Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Marvel's September previews reviewed

The theme for Marvel's September variant covers is "Venom-ized" villains, which is exactly what it sounds like. That image there is the X-Men: Gold cover featureing a Venom-ized Omega Red by Clayton Crain, and seems fairly typical of these, featuring a villain associated with the title possessed by the Venom symbiote.

Looking through this months solicitations (as you can do here), it seems that Marvel has rather drastically reduced the number of some of their titles--one Black Panther title instead of two, for example--but their line still seems crazy big to me, just in terms of how long it takes to scroll through the solicits.

It's also super-apparent that Thor: Ragnarok is on the horizon, based on all the Thor and/or Hulk trades solicited here.

Anyway, here's what jumped out at me for good or ill this time around...

Cover by ALEX ROSS
SECRET EMPIRE AFTERMATH! Not every Avenger came out of the Secret Empire’s regime the same as going in. One of Earth’s Mightiest, in particular, will either step up to lead the team — or retire altogether!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Is that Sam Wilson, encircling his former teammates either in a group hug, or something more menacing? If so, what's he wearing? Based on the Generations solicit featuring him and Steve Rogers, I'm assuming he will still be a Captain America at the end of Secret Empire...

Skeletor tries some Scarlet Spider cosplay, hates the way it makes him look. (Okay, that's actually the cover for one of September's issue of Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider, which demonstrates that Marvel is still publishing a boatload of Spider-comics, even if
Spider-Woman and Silk are no longer among the published. I guess Spider-Gwen is the last book about a woman with spider powers that Marvel is publishing.)

REDEMPTION COMES CLOSE… As Black Bolt turns the tables on the evil Jailer! But what about his fellow prisoners? Given a choice, will the Midnight King choose the company of thieves? And what hope do they have against a creature who knows their deepest secrets?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I've no interest in this book at all, but I have to admit: That is a hell of a cute cover.

Ms. Marvel’s falling out with her idol Carol Danvers, a.k.a. the Mighty Captain Marvel, just took a BIZARRE turn! Kamala suddenly finds herself as an intern at Woman Magazine – Carol’s former place of employment! Between cozying up to her boss, filing back issues, and her usual super-heroing, how will Kamala find time to figure out what got her here in the first place?
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Not sure why this is titled as it is, rather than Ms. Marvel & Ms. Marvel, as Carol is totally in her Ms. Marvel costume there. But I'm glad she's in that costume, rather than the black bathing suit costume, as that means we're somewhere around, what, the late seventies? Maybe early eighties? Based on the solicitation copy alone, I have to assume that this comic is going to be The Devil Wears Prada, but with multiple Ms. Marvels. That sounds fun.

Variant Cover by JOHN CASSADAY
Variant Cover by PAOLO RIVERA
They were part of the Greatest Generation! And now Sam Wilson finds himself alongside them yet again in a strange yet familiar setting — fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Captain America and Bucky against a seemingly unstoppable threat to the safety of the world!
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Whew! I'm glad Marvel's still letting Nick Spencer write Captain America comics after Secret Empire ends. Nick Spencer is really good at writing Captain America least the ones starring Sam Wilson (I haven't read any of his Steve Rogers comics yet).

Variant Cover by ALEX ROSS
EVERYTHING STARTS HERE! It begins at the dawn of the human race, and ends with a child’s prayer! In between, empires fall, mysteries brew, secrets are revealed, quests are undertaken and legends are forged! All leading up to the dramatic return you’ve been waiting for — and one you’ve been dreading!
Jason Aaron (MIGHTY THOR) and Esad Ribic (SECRET WARS) usher in a new dawn — one whose rays will touch every corner of the Marvel Universe in the days to come!
MARVEL LEGACY: It’s everything you’ve been longing for — and more!
64 PGS./ON-SHOT/Rated T+ …$5.99

It's always fun to see Ross drawing modern comics characters, and by modern I mean "any costume designed after the Silver Age that he himself didn't design," as it can often look...uncomfortable. He's been drawing a lot of the Avengers and company for Marvel, so most of these characters actually look pretty natural...with the exception of Gamora there, who I assume is only on this cover at all because they keep making Guardians of the Galaxy movies...?

CULLEN BUNN(W) • Andrea Brocccardo (A)
Cover by R.B. SILVA
THE LEAD UP TO LEGACY STARTS HERE! KEI KAWADE thinks he knows what his powers can do, but honestly? He has NO idea.
Join the House of Ideas for the next chapter in this monster epic as KID KAIJU explores the very depths of his own abilities!
Featuring Kid Kaiju, ELSA BLOODSTONE, their merry band of monsters and some surprising GUEST STARS!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

It is both a tragedy and a travesty that the above cover has nothing to do with the interiors, but is simply a "VENOMIZED" variant. I mean, how great would a story in which the Venom symbioite possessed Fin Fang Foom have been?!

GET READY TO RUN! The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back – Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be? GERT?! The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns!
Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I've never personally read any of Rowell's prose work, but I know she's popular enough that she's a real "get," particularly for this book, the traditional target audience of which overlaps with that of her novels. I'm pretty excited about the return of Runaways, and I'm curious about a couple of aspects, like how they will explain away the apparently missing members of the line-up (Victor, Xavin and Klara), and Nico's whole deal, as she's been away from the others in a few other rather unlikely books since the last time Runaways was canceled.

ELLIOT KALAN (W) • Todd Nauck (A)
When the villainous ARCADE decides to build a second, even deadlier Murderworld in Madripoor, he kidnaps Spider-Man and forces him to be the park’s first guest! Deadpool, meanwhile, has a bone to pick with Arcade… Namely that his terrifying theme parks are besmirching murder and its good name!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I like Arcade.

Squirrel Girl, Nancy and Tippy are trapped in the Savage Land! Good thing there’re only regular dinosaurs there and not, for example, a giant metal killer-dinosaur version of Ultron instead!! Sorry, I’m just getting word that there is, in fact, a giant metal killer-dinosaur version of Ultron here, and Squirrel Girl needs to stop him before he takes over the world — a task that has regularly bested many other super heroes, including the Avengers themselves! But don’t worry, because SQUIRREL GIRL IS NOT ALONE: She’s got Nancy (a regular human with no powers) and Tippy (a regular squirrel with no powers) on her side to help her out against the rage of Ultron! And it’s not just any Ultron, but a new and improved Ultron with an extremely dangerous (and, we must admit, extremely awesome) Tyrannosaurus rex bod! Oh, also Kraven the Hunter is in this issue too, so if you love dinosaurs, robots AND men in lion vests, boy howdy have we got a comic book for you!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

There are few things I like better than Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, and one of those things is dinosaurs. So this should be good!

Here's hoping this turns into a stealth crossover between North's USG and his Dinosaur Comics...

THE VENOM EPIC OF THE FALL STARTS HERE! During a routine battle with the villainous Jack O’Lantern, Venom finds himself transported to a far-off world and learns a terrible truth – a deadly new species called the Poisons has emerged from the vastness of space, and to make matters worse, they’re hunting Venoms! Trapped on the planet’s surface with a ragtag band of Venomized heroes, Eddie has no choice but to mount a counteroffensive and hope to find a way home!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

"The Venom Epic of the Fall"...? Does that mean this year will have multiple Venom epics, with other Venom epics falling during other seasons? Will there be more than one Venom epic this fall, and Venomverse is the bigger, better or most important of the two...? So confusing...!

That said, I would just like to reiterate that this is a really good idea.

The Poisons’ relentless campaign against the Venoms continues, and Spider-Man is among the first to fall! VENOM VS. POISON SPIDER-MAN: NO HOLDS BARRED! Meanwhile, Deadpool’s cooked up an idea of how to stop the Poisons, but it ain’t exactly sane!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hey, that "Poison Spider-Man" looks a lot like Anti-Venom, doesn't he...?

Giovanni Valletta (A)
NOW YOU SEE BEAST…HENRY McCOY is known for a lot of things–his persona as the X-Men BEAST, his massive intellect…and now a penchant for MAGIC. But where did Hank learn this new-found skill? And will his teammates still want him around once the secret is out in the open?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Douglas Franchin (A)
…NOW YOU DON’T! While HANK continues to struggle with his newfound magical skill, JIMMY HUDSON struggles with a challenge all his own… Will Jimmy be able to regain his memory with the help of his new friends? And will he like what he finds if he does?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Arthur Adams draws good. I can't match that cover up with the contents of either of those solicits, though.

Also, Jimmy Hudson is Wolverine II from the Ultimate Universe, right? So even though "The" Wolverine Logan has been "dead" for a while now, and Laura Kinney is the new Wolverine, there's now an old man version of Logan and a young man version of Logan kicking around the Marvel Universe, and the main way in which they are distinguishable from the late Logan is that their hair is differently colored? Okay.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DC's September previews reviewed

The weirdly-named Dark Nights: Metal event seems to be growing. In addition to two-issues of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo series of that name, there are a bunch of one-shots with names like Batman: The Murder Machine and Batman: The Dawnbreaker, each featuring a cover seemingly illustrated by a silhouette and some sort of fusion of the Bat-symbol with that of one of his Justice League peers (the above is from Batman: The Merciless). And there's a multi-part tie-in storyline running through the pages of Teen Titans, Nightwing and Suicide Squad. I liked last week's The Forge just fine, but I'm still not entirely certain I get the premise of this--representatives of an evil Multiverse invading Gotham City and/or the world, I guess?--and when it comes to big super-comics crossover event stories, usually the simpler the basic premise, the better the series (there are, of course, exceptions to that rule).

We'll see. Anyway, beyond Metal, DC has plenty of other comics on their September schedule, and these are the ones that stuck out to me. (I read the full solicits at CBR, and you can too.)

Written by DAN JURGENS
Lenticular cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“THE OZ EFFECT” part one! The agents of the mysterious Mr. Oz begin to move as the Man of Steel works to stop the chaos they unleash in Metropolis and across the globe. But when Mr. Oz steps from the shadows his identity rocks the Last Son of Krypton to his core. The story that began in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 begins to end here!
On sale SEPTEMBER 13 • Lenticular version $3.99 • Nonlenticular version $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by DAN JURGENS
Lenticular cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“THE OZ EFFECT” part two! As Superman struggles with the ramifications of Mr. Oz’s identity, the mysterious figure’s origins and the long road to Superman’s doorstep finally reveal themselves.
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • Lenticular version $3.99 • Nonlenticular version $2.99 US • RATED T

Oh man, September's first issue of Action just "begins to end" the story that began in DC Universe: Rebirth...? How much longer are they going to draw this out?

I am increasingly curious about this Mr. Oz person, the longer they tease it and the more cryptic solicitations I read. The popular, obvious assumption is that it is Ozymandius from Watchmen, working for or with Doctor Manhattan. That seems too obvious though, and these bits of solicitation copy suggest it is someone known to Superman. I'm not entirely sure how Ozymandius would have the power to do what he's been doing, including capturing and holding both Doomsday and Mr. Mxyzptlk, but then, I'm not entirely sure how Doctor Manhattan was powerful enough to "steal" ten years from the DC Universe when Pandora was apparently screwing around with it in the final pages of Flashpoint. (Also, there's no real reason for Ozymandius to "disguise" himself with a new costume and a codename, since no one who has seen him in the DC Universe would know who he is anyway...other than readers, of course). I guess we'll see.

Backup story art by SEBASTIAN FIUMARA
“The First Ally” finale! In the final issue of Scott Snyder’s high-octane run on ALL STAR BATMAN, he and superstar artist Rafael Albuquerque put Batman to the ultimate test! Faced with either losing his future as Batman or the person he loves most, the Dark Knight must decide which ultimate price he is willing to pay.
On sale SEPTEMBER 13 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE

I can only hope that All-Star Batman is being canceled so as not to confuse the market when DC resumes printing new issues of Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder in October.

I just read Batman: Zero Hour this weekend, and it was a nice reminder of just what a fine artist Graham Nolan is. And look, here's some new Graham Nolan art! That's the cover for September's issue of Bane: Conquest, which Nolan is drawing and his old Detective Comics collaborator Chuck Dixon is writing.

Written by HOPE LARSON
Cover by DAN MORA
“Summer of Lies” part two! Just as Batgirl and Nightwing discover which villain from their past has returned, they realize something worse…it was all a trap! When everything they thought they knew comes crashing down, will they be able to confront their true feelings for each other?
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Fun fact: According to The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe, Batgirl Barbara Gordon is 5'11, while Nightwing Dick Grayson is only 5/10.

I'm not entirely sure what's what in the Batman/The Shadow crossover, as I know next-to-nothing of The Shadow's story and mythology, but the art has been great, and this is a rather fine cover. I really dig the way artist Riley Rossmo uses The Shadow's crazy-long scarf and Batman's cape to make an abstract Joker face.

