The Stack: Nov. 14th, 2018 – Wonder Woman, Transformers, Avengers & More!

by Sage Ashford

Another week, another stack of comics to get through. This week features the start of G. Willow Wilson’s run on Wonder Woman, the ending of IDW’s long-running Transformers universe, and the 700th issue of the Avengers. Let’s dive in!

Amazing Spider-Man #9
“Heist Part Two”
Writer: Nick Spencer
Pencilers: Humberto Ramos and Michele Bandini
Inkers: Victor Olazaba and Michele Bandini
Colorists: Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega
Seeing Spidey and Black Cat working together is only half as interesting if either of them are tied down in a relationship in their other lives. The fun is in the sexual tension between these two, forever on opposite sides of the law no matter how hard one tries to pull the other over to their way of things. This story, where Felicity helps Peter try and steal back all the superhero’s stuff from the Thieves Guild, is pretty great and has a nice twist, but knowing Pete just got with MJ kinda kills some of the fun.
That said, Spencer makes up for it with the B-Plot involving Mary Jane, where she meets up with one of Pete’s old flames Carlie Cooper, and discovers the existence of the Lookups. Instead of wasting time explaining stupid things like how superheroes have sex, I prefer when writers answer questions no one really thinks about: how does the supporting cast of all these superheroes deal with being constantly worried about the people they love, and the secrets they have to hide?  Spencer’s explaining that away by using a new support group, with some pretty cute little continuity nods for the disguised members of the group. MJ doesn’t seem interested currently, but I’m hoping she eventually comes around, if only because she deserves more to do than merely being Peter’s girlfriend.

Avengers #700
“The Battle for the Right to be Called…Earth’s Mightiest”
By Jason Aaron, David Marquez, and Ed McGuinness
Guest Artists: Frazer Irving, Adam Kubert, Andrea Sorrentino
This feels like where Jason Aaron should’ve started his Avengers run. While the Celestials were cool, it was all a bit too heady considering we were just looking to see the new team gathered together and doing cool stuff. But this run is much more down to Earth–literally, as we continue to deal with the fallout of the world governments challenging Namor’s undersea team, the Defenders of the Deep.
Everything just clicks perfectly in this issue–the mentor/student relationship between Tony and Robbie, a nervous Thor using Carol as his wingman to figure out where he and She-Hulk stands–this book is packed with relatable character moments that don’t stop our heroes from feeling bigger-than-life. I’m also a geek for watching multiple international super-teams in the same book, working together or clashing against one another.   This was fifty or so pages of glorious world-building and storytelling, and even the end is brilliant, tying into what we’ve seen with the Avengers One Million BC and some of Jason Aaron’s Thor storylines as well.   I’ve been kinda back and forth on this book–some issues are great, others are just okay, but I really feel like Aaron’s onto something here, and it could be the makings of an excellent Avengers run.

Bloodshot: Rising Spirit #1
Story by: Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Script by: Kevin Grevioux
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Finishes: Ryan Winn with Brian Thies and Oliver Borges
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
After six years of shooting, slicing, and murdering his way through the Valiant Universe, they’ve finally decided to tell the origin story of the unstoppable assassin Bloodshot.   From the looks of things, we’re back to dealing with Bloodshot as low-level mafia goon, Angelo Mortalli. Well…maybe.  What I’m really loving about Rising Spirit is that it gets us back to the roots of the story Duane Swierczynski was telling when he brought the character in to Valiant’s new shared universe.  Thanks to Project Rising Spirit’s ability to insert false memories into Bloodshot mind, we’re often just as lost as he is as to whether we’re finally seeing the truth, or being shown just another layer of fiction meant to keep our protagonist pliant to their commands.   Are they really making him into Angelo once again, or will we finally see who Raymond Garrison is?

