Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas.
I’m going to get real for a second: it’s been a rough week for me. I’m struggling with my mental health, for all the current-events-related reasons that are probably affecting all of you, too. Sitting down to write this was a struggle — it felt too silly, too small, in a world that’s really, really scary right now. But honestly, sharing my love of comics with you all might be the best thing for my soul; and then there’s the hope that something about this column might help you, too. Besides, this weekend is Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, and there is no way the King would want us to let Nazis get us down. So this week’s reviews might be a little shorter, the language a little more raw, but rest assured, I’m still here and I’m still excited to watch the good guys punch some fascists.
Let’s get to the comics.
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.
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV; Artist: Renato Arlem; Colors: Adriano Lucas; Letters: Deron Bennett; Cover: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira & Adriano Lucas; Variant Cover: Michael Cho
Some good writing wrapped around a lazy story that still isn’t what I want to be reading about. This issue is a “dark future” flash-forward issue, dealing with a Gotham City under the fascistic control of “the Batman” at some unspecified point in the future. The dialogue is well-written, the narration Bennett’s usual poetic masterwork, and the art is breathtakingly beautiful, but that doesn’t change that I’ve read a variation of this story a thousand times before in comics, to the point where usually it gets a lampshade hung on it: a hero is now a fascist dictator; the city is now oppressed; what good guys there are, are more depressed and more gritty and full of vague foreshadowing about what the heck is going on; and then to top it all off, we find out this is a tie-in to Detective Comics. This is souring me on this series after the promise of the first few issues; I’m not out the door yet but I have my hand on the knob. This issue is skippable.
Power Level: 2.5 of 5
Black Cloud #5
Story: Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon; Script: Ivan Brandon; Art: Greg Hinkle; Color: Matt Wilson; Color Flats: Dee Cunniffe; Lettering: Aditya Bidikar; Logo and Design: Tom Muller; Cover: Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson
A pivotal moment in Zelda’s arc, told with the aplomb to which I have become accustomed. This issue is mostly Zelda’s battle with the giant, story-world version of Todd, interlaced with some more details (revealed in the usual vague, weary style of both Zelda and Frank), and Hinkle’s arc absolutely gleams in these portions of the story, helping to bring to life the abstract, magical conflict between these two and bring across some of how the story-world works. We also spend some time in the world up above, and there we get some truly terrifying glimpses into what Todd’s father has done since his disappearance — glimpses that are uncomfortably reminiscent of current events, complete with those red “DREAM HUGE” hats that showed up in Issue #2. All of this leads to Zelda getting knocked down, and in being knocked down, making a very important decision that tells us not just about who she was, but about who she could be; in a story about stories, we are finally starting to see more of Zelda’s story, not just its aftermath. This issue is a great payoff for the first four and great groundwork for the next several; if you love stories, this is the series for you.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Black Panther & The Crew #5
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates; Pencilers: Butch Guice w/ Mack Chater & Stephen Thompson; Inkers: Scott Hanna w/ Chater & Thompson; Colorists: Dan Brown w/ Paul Mounts; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Design: Manny Mederos; Logo: Rian Hughes; Recap Art: Brian Stelfreeze; Cover By: John Cassaday & Paul Mounts
Manifold arrives! We get a few more details on young Eden and what he’s been up to since we last saw him (in my case, during the Crew’s appearance in Black Panther); given what he’s been up to, we get a lot of talk about family, the family you make for yourself, and the power of choosing to defend your home from invaders and oppressors. In and among this philosophical talk, the Crew figures out what HYDRA is actually planning with their gentrification and Americops and the murder of Ezra, and the plot they uncover is both a supervillain plot, and a classic, textbook fascist plot, to the point where, again, I marveled (and got depressed at) Coates’s prescience about this week’s events. All of this is told in a variety of voices that are all distinctly black, further proof of Coates’s incredible skill. This series should go on for another hundred issues or so, but I am grateful that we’re at least getting one more to wrap this all up.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Mighty Thor #22