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art and cover by MAURICET
It’s a red-letter day for the good folk of Unliklistan as they start to power up their first atomic reactor. But after pushing the wrong button, the ultra-rare radioactive element, unstabilium, has been released into the atmosphere! Now it’s up to pilot Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Atcherly and his navigator Captain Dudley “Mutt” Muller to save the day. Will they safely complete their mission? Or are things about to get a little…wacky?
On sale SEPTEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

When I saw that cover, my first thought was something along the lines of "The only person who could make me want to read a Dastardly & Muttley comic that looked like that would be Garth Ennis...and what do you know, Garth Ennis is writing it!

Four of DC’s recent “greatest” trade paperbacks are collected in a slipcase set featuring BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: THE GREATEST BATTLES, HARLEY QUINN’S GREATEST HITS, WONDER WOMAN: HER GREATEST BATTLES and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THEIR GREATEST TRIUMPHS (solicited in this catalogue for October on sale), featuring some of comics’ greatest heroes and villains!
On sale NOVEMBER 1 • FC, $39.99 US

I can't speak for the quality of the material within each of the these anthologies yet--of the ones I've seen, it is about as hit-or-miss as you would expect--but it's cool to see Kevin Maguire doing putting the current Justice League into his classic Justice League pose. I think each and every time there's a change in the Justice League line-up, Maguire should be hired to do some version of that image for a cover. Hell, I'd buy a "gallery"-style comic that was just pin-ups of Maguire drawing all of the Leagues like that.

“A Lonely Place Of Living” part one! It’s the story you’ve demanded: Where in the world (or otherwise) is Tim Drake? Red Robin faces a crossroads…escape the most devious prison ever devised, or find himself abandoned beyond time and space for all eternity! Not much of a choice, right? But when he finds out just who is locked in there with him, Tim’s world will change in ways he never imagined! This is one of the biggest stories of the REBIRTH era, setting the stage for an explosive DETECTIVE COMICS epic!
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Hopefully Tim is intensely looking at that costume there in his hands, perhaps the second worst costume he's ever worn, and considering whether he should through it in an incinerator or not. Perhaps I can help you make that decision, Tim. Yes! Yes! For God's sake, throw it in an incinerator immediately!

I think you should go back to your original costume and just go by Robin once again (or, ugh, for the first time in current continuity); there can certainly be more than one vigilante named "Robin" operating at the same time. And, if you must keep the code name Red Robin, and least get a decent costume. Maybe something close to your original, but swapping out all the greens and yellows in it for reds, blacks and/or grays? At the very least, lose the double-R logo; maybe your traditional R, only in red instead of yellow...?

Variant covers by JIM LEE and BRUCE TIMM
Celebrate twenty-five years of Harley Quinn with this collection of stories by some legendary Harley talent and some who’ve never drawn her before! How does Harley manage her insanely jam-packed life on Coney Island? What haven’t we seen from her past with the Joker? And can even Harley’s psychological acumen crack the twisted mind of…Robin, the Boy Wonder?
One-shot • On sale SEPTEMBER 6 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T+

It didn't occur to me until I was reading solicitations today--for both this and September's issue of Teen Titans, a Metal tie-in featuring Harley Quinn, but I can't recall a time in which Harley Quinn and Damian Wayne have ever interacted before, can you? Given how long both have been around at this point--twenty-five years in her case, obviously, and ten in Damian's--that seems kind of remarkable. Surely I'm missing something? If not, then that could prove interesting. As I've said a few times before, Damian has become such a particular and distinct character that it's actually fun to see him meeting and interacting with other characters in the shared DC Universe.

I was a little surprised to see Chip Zdarsky up there among the credited writers, as I just sort of assumed Marvel had him under some sort of exclusive contract by this point.

In this three-issue miniseries that led into Grant Morrison’s JLA run, something is wrong with the World’s Greatest Heroes! Each has forgotten the life in which he or she wore a costume and protected the planet with their own unique powers and abilities. Even stranger, ordinary people everywhere are gaining their own powers in an insidious plan to cultivate Earth’s population as a race of super-soldiers!
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 128 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” $24.99 US

I read, re-read and re-read this one a lot when it first came out, as it was just before the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter/John Dell JLA launched, and that was and is one of my favorite super-comics of all time. I think the idea of this series was to kinda sorta show how the "Big Seven" iteration of the League came together, but it wasn't necessary to make sense of JLA #1 (there's simply a line of dialogue from Metamorpho or Atom-Smasher or someone from the previous line-up mentioning how the big guns were going to be taking over).

Now, though, I'm hard-pressed to remember too terribly much about it. I remember the artwork being somewhat uneven, with at least two distinct styles on display throughout. And I remember the inter-connecting covers, which formed a single horizontal image by Kevin Maguire when all three issues were placed next to one another.

The above cover, the middle-part of the triptych of covers, is the one that accompanied this week's solicitation. When the series was originally collected back in 1996, though, the cover looked like this:

Written by GERRY CONWAY, J.M. DeMATTEIS and others
A new era of JLA thrills began with these 1980s tales in which Aquaman assumed leadership of the World’s Greatest Heroes! First, Vixen traces the financing for a terrorist group to the African nation of M’Changa, where she must battle a charismatic leader who wants her powers. Then, the team races to the Soviet Union to rescue Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, and Amazo returns to find a completely different team! Plus, Despero escapes his prison on Takron-Galtos to menace the universe again!
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 952 pg, FC, $99.99 US

So my first thought upon seeing this was "Good God, who would spend $100 on a 1,000-page collection of the Detroit Era of the Justice League?"

And my second thought was along the lines of, "Actually, I wouldn't mind owning that...maybe Amazon will have a steep discount on it..."

I'm not a fan of books that thick, and I would actually be more likely to buy this chopped up into three 300+-page collections or so, but this is one of the several eras of Justice League history I haven't been able to assemble whole runs of from back-issue bins, so I've mostly read these comics out-of-order, oftentimes months or even years apart from one another.

Somewhat surprisingly, this collection includes individual issues of rather recent vingtagee, including issues from the relatively short-lived Justice League anthology book JLA Classified and the 2011 DC Retroactive: JLA--The '80s special (there seems to be a typo above, though; while JLA Classified #22-#25 did indeed feature the Detroit-era League, #14 and #15 were the fourth and fifth chapters of Warren Ellis and Butch Guice's six-part "New Maps of Hell" featuring the then-current League line-up, while #16 is the first issue of the Gail Simone/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez story also featuring the then-current, Big Seven League.

As for the quality of these comics, I think that in general they are rather unfairly maligned. Sure, pretty much everything having to do with Vibe in them now seems dumb, insensitive and possibly even insensitive, but I think it more likely has to do with the fact that they did not age well at all. I assume that Gerry Conway and company all had their hearts in the right place when they were trying to create a young Hispanic superhero.

Written by TOM KING
Variant cover by KEVIN EASTMAN
After the epic battle among the animals of last issue, Eisner Award-nominated writer Tom King and legendary artist Kevin Eastman (making his DC interior art debut) weave a suspenseful tale of Kamandi lost at sea! Imprisoned alongside a menagerie, Kamandi devises a plan to escape. Will they ever see land again? Or are they trapped in the veiled Vortex forever?
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, 9 of 12, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

I haven't been following this book too closely, but I was struck by the art credit here. Weird to think of Kevin Eastman drawing anything for DC Comics, let alone an interior of a comic book that isn't a Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover one. Of course, this being Kamandi, it will be full of half-human, half-animal characters, and that is definitely in Eastman's particular wheelhouse. Weird too that DC is using the ninth issue of this fairly random project as the place to debut Eastman's first interior artwork for them, instead of something a little more prestige and notable/noticeable.

I'll be interested in seeing what this looks like when it comes out.

I like this Ryan Sook cover for Superman.

Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“Children of the Gods” part one! Spinning out of the pages of DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH and JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARKSEID WAR, legendary writer James Robinson (JSA: THE GOLDEN AGE, STARMAN) comes on board to answer one of the biggest questions of the year: Who is Wonder Woman’s brother? Taken away from Themyscira in the dead of night, the mysterious Jason has been hidden somewhere far from the sight of gods and men…but his life and Wonder Woman’s are about to intersect in a terrifying way, bringing them face to face with a cosmic threat they never imagined! Don’t miss the start of the next great Wonder Woman epic!
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Huh. So incoming, temporary Wonder Woman writer Shea Fontana will be followed by James Robinson. That is something of a surprise. I mean, just by virtue of being "James 'Starman' Robinson," the man's writing credit is almost always gonna carry with it some cache, but it was my understanding (mainly from Airboy, admittedly) that Robinson wasn't really happy with the (mostly quite poor) work he was doing for DC between Cry For Justice and Earth 2, and that DC wasn't all that happy with him, either. At least, that was a plot point in Airboy.

That said, more perplexing than Robinson returning to the publisher to write Wonder Woman--I was honestly expecting to hear that Margeurite Bennett and Bilquis Evely would be the new team, or perhaps that Phil Jimenez would be returning, given how well Rucka coming back seemed to do for DC--is his particular pitch. This is following up on plot points from the pre-"Rebirth" Justice League story "Darkseid War" which, I'll be honest, I forgot a whole lot about, and other DC series seem to be intentionally forgetting about as well (see Mister Miracle, for example). That ended almost a year ago, and, by the time this sees print, will be a reboot and over 30-issues of Wonder Woman ago, following a story which, as I understood it, seemed to re-re-rejigger Wonder Woman's origin in such a way to call into question some background events of "Darkseid War."

So honestly, I'm not sure what DC and/or James Robinson are thinking here.

On the other hand, from what I've read regarding the announcement, Robinson's run is also intended to be a temporary one; longer than Fontanas, but not by much. So I don't know, maybe we will get a Bennet/Evely Wonder Woman in the near-ish future, or a Devin Grayson/Phil Jimenez one (Shut up! It's my daydream!).

Written by GAIL SIMONE
Variant cover by LIAM SHARP
What makes one a legend? How do legends carve their names into history, when countless others are forgotten? Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian are destined by the fates to be legendary, but when their stories collide, will both emerge victorious, or will the fickle Gods cut their lives short? Co-published with Dark Horse Comics.
On sale SEPTEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

I...don't think this is a good idea. I haven't kept up with Dark Horse' Conan comics--it's probably been almost a decade since the last one I read--but unless they've radically re-written him as a particularly woke version of himself, Conan and Wonder Woman seem almost antithetical to one another, and it's hard for me to imagine the pair of them so much as holding a conversation without even Wonder Woman at her most patient slapping him every few minutes.

That said, it's weird enough a pairing that I'll want to check it out. In trade. From the library. Someday.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On Wynonna Earp Season 1*

Wynonna Earp, created and written by Beau Smith, began its comic book life as a limited series from Image in 1996. The descendant of the wild west lawman Wyatt Earp, Wynonna was saddled with not only the famous name, but also the task of hunting down supernatural threats as an agent of the US Marshals' "Black Badge Division." IDW would later publish miniseries Home on the Strange in 2003 and The Yeti Wars in 2011. The comics could, most charitably, be described as somewhere between completely incompetently made and mediocre (We'll discuss those in the next post, though; don't you worry).

In 2015, Syfy acquired the project pitched to them by IDW and showrunner Emily Andras, who had previously written, produced and showrun fantasy drama Lost Girl. The 13-episode Wynonna Earp series debuted on April 1 the following year. Andras was extremely selective in what she chose to take from the comics. TV's Wynonna Earp had the vagabond title character (played by Melanie Scrofano) returning to her hometown of Purgatory on the eve of her 27th birthday in order to attend a family funeral. Having suffered a particularly traumatic event as a child (when her family home was attacked by the undead), and a particularly troubled childhood that followed (since no one believed her stories of that attack by the undead), Wynonna left town and never looked back--until the start of the series, anyway.

She soon found herself re-embroiled in the family curse when she becomes "The Heir," the only person capable of sending the town's 77 undead revenants to hell by shooting them with her great-great-grandfather's now-magical gun, "Peacemaker." The revenants, lead by the charismatic Bobo Del Rey (Michael Eklund), are seeking a means to escape The Ghost River Triangle, the geological region which the curse kept them all entrapped within the borders of.

The threat of an army of revenants caught the attention a mysterious government agent named Dolls (Shamier Anderson), who worked with a joint U.S./Canadian task force known as Black Badge Division. Together Wynonna and Dolls take on Bobo, the revenants and assorted other supernatural threats with the help of Wynonna's little sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), a self-taught expert on the curse and local history, and the immortal Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), the former best friend of Wyatt. Over the course of the season, the characters unraveled mysteries about the curse and learned secrets of their own pasts, while new mysteries and secrets arose at the climax so they would have new stuff to deal with in season two.
Spoiler alert: Canonical ship WayHaught totally kiss in evening gowns, neither gets killed off
The show gathered a cult following online, particularly with LGBT fans on Tumblr, thanks in no small part to the cast's active Twitter presence. Andras and others often live-tweeted episodes as they aired, actively engaging with fans directly through social media. The show also premiered during the height of the "Bury Your Gays" epidemic last year, when lesbian characters were dying off at a pace of almost one a week. Andras, who is no stranger to courting LGBT viewers, actually took to Twitter to assure fans that neither Waverly Earp or Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell), the show’s resident lesbian couple, would meet an untimely end. That care is one of the reasons LGBT fans are so protective of Wynonna Earp; it's one of the few times they feel a showrunner has their best interests at heart. Andras understands she is targeting a marginalized audience and, more importantly, takes great pride in the responsibility of treating fans with respect.