Captain America #5
“Winter in America: Part V”
By Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu
Inkers: Gerry Alanguilan with Leinil Francis Yu
Color Artist: Sunny Gho
*insert long string of expletives* Does this dude ever freaking die?  One thing we might have to admit at this point: the Red Skull is probably the most successful comic book villain of all time. While other villains are screwing about killing a hero’s loved ones, Red Skull has successfully killed the actual hero. In our heroes reviving Steve, they just narrowly avoided putting the Red Skull’s mind into Cap’s body.  While normally credit wouldn’t be awarded for almosts, this is worth bringing up because down the line Skull is successful in the plan he was aiming for there, when he used the Cosmic Cube to transform Cap into an agent of HYDRA.  That’s easily the biggest blow any hero’s ever suffered to their legacy, meaning he’s had the pleasure of not only destroying the man, but nearly destroying everything he’s stood for.  Having said that–you’d think we could let him stay freaking dead for at least a couple years.

Fantastic Four #3
“Family Reunion”
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Sara Pichelli & Nico Leon
Color Artist: Marte Gracia
There are a ton of great moments in this issue–it makes a pretty emphatic statement on bringing back the Fantastic Four by having every prior FF member band together in a battle against the Griever, an “aspect” representing entropy itself. It’s heartwarming, and Slott sees the team defeat her in a pretty clever way…but this moment still bugs the crap outta me. I’m not sure why, you’d just think a guy who wrote Spider-Man for 150 freaking issues wouldn’t pretend like the way Spider-Man lives his life is something to be ashamed of.  Corny as it sounds, using our abilities responsibly is probably one of the best achievements any of us could make as human beings, but by the end of the issue we have Spider-Man apologizing for even bringing it up.  Granted, we did already establish the Fantastic Four were tired of being heroes, I guess.

Ninja-K #13
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Roberto de la Torre
Colors: Jose Villarubia
I was a bit concerned as we started to draw in on the close of this volume of Ninja-K, but this issue actually allayed much of my fears. Christos Gage’s run on the character started out promising to develop many of the people in the Ninja programme who came before Colin King, the current man behind MI-6. And Gage has accomplished this, giving us glimpses into the lives of most of the Ninja who predated King, but the entire time he’s been telling a completely different story: what sort of man does Colin want to be? When we first met Colin King back during the beginning of the Valiant Universe, he was something of an amoral prick willing to do anything for the right price.
But times have changed–being constantly exposed to proper heroes in Unity, his relationship with Livewire–they’ve all shown him he’s capable of doing and being more. Meanwhile, working for “queen and country” has become more taxing, whether it’s finding out how manipulative the organization can be, or being forced to sell out his friends just to help his other friends.  As this volume of Ninja-K closes, Colin King is finally close to being more than a James Bond rip-off, and turning into something resembling his own person.  I just hope Gage (or someone equally talented) is able to shepherd him into that next stage.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #312
Writer: Sean Ryan
Penciler & Inker: Juan Frigeri
Colorist: Jason Keith
In case anyone was wondering how important Spider-Geddon was, not only is Peter Parker not in it, they can’t even be bothered to have the character deal with some of its ramifications in the main title.  As seen above, Amazing Spider-Man is pretty firmly staying on track for the story Nick Spencer wants to tell, while PPTSSM handily explains what the character was getting up to during another cross-over where dozens of Spider-People are gathered together to deal with enemies someone probably should’ve killed the first time around.  This issue does allow us to see the “Weakening Villain” principle in action, though.
For those who’ve never heard of it, the WP Principle is how when a good new villain first shows up in a hero’s world, he’s this massive, terrifying threat–but subsequent appearances make him less and less of a problem, until finally he doesn’t seem that much more effective than anyone else in the hero’s rogues gallery.  The first arc with Peter and Morlun, Morlun murdered him.  The second arc retained much of what made him a threat by having Morlun murder multiple other Spider-Men, and none of them came back.  Now in their third run-in Morlun retains his battle dominance, but is somehow too stupid to go for the kill, complaining about distractions when the Inheritors have murdered Spider-Men before while fighting entire teams, and being distracted by having his feet webbed up like he’s the freaking Shocker.  Ah well.  One thing I will say, is this has convinced me of the purpose of having a “less” important title for key heroes, so you can toss crossover storylines there instead of muddying up a writer’s vision.

