Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week we’ve got a dash of the Bat, a smidgen of Asgard, and a nice dose of celebrity divinity. Let’s eat.
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
Writers: Marguerite Bennett; Artist: Steve Epting; Colors: Jeromy Cox; Letters: Deron Bennett; Cover: Steve Epting; Variant Cover: J.G. Jones
They might have stumbled last month, but they stuck the landing. This issue is further revelation about the Kali Corporation, Bat-Family-style, with plenty of secret agent tricks and social engineering, but also a level of self-awareness in the proceedings that helps bring the story back in the direction that made me love Issue #1 so much — the whole time Kate is infiltrating bad-guy lairs, she and Julia are also bantering, including making light of the tropes their antagonists display during the investigation. In addition to the dose of humor, the book also brings back the high-tech vibes of #1 — the fight scene in this issue features some application of Batwoman’s drones that honestly took my breath away when I saw what was happening. There’s a plot twist, and it and the villain both feel appropriately Bat-Familial and currently relevant, the same way the rest of the book does. This comic is great, and I am so glad I took a flier on it.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Mighty Thor #19
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artist & Color Artist, Story Pgs. 1-10, 18: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Artist & Color Artist, Story Pgs. 11-17, 19-20: Valerio Schiti & Mat Lopes; Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Soooooo goooooood. As we were promised last issue, this is Thor and Quentin Quire vs. the Phoenix Force, and that fight is everything it should be — as much a metaphysical fight as a physical one, full of imperiousness and condescension from the Phoenix and that gorgeous bravery that only Thor can give us. The fight is gorgeous, full of high-powered action and fascinating character work, brought to life by some quite literally awesome art; the resolution is something approaching perfect, as is the denouement. And then there’s the hook, which promises more mayhem and more mystery and further progression in the story of Jane and her time with Mjolnir, and man, this is just so beautiful. I’m reading this series until the stars go out.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artists: Thony Silas [present and future], Will Robson [past]; Color Artist: Jim Charalampidis; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Jonboy Meyers; Variant Cover Artists: Ed McGuinness & Justin Ponsor
The gold medal winner for Best Single Issue of the Week, hands down. Issue #2 ended with the answer to the question: “How is Black Bolt both in space with the Royals and in his own solo series?” by revealing that the “Black Bolt” onboard the spaceship is, in fact, Maximus. This issue moves forward from that plot-bomb with a little bit of forward movement, and a lot of backstory for Maximus, none of which I actually ever knew before, as a newcomer to the Inhumans — and in addition to being a poetically written primer for the primary villain of the Inhuman race, it also adds some new revelations to his backstory that cast him in a particularly fascinating and disturbing light, adding meat to what is often a fairly one-dimensional villain and paving the way for what could be some really amazing storytelling in this series. Ewing is a master of the medium, and this book is just more proof.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Ultimates 2 #7
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Aud Koch; Color Artist: Dan Brown; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artist: Christian Ward
Well, I guess I couldn’t avoid it completely: it’s a Secret Empire tie-in. Fortunately, this is Al Ewing and Ultimates 2, so it’s still at its worst pretty darn good. This issue revolves around HYDRA!Cap’s ploy to surround the Earth with a giant force-field to keep out the higher-powered superheroes, and that slightly hamfisted idea (“slightly” because it’s a superhero comic) is leveraged for two great effects by Ewing: 1. a big ol’ space battle; and 2. FEELINGS. The Ultimates’ (and Guardians of the Galaxy’s!) efforts to bust through the shield feel logical, for the values of logic that accompany characters operating at this level of power, and the emotions they go through in the process feel so very real and so very genuine, and are expressed in ways that absolutely sound like the characters I know while also being intensely poetic. The ending, I will warn you, is a huge downer, but it’s a good kind of hurt — you can tell good stories are coming out of this. The art is a little bit of a misstep for me — Koch is just not quite my style, though I hesitate to call him bad — but otherwise, my only concern is that since it’s a tie-in issue, I can’t be 100% sure this arc will resolve in the next issue of Ultimates 2, because not even for Carol, America, et al. am I combing through anything else to do with Secret Empire. Still, this is not that much of a step down for this series, and I’m definitely still in for Issue #8, and with this thing tainted with the stink of HYDRA!Cap, that is saying something all by itself.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #20
Writer: Ryan North; Artist: Erica Henderson; Color Artist: Rico Renzi; Letterer: Travis Lanham; Cover Artist: Erica Henderson; Logo: Michael Allred
Fun, funny, and slightly forced. This is the conclusion to the Melissa Morbeck story arc, and the team is definitely on point for this one: The earnest, rambly banter clicks along, the way Morbeck is defeated is an appropriately Squirrel Girl resolution, and the ending hook has me interested and engaged in a way that not every issue of Squirrel Girl does. My complaint is that it doesn’t feel consequential in the end, in a way I can’t entirely put my finger on — like, everything in this comic is so deeply infused with that Ryan North flavor that it feels like a separate continuity, like the win is never a big win and the setback is never a dire setback. But that may just be me, and seriously, that ending hook is really good — also, it’s hard for me to fault North trying to orbit outside the main continuity when I look at the big event currently ongoing. This series is fun, and I am looking forward to #21.
Power Level: 3 of 5
The Wicked + The Divine: 455 AD #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen; Artist: Andre Araujo; Colourist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: Clayton Cowles; Flatter: Dee Cunniffe
Another interstitial story, another reminder this book is amazing. This time, WicDiv rockets backwards to the distant pass, aiming for 5th century Rome and a focus on a small subset of the deities: Dionysus and Lucifer. Araujo’s art is an interesting deviation from McKelvie’s work, and it’s kind of fun to see someone else doing a different take on the divinities to go with their different faces. Roman history is not my strong suit, so some of what they are referencing here very much bounces off me, but the bits I do get are fun and chilling at turns, and perhaps more importantly, I definitely grok the background details about the gods and Ananke’s long (apparently very long…) campaign against the Great Darkness, which is not center-stage here but still gets some interesting fleshing out. This is a most enjoyable interlude that deepens the mythology of the series, and I am excited to see where we are going next.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“But this is so…so Earth, you know? You dumb, suicidal river-apes actually managed to LOCK YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR OWN PLANET. WHO DOES THAT?”
— Rocket Raccoon, Ultimates #7
And with that, I am off. I’ll see you next week, but for now, keep loving comics!