In preparation for season two, which began airing June 9 on SyFy, we marathoned the first season and sat down at our laptops to discuss it. Please note there will be some spoilers, so you may want to watch the first season yourself before joining us below.

Meredith: OK, since I forced you into watching Wynonna Earp, I’ll start. The best way I can describe the show is this: Emily Andras packed a car full of characters, plot, action sequences and tropes. She took the car from 0-90 and started pushing them out onto the highway. If this is not a show you can get on board with in the first 15 minutes, then you might as well get out.

Wynonna Earp isn't interested in getting bogged down in heavy internal mythology. Why does Peacemaker work the way is does? I don't know, it's a magic gun with a mind of its own. How did Doc spend 80 years in at the bottom of a well? Shrug; a witch’s curse, I guess.

If you are the kind of person who needs a show to articulate hard and fast reasoning for everything it does, then you should probably go back to watching Game of Thrones, because you're not going to find it here. And honestly, I couldn't love this show any more. I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun watching TV.

So Caleb, give me your brief gut reaction to Wynonna Earp now that we’ve watched season one.

Caleb: "Brief"...? Oh man, I hate brevity!

It took me a few episodes to really get into it honestly, precisely because I am the kind of person who nitpicks internal logic in fictive narratives, and can get hung up on little details (Doc spending a chunk of immortality in the well I can handle, but it still doesn't explain how Wynonna didn't bump into him when she climbed out of that very same well!). That said, once the major players were all introduced and were around long enough that I got to know them, I became much more engaged with the show.
I really liked the Waverly character, who is easy on the eyes, has a confoundingly weird wardrobe and was presented first as a typical, cheerful, twenty-something small-town barmaid, and then is revealed to be this secret student of history and the occult with a serial killer-like zeal for the subject matter, complete with the crazy person's wall of pinned-up photos and newspaper clippings.
And I particularly loved the Doc Holliday character. He's a handsome fellow with a sweet cookie-duster mustache, and I like his overall old timey-ness, from his manner of speech to just how out of it he is when it comes to things like cars and other, more modern inventions he missed while sitting at the bottom of a well. For the most part, they play him as if he walked across the studio lot from the sound set where they were making a cowboy show into that of this one about demon-hunting, and he decided to just stick around this set instead.

I found the crypto-Canadian-ness of it pretty hilarious too. There's something funny about setting a show full of riffs and allusions to the all-American Western myth of cowboys and gunslingers in Canada, and the show rarely commits to exactly which side of the border it's set on.

I think the show suffered a bit whenever it tried to get too fancy with the special effects, as some scenes were obviously more ambitious than the budget could afford, and the anal retentive in me felt parts of several episodes could have used another round or two of script-polishing to explain the sorts of things that it either waits until the last episodes to address or just plain never gets around to, but overall I had fun with it, and even became invested in the characters.

Meredith: One of my favorite themes to discuss is the search for identity. The trifecta of Willa (the eldest Earp sister, played by Natalie Krill, who was thought to have been murdered by revenants as a child), Wynonna, and Waverly represent "the one who was chosen, the one who was forced to choose and the one whose choice was made for them." Willa was meant to then be the heir. She was trained. Wynonna wants nothing to do with the Earp curse but had to step up because no one else could. And Waverly wanted nothing more than to be the heir herself.

I enjoyed the way Emily Andras inverted the "search," so to speak. When the show starts, our characters are thrust into these roles (heir, sister, pariah) and we get to watch as they struggle to fill this new space and navigate changing dynamics. But by the end, Willa arrives and Waverly might not even be an Earp. The identities the characters have been developing are completely torn away. They're forced to rethink everything they had once taken for granted.

Caleb: I suppose the same could be said of their relationships to one another, to their enemies and allies and to the town itself. Everyone ends up somewhere different than where they started not just personally, but as they relate to all of the other elements of the show.

Meredith: I liked that not one character had the upper hand for long. Bobo wasn't just sitting around in the trailer park watching his master plan unfold while our heroes marched toward him. I thought by shifting the power dynamics between Bobo, The Stone Witch (Rayisa Kondracki), Wynonna, Doc, Dolls and so on it gave the series a lot of sparking energy. You think Bobo has all the power until you find out about the Stone Witch. But then you realize she's lying to Bobo about having the lead and it's actually Waverly who has the skull that Bobo needs. The series is like a poker game. Everyone is keeping secrets in hopes of shifting the power back to them, while also praying that no one calls their bluff.

Caleb: What's interesting about that too is that despite how long some of these characters have had their plans in motion, none of them seem to have planned for what happens once they meet their goals. Like, Bobo is able to escape the Ghost River Triangle: Then what? In addition to his immortality and his powers, he's basically got a whole devoted cult at his beck and call where he is; is the ability to go on vacation all that important? Also, he might not know it, but if he does discover a means for escape, the government is just going to nuke the town out of existence anyway.

Similarly, Doc has spent his immortality planning on vengeance, but then what? And the peculiarities of the spell prevent him from actually taking that revenge, anyway.

And what happens to Wynonna if she's able to break the curse? Will she lose her newfound purpose in life?

I think that's part of what makes the characters so engaging. They are a lot like the real people in you know in your real life, seemingly making dumb decisions or not thinking through their actions and that you want to sit down and talk to them but you can't--because they are TV characters.

Meredith: You make a really great point about Wynonna. When we first meet her, she's a total mess. Working with Black Badge and accepting the role of the Earp heir gives her life the structure and meaning it's been sorely missing up until that point. It gives her a second chance to reconnect with her sister. It gives her purpose and direction. So you’re right, it makes you wonder what will happen when (or if) she breaks the curse.

I want to talk a bit about the morally ambiguous heroes and villains. When I realized that not all the revenants were completely evil, I knew I was going to love this show. The Stone Witch's curse was wide-reaching, so a number of revenants were just poor souls caught in the crossfire of Wyatt's gun. It puts extra weight on Wynonna, who is tasked with sending all of them back to hell, but it's not as simple as kicking demon ass. She had to come to terms with the fact that some of these cursed people are no worse than she.

Even Bobo, who is ostensibly the season's "Big Bad," is not motivated by pure evil. He's tired. He wants to leave the Ghost River Triangle. In fact, it's Black Badge that's threatening to drop an atomic bomb on Purgatory and all its human citizens. So tell me, who is really the villain here?
Caleb: Based on haircut and costuming decisions, I'm going to say Bobo. Seriously though, I think the show operates very much within the realm of the deconstructionist--or are we on post-deconstructionist at this point?-- concept of the Western, where there are no longer any white hats or black hats. The closest thing we get to an ethically pure, old-school character is that of Wyatt Earp himself, who appears only in a flashback or two, and then only to express disapproval of Doc's life choices.

Of course, something went wrong with even Wyatt's life, to the point that his descendants are suffering this curse, so maybe not even his is a traditional white hat character...

Meredith: How does it function as an adaptation of Beau Smith’s comic? Did you think it made the leap from page to screen successfully? Is there anything from the comic you would've kept? What change did you like the most?
Reminder: This is what the comic book this show is based on used to look like
Caleb: Ha ha ha ha ha ha! You're kidding, right?

Well, I think as an adaptation, in the strictest sense of the word, it's obviously pretty poor, as I think it's safe to say next-to-nothing from the comics actually makes it into the show. It's mostly just a couple of names, and the idea of a curse on the Earp line, right? But then, the comics themselves were so poorly made, that's not a strike against the show at all. As a show based on the comics, which is different than an adaptation, it's phenomenal. It's comics-to-TV alchemy, turning a base metal into gold.

One potential advantage the concept evidenced in the comics vs. that of the show was the idea that, in the comics, Wynonna as already a fully-functioning member of Black Badge, which appears to be like Mike Mignola's BPRD. Had they kept that premise, I think we would have had a show in which Wynonna, Dolls and the gang travel from place to place, fighting different sorts of supernatural threats. I would imagine something closer to The X-Files, I guess, with a different threat each episode, and maybe the occasional "mythology" episode tying into some overarching plotline. That would also allow for more and different types of monsters rather than just the revenants. In the comics, she fights werewolves, vampires, a mummy, zombies and so on, whereas the show basically has her dealing exclusively with the revenants, with the occasional witch or skinwalker.

That, of course, would have been a very different, very expensive show, and this particular premise allowed for one location with a handful of different sets. Additionally, I think the idea of Wynonna as someone protecting a single town resonates as a Western, deconstructionist or otherwise, as she's basically the heroic sheriff of Purgatory, protecting the townspeople from threats from inside and from without.

Meredith: You and I sat down and watched Tombstone as well as reading Beau Smith’s original run of Wynonna Earp comics and I think we both agreed that it was pretty obvious Emily Andras did the same exact thing before breaking season one. There were a couple of similarities between the show and Tombstone that just couldn’t have been coincidence. Overall, I’m impressed about how she was able to take this one fragment of an idea and turn it into such an entertaining television show.

Caleb: Yeah, viewed as a sort of prequel to Wynonna Earp, Tombstone is enjoyable on an entirely different level viewed separeately. I think I prefer Rozon's version of Doc to Val Kilmer's, even though Rozon seems to be basing his a bit on Kilmer's...or else they both based their performances on someone else's, or that's just the way Doc Holliday really was in real life?

Meredith: Thinking ahead, are you excited for the second season? What would you like to see?

Caleb: Well, the true identity of the mysterious roadside mechanic with superspeed and the initials J.C.--who isn't Jesus Christ, but seems to be angelic in nature--that showed up late in season one has been bothering the hell out of me, and I want to see who the hell he's supposed to be. I'm also curious about the monster that Bobo calls "the old one" that is trying to get into Purgatory, which looked like a poorly rendered mash-up of a giant snake and something Lovecraftian. And obviously there's something up with Dolls that hasn't been explained yet.

I'm also interested in seeing what happens next, now that Bobo is out of the picture, and so are all of the seemingly other most threatening of his kind. I would like to see Wynonna, Doc, Dolls, Waverly and Haught fight more and different types of monsters. Hopefully a yeti.

Meredith: My dream for season two would be the addition of more old-timey gunslingers, Calamity Jane, in particular. They’ve got Doc Holliday, why not add another one?

Caleb: Calamity Jane? Okay. But only if Alicia Witt plays her. And she gets at least one musical number, a la the Doris Day musical. Or is everyone sick of musical episodes at this point?

Meredith: I absolutely second Alicia Witt playing Calamity Jane. And musical episodes are still a thing. I bet Emily Andras could pull one off, too. The other thing I'm most looking forward to is Waverly exploring her family history. In the final episode, Bobo Del Ray suggested she might not be a full fledged Earp. If true, that could be potentially devastating for both Waverly and Wynonna.

*You guys know my pal, and so far the only person I've ever actually collaborated on writing anything with, Ms. Meredith Tomeo, right? We did the "Birdwatching" feature together for Comics Alliance. Well, we were intending to do a similar recurring feature on SyFy's Wynonna Earp series, starting with this year's second season but, alas, Comics Alliance is no more. So this piece is one we had already started working on before CA went away, and it was intended to be a sort of catch-up on the first season before we started doing the weekly synopsis pieces.  Since I do have my own comics blog, I figured I would just run our discussion on the first season here, rather than just letting all of these words about something somewhat comics related go to waste. If anyone wants to pay us to watch Wynonna Earp for them, though, we're totally interested.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: June 14th

Betty and Veronica #3 (Archie Comics) Writer/artist Adam Hughes fills his issues of Betty and Veronica with jokes, but I have to admit that the part of the comic I found most humorous was in the fine print on the inside front cover, wherein it was stated that the book is "published monthly."

Hughes' Betty and Veronica #1 was released in July of 2016, the second issue was released in November of last year and, well, now it is June. At the pace that Hughes has been creating these pages (or, rather, not creating pages), Betty and Veronica is really more of a bi-annual series than a monthly.

Which isn't to say the comic isn't any good, of course. Hughes' style and reputation for drawing sexy, buxom super-ladies might seem like a poor fit for a book starring two 16-year-old teens, but for the most part he's done a weird but wholly appropriate Norman Rockwell-doing-comics style, with colorist Jose Villarrubia's furthering the comparison to a painting.

The conflict between the two title characters, as you will likely have forgotten, was over the fate of Riverdale's venerable soda shop Pop's; Veronica's father plans to take it over and turn it into a faux Starbucks, and he's enlisted his daughter to help. Betty is trying to raise the money necessary to save the shop. This issue features the climax, and it is resolved precisely as a reader might expect, given the fact that things keep escalating to seemingly irreconcilable levels.

