Sunday, August 28, 2016

These are some of the Marvel collections I've read lately:

All-New Wolverine Vol. 1: The Four Sisters: Thor is a white woman now. Captain America is a black man. The Hulk is a still a big green guy, but now he's a Korean-American teenager when he's de-Hulked. Spider-Man is still a white guy, but there's also a second Spider-Man, who is a half-black, half-Latino teenager (and there are, like, three female Spider-People, each starring in their own comic book series). Pretty soon, Iron Man is going to be a black teenage girl.

While one could argue the merits of the particular method for increasing the diversity of Marvel's heroes–I've personally never thought that simply handing the codenames and costumes of middle-aged white guys to black characters, for example, was the best way to go about creating compelling superheroes of color–but Marvel Comics has clearly been devoted to creating a line-up of heroes far more reflective of the world we live in today, rather than the world of 1960s pop culture, from which all these characters originally sprang (or re-sprang, in Cap's case). As far as I've been able to tell, it's all worked pretty well so far, in large part because so many of those comics have been so good.

The one example of this diversification-through-legacy trend I personally was the most ambivalent about, however, was that of turning Wolverine into a teenage girl.

Marvel killed/"killed" Wolverine quite a while ago, in a sort of temporary death that seems way too easy to come back from to create even the illusion of semi-permanence (He lost his healing factor, and then was encased in molten adamantium, which cooled around him, not unlike a fly in amber. It doesn't take much imagination to think of ways to get him out of that situation and back into circulation when it becomes desirable to do so).

Wolverine may have been popular, but he wasn't the sort of hero who played a big, symbolic role within the Marvel Universe (like Captain America), nor did he have a particular job that couldn't be left vacant (like Doctor Strange, The Sorcerer Supreme), nor did he have a particular turf that needed the protection of a particular superhero (like Daredevil or Spider-Man). In other words, Wolverine is not a character that anyone would need to replace for any reason upon his death.

Marvel replaced him with two Wolverines, though. The first is an alternate universe version of himself from the pages of Old Man Logan, who, given the fact that Wolverine is already an immortal character, is basically just Wolverine with different hair. And then they made Laura Kinney, Wolverine's clone with the always lame codename X-23, Wolverine, giving her Wolvie's blue-and-yellow X-Men costume.

In the broadest sense, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in-universe, and I don't think there was a very convincing rationale ever offered in-story, although in terms of marketing it makes perfect sense. It gives Marvel a literally "all-new" Wolverine to star in All-New Wolverine, it finally gives Laura a superhero name rather than a number (Sorry anyone who was hoping she would eventually take the name Wolverine Girl or Wolverina) and it makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the time-lost, teenage X-Men that Brian Michael Bendis introduced to the modern Marvel Universe during his All-New X-Men/Uncanny X-Men run (Laura appears alongside most of them in the pages of the rebooted second volume of All-New X-Men).

All that said, and given my general apathy towards Marvel's mutants (surpassed only by my apathy for its Inhumans), I was prepared to skip this series entirely–until my friend pretty much insisted that I read it, as it was such a great comic book and, in her words, maybe her favorite comic book of the moment (Of course, she doesn't read Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, the actual greatest comic book of the moment*).

So writer Tom Taylor is teamed with artists David Lopez and David Navarrot (with Nathan Fairbain on colors) and tasked with turning X-teen X-23 into the new legacy version of Wolverine. The first six issues comprise a rather tidy single story arc, with just the last two pages of cliffhanger providing any kind of loose end. Tear that page out of the trade, and this reads like a complete graphic novel.

Taylor wisely makes this story more about Laura's past than Logan's, and our first, issue-length adventure features her attempts to take down an assassin in Paris, debuting her new Wolverine costume and getting an assist from fellow All-New X-Men and boyfriend Angel (the teenage one from the past, now with fire wings, not the grown-up version who...actually, I lost track of him again. Sorry).

