Comic Reviews 2/15/17 – Marvel and Uber: Invasion

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Steve Rogers: Captain America #11

After the funeral of Jack Flag, we learn that Steve Rogers will become the next director of SHIELD, and that he plans to use his new position to prevent the construction of the Planetary Defense Shield, which is already well underway, led by Captain Marvel. We also find out that Steve’s flashbacks have been him telling his retconned origin story to someone he needs to help him with his plans – Helmut Zemo. And at the end of the issue, Avril Kincaid finds the Thunderbolts, and somebody learns Cap’s secret.

This issue finally clears up some of the ambiguities from the last two regarding how Steve plans to navigate the issue of the PDS, and now that he’s Director of SHIELD, hints at the influence he now wields. The majority of this issue is dedicated to the origin/Helmut plot, which finally reveals why Steve has been narrating that whole series of events, and why that narration had felt so propagandistic. However, because on the focus on this part of the story, it doesn’t feel like we’ve made much progress along the various other present and future-focused threads. It’s mainly Steve asking people to help him, but not telling those people what they’re helping him with.

 

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #19

Rage is put on trial for the incident with the pawn shop, and despite Sam having publically released video evidence that should have proven Rage’s innocence, the trail could still go either way.

Like many issues of this comic, it clearly defines its parallels to the real world. A person of color being put on trial (legal and public) despite no evidence of their wrong-doing, and video evidence that should exonerate them. Juries that are mostly white despite pulling from a minority-majority population. A public defender system that gives the defense no time to actually prepare a case. This book gets a lot so right about the message it wants to send, and about the issues a Captain America should be highlighting.

And then it falls on its face in the last two pages.

[SPOILERS]

In reaction to the guilty verdict, a young black boy decides to blow up a bank. For a book and a writer that seems so in control of the messages he wants this book to have, it feels like Spencer has either suffered a major lapse in judgement, or doesn’t have that great judgement in the first place.

I know that depiction isn’t the same as promotion, but when you show riots as a reaction to what is clearly a metaphor for racially-based discrimination in the justice system, you undermine the efforts that real world advocates against discrimination – like the Black Lives Matter movement – have made towards using non-violent demonstrations to get their message out; AND you strengthen the arguments that people make in favor of tough-on-crime policy and the restrictions of personal freedoms of expression that take the form of protests.

When so much of this book invites direct comparison to real world events, it suggests that the entire book has parallels to the real world. In this case, the depiction of these parallels IS a promotion of those messages. Whether Spencer likes it or not – and I sincerely hopes he doesn’t – the last two pages of this book illegitimizes everything that comes before it.

[END SPOILERS]

 

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The Clone Conspiracy #5

Ben Reilly has sent a signal that will result in the entire world turning into NewU zombies, and Spider-Man has very limited time to meet up with Anna-Maria to send out the inverse signal to stop it. And there are dozens of quickly decaying supervillains in the way.

After all the build-up, it feels like this ending comes a little too easily. There’s no big climactic final battle, no final raising of the stakes or unexpected losses, it’s just a race to the finish. There’s nothing wrong with the issue per-se, and there’s a part of me that’s glad this issue didn’t introduce a sudden new gimmick or anything just for the sake of making things feel extra important, but the issue lacks any sort of weight whatsoever.

At least it looks great. If there’s any tension in this issue at all, it comes from Ponsor’s heavy use of red alarm-lighting in the opening pages, and Cheung illustrating how every character is rotting from page to page.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be so disappointed if this story wasn’t hyped up as a huge Spider-Man event arc.

 

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Star-Lord #3

Peter is settling in to his life on Earth. He’s doing well at his new job as bartender at the Bar With No Name, even gaining a rapport with some of its villainous patrons. Unfortunately, working at the villain bar isn’t the best look for someone on probation, and Daredevil attacks Peter, looking for some money that went missing after last issue’s bank robbery. Oh, and also Peter’s sister has sworn to kill him for letting Spartax burn. At least he gets to talk some of this out to Edmund Allen, the 73 year old he’s doing community service with.

This book isn’t really “mumblecore,” but it does have the sort of subdued tone of that genre of indie movie about people trying to get their lives together in the city because, well, that’s the sort of story it’s telling – just with more spandex. Things are kept at a nice level of lightness, and even when Daredevil and Star-Lord start fighting in an alley, the problem is resolved through talking it out and Daredevil eventually getting hounded by people wanting his picture and autograph. There’s always a spot of humor to cut the tension, not that things ever feel like they’re getting too tense in the first place. It’s kind of like the comic equivalent of a Linklater film, and just as enjoyable.

 

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Uber: Invasion #2 & #3

If you had any inkling that this series might not be extremely difficult to stomach, then the scene in issue two where a woman tries to save her daughter from burning wreckage, only to fail because when she grabs onto her daughter’s reaching arms, she accidently peels the skin right off her arms, will surely dissuade you of that notion.

Issue #2 is takes the form of footage recorded after an attack on Boston that leaves the city looking like Hiroshima right after the bomb. The visual references are completely intentional. The issue is a tour of half-remaining buildings and people. Nobody who lived through it did so without half their bodies covered in keloid scars covering whatever limbs haven’t been torn from them. It’s a heavy issue, like the last one, and also like the last one, exists mainly to set up the stakes before the plot has actually begun. Gillen and Gete spend these first two issues to make sure that there is no ambiguity with regards to this series’ tone – this isn’t a superhero book, it’s a war book.

In issue #3, America begins its counter attack. Having found the location of Battleship Siegfried at a base in Connecticut, the US plans to overwhelm the Germans through sheer numbers – sending 300 Tankmen to storm the base and kill Siegfried. And then Battleship Siegmund shows up. In the book’s first spot of hope, after the slaughter in Connecticut, the Americans get some friendly new arrivals.

Issue #3’s continued use of objective battle-reports as narration successfully create dissonance between what we’re reading and what we’re seeing. The immense level of gore and violence on the page is reduced to tactics and statistics in the narration, further reducing the humanity of the book overall.

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