I'm genuinely curious about the future of this book, as this is the end of Hughes' tale and it is, after all, only three issues (In retrospect, it might have been better for Archie to publish this as an over-sized special when all the pages are in). The publisher's habit of late has been to collect five issues at a time in their trade collection, and include an issue from a different but related title as a preview. This, then, is too short. But there's no ad for a next issue, either, so I'm not sure if the plan is to keep having Hughes produce these things twice a year or so or if this is the end of what is actually a miniseries. If they collect it, and they should because that's really the best way to read a story like this, then how will they fill out all that extra space? Reprints of classic stories? 80 pages of process and a cover gallery? I guess we'll see.

Anyway, this was a good issue in a surprisingly good run that was so late its quality barely matters.

Dark Days: The Forge #1 (DC Comics) Despite my trepidation--the house ad asks "What Is The Dark Multiverse?" and fun fact, I kinda wish DC would leave the Multiverse alone for a decade or two--this turned out to be a lot of fun. How good it ultimately is will depend on the context that we don't know yet, but evaluated as is, the first part of a series of teasers building toward a big event series, it is certainly effective. It got me really excited, more excited about any particular DC Universe project since, I don't know, maybe Multiversity? DC Universe: Rebirth #1?, and eager to see what happens next.

Writer Scott Snyder is working with frequent collaborator James Tynion here, and a trio of artists: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert and John Romita Jr. Seeing all three guys working on the same issue is a nice reminder that DC actually does have some really good and really popular artists willing to work for them, it's just that two-thirds of them don't seem capable of keeping a regular schedule, so it's easy to forget that the publisher can occasionally have Jim Lee or Andy Kubert draw something for them.

My first thought while reading, which came somewhere between an illustrated portion of Carter Hall's journal and a brief Batman/Aquaman team-up, was that I kind of wish this is what reading Justice League was like. You know, some of DC's biggest heroes involved in big adventures--this one tracing its origins back to at least ancient Egypt, if not the dawn of homo sapiens--and able to access the entire history of DC Comics for building blocks. You know, like Batman and Superman being able to call up Mister Terrific or Mister Miracle when they need a favor, or the Dark Knight having a secret cave within his secret cave, where he can store mysterious metal artifacts (The reason the series is going to be called Metal and that these preludes all have sub-titles suggesting metal-working will become extremely obvious once you start reading; hell, just reading the above sentences probably already made it so to you).

Of course, given that this story is at least partially built on stuff from Snyder's run on Batman, this couldn't have been, like, the issue of Justice League #1 that was released in August of 2011, or even the knew Justice League that was published around the time of the "Rebirth" initiative (well, maybe it could have), but this does do what one might want a Justice League comic to do.

So: Something big and terrible is coming, something that Batman has been looking into for years, and keeping secret from allies like Superman, even as they have helped him. It seems to involve the core of the earth, and mysterious, metallic items of power. This is probably the something that Tynion had Tim Drake intuit and question Batman about not too long ago in the pages of Detective, rather than the "something" I assumed it would be, the DC Vs. Watchmen thing in the works forever now (although it seems pretty likely that the "three Jokers" thread from DC Universe: Rebirth, and maybe some of the intimations that there really was a Golden Age of superheroes after all will be explored if not resolved in this series).

While researching and preparing to deal with that something, Batman crosses paths with the aformentioned heroes. Meanwhile, Ganthet sends Green Lantern Hal Jordan to the Batcave, where he's violently met by Duke Thomas. They find a secret cave, and, at its ends, an unexpected character. Earlier, on his lunar Batcave, Batman and Mister Terrific open a vault to reveal another unexpected character. One of them has already been spoiled by the promotional material; the other I won't reveal, because the surprise was such that it really excited me personally (and that is probably only a spoiler if you know my favorite DC super-people very, very well).

The most frustrating aspect of the book, for me at least, was the inclusion of Carter Hall, which means "Hawkman." Snyder's conception of Hawkman seems to mirror that of Geoff Johns' prior to the reboot, and while that reading of Hawkman is probably the best one, it means fucking Hawkman is involved in this story and I honestly have no idea what is going on with Hawkman in the post-Flashpoint DCU (which is what happens when you put Rob Liefeld on a character, I guess; a whole lot of people will do their damnedest to ignore it). Since there's at least one character from the new Earth-2 in this, it's possible that this Hawkman, who sure seems to be the pre-Flashpoint Hawkman, might be a Hawkman from there but, again, I haven't been keeping up with what's been going on with the various Earth-2 titles, on account of them being terrible. I read a little Death of Hawkman (also terrible). Sooooooo...I don't know...?

There's a cameo from someone who might be Immortal Man, and maybe Vandal Savage, but, again, between all the rejiggerings, it's pretty impossible to recognize characters based solely on the way they are drawn. Shrug.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to whatever comes next here, and hope that it's not a thunderous disappointment.

Detective Comics #958 (DC) The James Tynion Loves The Nineties-era of 'Tec continues, as a badly bleeding Nomoz stumbles into the city, seeking out Jean-Paul Valley. Who is Nomoz? The short, squat, hairy guy from 1992's Batman: Sword of Azrael, which was drawn by then up-and-coming artist Joe Quesada (whatever happened to that guy?). Given that Tynion just re-introduced Jean-Paul Valley, Azrael and The Order of St. Dumas in a radically different way in Batman and Robin Eternal, you may be forgiven for being surprised as hell to see a dude from the original show up; I guess that explains why Tynion spends a two-page montage trying to reconcile the two dueling Azrael stories into one. Consider this example 45,000 of why DC's constant, continual continuity-through-in-story-cosmic-events is so terrible: No one, perhaps especially the creators working for the publisher, actually wants to ever reboot away the past and really start over fresh, so we keep getting old characters and plot-lines reintroduced in altered fashion that present the worst of both worlds, things that are unfamiliar to new-er readers that need clumsy info-dump passages to explain and are familiar to older readers presented in ways that scan "wrong."

That's basically what this particular title has been built around.

Anyway, Nomoz is here to warn Jean-Paul and the Justice League of Batman Lieutenants that The Order has made a super-robot that is in town to kill Valley and others, and they need to stop it. By my count, The Order is the fifth secret society to attack Gotham in some way shape or form in the relatively short time that Tynion has been writing 'Tec (The Colony, The Victim Syndicate, The League of Shadows, The League of Assassins).

Alvaro Martinez is the pencil artist and Raul Fernandez is the inker for this particular issue. I was quite taken aback by the appearance of Nomoz, in large part because I thought the way he looked was a result of the way Quesada drew, and not that being a hairy dwarf-like creature was, like, part of his origin (I love that they put him in the Ben Grimm-invented disguise of a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat, though, which has gotta be so suspicious looking in the year 2017 to draw even more attention than what might look like a four-foot tall, 200-pound wolfman.

I rather liked the way they drew Valley in his street clothes though, man-bun and all. He really looks like himself but updated in a way that the characters don't always do.

I don't know; as I mentioned previously, I'm really kinda torn about this book. I want to like it, and I think I share the writer's affection for (most of) the characters, but I never actually enjoy an issue. I actually meant to drop it last week, but forgot to tell my local comics shop-owner. And then this week, I heard about an upcoming Tim Drake-focused story, resolving that plotline. With the next change/reboot on the horizon, I find myself kinda torn between keeping up with favorite characters like Cassandra and Tim, and the more sensible desire to not keep throwing $2.99 in DC's direction just to be disappointed. I mean, I could always keep up via trades-from-the-library, as I do with most Marvel books.

And this concludes another thrilling segment of Caleb's-stream-of-conscious-writing-about-his-comics-buying-habits.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #10 (DC) Two-Face and Olive vs. The Penguin! Kyle vs. Two-Face! Maps and Detective Club vs. The Terrible Trio! It's still not over, but I'm totally ready for it to be!

Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special #1 (DC) The most obvious precedent for these DC/Looney Tunes crossover specials would seem to be the DC/Hanna-Barbera ones of the recent past, but based on the two that were released this week, there's a key difference. While the Hanna-Barbera specials featured altered versions of the cartoon characters (ala DC's four-book Hanna-Barbereboot line, complete with varying degrees of alteration from character to character), these seem to feature fairly straight versions of the Looney Tunes characters. At least, that is the case with these first two and, in particular, the Bugs Bunny who appears here; aside from the appearance of his Super-Bugs/Super-Rabbit persona, this is basically a Bugs plucked right out of the cartoons.

Writer Sam Humphries is paired with artist Tom Grummett for the 30-page lead feature...and hey, Tom Grummett drawing DC superheroes again! There's something to be excited about right there! I guess it takes place around a particular LOSH story or storyline, or, if not, it is from a particular time period, and it's only a gag that ties it to a particular story. Brainiac's girlfriend Supergirl, so dressed as to place her in the late '70s or early '80s, is in a coma and can only be cured by a rare element from the past. So Brainy sends his computer helper Computo 2 back in time to get Superboy, but this Computo, jealous of Supergirl, instead grabs another Smallville farmer: Bugs Bunny, who is working on his baby carrot farm (he has a few special carrots stored away to grant him temporary super-powers, which he plans to use to harvest his field when the time is right).

In the future, he doesn't get along with the Legion, and when Validus attacks, he takes one of those carrots to become Super-Bugs, who here looks like post-Flashpoint Superman, but with Bugs Bunny's head. If that sounds familiar, you're remembering 1943's "Super-Rabbit," wherein a scientist feeds lab rabbit Bugs a specially treated carrot, turning him into a Superman parody.

Humphries is essentially writing a LOSH parody, wherein the super-teens occasionally fall into silent panels where their thought balloons reveal their simultaneous angsting and asterisks and editor's notes are used for gag purpose, into which he imports the cartoon Bugs Bunny, who uses a greatest hits version of his repertoire on them (while one of their number watches him closely, cataloging his apparent superpowers, like telepathy and teleportation).

There's an eight-page back-up entitled "Tales of The Legion of Super-Heroes" by Juan Manuel Ortiz that...well, it's an odd story. I read the Martian Manhunter/Marvin The Martian issue first, which made this seem odder. I guess the idea in the back-ups is to do the reverse of the lead stories; that is, instead of plunking Looney Tunes characters into DC superhero narratives, plunking DC superheroes into Looney Tunes narratives. At least, that was the case in the Martian special. Here though, Ortiz basically just re-tells the plot of the lead story, in a different style.

That style is a mash-up of the expected Looney Tunes style--here Bugs is wearing a costume more closely resembling the one from Super-Rabbit, although with some tweaks that are likely allowable now that Warner Bros owns both Bugs Bunny and Superman--and that of the a stiff, Jonny Quest/Sea Lab era cartoon for the Legionnaires, who here are just three in number: Brainiac, Ultra Boy and Lighting Lass. It's visually interesting, but otherwise kind of pointless; certainly, there are some gags in here that aren't in the lead story (like Bugs planting a kiss on a shocked Ultra Boy, or shoving a giant stick of dynamite in Validus' mouth), but otherwise this just reads like a slightly different version of the story we just read.

Martian Manhunter/Marvin The Martian Special #1 (DC) Writers Steve ORlando and Frank J. Barbiere get the most obvious of all of the various DC superheroes/Looney Tunes team-ups (at least without dipping too low into the depths of DC's character catalog; certainly Elmer Fudd hunting Captain Carrot or Hoppy The Marvel Bunny, or Taz meeting Tasmanian Devil would be at least as obvious as this particular pairing).

Their plot is a particularly straight one, and it wouldn't take too much imagination to remove Marvin, who J'onn charmingly calls "M'arvinn" throughout, and add another, generic martian character and tell the same essential story. When J'onn J'onnz receives an encrypted message from a fellow Martian, he builds a teleportation device to bring that Martian to Earth. It turns out to be a Martian from a different Mars elsewhere in the Multiverse, one who insists that Earth must be destroyed. J'onn disagrees, and they spend the rest of the story at cross-purposes, with J'onn trying to convince M'arvinn not to destroy Earth, all the while struggling against Earthlings' inherent fear of a powerful alien like himself.

Marvin's personality is pretty much in tact, but it's a remarkably serious story, and one that Orlando and Barbiere really over-tell at some points, with the character's literally laying out their differing points-of-view by telling them to one another, and then J'onn re-stating them via narration boxes. J'onn defeats Marvin, and the strategy he uses is one that the writers crib from near the climax of the Keith Giffen and J.M. Matteis' five-year Justice League run ("The Mayavana," which J'onn used on the rampaging Despero). I'm never sure where to draw the line between homage and appropriation with DC super-comics like this, as it's not wrong to borrow from older stories given that it is the publisher who owns all this stuff, but, as with the many endless uses of minor Alan Moore plot-points, such an appropriation seems not cool, even if it's legally and/or ethically acceptable. (It's not like there's an asterisk or some sort of dialogue noting where this came from to make it clear that it is an homage, you know?)

Lopresti's artwork similarly plays the Looney Tunes characters straight. His costume is altered, naturally, but not so much that he's at all unrecognizable; rather it just looks like Marvin changed clothes and found some shoes that fit him. Even his vehicles and accessories look like compromises between cartoon design and DC Universe realism. For example, there's a moment where he threatens the Earth with "The Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator and it is drawn to simultaneously resemble a stick of dynamite and bit of Kirby-style tech.

