Dark Days: The Casting #1
This issue continues The Forge’s storytelling maneuver of throwing DCU canon at the wall to see what sticks, but also helpfully starts putting a few pieces together to the story of Metal.
Carter Hall writes in his journal about his multiple lives’ quest to discover the secret of Nth Metal – the power-source of his wings and weapons, and has traced it back to the beginnings of the universe, a bat-shaped Destroyer, and the “birds” that fought him back. Batman too, quests to discover the secret of the metals, which Wonder Woman tells him was used to make divine weapons, is found in all of the DCU’s most powerful relics, and courses through the blood of Earth’s heroes, including Batman himself. Meanwhile, Hal and Duke try to interrogate Joker about what he knows about the Metal and Batman’s been hiding from them.
This is Snyder going for broke, giving the DCU its biggest event since Flashpoint with Morrison-esque levels of continuity play connecting everything in the DC canon together. I’m expecting this to get incredibly silly, and make absolutely no sense to anyone not already 100% invested. Because it’s Snyder, I am so game for this. There’s still a radical shift in quality when the art goes from Kubrick to Romita Jr, the latter of whose style just does not fit the story as well as it does something like the first arc of All-Star Batman.
Wonder Woman #26
Considering her previous work, I wasn’t expecting Fontana’s first issue on the series to completely gel with where Rucka left us, but the shift in tone is still something I’m getting used to, even within this one issue.
I like the opening scene, with Wonder Woman breaking up a fight in a refugee camp, although I’m honestly not sure what’s supposed to be happening. She punches out a guy harassing a woman and her kid, but then the whole camp is on fire and explodes for some reason? I’m not sure; but that leads directly to a flashback where Wonder Woman overhears her mother worry that she shouldn’t still be playing with dolls if she’s to become an Amazon – a plot-thread which doesn’t really go anywhere nor even plant seeds for the story to come. After that, Diana debriefs from what’s revealed to be her 43rd mission this year with the US military, and the General offers to be someone she can talk to with any problems regarding what she sees on the missions; there’s a check-up with a Doctor with a mysterious cough; and Diana goes to Etta Candy’s brother’s wedding where she helps a young girl find a missing shoe.
Now, I’m the first person to advocate for more superheroes helping out children in comics, but there’s a tonal inconsistency between that and the beginning of the book which implies Di might be going through some PTSD. And that tonal inconstancy also appears within individual scenes, like when right after the General offers to be someone she can talk to, he bumps his head on a low-hanging light fixture, and then the two are interrupted by a Mark Zuckerberg-looking fellow who invites them to a building-wide softball game. Also, the final page feels like a Batman ’66 type cliffhanger, which I kind of love, but which also feels out of step with the rest of the issue.
The Flash #26
Eobard shows Barry and Iris a vision of their future where their children, Don and Dawn, grow up to be supervillains because Barry wasn’t around to be a father to them. Deciding that Iris has had enough of his lying to her, and that there is only one way to prevent this bad future from playing out, Barry goes with Eobard to a place where he’d never hurt anyone ever again – the negative Speed Force.
Although it probably happens too quickly, I like how Eobard breaks Barry by mind-judo-ing him into thinking that being the Flash is somehow irresponsible and hurts people. It’s not the most original storyline, god knows it’s happened to Peter Parker too many times, but in this situation, it works. Like Pete, Barry has seen how much his being the Flash hurts those closest to him, so when Eobard offers a way to prevent further harm, he takes it.
Also, it gives the series a great excuse to focus on Iris, who has to come to terms with her best friend being a superhero while fighting off the Reverse-Flash on her own. Hopefully this story will also borrow the ending from Spider-Man 2 and have the girlfriend knock some sense into their “my power = my choice” mindset when it comes to relationships.
Spider-Men II #1
The cover asks the question “Who is the other Miles?” but, of course we don’t find out this issue – though we do see his face. Instead, we get a cold in medias res open of the two Spider-Men failing to catch a plane with, presumably the other Miles on it, before jumping a week into the past where Peter and Miles meet up at the warehouse where the first Spider-Men story kicked off to investigate another mysterious pink portal flinging stuff through Manhattan.
I stopped picking up Bendis books, including Spider-Man (Miles’ book) because I was getting tired of his style after Civil War II; but reading this issue reminds me of what I like about his writing. All of Bendis’ dialogue is snappy and witty, with everyone knowing exactly how to respond to the last thing said with their own little witticism. So, basically, he’s perfect for Spider-Man (men).
Bendis does tend to be verbose, but the boxes and bubbles are broken up nicely through the spreads, never getting too much in the way except in one moment in particularly where the wordiness is a punchline. And despite each character being recognizably Bendis, they are still recognizably distinct. Peter’s inner monologue and dialogue reads as someone trying – perhaps too hard – to be funny. He repeats words and phrases, doubles back on things he’s thinking/saying to provide his own commentary, and goes out of his way to be self-deprecating while taking others down with his esteem. We don’t get any of Mile’s inner monologue, but his dialogue represents him as more self-conscious, more laconic. He speaks mainly to respond to others, and lets Ganke – oh man did I miss Ganke – do much of the talking for him.
