Welcome to this week’s Pull List, where I run down the comics from my weekly Wednesday pull and new series that have caught my eye. Before we begin, the now-usual…disclaimers:
Spoilers: I try not to spoil the issues themselves, but I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane. This is your spoiler warning.
Credits: I have given all the credits I can find in the comic itself and online; if you see something wrong or have information I’m lacking, let me know and I’ll fix it.
Ratings: The Pull List rates a comic’s power level on a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is something thought-provoking, groundbreaking, and/or masterfully executed and 0 is something I wish I hadn’t even started reading.
OK, here we go. I hope to see you and your pull list in the comments!
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
Black Panther #7
Writing: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Pencils/Layouts: Chris Sprouse
Inks/Finishes: Karl Story
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Design: Manny Mederos
Logo: Rian Hughes
Cover: Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin (variant covers by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin; Esad Ribic; Margeurite Sauvage; Bill Siekiekwicz; Leinil Yu & Jason Keith; Scorpking Costuming with Judith Stephens)
So let me just start off by saying: Man, Luke Cage in that vest and slacks combo…
That said, this is the best issue of the Coates run yet. The addition of the non-Wakandan characters to the mix lets Coates and Sprouse flex their muscle, providing contrast and variety to the proceedings that makes the individual tones of the recurring characters stand out more. The characters just feel clearer in general, honestly; it feels like the creative team is finding their footing and elevating a great series to fantastic. The stakes in this story are the same, the usual (awesome) mix of supervillainous plots and revolutionary politics both knocking on T’Challa’s door. The slurs that come out of the bad guys’ mouths during the expected Crew vs. Stane and Co dust-up have serious teeth in them — you can feel on the page that Coates knows exactly what he’s doing putting those words in his characters’ mouths, and it makes them sting every bit as much as they should (plus, Luke and Misty taking control of the words used feels like as much of a victory as any punch they throw). This was a next step that I wasn’t sure the series would take, but am so glad it has. Jump on the bandwagon if you haven’t already.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Green Lanterns #
Writing: Sam Humphries
Pencils: Robson Rocha
Inks: Jay Leisten
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Rocha, Joe Pradd, Roo Reis
The opening panels of this issue are one of those great comics miracles: you know almost exactly what’s about to happen (thanks in no small part to the cover), but it’s so well-executed you’re hanging onto the edge of your seat the entire time. This issue is sort of a villain origin story, and it’s told in a compelling way, giving us a not-quite-sympathetic character who is clearly going to play right into the most nightmarish corner of the current Green Lanterns mythology. I love how many modern supervillains seem to be products or embodiments of toxic masculinity — in this case, some of that hard-to-shake feeling of entitlement to power and reward, a sort of heroic Nice Guy Syndrome that you can tell from the start is not going to go well for anyone. I also love that this issue is one of those Astro City-esque stories that takes a look at how the facts and foibles of a superhero universe affect the man on the street — in this case, not because they were saved by one of them, or because they were a bystander to a super-fight, but because of the way the mere existence of superheroes alters benchmarks for power and morality, and the sometimes-dangerous ways it makes us rethink the way the world works. This was a wonderful introduction to a new story arc, and I’m so glad I added this to my pull list.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Mighty Thor #12
Writing: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman (Present Day); Frazer Irving (Old Asgard)
Colors: Matthew Wilson (Present Day); Frazer Irving (Old Asgard)
Letters and Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
I was hyped for this storyline at the end of the last one, and the first issue did not disappoint. As the credits might indicate, this is told in a mix of present-day events and retellings of ancient history, and that framing device is perfect for the story they’re telling here. The introductory sequence establishes that this is going to be a story about the myths our myths tell each other, and Irving’s art (and Dauterman’s excellent, but contrasting, work) brings that home, giving the main story a sense that we’re looking at something primordial and half-lost to the mists of time, while also splashing in some visual references to the psychedelic stylings of Kirby’s cosmic stories. Now, to be honest, the story itself falls a tiny bit flat after you look past the trappings — it is clearly trying to give some information while also keeping an air of mystery, but there’s a bit of a feeling of “that’s it?” at the end, once the afterglow of an epic story fades. But the package that story comes in is great, and I’m willing to let it slide on that given the incredible stuff Aaron brings us basically every other month.