The back-up feature, by writer Jim Fanning and artist John Loter, is a much more interesting and much more fun story, and it's maybe a shame that it got only ten pages vs. the preceding story's 30 but, on the other hand, one of the problems with that opening story is that it was too long, whereas this one filled its space just right. It is drawn in the traditional Looney Tunes style, meaning that Marvin looks exactly as you would expect, as does his tech and his subordinate, green dog Agent K-9.

J'onn looks funny, as a cartoon character should. He's drawn in his frankly weird-ass current costume (which has a cut-out for his abs?), and may be the worst of all Martian Manhunter costumes (I didn't like the black body sheath one, but I confess to preferring that over this), but he's given a big, bulky, almost priapic shape, and pupils within his red eyes. J'onn with pupils, even when he has red eyes, is always a strange-looking thing to me, at least in his post-Crisis appearances. That particular element helps him carry off a sometimes mischievous look, which is important here as he's essentially cast in the Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck role.

As for the story, J'onn finds a fellow Martian on a plastic, asteroid-like platform, prepping to destroy Earth. He swoops in and introduces himself as a Martian, noting that he can prove it by demonstrating all of his many Martian powers. Marvin decides to first steal J'onn's powers before destroying the world, but to do so he must find J'onn's weakness. No, not fire; chocolate cream sandwich cookies, naturally. Don't worry, the good Martian defeats the bad Martian, and he does so in a way not completely unlike the way in which the first story concludes, only here the trickery is applied in a more familiar, Looney Tunes-like form than anything so elaborate as a psychic dream world trap.

Wonder Woman #24 (DC) Well, it took 24 issues, but they have officially lost me. I am now confused as to which events are taking place of which of the two timelines. This one is labeled "Godwatch," and is drawn by the great Bilquis Evely, so I assume it is in the past timeline, but it seems to be an epilogue to the previous issue, which was set in the current timeline...? So I guess maybe I forgot something that happened in the previous chapter of "Godwatch," or the events of the two current storylines are intentionally echoing one another...?

Well, whatever. I think this all ends with one more issue, so I think I lasted a pretty long time...certainly longer than I expected myself to, especially once it began to be clear that writer Greg Rucka was intentionally entwining the two timelines so that the earlier one informed the later one.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Marvel's Civil War II tie-ins: There sure are a lot of these things

Michael Cho
Well, I've read and written probably far too many words on Civil War II, Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Justin Ponsor and company's big event series pitting Captain Marvel Carol Danvers and Iron Man Tony Stark into deadly conflict over whether or not to use a new character's fortune-telling superpower, should I also read and write about all the tie-ins...? Probably not! But I did anyway. Please note that this is not a complete list of all the tie-ins; there are a lot more than this, but these are the ones I found that I was interested in reading. I may come back for a follow-up if it should turn out that I missed some good ones. In the mean time...

Agents of SHIELD Vol. 2: Under New Management
By Marc Guggenheim, German Peralta, Ario Anindito, Garry Brown and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
5 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Neutral-ish

This trade paperback collects the last four issues of the ten-issue Agents of SHIELD comic book series, itself the relaunched version of the 12-issue SHIELD series. The remit seems to have been to chronicle the adventures of the Marvel Universe versions of the characters from the TV show of the same name, but I guess there wasn't enough interest in that particular concept among Marvel comics readers/buyers to keep it going for long. Hell, this trade collects almost the entire second half of the series, and many of those characters play fairly small, supporting roles (One even spends the majority of this collection unconscious in a coma). The main focus is on Agent Coulson and how the events of Civil War II impact him and his career.

While the cover indicates these agents of SHIELD are pretty firmly on Team Carol--which would make sense, given that SHIELD Commander Maria Hill is--it's a bit of a fake-out. In the first issue, Hill does indeed sic them on Iron Man, who, we are told, has just kidnapped Ulysses from New Atillan. Contrary to the events of Civil War II and common sense, in this story Iron Man leaves Ulysses unattended for a while to set up a trap for Coulson and company, so he can make his pitch to Coulson about how this whole future profiling thing is, beyond being morally wrong, just plain dumb, and doesn't really work. Coulson agrees, so Hill fires him.

Having heard Iron Man's pitch, Coulson, who has now gone solo and gone rogue, wants to hear Captain Marvel's, but she's not returning his calls, so he sneaks into her office on a satellite, reads some files about a prediction that indicates Daredevil is going to get killed by The Wrecking Crew and, in the first of many instances of this very thing happening (in the books reviewed in this particular post, if not chronologically), Carol's attempts to prevent a vision from happening actually causes it to happen. The only thing that stopped the vision from coming true here was Coulson being present to save DD from impalement.

In the final two issues, writer Marc Guggenheim steps away from the events of Civil War II somewhat in order to wrap up the various plotlines in his ending series, but the events of those tie-in issues feed into the various resolutions. Having not read the first six issues of the series, I can't tell how well these four actually wrap it all up, or if the demands of the crossover derailed the overall plotting, but it sure seems like Guggenheim managed to incorporate Civil War II pretty well, although, for the most part, the characters who aren't Coulson have relatively little to do.

I was surprised to find this collection included the 30-page one-shot special Civil War II: The Accused #1. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why Marvel saw fit to stick it in here of all places (it's a pretty direct tie-in to Civil War II, and doesn't feature so much as a cameo from any of the characters in Agents of SHIELD). It took me a bit to figure out who the creators were, but that explained it (I guess): Guggenheim also wrote The Accused, so in that respect it kinda sorta belongs in a trade collecting other Guggenheim-written Civil War II tie-ins.

Essentially a Daredevil story, it opens with a splash page of Hawkeye Clint Barton surrendering after killing Bruce Banner in Civil War II #3 and proceeds to tell the story of the trial that followed. Guggenheim answers any and all practical questions one might have about the trial, which Brian Michael Bendis didn't even feint toward caring about, including whether Matt Murdock was an attorney for the prosecution or the defense (the former), why on Earth Murdock was involved at all and how such a high-profile murder trial got to trial pretty much overnight (I'm still not clear on why it was being prosecuted in New York City, but whatever).

As a Daredevil story, and one with more lawyering than Daredevil-ing, it's a fine one, and Guggenheim manages to expand on the events of the Civil War II issue without really repeating anything from them, given the strange way in which Bendis formatted his script for that issue, which included a bunch of jumps back and forth between the confrontation between the superheroes and Banner and Carol, Tony, Clint and Matt's words in court. Adding a wrinkle to the proceedings is a government conspiracy to ensure that Clint is found guilty, so that the feds can reinstate the Superhero Registration Act (the thing that lead to the warring in the original Civil War series), but Murdock manages to put the kibosh on that.

I can't make sense of the credits enough to be sure if The Accused was drawn by Ramon Bachs and Garry Brown, or just Brown, but I really liked the art, regardless. There's a lot of ink on the pages, and most of the mask-less scenes look appropriately dirty, gritty and even somewhat ugly, while when Murdock does put on a mask and becomes Daredevil, everything looks smoother and more streamlined.

All-New, All-Different Avengers Vol. 3: Civil War II
By Mark Waid, Adam Kubert and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
3 out of 4
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Neutral (although most of the line-up ultimately join Team Tony for the fight scene in the Civil War II, while the others just sit the fight out)

Despite the relatively large role that members of this Avengers team play in the main series--this is Tony Stark's Avengers team, after all, and it includes Spider-Man Miles Morales--the three regular issues of All-New, All-Different Avengers collected herein stick to the fringes of the conflict, amounting to a series of three solo stories that all at least touch on the conflict.

In the first, The Vision plays Go with Ulysses, while asking him about the Baby Hitler dilemma, and he then goes off to kill Baby Kang The Conqueror (Interestingly, at least to me, this issues shows that Captain Marvel had The Black Panther and Spider-Man Peter Parker build a special chamber they stuff Ulysses in for the purposes of getting him to spit out prophecies faster. This seems in contrast with the main series, and this is the first I've seen of Parker playing an active role in the events. After the Celestial Destructor wrap party, he all but disappeared from Civil War II, only appearing at home watching the big fight on TV.)

The second, starring The Wasps and Jarvis, is even more limited in its connectivity. The trio watch vague news coverage of a battle between Captain Marvel and Iron Man, and the trial of Clint Barton for murdering Bruce Banner, and Wasp II freaks out a little at her disillusionment of the very thought of superheroes fighting other superheroes (Honey, this is the Marvel Universe, not the DC Universe; they've been doing this since Day One). She tries to fitfully science a solution to the problem before Wasp I and Jarvis calm her down and assure her this isn't a science problem so much as a human problem.

Finally, in the third, Thor visits Heimdall on the rainbow bridge, since Heimdall can see the future as well. He tells her a story about a time during the earliest days of The Avengers when the Odinson sought him out, and asked him whether or not they should intervene in a war between Doctor Doom's Latveria and a neighboring country, based on his visions of the future. They decided to do so, and it didn't go all that well for them. Mark Waid and Adam Kubert do a kinda neat trick in this story, with the framing sequence told in normal fashion, but the entirety of the flashback being formatted sideways, so that a reader would need to turn the book and read it vertically rather than horizontally.

That accounts for the first 60 pages of the 112-page book. The rest? That would be the All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1, the one devoted to guest-creators illustrating Ms. Marvel's fan-fiction (and I don't know, maybe the table of contents and some pages of variant covers?). That's a fun issue, which I covered elsewhere previously.

All-New Wolverine Vol. 2: Civil War II*
By Tom Taylor, Marcio Takara, Ig Guara and others
144 pages; $19.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
Three out of six
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Leave Us Out of It (after fighting against the forces of Team Carol)

The first issue herein is a rather unlikely team-up with Squirrel Girl, who shows up on the All-New Wolverine's doorstep in the middle of the night, holding an actual wolverine. His name is Jonathan, and Squirrel Girl thought he would be needed because she mistakenly thought that Wolverine could communicate with wolverines the way she communicates with squirrels. It was an honest mistake, and one that gives Laura and her little clone sister Gabby a pet wolverine.

Why is Squirrel Girl there at all? Well, it seems that Laura has "wronged the squirrel world," and S.G. wants her to make amends, so the two go off on an adventure to rescue a squirrel together. Though there's obviously a lot of silliness to it, writer Tom Taylor uses this issue to resolve the issue of whether Laura and Gabby are going to remain together or not, which ultimately allows him to demonstrate a way in which the all-new Wolverine is superior to the previous model...or at least trying to behave in the way she wished he had when he was still alive.

That's followed by two issues of Laura and Gabby going up against one of the greatest antagonists in the Marvel Universe: Mr. Fin Fang Foom. It seems things go wrong during the sale of a very mysterious, very deadly weapon of mass destruction, which turns out to be what Gabby repeatedly, alliteratively refers to as "Fin Fang Pheromone," a liquid capable of drawing FFF to a target.

Laura is recruited by SHIELD (and Gabby tags along) because the first Wolverine they sent in ended up in the belly of the beast. So Laura goes inside the giant dragon to rescue the older, futuristic, alternate dimensional version of the man she was cloned from, Logan from Old Man Logan.

Artist Marcio Takara has a really great panel set inside Fin Fang Foom, in which Laura, up to her knees in his stomach acid, strikes the same, somewhat iconic pose that the original Wolverine struck in that old issue of Uncanny X-Men, where he emerges from the sewer water and looks up, talking out loud to the not-present Hellfire Club about how they've taken their best shot and now he's gonna take his.

Captain Marvel Carol Danvers and Iron Man Tony Stark, both playing remarkably nice for two pals about to engage in a civil war in a month or so's time after the events of this story arc, arrive to help out, but ultimately the only way to save SHIELD's helicarrier and New York from the Fin Fang Pheromone-crazed Fin Fang Foom involves off-panel nudity and a jetpack. (Speaking of nudity, I notice Fin Fang Foom is going commando throughout this entire adventure. It may be more realistic for a giant, humanoid dragon monster to not wear giant tiny purple shorts, but it still looks off to me.)

Takara draws all three of these issues. That's followed by the Civil War II tie-in arc, drawn by pencil artist Ig Guara and three inkers. Old Man Logan has now joined the cast, having been dragged back to Laura and Gabby's apartment to recover from having his lower half skeletonized by his time being semi-digested in Fin Fang Foom's stomach acid (Miraculously, not only does his flesh grow back, but apparently his healing factor also regrew his jeans, boots and belt!).

The future-predicting Inhuman Ulysses has a vision in his office or cell or dark room at the Triskelion. Here's how he words it:
Wolverine. And an old man. A young girl. Flying through the air. And...I saw an angel? And screaming. And blood. A whole lot of blood.
Yeesh. Those little cryptic snippets are the basis upon which Captain Marvel and the other heroes siding with her take violent action, often against their peers? Seems a like playing the stock market or formulating national foreign policy based on Nostradamus or a few random verses of the Book of Revelation.

