Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. Fall is quite literally upon us, and we’ve got some excellent comics here to help you get through the early parts of the descent into the darker months.
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; Artists: Jen Bartel (pgs. 1-4), Annie Wu (pgs. 5-9), Ming Doyle (pgs. 10-14), Aud Koch (pgs. 15-19), and Joe Quinones with Joe Rivera (pg. 20); Color Artists: Jen Bartel (pgs. 1-4), Rachelle Rosenberg (pgs. 5-19), and Jordan Gibson (pg. 20); Letterer & Production: Travis Lanham; Cover Artist: Joe Quinones
A bizarre info-dump issue that is nevertheless incredibly sweet, and oh-so-slightly cryptic…yeah, this is America alright. America and her abuela finally get to sit down (in an alternate dimension) and talk, and it’s everything it should be: both an important story beat for the two characters, and a wicked take-down of the “cryptic mentor” trope and all its attendant cliches. My main complaint is that the added backstory for America feels really, really bizarre and I am not sure how I feel about it — though I really do like that now the responsibility for her existence and powers rests on LGBT women, rather than on (male, white-presenting) Wiccan. I adore how emotionally honest, accepting, and kind this comic is, and I am excited to see where the hook at the end takes us, because I trust Rivera to not just be giving us any old superhero story.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Writer: Marguerite Bennett; Artist: Fernando Blanco; Colorist: John Rauch; Letterer: Deron Bennett; Cover Artist: Ben Oliver; Variant Cover Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
A good issue that could have been great, if it had not been for the cover. I don’t say that because the cover is badly crafted — that art is actually gorgeous! — but because the cover provides data that is not revealed until a ways into the issue, and I think it might have been a better story if we had not known about the Scarecrow’s involvement from the jump. But that said (and therefore spoiled — thanks, cover), the story is actually phenomenal, both as an exploration of what is going on in Batwoman’s psyche and an exploration of the perspective of a victim of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Bennett tells the story in a dreamlike way without just being weird and random (I mean, the story is that, too, but it also has internal logic and flow), leading me to my conclusion that I just am not a fan of James Tynion IV’s storytelling (he had co-writing credit on all the issues I struggled with the most); Blanco and Rauch follow right along behind her, providing distorted, confusing, almost lyrical visuals that hint at what is going on without outright saying it until the story is good and disturbing. Even (Deron) Bennett’s lettering gets in on the act, warping and mutating as the story goes on to assist the increasingly bizarre visuals. My only complain about the 2o-some pages of actual comics is that I’m not sure how I feel about the implication that multiple months of “Many Arms of Death” storyline have happened off-panel while we took a break to read about Another Dark Fascist Future. I loved this issue and it got me re-excited about the series, but if it gets hobbled by the cover or editorial mandates again, I might jump off the ride.
Power Level: 3 of 5
Bitch Planet Triple Feature #4
“Life of a Sportsman”: Marc Deschamps and Mindy Lee, with colors by Leondardo Olea; “Bodymod”: Sara Woolley; “To Be Free…”: Vita Ayala and Rossi Gifford; Letters: Clayton Cowles; Cover: Valentine de Landro; Cover Design & Logo: Rian Hughes; Backmatter Design: Lauren McCubbin
Another three-story selection from the Bitch Planet crew, and honestly the best one yet. First up is “Life of a Sportsman,” which is a laser-hot and laser-accurate attack on sports media, the enshrinement of athletes, and the ways toxic masculinity is expressed through sports. Though the writing is largely two characters spouting stereotypical comments made about problematic (or in this case downright vile) athletes, what is being said is so true that repetition is not a flaw. The art is married to the writing beautifully, bringing across the particular mix of toxic masculinity and homoeroticism that sports displays without working overtime at it. It’s weird to focus on men in a Bitch Planet story, but I like how this one was executed. The next story is “Bodymods,” an attack on female-presenting body standards, and it’s gutting and unsettling. The art is so terrifying it occasionally nauseated me, all without going gory or even too photorealistic — honestly, the more abstracted, cartoonish style helps accentuate how disturbing it is. There’s not a lot of plot here, but there doesn’t need to be. And finally, there’s “To Be Free…” which…might be the most disturbing Bitch Planet story yet published. The focus is on banned media, including examples, through the lens of a heist on an archive of “corruptive” materials, and wow is it disturbing. It’s a beautiful commentary on the power of art to make us think and foment change, and also the incredible power that access to information and control over one’s body impart to people, especially disenfrachised people. It’s also one of the most hopeful stories so far, though that hope is entirely confined to the ignorant behavior of a couple of men. This was a great issue, and if you want a good set of Bitch Planet side stories, this is the one to grab.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Generations: Ms. Marvel & Ms. Marvel #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson; Artist: Paulo Villanelli; Color Artist: Ian Herring; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Main Cover Artists: Nelson Blake II & Rachelle Rosenberg; Variant Cover Artists: Kris Anka; Olivier Coipel & Laura Martin
This issue was everything a Generations one-shot should be: an opportunity for growth for both main characters, a commentary on real social issues via superheroes, and also a fun story. Villanelli and Herring’s artwork is a blast, evoking a retro feel while also carrying on with modern levels of detail and skill. Wilson, continuing to be one of the best writers in comics today, nails the characterization of both Kamala and Carol; the lessons they learn and the things they do feel totally spot on, like they both needed this experience to help with their current narrative (though how this will influence the modern, Captain Marvel!Carol is as yet unclear). I loved the discussion of women’s lib and feminism, and the non-sledgehammering reminder of exactly how many victories we have achieved, even though it isn’t all the victories we need to achieve. Plus, there’s some nice super-fighting that shows off both characters’ strengths and weaknesses. This was great, and if they continue to give writers like Wilson the helm, I have high hopes for Legacy and beyond.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Al Ewing; Pencilers: Kevin Libranda and Javier Rodriguez; Inkers: Kevin Libranda and Alvaro Lopez; Color Artist: Jose Villarrubia; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
A fun conclusion to the Snarkwar subplot, while also doing some excellent plot building and character building…yep, that’s an Al Ewing book, for sure. The Snark conflict comes to a head in a big, weird way, but with an internal consistency to its weirdness and characterization that ultimately plays into how the conflict is resolved and that leaves behind complications for a main character, which is really the best way to handle any plot, but especially a superhero plot. Maximus again makes himself very useful, but his weaknesses both external and internal are on full display here, helping to head off any concern that the solution to any given plot will be “we throw Maximus at it” (spoiler: that is not how this plot is resolved). The art is particularly good in this issue, with action that is easy to follow from start to finish (not a small feat when you have pages full of superpowers getting thrown around every which way); I also like that they put a spotlight on Gorgon after so much focus on literally every other member of the crew, and I like the ways in which the “Last Inhuman” plotline is continuing to fold in certain elements and echoes of our own mythology among the Inhuman mythology. I have some feelings about the way the Snark are handled, but I’ll just swallow them for now because discussion is spoilerrific. Overall, Royals continues to be one of the things I look forward to in my pull every month.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“Five thousand years ago, the last Inhuman threw the Accuser into a Skyspear, triggering a traumatic download of alien information. He has never apologized.”
– Narrator, Royals #8
And there you have it; time for me to head outdoors and enjoy the first fits of autumn. Have a good one, and until next week, keep loving comics!