Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas.
Cards on the table: Last week I put out our big announcement about not covering Secret Empire, and as promised I have already started paring down my Marvel subscriptions and mixing more DC, Image, and other indies into the soup. That said, this week is still heavy on their more diverse series, and that may continue to be the case for the next few weeks — I am at that terrible point where everything I am still subscribed to is so good both in terms of storytelling and representation that I can’t decide what else to put on the chopping block. So I’m basically throwing my Marvel subs at the wall and seeing what still sticks, under what I’m calling my “No Mercy for Marvel” rule — some of your editors saw no problem with Secret Empire, you no longer get the benefit of the doubt when an issue feels wooden or tone-deaf. The list is changing and we stand by what we said, but the transition will take a little time as I say goodbye to things I used to love.
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: Sexism and police violence in review of Bitch Planet; anxiety and PTSD in Hulk
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
Bitch Planet #10
Script: Kelly Sue DeConnick; Art/Covers: Valentine De Landro; Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick; Letters: Clayton Cowles; Cover Design & Logo Design: Rian Hughes; Backmatter Design: Laurenn McCubbin
Nice symbolism, cool twist, maybe a little light on the actual data. The “President Bitch” storyline continues to ramp up, as the riot picks up speed and Kam, Morowa, and Eleanor Doane move toward a face-to-face meet-up with Makoto Maki. On an artistic level, this issue is beautifully crafted: a speech by the High Father about order and their society is juxtaposed with the riot on Bitch Planet, with tempers and conflicts simmering to a fever pitch in the background of both. I like the portrayal of the High Father — he feels like exactly the kind of person who would be running this society — but I’m in love with the portrayal of Eleanor Doane. I also love the two added layers of mystery and mystique in this issue: both the twist in the final pages of the issue (no spoilers!) and the burning question of just what Eleanor Doane did that is being used as an excuse to blame her for the current state of the world. This issue did a good job of continuing to build the world of Bitch Planet and make me want to read more, but it also felt a little forced in places — while there is tension and conflict, none of it has a lot of clear consequence for the people directly involved, and while questions are posed, the irregular release schedule and lack of editorial notes also makes me worry I am supposed to already know more than the comic is showing me. All that said, Bitch Planet built up such good faith from me in its first storyline that I am willing to see where it goes; the next issue drops in June, and I’m excited to see if any of those questions are answered.
Power Level: 3 of 5
Black Panther #13
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates; Artist: Wilfredo Torres; Color Artists: Laura Martin & Andrew Crossley; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Design: Manny Mederos; Logo: Rian Hughes; Cover by: Brian Stelfreeze & Laura Martin; Variant Covers by: J.G. Jones & Morry Hollowell; Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson; Kris Anka; Wilfredo Torres & Laura Martin
A fun, comics-riffic story idea that unfortunately also lost me. The conceit here is that T’Challa is looking into what happened to the gods of the Wakandan pantheon, because they did not show up to help Wakanda during the recent uprisings (on either side); while T’Challa himself is willing to believe and keep the faith, he is worried about his people. I like that this storyline builds on the lessons T’Challa learned in the last issue, that he is responding to the needs and the feelings of his people, and I have to admit, “the gods are missing” has potential as a superhero comics storyline, but the execution here felt very workmanlike. The narration in “A Nation Under Our Feet” soared — Coates had something deep and primal and important he was saying. Here, it feels much more like he is just getting from point A to point B, and that could be forgiven, but it’s such a step down after “Nation,” and furthermore, it feels like the story kind of drags Storm down with it, with T’Challa’s reasons for meeting with her feeling kind of forced, her explanation of her time being worshipped as a goddess muddled, and frankly the sexual chemistry between them now only reminding me of the iffy decision to have her and Black Panther get married in the first place. Add on some lackluster art, and it is with a heavy heart that I’m taking a break from Black Panther for now; I still have Black Panther & The Crew for my Coates fix. It’s sad, but as stated above: No mercy for Marvel.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Writer: Mariko Tamaki; Artist: Nico Leon; Color Artists: Matt Milla & Andrew Crossley; Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit; Designer: Manny Mederos; Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal; Ressurxion Variant Cover Artist: Paulo Siqueira
Not the fastest-paced book, but the most emotional book coming out of Marvel today. Hulk is this weird book: on first reading I often just get a quizzical expression and an inchoate sense it’s pretty good, but after I reflect on it I always grow to admire the craftmanship going into the story. In this case, we start with a flashback to Jen in the hospital after the showdown with Thanos in Civil War II, and this might be a more heartbreaking and emotional sequence than any part of Civil War II itself; Carol’s face and body language are so awkward and upset, and Jen is coping so poorly, that I can’t help but feel for both of them. From there, we move back to the confrontation with Maise Brewn and her monstrous guardians in Maise’s apartment, and to Jen confronting the exact fear that was hinted at in #4: the fear that now she is in a position where the only way out, the only way to survive, is the Hulk. My first reaction (and this still holds true) is slight disappointment at the look of the monster — it just isn’t quite as horrifying as I