It's apparently enough for Maria Hill to mobilize a Captain America Steve Rogers-lead strike force to storm Laura's apartment and ask to detain The Notorious OML, on the belief that he's going to kill Gabby. Complicating matters further is the fact that he does kill Gabby in his own timeline, although as has been repeatedly established in his own book and the the X-books, his future is an alternate one, and things happen/happened/will happen quite differently in that world than they do/have/will in this one.

So the logistics of this story are really kind of a mess, with Captain America and SHIELD and OML all operating on visions and/or memories of the future, and fighting each other. Laura and Gabby are therefore caught in the middle of what has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy (It turns out that if you expect Logan might commit a violent act upon those around him, sending a SHIELD SWAT team to fill him full of drug-tipped darts and a Captain America to smack him around and speechify might actually provoke him into violence, rather than deescalate the situation. Surely Team Carol will learn their lesson, and they won't make this exact same mistake over and over and over again!).

The arc ends with Laura telling Cap and SHIELD off, by essentially calling the entire premise of Civil War II idiotic, and forcefully saying she and Gabby would prefer to be left out of the rest of the crossover, thank you very much. Based on the logic of SHIELD here, it's hard to disagree; as with the original Civil War, one side is clearly being set-up as the wrong side, and there seems to be even fewer pains taken to articulate an argument for the Captain Marvel-lead side for acting in anyway that could conceivably be seen as "right," no matter how much one squints or tilts one's head (Interestingly, the original Civil War made Iron Man look like an evil and/or ignorant villain just prior to his big screen debut in his first film, while Civil War II is doing the same to Captain Marvel just prior to her big screen debut in her first film).

Which isn't to say there aren't moments in the arc. Burglars breaking into Laura's apartment, only to find Gabby, two Wolverines and an actual wolverine waiting for them was kind of funny, and Gabby calling Old Man Logan "her interdimensional dystopian future grandpa" was kind of cute. Taylor and his artistic collaborators continue to find the perfect balance between silly normal girl and usually hidden killer with Gabby, who is a fun character...except when that darkness slips out for a panel or two.

Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 3--Civil War II
By Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, Angel Unzueta, Cris Peter and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
2 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No
Side: Team Tony

Nick Spencer is a rather popular comic book writer to complain about these days, as a lot of folks seem to have very, very strong feelings about the current direction of the Captain America franchise, but often lost in those conversations is the fact that Nick Spencer is a very, very good comic book writer, and his Captain America comics, at least the Sam Wilson ones that I have read to date, have all been excellent ones.

The very thing that I've seen some readers complain about online, that Spencer's comics contain politics, is one of the things I like about them (and arguing that a comic book character who was created to argue a particular political position--that is, United States involvement in World War II--shouldn't be political is kind of idiotic). After all, it's not like Spencer is writing diatribes, or twisting the characters to suit transparent ideological positions of his that can't be sustained by the characters themselves. Or, worse, that his comics are boring. They're not. They're highly entertaining, they're incredibly engaging and, yes, they do deal with politics.

Superhero shared universes as old and as well-stocked as the Marvel Universe are, in fact, ideally suited to political comics. I mean, it's awfully helpful that if you're writing a pop culture narrative and you need a character to represent, say, black rage, there is already a pre-existing black character whose actual name is quite literally Rage. Short of political cartooning, wherein the artist might scrawl the word "Rage" across a character's chest in the tableau, you can't really beat that.

Like several other of the series mentioned in this particular post, Civil War II seemed to come up on Captain America: Sam Wilson awfully fast, as the book was still dealing with the fall-out of its previous storyline, a smaller-scale inter-book crossover, in the issue just before the Civil War II tying-in takes place. The first issue collected herein deals with Standoff fallout.

Two issues deal rather directly with Civil War II. The majority of #10 revolves around James Rhodes' funeral, with a kind of neat scene where Sam meets with many of Marvel's most prominent black superheroes: Sam's current girlfriend Misty Knight, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Storm, Doctor Voodoo, Spectrum and Nick Fury (Blade is busy but sends his regards, Nick Fury Jr. isn't sure if he should be there or not, considering how new he is at it). That's followed by Sam's eulogy, which touches on a fairly meta idea about the importance of a black man stepping into Iron Man's legacy (it was a relatively long time ago, in the comics, but Rhodes was Iron Man before he was War Machine), and he even discusses why Rhodes kept it secret at first.

It's a pretty good issue, all around, although because I call Mike Deodato out for it later, I will point out here that artist Angel Unzueta and colorist Cris Peter do a poor job on the crowd scenes at the church, rendering a weird, inorganic-looking mass of beige figures crowding the streets outside of the church and, worse, lining up a crowd of what look like golems or gingerbread mannequins in folding chairs behind the fully colored superheroes in one scene.

The following issue, the one in which Daniel Acuna takes over as artist (and sticks around for the rest of the collection), has both Iron Man and Captain Marvel making their respective pitches to Sam during different team-ups. Spencer has Sam see what Ulysses is doing for himself fairly quickly into the conversations, and he boils it down to a single thing a lot quicker than Bendis manages: It's profiling. He does allow Carol and Tony to both make convincing enough sounding arguments, though, and even allows Carol to say what sounds a bit like a right wing talking point regarding political correctness getting in the way of getting things done these days, but she's also allowed to be self-aware of it while making it: "So if I've gotta be the bad guy here, the one that takes the necessary but scorened action, fine--"

Sam's response?
I admire your spine, Carol. I really do. Even when I think your'e marching in the wrong direction--and I definitely think that's the case here.

But hey, if it's any comfort-- --I do hate being on his side.
And, to Tony, Sam flies away with an "Even when you're right, you're an $@#!"

The rest of the collection involves a private, over-zealous police force that seems to be a little too aggressive in its profiling of minorities, The Americops, and Rage and Sam's doomed attempt to try to find a middle-ground between the aggressive, profiling, militant police tactics and Rage's aggressive, vigilante violence. As is usually the case for poor Sam, it doesn't really work out well for him, and he ends up in a fight, and looking bad in the court of public opinion. His solution to that particular problem, which involves an appearance by Night Nurse, is to institute a sort of bird-powered superhero analogy to body cameras.

Also, USAgent appears to fight Sam and try to take back the shield, and after their fight scenes, which interrupt the other fight scenes, we see that something sinister and Secret Empire-y is apparently going on, but that's something for the next line-wide crossover.

Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Civil War II
By Ruth Fletcher Gage, Christos Gage, Kris Anka, Marco Failla and others
120 pages; $16.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
5 of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No (In fact, it does a lot of work to not make Carol look like a boorish lunatic)
Side: Team Carol (obviously)

If the choice between Captain Marvel Carol Danvers and Iron Man Tony Stark were to be made based solely on the quality of the collection of their series tied to Civil War II, then it's no contest: Team Carol all the way. I was actually pretty surprised by the quality of this book, which benefits from some great art by the like of Kris Anka and others, and by the extent to which it ties into the event series. While the majority of these issues take place in and around Carol's Alpha Flight base and her missions with Alpha Flight, during which she never encounters Tony or the majority of the superhuman community, it spans the story arc of the event series, from her spending time with the soon-to-be-late James Rhodes to her apparent post-Obama meeting in Civil War II #8.

It also manages to tell something of a distinct story of its own, complete with its own conflict and villain that runs parallel to the series in the sub-title, and that is based in the pre-existent elements of the book.

Part of the reason I was so surprised by the quality of this trade was my complete lack of interest in this particular Captain Marvel as a character (which is maybe Brian Michael Bendis' fault? I think he wrote the vast majority of Carol Danvers appearances I have read, mostly during the time she was still going by "Ms. Marvel") and her somewhat awkward current status quo, which seems to have appropriated elements of Canadian X-Men Alpha Flight and SWORD (introduced in Joss Whedon's short Astonishing X-Men run). As this collection is opening, she's repairing Alpha Flight Station, where Alpha Flight's Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora, SWORD's Abigail Brand and a bunch of no-name characters in matching Alpha Flight uniforms work with her as the first line of defense against hostile alien invaders.

She answers to what looks like a the ways and means committee of the Galactic Republic's senate from the Star Wars prequels, with holograms of various leaders from Earth and space appearing with their official-looking podiums in a big, black room to occasionally berate her. These include some dashing, handsome Canadian guy, long-time Marvel Universe bureaucrat Henry Gyrich and The Black Panther, who is also on Carol's superhero team, The Ultimates.

Again, that set-up isn't the least big appealing, but I'll be damned if the two people named Gage who write this book don't make it work, and do a damn fine job of showing Carol's reactions to the big events of Civil War II here in a way that seem organic to her worldview. They even do a pretty great job of showing Black Panther's evolving understanding of Ulysses and his visions, with T'Challa expressing his concerns to her fairly early, and Carol doing a great deal of work to address those concerns going forward, because she shares them (In the main series, of course, T'Challa pretty much just turns on a dime from Team Carol to Team Tony, and Carol is generally portrayed as completely uncaring of any potential downsides to policing the future based on the predictions of a new super-person).
One of Anka's consistently great covers
Despite the Anka's consistently great covers, which often depict Iron Man and other events from Civil War II, these issues stick mainly to their supporting cast. Various characters from Team Carol, particularly among The Ultimates and early allies that would later side with Tony like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man Miles Morales, appear in very small roles, akin to cameos, basically. She has a long-ish talk with Hawkeye Clint Barton after having arrested him for killing Bruce Banner, and there's a scene where Magneto floats by to posture, but we don't see her ever come to blows with Iron Man here, or try to arrest Miles or any of that jazz.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man
By Christos Gage, Travel Foreman, Dan Slott and others
120 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
4 of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: Sorta
Side: Team Carol

What side Spider-Man Peter Parker is on is actually kind of important, as he's one of the relatively few moral characters of the Marvel Universe, whose allegiances and alliances telegraph to readers who is right and who is wrong. That's why he played such an important role in the original Civil War; his switching from Iron Man's side to Captain America's being something of a turning point to signal that Tony Stark and company had finally crossed a line.

He was actually largely absent from the main Civil War II series, however. He gets a good zinger at Tony's expense in the first issue, and then seemingly sits the rest of the "war" out, watching the battle unfold on TV rather than participating (Nevertheless, Marvel put him on the cover of both the first issue and, weirdly, on the cover of Civil War II #4). So it's up to Gage to explain whose side Spidey is on and why, and he did so not in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, which apparently sold well enough that it didn't have to tie-in to the event, but in a stand-alone miniseries.

The series is set mainly in the earliest parts of the Civil War II timeline, apparently just after Ulysses moved in with The Inhumans. Spidey asks his best friend Johnny Storm, who lives with The Inhumans while Reed and Sue are enjoying their no doubt temporary retirement, if he can spend some time with Ulysses to get an idea of how his powers work. While showing Ulysses around Parker Industries' Manhattan HQ--Man, I haven't read ASM in so long, I didn't quite realize how hard they were pushing this Spider-Man-as-old school-Iron Man thing, complete with Spidey posing as Peter's employee--Ulysses has a vision, of Spider-Man fighting Clayton Cole, a former sound-based villain named Clash who is now a researcher at the company.

This naturally leads Spider-Man to start looking at Cole for warning signs, which just as naturally pushes him closer to climbing back into his old Clash suit to fight Spider-Man ("Oh, man," Spidey says to himself, "I did not just self-fulfilling-prophecy myself"). Gage does a pretty great job of writing Cole as a sympathetic character, spending the better part of an issue showing how he just can't get past his criminal past, which leads to the dissolution of a promising relationship, plus constant harping from his rather terrible-seeming parents and pressures from old associates from his life of crime. In fact, Gage probably does too good a job of making Cole sympathetic, as there were several scenes where I felt tempted to yell at the trade in my hands, and tell Spidey to back off. (Ultimately, Spider-Man makes the point that only Clash is responsible for Clash's actions...but readers see more than Spidey does and, to be honest, it's Peter Parker's decision to maintain a secret identity and to do it really, really poorly for someone who's had 10-20 years of practice, that pushes Cole away.)

As for the Civil War-ishness, Spidey spends some quality time with Ulysses, who oddly never changes clothes over the course of the days the story is set over (Actually, Ulysses is wearing a white t shirt in almost every single appearance in all of these books; I do hope he's got a closet full of white t shirts, and that he hasn't just refrained from changing clothes for, like, weeks), and gives both his and Peter Parker's diagnosis and allegiance to Captain Marvel. His experience in the preceding story would seem to have argued against doing so, but he seems convinced Ulysses can stop other peoples' Uncle Bens from getting killed, I guess, and thinks it's mostly a matter of Ulysses honing his powers and of Carol Danvers not abusing them.

Oddly, when Carol asks Spider-Man if she can count on him to fight when the fighting starts, he says she can, but when the fighting does start, this Spider-Man is taking a shower and watching Venom fight Miles Morales on the TV news.

In general, I'm not crazy about Travel Foreman's style, but I think it worked pretty well here, at least with the many talking scenes (the first action sequence, in which Spider-Man fights the, um, Vulturions, is kind of messy and hard to follow). And there are an awful lot of talking scenes. This is actually an all-around rather dramatic Spider-Man story. I kinda dig Clash's costume, too, which has a Spider-Mannishness to it, complete with the sort of "logo" that a kid might draw in his notebook at school.