It's a pretty great issue–although it would have annoyed the fuck out of me if I paid $4 for an action scene and had to wait a month for the next scene–detailing Laura's common powers with all-old Wolverine and a major thing that will separate them. This Wolverine, though built to be a weapon just like the original, won't kill. As a hallucination of her clone-daddy tells her, "You're the best there is at what you do...but that doesn't mean you have to do it." It also illustrates the thing that makes the book a worthwhile read: Its sense of humor (The scene where Angel expresses his relief that Laura did not die was pretty priceless, and the point at which I felt the book hook me).
The assassin, it turns out, is a clone of Laura...of sorts. She was part of a series of Laura clones, all of whom look like her, and all of whom were trained to be killers like her, but none of whom have the claws and healing factor. They've also got a fast-approaching expiration date, and they've formed a sort of terrorist cell to lash out at the world before they go.

Meanwhile, the shady company that created them, Alchemax, wants them back, and they want Laura's help in doing so. Naturally, she's torn, but agrees to help, seeing as how her clone sisters are a terrorist cell assassinating folks now.

The rest of the volume then is concerned with Laura's attempts to find and save her sisters, and her trying to figure out who the worse of the two groups of bad guys are, and which she should throw in with. Spoiler alert: She sides with the clones, who have been through the same horrible stuff she has but want to fight back in a proportion greater than that which Laura does at this point in her life.

In a sense, it's almost a cliche sort of Wolverine story, despite the fact that this Wolverine isn't the old one, but Laura's struggles to be better than the weapon she was made to be, than the weapon she's been and than the weapon Wolverine himself all-too willingly was, gives this a somewhat different spin. As does its sense of humor, much of which comes from the very welcome (if early) guest-star appearance of first Dr. Strange and then The Wasp. And the near-constant presence of Gabby, the youngest and most innocent of Laura's clone sisters, who is to this book as Molly was to Runaways. (Taskmaster also makes an appearance, and I've gotta call bullshit on how thoroughly and how quickly Laura kicks his ass. I'll buy his inability to see the foot-claw coming, but the rest? I guess we'll just put that down to Laura having home-book well as being a hero fighting a villain).

On the subject of foot-claws, one of the many things I never really liked about the character was that in what seemed to be a rather random differentiation from Logan, she had two rather than three hand claws, and one claw in each of her feet (Similarly, Wolverine's biological son Daken, who I have also lost track of, had two claws in each of his hands, and one in each of his wrists.)
Taylor and company rather consistently make good use of those foot claws throughout, essentially retroactively justifying the character's original design. If you have a super-power, however weird it might seem, than you have to use that super-power pretty regularly, and it has to make sense within that story. In fact, I'm pretty sure Anton Chekov wrote something about foot-claws once...

Captain America: Sam Wilson–Not My Captain America: Remember the last collection Marvel released featuring the newer, Sam Wilson version of the character? The entire six-issue, 2015 run by Rick Remender, Stuart Immonen and company? (Sure you do; we talked about it right here fairly recently.)

Well, you can go ahead and forget about it. That "ongoing" was canceled with the rest of Marvel's line for a few months last year as part of Secret Wars, and then came back with a new number #1 issue–and, in this case, a new creative team, new title and new direction–and is all but ignoring the last comic featuring this character with a big "1" on the spine.

It's not that writer Nick Spencer is contradicting or ignoring the events of Remender's run miniseries All-New Captain America, exactly. Former Falcon Sam Wilson is still the new Captain America. His avian partner Redwing is still ambiguously vampiric (just like Jubilee!). Sam is still working with Misty Knight. Rather, Spencer is ignoring the cliffhangers that Remender's All-New ended with.

Those cliffhangers? First, that Hydra had so thoroughly infiltrated the world that there was now a Hydra agent on every single superhero team. That's a fun idea, and could have had the makings of a fun crossover story, leaving fans to wonder which member of The X-Men, The New Avengers, The Pet Avengers, etc were secretly bad guys working for the Nazi analogues. The other? SHIELD told Sam that Misty Knight, who had claimed to be working for them throughout the entire story arc, was not an agent of SHIELD, implying that OMG she too might be Hydra!

It takes Spencer and Daniel Acuna, who draws the first three issues of the new series, all of two issues to set-up the new status quo which, to be fair, does have Wilson quitting his formal affiliation with SHIELD after they tied up all the Hydra business (Whatever Remender had been planning then seems to either happened off-panel in the months that passed between the end of All-New Captain America and the launch of Captain America: Sam Wilson, or Remender plans to go forward with it somewhere else at some point).

None of that is necessarily a bad thing, just a rather odd thing, and it further makes reading (certain) Marvel comics difficult. Like, Marvel's frequency of reboots have gotten to the point that it's quite possible for a book to leave an interested reader before the reader can even consider dropping the book.