felt like we were going to get when it first appeared in the darkness — but the more I think about this issue the more that is sort of missing the best part of the issue, which is the way it is really, very purely, about Jen having an anxiety attack. The issue is pure tension, with Jen becoming progressively more cornered, with the taunting and ribbing of the monster becoming more pervasive and intrusive, and with her running closer and closer to that event horizon where the only thing left to her is to freak out — in her case, represented by the Hulk. Throughout it all, we get a constant, rapid-fire narration from Jen that slowly loses cohesion alongside her losing her calm, including a slightly dark lean against the fourth wall that is a nasty echo of her old meta-humorous antics. On top of that, this one ends on basically the perfect panel — it’s probably the best piece of art in the entire issue, and exactly where this one had to end given the story Tamaki is telling thus far. An an anxiety sufferer, this book has a lot to say to me on a personal level, and I look forward to where it’s taking us.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Kamandi Challenge #4
Writer: James Tynion IV; Artist: Carlos D’Aanda; Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb; Letterer: Clem Robins; Main Cover Artists: Paul Pope & Lovern Kindzierski; Variant Cover Artist: Carlos D’Anda
A gorgeous, tightly plotted installment that by itself made the first third of this series worth the price of admission. The first page is a splash panel bringing us to the enormous jaguar-man that capped Issue #3, and it is a gorgeous beginning to what is an entirely gorgeous book. D’Anda and Eltaeb are killing it here, providing detailed, exquisite visuals that complement the tone of the story and provide both necessary and just-plain-exciting detail — there’s even a Chekhov’s gun that is only in the art, and that matches the rest of the art so perfectly that it genuinely surprised me when it wound up being a plot point. Speaking of plot, Tynion’s writing feels like the most Kirbyesque work yet, providing exciting, bizarre twists and turns throughout the issue, even hinting at the cosmic, reality-warping stuff that would appear in the later, post-Kirby Kamandi stories. The requisite end-of-issue cliffhanger is as aces as the rest of the book, and really, this was just good clean fun from beginning to end.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Mighty Thor #18
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artist: Russell Dauterman; Color Artist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Resurrxion Variant Cover Artists: Ryan Stegman & Jesus Aburtov
This series is over the top in all the best possible ways. We actually start with a flash-forward to later events (no spoiler: it involves the X-Men character on the cover, and a whole lot of fourth-wall-punching humor) before diving back into the contentious ending to the “Challenge of the Gods” and Thor’s confrontation with the Shi’ar gods. This inevitably descends into a chaotic fight scene, and as always, Dauterman does a masterful job with the visuals here, selling the incredible power level at work while also making it feel believable and comprehensible and fun. The writing all throughout this segment is superb — the juxtaposition of Asgardians, Shi’ar, and one normal (“normal”) Earth mutant really shows off Aaron’s writing, and the wit flows like water from everybody except exactly those who should not get to partake. The Shi’ar gods raise the stakes in a massive way that is only hinted at by the cover, and in the final pages, we get to read Quentin calling Cul “All-Father Axe-Bro Super-‘Stache” before we’re left to wait a month to find out how in the heck they are going to get out of this one. This is consistently one of the most fun comics every month, and my greatest hope is that the rest of the Marvel Universe finds their way back to it.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Travel Foreman; Color Artist: Matt Yachey; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artist: Christian Ward
Absolutely jaw-dropping. We begin with the backstory of the First Firmament, the beyond-cosmic antagonist revealed at the end of #5 — and as the backstory of the sentience of the original cosmos would have to be, it is a cosmogonic infodump that is poetic and revelatory and ominous while also cleaving accurately to established cosmic Marvel continuity, right down to the Death Celestials. This infodump includes a revelation about Civil War II that shocked me and made me feel silly for missing it, and was so awesome that it actually made Civil War II feel like a better story for being connected to it. Following this infodump, we get the inevitable fight with Rodstvow, now revealed as an anti-utopian monstrosity that would make that racist old stick insect H.P. Lovecraft proud, and if you can believe it, this is where the issue really takes off. The fight with Rodstvow forces the Ultimates to rethink their tactics and dig deep for a solution, and the solutions they find to this and the other plot complications presented to them are so weird, so inventive, so just-plain rad that my jaw literally dropped open at several points while I was reading. The conflict with the First Firmament resolved, the issue then plants the seeds for the current arcs in the members’ various solo series, and ends on an ominous note that has me so excited I am even willing to stomach the Secret Empire tie-in that I understand is coming next month. This is my absolute favorite superhero series going, and I only hope that me reviewing it here has allowed a few more people to find their way to it.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“That’s when it changed. Or that’s when I knew for sure. That it was more than just being gray.
“Oh I’m sorry, were you expecting something more profound? Look at me. Kind of hard to be profound when your brain is exploding.”
— She-Hulk, Hulk #5
And with that, I am off. Next week my weekly pull is shockingly light — just one of my regular series is out then — so I’ll be reviewing a couple new things and taking the time to catch up on my new Image and DC subs. Until then, if you have anything to say, say it in the comments, and I’ll see you next week!