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. It’s a very new New Comic Book Day this week, with a lot of issue #1s to check out and a new-to-me series to discuss, but first, the 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
Green Lanterns #8
Writing: Sam Humphries
Art: Ed Benes
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Robson Rocha, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair (variant cover by Emanuela Lupacchino and Michael Atiyeh)
I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend and colleague at a convention this weekend (Birds of a Feather meet-ups work, people!), and I am so glad I did. For those, like me, who are just picking this one up, Green Lanterns stars Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Simon Baz is a Lebanese-American man who accidentally got himself thrown in Guantanamo Bay due to happenstance and not a little bit of racial profiling; Jessica Cruz is a woman with severe trauma and anxiety issues due to witnessing the murder of her friends, who after stints as a Power Ring and a victim of the AMAZO virus is now a Green Lantern. The storyline surrounds the issue of the Phantom Ring (a new power ring that anyone can wield, rather than having to be chosen) and these two new Lanterns trying to live up to the legacy of their office, all set against a Halloween backdrop — that is, two Green Lanterns trying to Lantern it up on a holiday that celebrates fear. That doesn’t play directly into the issue, but it does echo the themes of the issue as the heroes confront their own concerns and perceived lack — Simon is still having trouble trusting in the ring even though he thinks it’s cool, and Cruz is fighting to use the ring at all while she is so afraid. Cruz made this issue hit home for me in a big way: I suffer from anxiety, and seeing a superhero who also does, and who is succeeding but experiencing the struggles I experience, well…it brought “representation matters” home to me in a big way.
Now, this issue is not stellar: the art is good, but kind of DC-standard in most panels, and the dialogue is a bit wooden. That said, this comic stars two characters who debuted only a couple years ago, and who are being asked to replace some very popular predecessors; that combined with the general, all-around chaos that is the aftermath of Rebirth would make any creative team struggle to find their footing. That, plus the personally relevant representation, makes me willing to give this one a couple issues to figure itself out. I think I need to buy me some back issues…
Power Level: 3 of 5
Revolution #2 (of 5)
Writing: John Barber & Cullen Bunn
Art: Fico Ossio
Colors: Sebastian Cheng
Letters: Tom B. Long
Issue 2 perpetuates some of my gripes from Issue 1, but also starts to lift the series out of them. Rom has the expected reason for his kind of heinous, Terminator-like behavior in the first ish, the altercation between Rom and the Transformers at least includes people trying to be rational instead of just rage-punching each other, and Windblade calls the other characters out on their crappy behavior, but this reasonable-if-emotional scene makes the behavior of the G.I. Joes look even worse by comparison — especially Scarlett (and if I’m being honest, can we not have a woman be the one who is acting super-irrationally in their grief?). The members of M.A.S.K. also come off as really dark and bloodthirsty, though in their case that appears to be due to some things happening behind the scenes, rather than just bizarre anger management problems, so at least there’s that. The kind of disjointed storytelling from the first issue is on full display here, too: a scene later in the book confirms my suspicion that the Transformers are not quite speaking the same language as the human characters, but the way it’s handled is very weird — maybe I’d get this if I were reading the other IDW series this crossover ties into, but that feels like a really unfair and indirect way to get me to subscribe. Still, the plot hooks laid out by this issue are intriguing, and they bought me some personal goodwill by having a character correct an erroneous use of the word “decimate,” so they’ve hooked me for another issue, but the series continues to be on notice for the time being.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Uncanny X-Men #14
Writing: Cullen Bunn
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Greg Land and David Curiel
A decent issue that keeps me reading the series, but admittedly only just. The core confrontation between Magneto and Exodus is well-executed, showing us two different flavors of extremism rather than having one be the “good guy” and one the “bad guy”; it raises questions about Magneto’s methods and ideology that need to be raised, and in a way that suggests it will inform the book’s character arcs going forward, which is always a nice thing to see. The fight at the anti-mutant rally is also well-handled, though it is the background event it should be given the power disparity in the match-up and its importance to the plot (and kudos to the creative team for the “All Lives Matter” jab thrown in one of the panels). That said, the first scene confused me, as it felt like it played out differently than last issue, in ways that almost made me expect to discover there was some kind of psychic or temporal tampering going on here. The art also gave me some pause — it’s not bad, but there is some inconsistency during the Magneto/Exodus fight about when Magneto is and isn’t wearing his helmet, and the faces are very same-y, to the point where I thought a random background character was Magneto at one point. Still, this is a fitting conclusion to the arcs I saw occurring in the previous issues since I picked up the series, and I am glad to see that Marvel is still willing to rock the boat and actually change things up from the status quo in what feel like lasting ways. This one has earned staying on my pull list for at least a bit longer.
