Oh no, oh no, I’m late! This is my round-up for Marvel Unlimited comics published last week. There was so much stuff to get through that it took me too long, plus life nonsense in the way.
This was the week of the twist ending in our new MU comics. Five of the books below have major final-page surprises, and I think I only spoiled one of them. (Sorry, Wolverine fans!) Take a gander at the full release calendar and then meet me below the excited Loki to talk comics.
If you’re wondering about Avengers 3.1, don’t worry – it got delayed for some reason and was added to MU today. I’ll include it in the next round-up.
(This weeks’ comics were originally published ca. January 11, 2017.)
Epic Comics (★★★★★)
These are the comics that make it easy to be a proud Marvel fan.
New arc! Matt Murdock is feeling mega guilty for getting Blindspot blinded. So he starts up a crazy money-making scheme that involves putting out a hit on Daredevil. How this is gonna help his protege isn’t clear yet. This issue burns up to a showdown between Matt and a good-but-desperate Inhuman lured in by the bounty. Then a genuine shocker of a twist ending smashes down an even bigger story on top of this already-great story. It’s illustrated with bold, flat, beautiful art that feels 100 Bullets-esque in a very good way. All this and a tricky priest who refuses to let Matt use the confessional as a free therapist’s office!
New arc! After some rough doldrums following CW2, Kamala is back in action. She falls into the crosshairs of an online stalker who’s got nastier plans than just doing a little catfishing. It’s a tale about privacy and identity and isolation with all the hallmarks of classic (i.e. supremely great) Ms. Marvel. Turning the pencil over to Takeshi Miyazawa again is just the cherry on top of this sundae.
Squirrel Girl’s 20th birthday/25th Anniversary is a good excuse for looking back over her life, peeking forward, and hitting some frigging milestones. (Recycled) Steve Ditko art! Original SG writer Will Murray’s second swing ever at writing the character! The origin of Monkey Joe! Our first glimpse of Dorian Green, Doreen’s dad! It’s not a flawless ride, but Monkey Joe setting 10-year-old Doreen on the path to hero-hood and 15-year-old Doreen acting as a seeing-eye squirrel for a concussed Hulk are both magnificent.
Great Comics (★★★★)
Comics that will give you warm fuzzy “aww yeah” feelings after you finish them.
So this issue played out exactly as I thought it would, right down to Normie Osborn developing an insta-crush on Annie May Parker. Yet the author delivers some excellent schoolyard relationships and a fascinating twist to the story of the youngest spider-person: Her spider-sense is prescient. Though the art is a bit gritty for a story with an eight-year-old protagonist, it’s also very well done. This wonderful peek into Annie May’s head is exactly what I needed to fall in love with the character and this series. Thumbs very much up!
Last issue’s strange obsession with Miles’s father is explained: Maria Hill’s gotten him lost on Earth-65 and now Miles has to go fetch him. He’s telling the story to his roomies, so he starts with smooching Spider-Gwen and then rewinds to work toward that point. This issue only takes him up to a love-at-first-sight intro; the pacing is still a bit slow. Some brilliant art helps sell the story. Ms. Pichelli draws a terrific rooftop and that’s a vital skill for a Spidey artist. Also, it’s achingly fun to see Miles give Maria a richly-deserved “don’t care,” like so:
Kimura slaps Laura into a sensory deprivation tank to
make her look as much like Weapon X Logan as possible isolate and anger her. She’s gonna wield Laura as a weapon to take over Madripoor – a lame scheme that is the one note of the issue that rings false to me. Meanwhile Gabby is doing an awesome job of saving herself and coming to her sister’s rescue. That’s right, she’s using the s-word. It all comes to a head in Tyger Tiger’s (How married to that name are we? She’s been a Madripoor fixture for 30 years? Damn. Okay.) fancy office, where Gambit arrives at the eleventh hour with God knows what agenda.
“Professor” Red Skull loses a lot of my respect by spending the entire issue torturing his new Avenger puppets like a stereotypical megalomaniac. Of course, he is the Red Skull, soooo … He falls for a dreadfully basic “Im ded lemme alone” ruse from Cable, though. And Deadpool is still out there; he secures a special guest ally of unimpeachable caliber on the final page. Some glorious art helps this issue from falling into the run of the mill.