All that said, I really rather liked Spencer's take on the character, which involves not only writing Sam Wilson as a very, very different Captain America, but one who doesn't really struggle with the legacy in a way that too few comics starring (let's face it, temporary) legacy characters ever do.

Spencer also rather boldly has his Captain America, and his Captain America comic book, wade into politics. At least, that seems like a pretty bold move considering Marvel's general reticence when it comes to publishing anything that can be seen as political, and thus offensive to some (I'm thinking especially of the scene in the first issue of Fear Itself in which writer Matt Fraction seemed to be discussing the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense without actually using any details, just enough to imply that he was writing about it).

Sure, Spencer is still somewhat coy about Sam's specific politics–he never uses the words liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican–but it's not too difficult to see where Wilson stands on many issues, and to figure out what those positions are in contrast to the people who are opposed to him, be they passersby, TV talking heads or villains.

There's a pretty great passage in which Sam narrates the hell out of the dawning realization that America was just as divided as ever, and that even though Steve Rogers may have stayed above the fray, that doesn't mean he has to: "If I really believed I could make a difference–If I really believed I could change some minds, do some good–then wasn't I obligated to try?"

And then there's this great transition from the last panel on one page to the first on another. In one panel, Sam is calling a press conference, and stands at a podium, saying "Good evening, I'm gonna read from a statement–"

And in the next, we see a bunch of headlines reacting to that statement, like "Cap Versus The Constitution?," "Sam Wilson: Captain Anti-America" and so on.

Of course, in other places, it's much more clear exactly what Sam might think about certain issues. His first case is busting The Serpent Society (The Marvel Universe's KKK stand-ins), who are attacking illegal immigrants trying to cross the southern border (although, this being a superhero comic, it's a little more complicated and weird than it at first seems). Later, the major villain of this first volume, a ruthless businessman literally dressed like a snake, expresses a bunch of Randian/Republican economic philosophy, culminating with "someone has to make America marvelous again–"

So yeah, not too subtle. And all the better for the (relative) lack of subtlety.

These six-issues basically constitute one big story arc, establishing the still new-ish Cap's new status quo.

Without SHIELD funding, he's set up shop with a small team that includes Misty Knight, former D-Man Dennis Dunphy (in a new, "cooler" costume with no mask, but a sweet beard; I liked the old look better, and with Wolverine dead and Wolverine II rocking the yellow and gold, this is the perfect time for Dunphy to bring back his Wolverine mask!), what appears to be another comic book analogue to the hacker group Anonymous (here it's The Whisperer**) and...Redwing, sometimes ("Redwing Approval Still Sky High At 93 Perecent" a headline shortly after the panel revealing all Cap's bad press assures us).

Not unlike what he was doing with Luke Cage's Mighty Avengers, this Cap is trying to be a little more of the people, and is fighting crime and injustice via hotline tips. The first takes him to Arizona, where he encounters the Sons of the Serpent.

Turns out they are working with a minor Marvel mad scientist who is splicing people with animal DNA, which will gradually bring about the new Falcon...and, awesomely enough, brings about the return of Capwolf. Even more awesomely, Sam Wilson temporarily being a werewolf is here treated like little more than if he had a head cold. It's nothing to angst about, it's nothing to even worry about, Sam Wilson is just randomly going to finish off the story arc as a giant werewolf, giving Misty something to make fun of him about for the remaining four issues of the book.
And it turns out the mad scientist is working for Serpent Solutions, snake-themed supervillain Viper's reconstitution of The Serpent Society as a slightly-more-evil-than-average corporate entity with a finger in everything, leading to plenty of fun visuals like Viper on the golf course, cartoon golf clothes on over his snake suit, and the line about how America needs someone to make it great marvelous again, "and I say I'm just the super villain in a snake suit to do it."

It is fantastic.

Spencer's script is funny, to the point that I would be tempted to call the book an outright comedy, but when compared to some of the other books Marvel is currently publishing (i.e. most of the rest of those in this post), it has more in common with their traditional fare. Rather, this is a superhero comic book with a sense of well as a rather unique point of view. It's Spencer's take on the Marvel Universe (previously seen in books like The Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Ant-Man/Astonishing Ant-Man), only here applied to one of the characters at the center of that universe.