Power Level: 3 of 5
New and Shiny
The Issue #1s that caught my eye this week
Cage! #1 (of 4)
Writing: Genndy Tartakovsky
Art: Genndy Tartakovsky
Inks: Stephen DeStephano
Colors: Scott Wills
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Genndy Tartakovsky and Scott Wills (variant covers by Marco D’Alfonso, Damion Scott, and Trevor Von Eeden)
The cover made me hesitate at first — that really cartoony style, Luke’s old costume, and the really stereotypical phrase “Dig It!” all in one? And then I saw the name across the top of the logo, and thought I’d give this a try — Samurai Jack and Clone Wars earn Tartakovsky a lot of good will in my book. In one sentence, I would describe this series as “fun, but problematic”; I love the idea of a retro Luke Cage series with a funk/blaxploitation vibe to it, but I am unsure of having a white creator at the helm for it. It never straight-up shucks and jives, but it does toe the line enough to raise the odd judgmental eyebrow, and there is some straight-up fat-shaming subtext during the centerpiece fight scene that makes me really uncomfortable. The plot and presentation are good enough for me to want to give this sucker a chance, but it’s on notice along with Revolution.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Writing: Mark Waid
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Victor Olazaba
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters & Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado (variant covers by Alex Ross, Mark Brooks, John Tyler Christopher, Jay Fosgitt, Rahzzah, Art Adams & Jason Keith, Mike Hawthorne & Matt Milla, and Skottie Young)
I overuse baseball metaphors in some iterations of the Pull List, but I need to do it here: this issue is a grand slam. The mission statement is compelling: young heroes setting out to be better heroes than the generation before them, to help people to trust them again, like the early X-Men but with actual diversity on the team instead of metaphorical white stand-ins. The way the former Avengers become “former” feels smart and logical, but also believably childlike in execution, hammering home that these are young heroes without babying them or making them the “Good” heroes to the older “Bad” ones. The impromptu “missions” they go on as they form the Champions show the characters being clever, creative, informed, but most importantly, heroic, and with just enough flaws in their logic and execution to give the characters flavor and give the sense that they, and the world, have a ways to go to achieve their goal. I especially love the interaction between Hulk and Ms. Marvel as they move into the second fight-scene (“Are you bulletproof?”), both establishing that there are limits to the characters’ knowledge and reminding us how diverse the power sets of the universe’s heroes really are. And the ending sequence is some of the best comics writing I have read in recent years, putting on blast everything from the tendency of heroes to fight heroes to police shootings to the need to punch up and not down; the reaction of the world, and the way that reaction is showcased through social media and smartphones, is absolutely, tear-jerkingly perfect. The United States — the world — needed this series right now. I needed this series right now. This is the crown jewel of this week’s pull, and it’s going into my regular rotation without question.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Jessica Jones #1
Writing: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: David Mack (variant covers by David Aja, John Tyler Christopher, Jeff Dekal, Mike Deodato & Frank Martin, Alex Maleev, Jeffrey Veregge, and Will Sliney & Chris Sotomayor)
Recap Page Art: David Mack
I have often criticized Bendis for being good at writing Jessica Jones and not a whole heck of a lot else, but damn if he isn’t good at Jessica Jones, and pairing him with Gaydos again means that this one rivals the original Alias for solid superhero-noir storytelling. The art is brilliant, an improvement on the Alias art that is still recognizably the Alias art, and helping paint the whole thing with that grimy noir brush. The introductory sequence tells the reader everything they need to know about Jessica (except maybe her drinking problem, but that might not be a thing in her continuity right now). The following scene in her apartment grounds that feeling, setting up exactly where her life is at and establishing