Here I am, reviewing this week’s latest additions to Marvel Unlimited with hours, hours to spare before Monday brings a whole new batch. The biggest news of the week, of course, is that our long comics-reading nightmare is over: Civil War II is safely dead and buried. Lord, it was a stinker. With luck, we shall not see its like again. While CW2 #8 wasn’t the only disappointing comic this week (incredibly, it wasn’t even the worst issue), this was a very strong week for MU overall. My ratings skewed heavily toward four and five stars. Get to know a wounded Jennifer Walters, fall in love with an ingenious Hobie Brown, and look at a disturbingly emotional argument in favor of mutants over Inhumans for IvX. Check out the full release calendar and then click through for my rankings.
(This weeks’ comics were originally published ca. December 28, 2016.)
Epic Comics (★★★★★)
Comics that should be bought and read and loved by many many people.
Jennifer Walters is lawyering again. She has a creepy new client. She looks “very well.” She is not even close to being “very well.” In the past, Jen’s Hulkitude was more of a blessing than a curse; this title aims to bury the needle on the “curse” side of the dial. This is a promising start to the story with subtle but powerful writing and stellar art.
Hobie Brown is dying of clone sickness. He can’t even stand up, but that doesn’t stop him from beating the new Electro in a splendid display of John-McClane-esque ingenuity. Set in Alcatraz, this stylish fight comic paints a brutal conflict with delicacy and great imagination. If you want to fall in love with Hobie Brown, this issue will get the job done. Don’t miss this title! It may be the best part of the Clone Conspiracy. The art is insanely great, too.
In the lead-up to IvX, Storm is thinking of the conflict in theoretical, analytical terms. Then she watches a 10-year-old mutant die of M-Pox, and everything changes. This sledgehammer of feelings is manipulative but very, very effective. I used to think of this title as generally mediocre, but this issue is a tour-de-force. I’ll admit others might not share my enthusiasm for this story (the art is an acquired taste, for one thing), but I was definitely moved. I’m rooting against the Inhumans now.
Amara asks Victor “I’m a hero now” Von Doom the ultimate question: Why be Iron Man? Doom’s answer is not that revolutionary, but Amara finds its logic repugnant. Plus, the Thing meets Doom’s Mom! I have to give Mr. Bendis a lot of credit for directly addressing the readers’ biggest questions here. The art is generally strong, plus there are two spectacular double splash pages that beautifully illustrate Doom’s Secret Wars flashback.
Red Skull uses Quicksilver to disassemble the Unity Squad with shocking speed. Rogue is his primary target and the focus of the book, and by the end, he’s overcome her psychic defenses. It’s up to Deadpool to save the day in the next issue – uh-oh. A rock-solid plot is helped significantly by some amazingly good art here.
Great Comics (★★★★)
Comics that will leave you with a warm glow of satisfaction.
Natasha falls right into a trap set by her new nemesis, the Recluse. She can’t save her old mentor Iosef, but she easily extracts Bucky. Is a Nick Fury cameo in the works? This issue is another great fight comic. Pay particular attention to the way Mr. Samnee gives the Widow, the Recluse, and Bucky distinctive combat styles; the art alone expresses their personalities and feelings without needing a lot of dialogue. Impressive work!
The conclusion of Auran’s resurrection story is an excuse for Black Bolt to run around and do a lot of talking. (I wonder how many times BB has gotten the chance to speak normally?) He manages to save her and reclaim his Mighty Voice with the help of an Inhuman named
deus ex machina Sterilon. This isn’t quite as good as the earlier issues in the arc, but it’s still very satisfying. Beautiful art from RB Silva goes a long way toward papering over the plot holes.
Shuri is back! She’s plotting her own course through the minefield of modern Wakandan politics. Is she still aligned with her brother, or is she tempted by the Midnight Angels? Does T’Challa want her to be an ally, an adversary, or his replacement? It’s another healthy dose of politics, philosophy, and revolution. While things are admittedly moving slowly, the feeling of ascension pushing towards an epic climax is unmistakeable.
Earth faces a rising tide of Chitauri attacks. Steve reveals it’s no accident; he’s manipulating the Chitauri as one of his many pawns for Secret Empire. What role is the new Quasar going to play in his game? Plus, more of that sweet 1936 “Baby Hydrated Cap” action as young Steve faces his destiny at Hydra School. Beautiful plotting (in a narrative sense and a scheming sense) and strong art are both big draws here.
Spidey and Deadpool fight and celebrate with Saturn to prove that Christmas is a worthy successor to Saturnalia. This is an overstuffed hoagie of a funnybook with some sweet art by Todd Nauck. He’s becoming one of my favorite artists for humorous comics. The sheer volume of jokes crammed into this comic makes it a trifle exhausting, so it’s not quite epic. It’s still a lot of fun.
Jess faces up to the fact that the (supposedly) deceased Roger loved her. Not the best time to find out somebody’s jacking banks in his Porcupine suit! There’s also an interestingly frosty cameo from Carol Danvers. Compare and contrast the facile make-up hug these two had in Mighty Captain Marvel last week. This issue is written with consummate skill but unfortunately illustrated by Veronica Fish. Her shortage of detail makes this look like a rough draft webcomic rather than a finished Marvel comic book. The raw emotional impact of the writing is still enough to elevate this issue out of the ordinary.