After two issues of filler nonsense, Wade and Spidey are back on the trail of their horrible gene-spawn, Itsy Bitsy! Except no, first they have to run a gauntlet of Weirdworld nonsense because that’s where Wade took Spidey to heal up after #10. It’s not nearly as disappointing as it might be for two big reasons: The mockery of Weirdworld is hilarious, and there’s great psychological insight into Spidey’s creeping nihilism. This version of Peter Parker is edging onto awareness of everything he lost in the OMD debacle, and it’s up to Deadpool to give him a “great responsibility” refresher course.
Good Comics (★★★)
Comics that make you feel like time reading them is time well spent.
Remember the joke from the last issue about Jane Foster thinking she should really study up on Thor’s enemies? Mr. Aaron likes it so much he makes it again. That’s the only truly sour note in this big fight comic. Gladiator and the Imperial Guard beat up Heimdall, knock over some buildings, and snatch Thor away to present her to the all-new gods of the Shi’ar. I was doubtful about all this violence but then I realized that it might well be the traditional extradition process in Asgard. There’s also a stellar scene where Cul tells Jane Foster to stop being cancerous if she wants to stay in the Congress of Realms. It made me furious with Cul, which I think is exactly what the author intended.
Maria Hill gambles her future on proposing a planetary defense shield at her trial, and Hydrated Cap swings the outcome via murderous jury tampering. The actual verdict is held back as a super-frustrating cliffhanger. I believe Director Hill is written with her smugness turned up to 11 so that it’s reasonable for her superiors to say “yes” to the shield and “no” to Maria next month, but that outcome would be believable even if Maria weren’t outrageously insulting here. But she is, sigh. In his 1940 flashback, young Hydrated Steve is sent to infiltrate Project: Rebirth. Some questionable guest art and poor characterization made this a pretty “meh” episode. Yes, it’s building that road to Secret Empire. How entertaining is road-building in and of itself, though?
Hawkeye and Red Wolf visit
the smoking ruin of the Nighthawk solo series Chicago to enlist Tilda Johnson’s robotics expertise. She and Nighthawk help the guys track down some smugglers dealing in LMD material. The baddies’ real identity makes for a splendid final-page twist. While the big plotting is all solid, the tactical balloon-to-balloon writing is seriously flawed. I want to call this a great comic – that art is certainly there – but there are a few too many misdemeanors in the dialogue and characterization to call this exceptional.
The war for Harlem gets bloody. Tombstone drops bodies, Alex Wilder strengthens his position, and Black Cat is banished south of 110th Street. Luke and Danny are in the middle of it, but they’ve been strangely passive for way too long. This issue is a weird reverse of Occupy #3; here the tactical writing is brilliant while the strategic plotting seems to be stuck in a holding pattern. If only David F. Walker could work out some sort of talent-sharing arrangement with David F. Walker. Wait, what?
Whew, the GLA haven’t quite killed their nemesis. Yet. They did lock him in a closet with an angry Good Boy, so he’s kind of … mauled … now. Connie Ferrari comes barging in like Mr. Roper on Three’s Company while they try to hide the almost-corpse and Flatman falls to pieces. On the plus side, anybody bleeding as much as their nemesis is at the end of the issue is definitely still alive. It’s a decently entertaining funnybook, but I think we expect more from a team as (in)famous as GLA. Perhaps it’s the pacing that’s off? In previous incarnations, they would have done so much more in four issues.
As per IvX #2, many Inhuman heroes have been imprisoned in Limbo. This issue reveals that not only did a bunch of innocent no-name Inhuman civilians come along, they’re also dying a lot. As if Limbo wasn’t harsh enough, a rapidly monster-fying Monet is killing them for sport. Sabretooth gets in on the war crimes action, too. This makes a decent if dark read, and I find myself really hoping the other books in the event address these deaths.
Deadpool has a cure for the bio-weapon Madcap loosed on his family, and in this issue, he chases his nemesis into the shadows. There’s no capture and no closure, and he owes Stryfe four murders in exchange for the time-traveling baddy handing him the cure. Writing and art are both perfectly serviceable, but the lack of closure with Madcap – a character that bores me severely – keeps this down at the level of “entertaining at best” for me.
Mattie and Silk are both suspicious about New U. Silk’s boyfriend Hector, an epically underdeveloped character, has been reincarnated! And now the clones go haywire. I really hope this title hangs onto Irene Strychalski; her “GuriHiru lite” art is a positive blessing that fits Silk perfectly. Also, this issue gives New U its own knockoff Pleasant Hill; I’m really hoping the other books in the Clone Conspiracy event ignore that. (Note from future me: They didn’t, dangit.)
