Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week it’s not a six-pack, but an eight-pack of comics! We’ve got a mix of DC and Marvel, old and new, and, unfortunately, good and bad; whatever the mix, we have a lot to get through, so let’s do this. Mark!
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.
Detective Comics #964
Story: James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela; Words: Sebela; Art: Carmen Carnero; Colors: Ulises Arreolo; Letters: Sal Cipriano; Cover: Yasmine Putri; Variant Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
I hate it when the Pull List starts with an issue I didn’t enjoy, but here we are. I picked this up to help fill the void left in my pull by a couple series ending, and I knew that I was probably jumping on in the middle of several character and story arcs, but the writing never makes any effort to help me understand what is going on, it just moves forward. On top of that, it never uses the code-names of any of the characters involved except Clayface and Batman, which is appropriate for the characters involved, but it also means that a new reader might have no clue who anybody is (especially because Stephanie Brown/Spoiler is called “Steph” and Cassandra Kane/Orphan is called “Cass” the whole time — two layers of deciphering required there). There are some interesting concepts at work here with the Peoples’ City and Monstertown and all that, but without more data I can’t speak to how effectively they are executed because I literally don’t know what is being executed here, with the exception of Clayface’s character arc (and even that is kind of impenetrable in spots). I will say that the art is truly stellar — Carnero’s detail is impressive without being overwhelming, and Arreolo’s colors and use of shadow are gorgeous — but that is not enough to elevate this above a “pass,” not when so much is out there that I truly do enjoy.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1
Writer: Margaret Stohl; Artist: Brent Schoonover; Color Artist: Jordan Boyd; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Main Cover Artist: David Nakayama; Variant Cover Artists: Brent Schoonover & Rachelle Rosenberg; Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
I also hate it when the Pull List starts with two issues I didn’t like, but again…here we are. Both the artist and the writer just didn’t impress me here. I am not a fan of Schoonover’s style — it feels very blocky and raw, and especially off in the action sequences, which is not great for a book involving Captain Marvel of all people. Likewise, Stohl’s writing continues to not click with me for the same reasons that I ditched The Mighty Captain Marvel: her Carol and her Mar-Vell both feel just a little too on-the-nose, and the point about Mar-Vell being old-fashioned (read: sexist) and Carol being A Strong Female Protagonist feels like it gets hammered on one too many times. Also, for a Generations story, it doesn’t actually feel like either character learns a whole lot — they beat up a bad guy using their rad superpowers, then they talk about how they both feel familiar, and then it’s over. Carol’s big hero moment is fun, but not anything groundbreaking for her, really. I wanted more from a story with Mar-Vell in it, but ultimately I felt this one was skippable.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Writer: Mariko Tamaki; Artists: Julian Lopez & Francesco Gaston; Color Artist: Matt Milla; Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit; Cover Artist: John Tyler Christopher
The sad ending of the saga of Oliver Cakes. Like most issues of Hulk to date, this one is very small-scale, personal, and difficult; Oliver’s transformation and rage help mirror Jen’s own, and bring to light a lot of the trauma she’s dealing with. The struggles with her temper and her pain that were hinted at earlier in the story are on display here, and resolved-without-resolution in a compelling and, yes, painful way. The framing device for the narration is excellent, and I like how Tamaki tackles the issues inherent in She-Hulk, specifically, trying to participate in standard trauma recovery methods — it’s played for tragedy without edging into bathos. My major complaint is the art — the issue shifts artists midway through, and the change to the visual language is bizarre and not entirely welcome; the latter artist portrays Jen’s Hulk form as much slighter and smaller than the first one, which would have been fine if that were the only Hulk form we saw in this issue, but it suddenly changes the dynamic between her and Oliver in a way that really upsets and changes the narration. Still, this is a solid, psychological book, which is exactly what a Hulk book should be.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Justice League of America #14
Writer: Steve Orlando; Pencils: Ivan Reis; Inks: Ivan Reis & Julio Ferreira; Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo; Letterer: Clayton Cowles; Cover: Ivan Reis and Marcelo Maiolo; Variant Cover: Doug Mahnke & Wil Quintana
A bit of connective tissue with some character growth…and some nasty bumps in the road. Most of the focus here is on Atom, what with him having shrunk himself even further in order to communicate with the sentient planet, and Orlando does an excellent job with Ryan’s day in the limelight — Atom surmounts some of his personal barriers and shows off a lot of depth of character, and he advances the plot in a way that makes his background as a person of color important without beating the reader over the head with it or delving into any ethnic stereotypes. The Atom’s story is layered with the action sequence on the next largest scale of the Microverse, as the League continues battling micro-mooks, and here we have Frost’s arc take some interesting twists and turns; and then layered into that, we get a brief update on the Might Beyond the Mirror meta-arc, which occurs back on the regular-world scale. All of that is to say, this is perfect storytelling and use of setting by Orlando here — he even gets in some fun play with the Microverse’s bizarre physics. The art is amazing, as always — Maiolo’s colors, especially, really pop and help lend life to the surreal Microverse. And on top of that hero sandwich of awesome, we have a plot twist that in other hands might be generic, but here feels appropriate and fitting and gets me really revved up for the next issue. As always, JLA is superheroes done right, and I am on this ride to the very end.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Ms. Marvel #22
Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Artist: Marco Failla; Color Artist: Ian Herring; Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Valerio Schiti and Rachelle Rosenberg
The conclusion to “Mecca” comes out swinging and never stops. This issue is, in every sense, beautiful. Failla’s art and Herring’s colors are on freaking point the entire time, expressing emotion and detailing action in ways that flow and feel natural and help to cement the deeply upsetting and satisfying emotions that occur over the course of this rollercoaster. The story helps wrap up Kamala’s arc over the course of “Mecca” without being truly conclusive or overly neat about it, which is absolutely appropriate given the situation Kamala finds herself in. The way the story of Discord and Lockdown gets wrapped up is fantastic, because it is not just simple superhero punching — it’s Kamala learning lessons and pushing herself, and it’s a hero connecting with and inspiring a community who decides not to take fascism lying down. Great art, great dialogue, digs at fascism (and therefore at the current President of the United States); this is the total package.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Writer: Dan Abnett; Pencils: Brett Booth; Inks: Norm Rapmund; Letters: Josh Reed; Colors: Andrew Dalhouse; Cover: Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse; Variant Cover: Dan Mora
A masterful bit of storytelling, this. As with Detective Comics up above, I could tell (and expected) that I was coming in after a big bomb-drop in the previous issue, and it was obvious throughout the issue that the Titans as a team are in the middle of several character and team arcs — but despite that, I never felt like I didn’t understand what was going on, only some of the details, which Abnett also achieves without ever having anyone indulge in unnecessary or cumbersome expo-speak. For an ongoing like Titans, that’s a very good sign. The narrative framing of this issue (a letter from Wally to Dick) is executed perfectly, and the art is beautiful, with a 90s flair that never sinks to the lows of the 90s as we remember them. On a details level, I adored the themes of honesty, trust, and friendship running through the conversations and conflicts between the Titans, and Nightwing straight-up admitting that his secretive behavior is a result of there being “too much Batman” in him. I also like the idea of a nanotechnology-focused villain group, a nice place to focus stories as we move toward the middle of the twenty-first century. The twist in this issue is a bit dark, but it’s also richly emotional, and I’m excited to see how it resolves. I am definitely in for the next issue.
Power Level: 4 of 5
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #24
Writer: Ryan North; Artist: Erica Henderson; Trading Card Artist: Alan Smithee; Color Artist: Rico Renzi; Letterer: Travis Lanham; Cover Artist: Erica Henderson; Logo: Michael Allred
An extra-precious issue that takes the ball of Dinosaur Ultron and runs with it all the way downfield. The explanation of Dinosaur Ultron actually makes sense in its bizarre, latter-day Marvel Universe way, and while it’s played for Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s usual earnest laughs, it is also a serious superhero story underneath that. Really, this issue is funny all the way through, and extra precious, with the heroes really working hard and using their brains to try to stop Ultron while also having feelings and making Doctor Doom jokes. Then, after twenty pages of that, it raises the stakes, hard, and also throws in some weird fourth-wall breakage to wrap it all up. In other words, it’s vintage Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and if you like your superheroes kind-hearted and funny, you need look no further.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
New Series: Runaways #1
Writer: Rainbow Rowell; Artist: Kris Anka; Color Artist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artist: Kris Anka; Variant Cover Artists: Adrian Alphona & Ian Herring (Artist and Venomized Villains Variants); Kevin Wada; Skottie Young; Production Designer: Carlos Lao
I had no idea this was coming back, and I am so glad I was on vacation from my day job this week so I had the time to add it to my pull. This issue takes place on a personal scale, and is fraught and emotional without tripping over its high superheroic weirdness. The interactions between the Runaways who show their faces here (it’s not all of them, so please be aware of that) are touching and deep and real without feeling like I was bludgeoned with them, and we spend some great time learning about Nico Minoru’s powers without the action and the pressure ever pausing. Anka and Wilson deliver some beautiful, fitting art to go with Rowell’s solid writing, perfect for the scale and tone of the story. I subscribed as soon as I got to the last page, and I am also going back and familiarizing myself more deeply with the original Runaways canon so I can be sure I get everything out of this. And yes, the cover does not lie — Gert has a role to play here. Just stunning.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“I’ve had a quart of coffee and I brought a friend. Which means you are all officially on notice.”
– Ms. Marvel, Ms. Marvel #1
Phew. Hopefully that journey was as worth it for you as it was for me. Thank you for over a year of reviews; I’m so glad to be sharing my love of comics with you all, and I hope to be extending the same warm feelings to you all in September of next year.