Friday 3 March 2017

Weekly Comic Reviews

This week Amerikate gets one step closer to canon, Bane develops the depth people always accused him of, a giant red Tyrannosaurus Rex loses on coolness points to a bowtie, my monstrous case of event fatigue worsens, and Nightwing proves why he really deserves that movie DC are going to royally fuck up.

America #1
Pa' Fuera, Pa' La Calle

I am not too clear on what's going on here, I suspect I missed a short story or something along the way because this just feels like something that had set-up somewhere else. Either that or wasting over a third of the issue on an Ultimates mini-adventure was a huge pacing mistake.

Anyway, the idea here is that America Chavez is going to university. Mad as balls sci-fi university with a holographic teacher and a Department of Radical Women & Intergalactic Indigenous Peoples. Also, Prodigy turns up, probably the last Young Avenger I expected to turn up anywhere let alone here, if I'm honest. The first Young Avenger I expected to turn up, Kate Bishop, dutifully does and if the creative teams aren't planning a crossover between their two titles somewhere down the line they're insane, these two are the best besties Marvel has right now.

Definitely a promising beginning but I hope we get to see a lot more of America on her own adventures and a lot less of her as leader of the Ultimates. I also hope there's more to Gabby Rivera's plans for Lisa the paramedic than we see in this issue. I'm an old romantic at heart, sue me.

Batman #18
I Am Bane part three

Good grief, but I love the core Bat-titles right now. Tom King has an excellent sense of structure, he knows better than so many other authors working right now how to structure a single issue as not just an actual chapter but as a singular experience. Not to mention that I really have to give kudos to David Finch and Danny Miki, who absolutely kill on the pages that present us with parallel takes on the origins of Bane and Batman.

As this storyline has built we've been given what so many Batman/Bane stories have lacked: a real sense of the two titanic wills that clash when these two men face each other. After all these years I'm finally starting to see what people like about Bane as a villain (as opposed to an anti-hero, which Gail Simone convinced me of years ago in Secret Six).

And, of course, King's take on Catwoman continues to impress and I really hope she gets her own series again sometime soon.

Unstoppable Wasp #3

In a series of strong, memorable characters designs, Nadia's latest girl genius recruit Lashayla is perhaps the strongest yet. Black lady Eleventh Doctor might not sound like much of a pitch but the end result is fantastic and her interest in teleportation as a science has a wonderful little origin. Also, for a moment it seems the writing is building her dad up to be an absolute ogre and then the whole thing gets turned on its head.

Jarvis continues to work well as Nadia's straight man and we finally get an appearance by Nadia's sort-of stepmother Janet “Your Mama's Wasp” Van Dyne, who has been conspicuously absent from the series given how important she was to Nadia's introduction in All-New All-Different Avengers. There are more recruitments and attempted recruitments, a bit of Devil Dinosaur, Nadia's reunion with what I will continue to refer to as her ex-girlfriend until canon tells me otherwise (and probably not even then), and the return of a villain I honestly thought I'd imagined because no one else remembered her.

Not that the issue is without disappointment. I did not expect to be saying this, even after enjoying their dynamic so much last issue, but I wish Nadia and Moon Girl's meeting was more than a bookselling crossover. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line they'll team up again. Still, the book's supporting cast is rounding out nicely with original creations who have strong enough character designs that they shouldn't fall into the mire of “Which one were you again?” that a lot of large civilian casts in superhero comics tend to fall into after a while.

Totally Awesome Hulk #1.MU

Its a bad sign when I'm three issues behind on an event series and the tie-ins are still providing me with perfectly functional entertainment. I may be looking a gift horse in the mouth here but that's not how its meant to work. I've read literally only the first issue of Monsters Unleashed, feel little pull to catch up on the series itself and yet the random #1.MU one-shots are more than enough for me. I liked the All-New X-Men, Avengers and All-New Wolverine ones and the Champions issue is quite high on the to do list even if I missed it on release week so I'm not reviewing it here.

Hell, this issue alone gives me something to rant about because Ty Templeton, artist on the main feature, uses a change in art style the way a change in art style is meant to be used: to serve the bloody story. Okay, most times when art changes its because of an emergency situation but sometimes its intentional and if it were handled this well even half the time it would be a lot less intrusive. The art style changes at a specific point to make a specific point.

There's also a Maddy Cho and Lady Hellbender back-up story that's a good little character study even if the pay-off leans more towards “please read the main series, James” than seems rational at this point. All in all, I think I'll probably remember this event for the fun done-in-one issues like this taking characters I love and setting them up against Kaiju and classic comic monsters rather than... whatever is actually going on in the main series that I'll maybe get around to at some point.

Also, is South Korean hero White Fox a new character or something dug up from the Marvel vaults? I like her design even if her character doesn't deviate much from the standard template super spy. Well, I just read the triumphant comeback of Lady Hellbender, maybe White Fox will turn up again some day.

Nightwing #16
Nightwing Must Die part one

Funny how nostalgia works. On the one hand, the days of Grant Morrison writing Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin in their flying Batmobile don't feel that long ago. Then again those days were a decade and three massive line-wide shake-ups ago. I might as well admit to myself that “DickBats”, as those days are affectionately known, are long enough ago that DC can get away with doing a reunion story that trades on nostalgia for that run right down to a cameo by the flying Batmobile.

And damn me if this issue isn't an absolute manifesto for the movie DC could (and, inevitably, won't) make out of this property. We see Dick having fun as Nightwing, beating down on some z-list armour car robbers and not only loving every minute but acknowledging that he's loving every minute. The central dramatic tensions of the issue comes from his relationship with his ex-supervillain girlfriend and from Damian's insecurities about which of them will carry on the Batman legacy some day.

Hell, there's even a nod to Dick's past relationship with Starfire, a couple of lines that could have been a whole story in and of itself, a story I would have loved to read.

And in an insane coincidence, it seems that this series might even be about to show the world how to do the terrible, grimdark 90s villain I was afraid would come along to spoil the movie. Funny how these things turn out. 

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