Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. Today marks the one-year anniversary of a particularly difficult day in my life (in many lives…), so I am grateful to say that I got to spend it reading comics and sharing them with all of you.
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 is inevitable.
Justice League of America #18
Writer: Steve Orlando; Artist: Hugo Petrus; Colors: Hi-Fi; Letters: Clayton Cowles; Cover: Carlos D’Anda; Variant Cover: Doug Mahnke & Wil Quintana
Oh, hey, the documentary storyline! This should be a quiet break between regular superhero plots — wait — oh, God! This issue is a little lower on action and a little higher on feelings than “Panic in the Microverse,” but it does not feel any less intense. The documentary format is used to highlight (both diegetically and exegetically) the cracks in this Justice League, and the character arcs that are occurring and will need to occur in order for those cracks to be repaired. Everybody gets a few seconds in the limelight, and everybody comes off looking, if not good, then like a whole, coherent character, which is hugely important for any team book, but especially one like this that’s less than a year old. The documentarian’s attacks on the team come off a little stilted and forced, but I think in storyline it’s meant to be that way, so I’m not inclined to hold it against Orlando for now. Overall, it’s a great story about the public perception surrounding any hero team, but especially one claiming to be “of the people” the way this League is, and especially one with two redeemed or semi-redeemed villains in their midst; I like the feeling of the team getting broken apart like this while facing their latest threat, especially the way that Lobo’s and Batman’s loner tendencies play into the whole mess. This is a nice cooldown story after the Microverse plot, with some inventive variations on the old “villain in the base” formula, and I am excited to see where it goes from here; the fact this feels like “more of the same” for JLA really just drives home how great this series is to begin with.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Ms. Marvel #24
Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Artist: Diego Olortegui; Color Artist: Ian Herring; Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Valerio Schiti and Rachelle Rosenberg
The back half of “Northeast Corridor” is as good as the first half, but it also left a weird taste in my mouth. Ms. Marvel and Laal Khanjeer continue their effort to stop the runaway train, but where they spent the first issue arguing, they spend this issue starting to reconcile, just as Kamala starts to reconcile the warring emotions inside herself. It’s good for reminding us what’s great about Kamala, but also that Kamala is still a teenager, and is still relatively new to the superhero gig, and has a lot of baggage coming from both of those; it also carries an interesting message about the need for self-care whose narrative destination I am not entirely certain of yet, but that is an interesting direction to take the character after the stresses of the HYDRA/Secret Empire stuff she had to deal with. And also, Olortegui’s art continues to grow on me. Yet, despite those good things, something about this issue just didn’t quite click. The stakes, and Kamala’s reaction to goings-on, feel slightly forced — or more accurately, it feels really forced that everybody really has moved on to the New Hotness of Laal Khanjeer as fast as they have. Some of it is probably that Kamala is having slightly outsized (by which I mean slightly teenaged) reactions to her situation overall, and I definitely think that when viewed as a part of a greater arc I will look more favorably on this issue — but as an individual issue, it just felt a tiny bit hollow.
Power Level: 3 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Penciler: Javier Rodriguez; Inker: Alvaro Lopez; Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Every time I think this book has gotten to the most weird level it possibly can, it builds a new top just so it can go over it. This issue picks up right where the last one left off, with a Progenitor deciding, hey, let’s blow up the Inhuman spaceship, and it only gets more bizarre from there. Literally any explanation is a spoiler, but I can say with confidence that there’s organic computers, giant planets with other planets contained within them, Progenitors, Flint turning partially into crystal, the main characters threatening a planet by the mere fact they breathe, and Maximus shouting about stealing God’s car, and all of it makes sense in context, has emotional weight, and is rendered in Rodriguez, Lopez, and Bellaire’s absolutely gorgeous, imaginative art. This is Cosmic Marvel at its best, every month, and I am so grateful to be here for the ride.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Rainbow Rowell; Artist: Kris Anka; Color Artist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artist: Kris Anka; Variant Cover Artist: Kevin Wada; Graphic Designer: Carlos Lao
In true Runaways fashion, this issue punches you directly in the feelings and never takes its fist away, and it does it all without ever compromising on the fact it’s a superhero story. As you might expect from the progression thus far, this issue brings Karolina back into focus and shows us what she’s been up to since the end of the original series, and what she’s been up to manages to be upsetting precisely because she’s clearly had the most post-Runaways success of any team member shown thus far. The emotions run high here without ever feeling bathetic, building naturally on not only who each teammate was during the original run, but the consequences of things like the impact that Chase’s rescue of Gert has on Gert, which receives some focus time in one of the most painful scenes I have read in comics this calendar year. Possibly ever. Rowell mixes in some comedic beats, mostly revolving around Old Lace, which help to both relieve pressure and provide agonizing contrast. It wouldn’t work without Anka’s art, either — Rowell lets him tell a lot of the story through body language and camera angles, which lend a heft to the feelings playing out in the dialogue that walls of text wouldn’t provide on their own. And then for those concerned that there wasn’t much action or danger thus far, the ending hook helps lay that concern to rest. This is a nice quiet, tense, heartfelt book in and among a lot of explosions, and I am glad to leaven my pull list with it.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Spirits of Vengeance #2