The artwork is a bit of a step down from what Stuart Immonen was bringing to Sam Wilson's adventures in the previous Captain America comic. It takes four-to-five artists to draw just six issues; Acuna handling the first three (with a "with" credit on #3 going to Mike Choi), Paul Renaud draws #4 and #5 and Joe Bennett and Belardino Brabo pencil and ink the sixth issue.

Based on their past work, I'm not a huge fan of either Acuna or Bennett, but in both cases this is by far the best work I've seen from either. Surprisingly, it all kind of flows together remarkably well, too. I prefer a comic like this to have a single artist, with a strong "voice" that allows the artist to make the book as much theirs visually as the writer might make it theirs verbally. That's gotten harder and harder to find these days, and sometimes the best we can hope for is a single artist per arc. We don't really get that here either, but, like I said, everyone involved in drawing or coloring this book does a pretty remarkable job, and they all blend together better than expected.

I'd highly recommend this anyone who likes fun and/or funny superhero comics, regardless of how they might normally feel about Captain American and/or Sam Wilson.

Howard The Duck Vol. 1: Duck Hunt: Because Marvel just can't help but relaunch their books at an alarming frequency, the second collection of writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones' Howard The Duck comic is labeled "Volume 1." Whatever happened to Howard The Duck #1-#5, the first Howard The Duck #1-#5 of the Zdarsky/Quinones run, not the second Howard The Duck #1-#5, which also exist? They are in Howard The Duck Vol. 0: What the Duck. Wouldn't it be easier to label the first volume with "Vol. 1" and the second volume "Vol. 2"? Yes!

But if there's one thing that Marvel, as a publisher, is opposed to, it is the logical use of numbers. If there are two things they are opposed to, the other is making it easy for readers to find and enjoy their comic books.

And so welcome to the second collection of the Zdarsky/Quinones Howard The Duck comic, Howard The Duck Vol. 1.

I'm going to go lie down for a few minutes.


Okay, I'm back.

So it's eight months after the events of Secret Wars, and there are several changes in Howard's life, although Zdarsky and Quinones will explain those in the course of this volume. It opens "three months" ago, at the conclusion of the Howard The Duck/Unbeatable Squirrel Girl crossover, which is the last story in this collection.

Not feeling as fulfilled in his new life as a private investigator, even with the help of "Aunt" May Parker as his administrative assistant or Skrull-shape-shifted into a tattoo artist Tara as his friend, Howard decides to try and return to his own dimension. To do this, he consults with Doctor Strange (who really gets around, it seems) and then takes The Abundant Glove to The Nexus of All Realities in Man-Thing's Citrusville swamp.

Things...don't go well, as Howard and Tara encounter first The Wizard and Titania, and then female clones of Howard and Rocket Raccoon (made to be breeding partners for them by The Collector when he briefly had the pair of them in the previous collection) and then they all get involved in a big, weird, epic space adventure that ultimately includes The Silver Surfer, a would-be Herald of Galactus named Scout, Galactus himself, The Guardians of The Galaxy (now up one Thing and down one Peter Quill) and, of course, a fight with The Collector.

It's all as weird and wild as one might expect, especially since all of that takes only about four issues. As he proved so able of doing last issue, Zdarsky manages to fill just about every panel of every page with a joke, deeply embedding Howard in the Marvel Universe without ever really resorting to parody of the characters and the setting as the source of the humor. The Marvel Universe, particularly after so many decades of existence, is such a weird place that one need not make fun of it to find the humor in it. One need only have its characters observe that strangeness as they wander around in it.

Zdarsky also does a fine job of nailing Howard's particularly jaded voice, which makes the character a particularly good guide to the universe (And, as annoying as Marvel's renumbering practices are, Howard, like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, at least observes that as well; Quinones' variant cover for the first issue replaces the new tag-line "Trapped In A World He's Grown Accustomed To", itself a riff on the original tag-line, with "Trapped In A Renumbering He Never Asked For!" A tiny little "Again" appears beneath the "#1").

Howard's attempt to get home, which takes he and Tara and their allies to a high-stakes battle in outer-space, is interrupted by a one-issue origin story of the new humanoid duck and raccoon characters, drawn by Vernoica Fish. Quinones draws the rest of the book...except for the Erica Henderson-drawn Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, which is included herein, as it is one half of the "Animal House" crossover between the two.

