The penultimate chapter of Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire hits stands this week, and, as one would expect this close to a climactic final confrontation with Captain Hydra, the action ramps up at a frenetic pace. This has been one of Marvel’s most entertaining and original event books since House of M, and, as with the alternate reality of Bendis’s series, when the architecture of Steve Rogers’s empire starts to fail, it doesn’t take long for the structure to come crashing down. Across the board, the heroes have been tallying victories: the Darkforce dome sealing off Manhattan is down, as is the planetary defense shield that had stranded the other heavy hitters in the stratosphere. The Underground has rallied, and New Tian is in open revolt. Corrupted superheroes like Vision and Scarlet Witch are on the verge of restoration, and presumed defeated combatants Winter Soldier and Black Panther make dramatic returns to the battlefield. And, perhaps most importantly, the haze of mead and self-deprecation that had been clouding the mind of Odinson, AKA The Unworthy Thor, finally seems to have cleared. There’s a “BOOM” that translates roughly to, “The Hel was I thinking?!”
Hope you haven’t experienced mega-super-battle fatigue yet. Because this issue has a pretty fun romp. And despite all the momentum gathering on the side of the heroes, Steve has one major play left in his bag of tricks, and it involves Arnim Zola, some Stark technology, and an impressive handful of cosmic cube fragments. It all figures to play out in an even bigger mega-super-crazy series finale.
Continue reading Secret Empire #9
I’ve often thought Thor is the most out of place character in The Avengers. Bringing Norse mythology into the Marvel U always seemed like a commercial ploy – a way to get another Marvel book on the shelves without the creative pressure of having to write an original character. Of course, that’s not the whole truth, since myths and legends are kind of the original superhero stories. Jason Aaron has a firm grasp of that idea, and in the latest Marvel NOW season of The Mighty Thor, he and artist Russell Dauterman use the classic “trial of the gods” trope to further develop the Jane Foster-Thor, while creating some amazing visual opportunities.
Jason Aaron may be one of the best fundamental comic book writers in the game. This arc of Thor has a feel of a classic silver age conflict, but with more finesse. His dialogue doesn’t over-explain, the story’s acts are evenly paced, and he lets Dauterman’s drawings do plenty of exposition.
Continue reading The Best of Marvel NOW! #5 – The Mighty Thor
Part of DC’s Rebirth has been dedicated to expanding and reintroducing second-tier characters from DC’s extended universe. Sometimes, like with the Blue Beetle and Harley Quinn Rebirth books, the results are less than exciting, but there are successes where an obscure (and seemingly excessive) character has a good story fashioned around that’s them worth following for a few issues.
After one Rebirth issue, I’d say Vixen is somewhere in between.
Steve Orlando and Jody Houser’s prologue to Vixen’s introduction within the new Justice League of America, rehashes old super hero tropes, particularly the origin of Mari McCabe, the alter-ego of the titular hero, whose mission of justice stems once again from childhood trauma and loss. Her not-so-secret identity as a celebrity model and activist distinguishes her only slightly from other millionaire heroes, but unlike Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen, Mari McCabe is obviously a woman, and a woman of color to boot. Orlando and Houser spin a kidnapping yarn around the central premise that as a female of color in the world of super heroics, Vixen has not had much of a presence. This opening issue doesn’t have a lot of meat, but it does a good job of reintroducing Vixen to new and old fans of the DC universe. The writing team is obviously trying to contribute to the increase of representation within comics, but whether or not Vixen can stand out in a JLA team book is another story.
What’s definitely helping the cause is the fantastic art work of Jamal Campbell. The character designs in this book feel modern, and the tropical color palette adds a lot of personality. My favorite thing about this book is how Campbell draws the manifestation of Vixen’s powers. Animal spirits that look like they’re made of a ghostly liquid wrap themselves around Vixen, emerging from her form. There are a lot of cool panels with Vixen posing, and even one juxtaposing her powers to The Red, the source of Animal Man’s power, which is a cool reference. So, though I wouldn’t call this book amazing, there is plenty to like about it, and I think the potential art definitely justifies putting Vixen within one of DC’s biggest titles.
Continue reading DC Rebirth – Week 34
Comic book award season is upon us, and before this year’s Eisner Winners are announced in San Diego, it felt like a good time to reflect upon some of my favorite releases thus far in 2016. Outside of the conversations we’ve had regarding Marvel’s All-New All-Different initiative, and DC’s recent Rebirth, the funnybook-obsessed Idlers hadn’t really discussed everything else we’d been digging until just recently.
Nice to see we’re all on the same page regarding Vaughan & Chiang’s Paper Girls (although, personally, I’m rooting for Zander Cannon’s Kaijumax in the Best New Series category). We all snatched up Clowes’s Patience as soon as it came out. We all agree that Jason Aaron can’t possibly script enough books. Beyond that, here are five other highlights from the midpoint of the year.
Turning Japanese – MariNaomi
MariNaomi’s follow-up to 2014’s Dragon’s Breath is every bit as moving and personal as that collection of autobiographical comics, but with a more singular narrative focus. She recounts the exploration of her Japanese heritage, primarily following a move from San Francisco to San Jose in the 90’s, and a subsequent gig at one of that town’s underground Japanese hostess bars. She sets about learning Japanese, with a curriculum rooted in one of the most improbable and hilarious settings one can imagine. From there, it’s a year spent in Japan, more fully immersing herself in the culture and reconnecting with her family.
I’ve always been very interested in the notion of “home,” particularly as modern generations exhibit an increasingly restless disconnect with what defines that home, both physically and culturally. Similar to MariNaomi’s experience with the Japanese language, I didn’t learn Italian until later in life (although, unlike her situation, it was due to my own stubbornness – my folks tried like hell to teach me when I was a kid), and extended visits to Italy always filled me with an odd mix of pride and alienation. Her novel isn’t just a beautiful, often funny, poignant memoir of her own cultural affirmations; MariNaomi’s Turning Japanese is a tour guide for all of us wandering souls who haven’t given up on finding home, or reconnecting with some aspect of ourselves.
Continue reading Favorite Comics of 2016 (So Far)