Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week it’s a Marvel-heavy week, with a dose of DC to break it up. I do love my indie comics, I really do; but this week, let’s talk about some superheroes.
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.
Writer: Gabby Rivera; Pencilers: Joe Quinones with Ming Doyle; Inkers: Jose Rivera with Doyle and Quinones; Colorists: Jose Villarrubia and Jordan Gibson with Quinones; Letterer & Production: Travis Lanham; Cover Artists: Joe Quinones & Matthew Wilson
A fun, sweet, emotional dose of everything superheroes should be. As you might expect from Issue #3, this one is largely America squaring off with the energy being/space monster/thing she was fighting back in Issue #1, but to say that’s what this issue is would be to sell this issue short. What this issue really is, is self-reflection — America making strides in figuring out who she is and what she’s about, as represented both by her conversations with her ex-girlfriend (painful, but also honest and heartfelt) and the way she resolves the issue’s main conflict (violent, but also thoughtful and creative and looking to address the root problem). In addition, some of the layers of the mystery are peeled back, though as is par for the course about as many questions are asked as answered. I get the feeling this series is going to be a bit easier to read in trade format where it’s easier to page back and forth to check references, but it’s still rewarding as is.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV; Artist: Steve Epting; Colors: Jeromy Cox; Letters: Deron Bennett; Cover: Steve Epting; Variant Cover: Michael Cho
Speaking of juxtaposing super-fights and emotions…this issue is a pair of very personal stories, threaded through the larger context of the entire island of Coryana getting ready to explode. Batwoman and Knife throw down mercilessly while the warlords try to disable the bombs planted by the Many Arms of Death, and in and among that chaos we see more about the history between the two main players. The glimpses into Knife’s backstory render her not precisely sympathetic, but understandable — they also make her otherwise kind of lackluster codename make sense. But burning brightest for me in this issue is the very deliberate criticism of the mantle of the Bat (whether man or woman): specifically, the portrayal of Kate Kane as a force of capitalism, colonialism, and corruption on the island, and the overtones of “white savior” at work in her interactions with Coryana’s citizens. The art plays along, with Cox’s colors making sure Kate is alabaster white, in contrast to the more diverse set of skin tones displayed by the other characters (even the servants of the Many Arms of Death are less literally white than Kate). For all that, she is not portrayed as a less than well-meaning person, she just is not always thinking about her impact and splash damage — the kind of criticism of the inherently privileged position of Bat(w0)man that I enjoy. All that, plus a dose of Bat-Family intrigue as additional seasoning for the stories to come, has me happily sticking by this series.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Mighty Thor #20
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artist & Color Artist, Story Pgs. 1, 9-12: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Artist & Color Artist, Story Pgs. 2-8, 13-20: Valerio Schiti & Veronica Gandini; Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Variant Cover Artist: Patrick Brown
Explosions and feels — the heart and soul of The Mighty Thor, and this issue has them in spades. There are two parallel arcs running through this issue. On the one hand, we get the fallout of Thor revealing to Odinson that she is, in fact, Jane Foster (spoiler: he doesn’t take it well); on the other, we get a team of Senators from the Council of the Realms (mostly Roz Solomon and Volstagg) trying to help light-elf refugees in Nidavellir. This issue takes a different approach to Malekith’s war on the realms, choosing to show the horrific side effects of war (refugee camps, civilian casualties, and food shortages, just for starters) but with an epic, Asgardian flair to it. The art hits hardest in the Nidavellir sequences, with mythic, magical touches that both help contrast the epic battle scenes portrayed thus far with the terrible prices enacted upon the noncombatants we see here. The writing packs a wallop too, though — Volstagg’s characterization, in particular, almost made me cry multiple times. And as if all that is not enough, we also get the new Ultimate Mjolnir-powered Thor the cover promises, and holy cats is that reveal breathtaking and perfectly fitting with the proceedings around it. This series is a masterpiece.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Thony Silas; Color Artist: Jim Charalampidis; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Jonboy Meyers
Over-the-top goodness as only Al Ewing can provide. The cover doesn’t lie — this issue is about the Royals clashing with a souped-up, extra-disturbing Ronan the Accuser, who arrives in a context that is both epic and horrifying (so, written by Ewing, then?). The dialogue here is extra-snappy, largely driven by Maximus’s acidic banter with Gorgon; I almost want to see a buddy-cop movie with these two. The clash with Ronan itself is stellar superhuman fighting, full of weird and wonderful complications and resolutions as only modern-day superhero comics can provide, and with a plot twist at the end that left me vibrating with excitement for what’s coming next issue. I have trouble eking out a complaint about this one; Royals is a just plain fun book and I’m looking forward to more.
Power Level: 5 of 5
The Ultimates 2 #8
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Aud Koch; Color Artist: Dan Brown; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artist: Christian Ward
And we finish with another home run from my favorite. This issue is a digression, shifting the focus away from the Ultimates themselves and onto the Lifebringer, Galactus; as the cover suggests, Ego the Living Planet is also a major player here. I’m going to get my major criticism out of the way: the art in this issue was not at all my thing, often feeling kind of doughy and a little raw in ways that did not fit with the story being told. But while the art is not perfect, the writing is. Galactus and Ego, these two ancient cosmic entities, have a confrontation that, far from the punching-based interactions in the other comics this week, is all about logic, reason, and peace, providing a calm, meditative read that goes against the grain while also feeling like a very Ultimates experience. And in that meditation comes revelation: Revelation about the war against the First Firmament that is coming, and the battle lines being drawn, and the weird, weird stuff that is going to go down deep in the reaches of space and possibly alter, if not the whole Marvel Universe, at least the way Ultimates 2 readers view it. This should be Marvel’s big crossover event, not whatever fascist nonsense they are peddling over in That One Miniseries. I adore this book, and if you like superhero comics you should start it from back before it got a “2” in its title. Simply breathtaking.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“Don’t go making this ‘time travel to change the future thing’ a habit, okay?”
“Fine. But admit it, you’re loving every minute of this.”
— America Chavez and past America Chavez, America #4
And there you have it; five comics, no waiting. We’ll be back next week, but until them, keep on loving comics!