Comic Reviews 3/15/17: Marvel, Kill or be Killed, and Sex Criminals

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Amazing Spider-Man #25

Oofa-doofa, this is a large issue. Is it worth $10? Considering that’s the standard price for the first volume of most Image titles…probably not, but this is one stuffed issue.

The main story follows Spider-Man as he tracks down Norman Osborn, first in Delvadia working with Mockingbird, SHIELD, and Tarantula and Devil Spider; and then in Hong Kong as a rogue agent with just Mockingbird. Also tagging along to Hong Kong are Aunt May and Harry Osborn, who are going for one of Peter’s charity events; putting them in the crosshairs of – not just Norman – but a mysterious invisible woman who blew up a city block in Delvadia.

Slott doesn’t miss a beat as he sweeps Spider-Man from The Clone Conspiracy into his next grand arc, using this issue’s extra real-estate to pack in two issue’s worth of plot. The issue opens strong, with team Spidey breaking into what he believes to be Osborn’s hideout only for it to be a red-herring. It’s an action-packed first act, and Slott builds up the stakes by dialing down Peter’s quippiness. He’s single-minded when it comes to Osborn, even if it means he doesn’t make the best team-mate. He lightens up by the end of the mission, when he thinks he’s caught Osborne, only to annihilate a table when he finds it was a fake.

Things do even out by the time the story moves to Hong Kong, and even if Peter is worried about May and Harry’s safety, having them – and Bobbi Morse, who he kind of asks on a date – around, keeps him from moping too much. Slott’s at the top of his game this issue, especially when it comes to dialogue and how he controls the tone. Comic book characters can’t really have “tone” in the audio-sense, but it’s hard not to hear these characters go through various inflections in your mind’s ear as you read. The scenes with Peter out of costume, talking with May, Harry, Bobbi, etc. are especially naturalistic for Slott; and even in-costume, the naturalism of his dialogue here actually makes Peter and Bobbi’s maybe-relationship all the more believable.

Of course, all this is helped by Immnonen, Von Grawbadger, and Gracia killing it with the art, and giving the series a much more cinematic feel than it’s had previously, with small details like lens-flair and motion-blur effects doing a lot to give things a real presence. The team is also liberal with the splash-pages and other open panel-layouts that work to emphasize single actions, or imply montage. One issue in, and this new arc already feels like a blockbuster.

This issue also includes a number of back-ups, none of which are bad, but one really stands out. If you’re not already familiar with Hannah Blumenreich’s Spider-Man fancomics, than her official Marvel debut should definitely prompt a google. She excels at writing and drawing a soft, lovable teenage Peter who becomes adorkable as Spider-Man. She also writes May as way more than a frail damsel-in-distress, making her into a cool and believable single-mother who has clearly raised her son to be one cool young dude. More than probably any other comics-person, she writes a Spider-Man with a gentleness that shows how much he cares about helping people.

 

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #20

Rage is in jail, and the streets have broken out in protest. Despite Sam’s efforts to appeal the verdict, Elvin finds himself deeper in the pit, locked up in a literal super-jail, surrounded by villains he’s put there. Sam tries to hold on to his convictions, but seeing the world get worse around him pushes him to his limits, and he starts to realize that maybe Rage is right and righteous.

I went on a bit of a rant at the end of last issue, and while I still think that Spencer undermines his own point when he depicts peaceful protests alongside rioting, he does make it pretty clear which side the heroes are on. This is personally one of those separating artist from art things, but given how much of his own politics Spencer is rightfully putting into this book, I’m not sure how much my own frustration with Spencer is effecting my enjoyment of this title. Spencer’s heart, I think, is in the right place, but these small things – and some recent behavior on social media – are beginning to add up. For what it’s worth, I do still think that he’s writing one of the more…let’s say relevant…books in Marvel’s line-up, and a Captain America worthy of the title.

 

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Ms. Marvel #16

The Doc.X virus gives Ms. Marvel an ultimatum: either she uploads him onto the SHIELD mainframe, or he leaks her secret identity, and publicly outs her friend. Ms. Marvel has to choose to either protect those closest to her, or the entire world from this virus, and it’s a harder decision than it seems. She may have to ask an old ally for help.

This issue is a version of a staple superhero trope, made new again mainly through a unique and contemporary set-up. The villain isn’t able to blackmail Kamala because they spent their own time and resources digging up dirt on her, but because she wasn’t careful to the dangers of the modern public-surveillance culture. Her secret is at risk because secrets are nigh-impossible to keep at all in the current day. And the third option Kamala does find to solve this issue is another one that speaks directly to the online, always-on, always being recorded culture that this villain comes from.

And even if it feels like Kamala has been doing this hero thing a little too long to go as far as she does to maybe giving into the villain’s demands, she learns this staple hero-lesson fast enough where it doesn’t feel like a huge lapse in judgement. Also, the brief scene that does come of it, which involves Agent Coulson, is so full of the lovable nerdy Ms. Marvel flavor that it’s worth the detour.

 

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Star-Lord #4

Peter Quill finds out about Edmund’s history as a cat burglar, but manages to keep Daredevil from arresting the now retired thief. Back at the bar, Shocker asks Pete for help in finding Diamondhead, who went missing after a scuffle a few days ago, and accidently brings Star-Lord face-to-face with Black Cat.

As you’d expect from this arc’s title, Star-Lord’s greatest charm is how grounded all the characters are. Sure, they’re all aliens/superheroes/criminals or whatever, but they relate to each-other on completely normal, relatable terms. Peter reacts to finding out about Edmund’s past the same way anyone might if they found out a close friend got arrested for shoplifting or something, and for his part, while Edmund knows what he did was illegal, he feels justified in doing it because he didn’t hurt anybody and only stole from those who didn’t need it. When Shocker approaches Peter for help, even though it’s because Pete’s a hero, it reads more like Shocker is asking a friend for a favor rather than a superhero. People in this book don’t relate to each-other as comic book characters, but as just normal people in extraordinary but not unfamiliar circumstances. Even when there’s conflict, everyone is civil to one another. And once the book does reveal some actual villains, they become all the more transgressive for their outright selfishness and violence.

Also, boy does this book love showing off abs and butts. Totally not a complaint.

 

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Kill or be Killed #7

I really don’t know how Brubaker does it every month, but it’s like he’s right in my head. I actually don’t think I can review this issue because of something personal that I very recently found out about that – somehow – is reflected in this issue with an uncanny degree of familiarity. This issue at this moment really just hits too close to home, and I’m pretty much all emotions and can’t be at all critical about it, good or otherwise. It should go without saying, but this is an incredible issue of an incredible series.

 

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Sex Criminals #17

This issue shows us a day in the life of Myrtle Spurge: Sexual Cop, starting with an amazing two-page reference to Brubaker and Phillips’ previous comic Criminal, and only getting better and funnier from there. The whole issue plays out like a police procedural, with Myrtle narrating the whole thing with over-dramatic cop-talk about modus operandi and how normal people become twisted sex criminals that’s trying so hard to sound hard-boiled and just failing so hard! It also doesn’t help Myrtle that she’s atrocious with the sex “puns” because she herself seems to have no sense of humor whatsoever. Overall, an amazing look at the series villain so far. Sex Crims is still the funniest book in comics.

 

The DC Comics and Injection #11 reviews will likely not be up until Friday, but they are coming. Thanks for waiting.

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