The Stack: Feb. 6th & Feb. 13th, 2019 – Avengers, Justice League, Uncanny X-Men And More!

by Sage Ashford

We’re a little late with this one, so we’re smashing the best comics of two weeks together. A new Avengers weekly, a bunch of everyone’s favorite group of mutants, and a lot more to get into, so let’s get started.

Avengers: No Road Home #1
Writers: Mark Waid, Al Ewing, & Jim Zub
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov

I’m honestly surprised this book even exists. I liked No Surrender well enough, but then again I like all weekly comics. I think the pacing of the world has sped up to the point that monthly comics are simply “too slow” now, and I think weeklies allow development of characters and locations we don’t see very often. That said, while I liked No Surrender, I certainly wasn’t so over the moon with it I believed it would receive a sequel.  Nonetheless, I think these are three of the most talented writers working for Marvel so more from them is only a good thing–Zub lends his comedic timing, Mark Waid his knowledge of character and continuity, and Al Ewing grants this the scale every Avengers comic so richly deserves.
Better yet, though it’s early days they aren’t hiding behind the same reasoning as before. We’re not limiting the Avengers (yet), and we already know the primary antagonist behind it all. It’s a small change, but honestly most villain reveals are rarely worth dragging the story out. I’m also absolutely loving the cast here, which feels like a mix of all their previous Avengers teams, with a dash of Hulk added in because Al Ewing’s Hulk is currently one of the Top 5 best comics on the stands.  They don’t forget what’s happening storywise because the writers they have are either overseeing major Marvel comics or are walking encyclopedias for superhero comics, so thy understand the current situations of characters like Bruce Banner or Vision, meaning we’re not getting a “classic” version of these characters like many events often do.
All in all, if Aaron’s Avengers is going to be busy fighting vampires off, I’m glad to have this team in the background–any book with Blue Marvel and Monica Rambeau is always going to have my vote of confidence.

Blackbird #5
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Layout Artist: Paul Reinwand
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Designer: Dylan Todd
Editor: Jim Gibbons

One reveal turns this entire book upside down. Again.  It wasn’t enough to learn Nina’s mother was not dead and was in fact a wizard, but now her sister was never dead either–they were both away somewhere playing Tim Hunter. We’re an issue away from this book going on hiatus for a bit, and we finally get a core conflict that allows us to get behind the main character. The first issue showed her as this unbalanced person who might’ve even been a little scummy, but if you weren’t convinced before, this issue definitely clarifies: no, it’s the rest of Nina’s family that’s garbage.  They’ve altered her memories, hidden themselves away from her, and offered no explanation for their actions even after she makes multiple attempts to find her, because why wouldn’t you want to find the family that mysteriously vanished? They’ve stolen her agency, and worse, told her it was “for her own good”–an excuse that works on ten year olds, but not so much on college-aged women.
Even in this issue they attempt to betray her yet again, and it’s only the timely interference of a “friend” that keeps her from being mindwiped. The end of next issue will likely see Nina gain her powers and set up the true enemies of the arc, though I’d be fine with the enemies remaining her family for now.  The big bad? Her father.  Right now it all fits too well thematically.
In any case, if I have one complaint about this title it’s that I wish some of this stuff had happened earlier. I’m sure it will feel perfectly paced two months from now when the trade launches, but the beginning could’ve been much less slow considering these last two issues have been just constant gutpunches.

Ironheart #3
Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artist: Luciano Vecchio
Color Artist: Matt Milla

So far, all of these new superheroes have been better than the people they were inspired by, and I love that. But I also think that if they’re going to have staying power, they all need to have flaws.  And it’s good if sometimes they just can’t avoid some of the things their mentors fell prey to.  Riri’s not going to be an alcoholic, and she’s probably not going to be as…bohemian in her romance life as Tony Stark was (and still is).  But it seems like Ewing is still going to give Riri one of Iron Man’s flaws–a driving desire to do everything on her own, despite being backed by tons of capable people willing to support her both on the field and off.
Iron Man can barely get through an arc without ignoring half his supporting cast in favor of rushing off and trying to be the hero, even though it’s brought him nothing but blood and dented armors.  Having Riri traverse that same path, ignoring the advice of her mother, her friend Xavier, even the A.I. built to tell her exactly what she needs…it’s on brand.  You put on armor, you feel invincible. But regardless of what it says on the cover…you aren’t, and sometimes you have to be reminded.

Justice League #17
“Old Frontier”
Story: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Colors: Tomeu Morey
This is the kind of far-reaching retcon that we’re both stuck with, and goes nowhere.  Like, unless Snyder or Tynion is gonna write a maxi-series developing J’onn and Lex teaming up together for a year a la Adventures of the Super-Sons, this pretty much just exists for shock value.  It doesn’t add hidden depth to Lex because right now he thinks the best way for the world to develop is to surrender to all of its darker urges and its ultimate doom.  Unless he both discovers his old self, reconciles that with who he is today, and spends time developing his character alongside J’onn…this is just a moment to drive clicks. I’m loving Snyder’s Justice League so far, but I’m not a fan of this storyline.  Not yet.