Plastic Man #6
“To the Moon and Back”
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Adriana Melo
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Plastic Man 2020: Make Heroes Sexy Again. I think he could get elected as President of DC Comics’ fashion community running on this.  Though he’d probably get a lot of complaints from his opponents–the armor and kevlar seems like it’s to avoid all the bullets. Though why GL (forcefield), Supes (bulletproof), or Wonder Woman (bracelets) would need it, who knows?

Superman #5
“The Unity Saga Part 5”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado, Oclair Albert
Colors: Alex Sinclair
I get what Bendis is going for here, showing Superman’s humanity by showing his thoughts aren’t necessarily as “pure” as we’d like to believe, but it’s still pretty unsettling. It feels like he has such a grasp of the character and what’s necessary for the franchise in Action, but then over in Superman it’s all “sometimes I think about popping Batman’s head off like a zit”. I haven’t washed my hands of his run yet because these are just thoughts and Superman hasn’t acted on them, which I guess is the point.  But there has to be a better way of showing off the first hero’s humanity than “Man I think about killing people a lot”.

Thor #7
“Young Thor’s Lament”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Guest Artist: Tony Moore
Guest Colorist: John Rauch
Between this scene, this tweet reminding me of AvX, and the scene in Avengers where Thor asks Captain Marvel to help him ask She-Hulk out, I’m beginning to believe there’s a somewhat sizable group of people working at Marvel who decided to make their fanfiction where Thor’s a bottom canon.  ….Y’know what? I’ll allow it.  Not any crazier than Chris Claremont’s belief that Jean as Phoenix and Wolverine would survive until the end of creation, bang, and said bagging would create a new universe.
…Substantially less crazy, actually.

Titans #29
“Marooned Part One”
Writer: Dan Abnett
Pencils: Minkyu Jung
Inks: John Dell
Colors: Adriano Lucas
The current state of DC’s young heroes division is downright depressing. Damian and the Teen Titans are running a boring version of Guantanamo Bay, which will prove about as ineffective as every other prison as soon as someone knows about it. Meanwhile, the twentysomethings that make up the Titans are greeted with nothing but failure, again and again. I’ve been onboard with Dan Abnett’s Titans from the beginning, both because of their ties to the pre-Flashpoint universe and because it’s the first time in ages someone has made a Titans team that wasn’t directly reminiscent of what Wolfman/Perez did in the 80’s.
I was even more excited for their post-No Justice version, because it was going to include Natasha Irons. But mostly all this story’s done is prove the old folks in the League absolutely correct, and none of these guys are fit to even be on a team, nevermind lead one. The last three months have been a tough read–thanks to the events of comics that have nothing to do with the Titans, Dick’s off the team and Roy’s dead, they let one of the people they saved die from their new powers, and they tried to help with the Drowned Earth and wound up getting transported across the galaxy.  I’m gonna get bold with this and say the Titans have been tripping over their own feet since after Devin Grayson ended her run back in 2003.  They’re either barely competent or constantly dying. I thought with Rebirth we’d escaped all of that but unfortunately it’s back with a vengeance.  At this point our only hope as Titans fans is the book going in a completely different direction from their current mission statement.

Transformers: Unicron #6
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Alex Milne, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Andrew Griffith, and Kei Zama
Colors by: David Garcia Cruz, Joana LaFuente
I would never have guessed that Starscream’s need to be considered the savior of the universe would push him to do something actually heroic, but I love that it did.  With Unicron at an end, it’s fascinating looking at the characters who managed to survive all the multiple wars.  There’s little rhyme or reason to it–it’s not like the Decepticons all got wiped out or the Autobots all sacrificed themselves.  Of course Optimus sacrifices himself–dude’s never made it all the way through before, why should now be any different–but Starscream and Ironhide don’t survive this encounter with Unicron either.  Meanwhile, the “big brains” behind the Autobots and Decepticons, Prowl and Shockwave, both managed to survive to see the next day.  Come to that, not just one, but two Megatrons manage to survive–even though one is in jail forever without a body.  Man, for Optimus to have saved everyone he definitely caught the short end of the stick, but I guess that’s what they were going for.  It took someone willing to own up to his faults–and the faults of his people–to lay to rest an unstoppable force thirsting for vengeance for the mistreatment of his people.
Now, the ending for this is probably a little too perfect, but given we’ll likely never see a return to this universe I’m actually pretty happy with that.  I actually kind of wish we’d been given some idea of what the next universe was going to look like.  We know Transformers as a franchise aren’t done, and that they’re still in the hands of IDW, so there’s no way that next step isn’t planned out.

