Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week is one of our Comics Avalanches where nearly half my pull comes in at once; get some water and stretch before you dive 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.
Writer: Gabby Rivera; Archery Consultant: Kelly Thompson; Artist: Ramon Villalobos; Color Artists: Tamra Bonvillain with Brittany Peer; Letterer & Production: Travis Lanham; Cover Artist: Jen Bartel; Variant Cover Artist: Kevin Wada
Two words: Kate. Bishop. That cover does not lie — this issue is America and Hawkeye on a road trip together. In large part, the issue is a celebration of the long and abiding friendship between these two women, with just a dash of superheroics in the mix to keep things exciting, and it is utterly enchanting. Rivera’s script breathes life into these two, bringing their love and their joy and their well-aged in-jokes to the surface and making it all feel so real I couldn’t help but giggle and fist-pump in places. There is a twist at the end, of course, but it doesn’t in any way invalidate what came before it, which was a lovely little rest stop between the more high-octane, high-stakes segments of the mystery America is digging into. Literally my only complaint about this issue is the art, which just did not quick click this time around, but not in a way that I found really distracted from the joy of the story. This book is a delight.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV; Artist & Cover: Stephanie Hans; Letters: Deron Bennett; Variant Cover: Michael Cho
A weird issue — pretty and intriguing, but not what I was expecting, either. After the revelation at the end of the Many Arms of Death arc that Batman and Julia Pennyworth have some sort of plan to deal with a potentially off-the-ranch Batwoman, Issue #5 is a flashback to Kate Kane’s time on Coryana. Hans’s art is absolutely perfect for this type of story, lending an abstract, impressionist quality to the panels that helps it really feel like a memory while also providing all the detail we need to comprehend the action. The script also sings in this issue — it’s very poetic without feeling unreal. Other than that, this is mostly just filling in the blanks of the flashbacks we already saw in the first four issues, except this time told with more of a focus on Safiyah rather than Kate and Tahani/Knife. The revelations put a very different spin on Kate’s time on the island and her relationship with Safiyah, coloring everything we saw her do around the island and her conflict with Knife with a certain amount of sympathetic light, and putting Knife in a much less sympathetic light than she was already. It’s also a nice reminder of Kate’s struggles with addiction and the other troubles that plague her past, which is a good grounding to have going into what may be a conflict between her and the Bat-Family at large. I would rather have gotten the actual story of what is going on with Julia and Batman, but as intermissions go, this one is excellent.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Bitch Planet: Triple Feature #2
“Bits and Pieces”: Che Grayson and Sharon Lee De La Cruz; “This Is Good For You”: Danielle Henderson, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt; “What’s Love Got To Do With It”: Jordan Clark and Naomi Franquiz; Cover: Valentine De Landro; Cover Design & Logo: Rian Hughes; Backmatter Design: Laurenn McCubbin
Another Triple Feature, with many of the same issues I raise with short comics stories, but still a nice and chilling example of the form. The first story, “Bits and Pieces,” is unfortunately my least favorite of the bunch; the story has chilling implications, and plays with a nasty Bitch Planet spin on child beauty pageants and reality television, but I feel like it leaves too much implied and not enough explained. The second story, “This is Good for You,” is much more effective for me, focusing on sexist body image standards and the way that the Bitch Planet world has institutionalized and weaponized them; it’s possible it hammers in the point a little too hard, but frankly, some anvils need to be dropped. The final story, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” is my favorite, by which I mean it is absolutely terrifying and beautiful in that terror; it’s a story about dating in the Bitch Planet world and is therefore a story about the casual ways deep-rooted misogyny can be expressed, along with the ways that racism and fat-shaming tend to be entangled with sexism — the story chilled me to the bone, but was also kind of funny, exactly the way I tend to like my horror. Overall, this was a nice Triple Feature, but I’ll be happy to have the regularly scheduled plot back.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Mighty Thor #21
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artist: Valerio Schiti; Color Artist: Veronica Gandini; Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; X-Men Trading Card Variant: Jim Lee & Israel Silva with Michael Kelleher