Mr. and Mrs. X #8
“Gambit & Rogue Forever” Part 2 of 4
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Oscar Bazaldua
Colorist: Frank D’Armata

There aren’t two X-Men I care more about right now than Rogue and Gambit. The romance angle of X-Men is something that’s been woefully underrepresented in comics over the last decade or so, but it’s always been at the heart of the most popular versions of the team.  When Chris Claremont was blazing a trail and turning them into the most popular super-team in comics, he did so by adding a lot of soap opera elements–you wondered whether those two crazy kids Kitty Pryde and Colossus would ever work it out, and you were happy when Scott Summers left the X-Men for his happy ending marriage with Madelyne Pryor.
Even when Grant Morrison was killing it on the New X-Men, you had the storyline of Jean and Scott realizing they weren’t in love with one another any longer, and Scott exploring a new relationship with Emma Frost. It came out of nowhere but it was the most compelling plot that carried through the entire run.  What makes this team tick isn’t their constant fight to avoid the clutches of death, but how they build lives with one another, and outside the X-Men.  Thompson realizes that in a real way, and until the writer of Uncanny sees that too, we’re always going to be jogging in place.

The Green Lantern #4
“The Cosmic Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Y’know, I’ve always wondered how undercover works. On the one hand, you figure Hal Jordan’s reputation as Parallax is known throughout the galaxy. He’s the man who nearly put an end to the Green Lantern Corps. But then on the other…he’s back, and the Green Lantern Corps is literally twice the size before he died. At what point is it not obvious a character is a lifer?  He’s “joining” the Blackstars, but this is not the first time he’s turned traitor on the Corps in appearance, but not in fact.
But knowing Morrison from his time on Batman, he’s read every important comic on Green Lantern published in the last forty years or so, and undoubtedly is already well informed on exactly what’s happened and when.  That said, its amazing how all it took was the right team to make mundane ideas like “cop goes undercover…in space” into something truly fantastical and worthy of the largest sci-fi property in DC Comics.

Thor #10
“A Boy and His All-Father”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Colorists: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso

Every time I think I’m a little bored with Thor, Aaron throws me a curveball that smacks me right in the face.  Of all the things this story’s dealt with, one thing that’s never gotten the focus it perhaps deserves is the relationship between Odin and his child.  As half of the ten realms lie in a smoking ruin thanks to the machinations of the Dark Elf Malekith, all the All-Father has been left with is regrets.  Regrets on how he’s handled this war, but more importantly regrets on how he’s handled the relationship with his family.  His wife is “dead” (so he thinks), his adopted son is helping Malekith wage war, and his brother is inches away from staging a coup after being repeatedly sent onto the frontlines of the most dangerous war anyone’s ever seen, one that has no end in sight.
It’s a bad time to be Odin, and the only ally he can count on in his son Thor, he keeps pushing away.   The toll of countless millenia of ignoring Thor has come due, and even when they’re at more risk than they’ve ever been, he still finds himself unable to tell his child how proud he is.  Instead, all the toxicity that came from trying to make his son “tough” comes to bear in an explosive fight…and even when he feels like he’s at death’s door, he still can’t muster up the honesty to tell his son how he really feels. It’s powerful stuff, and Del Mundo’s fanciful art style still perfectly manages to portray the brutality of their battle, while Aaron offers up some heartbreaking prose to supplement it.

Uncanny X-Men #11
“This is Forever” Part 1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
I’m not sold on this new vision for the X-Men.  You can only hang a lampshade on something so many times before the lamp tips over, so I’m definitely not impressed with this story starting off saying “Every X-Men story is the same.”   First off they’re not, and second, even the ones that are didn’t have to be.
But if there’s one moment in the book emotionally gratifying as a fan, it’s this one. Seeing Scott have literally no one either able (due to Nate kidnapping every active X-Man to his pocket universe) or willing (due to Scott’s actions when he was alive) to help him, surrounded by mutant-hating scum, only to be saved by the one man who opposed him the most before he died.  Whether it was challenging his leadership early on, competing as a rival in love, or fighting him when he thought Scott went too far down the path of revolutionary, Logan was always the polar opposite to Scott…but with no one else willing to fight for mutantkind, he still manages to force himself to worth with Slim to get the job done.
Schism to me represented the first point where X-Men got off the rails. People loved Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, and under different circumstances for the X-Men I probably would have as well. Outside of that however, it started the downward spiral of mutants, right when they were supposed to finally be rebuilding in the aftermath of the trilogy which was meant to bring the X-Men back.  So before everything else.  Before Scott makes things right with Xavier.  Before he apologizes to the rest of the X-Men.  Before presenting himself to the world as the hero he always was, if we’re finally going to bring the team where it needs to be, it has to start here, with these two.  The last two lines of the main story this issue are exactly how I feel, too: “Now that we’re all caught up, let’s go. We got work to do.”

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