Writer: Victor Gischler; Artist: David Baldeon; Color Artist: Andres Mossa; Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit; Cover Artist: Dan Mora & David Curiel; Variant Cover Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini; Designer: Jay Bowen
At the risk of a pun: damn. The second issue delivers on all the promise of the first and kicks it up a further notch; both the art and the writing really picked up here. On the visual side, Baldeon’s style really gelled for me here — his character designs, so sketchy and rubbery the first time around, now feel well-balanced, with the human or human-adjacent characters clearly standing out from the monsters. On the writing and plotting mix of action and investigation is perfectly balanced, and the tone has really come through in every little detail — the way the characters talk to each other, the way they fight (or maybe more accurately “slaughter”) brings everyone’s individual personality across and really helps plant the book at the crossroads of superheroes and horror (I especially love the stark, somewhat horrifying contrast between Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider). The stakes are clarified and raised, giving the proceedings a sort of The Prophecy vibe that I cannot help but dig. Plus, how often do you see a comic book dedicated to Albrecht Durer? This book is my jam, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys any of the individual characters, or just some darker magical superheroes and a little bit of the war between Heaven and Hell.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Dan Abnett; Pencils: Minkyu Jung; Inks: Mick Gray; Colors: Blond; Letters: Josh Reed; Cover: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund & Andrew Dalhouse; Variant Cover: Dan Mora
Issue #17 is my favorite kind of superhero comics issue: The deep, involved, flavorful conversation between two characters while a pitched superpower battle occurs around them. In this case, it’s Troia, a.k.a. Future Donna Troy Now With Angst-Monkey Powers, explaining why she’s been doing what she’s been doing this whole time (and since before this book joined the Pull List) as her way of trying to make present-time Donna Troy make a very important, possibly paradox-inducing decision. The core story beats being hit here are nothing new to superhero comics — in the foreground, an evil future version of a hero travels back in time to make things more evil, operating from the shadows until their big reveal; in the background, a hero lies dead, but maybe not quite dead! — but Abnett invests the characters with such real, vivid emotion, and Jung/Gray/Blond make the art so dynamic and engaging, that it all feels weighty and powerful and fresh just for the spin the team’s putting on it. Plus, just like the harvesting of misery that all of Troia’s goons were performing, I love that a team known for its emotional arcs is fighting a battle that entirely revolves around emotions. This book continues to be self-aware without failing to be either dramatic, heroic, or fun, and that’s an impressive niche to fall into. If you’re looking for a team book and you already have Royals and JLA, this here just might be for you. Bonus: this team has Nightwing’s butt.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26
Writer: Ryan North (except the Howard comic); Squirrel Girl Comic: Madeline McGrane (art, colors, lettering), Iris Holdren (“cool kid drawing”); Howard the Duck Comic: Erica Henderson (writer), Chip Zdarsky (art, colors), Travis Lanham with Madeline McGrane (lettering); Loki Comic: Carla Speed McNeil (art), Rico Renzi (colors), Travis Lanham (lettering); Kraven Comic: Michael Cho (art, colors), Travis Lanham (lettering); Spider-Man Comic: Rahzzah: art, colors, lettering; Wolverine Comic: Anders Nilsen (art, colors, lettering), Soren Iverson (color flats); Tippy-Toe Comic: Rico Renzi (art, colors), Travis Lanham (lettering); Galactus Comic: Jim Davis (art, lettering), Rico Renzi (colors); Nancy Whitehead Comic: Ryan North and Rahzzah (with thanks to Emily Horne and Joey Comeau); Production: Travis Lanham; Cover: Erica Henderson; Michael Allred: Logo
Jim Davis has a guest comic in this book, and there is an A Softer World reference. What, you want more review than that? Okay. This issue is a series of very short (1-2 page) stories by a variety of creators, including the aforementioned creator of Garfield; the tones vary wildly, though they are mostly funny, but some of them are even pretty touching, showing off Ryan North’s incredible versatility as a writer. The Wolverine short by Anders Nilsen and Soren Iverson is especially noteworthy for how extremely emotional and deep it is, while also not feeling out of place in a Squirrel Girl comic in the slightest; the shorts with Rahzzah in the style of the aforementioned A Softer World are fantastic. But the gold star for this issue really does go to Jim freaking Davis, who really did do the art for, oh yes, a series of three-panel strips about Silver Surfer and Galactus; the strips are everything you are probably hoping they are. The whole issue is absolutely worth reading; this book is so weird and I am so here for it.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“It’s God’s I.T. department. Run.”
– Marvel Boy, Royals #10
And there you have it; three up, three down. Have a wonderful start of November, and until next week, keep on loving comics!