Sunday 1 September 2013

The Post Office let me have some comics! Hooray!

So, last week a strong female protagonist got cancelled; two young gay men wandered off into the wild blue yonder (not together); both Kid Flash and Superboy got felt up; Thor had a day off; and my favourite character in the whole history of comics DID NOT come back from the dead for an epic confrontation with his successor.

Kathryn Immonen's Journey Into Mystery ended with #655 and I was sad to see it go. Her run might not have had the anarchic glee of Keiron Gillen's Loki-focussed mega-arc but it had a great deal of charm. To me this run will always be iconic, though mainly because I'd never really seen much of Sif before this, just the Women Of Marvel issue a few years back. “Strong woman” is a cliché in comics but Immonen explored the idea in interesting ways, playing on different ideas of strength in the two brief arcs she had. If you didn't check this out I'd certainly recommend the first arc, Stronger Than Monsters, whenever it comes out in trade paperback.

Teen Titans continued to teeter on the brink of falling off my subscription list by following #22's cliffhanger promising all sorts of revelations about Kid Flash with... filler. Kid Flash gets rescued from the mysterious portal he was being dragged through at the end of #22, we get a little glimpse of the people who were trying to abduct him and then the rest of the issue is spent on random character pieces, most notably Red Robin meditating on what each Titan brings to the team. This isn't uninteresting it's just underwhelming.

As to the character pieces themselves, they vary. Red Robin filling Raven in on who everyone is and what they bring to the table is interesting but something you would think might be left for #24 and new readers coming in off Villain's Month. Wonder Girl and Superboy have a romantic moment after discussing how Cassie recently slept with Red Robin that is... ambiguous, to say the least.

On the one hand Cassie acknowledges (comparing Tim's possession by Trigon to her own situation with the Silent Armour) that both she and Tim acted on legitimate, if suppressed, feelings. She then kisses Superboy. The dialogue makes it ambiguous whether she's moving on from Tim, who won't acknowledge as she does the legitimacy of those emotions, or whether this moment with Kon (now Conner) is a similarly momentary thing. (I want them back as a couple, dammit!). There's also the third possibility, given weight by her seeming disappointment that Superboy doesn't share her lust for Red Robin, that she might just be playing a long game and trying to set up a threesome.

And then there's Bunker. Poor under-appreciated Bunker who has been the heart of the team and Superboy's conscience for so long who now gets his happy ending and rides off into the wide, rainbow yonder to be with his boyfriend Gabriel. I do hope he comes back soon because he was one of the only characters I really liked (alongside Tim and Cassie, as it happens).

Scarlet Spider #21 did not, no matter what the cover said, feature the return of Ben Reilly. I had to hope, of course, and Chris Yost knew all the right buttons to press in bringing Ben “back from the dead”. The gloriously crap sleeveless hoodie, callbacks to Spider-Man: The Lost Years, an unmasking early on in the fight to assure us this wasn't a confidence trick on the audience.

It bloody was, of course. What saves it was that it was well-executed confidence trick and there's something to be admired when someone gets something over on you with skill. The point was never to bring Ben back, that achieves nothing except to make Kaine look like an impostor in his own book, what's elegant is to use the possibility to explore Kaine's shameful past capping off a notional trilogy following his encounters with the Guild Of Assassins in Wrath and with “Peter Parker” in Sibling Rivalry. Ben Reilly is Kaine's original sin: his past as an assassin or a mid-level Spider-Man baddie pales in comparison to the things he did to Ben.

Yes, Yost, you are forgiven.

Thor: God of Thunder #12 was a nice break after the nearly year-long God Butcher saga. Yes, it was one of those standard template filler stories where we see the hero through the eyes of others for a brief moment but it was so well done that its easily forgiveable. This issue also did the leg work of setting up supporting cast for the run, which is a surprising job for a twelfth issue. It was especially nice to see that Doctor Jane Foster still has a place in this series after all the time and space travel Thor has been through.

I certainly hope Jane's new storyline gives her a happy ending but I also know there's value in writing the unhappy ending in these circumstances, having lived through that particular outcome with some of my relatives.

Young Avengers #9 was everything I hoped for from the multiple cliffhangers the last issue left off on. David planting a surprise kiss on Teddy was, thankfully, not the lead in to the predictable love triangle I feared we were going to get (because Keiron Gillen is a good writer) and Loki's face-off with Leah was appropriately tense and impenetrable. The ghost of Kid Loki even got another cameo, which was nice.

All of it was, ultimately, set up for Teddy spinning off into his own storyline separate from the team and I do like that Gillen is shaking up the formula. The Young Avengers as a unit have been so popular in the past that it's nice to see the series isn't settling into a crowd pleasing rut now it's an ongoing again.

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