Pichelli’s art also does a lot to define each of the Spider-Men. Peter, like his dialogue, is more comedic. His poses are more exaggerated, with him spreading his limbs away from his body with wide kicks and flips, and leaning and looking down over other characters. Conversely, Miles moves more conservatively, keeping his libs tucked while swinging, and crouching where Peter would stand and lean.
Amazing Spider-Man #30
We open on Spider-Man organizing a retreat from a Mjolnir wielding Hyrdra-Cap, then go to Peter in Shanghai, trying to rally his employees and prepare them for an attack by Doctor Octopus, who is raiding Parker Industry labs. Pete meets with the employees who remain loyal, warning them that if it comes to it, they’re going to have to destroy their life’s work to keep it out of Hydra’s grasps. And then Otto attacks.
It’s really impressive how Slott manages to weave his ongoing stories with event books without skipping a beat. Even without all the Secret Empire stuff, this arc is just another chapter in the Spider-Man/Doc Ock rivalry he’s set up since his Ends of the Earth storyline in 2012. Otto sees allying with Hydra as a means to the end of claiming all of Peter’s work as the fruits of his labor, and destroying Peter’s legacy as he takes it back.
And what’s scary is that, despite becoming a better CEO and doing his best to prepare for Ock, Peter is still a few steps behind. He still, unknowingly let Otto into his company, giving him the chance to sabotage everything right under his nose. In a way, Parker Industry is just as much Otto’s as it is Pete’s, and Otto’s taking advantage of that while Peter is failing to really comprehend it.
Black Panther and The Crew #4
In Mississippi in 1964, Ezra and Frank take the Crew to take care of some KKK members who can’t be touched by the law. In the present, Luke Cage escapes the firebombing of his apartment building by Hydra, then joins up with Misty Knight to investigate why he was targeted, and what that might have to do with Ezra’s assassination.
The cold open in Mississippi is one of the strongest scenes in comic books regarding racial violence printed in the Big 2’s comics yet. Not only does it clearly and concisely explain how white people can (and still) get away with murdering black people, but also demonstrates exactly why groups like the Crew, or the real life Black Panthers, were and are necessary in those times and places. It’s its own complete story and statement of purpose in four pages. And it’s echoed through the rest of the comic, as Misty and Luke eventually talk to the CEO of the company behind the Americops, who still gets away with targeting black people with impunity because that’s what benefits the powerful.
It’s weird how the same company that’s publishing Nick Spencer’s half-assed sanitized metaphor for fascism can also publish such clear-eyed commentary on race in America. And that also applies to David F. Walker’s too-short run on Nighthawk, which you should totally pick up.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #22
Doreen and Nancy win a programming contest and an all-expenses paid vacation to the Savage Land! Expect jokes involving: computer programming pun titles for classic literature, how insane Wikipedia articles in the Marvel universe must be, colonial era nomenclature, Jurassic Park, paleontology, Latveria, and more.
Reading this issue, it’s hard not to feel like North has wanted to write a Jurassic Park episode for Squirrel Girl for a while now, and he taps into the seemingly universal human love of dinosaurs. Henderson continues to deliver on art, with some of the best and funniest faces in comics, my favorite of which this issue is Doreen’s reaction to realizing Nancy has a crush on one of the other contest winners.
Kill or Be Killed #10
The cops, including detective Lily Sharpe find the Russian hitman’s burned-up corpse in the back of the van after learning about Dylan dropping off Rex at the hospital, and begin to postulate why their murderer tried to spare one victim while brutalizing the other. Meanwhile, Dylan, devastated by Rex’s death, move back home with his mom where he gets high, plays video games, and swears off killing, resigned to let the demon kill him. But then the demon reminds him that the Russians are after him, and might target the people he cares about, which complicates things a tad.
For a bit it seemed like Dylan was getting used to his new life, but this issue shows him in a downward spiral stemming from Rex’s death, as it’s the first one that’s actually personal for him. It’s his Uncle Ben moment, and that’s not the only part of this issue reminiscent of Spider-Man. When Dylan goes back to the city, it’s mainly to break up with Daisy and shut out Kira, who just happens to tell him about her feelings for him, just as he’s decided he’s too dangerous and messed up to afford to return her feelings.
This issue doesn’t really feel like the ending to an arc, but somewhere closer to the beginning of one. Continuing the comparison, this is Dylan’s “Spider-Man no more!” moment, which means that the stage is pretty much set for his comeback, whatever that may look like. It certainly won’t be as heroic as Spidey’s; but I wouldn’t rule out the inclusion of a criminal kingpin.