, fun issue, and it was a nice reprieve from the past week. It’s a story where the characters support each-other and help do good. Enemies find common ground, rivals become friends, and for a while, there’s a happy ending.

Most other weeks, I’d probably say something like this wasn’t really worth the $4, but this week I think I needed something simple and a little corny from Captain America.

 

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Infamous Iron Man #2

Ben Grimm tears up the Latverian embassy looking for Dr. Doom. Meanwhile, Victor pays a visit to the Mad Tinkerer during his mysterious turn to heroism.

Still no explanation for Doom’s change of character, nor are we really given one for Grimm’s sudden need to track him down. It’s not explained what Doom wants from the Tinkerer, or what exactly he took. There’s a bright spot in the book where Doom realizes he left some people in danger and quickly warps back to save them, but that’s just two pages. And Ben Grimm in the embassy would be entertaining if it didn’t come across as so mean.

Usually the complaint of early parts of a story is too much exposition, but I’ve got to fault this issue for its lack of any discernible motivations for anything its characters are doing. I’ll give it one more issue.

 

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Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #12

Through a flashback, we see the history between Ian and Zoe – one of the Black Cats – but they flee before Patsy and Ian can stop them. Later, Patsy and Ian join Jubilee in stopping Black Cat and the Black Cats from robbing a superhero costume museum.

Tonally, this issue is all over the place. The opening flashback, which depicts a clearly abusive relationship, feels melodramatic in this comic’s art style, seeming more like the beginning to Cinderella than anything else. Things even out in the middle, right before and during the robbery that Patsy, Ian and Jubilee try to stop; but they take another nose-dive at the end when something completely dissonant happens. Not dissonant for comics, or even for the character that does it, but for this series in particular.

 

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Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #14

Squirrel Girl and the gang meet a good Enigmo, who convinces them to change their plan to heist back freedom. And, through the use of Canada’s socialized public services and physics, they might just save the world.

Firstly, while they’re still funny, the digs against America hurt that little bit extra this week. Everything else about this work is just funny without the reminders of dread, though. The action figures of Canadian versions of superheroes is a standout, while things like Brain Drain’s unrelenting nihilism continue to elicit chuckles. And I love how the book manages to squeeze in some extra jokes about how they defeated the villain even after all the action ends.

The ending to this arc feels really final for some reason, with an epilogue and everything, but luckily we’re getting at least two more issues – at least, from what the solicits have to say. Hopefully this series just keeps on going.

 

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Black Hammer #5

This issue shows us a “day” in the life of Colonel Weird as he pops in and out of realities through the Para-Zone. This is the short tragedy of how Randall Weird lost his mind.

This is the most narratively twisty issue of this series so far, which is understandable given Weird’s disconnect from a single reality. From the Para-Zone he can watch events from the past and pop into either Spiral City or the Farmhouse, randomly interacting with the other heroes. Because of his time removed from space-time, Weird has trouble interacting with anybody else, or even explaining why he can’t use the Para-Zone to bring the other heroes back.

Unlike other books, that use a character’s disassociation from linearity to experiment with formalism to varying degrees of success, this issue is still quite linear, with events in the past functioning a lot more like flashbacks than time-travel. Diegetically, this may be because Weird can’t interact with the past, and despite the Para-Zone, still travels through time at a normalish rate compared to everybody else. And even though he can’t change it, he claims to be aware of a grand design, but saddened that he’s just as much a slave to it as everybody else.

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