Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week we have two beginnings, an end, and a couple of middles.
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.
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
Writer: Mark Waid; Pencilers: Barry Kitson with Mark Bagley, Sean Izaakse & Ro Stein; Inkers: Mark Farmer with Scott Hanna, Mike Perkins, Ted Brandt, Sean Izaakse & Drew Hennessy; Colorists: Jordan Boyd with Matt Yackey & Wil Quintana; Letterer: Ferran Delgado
The conclusion to this “lost” tale of the original Avengers (and the original New Avengers) that is almost as much fun to read as the writers are clearly having with it. This issue is the final confrontation between Cressida/Avenger X and the Avengers, and it’s as knockdown-drag-out as anything in the Lee and Kirby era of the Avengers ever actually got — which is to say, it’s pretty dramatic, with some nice, dynamic action sequences, and then some weird offscreen magic occurs that is explained hastily in two panels before the fight concludes. And that’s the thing: while that sounds terrible, and like everything we’ve moved on from in our comics forefathers’ storytelling methods, Waid and company are so clearly having so much darn fun playing with the original Marvel style, with the storms of alliteration and the sudden speechifying and the hasty resolution of conflicts, that it’s hard to fault any of it for even a second. And then it turns out this might actually tie back into the ongoing Kang War plot? What? I won’t lie, I’ll be annoyed if this was all to set up some kind of deus ex machina for the current Avengers to deal with Kang, but it was a delight to get where we are, and this went just about the right number of issues, so either way, I’m calling it a win.
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Kamandi Challenge #3
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti; Artist: Amanda Conner; Colorist: Paul Mounts; Letterer: Clem Robins; Main Cover Artist: Ben Caldwell
(We’ve folded the Kamandi Challenge Challenge into this column going forward; time demands have hit the reviewer a bit hard recently, and it’s easier to do this than let the entire thing slip.)
The Kamandi Challenge continues, and begins to both show its cracks and spread its wings. We begin where we ended last time, with Kamandi, well…falling, and shouting “What have I done?” as though Palmiotti is cursing the writers who put him in this predicament. To Palmiotti’s credit, the script doesn’t just have Kamandi immediately get rescued, and the sequence that this launches us into is actually pretty fun, with Kamandi’s fall into the midst of a group of mutants being taken as proof he is a messenger of the gods. Conner and Mounts’s art here is very nice, a liquid, cartoony style that lends the proceedings a certain dreamlike quality. My two complaints here are, first, the pacing — the issue starts off fairly slow, with a sense of menace to the God-Watchers and their reverence for Kamandi, then midway through suddenly gets very intense and rushed for the entire rest of the issue, only to rapidly change settings and then suddenly brake and end on the requisite cliffhanger — and second, the character of Vila, the “person” given to Kamandi as thanks from the God-Watchers, who fulfills a role in God-Watcher society that is not literally that of a sex slave, but symbolically close enough to it that I gave it some side-eye. (Kamandi, at least, wants to set Vila free immediately and never partakes of the symbolic sex equivalent.) All in all, a fun little issue, though I am starting to have reservations about the stilted nature of the Challenge’s storytelling. Nothing to do but hold on tight…
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Mighty Captain Marvel #3
Writer: Margaret Stohl; Artist: Ramon Rosanas; Colorists: Michael Garland with Marcio Menyz; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Designer: Anthony Gambino; Cover: Elizabeth Torque
Less “mighty” and more “pretty okay I guess” from a series still struggling to find its feet. This is the continuation of the plotline with the shapeshifting alien and the Kree refugees, and Carol’s newfound problem with her powers going out of control around Bean. First, the positives: the art is actually very good, with a good balance of abstraction and detail. The plot takes some interesting twists, courtesy of a Stark Industries scientist and an extended conflict with the shapeshifter. The main fight sequence is set in a fairly interesting and creative setting. The guest appearance by a Tony Stark A.I. is actually very well-written, with the character’s dialogue dripping RDJ charm. Now, the negatives: While many of the twists are interesting, the “big” twist at the end of the issue feels trite, and while I want to see it play out, I ended the book kind of worrying that the way it plays out will be as hackneyed as this. Some of the action sequences are choppy and hard to follow, like the artist and writer didn’t quite communicate about what each panel is meant to show. And while I praised the Tony Stark A.I.’s dialogue, this serves to highlight a problem I’ve had through the first three issues of this series: Stohl just isn’t quite bringing Carol to life. Her banter feels very forced and wooden, especially against the more natural tone of the A.I. (and Puck), and this Carol feels like a big departure from the Carol I remember fondly from the DeConnick and Butters/Fazekas runs. I love the character of Captain Marvel enough I want to keep this one in my pull list, but if I don’t start seeing something a little closer to my tastes, issue #4 may be my last.
