Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List! It’s a blustery day here in supposedly sunny California, so it’s the perfect time to curl up with some comics. (See, I can be topical!)
Spoilers: I try not to spoil the issues themselves too much, but I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane. You won’t see any twists posted here, but some detail of the issue is inevitable.
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.
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
IvX #2 (of 6)
Writers: Jeff Lemire + Charles Soule
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Leinil Francis Yu + David Curiel
Variant Cover Artists: Arthur Adams + Paul Mounts; Michael Cho; Ardian Syaf, Dexter Vines + Edgar Delgado; Terry Dodson + Rachel Dodson
So, the bright spot: the art is great, very dark and gritty and fluid; Yu and Co. deliver really solid action sequences, and that’s good, because this issue is basically all the mutants and Inhumans fighting, and right there is my biggest problem with it.
I am not inherently against the odd hero-versus-hero conflict. I was down with Civil War II through six or seven of its eight issues; I even enjoyed Standoff. Violence between good guys can be done well and in a way that enriches all parties and changes up the canon. But this issue does the opposite, and in fact highlights all my gripes about the IvX storyline: these two teams have only the flimsiest reason to be fighting.
Yes, they are on opposite sides of the Terrigen Mist issue; yes, there is a time limit before living on Earth becomes a death sentence for mutants, which would put anyone’s emotions in a pressure cooker; yes, Emma Frost, Magneto, and others nudged the mutants into this confrontation. But nobody on the mutant side ever acts reluctant about this fight; some of them even quip during it. Emotions running high is understandable, but an entire issue of X-Men attacking people who are defending their homes (and in some cases saying they want to help the X-Men) is not “pushed too far,” it’s “fanatical.” That plus a fairly limp final panel that depends on me being excited to see one specific character who we already knew was in the story really makes this one leave a disappointing taste in the mouth. I am hoping the book recovers by the halfway point.
Power Level: 1 of 5
The Mighty Thor #15
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russel Dauterman
Color Artist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Variant Cover Artists: Ryan Sook; Christian Ward; Mike Deodato & Frank Martin; Andrea Sorrentino
All the things that make me dislike IvX above are present in this issue of The Mighty Thor; and yet, in Aaron and friends’ hands, this was one of the best things in my pull. This issue is the beginning of “the Asgard/Shi’ar War,” as advertised on the cover, and it starts with a sudden attack by sometime heroes Gladiator and the Shi’ar Superguardians and is basically violence from there until the end. But this issue is also about Jane Foster: her struggles with cancer, her conflicts with the ever-worsening politics of Asgard and the Council of Realms, and her continued difficulties with her double-life as Thor. All of that is touched on, and then we get a fight where the motives of the attackers are hinted at but not fully explained, left just opaque enough that you want to keep reading, and then we get a weird hook right at the end that makes me want the next issue right away. All with art perfectly married to the half-myth half-irony style of Aaron’s writing, and colors that make the whole thing feel vivid and larger than life even more so than gods and aliens punching each other does inherently. This is how you do these kinds of ethically odd conflicts, and I’m so excited to review #16 in February.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Ms. Marvel #14
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Color Artist: Ian Herring
Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Nelson Blake II and Rachelle Rosenberg
Variant Cover Art: Joyce Chin & Chris Sotomayor
I won’t lie, this issue had me snared with that cover; starting with Kamala playing World of Warcraft (sorry, World of Battlecraft) didn’t hurt, either. This lets us know right at the beginning that it’s the start of a new storyline for Kamala, which is welcome after her (again, warranted) post-Civil War II breather issues, and it picks right back up by diving into what Ms. Marvel has always been strongest at: stories that are just above street-level, focusing on Kamala and low-powered supervillains, and carrying a large human and emotional element that emphasizes regular people. Ms. Marvel is largely an heir to classic Spider-Man stories, and I mean that as a genuine compliment; reading classic Spider-Man is how I learned to love comics. A villainous hacker who is after the title character is nothing new as antagonists go, but not everything needs to be a revolution, and there is enough mystery surrounding this villain for me to want to keep reading, which as introductions go is perfectly solid. I always enjoy seeing Kamala show off her intellectual and scientific know-how, and I like that Wilson just went ahead and made sure we ruled out the fat MMORPG player as our bad guy (and giving Kamala a reason to suspect him that doesn’t paint her as a jerk). This is a good beginning to something new, a straightforward story in a time when way too many superhero comics are trying too hard to be complex.
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #16
Writers: Ryan North, Will Murray
Artists: Erica Henderson, Steve Ditko
Color Artist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Logo: Michael Allred
Cover Artist: Erica Henderson
Variant Cover Artists: Natasha Allegri; John Allison; June Brigman, Mark Deering & Jay David Ramos (after Erik Larsen); Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
I’m not allowed to just say “adorable,” right? Okay, okay. This issue is a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first appearance of Squirrel Girl, in the form of five little vignettes about the and birthdays of one Doreen Green. The sequence around her birth is honestly cute, from the name of the event where the Greens meet to the first appearance of our unbeatable protagonist, and the middle and end of the story continue along that theme, giving us glimpses into formative moments in Squirrel Girl’s existence, all the way from her parents worrying about the world’s reaction to their data, to her first meeting with Monkey Joe, to her finding a place among the first-water heroes of the Marvel Universe, all without losing sight of the kindness, empathy, and whimsy that make Squirrel Girl who she is. There’s even a sequence written by original Squirrel Girl writer Will Murray that is a great marriage of classic Squirrel Girl weirdness and the indefatigable goodness that North has invested her with since. And then there’s the final page (after the letter column), which genuinely made me tear up a little bit for reasons that I will not spoil; make sure you read all the way to the end, so you can see why this is one of my favorite comic series of all time. Kudos to you, Ryan and Erica; you are the heroes this world needs. (Also, how can I criticize a comic where they joke about the Anti-Dog Equation?)
Power Level: 5 of 5
New and Shiny
The Issue #1s and #0s that caught my eye this week
Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth #1
Co-Writers: Steve Orlando & Jody Houser
Art & Color: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Marcelo Maiolo
Variant Cover: Jamal Campbell
In a word: Hmm. This is a one-shot origin story for Marie McCabe, aka Vixen, part of a series of one-shots intended to help setup for the new Justice League of America ongoing the company is promising. I mostly know Vixen as a very solid second-stringer from Justice League Unlimited, and that was enough to have me intrigued — you know how much I want to boost comics starring people of color. Like IvX above, the art here shines; Campbell is capable of incredible efficiency with his details, and has a great sense of positioning and timing that make the story’s visuals flow nicely. The writing is less impressive: this is a boilerplate origin story, with a reluctant hero facing down past trauma and embracing their mantle just in time to save someone who is a metaphor for themselves. The villain’s background even boils down to “I figured out superpowers while in jail for being evil,” which is one oversimplified Freudian twist away from being every single Batman villain. It’s generic, which is really unfortunate with a character as potentially off-beat and representative as Vixen, and I know Orlando is capable of better from his Midnighter & Apollo run, so I do not know what is going on here. If you want to learn Vixen’s background in the post-Rebirth universe, it’s more interesting than a Wikipedia crawl, but as a way of hooking me into a new team book, this is a serious misstep.
Power Level: 1 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“Monkey Joe, you’re sweet, but Cap doesn’t just save squirrels. He saves planets, the whole world! I mean, he probably does. He’s at least saved the moon.”
– Doreen Green, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #16
And that’s a wrap! Feel free to sound off in the comments.