I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bags & Boards 6/8/16

Sharing my thoughts on the weekly comic book haul. The issue that most holds my attention (and not always for good reason) lands the Book of the Week, and I offer brief takes on everything else. Spoilers likely.

Old Business: To finish my thoughts from last week on Civil War II #1, the apparent deaths of Rhodes and She-Hulk feel blatantly manipulative—meant to galvanize both sides of the argument but most especially Tony. That Rhodes was essentially killed “off screen” simply reinforces the sense of it as a nuts-and-bolts plot decision that wasted a good character.

Book of the Week
 Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1
“With your help we could save money and man-hours by not running down dead ends, and instead focus on what’s most likely to succeed.”
Landing the top spot not because it was a particularly inspired read or because it portends great significance, this Civil War II tie-in grabs the honor because it highlights the most serious flaw in the new Amazing Spider-Man concept: Peter is too successful. A disclaimer first: I have enjoyed the new Amazing Spider-Man. Reversing the so-called Parker Luck and putting Peter in a position of success is the freshest take on the character in a long time. The fresh take on Spider-Man creates a weird dynamic in this issue, though, and I found myself feeling that part of the story was lifted from some other series. The plot is straightforward. The first half of the issue sees Spider-Man working with Ulysses to stop a relatively simple crime—an action that convinces Spider-Man both of the authenticity of Ulysses’ powers and the goodness of Ulysses’ character. This whole opening subplot feels redundant after Civil War II #1 and unnecessary since this story isn’t hijacking the main Amazing Spider-Man series—an intrusion that might confuse readers who aren’t following Civil War II. The next day Spider-Man spins a scenario where Ulysses could use his powers to help guide research at Parker Industries, promising that Ulysses’ help with the medical and security fields will lead to countless lives saved. A cliffhanger ending spins a standard jeopardy scenario where Ulysses warns Spider-Man that a Parker Industries employee will don a costume and fight him in the near future. I could be a victim of my own expectations (though the issue’s cover certainly invites big expectations) but I had imaged a little more introspection from Peter before he jumped on board with divining the future. Here’s a guy who’s been haunted his entire life by the unexpected consequences of one decision—to say nothing of the chaos he found himself in when he sided with Tony Stark on Stark’s last great moral flag planting. While there’s an argument that Ulysses, burdened by great power, is burdened by great responsibility, the question remains whether that responsibility is toward action or inaction. Unfortunately the issue goes nowhere near those ideas as Peter, perhaps a little too carefree in his role at Parker Industries, sees only the benefit to his company. While his goals are arguably philanthropic, this Peter Parker feels incalculable distances removed from the perpetually down on his luck young man who worried about the moral implications of almost everything. It’s possible that the depth I’m seeking will come in future issues, but the story in this first issue has such a paint-by-numbers feel to it that I have no desire to bring home the second.

 DC Rebirth Spotlight
Wonder Woman Rebirth #1
“You are many to many. Peace-maker and war-fighter. Supplicant, aspirant, penitent. The true friend and the boon companion, the trusted soul and the truth-speaker…and you have been deceived.”
Another exposition dump, but the deftest of the three Rebirth starting points I’ve read. The entire issue is told from Wonder Woman’s point of view as she explores her own thoughts, sifting through two sets of memories and realizing she’s not sure which is authentic. Even her own birth is suspect—did the Queen of the Amazons receive a daughter from the gods or did she love Zeus (in the guise of a man) and give birth that way? She picks up the helm of Ares, God of War, which she won. Is she the God of War? She both thinks she is and thinks that thought is wrong. In frustration she crushes the helm. If it was a god’s helm, could she really have crushed it? Wonder Woman tightens her whip around her own arm, exposing herself to its power in an effort to learn the truth. She spouts platitudes, essentially admitting to herself that she is many things to many people, before finally saying out loud maybe the only kernel of real truth in the issue: that she’s being deceived. The unreliable narrator—a point of view character who can misinform the audience either by choice (lies) or accident (flawed memory) is one of my favorite devices. I’m not sure Rucka will go in this direction but he’s opened up the possibility, and I’m more excited for Wonder Woman than I have been for a new series in a long time.

