Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. It’s time for our last comics review before the holidays; let’s see if we can pull this off without any Christmas puns.
Writer: Gabby Rivera; Artists: Flaviano with Jen Bartel; Color Artists: Jordan Gibson and Chris O’Halloran; Letterer & Production: VC’s Travis Lanham; Cover Artist: Joe Quinones
This issue distills America down to what it does best and gives it to us in concentrated doses: convictions, punching, and joy, not necessarily in that order. The plot overall is no great shakes when you look only at the narrative bones, but I could feel Rivera’s glee as she wrote this issue, with all its weird, only-in-superhero-comics plot beats and raising stakes; I could also feel the strength of her feelings about fascism, its brother racism, and the power of sisterhood, friendship, and community. I felt everything the characters felt — heard it in their words, saw it in their faces. And speaking of the art, let’s not forget Flaviano and Bartel making the top-notch decision to make the Exterminatrix’s student-body sympathizers look an awful lot like a certain white supremacist who gets punched in the face a lot. They are absolutely going for it in this issue from top to bottom, and it takes what could be a fairly basic storyline and makes it into an issue that is What Superhero Comics Should Be About.
Power Level: 8/10
The Mighty Thor #702
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artist: Russell Dauterman; Color Artist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Phoenix Variant Cover Artist: Kris Anka
“How good is The Mighty Thor, Tyler?”
“Well, Hypothetical Reader, The Mighty Thor is so good that it can end issue #701 with the Mangog marching on Asgard to destroy it, and take the entire next issue to focus on the human cost of the war against Malekith and not have it feel weird or disruptive because it’s so on point with its thoughts about the characters.”
Seriously, it’s that good. This entire issue is a spotlight on Jane Foster and her efforts to find a way to stop Malekith and Roxxon and end the War of the Realms, and on Odinson trying to get her to see that heroic sacrifice isn’t the only way to be heroic. The issue is something of a commentary on how much of waging war is about hearts and minds, and how much of the cost of war is paid by the best people, but it’s more than that. It’s about showing us that Odinson is slowly journeying back toward worthiness. It’s about hinting at the possible prices Jane Foster might pay for her time as the Goddess of Thunder and her efforts to win the war, and therefore at what her status will be at the end of all this. It’s about tying up loose ends as we move toward what may be the final showdown in this conflict. And it’s about upping the stakes in a fight that already had breathtakingly massive stakes, bringing us to a place where going back to the Mangog is even scarier than it was at the end of the previous issue. And it is all tied up with Dauterman’s perfect art and Wilson’s gorgeous colors. The Mighty Thor is my Platonic ideal of superhero comics.
Power Level: 9/10
Ms. Marvel #25
Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Artist: Nico Leon; Color Artist: Ian Herring; Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Valerio Schiti & Rachelle Rosenberg; Variant Cover Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa & Ian Herring; Trading Card Variant Cover: John Tyler Christopher; Lenticular Homage Variant Cover (Based on Captain America (1968) #109 by Jack Kirby & Syd Shores): Jacob Wyatt
When G. Willow Wilson is on her game, she is among the best writers in comics. Ms. Marvel #25 is G. Willow Wilson on her game. The issue is mostly focused on Ms. Marvel-adjacent characters, rather than Kamala herself, but it is in this that Wilson accomplishes her most impressive feat: using other people to tell us about both Ms. Marvel and themselves. Red Dagger, Mike, and all the rest get distinct voices, such that I didn’t need the art to tell who was who, and all of them sound real and well-rounded in ways that you just don’t get from a lot of comics’ supporting casts. The way the characters talk about Kamala and/or Ms. Marvel and the way they behave in her absence speak volumes about who she is to them and what she means to Jersey City, which is a relationship as important for Ms. Marvel as the relationship with New York is for Spider-Man. Wilson delivers all this with perfect comedic timing, a little dash of drama and mystery, and a final splash page that has to be seen to be believed, but is a superhero final splash page from top to bottom. This was the kind of issue that has made me a Ms. Marvel subscriber from the beginning.
Power Level: 9/10
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason; Artist: Jorge Jimenez; Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez; Letterer: Rob Leigh; Cover: Ivan Reis, Julio Ferreira & Marcelo Maiolo; Variant Cover: Jonboy Meyers
I had one problem with this issue, but it’s one that I’m having trouble putting down. Let me first say that overall, this issue exemplifies exactly what I adore about the post-Rebirth DC lineup: these writers are not ashamed of the bizarre fantasy kitchen sink of a multiverse they are writing in, and are instead exploiting the narrative options that surreal setting provides for them, and are writing with real affection for the characters they have been given to work with. The antagonist in this issue is a really fascinating one whose voice and behavior feel well-rounded and understandable without being made to feel justified or too sympathetic. The plot is relatively basic, but it’s been wrapped in a layer of mystery that guarantees I’ll be picking up the next issue of Super Sons to try to figure out what the heck is going on. The art is gorgeous, serving the story well and clearly (well, except for one visual detail — why does Superman’s Kryptonian battle armor change its physical logo when it gets hacked?!). But there is this one panel that I just cannot get over because of what it says about Tomasi/Gleason’s approach to the Man of Steel: when the villain shows up in front of Superman, he says he is going to teach the villain “a lesson in pain.” That’s a super-villain line; why the heck is Clark throwing that around? I am never here for Badass Gritty Superman, and part of why I loved this version of Superman is that the writer seemed to get that, so I am really hoping that the other series the editor’s notes allude to give some reason for Superman to be that angry with this character — and even then, why say it that way? But, that hang-up aside, this is a perfectly good issue; just, be ready for that weird New 52 moment.
Power Level: 7/10
New Series: Marvel Two-in-One #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky; Penciler: Jim Cheung; Inkers: John Dell with Walden Wong; Colorist: Frank Martin; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor; Variant Cover Artists: Alex Ross; John Tyler Christopher; Jack Kirby; Joe Sinnott & Paul Mounts; Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott; Jon Malin after Rich Buckler & Joe Sinnott; Mike McKone & Rachelle Rosenberg; John Byrne & Paul Mounts; Arthur Adams & Morry Hollowell
Choo choo! Feels train comin’ into the station! The elevator pitch for Marvel Two-in-One is that it’s a team-up book featuring the Human Torch and the Thing, and this issue delivers on that promise with extreme prejudice. Zdarsky’s script delivers extremes of emotion, both laughter and sorrow, but most importantly, showcasing the deep, abiding love the Fantastic Four all felt (feel?) for each other. All throughout the issue, you can feel the absence of Sue and Reed from Ben’s life as sharply as he does; Johnny, likewise, is struggling, but his struggle is complicated by twists that this issue lays down, providing a motive force for the story besides the ghost of Reed Richards that is haunting this issue. If that weren’t enough, Zdarsky also manages to fold in a cameo by the Four’s most famous nemesis (who is dealing with struggles of this own these days) and some callbacks to the FF’s early adventures that were so numerous I am sure I missed a few. This was nostalgia done right — nostalgia with a clear direction it is taking from that starting point — and I am elated that I signed up for it.
Power Level: 9/10
Quote of the Week:
“They don’t have special powers, and they still fight, every day. They’re not just like us…they’re better.”
– Vixen, Justice League of America #20
Alright — another marathon comics pull down, and with some real gems in there to boot. We’ll see you next week for the second-to-last Pull List of 2017; until then, keep on loving comics!