After the conclusion of the mini-series, the book reprints 2014's Amazing Spider-Man #7 and #8 (from the previous volume of Amazing Spider-Man, not the current one; that was a whole reboot/re-numbering ago). A two-part Ms. Marvel crossover from around the time of the "Spider-Verse" event, I couldn't figure out why it was included here aside from the fact that it had Spider-Man in it and was scripted by Gage from a Dan Slott plot, until I got to the very end: That's when Spider-Man sees Clayton "Clash" Cole in action on the side of good, and Peter Parker gives him a job at Parker Industries.

The villain of those issues also shows up as an antagonist in the Captain Marvel collection discussed above, which was co-written by Gage.

Civil War II: X-Men
By Cullen Bunn, Andrea Broccardo, Gerry Conway and Mike Sekowsky
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
4 of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Tony is right and Carol is wrong?: No
Side: Mostly Team Carol

In the pages of Civil War II, both sides of the conflict claim one of the two main X-Men teams as allies. Team Carol gets the team from Extraordinary X-Men (minus Old Man Logan and Nightcrawler, both of whom side with Iron Man), while Team Tony gets the team from All-New X-Men. What exactly drove each of these two teams of mutant superheroes to the particular faction they threw in with? Why did Logan abandon his team and take up claws against them? Why did teenage Iceman from the past side with Tony, while grown-up Iceman from the present side with Carol? These are some of the questions I wondered after, and expected to find answered in this four-issue miniseries devoted to the X-Men's role in the so-called civil war.

They aren't.

In fact, the All-New X-Men characters don't appear in this series at all, which instead focuses on the Extraordinary team's differences with the Uncanny X-Men, lead by Magneto (remember, this was an X-Men franchise relaunch ago, so the various team line-ups and titles have been scrambled yet again). At the time, they were the tertiary X-Men team, their relative lack of importance in the Marvel Universe apparent from the fact that none of them even appear in the pages of Civil War II proper.

While the series does indeed feature X-Men in conflict with one another, it is really more about the mutants' ongoing conflict with the Inhumans, which would see resolution in one of Marvel's smaller, franchise-specific events: Inhumans Vs. X-Men.

Writer Cullen Bunn opens with a sort of "Masque of the Red Death" riff, in which rich mutants seal themselves in a fancy air-tight party tower as the wandering Terrigen Mist cloud is about to wash over Dubai. Magneto's X-Men team--Psylocke, Sabertooth and M--force their way in and force them to take in all of the city's mutants, but an attack by a new(-ish?) form of Sentinels exposes them all to danger, until Storm's X-Men show up to save the day (These are Grown-up Iceman, Old Man Logan, Teenage Jean Grey, Magik and Nightcrawler). How did they know to show up when they did? Ulysses.

Magneto isn't happy about the fact that the Inhumans have a powerful weapon like Ulysses in their arsenal, since Marvel has set up this weird existential conflict between the Inhumans and the X-Men centering around the aforementioned cloud that doesn't make a lick of sense if you stop to think about it, which one is forced to do when reading about it, which is, like, all the time in X-Men comics, and certainly here.

Storm is worried Magneto is going to do something stupid, like kidnap or assassinate Ulysses, and thu spark a war with the Inhumans prior to the release of Inhumans Vs. X-Men #1, and there's your conflict: Uncanny X-Men vs. Extraordinary X-Men over whether it's cool that Ulysses is foretelling the future, framed through the perspective of mutant/Inhuman race relations and the profiling of Magneto based on his past as a supervillain (Bunn uses the word "profiling" a lot, and seems to have gotten the memo that it was the subject of Civil War II; it's played with in several ways, not just in profiling the future, but also in profiling characters based on their past actions or, in Nightcrawler's view, the way God and the universe operate).

The miniseries is mainly a series of rapidly escalating skirmishes between the two teams, ending with Magneto facing Ulysess, the two factions of mutants on his heels, only to be shown a vision that if he proceeds, the mutants will end up killing one another. There are a couple of surprises, like Nightcrawler abandoning Storm to side with Magneto (which maybe kinda sorta explains why he's on Team Tony, although Storm takes him back before this story is over), Psylocke abandoning Magneto to side with Storm and Rachel Grey being recruited to fill-in for her since I guess every X-Men team needs a psychic...?

I liked the Fantomex vs. Gambit fight and the pair's later encounters, as I kinda like both of those long-coated, sneaky mutants, and I don't think I've seen them sharing scenes before.

Bunn introduces the characters by labeling them upon first appearance (in each issue), which is no doubt handy, given how many damn characters there are and how the bi-annual relaunches are making it harder than ever to be able to keep up with Marvel's merry mutants. It really drew attention to the fact that they keep calling the Logan from the pages of Old Man Logan "Old Man Logan" instead of just "Logan." I guess he doesn't want to be called "Wolverine" anymore, which is fine, whatever, but why is his, like, official superhero name Old Man Logan? They don't call Steve Rogers "Old Man Steve"...

Broccardo's artwork is fine, but terribly unremarkable. Which is still far better than bad.

Overall, the series is kind of a letdown, but then that's mainly because it doesn't do what a reader of Civil War II might want an X-Men tie-in comic to actually do. Of course, since Bunn was crafting his story somewhat independently of Brian Michael Bendis, and at the same time Bendis was working on the main series, he probably only knew the outlines of Civil War II, and not which mutants would actually show up in it...that, or he wanted to involve Magneto's team while connecting this tie-in to the future of the franchise, and this was the way to do it.

The 80-page story is followed up by a reprint of a "Black Bolt and The Inhumans" feature from 1971's Amazing Adventures #9, by Gerry Conway, Mike Sekowsky and Bill Everett. Its relevance? Well, it has Magneto in it, I guess...? Visually, it's a stark reminder of how damn weird the Inhumans used to be in their original, Jack Kirby designs, and how the flatter, more garishly-colored comics of that era accentuated their somewhat monstrous and, well, inhuman qualities. It also reminded me that Gorgon existed; I haven't seen him in any of the many modern Inhuman appearances. I assume he died at some point, but I don't really care enough to look it up.

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 3: Civil War II
By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Deodato, Mark Bagley and others
144 pages; $24.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
3 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Tony (obviously)

Well this took some balls. This 144-page, $24.99 hardcover collection includes just three issues of the title comic book, the back half of the book filled with fairly random filler in the form of 2008's Mighty Avengers #9-11, issues that are only connected to the first half of the book by the fact that they are comics scripted by Bendis that also feature Iron Man, Doctor Doom and Carol Danvers. This then is an instance when waiting to buy a trade of an over-priced $3.99 comic is actually more expensive, as it only would have cost you $11.97 to buy the serially-published issues of Invincible Iron Man collected herein.

Of course, those issues--Invincible Iron Man #12-#14--were the only issues left in the series before it was relaunched with the same writer but a new number one, and I suppose it must have made sense in someone's head to collect the last issues of Invincible Iron Man (volume two) and the first issues of Invincible Iron Man (volume three) in different collections, but it sure looks like a terrible idea in retrospect. Marvel really should have collected these issues with the preceding collection, War Machines, or waited until they had two or three issues of the relaunched Invincible Iron Man to fill this out.

Because really, I don't know how a reader could plunk down $25 for this thing and not feel ripped off.

As for the relevant issues, the first opens with Tony Stark sitting on the ruins of Stark Tower, eating a sandwich. Apparently, someone knocked the tower down at some point, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where. Double-checking Civil War II, in the second issue of the miniseries The Inhumans arrive there with the intention of toppling it after Iron Man abducted Ulysses from New Attillan, but Carol, some superheroes and SHIELD show up to stop them from doing so, but in #5, the issue containing the civil battle, Iron Man tells Karnak, "I'm glad to see you...I have the bill for the building you tore down." The rest of that issue and the next then flash back to Tony trying to explain the fact that he faked his own death in War Machines to the relevant people, his learning of James Rhodes' death, a flashback to a time when Rhodes was still alive and then missing the funeral, which Deodato draws in extreme longshot, using some kind of weird computer effect to fill out the crowd.

The final issue has Tony, an alcoholic, deciding he needs a meeting, so he puts on his disguise of a generic, boxy baseball cap, a jacket and sunglasses and goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. By coincidence, you know who else shows up? Carol Danvers, also in a generic, boxy baseball cap, a jacket and sunglasses! I...didn't even know that Carol Danvers was an alcoholic, nor that Tony was her sponsor. This leads to an eight-page conversation between the pair outside of the church the meeting was occurring in, where Bendis gives them one last opportunity to talk things out like grown-up human beings before he has Carol pretty much murder him in the climax of Civil War II (Oh, um, spoiler alert? Don't worry; he's not dead, just in some weird coma-like state he apparently planned for so Riri Williams can be Iron Man for a while).

It might be something of a poignant end, were it not for how much of those three issues if focused on wrapping up Bendis' apparently aborted plans for this particular volume of his Iron Man run/s and the fact that someone--he, himself?--decided to launch Civil War II before his Iron Man storyline had really run its course.

Well, that and the fact that it is immediately followed by an nine-year-old story arc with next to no relevance, other than the vague reasons I had previously mentioned (and, perhaps, it came from a status quo following the original Civil War, the one in which Tony was the bad guy. He is, after all, leading the/a Mighty Avengers team against the/a New Avengers team, something Luke Cage flashes back to as an example of how sick of fighting friends he is in the pages of Power Man and Iron Fist, discussed below).

New Avengers Vol. 3: Civil War II
By Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Jan Vlasco, Carlo Barberi and others
160 pages; $19.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
I'll say 6 of 6...but it's a pretty loose connection, with no bearing on the Civil War II sries
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Not really
Side: Neutral-ish

It's kind of odd that this collection is sub-titled "Civil War II," given that the actual story arc filling its pages is given the more accurate (if perhaps less marketable seeming) title of "AIM Vs. SHIELD." And writer Al Ewing does seem far more interested in continuing his own storyline, which followed Roberto "Sunspot" Da Costa from the end of Jonathan Hickman's run on Avengers/New Avengers, wherein Da Costa bought AIM and transformed it into Avengers Idea Mechanics, an mostly autonomous nation state fusing good guy superheroics with bad guy mad science to make the world a better place.

This volume serves as the climax to his 18-issue, three collections-longn run, in which Da Costa's AIM fights against both Ultimate Reed Richards' WHISPER and his New Revengers and SHIELD (particularly a faction lead by an a-hole Agent John Garrett). It is actually kinda difficult to review-review this volume, given that one of the great pleasures of it is how much work Ewing put into the plotting, so there are plenty of surprises and reversals in it, the spoiling of which would actually spoil them.

Luckily, I can just stick to the Civil War II-ish aspects for the purposes of these few paragraphs.

In the first of the issues contained herein, the "public" New Avengers, the ones who didn't turn on SHIELD and the U.S. government in the previous collection (and the Standoff tie-in), are shown participating in the battle against the Celestial Destructor: Hawkeye Clint Barton, Hulkling, Squirrel Girl and, of course, Wiccan, whose role in the battle was also depicted in Civil War II proper.

By the second issue, Clint is in jail over shooting Bruce Banner to death, and there's a Ulysses vision of Songbird speaking at Roberto's funeral factored in. But mostly, it's a big-ass fight between the New Avengers' huge, diverse cast of mostly weird heroes, Evil Richards' new team of similarly weird and even more obscure villains and lots and lots of Dum Dum Dugan Life Model Decoys lead by Garrett.

It reads surprisingly well on its own, discrete from either Civil War II or the previous two trades, and though Ewing does get to put some punctuation on his run, it will continue, albeit into a new title, making following it in the future...difficult, to say the least (U.S.Avengers, which may not be long for this world; it's solicited through at least its ninth issue, but according to the most recent sales estimates I've seen, it dipped below 20K almost immediately upon launch)

Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2: Civil War II
By David F. Walker, Flaviano, Sanford Greene, Scott Hepburn and others
Number of issues tied to Civil War II:
4 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Leave Us Out of It (although a confusing flashback in Civil War II implies Luke and Danny were working with Carol prior to the trial of Clint Barton, while Luke joins Team Tony by Civil War II #4)

This arc is bad, but it's still fun, and maybe as good as a tie-in to such a dumb event series could be if it really did try to honestly engage with the event instead of simply side-stepping it as fast as possible. Walker writes these characters extremely well, and has a lot of fun with Luke's refusal to swear and in recovering the often very goofy characters from Cage's deep past, and other failed or half-forgotten street-level characters from Marvel's past, and reintroducing them, often portraying their past portrayals as youthful indiscretions, or perhaps trying to be something they weren't...or, in at least one case, trying to hang on to something they never were in the first place.

The artwork by Flavianao and Sanford Green is great, and I could look at those two guys' drawings of the two guys in the title all damn day; I particularly like, as I believe I mentioned when discussing the first volume, how huge this Luke Cage is drawn, in relation to Danny, Jessica, Danielle and the whole world around him. He's a literally bigger-than-life character.

