Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week is a solid repast with a bit of a weak dessert, and honestly the whole thing could have used some salt; let’s dig in.
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.
CN: There is a reference to the Holocaust in the review of Batwoman and to Nazism in general in the review of U.S.Avengers; terminal diseases are mentioned in the review of Royals.
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV; Artist: Steve Epting; Colors: Jeromy Cox; Letters: Deron Bennett; Cover: Steve Epting; Variant Cover: J.G. Jones
Batwoman picks up right where Batwoman left off, but maybe doesn’t stick the landing so well. We get a little bit more detail on the “lost year” Kate spent on Coryana, as well as a peek into the antagonistic forces driving this story. There is a brief physical conflict with the menacing woman we met in the first issue; it’s largely about showing off what Kate’s high-tech suit (and her partnership with the young Ms. Pennyworth) can do, and it’s fun and got an ooo or aaa out of me, but what really stuck with me is that her opponent refers to herself by the codename “Knife” and is sort of beaten via deus ex machina, which is a nice microcosm of my major complaint with this issue: it all feels sort of obvious. The reveal of the main antagonist is not obvious — though it is logical, given the nature of the plot so far — but there is nothing here that feels like a big twist or a smashing reveal, and the very action-oriented nature of the middle of this piece means that the dialogue doesn’t get a chance to pop and wow the way it did in the first issue. Also, minus fifty points to Slytherin for feeling that having a greedy arms dealer sell Zyklon-B is a good way to tell us that they’re evil. All in all, it’s an alright follow-up to Issue #1, but it’s not as good, and I’m hoping that the book regains that solid footing it had in its introduction, because I really want to like this one.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Ms. Marvel #17
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 Artists: Adam Kubert and Frank Martin
A fun, touching, slightly hasty conclusion to the “Damage Over Time” storyline. This issue sees Kamala gearing up and enacting her plan to take down Doc.X, and honestly, the way she “kills him with kindness” is so very touching and heartfelt that I could not help but love it. The issue starts with Kamala demonstrating, once again, that the real power of my favorite superheroes is their empathy; that theme is reflected throughout the issue, made possible by Wilson’s prose, which is totally on point here, and Miyazawa’s art, which has an expressiveness and animation to it that I never noticed before but which is absolutely vital to how hard they sold the emotions of all the characters involved. The idea driving this was so good, in fact, that it made me more or less overlook the issue’s pacing problems, but pacing problems there were — the final couple pages feel very rushed, like the team could have done something more satisfying with another handful of pages, or maybe another issue; but still, I think that the story had lived a full life, and I agree with ending it here. “More of the same” from Ms. Marvel is, after all, still some of the best comics out there.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artists: Jonboy Meyers and Thony Silas; Color Artists: Ryan Kinnaird and Jim Charlampidis; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artists: Jonboy Meyers & David Curiel; Variant Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Space, feelings, and jaw-dropping super-stunts: Gotta be Al Ewing. We start off more or less exactly where we left the Royals and their crew: with the reveal that Medusa is, in fact, dying — not only that, but she’s now lost all her hair. I have some complex and not entirely charitable feelings about making her a Strong-Willed Heroic Cancer Patient (not literal cancer), but I am willing to see where this subplot is going, and Ewing does definitely do right by Medusa by centering her feelings rather than making this all about how the rest of the crew feels, while still letting others (notably Flint) showcase their personalities through their reactions. And then, if that weren’t enough content, we get a fight with a small army of Chitauri, just like the cover promises, and not only is the fight a lot of fun to watch, but it ends with a resolution that both raises some questions about one of the characters and is just plain super-awesome. Add in a final-page hook that was both expertly foreshadowed and also shocking and chock-full of possibilities for future stories, and this was the crown jewel of the week. No sophomore slump here.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Paco Diaz; Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco & Jesus Aburtov; Variant Cover: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Not a dud, but not a firecracker either, and I don’t blame Ewing. As the cover says, this is an opening salvo to Secret Empire, and thus the main focus of this issue is the meeting between Captain America and Citizen V that was hinted at by #4’s final panel. Ewing tackles the dialogue for Hydra!Cap gamely and with his usual aplomb, having Steve lace his innocuous statements with phrasing and dogwhistles that perfectly read “fascist” to the reader but could be plausibly denied by Cap. This is interspersed with some little mini-stories and character beats, which are nice breaths of fresh air between the uncomfortable main thread of Steve and Roberto…and the problem is that I don’t think it’s uncomfortable just because Ewing makes it tense. Hydra!Cap just feels deeply, cuttingly wrong, in a way that takes it from “well-written villain” to “I am upset because I want to experience this at all” (what we pro wrestling fans call “X-Pac heat”); Ewing goes an excellent job with him, but I’d still rather not be dealing with this knowing that I will have to put up with Nick Spencer and Secret Empire in a month. The issue is very well-written, but it’s hard for me to recommend it given these feelings, so…
Power Level: 3 of 5
New and Shiny
A first issue that caught my eye this week
Writer: Donny Cates; Artist: Lisandro Estherren; Colorist: Dee Cunniffe; Letterer: Joe Sabino; Cover: Lisandro Estherren & Dee Cunniffe
A resounding, unfortunate “meh.” The concept is cool, speaking as someone who loved Preacher: A family of vampires living in Texas, trying to just keep on keepin’ on with the raising of cattle and the serving of barbecue. The art is fantastic, too — Estherren has a very coarse, almost unfinished style that Cunniffe lovingly plasters with shades of blacks and reds that really make the story feel dark and sweaty and make the few well-lit scenes pop. The writing is also quite well-crafted — I got a distinct feel from all of the characters, even the ones that didn’t get much page time. But the story, unfortunately, just doesn’t feel like any great shakes: the characters get into trouble they telegraph from the very first page, a character who has been built up to be sympathetic is dead, and now the main character feels they are to blame, and that could be interesting, but it all just feels like they are trying to sell it on the basis of a setting that they barely bother to set. I wanted to like this, but my pull list is pretty full and I just don’t see this cracking the lineup. If you’re really into vampires or Southern Gothic or think my description of the art sounds interesting, maybe give it a try, but otherwise it’s fine to pass.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“This here? A strictly non-lethal concussion beam.”
“Concussion. Most happy of all the head injuries. I think you mean ‘less lethal,’ yes?”
— Iron Patriot and Engima, U.S.Avengers #5
And with that, I am off. Next week is going to be a dense week for my pull list, so I may not have a new series for you, but I’ll be back Wednesday either way. For now, sound off in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!