her character arc; the detail of her wearing a Dazzler concert t-shirt is especially nice, grounding the series in the greater Marvel Universe while also giving a sense of distance from the Avenger and X-Men level of the action (there’s a later panel that also does this job, as well as acting as a cute homage to a similar scene in Alias). The mystery is a brilliant little superhero-universe mystery that I am excited to see delved into in later issues, and the way her supporting cast serves to anchor Jessica and also disrupt her is very nice. That said, the way the side arc about Luke and Danielle is introduced feels really wonky in retrospect, like they didn’t say quite enough at first, leaving me just confused instead of turning pages in my hunger to know more, and I really wish this issue didn’t fall back on the old trope of Superheroes Fight Because They Disagree but Don’t Actually Resolve the Disagreement (especially when both characters are women, which just lends a feeling of pettiness and “gawd women are so emotional amirite dudes?” to the proceedings). I’m watching this one because I think I see gold underneath the rust, and adding it to my Pull List until it has a misfire. I hope it doesn’t.
Power Level: 3 of 5
Midnighter and Apollo #1
Writing: Steve Orlando
Art: Fernando Blanco
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover: Aco & Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Attention, DC Editorial: Make all the books like this one. I was hooked from the first scene, with an unusual but understandable super-conflict that helped me to understand who Apollo, Midnighter, and their opponents all were and what flavor of superhero comic this was without spending more than a panel each. The art is phenomenal, especially the action sequence on page 5, which left me having to winch my jaw back up off the floor; and that’s before the train golem shows up. The action dovetails well into a scene of normal life, and “normal” is what I love about the non-action part of this story; for those who did not know, Apollo and the Midnighter are a gay couple, and this story treats that as just a fact of life. They get a dinner party with friends, a conversation about their origins and their story up to now, and a simple, sweet love scene, all without ever remarking on the fact they are gay; it just is, and that matters so, so much. The villain of the story is compelling and unique, using tropes adeptly while also adding some signature flavor to the proceedings. And perhaps as important as the representation is the way Midnighter’s use of deadly force is treated — it is never given a pass, by Apollo or by the writing, and it is shown as a source of tension and a real concern that will need to be addressed going forward, which is how superheroes who kill need to be handled, in my book. God help me, I think I am subscribed to not one but two DC books now…
Power Level: 5 of 5
Writing: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
Colors: Eduardo Risso
Letters & Design: Jared H. Fletcher
Cover: Eduardo Risso (variant cover by Frank Miller)
This was pitched to me as “Prohibition-era werewolf story,” and that was a perfect bullseye for what this is and I love it. That pitch plays out in the first couple pages and hooks you right in with a perfect mix of mystery and horror and snappy era-appropriate dialogue, and that continues throughout the book. The writing and art are perfect noir stuff, showcasing both the big-city mobster talk of the protagonist and the patois of the Appalachian moonshiners and giving it all an old-movie feel so strong I felt like I could hear violins and brass playing in the background; it makes the gory bits feel even more horrific by comparison. There are a couple sequences I will admit I did not grok at first, with characters speaking in subtext a fair amount and a lot being implied rather than stated, but I think that’s me, not the work, and as I always hammer on, some mystery in monthly comics is a good thing. I think this goes into the pull list at least until I’m sure the series has its legs and isn’t at risk of not finishing the story it’s here to tell.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Most Comics Quote of the Week:
“Help us win the hard way — the right way — not with hate, not with retribution, but with wisdom and hope.
Help us become Champions.”
– Ms. Marvel, Champions #1
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!