It should perhaps prove unsurprising that a crossover between two of Marvel's three best comics at the moment (Patsy Walker, obviously), is pretty great.

Howard is hired to find a missing cat, and since all cats look the same to him, he tries to abduct Nancy Whitehead's cat...but Nancy is the roommate of Doreen Green, AKA Squirrel Girl. Then Kraven the Hunter rolls up in the Kra-Van, tosses Howard in a sack and takes him to the estate of an eccentric, superhero memorabilia-collecting lady who would like to hunt "the most dangerous game."

But since hunting people is illegal, she's decided to hunt potentially-dangerous game that falls into a legal gray area, like people-ish animals or animal-ish people. So when Squirrel Girl goes to rescue Howard, she finds him imprisoned alongside Rocket Raccoon, Beast of the X-Men, a not-even-disguised version of the cat from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's We3 and Weapon II, which is basically Wolverine, if Wolverine were a talking squirrel rather than a mutant (He's got the little Barry Windsor-Smith eye-piece and wires and everything).

Squirrel Girl and Kraven find themselves in the hunt as well, and it is awesome. There's so many great things in this, but probably my favorite part is the gag on the last page, which comes after Kraven has decided to re-think his life, and becomes a hunter-of-hunters. It sure seems easier than hunting Spider-Man!

The crossover spans an issue of each of the titles, and they are each done by their respective creative teams. It's pretty damn weird to see someone other than Henderson drawing Squirrel Girl these days, since her version of the character is so incredibly distinct (especially compared to the Barbie doll figured-version of the older Great Lakes Avengers comics), but I enjoyed seeing the characters in the hands of the other creative teams and, especially, seeing Zdarsky trying to do those weird "alt-text" style jokes that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl writer Ryan North does in his book.

As I read both Howard and Squirrel Girl in trade, I guess that means I'll be paying for the same content twice, but heck, at least the content is good content.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous: Good news! While Marvel may have idiotically rebooted the Ms. Marvel ongoing after Secret Wars despite the fact that nothing at all about the creative team, the cast or direction of the book had changed, when it came time to collect the second issues of Ms. Marvel numbered 1-6, they kept the number of the collections, meaning that Ms. Marvel's sizable collection-reading audience need not do the mental gymnastic required of readers of, say, Mark Waid's run on Daredevil. Huzzah!

This volume picks up months after the end of Secret Wars, as each of the post-Secret Wars books did. There were two big changes in Kamala Khan's life during that time, one of which took up so much of her time and mental energy that she barely noticed the other. That first is that she joined the Avengers (the All-New, All-Different squad, which was and still is the flagship team at the moment), while the other is that her best friend-with-an-unrequited crush on her went ahead and fell in love with a classmate. That Bruno now had a girlfriend is something that Kamala was literally the last person to know about, which is a neat, somewhat sly way to handle the time-jump Marvel's books were all forced to incorporate, and of illustrating the confused world of teenage relationships (Despite having rebuffed him and all but encouraged him to find someone else, Kamala is nevertheless hurt, annoyed and confused that Bruno actually went ahead and did just that).

These six issues, drawn by regular artists Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona, plus Nico Leon, roughly divide into two storylines. In the first, drawn by Miyazawa and Alphona, we are introduced to Kamala's new, Avenging status quo (Tony drops her off at her house after missions, and gives her advice on her physics homework) and her slow-dawning realization that Bruno has a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, she fights the forces of gentrification–quite literally, since this particular case of gentrification includes mind-control and is being carried out by a villainous organization (G. Willow Wilson does a pretty great job on this story, making the driving conflict that is at once both a real-world concern and a silly supervillain plot, in the best tradition of old-school "relevant" comics).

In the second, Kamala gets still more obligations when her older brother seeks to marry, and she decides the best way to try and be in several places at once is to 3D printer clones of herself. It obviously goes completely wrong, but in a rather amusing fashion that can only be sorted out by the intervention of her hero Carol Danvers and a hug from Iron Man. In this story, Wilson gets to simultaneously work Kamala's family dramedy with superhero shenanigans about as hard as she has yet during her run on the title (Er, including the previous volume, not just the first six issues of the new volume).

