Comic Reviews 12/21/16

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Batman #13

In the conclusion to I Am Suicide we finally find out whose side Catwoman is really on, and whether Batman will break Bane’s damn back.

This is exactly what you’d expect from the end of any heist story; you see everything unravel exactly as planned. Some of the payoffs are a bit of a hand-wave, nothing to egregious, just a little meh. The Ventriloquist pay-off is spectacular.

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Superman #13

Frankenstein’s simple smash and grab from last issue becomes a manhunt in this one when Frankenstein’s bride – now a bounty hunter – accidentally lets Croog escape, and it’s up to the Frankensteins and Superman to ‘re-catch the intergalactic war-criminal.

As you could probably gather from that summary, this is a silly issue. Besides the manhunt for an exploded space criminal, the main thrust of this book concerns the Frankensteins’ ex-marital tension. It’s not exactly high drama, but their hate-love-hate relationship does add an interesting dimension to the issue.

Not the most satisfying 2-issue arc I’ve ever read, but not bad, either.

 

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Trinity #4

The Trinity’s journey into their minds continue with Wonder Woman bringing them to Themyscira. Unfortunately, even in on un-real Amazon Island, men aren’t allowed.

It makes sense that it takes the hero known for her lasso of truth to finally show the Trinity where they’ve been over the last two issues and lead them towards a way out. The end of the issue does feel a little off because of that, but does at least set up a threat for the next issue. There’s also a small tease regarding why Poison Ivy trapped the Trinity in the first place that I hope continues into something interesting.

On the art side of things, Lupacchino is fantastic, but the book does feel lacking of Manapul’s distinct style, his inventive layouts in particular.

 

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Nightwing #11

Nightwing runs into a group of villains from his Robin days – the Run Offs – trying to make a new life for themselves in Bludhaven, accidently interrupting their group therapy session while investigating the murder Gorilla Grimm claims he was framed for. His investigation brings him to Bludhaven’s black market, and a shipping-yard, where he learns that not all the villains in Bludhaven are reformed.

Dick realizes move to Bludhaven didn’t help him escape any of the moral grey areas he was looking to avoid. Instead, he finds himself having to trust villains again, villains saying they’re trying to go straight, but villains all the same. He finally decides to give them the benefit of the doubt when he realizes they’re all in Bludhaven for the same reason – a new start.

 

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Green Arrow #13

Green Arrow discovers that he’s been framed for the murders of multiple Green Arrow-critics, and has been shifted from vigilante to outlaw. After escaping the cops, He, Dinah, Diggle, and Henry regroup to try to find the real murder before they reach their next victim. Meanwhile, the cop that GA humiliated last issue decides to take law enforcement into his own hands.

Like it seems we’re discovering of many people on the Left, Green Arrow’s weakness in this issue is that he believes people will listen to reason. He tries to explain that he’s been framed; how he’s been Seattle’s hero for years, and that the arrows in the victims aren’t the same as the ones he uses, and why would he show up to a scene full of cops if he knew they were looking for him; but the public has already made up its mind. Frankly, having a Trump analogue in this book over-saturates the point a bit.

Still, Green Arrow knows what it is, and having a hero be at fault for being too idealistic is exactly the sort of thing that only this series could really do right now. Because Green Arrow still believes in that idealism, it still celebrates the goofy-sweet relationship between Ollie and Dinah. This story only really works because this version of the character really does seem too good to even be accused of murder.

 

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Cage! #3

Cage wakes up trapped with other heroes by the devious Professor Soos and his martial-arts manimals, forced to participate in a fighting tournament for his own amusement.

His rhyming and slightly different art-style makes it clear who Soos is a reference to, although I’m not sure what the point of the character reference is other than whimsy. What else can I say about this series that I haven’t already? It’s beautiful and silly and beautifully silly, turning the comic into as much of a cartoon as it can be without any actual animation. I’m sad that we only get one more issue of this mini-series because the style is seriously refreshing, and it works incredibly well for the cartoonishly over-the-top stylized story Tartakovsky is telling.

 

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Amazing Spider-Man #22

At the end of the last issue of Clone Conspiracy, we found out that the Jackal wasn’t Miles Warren, but a revived Ben Reilly! In this issue, we find out how Ben Reilly, last seen as a pile of goop, became the new Jackal!

I can’t imagine that the story of how Ben Reilly became the Jackal wasn’t influenced by a certain iconic Superman villain, although it gives that particular story quite the different ending. This issue is mostly exposition, making it difficult to really criticize; what you see is what you get, and there’s nothing particularly inspired nor insulting within the exposition here. The ending, what Peter decides to do with Ben after he learns what happened, feels like a very sudden change of heart; and I’m not sure how much of that is face-value vs. it being sudden because this is technically a tie-in to the main Clone Conspiracy book, and it will be explained further in the next issue of that. I hope it’s the latter.

 

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #16

Misty Knight sends Sam away on vacation to help him recover from everything that’s been going on in his life while she gets to the bottom of who’s been making fake sex tapes of C-list super-women.

Like last issue, this one is a tight one-shot, focusing on a side-character’s story separate from their connection to Sam Wilson. Misty Knight’s investigation into the fake sex-tapes is definitely a case that feels removed from normal Cap business, but doesn’t feel as personal to Misty Knight as wrestling did to D-Man besides the fact of Misty being the book’s most important female character.

