Comic Reviews 1/18/17 – Marvel

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Monsters Unleashed #1

The first issue of Marvel’s new event isn’t just bad, it’s 90’s bad. It’s bad…to the X-treme. Which sucks, because the premise is right up my alley.

Kaiju start crashing down in major cities all over the world, and the various heroes and teams of the Marvel universe have to stop them from rampaging all over the planet. Great simple idea that allows for some really sweet action set-pieces. Or, they would be sweet if any of them where longer than a double-page spread where you can’t track where heroes are in relation to kaiju.

And then the book’s exposition kicks in. The one person on Earth who knew about the monsters is Elsa Bloodstone, who’s inner monologue reads like a bad Constantine parody, and goes Indiana Jonesing her way to a supposedly prophetic cave-painting.

Also somehow involved is Kei, a suburban kid who draws Kaiju and lives with a mom we’re supposed to think is over-protective because she tells her son not to go outside while kaiju are attacking everywhere.

Those two storylines are completely removed from each- other and from any of the Marvel heroes we actually care about.

Maybe next issue this book leans into it’s premise and goes balls to the wall over the top stupid. I don’t think it will, and this first issue hasn’t hooked me enough to find out. And I am the easiest mark in the world for a book about superheroes fighting kaiju.

 

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Cage! #4

After all the other heroes fall to Professor Soos’ creations, Cage stands alone against the final opponent, Soos himself!

An amazing conclusion to Tartatovsky’s short comics experiment. He continues to play with the comic form, using panel layouts to show the earth-shaking strength of the blows being exchanged, and to the fight in what is effectively, frame-by-frame slow-mo. Every comic does this in its own way, but Cage really pulls attention to it and uses it to marry the second and fourth dimensions. All in all, a super fun cartoony short series. Glad I read it.

 

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Captain America: Sam Wilson #18

After Rage is beaten and arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, Sam finds footage that would exonerate him, but wrestles with the implications of making it public.

Another heavy issue of Captain America where Spencer brings up issues of the for-profit prison system’s exploitation of black men, the morality of Cap’s bird-based surveillance network, police brutality (again), and the repercussions of doing the right thing.

Admittedly, the issue does fall a bit short a building an argument against releasing the tapes; it’s not like Cap’s footage is ambiguous or anything. I think the stronger political pull at the moment would be, does releasing the tapes change anything? We’ve just lived through a year where strong unambiguous video evidence of police violence still doesn’t make enough of a case to punish bad cops; where video of a cop shooting an unarmed black man running away from him still isn’t enough to find the cops responsible guilty.

It’s a little admirable to read a story that takes place in a world where proof of large-scale wrongdoing actually has a positive effect on changing it, but that sort of thinking feels naïve in a book that usually has a more grounded approach to comics-as-metaphor.

 

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Star-Lord #2

First of all, the first page of this book has easily the most believable news-copy I’ve ever read in a comic book, so props to Chip Zdarsky for that.

After getting arrested, Peter Quill has to do some community service or serve jail-time, and picks community service, thinking he’ll visit some schools and cheer up some kids. Instead, he get saddled with being a companion for an elderly person who’s sick of everything and doesn’t even like leaving his retirement home. Peter takes him outside for a bit, and the two stumble upon a bank-robbery in progress.

This issue ups the comedy from the last one in a big way, starting with a courtroom farce where Matt Murdoch prosecutes Quill for being a vigilante, and later, adds a crotchety old man for Peter to bounce off of. Eventually, we get to a point in the issue where Ms. Marvel chews out Peter for endangering the elderly. It’s great, though never so much laugh-out-loud as it just puts a smile on your face to watch a well-meaning but ignorant person stumbling through this world trying to do better.

Also, Kris Anka draws a really pretty Peter Quill. All nice beard and abs and tight clothes. Very yes.

 

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Mosaic #4

Morris jumps into Spider-Man’s body, and finds out what happens when you try and mind-control someone who’s dealt with telepaths before.

This issue gives us a new wrinkle in the Mosaic story: what happens when his powers don’t work perfectly? Spider-Man has experience with people to control his mind, and has made mental defenses against people prying inside his head that Morris now has to contend with along with getting used to being in the mind of one of Marvel’s smartest. The majority of this issue actually takes place inside Spidey’s head, as Morris tries to take control of this new super-body to then find out what his father’s been up to. This series and character are still really young, but this is a cool example of the sorts of places that it can go that other books haven’t exactly tried.

This issue also serves as a great way to further establish Morris’ character by putting him in direct contrast to Spider-Man. This isn’t just a battle of fists or wits, it’s an actual battle of consciousness, how Spider-Man thinks compared to how Morris does – how their heads work.

 

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The Clone Conspiracy #4; Amazing Spider-Man #23

Normally, the Amazing Spider-Man issues have seemed to be side or background stories to the main Clone Conspiracy book, but this week, the two are so closely related in time and characters used, that, while Amazing still isn’t completely necessary to understand CC, it feels much more like part of the same chapter.

In Clone Conspiracy Ben Reilly continues to Peter around the New U facility, seemingly winning him over by showing how his not-clones are truly reformed and brining happiness to the people closest to them; and he still has the offer of bringing back Uncle Ben on the table. Meanwhile, Doc Ock and Anna-Marie finally crack the cure to the not-clones’ degeneration problem.

The “out” that Slott finds for Peter from what sounds like a perfect solution in New U is inspired, even if it leans a little bit much into Peter being a pathological masochist – something that clone-Gwen accuses him of being in Amazing, which takes place during CC, but while CC is focusing on Ock and Anna-Maria’s part of the story. Speaking of, the interactions between Ock and Anna-Maria are amazing. He returned from the dead to be with her, and she thinks that he’s completely repulsive for lying to her about his identity during their whole relationship.

I also completely love how this chapter ends with Ben turning everyone against him and eliminating all good will by showing the true sinister undercurrent of the New U project. If Peter’s excuse for not going along with it feels a little weak, then the reasons that Ben ends up giving reveal it for all the evil it does threaten to bring, even if it didn’t cause people to zombify after a while.

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