Brutality and heartbreak in equal measure, as only Jason Aaron can deliver. Most of this issue is the Ultimate Thor, a.k.a. Volstagg, going on a rampage against the invading troops from Muspelheim, and it’s epic and violent and awesome and terrifying, only to then turn sad as we’re given a peek into the unusual relationship Volstagg appears to have with the hammer he has picked up. The things this issue says about the horrors of war, and about the people we can become in times of pain and crisis, are deep, as are the things that the final leg of the issue has to say about Jane Foster, who is possibly the most heroic and potentially the most tragic character in the modern Marvel Universe. My major complaint has nothing to do with the issue itself, which is beautifully drawn, perfectly colored, and brilliantly written, but rather with the ad at the end, announcing that Marvel’s Legacy storylines would be bringing about “The Death of the Mighty Thor.” If the next event is taking Jane from me, I am going to be furious, because she is genuinely one of the best things going in comics today, and I would hate for her to be absent when she could be rubbing her awesomeness in the faces of the misogynists who hate her. Do the right thing, Marvel, please.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Ms. Marvel #20
Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Artist: Marco Failla; Color Artist: Ian Herring; Lettering: VC’s Travis Lanham; Cover Artists: Nelson Blake II and Rachelle Rosenberg
I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again: this issue has an absolutely glorious and absolutely necessary lack of chill, and I want five more just like it. The “Mecca” storyline continues to be a takedown of current events in the garbage fire that is the United States, and this issue is absolutely brutal, beginning with the recently interred “unregistered superhuman,” Aamir, opening with a scathing deconstruction of Islamophobia and assumptions about the ties between Islam and terrorism. There’s also some talk of how fear and greed play into nascent fascism. In terms of direct narrative, From Wilson turns up the hardship a few notches, putting Ms. Marvel into an extremely frustrating and borderline hopeless situation in her battles against Mayor Chuck Worthy and his HYDRA goons, and showing off just how ruthless and cold the character of Discord is. This storyline feels like classic Spider-Man with more social commentary heaped onto it; easily one of my favorite comics going.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Thony Silas; Color Artists: Jim Charalampidis with Jose Villarrubia; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Kris Anka; X-Men Trading Card Variant: Jim Lee & Israel Silva with Michael Kelleher
Speaking of favorite comics: Royals. This issue, our heroes (and Maximus) clash with Ronan and his weird technomagical guilt-dimensions that he has plunged them into, and Ewing, virtuoso that he is, uses this obstacle perfectly to both explore the interior lives of his main cast and also get us caught up on continuity we’ll need for the ongoing story without just making it feel like a recap. Not everyone gets a lot of panel time, but all of them, especially Medusa and Crystal, feel like deep and fleshed-out characters after this, and there are lots of nice questions left hanging that can be used as secondary plot arcs as the series goes on. I also want to give points to the ways that Maximus and Marvel Boy escape; I don’t want to spoil it, you should just read. And then, after all that soul-searching and emotional conflict, we learn more about what Marvel Boy was hoping to find on Hala, and the ways that plays into the flash-forwards with Maximus, and I emitted a sound that I think only dogs can hear. This series is a space epic in true, classic Marvel style, and I will throw money at it for as long as it continues.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Ultimates 2 #9
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Travel Foreman; Color Artist: Dan Brown; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artist: Christian Ward
My God, this series is a masterpiece. This issue is remarkable in that it feels like an Ultimates story even though the Ultimates themselves are barely in it. Instead, the story ping-pongs between the uneasy meeting between the Maker and the High Evolutionary on Counter-Earth, and the even less easy skirmish between the Eternity Watch (Galactus, Psi-Hawk, the Infinaut, and Ego-Prime, a full-bodied version of the Living Planet) and the First Firmament’s Death Celestials, and the way that these two things relate to each other. Everything in this is so important, so revelatory, and so difficult to describe with circumspection that anything I could say is a spoiler, beyond that it is fantastic and weird and ingenious, and Travel Foreman is one of the best artists working in comics, and Dan Brown’s colors are stunning. The fact that the Eternity War is not the big crossover event just makes a certain Empire and its writer look even worse by comparison. And then, after all that wonderful, meaty middle, we hit the final twist and the hook for next issue, and I honestly did a little dance. Ultimates is not “one of” my favorite comics series; currently it is my favorite comics series, and I am so lucky to be seeing it unravel live like this. I know I exhort you to subscribe a lot, but seriously, this is so worth subscribing to.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“I’m literally intrigued and in awe of both of them. If this is what it’s like to date other women, then I applaud all the women dating other women right now because this is incredible. Motorcycle courtship? Check. Missiles and explosions? Yip. And now ‘we’re just flying together in the sky, heading toward a giant heart.’ I swear, if they come back married I’m going to be so jealous. *sigh* Always the bride’s best archer, never the archer-bride.”
– Kate Bishop, America #5
Aaaaand time. I hope you enjoyed this marathon; until next week, keep loving comics!