Comic Reviews 12/14/16

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Wonder Woman #12

After stopping the terrorist attack in the last issue, Wonder Woman and Steve continue to test her new powers, which now include speaking with animals in addition to strength and speed. Meanwhile, the military is making no progress interrogating the captured terrorists, Luckily, Diana has that lasso of truth.

This series really isn’t rushing things with getting Diana acclimated to man’s world, which is perfectly fine with me, because in every issue we get progress. We’re seeing Diana and Steve’s relationship grow at a more believable pace than most comic romances, and we’re also seeing every bit of Diana’s transition into Wonder Woman. When she uses the lasso to interrogate the terrorists and finds them deeply disturbed, she offers them forgiveness.

It also gives us plenty of room for some of the more lighthearted moments of this transition, like Diana getting on all fours and sticking out her tongue to speak with a lizard, or trying soda for the first time with…limited success.

But the end of the issue gets us right back into the mood to watch Wonder Woman kick some Olympic-sized ass.

 

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The Flash #12

Flash and Kid Flash are trapped in the Shadowlands with Iris, Shade, and Hope O’Dare, and will have to learn how to trust each-other if they’re ever going to get out.

I’m continuing to enjoy how this book is built around the teaching relationship between Flash and Kid Flash. The two find themselves in a do-or-die situation, and Flash takes advantage of it to push Wally into learning new ways to learn his powers. And it’s a two-way street, with Wally finding a new way for the Flashes to combine their abilities. It’s been a story where the villain was insecurities, and the way to beat them is learning to trust your friends. This book is just so gosh-darned wholesome!

And there are some great gags, too, like Wally trying to guess Flash’s secret identity, or Shade somehow remembering that Barry and Iris used to be married. This series is doing a great job of putting the Flash back in his niche of being one of DC’s sunnier heroes, and I appreciate that sort of tone in contrast to, for example, Batman.

 

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Deathstroke #8

Surprisingly, Deathstroke manages to hold his own against Superman as the latter tries to stop the former from offing an international terrorist and drug-lord.

Like he did with Batman, Priest once again demonstrates how Deathstroke can out-play Superman, compensating for his relative lack of physical ability with strategy.

Priest continues to write some of DC’s snappiest dialogue, even managing to put a new spin on the old take of Superman’s refusing to kill criminals contributing to them being able to continue harming people by comparing that with Deathstroke, who is willing to end bad people for the right price. It’s one of the best examples in recent memory of introducing the big blue boy-scout to a situation of gray morality that doesn’t feel like a stretch of plot or character.

 

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Clean Room #14

Astrid and Chloe deal with the demon baby in their midst, whom threatens to build a bridge home made entirely out of humans. And once that’s taken care of, Astrid sends Chloe to take care of her “biggest fan” in the clean room.

As particularly grotesque as this issue gets, Gail Simone also knows how to sprinkle some much needed humor (and gay) into the mix. And I would have never guessed how amicable Astrid and Chloe’s relationship would become from ten issues ago. They’re almost friends even, bonding over how one of them is much more potty-mouthed than the other.

And of course, the book uses all that fresh friendliness and sympathy between characters to twist the knife when the gruesome stuff returns. How this book balances tone really is something else.

 

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Green Valley #3

After a disappointing last issue, Landis really ups the ante with this one, introducing the Wizard that’s been terrorizing Green Valley, and dropping lots of little hints towards the true nature of the story.

Most of this issue revolves around a big spoiler involving the nature of the Wizard, so I can’t talk much about that, but what I can address is the character work. Three of the Knights get one really good scene that establishes the horse they have in this race to protect a small village they’ve never heard of.

Each of these issues still feels like, four pages too short though, and I’m not sure if that’s a knock or a compliment.

 

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Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2

This issue is all about MJ, and we see how she’s adjusting to her roles as Business owner, blogger, mother, wife, and superhero.

Taking place in parallel with issue #1, we start with MJ dropping Annie off at school, stopping a burglary on her way to her shop, dealing with business there, then hearing about Mole Man on the news and going off to help Peter handle that mess. MJ is a busy woman, and through her narration, she tells us exactly how she gets it all done. Frankly, Pete has it easy.

Like with Peter, part of the fun of this series is seeing who these characters would become if they were actually allowed to grow and mature in ways that comic storytelling usually prevents. And, like how it’s great seeing Peter fully realize responsibility as a dad; seeing how “flighty” Mary Jane Watson focuses her multi-track mind on her multi-track life is just as rewarding for fans of the character.

 

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Spider-Man #10

Ganke finds Miles back in their dorm following the ending of Civil War II, and Miles tells him, Goldballs, and Ms. Marvel his version of events.

This issue is pretty much Miles recaps Civil War II, including spoilers for the as-of-yet-unreleased final issue of that event. Normally, I’d be against having a full issue dedicated to summarizing two issues of a different story, but it’s like I said regarding last issue, Bendis knocks this kind of dialogue out of the park. He keys into the sort of pathos and sympathy we have for Miles to tell a version of the story that feels truly personal to Miles, and shows his friends being truly sympathetic to him. It sucks to say, but Bendis really is at his best when plot is a non-issue, when he just has room to let his characters talk like people do.

 

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Daredevil #14

Dark Art ends with Matt pushing himself to the limit to find Blindspot before Muse can use him to make another piece of art. But finding Muse is just the first step to stopping him.

A very satisfying ending to the arc that does more than just having Daredevil catch the bad-guy, granted, that part of it still is very gratifying. Giving Daredevil a way to save almost everybody that Muse had kidnapped over the course of the arc makes the whole ending feel that much more heroic, and I really like how Soule is building a relationship between DD and the law-enforcement of New Attilan. What happens with Blindspot does feel a bit stunt-y, but in a way that still gels with the overall Daredevil mythos, and I can imagine the creative team finding tons of cool ways to continue that thread.