Power Level: 1 of 5
New and Shiny
Two first issues that caught my eye this week
Inhumans Prime #1
Writer: Al Ewing; Pencilers: Ryan Sook & Chris Allen; Inkers: Ryan Sook, Walden Wong & Keith Champagne; Colorist: Paul Mounts; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Jonboy Meyers
An exciting, even seismic relaunch of one of the more beloved wings of the Marvel Universe. This one-shot opens with a pure superhero comics opening: bizarre scenario, ominous half-understood comment, fight scene. It’s quite a fight scene, too, heavy on the high weirdness that only comes when the Inhumans are involved; the lead-in also doubles as a recap of what’s going on with the Inhumans who attacked Tony Stark/betrayed Attilan during Civil War II, which was nice for those of us who had kind of dropped off the Inhumans titles prior to the event. As you’d expect, this is a recap of the Inhumans side of IvX, with all the consequences and their side effects on bleak, unblinking display: Inhumans facing a world without Terrigen, and Medusa, Black Bolt, and their immediate retinue facing their decision to transform Inhuman society from a monarchy to a democracy. I want to take a second for the art here: the team produces impressive visuals (especially during the fights and Medusa’s speech) that are balanced perfectly with Ewing’s script. Which I want to take two seconds for, because even though this is largely recap and prelude, it feels so natural and so important in and of itself that it never devolves to the level of a glorified product pitch. Special kudos go to Crystal’s speech as she muses on what a world without Terrigenesis really means, with a not-inconsiderable amount of melancholy, and to literally all of Ewing’s writing of Maximus — he serves as the agent of exposition here, but he does it with such evil glee that it never feels forced. Add all this together with a fist-pumping final page, and I am completely here for Royals, Secret Warriors, and Black Bolt, at least through one issue each (and Black Bolt likely longer — Saladin Ahmed, people). Just damn fine comics all around.
Power Level: 4 of 5
X-Men Prime #1
Writers: Mark Guggenheim, Greg Pak & Cullen Bunn; Artists: Ken Lashley, Ibraim Roberson & Leonard Kirk with Gullermo Ortego; Colorists: Morry Hollowell, Frank D’Armata & Michael Garland; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Adrian Syaf, Jay Leisten & Laura Martin; Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino
Speaking of solid intros to a line relaunch. Like Inhumans Prime above, this one-shot serves to bring everyone up to speed on the mutants’ situation, but unlike the Inhumans, this one comes with notes of hope — and a little bit of menace. There are three distinct threads through this issue, focused on Kitty Pryde and the “core” X-Men characters, the time-displaced Young X-Men, and the subset of X-Men characters heavily involved with Weapon X. The feeling of rebirth echoes throughout the entire issue, with actual roster shakeups (not all of them entirely voluntary or positive), hints of new threats rearing their heads, and lots of reminders of just how much the X-Men characters have aged and grown and been otherwise changed over the years; on top of that, there is an obvious love for the X-mythos here, too, with a ton of deep cuts and in-jokes, from surface “survive the experience” and “the best there is at what I do” quips to asides that I won’t even claim to have fully parsed. I am slightly less jazzed about this than the Inhumans launch, but only slightly. To me, my X-Men!
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
Kitty: “I’m sorry I haven’t texted since getting back into town, Ororo…”
Ororo: “And by ‘town,’ I take it you mean…”
Kitty: “My life got really weird, didn’t it?”
– X-Men Prime #1
And with that, I am off. Sound off in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!