Uncanny X-Men #1
“X-Men Disassembled Part One”
Writers: Ed Brisson Matthew Rosenberg, & Kelly Thompson
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
At a certain point, poking fun at an idea that you keep doing becomes less about being self-aware and more about reveling in the fact that you don’t want to change. How many times are the mutants going to be at their wit’s end battling to avoid being extinct?  There is the twist at the end of the main “Dissassembled” storyline to shake things up a bit, but it still feels like we’re hitting far too many of the same beats, even if they’re reorganized some and turned in different directions than what we’re used to.  I will congratulate both Mahmud Asrar and Rachelle Rosenberg’s work on the art though–this is a very pretty comic balancing a ton of important characters and they all look visually distinctive from one another, no small task with a book this size.
While we’re at it, I’m also a fan of someone finally doing something with the younger X-Men. It feels like they’ve been ignored for the most part since the O5 came around, but now with those characters gone we can get these characters some sorely-needed focus. That part’s easily what I’m most excited about for upcoming issues–these characters are relatively new compared to the X-Men’s long history, and anything that causes them to do something new with what feels like a exhausted franchise should be applauded.

Vault of Spiders #2
“The Spectacular Spider-Ma’am”
Writer: Ryan North
Penciler & Inker: David A. Williams
Colorist: Andrew Crossley
All-in-all, the Spectacular Spider-Ma’am is probably a little too derivative to use in something like Into the Spider-Verse. But this still gives us a charming Silver Age-esque comic I’d love to see more of.   It’s also proof, currently, that Aunt May getting the spider-powers results in the best of all possible worlds.  When Uncle Ben gets them on his own, it results in a nuclear wasteland.  When Peter Parker gets them but saves Aunt May, he tends to turn into a conceited jerk who never internalizes the idea that “with great power, there must also come great responsibility”.  But when Aunt May gets them they work together with Ben providing advice, May being a hero, and Peter making inventions–they turn into Ben-10, basically.  Peter’s love life probably doesn’t turn out as interesting, but I’d bet he still takes the trade off.

Wonder Woman #58
“The Just War Part 1”
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Pencils: Cary Nord
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
G. Willow Wilson has been one of my favorite writers dating back to her time writing Air for Vertigo in 2008.  Her work on Ms. Marvel has been incredible, giving us the biggest new superhero of the 2010s, and making her one of the most fleshed out and compelling characters at the company with such ease she puts writers with twice her experience to shame.
Having said all that…I’m not sure I’m completely taken with this issue. When Grant Morrison took over Green Lantern, it was with a mission statement you immediately got: he’s a cop who deals with space crime.  It’s basic and simple, but he puts his own Morrison twist on it and everything feels new. But Wilson’s Wonder Woman seems to be lacking an identifiable mission statement in its first issue.  That’s not to say it couldn’t come later–perhaps the first arc as a whole is meant to give us her thesis on what Wonder Woman is for her. It’s also not to say this is a bad comic, it’s still well told…it just doesn’t feel much different than what we’ve been dealing with so far.
I like that Wilson’s Wonder Woman isn’t afraid to get political, but that’s actually usually the case with the character. She’s always rushing into some foreign country and using her power to shut down people terrorizing innocents.  That’s #2 behind “make her fight mythical creatures” in the well of typical Wonder Woman stories. If anything, this first issue seems to say more about Ares. After millenia of being locked away, it appears the god of war believes he finally has some manner of perspective on life that warrants him being set free: the idea of bringing justice. But despite Ares invoking Jesus before setting himself free, there’s a good chance Ares is going to cause trouble more than anything else. Though frankly, at the moment I’m more entertained by the idea of him not messing things up–can Ares strike out against his true nature, or is he doomed to bring nothing but war? Guess we’ll find out.
See you in seven.

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