Walker's way of dealing with the Civil War II plot is interesting, and I find myself wondering whether the plot for this arc, which isn't quite concluded in this volume, is one he would have written anyway, and he was just forced to fold Carol Danvers in, or if his non-Civil War II plot was an intentional echo of Civil War II, inspired by its plot.

After Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Jessica Jones see news footage of the battle with Thanos that took place in Free Comic Book Day 2016 and ended with War Machine James Rhodes dead and She-Hulk in a coma, and the two heroes attempt to visit Shulkie at the Triskelion but are turned away. They are warmly greeted by Carol, however, who then asks if they can give her a minute of their time so she can explain what's going on.

Jump to the two of them walking to their car, reiterating that Civil War II is dumb and they hope they can avoid being in it (they can't!).

"What was all that 'predictive justice' stuff Carol was talking about?" Danny yells. "Sounded like a bunch of fiddle-faddle to me," Luke says, and they agree to sit this one out, as they are also sick of hero vs. hero fights. On a two-page spread, between two tiers of them talking about it, there's a nice big spread of the Luke Cage-lead Avengers (from the second volume of the Bendis-written New Avengers, I want to say) fighting the Carol Danvers and Iron Man-lead Avengers (from the pages of the Bendis-written Mighty Avengers). Cage, who sided with Captain America in the pages of the first Civil War, was basically in a kinda cold war with the government-sanctioned Avengers between the end of Civil War and the post-Secret Invasion "Heroic Age," I think.

Walker then returns to matters related to his book, as a bunch of reformed criminals and their family members attempt to hire the Heroes For Hire to find a bunch of ex-cons who have since gone straight but disappeared shortly after encountering a group of mysterious vigilantes. And then those vigilantes attack! Followed by the police!

This ends with Danny Rand in jail for assaulting some officers, where he tries to figure out the disappearances. Many of those who have disappeared are also in jail there, and they ended up there without officially being charged or getting trials. Outside prison, Luke calls in favors from many friends to try to figure out the one clue they have, a mysterious device that mixes facial recognition software with the ability to manipulate and falsify criminal records. This is what the vigilantes were doing to bust their victims.

So you can see how this thematically kinda sorta ties in to Civil War II, as innocent--or at least innocent-until-proven-guilty--people are being attacked, arrested and punished for crimes they didn't actually commit. Civil War II comes back to the fore when Ulysses--the prophesying Inhuman that Carol Danvers is using to predict possible future crimes to prevent before they happen--has a vision of Luke Cage leading a break-in at Ryker's to free the incarcerated Danny.

In fact, a confused and frustrated Cage calls Songbird and Centurius to join him as he looks at Ryker's, in the hopes that they can talk him out of doing something stupid and figure out this whole mess, and then "Sweet Christmas, Easter and Hanukkah," in swoop Danvers, Mockingbird, Puck, Spectrum, Storm, Deathlok and a whole bunch of SHIELD troops. They are there to stop Ulysses' vision from coming to pass by arresting Luke first and, just as in Agents of SHIELD and All-New Wolverine, Carol's intervention is exactly what causes the vision to come to pass (slow learner, I guess).

There's a lot of fighting between all parties. I particularly liked the fight-then-team-up sequences involving Mockingbird, who Walker writes close enough to Chelsea Cain that she sounds like the same character, and Songbird, because they have similar names. And I'm always calling Songbird Mockingbird by accident.

It ends with Cage making a couple of speeches in Carol's direction, and then Danny making another one, and she's eventually shamed into dropping it and they help round up the prisoners and clean up the jail. As for the A-plot, which becomes the B-plot, Luke's team is just about to crack where the doohickey being used to find and incarcerate people came from, when a very powerful person in a hoodie teleports to his safehouse and steals it from the hands of his allies.

The rest of the collection is devoted to Sweet Christmas Annual #1, in which Walker and artist Scott Hepburn creates a Christmas Even story involving Luke, Danny, Danielle, Spider-Woman Jessica Drew and her baby,The Son of Satan, The Krampus and Santa Claus. If you haen't read it yet, chances are it is every bit as awesome as you are imagining it to be right now, based simply on the guest-stars appearing in it.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot Vol. 2: Civil War II
By Nick Kocher, Michael Walsh, Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
3 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Team Carol

The Civil War II tie-in arc in this collection is book-ended by two comics. The second is a reprint of 1981's Incredible Hulk #271 by Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom and company, included because it is the first appearance of Rocket Raccoon...and, one suspects, to act as filler. The first is Rocket Raccoon and Groot #7, a done-in-one story by the title's regular creative team of writer Nick Kocher, artist Michael Walsh and co-inker Josh Hixson. That's the issue the cover of the collection came from; that's not James Rhodes' or Bruce Banner's grave they are looking down on there.

I was really quite struck by how stand-alone that first issue was, and how purely comedic it was. Yes, it starred two Marvel characters of a rather high-degree of popularity at the moment, but it was otherwise pretty far removed from the Marvel Universe, lacking in the familiar settings (being in outer space and all) and guest-stars, villains and other Marvel Comics building blocks that generally show up in the publisher's other comedy-focused series, like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat and the the recently canceled Howard The Duck. The mode was, additionally, comic in a way that is unusual for Marvel. Unlike the above-mentioned series or, say, a Deadpool comic, it wasn't superhero comedy so much as just comedy.

For the three-issue Civil War II tie-in, the book takes on the more standard superhero comedy set in the Marvel Universe shape, opening with Rocket and Groot in a big meeting with the rest of Team Carol, in which Captain Marvel is doling out various assignments for her predictive justice enforcement (the scene is somewhat at odds with the events of Civil War II, where the pair appear with the rest of the Guardians as a sort of ace-in-the-hole during the one scene in which Team Carol and Team Tony actually come to blows, but given the nature of this book, that's more than forgivable).

Rocket volunteers himself and Groot for a minor assignment (a baby powder robbery in Georgia), and while Captain Marvel knows its for a sneaky, self-serving reason, she lets them go, because it's just Rocket Raccoon and Groot, after all. That sneaky, self-serving reason? Rocket is in pursuit of a bounty he missed a few years ago. Unfortunately for him/fortunately for us, Gwenpool is also in pursuit of the same bounty, and thus it's Rocket and Groot vs. Gwenpool.

This was my first exposure to Gwenpool, but as you may already be aware, her whole deal is that she breaks the fourth wall, like, constantly; she's a comic book character who knows she's a comic book character in a comic book. That means she's constantly talking directly to the readers, which of course is interpreted by all the other comics characters as her being even more completely insane than her namesake.

I don't know how this works in her own book or other appearances, but writer Nick Kocher has a lot of fun with her, and she's pretty perfect for a crossover "tie-in," like this, as she knows how those things work. Since she, Rocket and Groot and lower-tier characters, they are in greater danger of being killed off than anyone else, so the further they stay away from the conflict in New York, the better. When their little side quest leads to a plot from an alien villain to kill Carol, she insists Carol is going to be okay, as it's not like they are going to kill her off in this book instead of Civil War II, and, besides, Kocher wouldn't have the authority at Marvel to kill off Captain Marvel anyway, that would take a writer of Brian Michael Bendis' stature.

At which point in her expanation, Gwenpool sees Kitty Pryde walk by and, when she asks what she's doing there, Kitty confesses she actually has no idea. So maybe it is a Bendis book, after all?

Like the done-in-one that precedes it, it's a pretty fun little story, and Kocher gets some good zingers in. Michael Walsh's art is refreshingly un-Marvelous, too. This book very much resembles an "indie" book in its look, which certainly works to its advantage for sequences like the one in which a grenade hits Gwenpool, shredding her clothes, but leaving the "R-rated" parts covered. She uses this as evidence that she is, in fact, in a comic book, and Walsh's particular style makes it about as un-sexy as it can be, allowing for a joke that would normally be accompanied by cheesecake without any sort of exploitation (Whether or not that's a good thing will depend on the reader, of course, but it's an example of the style draining the book of the expected superhero aesthetic).

To call the book a Civil War II tie-in is a big, long, hard stretch, especially given that they used Civil War II as the sub-title, but it's an enjoyable book on its own, and doesn't depend on any knowledge at all regarding Civil War II.

Uncanny Avengers Vol. 3: Civil War II
By Gerry Duggan, Ryan Steman, Pepe Larraz, Richard Isanove and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II:
5 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Neutral

Uncanny Avengers is one of the many Marvel titles I tried reading in trade for a while, but ultimately ended up getting lost among all the relaunches. Checking on Wikipedia just before writing this sentence, I see now that there have been three volumes--as in, the book has launched three times--since it debuted in spring of 2013. This particular collection, the third collection of the third volume, is the ninth overall collection of the series (not counting an omnibus, which was just another format of collecting the previously collected stuff), which means there are nine trade paperbacks floating around with the words "Uncanny Avengers" on the cover and spine. Three of those nine say Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1--i.e. one-third of the collected issues of Uncanny Avengers--on the cover or spine. There are further two different Uncanny Avengers Vol. 2 and two different Uncanny Avengers Vol. 3. So if you ever want to try reading the book from the beginning, well, good luck with that!

The premise upon the series' launch was that it would be a joint Avengers/X-Men super-team, the so-called "Unity Squad" of Avengers meant to show the world that super-powered humans and powerful mutants could work hand-in-hand for the greater good in the wake of the events of the Avengers Vs. X-Men series. Since then, Inhumans seems to have been added to the Unity Squad to, as the line-up at the start of this particular trade includes super-humans Captain America, The Wasp and Doctor Voodoo, mutant heroes Cable, Deadpool and Rogue, Inhuman Synapse, Inhuman-who-thought-he-was-a-mutant-for-decades Quicksilver and The Human Torch Johnny Storm, who is of course a cosmic ray-empowered human superhero who is neither Avenger nor X-Man, but has been hanging out with The Inhumans for apparently sexual reasons.

The very first of the five issues collected herein is the most directly tied to the main Civil War II series. It opens with a scene from Civil War II #3, where Hawkeye Clint Barton puts an arrow in Bruce Banner, as told from Deadpool's point of view ("Hey, Clint! What are they arresting you for--one count of "living the dream"?), and about the first half or so of the issue involves Deadpool breaking into prison to have a chat with the incarcerated Clint, and making him an offer of sorts. Pretty good character moment for both.

Then Ulysses gets brought into the picture, giving Captain America Steve Rogers one of his by now expected incredibly vague predictions:
The children of the atom... ...will wage a war. The son of Cyclops doesn't belong here. And he's keeping the wrong company right now. Your team isn't very honest with each other.
That is accompanied by an image of a screaming Cable firing big guns, a coupla generic-looking soldier types in helmets and boots lying dead around him. Never mind the fact for a moment that Cable, "the son of Cyclops," is literally from the future, and firing big guns is pretty much his whole deal, Cap doesn't seem to have learned anything from All-New Wolverine, as he gathers up a coupla generic-looking soldier types in helmets and boots to confront Cable, who basically just blows him off as he boards a plane--containing Rogue, as well as Toad and Sebastian Shaw. They are on a secret mission to follow up on a possible way to put an end to the Terrigen Mist cloud which, well, I don't really want to get into it here, but it's one of the dumbest plot points either of the Big Two has ever turned to for a status quo, one that writers like Gerry Duggan just have to try and deal with until the editors decide to finally do away with it.

That takes up most of the next issue, as the mutants are breaking into labs to get research on the mist...which leads to a confrontation with Captain America. They manage to beat the crap out of him until Rogue intervenes, but the ultimate result is that Rogers disbands the Unity Squad and walks off (Oddly throughout their exchanges, both Cap and Deadpool refer to "the mutants," which implied Deadpool himself is not one; did I miss something, and they altered his origin, as they have a few other prominent mutants of late?).

It turns out that this disbandment comes at a bad time--and it's kind of unfortunate that the whole Nazi Cap storyline is running simultaneous to this one, as it's difficult to tell exactly if Steve is acting the way he is because he's stubborn and thinks he's right, or because he's secretly evil and waiting to take over America in the next crossover (For what it's worth, he seems "himself" throughout all of Bendis' Civil War II, rather than being much of an a-hole). Because The Hand has stolen Banner's body, with plans to do their thing: He ultimately emerges as an undead, bigger-than-usual Hulk with a scary samurai mask.

Despite Cap's decision to disband the team, Rogue and Deadpool decide not to share that with the team as they form up and go to Japan where they fight first ninjas and then The Hulk, getting a little help from Elektra.

It's all pretty good super-comics, with some fun, funny character moments, and a rather impressive feat of plotting in that Duggan is able to essentially cater the threat and the action to his team's various super-powers.

All of the art is pretty good, but I was personally a little surprised at how much I preferred that of Pepe Larraz to that of Ryan Stegman, if only because the latter's name is so much more familiar to me than that of the latter.

*I actually already reviewed two of these collections, All-New Wolverine Vol. 2 and Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2, in previous posts, but am including somewhat condensed versions of those reviews in this post as well, for the purposes of putting all my reviews of the various Civil War IIcollections in a single place.