Regardless, it’s a great little story, one that posits that even women on different sides of the law have to stand together against the patriarchy because well, it’s not like men are much help. And while the forging of sex-scandals to ruin the reputations of women is definitely in the vein of the political nature I’ve come to expect from Spencer, it does feel a little toothless compared to Sam Wilson taking on racial profiling and police brutality. I imagine part of my reaction is because of me being a man, and if this is a version of the issue of online misogyny that does resonate with more women, then more power to it.

And, toothless or not, this is still an issue where Misty really does step into the spotlight and does deal with the sort of issue the series doesn’t really concern itself with.

 

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World of Wakanda #2

After seeing their country get ravaged twice by outsiders – first Namor, then Thanos – Aneka and Ayo begin to lose faith that T’Challa really holds Wakanda as top priority over the Avengers.

I really want to like this book, about a pair of lesbians who realize that their institutional monarch might not have their best interests in mind and decide to lead a revolt of the oppressed, but it’s just not doing it for me. It really comes down to Aneka and Ayo; they don’t feel fleshed out enough to carry this book. They’re both mainly defined by their attraction to each-other, but besides physical attraction, I don’t believe that – Aneka especially – would sacrifice everything she’s stuck her life to in order to pursue this relationship.

Aneka doesn’t have much of a personality, but we do know that she’s incredibly loyal to her country, with a strong sense of national and personal duty. All we really know about Ayo is that she’s stubborn and a little arrogant, but also for some reason signed up to be a Dora Milaje. It feels like their more attracted to each-other just because they’re both lesbians rather than for any reason regarding personality or shared experience. And if our two protagonists can’t even sell themselves, there’s no way they’re really selling this story about how the realization of their forbidden relationship sparks a radical revolutionary streak against their government.

Adding to that is a breaking of the fundamental “show, don’t tell” rule. We’re told about the suffering of Wakanda due to Namor and Thanos way more than we’re actually shown the repercussions of the attack. Aneka and Ayo keep telling us that T’Challa is letting his country down, but we’re never shown what that looks like beyond a couple panels of some wrecked buildings next to pages depicting Wakanda as a super-advanced city.

It’s disappointing that these characters are more engaging and resonant as a C-story in the pages of Black Panther than they are in their own book.

 

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Occupy Avengers #2

With help from Silas and Frank Fireheart, cousins from the Sweet Medicine reservation, Hawkeye and Red Wolf defeat the militia that has something to do with the reservation’s contaminated water, and discover what exactly they’re up to.

The issue opens with a short recap of Red Wolf’s history which unfortunately doesn’t really tie into the rest of the story except for establishing why Red Wolf is narrating this issue. Walker writes a great Hawkeye, especially during the second fight with Wet Willy, Slip-N-Slide Hydro Man. The Fireheart cousins get their time in the spotlight too, coming across as both do-good punks and proud Native peoples, as well as effective vigilantes protecting their home.

The issue might give a little too much time to the cousins, leaving the Red Wolf + Hawkeye relationship a little underdeveloped, but by the end of the issue it does sell us on why these two are gonna continue travelling together.

 

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Power Man and Iron Fist: Sweet Christmas Annual #1

Leave it to David Walker to write a fresh superhero Christmas story that’s hilarious and completely sincere at the same time.

While last-minute shopping for a present for Danielle at a toy store, Luke Cage and Danny Rand stumble into a plot by Krampus to use a line of popular toys to steal the souls of all the world’s children. Joined by Jessica Drew and her baby, Cage and Iron Fist have to also work with Daimon Hellstrom to protect their kids, and defeat Krampus and his army of demons.

Besides “superheroes vs. Krampus” just being one of the best concepts for a superhero Christmas book, this Annual has a ton of actual heart and Christmas spirit. The overall message of the book is about how capitalism has cheapened Christmas, and while that could get a little preachy, that it involves an actual plan by a demon to steal the souls of children helps temper the moralism. There are also just tons of great human moments, especially the conversations about parenting between Luke and Jessica that explore the funnier moments of being a parent as well as the fear that you might not actually be a good parent. And, of course, Danny Rand gets to shine as Danielle’s cool kung-fu uncle once shit hits the fan.

If you’re in the market for a holiday-centric superhero book, or if you haven’t get gotten into Power Man and Iron Fist, this issue is a great read.

 

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Star Lord #1

Peter Quill is trapped on Earth with no spaceship, very few friends, and not much understanding of proper customs like appropriate drinking hours or where it’s ok to bring guns indoors. Bored out of his mind, Peter goes to the MoMA where he runs into his ex-wife, Kitty Pride, and accidently makes a scene. Then he ends up in a dingy bar with Old-Logan, and things stop being boring.

While the first four pages might have some readers recall Zdarsky’s previous Marvel series, Howard the Duck, this issue peals away from that almost immediately. Star Lord is less on-it’s-face funny than Howard, with Peter coming off as more realistically lost. More than lonely, it quickly becomes clear that Peter feels unwanted on this planet, but doesn’t have the means to escape. That goes a long way to explaining why he and Old-Logan seem like kindred spirits.

Not to say that this first issue is humorless, both Quill and Logan get some great lines in, but Star Lord is shaping up to be more than just a “comic” book.

Also those abs tho.

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