The artwork is a little more all over the place than I'd like, but all three artists are really great ones. And color artist Ian Herring, who handles all six issues, does as good a job as possible of making it look as if all of the pages herein belong together. I most enjoyed Miyazawa's contributions. Not only do we get to see him draw the whole All-New, All-Different Avengers line-up in his particular style, but he does a fine job of presenting a frazzled Kamala visually; her hair is a mess throughout the first issue, and she looks delightfully out of it.

Leon, however, probably gets the most fun bits, as it's that second half of the book devoted to Kamala's ever-increasing number of dim-witted, barely functioning clones, all of which are drawn with an emoticon-simple expression, gifted with a word or two of vocabulary, and subject to horrifyingly melt at the most inopportune times.

Marvel's got so many high-quality funny books these days, but Wilson and company's is perhaps the best of those that keeps one foot in the serious supehero genre. Ms. Marvel is the Spider-Man of the 21st Century. Which I'm fairly certain I've said about at least one other super-character before, but unlike that character, Ms. Marvel is a Marvel character. So maybe I should say instead that "Ms. Marvel is the publisher's Spider-Man for the 21st Century."

Whatever. It's fun, it's funny, it's melodramatic, it takes superheroics more seriously than the publisher's outright comedic titles, it's always well-drawn–it's pretty much exactly what one would want from a superhero comic book.

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! Vol.1: Hooked on a Feline: I think a great deal of the delight I took in this comic book came from the fact that unlike every other book on this list, I had no idea what to suspect from it. I wasn't familiar with the work of either writer Kate Leth or artist Brittney Williams, and while I liked Hellcat because of her weird, real-world origin and her association with various Marvel characters I've liked over the years (Son of Satan, The Defenders and She-Hulk, whose last title she was featured in), the last Hellcat comic I read was the baffling Kathryn Immonen miniseries.

As it turns out, Leth is a hilarious writer, who packs the book with jokes broad and subtle, and takes the same approach to Marvel Univers humor that Chip Zdarsky takes in Howard The Duck. As I said above, the setting is so weird that it's pretty much inherently hilarious; one need only frame it correctly to mine it for comedy. And mine Leth does.

And as for Williams, she is an amazing artist, her style looking akin to a compromise between those of Erica Henderson and Gurihiru, retaining flexibility to be tweaked in either direction as needed, so that the characters can occasionally become even more cute than they are usually designed, or even slip into super-deformity.

And as for Hellcat? Leth incorporates her real-world origin as the star of a pre-Marvel, Archie-like teen gag comic into the present storyline, incorporating characters from those comics into this one (Her rival Hedy Wolfe has control of those comics, and is re-publishing them to great financial success, which Patsy is unable to share in; in a perfect world, Marvel too would be doing so, or at least publishing a story per issue as a back-up, just as Archie Comics has been doing in their rebooted line). The story picks up right where we last saw her, working as a freelance P.I. for She-Hulk's firm...until she's not.

She has a business plan, though, a sort of staffing agency for super-powered people who don't want to use their powers to either fight or commit crime, but, in the meantime, she takes a series of low-paying jobs that she is terribly suited for. Meanwhile, an obscure Asgardian villain is in town, and it's up to Patsy to take her down.

While she reconnects with old friends and makes new ones, She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Doctor Strange (him again!), Howard The Duck and Tara all guest-star, and a bunch of supeheroines put in cameos when Patsy invites them to lunch.

That accounts for the first five issues. The sixth and final one collected here is a done-in-one drawn and colored by Natasha Allegri, who has a perfectly darling, manga-inspired style that makes everyone look simultaneously completely adorable and like they are from modern fan art from some lost 1970s children's cartoon from Japan no one's ever heard of.

In that story, Patsy and her new friends cajole She-Hulk into joining them for a day off at Coney Island, where they run afoul of Arcade, and must best him in various deadly amusement games or forfeit their lives. As darling as Allegri's Pasty and company might be, it's her Arcade and her Jessica Jones that are really mind-bending, given the fact that those aren't characters anyone ever sees in a style anything like this. Also, She-Hulk reverts to her Jen form, which...I can't actually remember the last time I saw her not Hulked out.

The only thing wrong with these first six issues? Williams' cover for the sixth showed Hercules on a float in The Mermaid Parade, and yet Herc is nowhere to be found in the interiors. Something to work into future issues, ladies.