Quick Hits
All New X-Men #10
“Maybe there is no saving us from our shared fate. Maybe Apocalypse is coming for both of us.”
Most of this issue sees Kid Apocalypse (a clone of the villain Apocalypse) pal around with a young En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse as a child) and learn that when the ancient mutant was a child he was a kind, generous, charitable person. The reader is treated to a rumination on fate as Kid Apocalypse, who hoped to avoid growing into the despot who was his donor, ponders whether that outcome can be avoided. He had dedicated himself to good works thinking he could choose a different path only to find out that once upon a time En Sabah Nur was himself a good person. The problem with such questions in ongoing comic series is that the characters are more or less static over time, so nature-of-the-world questions such as “is there fate” usually remain unanswered much as I expect this to.

Detective Comics #934
DC Rebirth
“Welcome to boot camp. Keep up if you can.”
Batman’s building his own team of Gotham heroes. Two known quantities (Batwoman and Red Robin), two wildcards (Orphan and Spoiler), and one villain (Clayface). The issue is all setup as Batman recruits Batwoman to train the other vigilantes. The team offers multiple dynamics. Clayface is ultimately out for himself—working with Batman because of the suggestion of a possible cure. Red Robin and Spoiler have a relationship while Orphan is a loner. There are a lot of potential friction points for the team including a seemingly throw away moment at the end when Batwoman accuses Bruce of withholding information and tells him the she considers herself his partner and expects to be brought in the loop. With this new direction Detective Comics returns to its original numbering scheme, but the issue was so exposition heavy it may as well be a Rebirth one shot.

Guardians of the Galaxy #9
“Thus it falls to Gamora and me to complete the most intense, strategically delicate, physically challenging part of the plan. With lots of violence.”
Fighting, fighting, more fighting, and some funnies. Drax and Gamora go solo (together) to rescue Angela from the Badoon. The biggest joke here is that aliens as incompetent as these Badoon think they’re going to conquer Earth or the Shiar. Not the funniest issue ever.

New Avengers #12
Civil War II tie-in
“Lemme just take a look…kind of hard to focus…”
This was a mess of an issue that slams the Civil War II storyline into the ongoing intrigue of multiple New Avengers plotlines. The issue begins at roughly the same time as the first issue of Civil War II, but the event feels only tangentially related as forces within the New Avengers sphere start jockeying to take control of Ulysses (the Inhuman who can see the future). Ultimately this is a terrible jumping on point for a new reader and a book that can be skipped by someone only interested in the Civil War II component.


Credits
All New X-men #10
Dennis Hopeless: writer
Mark Bagley: penciler
Andew Hennessy: inker
Nolan Woodard: colorist
VC’s Cory Petit: letterer
Bagley, Hennessy, Woodard: cover artists

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1
Christos Gage: writer
Travel Foreman: artist
Rain Beredo: color artist
VC’s Joe Caramanga: letterer
Khary Randolph & Emilio Lopez: cover artists

Detective Comics #934
James Tynion IV: script
Eddy Barrows: pencils
Eber Ferreira: inks
Adriano Lucas: colors
Marilyn Patrizio: letters
Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira & Adriano Lucas: cover

Guardians of the Galaxy #9
Brian Michael Bendis: writer
Valerio Schiti: artist
Richard Isanove: color artist
VC’s Cory Petit: letterer
Arthur Adams & Jason Keith: cover

New Avengers #12
Al Ewing: writer
Paco Medina: penciler
Juan Velasco: inker
Jesus Aburtov: color artist
VC’s Joe Carmagna: letterer
Julian Totino Tedesco: cover artist

Wonder Woman Rebirth #1
Greg Rucka: writer
Mathew Clark: pencils (pgs 1-14)
Sean Parsons: inks (pgs 1-14)
Liam Sharp: art (pgs 15-20)
Jeremy Colwell: colors (pgs 1-14)
Laura Martin: colors (pgs 15-20)
Jodi Wynne: letters
Liam Sharp & Laura Martin: cover

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