The Stack: February 20th, 2019 – Age Of X-Man, Incursion, Teen Titans & More!

by Sage Ashford

Last week was surprisingly soft in number, but not in quality–so let’s tackle more of the Age of X, check out the evolving team of the Teen Titans, and more.

Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #1
Writer: Seanan McGuire
Artist: Juan Frigeri
Color Artist: Dono Sanchez-Almara
A recurring theme with these Age of X-Man stories is how so many lead characters are caught in a forbidden relationship. Jean and Bishop, Blob and Psylocke from the solicits, and now here Nightcrawler and Meggan.  Now the actual problem of course is X-Man having created this society built on lies, in which dissent is unwelcome and life-threatening, and he’s also separating characters from their relatives to stop any actual relationships from being fostered whether familial or romantic.  He’s even gone so far as to separate people who are actually related in the real world, like Laura and Gabrielle.  Still, it’s hard not to find it entertaining that the conflict for most of these stories is that the X-Men literally can’t keep their hands off one another, even in a world where life is otherwise perfect and they’re not being feared, hated, and the whole nine.

Incursion #1
Written by: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
Pencils: Doug Braitwaithe
I think Valiant has successfully figured out the way to create drama in these major event series.  The common complaint for stories like these, even if I don’t agree, is their lack of tension because everyone knows everything is going to be fine. In your DC/Marvel events, you have a better chance than not the heroes will succeed, because that’s what they do. Bad things happen, but the bad guy goes down. The world goes on.  But the Valiant universe has much weaker, and much less effective heroes.  They did an entire event based around a threat they couldn’t actually beat, only (sort of) outsmart. These aren’t the guys whose hands I’d put the fate of the world in, let alone a powerful mage with a connection to the Earth who’s death results in a dark age for the planet. Having seen them fail makes every event more dramatic, because it could easily happen again.
That said, while it does create tension, I’d be lying if I said I was terribly interested in another Geomancer story.  On the contrary, Valiant’s penchant for killing people combined with the Geomancer’s nature of being a “replaceable” character almost makes the story predictable in a different way. They die so frequently it almost feels like a foregone conclusion we’ll have a new one by the end of this story. Especially when they’re facing someone with the power to drain life from entire planets–that’s way out of the league of the Eternal Warrior.

Justice League #18
“Legion of DOOM” Part Four
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Colors: HI-FI
This is literally just that season of Justice League Unlimited where Brainiac and Lex Luthor merged. Also, if this doesn’t inspire people to see Luthor/Brainiac as a viable villain couple, nothing will.
More seriously, this Legion of DOOM issue sets up a rivalry with Lex Luthor and and Vandal Savage that I hope someone runs with.  Yeah, he’s dead now, but…it’s comics. Plus, he’s immortal! If Snyder/Tynion brought him back to life before they finished this run I wouldn’t even be surprised.  And while the change to Lex’s origin with J’onn was a bit uncomfortable, this rivalry works perfectly. One of the things that makes the most sense but isn’t done nearly enough is rivalries between supervillains. There’s no reason for them all to get along unless they have a shared goal, and even then being compromised morally means turning on one another at any moment. Sooner or later, that has to result in a blood feud, and tying Luthor and Savage together while making them mortal enemies makes all the sense…even if its fairly contrary to what’s happening in Young Justice: Outsiders.

Teen Titans #27
“Let it All Out”
Writer: Adam Glass
Penciller: Bernard Chang
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Teen Titans hasn’t been given enough credit–not in this column or in the wider world of comics discussion. When this rebooted version with Adam Glass began, I wasn’t terribly enthused by the premise or the roster, but stuck around because I wanted to see what would happen.  The beginning was a bit frustrating, what with Red Arrow and Robin running a secret prison, but outside of that? I’ve consistently been impressed.  It’s refreshing to see the interactions of legitimately young, new characters.
Unfortunately, the sliding timescale often makes it hard to get that–we’ve got Tim Drake over in Bendis’ Young Justice comic hanging out with the original Young Justice crew pretending to be 19 even though he was a teenager in 1988, making the character alone 30 years old.  Even when the first YJ comic came out it was 1998, so those characters have histories nearly as storied as the ones of Nightwing and the New Teen Titans at this point–decades of storytelling that only the most devout or experienced fans could even know about. But with Teen Titans, for the first time in ages, we’re seeing fresh relationships and friendships, and they build on the legacy that makes us love DC Comics so much. Whether it’s Damian trying to figure out his feelings for Djinn or Red Arrow and Crush’s uneasy friendship, this book handles it all in ways that will stick for hopefully years to come as the foundational aspects of who these new heroes are.

The Unstoppable Wasp #5
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Guruhiru
This might have been my favorite issue for the week.  It brought me to tears multiple times in the same twenty-two page time span we claim is too short, proving what any fan who’s been reading since before the “widescreen storytelling” of the 2000’s already knew: it’s not how many pages, but what you do with them. I was afraid they’d totally softball Nadia’s issues, but every page is a gut punch, as Whitley takes us through the character literally tearing her life to shreds in a single manic episode, sinking into depression after she realizes what she’s done. Even the way Whitley turned the boundless optimism which makes Nadia such a lovable character on its head was a delightful twist. It feels like the development Hank should’ve gotten but was all too often avoided in favor of making him either look like a quirky scientist no one respected or a domestic abuser. (Even now, he’s just “half of Ultron”.) Even better is the G.I.R.L. backmatter this month, which contains an interview with a psychologist discussing mental issues. Comics (and fiction) can often take for granted some of the sensitive subject matter it deals with, so hats off to everyone involved in the G.I.R.L. interview series, but especially this one.
I’ve talked about how much I love these new heroes before, with my main problem being I believed they were too “perfect”, until recently–their sources of trouble were always from without, rather than within. But between Riri almost getting herself killed because she doesn’t want to risk anyone else’s life and Nadia dealing with her mental health issues in a very real way, that’s beginning to change. I have faith in Whitley that he’ll stick with this too, because Nadia’s story isn’t done yet. Being bipolar doesn’t make you broken, but she still has to accept responsibility for what she did to her friends, and this shouldn’t go away overnight.  Janet, Bobbi, and Priya are understanding, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will be…or even has to be. I don’t want her to wallow in self-pity though, instead I want this to be the springboard for her learning to manage this issue and becoming even stronger than before. If I could fantasy book this, the perfect ending for this is Nadia eventually meeting Hank, not only helping him get free from Ultron, but helping him learn to cope better with his issues as well.

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