And speaking of covers, the variants filling up the final pages of this collection include variants by some of my favorite artists: Sophe Campbell, Erica Henderson, George Perez, Marguerite Sauvage and Kevin Wada.

If you're a fan of any of the books covered in this post and haven't read Patsy Walker yet, please do so. You'll love it.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now: Despite the cover of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Vol. 2), which Marvel also used for the cover of this particular collection of the series, The Avengers team that dominates so much of it don't really appear within the book much.

Squirrel Girl may (rather incongruously) be part of Robert Da Costa's A.I.M./Avengers merger team (the one appearing in New Avengers at the moment), but that is really only acknowledged at the end of the first issue herein, in which Dorreen takes her friends Nancy, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boy with her to Avengers Island's food court, which is full of restaurants with Avengers pun names (Soup Thor Salad, for example, or Foods That Are Rich In Iron, Man). So if you were hoping to see artist Erica Henderson draw the hell out of all those new New Avengers, sorry. (Speaking of the cover for the second Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, it bears the words "Only Our Second #1 This Year So Far" on it; again, at least they have a sense of humor about it...and at least Marvel put the numeral "3" on the spine rather than "1," making this an easy book to read in trade.)

The first issue finds Doreen Green getting a new, Nancy-designed costume and a visit from her mom. The last 40-pages are devoted to the "Animal House" crossover with Howard The Duck, which I mentioned above. In between them is a fantastically convoluted time travel story involving Squirrel Girl's first and perhaps greatest enemy: Doctor Doom. Through a series of weird circumstances, Squirrel Girl finds herself marooned in the 1960s. She quickly discovers that she's not the only person from her time period there, and not only must she find away to return to her own era, but she must save the time stream itself from Doom, who is armed with Doomipedia, which tells him exactly how he conquered the world...and, of course, proceeded to name everything after himself.

It's...complicated. But Ryan North sure writes a hell of a Doctor Doom, his arrogance both perfectly, hilariously demonstrated and, here, the key to his defeat. It's buried in one of those computer programming jokes I don't really get, because I am dumb, but unlike every other computer-smart person, Doom never learned a traditional programming language, but rather invented his own, where all of the components are variations of "Doom," meaning a bunch of computer programming students speak a language he can't comprehend.

It is awesome, and there is so much good stuff in the Squirrel Girl Vs. Doctor Doom story arc that it rewards multiple reading. The first time is, after all ,full of some very weird, very unexpected surprises.

I remain convinced that the "Unbeatable" in the title doesn't refer to the character Squirrel Girl herself, but the comic book Squirrel Girl itself, which really can't be beat.

While I'm at it, I suppose I should link to reviews of other recent-ish releases I recently read (and reviewed) that are also Marvel collections. I covered Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF and All-New, All-Different Avengers Vol. 1: Magnificent Seven for School Library Journal's Good Comics For Kids blog. They're both pretty good, the former more so than the latter, as the Avengers book has some slight structural problems. All in all though, Marvel seems to be in a pretty good place creatively these days, at least with books for younger readers and lower-tier characters (Other parts of the line are, of course, a mess).

*Please note that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe was still being published both at the time my friend said that and at the time I wrote this review, which has been sitting around in a draft for a while now. I suppose that I could change that now that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe has ended, but why pass up an opportunity to remind everyone that Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe was pretty much the best thing ever?

**Whose true identity was revealed during the "Standoff" crossover story, which I read after I wrote the Captain America review above, but before I posted this post.


Matt D said...

I find Hellcat so much better than Squirrel Girl. It's hard not to compare the two of them, but the writing just zings so much more. Squirrel Girl feels like such a chore to get through, like work or a homework assignment, which is not the way a comic that should be a joy should feel. I think all of the humor comics you read in there are better really as well. Howard the Duck is so good. And it's right after that arc, but the All-New Wolverine issue with Squirrel Girl in it is probably my favorite single Marvel issue this year. It was that good. Maybe she just works better for me as a supporting character for the main character to play off of.

Honestly, and I will forgive you if you don't listen to me on this, I find Gwenpool better too. There's a weird gravitas to that comic, a sort of "watch what you wish for" to it. I was expecting some mix of Harley Quinn and Deadpool and it's not really that. You should page through it if you get a chance.

SallyP said...

I have to admit that Marvel is putting out some quirky, and frankly hilarious books.