I could continue to compliment how well this series handles it’s fight scenes and overall pacing, and the wonderful use of grotesque imagery through this arc, but I want to close off this short review by pointing out that this issue made a two-page spread of Daredevil sitting down and focusing on “nothing” engaging.

However, to save some money, I will be switching to trade-waiting on this book from now on.

 

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Power Man and Iron Fist #11

As Cage and Rand continue their investigation into the Agnitus software and try to return the lives of the ex-cons who’ve had their records edited, Alex Wilder makes a lot of headway towards uniting Harlem’s underworld under him.

I love how this series is telling its story right now, showing us how are heroes are dealing with the fallout from last arc, and trying to completely put that mess to rest, while also showing us how the villains are using that confusion to grow their power and get multiple-steps ahead of the people who could stop them. It goes a long way towards world-building Marvel’s Harlem, showing us that things aren’t just magically made better because some heroes intervened. Because we’re following these people soup-to-nuts in this story, it feels like we’re really getting to know this neighborhood, and the unique struggles that these heroes and villains deal with while trying to reclaim a sense of normalcy. It also gives Cage and Rand a way to be heroic that doesn’t just involve punching crime; we’re seeing them actively take part in improving people’s lives, not just saving them.

All of this specificity also further colors the schemes of the issue’s villains. Because we see that things aren’t just magically resolved, we’re shown how the bad-guys take advantage of these people at their lowest to further their own goals. The book provides a study of criminality on the level of the kingpin who organizes the crime for his own benefit, and the people who turn to crime because there’s no legitimate way for them to get by.

And, Power Man and Iron Fist does this all with an overall light-hearted tone. The book never feels like it’s getting preachy about these issues, making all these characters and their struggles sympathetic through pure story – not analogy – and also injecting everything with a level of humor. It doesn’t let dealing with these sorts of real-life crime issues get in the way of cracking a good joke.

 

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Mosaic #3

Morris deals with finding Fife – the first person he body-hopped into – in his secret apartment, and still has to find a way to tell his father about what happened to him. But when he jumps into his girlfriend’s personal assistant, he learns a bit too much about his gf than he bargained for.

This is still one of Marvel’s most promising new books, and I’m enjoying learning more and more about Sackett’s bubble in the Marvel universe every issue. This issue reveals that he can’t jump into the same body more than once, which is a very interesting limitation on his powers; and that he can only be seen by people he’s possessed. It’s also great how we’re seeing Morris slowly mature with every body he jumps into, learning how to empathize with so many different sorts of people. It’s often said that we judge ourselves by intent, and everyone else through actions; and this book is an object lesson in empathizing with people’s intent.

This issue also ends with one of the best hooks I’ve seen in a while, and I’m super excited for the next one.

 

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Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15

Following in the footsteps (or should I say paw-prints?) of Fraction and Aja’s “Pizza Dog” issue of Hawkeye, North and Henderson give us an issue focuses on Nancy’s pet cat, Mew. We see a brief day in the life of a house-cat: chasing mice, taking naps, and stopping Taskmaster from beating all of New York’s heroes.

This is a cuter issue of USG than most, and features some Tom and Jerry type cat-dreams illustrated by Zac Gorman just for that little extra something. Unfortunately, the issue feels like it’s missing a lot of what makes USG enjoyable. Dialogue is, for the most part, pushed to the background, and there’s no bottom-page alt-text.

Still, we get some good cat-based gags involving pushing things off shelves, and litterboxes, and midway through the book Mew makes friends with a dog and that’s adorable.

 

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Hawkeye #1

Speaking of Hawkeye, new #1, this time following the adventures of Kate Bishop in Venice Beach, CA.

Kate’s trying to her Private Investigator/Hero 4 Hire business off the ground, but everyone who walks into her office expects that other Hawkeye. That doesn’t stop her from foiling bank robberies when she sees them though, and eventually someone looking for her services does manage to walk into her office! Tracked with finding a stalker and troll, Kate has to break into a university library and look for clues.

This #1 kicks the series off with a ton of personality, showing that Kate is back in action without having missed a step. She’s keeping her eyes peeled for clues *and* guys with hot abs on Venice beach, and displays the sort of skill that earned her the title “Hawkeye.” Kate’s one of those almost instantly likable characters, full of charm, but also just so great at superheroing, taking only a single two-page spread to foil a bank robbery. And during the book’s final chase scene, you can just hear the Miami Vice chase music begin to play in your head.

 

From Last Week

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Champions #3

Gosh, this is a hard issue to read after what happened this week in Aleppo. Completely different countries and circumstance, I know; but what is the same is that these are people who aren’t getting help from the outside, whose suffering goes largely ignored.

The Champions go to Pakistan to rescue some girls trapped and at risk of execution by terrorists, but the girls decide that they want to lead the charge themselves. In this issue, the Champions become super-allies, protecting these girls while they make their own stand against their oppressors.

It’s actually really strong symbolism, and hopefully some people who read this issue will look up Malala Yousafzai and educate themselves about the problems that people really are facing in the middle-east and the causes of the refugee crisis instead of just being afraid of brown people trying to find safety in new countries.

And it is easy to find this sort of symbolism empty, because there aren’t any superheroes to help those people. But hopefully this will motivate some people to start paying attention and speaking up for strangers suffering on the other side of the world. You can’t fly or shoot lasers out of your eyes, but you can always lend your own strength in other ways. Donate money, write to your lawmakers about letting refugees into your cities/states/countries, and about supporting the native people’s resistance.

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