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13
Writing: Ryan North
Art: Erica Henderson (trading card art by Anthony Clark and Hannah Blumenreich)
Colors: Rico Renzi
Letters and Production: Travis Lanham
Cover: Erica Henderson (variant cover by Charles Beacham)
Sweet googly-moogly, Doreen is adorable. This is more of the same from this series, by which I mean it’s hilarious and offbeat and good-hearted at its core. I love that North is always thinking about the science of superpowers (and just science in general, from what I can tell) and the ways in which powers can be creatively applied; I also love his ability to find hilarious, but genuinely effective, use for weird third-string characters — which is basically just the entire thesis of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl in a nutshell. I know that all sounds like a generalization, but it’s true in every single issue — and frankly, the fact that I feel like I can predict the core elements of your average issue of this series is the only criticism I could strain to level at it. It’s a fun, fluffy, smart book in a dark, scary time, and it does it all while still having its main character behave heroically (heck, more so than some of the big-name heroes). More of this, please.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Uncanny Inhumans #14
Writing: Charles Soule
Art: Kim Jacinto
Colors: Anthony Fabelo
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Ryan Stegman & Richard Isanove (variant cover by Elisabeth Torque)
So we ended last issue with Tony Stark’s Iron Man drones having invaded New Attilan…where do we go from here? It turns out, we go somewhere awesome. The Inhumans are given a proper X-Men-style showcase here in their fight to retake their city, giving their powers a chance to shine on the page (gorgeous visual execution by Jacinto and Fabelo here) and their personalities a chance to shine in the dialogue, with a spotlight on developing character Iso, along with the major players in Maximus, Medusa, Triton, and Karnak. The Inhuman politics are why I really show up to this book, though, and so I am happy to say that in all this punching of robots, we do not skimp on the drama. Soule does intrigue and emotion better than any comics writer currently putting fingers to keyboard, and he’s found a perfect partner in Jacinto, whose facial art really brings across the levels of conflict and anguish Medusa and her coterie feel. Tony comes off as pretty unreasonable and extreme in this issue, but given his emotions around Civil War II, it feels natural most of the time — though I wish Soule would/could have taken some time to show us some depth to his emotions so he doesn’t just become “angry guy with some ugly fascist leanings” again after we’ve finally rescued him from the muck of the original Civil War. Overall, same great taste as every month leading up to this one. Also, props for having characters deliver lines as weird as “Enniluxian battle zeppelin” and making it sound like the most normal thing in the world.
Power Level: 3 of 5
New and Shiny
The Issue #1s that caught my eye this week
Infamous Iron Man #1
Writing: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters and Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Alex Maleev (variant covers by John Tyler Christopher; Mike Deodato & Frank Martin; Anthony Piper; Esad Ribic; Mike McKone; and Skottie Young
Full disclosure: I picked this one up because I needed some Issue #1s to read for this week’s column, not because I knew anything about it. Then I saw the cover, and I got excited. I am happy to report that everything the cover promises is in this issue: this is about Victor Von Doom trying to fill the Iron Man-shaped void left after Civil War II. Having the villain make some misogynistic comments out of nowhere felt a little hackneyed and forced; but given that Doom calls him a troll and then comments on his motivation being “sloppy,” I think it’s meant as a dig at old Lee/Kirby villains that failed to live up to the greatness of DOOM, so I’m willing to overlook it given how great the rest of the storytelling in this winds up being. And that’s the thing that really struck me here: Bendis was born to write this character going through this arc. Everything I criticize him for in his Avengers and Civil War II work clicks when it’s applied to Doom and Stark; Doom really comes off as an inherently self-centered being trying to atone for his behavior, and the usual Bendis ultraviolent snarking lends a bit of a grim cast to the proceedings that I think the conflicted saga of Victor Von Doom warrants. I’m hooked, and I’m definitely going to be picking up Issue #2.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Spell on Wheels #1 (of 5)
Writing: Kate Leth
Art: Megan Levens
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Ming Doyle
I love Kate Leth, so I’m disappointed to say that this left me a tiny bit cold. The thing is, it’s mostly a great urban-fantasy story. Leth and Levens put on a clinic on how to show, not tell, in this comic: I learned things about the main characters that were never outright stated on the page, just from facial expression and body language and the way certain things are framed in the panel and on the page. I especially like that the characters draw a Tarot spread that they discuss over the ensuing pages, but don’t ever just outright explain for the benefit of the reader. The book also has impressive body diversity, and the main characters all have distinct personalities without ever falling into cliche territory. But somehow, the sum of all those parts just didn’t quite click for me. Like I usually do with first issues, I’m willing to put it down to the creative team needing to do some calibrating and world-building, but as an issue in and of itself I have to say this is good, and even technically masterful, but it doesn’t total out to “great.”
Power Level: 3 of 5
Most Comics Quote of the Week:
“In this world, however, even a brain in a jar in a robot body can only do so much.”
– Brain Drain, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13
That’s all for this week, but keep the conversation going and let us know what you picked up this week, and what you thought of this week’s comics!