Secret Empire #5
Black Widow is captured by Hydra, but has a plan to turn one of their generals against Steve, while also sending her agents to retrieve a new ally. Meanwhile, Tony’s hunt for the cube fragments turn up more duds than wins in Wakanda and Madripoor. And Steve plans an attack that has even one of his Avengers, Odinson, doubting his loyalty.
While previous issues of Secret Empire have been objectionable, this is the first I’d rate as just bad. The opening with Black Widow is strong, but after that the plot with Tony’s team’s search and eventual return to base peaks early, in Wakanda, and tries and fails to drag the momentum from the Black Panther cameo through the rest of the issue. It also doesn’t help that the panel layouts are overcomplicated, preferring dramatic double-page splashes to creating a readable sense of space or time. It also looks like someone smudged a bunch of ink all over the finished pages, making everything needlessly dark.
Amazing Spider-Man #29
Peter Parker gets back from Symkaria, and goes to London to do an interview to save face for Parker Industries. But during the interview news breaks that the Chitauri are attacking Earth and villains are swarming Manhattan. Pete goes to his London office to find a way to get to either conflict fast, only to find Hydra – and the Superior Doc Ock – waiting for him!
It’s an interesting choice to set this issue during the beginning to Secret Empire rather than in the thick of it, but one that should hopefully allow some distance between this story and the event. Right now it’s playing more like a Doc Ock returns story than a tie-in, probably for the best.
Black Panther #15
T’Challa’s forces are spread thin pushing back the monsters as they pop-in through portals across Wakanda. It takes the combined efforts of Black Panther, the Dora Milaje, Shuri, and the recently allied warlock Zawavari to fight back one pack of yetis, which leaves the latter two drained. With the monster appearances only escalating, the growth of a literal storm over the country, and the cause of it all still mysterious except for some hints about “the originators” – a group of beings older than the Gods, T’Challa turns yet again to outside help.
While I’m very much enjoying how much more comic-y this arc is – this issue is largely one fight scene – I also appreciate how Coates hasn’t lost track of his characters’ relationships. The Midnight Angels, for instance, are plenty flirty with each-other, but get cold when taking orders from T’Challa, still unsure if they can trust him as a leader. When T’Challa asks Shuri for ideas on how to stop the yetis, she does him one better, and asks the ancestors for assistance. And one of T’Challa’s most important past relationships comes up at the very end.
The art has also slipped into more of a Marvel house-style, which I’m admittedly less keen on. The book looks fine, but other artists, Stelfreeze in particular, gave the series so much character that it’s lacking with the current team.
Wonder Woman #25
The actual finale of Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman begins with Diana angry. She’s lost the Golden Perfect, failed to bring Veronica’s daughter home, and learned that her gods have deceived her from the beginning. On Superman and Batman’s suggestion, she decides that if she wants to be herself again, she needs to confront her Patrons.
This is the third (?) time this story has ended, and it’s still a pleasure to read how Rucka caps things off. The issue starts by reminding us of Diana’s great strength, but ends with another testament of her greatest asset – love. Feeling not just alone, but abandoned, it Diana needs time with her closest friends and loved ones to remind her that it isn’t the gods that made her Wonder Woman, it’s her.
The Flash #25
Barry races to the 25th century to rescue Iris from Reverse-Flash, but when he gets there, Eobard ends up taking Barry to class.
This issue reveals a slightly tweaked origin story for Reverse-Flash that makes him out to be even more insane than before. Williamson keeps the 25th century fan of the Flash who finds one of Barry’s old suits and replicates his powers, but adds a healthy dose of unhinged obsession earlier on. Thawn didn’t become the Reverse-Flash because of anything Barry did to defeat him, but because Barry chose Wally to be his sidekick instead of him. It’s petty af, and it’s perfect for Eobard! He’s basically a crazy ex-girlfriend with super-speed! Love it!
The new origin helps codify Eobard as Joker-level insane, plus he’s faster than the Flash, making him a new contender for DC’s scariest villain.
Except for the patented final page jaw-dropper, this issue of Saga is actually quite cute. Alana and Marko decide that it’s finally time to get the dead fetus out of Alana, Hazel is finally old enough to join them on an adventure. She sees a choo choo, for real. Meanwhile, Petrichor prays to the gods for sex, and is set upon by some pro-life, anti-horns, centaur highwaywomen.
It’s great that BKV finally writes Hazel as old enough to join her parents on adventures because she’s just so darn adorable and adds a lightness to everything. While in a previous issue, Marko and Alana sneaking onto a train would’ve had a very spy-fiction tone, with Hazel around, it becomes a cute moment of a girl seeing her first choo-choo and a dogged father having to prevent his wife and child from acting too recklessly.
Within three panels, Petrichor becomes the most relatable character in all of comics, which just goes to prove that Saga still has some of the best and most humanistic writing in the medium today. Despite being aliens, robots, and robot aliens; every character in Saga is so recognizably human; and the ad-hoc family that makes up the main cast should be relatable to almost anyone on Earth.