Writer: Jason Aaron; Artists: Russell Dauterman (1) & Valerio Schiti (2-20); Color Artists: Matthew Wilson (1), Veronica Gandini (2-5, 7-9, 11), & Rain Bedero (6, 10, 12-20); Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson; Marvel vs. Capcom Variant Cover Artists: Joyce Chin & Rachelle Rosenberg
The War Thor goes on a rampage! This issue is, first of all, a series of incredible visuals by Dauterman, Schiti, et al; Queen Sindr and Volstagg!Thor’s confrontation with her are rendered gorgeously, giving something beautiful and horrible to look at on every page. The dialogue serves those visuals, and the story, very well, helping to cement the mythical feeling that a fight between two literal gods should bring with it. Under all that, the story is also a great commentary on the nature of war and the price of both it and rage; Volstagg!Thor comes out of this looking a little bit less righteous than he did during his initial appearance. My only complaint is that this issue is kind of a connective one — lots of threads are nudged forward, but nothing actually gets moved forward significantly, and the ending hook left me a little cold as a result. Still, I’m always going to be here for the next issue of The Mighty Thor, and it’s worth it for you to be, too.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Kevin Libranda; Color Artist: Jose Villarrubia; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Al Ewing shines most when he sits at the crossroads of Weird and Emotional, and thus in this issue, he is at the zenith of his power. This is a stop on the planet of the Universal Inhumans, another weird spinoff of the great tapestry of the Marvel Universe, and as such it is a bit of a rest-break from the series’ overall quest; in this quiet moment, I am coming to appreciate how well this Odyssey-like format works for Royals, and how naturally the character arcs seem to flow into it — this series feels well-planned in a way that many comics stumble around doing. All the characters get at least some emotional beats, but special mention goes to Gorgon, who has not gotten a lot of spotlight time and gets some particularly touching attention here — complete with an alien doing a nice, brisk takedown of toxic masculinity. Add in a weird twist as only Royals can muster, and you have a fantastic little issue. This series is fast becoming one of my favorites.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Ultimates 2 #100
Writer: Al Ewing; Artists: Travel Foreman; Filipe Andrade; Marco Lorenzana & Scott Hanna; Color Artists: Dan Brown w/ Matt Yackey; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Cover Artists: Travel Foreman & Dan Brown; Variant Cover Artists: Mark Bagley, Drew Hennessy, & Rain Beredo; Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta & Paul Mounts w/ Joe Frontiare
And here it is; the review I never wanted to write. You read that number correctly, and yes, that is not the actual next number in numerical order for this book; but they picked a special number, because this is the final issue of Ultimates 2. The good news: This is a bravura finale, absolutely incredible, in that I am not sure I could explain this to someone who has not been reading the entire time. First of all, the promised rumble between the classic Ultimates and the new, post-Secret Wars Ultimates is here, and it comes with high-octane superpowers and a lot of shade thrown at the Ultimate Universe (see the Quote of the Week, but also know a character spouting Red Pill nonsense gets taken out in a single punch). Beyond that, all the weird, cosmic-level threads that have gone through the entirety of Ultimates 2 come to a head and are tied off here, creating an ending to the saga of the First Firmament that is not only satisfying…it’s hopeful, and touching. I ended this issue really feeling like maybe things in the Marvel Universe are going to get better (and with Legacy coming up, it’s possible they will). I was sad to see them go, but so touched that all of them appear to have grown as people, and that I got to read an ending that was so epic and never managed to become anything less than awe-inspiring. And wow, what a way to celebrate Jack Kirby’s upcoming 100th birthday: With high weirdness and cosmic entities and incredible art and heroes being…heroes. Happy Birthday, King; I got you one of the best superhero comics ever written. Goodbye, Ultimates 2; thank you for being here with me.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
Ultimate Captain America: “Then you’re talking about surrender. And this ‘A’ doesn’t stand for France!”
America Chavez: “Yeah? Well, this America — doesn’t stand for your &%$#!”
– Ultimates 2 #100
And there you have it. Hopefully next week, we’re all feeling a bit better; until next time, keep loving comics!