Rocket’s “Grounded” story starts with a nice Johnny Storm cameo before Rocket goes hunting for a route off-planet. The Skrull smuggler who could have helped him gets decapitated on the cliffhanger page. I have my doubts about the writing here, but the art is excellent. Oodles of detail help make this story about a space-faring trash panda stuck in Manhattan surprisingly believable.
Mr. Immortal is back with the team at last. Sort of. As per usual, the GLA are off to a rocky start – this time they appear to have gotten their would-be nemesis Nain Rouge killed off-panel. Also, the team reacts well to the introduction of Good Boy, a gender-flipping werewolf with tight connections to the furry community. This decent story is elevated significantly by touching flashbacks showing the start of Val “Flatman” Ventura’s heroing career.
The fractious sorcerer team routs the Forgotten thanks largely to Kushala the Demon Rider. We get some nice backstory on her. Stephen discovers that the Forgotten is a gestalt entity made up of lots of magic-users Merlin imprisoned – perhaps wrongly. The next issue, which will likely focus on Nina the Conjurer, should be very enlightening.
Good Comics (★★★)
Comics that deliver decent entertainment in exchange for the time you invest in reading them.
Carnage awakens Chthon and Eddie Brock turns the Toxin symbiote over to Jubulile so that she can save the day next month. I haven’t read any of Chthon’s previous appearances; here he’s a letter-perfect copy of Cthulhu. If you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos and this doesn’t sound like a ripoff, add a star or two to this comic’s rating.
The Thing gets distracted and instead of imparting wisdom to Moon Girl, he ends up wrassling with the Totally Awesome Hulk. Plus, there’s a Doombot waiting in the wings to be Lunella’s nemesis. This is a frustrating comic because Lunella is behaving like a horrible smart kid. The creators deserve credit for making her a very realistic horrible smart kid and a very sympathetic one. I want her to make better choices than she does because the previous issues have made me care about her.
Dum Dum Dugan and Maria Hill play infuriating super-spy games with Jefferson Davis, Miles’s father. They’re testing his loyalty for some as-yet-unknown secret mission. This is straight up a Jefferson Davis comic guest-starring Miles on the last two pages. It’s a nice little bit of spy action, but this glacially-paced title is already suffering from a distinct lack of focus on its protagonist. Gorgeous art saves the issue from being a disappointment.
Series finale. The X-men have to make Earth a mutant world in order to defeat Xodus, and Professor Xavier doesn’t survive the effort. Marvel comics have given us perhaps a dozen Professor X deaths over the years; this one doesn’t crack the top five for memorability or impact. I recognize that this series and this issue will be significantly more enjoyable to folks who grew up on the Saturday morning cartoon on which it’s based, but if you fall outside that nostalgia bubble, I don’t think it’s all that special.
The demon gangsters bedeviling Doc S and Frank Castle attack d-list gangster Steelgrave. Dr. Strange takes an excruciating amount of time to reveal his plan for hunting them down: the Phantom Eagle’s Ghost Plane! Curious synchronicity: This looks to be the same plane Wong and Zelma are piloting in the main Dr. Strange title right now. This infinite comic is a decent enough way to kill 10 minutes, but I make no promises about you remembering it two hours later.
Disappointing Comics (★★/★)
I read these because I’m crazy in a “read all of Marvel Unlimited” way. What’s your excuse?
Malekith burns the light elves’ realm while Thor and her League of Realms fail to stop him. This issue features a severely underwhelming new Kurse. I love this series but I could not love this issue. The characters’ voices seemed off, the conflict lacked the gravity I’d expect in a supposedly-epic War of the Realms, and the humor trivialized the story instead of providing comic relief. Steve Epting’s art is a poor substitute for Russell Dauterman’s, too.
The Thunderbolts break Bucky out of SHIELD jail. Hydrated Cap is there and ends up very disappointed with Bucky. Jon Malin’s art is a regression to everything that was wrong with Rob Liefeld’s art in the 90s. It actively fractures suspension of disbelief; I can’t get invested in the story because I’m being bombarded by a near-constant stream of cringe-worthy panels. Am I supposed to appreciate it ironically? I refuse. Even by the artist’s own standards, this is bad; his earlier issues were not as painful as this. Though I know the developments in this title will play a significant role in Secret Empire, I think picking them up off a summary website is a much better way to prepare than by reading this comic.
Carol beats Tony into a coma, Eternity plucks Ulysses out of the universe, and a shameful number of pages are devoted to advertising upcoming Marvel projects. Why did Marvel think we’d prefer to read a nicely-illustrated solicitation for future Marvel events rather than a real (non-deus ex machina) conclusion for this one? Granted, it would have been hard to wrap this arbitrary mess up with something satisfying, but they didn’t even try. With this whimpering end, CW2 cements its rightful place as the modern gold standard of shitty crossovers – future events must be (significantly) better than this to be worth your time and especially your money.
Wolverine and the Totally Awesome Hulk are jobbing hard for Robbie Reyes. They tackle a purple space monster which can beat both of them thanks to an arbitrary and nonsensical power-stealing ability; I’m sure Robbie will defeat it in an issue or two. For now, though, we’ve just barely gotten to the point where the three heroes meet. They haven’t even started their inevitable misunderstanding brawl. Characterization, plotting, and pacing are all fundamentally flawed in this book. It’s worse than CW2 #8 – and I know just how damning that indictment is.
Questions? Comments? Furious Arguments?
Let me know what you think!
Additionally, let me know if I’m being too spoiler-y in these mini-reviews.
Images snipped out of Marvel Unlimited by yours truly.