There’s a sinister cabal of sinisterness hunting alien refugees on Earth. This looks like trenchant commentary on contemporary global politics, but it really isn’t. Miles Spidey helps Rocket through a few pages of entertaining banter, then Rocket falls into the clutches of a special guest villain. The charm of this title wanes rapidly as it chews more than it bites off.
There’s no time to give the fascinating-looking Nina the Conjuror a real backstory; in this issue nearly every page is devoted to Newton’s inevitable betrayal of the good guys after he kills the Forgotten. This is the diametric opposite of a surprise and something I was expecting from about Newton’s third line onward. He’s taking the Mindful One to the side of evil with him, Noooo! The art remains brilliant on layouts but slightly lacking in giving the characters three dimensional heft.
Disappointing Comics (★★/★)
Reading these comics displays die-hard devotion to their characters and/or insanity. In my case, it’s (mostly) the latter.
The X-Men attack New Attilan. A little lip service is paid to minimizing civilian casualties, but Medusa isn’t buying it. Iso and Inferno barely outrun a too-murderous Laura Kinney. By the unbreakable narrative law of the set-up, saying that they’re glad to escape Wolverine means that they teleport right into the claws of Old Man Logan.
This issue is nicely illustrated, but it offers the doubly-depressing realization that there’s a Standard Operating Procedure for big stupid Marvel hero wars, and this event is gonna follow that SOP step-by-step. This issue ticks boxes for “too violent too fast,” “endangering innocents in a way that’s called unforgivable but will inevitably be forgiven,” and “winning side incarcerates powerful opponents to set up a prison break later.” Possibly also the “Really? THAT’s what you’re fighting for?” box if the point of the attack really boils down to letting Teen Beast swipe Blue Beast’s research notes.
A sad failure of a promising concept. Groot spends a pleasant day in Central Park making friends, having fun, beating up the Armadillo, and teaching lessons about heroism. This is all illustrated with gorgeous splash pages and double spreads that really go the extra mile in making Groot look vibrant. So why do I say “failure?” Because those illustrations are spoiled by some of the laziest Dr. Seuss-imitating doggerel verse ever put to paper. (Stan Lee did way better with doggerel verse back in 1942.) Mr. Bendis starts by trying to rhyme “Groot” with “foot” and it goes downhill from there. This could have been an epic book but the shoddy verse turns it into “enh, that one Groot gimmick comic that sorta sucked.”
Greg Salinger gets a visit from Kurt, his Foolkiller protege. This store-brand Crossbones exposes the fact that Greg’s “SHIELD handler” Gary is actually a rogue who’s using Greg as a bounty-collecting dupe. Greg buys it and shoots Gary in the head, so it looks like we’re headed into a gleeful fool-killing roadtrip/death spiral. A few trite words about the 90s being the heyday of mass-media psychobabble are not nearly enough to win me back to this title. In the silver linings department, Mr. Talajić is detectably growing as an artist. If only he had a better story to illustrate!
Jeremy Lin saves the day and it’s the best part of the book. Unfortunately, this is accomplished by making most of the other aspects terrible. Amadeus and Maddie get locked into a death struggle over which sibling can be the bigger jerk, technology works like magic in a very annoying way, and there’s an unwelcome reminder that the Chos – like half of Marvel’s superheroes – have a huge multinational corporation at their beck and call. Some very capable art and some surprisingly believable leadership from J-Lin save this from being a total disaster. But Amadeus, dude, you just got upstaged by your celebrity guest star. Hard. Time to shape the ☠☠☠☠ up!
Remember when Marvel got all fangirl-y about Eminem liking the company and let him have a one-shot team-up with the Punisher? Well, it’s happened again. Charlemagne tha God is the writer and star of this oh-so-humble tale of Norman Osborn being humiliated by Charlemagne’s elite radio chatting skills. He gives himself some Inhuman powers too, but this does not make the fight or the comic interesting. Tthe author realizes on some semi-conscious level that he needs cover for his egotism, but all he comes up with is “raising money for various charities and what not.” That’s why he’s throwing a New Year’s bash with all his favorite superheroes; they spend an embarrassing amount of time telling him how awesome he is. It’s a tacky story and it was tacky of Marvel to publish it.
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Images snipped out of Marvel Unlimited by yours truly.