Hi everyone, and welcome to the Pull List! This week and every week, I’ll be running down the comics from my weekly Wednesday pull, along with new series that have caught my eye and any new trades that might be worth sticking on the shelf.
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 (The Dark Knight Returns) and 0 is something I wish I hadn’t even started reading (The Dark Knight III: The Master Race).
A Note on Spoilers: In theory, you’re reading this because you want to know what’s worth reading, which makes spoilers not only rude, but self-defeating. That said, I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane, so consider yourself warned.
A Note on Credits: I have given all the credits I can find in the comic itself and online; if you see something wrong or have information I’m lacking, let me know. I’m happy to make sure full credit is given.
Now then; on to the reviews!
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
All-New, All-Different Avengers #14
Writing: Mark Waid and Jeremy Whitley
Art: Adam Kubert (interior)
Colors: Sonia Oback
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Alex Ross (variant covers by Mike McKone and Paul Renaud)
Of course the first Pull List is on a week when only one of my ongoings had an issue come out…but man, what an issue. This is a Civil War II tie-in, and possibly my favorite one so far. The spotlight here is on the all-new Wasp (Nadia Pym) and her stepmother, Wasp Classic (Janet Van Dyne), and the writing is a showcase of the brilliant way Marvel has approached Civil War II. The event is used as an emotional sonar ping, letting readers learn more about Nadia and Janet through their reactions to something bigger than them. This issue is a blatant springboard for the Unstoppable Wasp ongoing coming next year (written by Whitley with art by Elsa Charretier), and I think that’s going to get added to my pull list, because I love what I see here. Nadia is determined, smart, creative, optimistic, and a little impulsive and naive — in other words, exactly the kind of superhero this old X-Men and Spider-Man fan likes reading about — but is also distinguished from other examples of the plucky teen hero by her self-awareness, copping to the motivations behind her more emotional behavior the second she realizes she’s done it. On a higher level, the story is also a discussion about superheroic violence: why superheroes deploy it as a solution, why they end up fighting each other sometimes, and how they cope with the high-risk, high-stress nature of that situation. All that, and one of my favorite post-Secret Wars villain creations makes an appearance; there is also some really fun and interesting application of Pym Particles, making this one a home run on every level.
Power Level: 4 out of 5
New and Shiny
The Issue #1s that caught my eye this week
Skybourne #1 (of 5)
Writing and Art: Frank Cho
Colors: Marcio Menyz
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Frank Cho (variant covers by Brandon Peterson and Geof Darrow)
This was pitched to me as “King Arthur meets James Bond,” and I feel like that description is all at once accurate and overselling it. It’s a story with three superpowered protagonists (the titular “Skybourne”) who are seeking magic artifacts on behalf of a shadowy organization, and are willing to be both violent and clandestine about about obtaining them; the antagonists are a mix of modern espionage tropes, with some fantasy elements thrown in. The comic’s structure is very filmic, with a lot of focus on action scenes and visual storytelling, which allows Cho’s masterful attention to detail to shine; his work on facial expressions, especially, is sublime. Unfortunately, the writing suffers from the lack of attention: the dialogue sounds unnatural, the few lines there are feel obvious and plain, the first “witty” action-hero quip is a bit sexist and homophobic, and the big plot point meant to hook me into the next issue is also a bit regressive. I might give the second issue a look, but it’ll have to really impress me for me to follow the rest of the run.
Power Level: 2 out of 5
Writing: Steve Orlando
Art: Brian Ching
Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover: Brian Ching and Michael Atiyeh
This first issue of the post-Rebirth Supergirl series caught my eye as a possible place for DC to win back some of my attention, and grab it did, though the grip is tenuous. This is a low-action, high-emotion issue like Avengers up top. It’s meant to establish the tone and backstory for the re-re-re(…)-booted Supergirl, and in that it succeeds. I’m interested in Supergirl as a mix of highly capable and slightly hapless; the decision to emphasize her lack of experience with Earth culture and technology, and contrast that to her genius-level expertise in Kryptonian culture and technology, is a great way to differentiate her from the Big Blue Boy Scout. I also like that the story works to remind us in ways both big and small that her shorter residence on Earth also means less experience using her powers, and has the world react in a way that’s reasonable and balanced while still providing narrative tension. That said, my interest may not extend past the second issue on this one, either; that direction for Supergirl sounds interesting, but it could easily get trite and problematic at speed, and for a plot-light issue, the “twist” at the end (quotes because the cover partially spoils it) is not quite enough to flip my switch to “subscriber.”
Power Level: 3 out of 5
For the Bookshelf
New trade collections that need to shut up and take my money
Secret Wars (Trade Paperback)
I call Civil War II “one of the best event comics.” Secret Wars is why I have to add “one of.” This paperback collects Secret Wars #1 – #9, and if you have not read these, you really need to. When Marvel decided to reboot all their lines, they did it with style, allowing the writers to go all-out with their re-imagining of Battleworld and its many, many, many denizens. On an action level, this story has some of the best superhero fights I’ve ever seen on the comics page, pulling off clashes between massive armies of super-beings with aplomb; on a story level, this series is the payoff for multiple years of comics written by Hickman, and is a fitting third act for one of the most iconic superhero/supervillain rivalries of all time. Very few comics make me cry; this is near the top of the list. The final panel kills me every time.
Thor Vol. 1 (Hardcover)
This one collects all eight issues of Jason Aaron’s pre-Secret Wars run on Thor, plus the Annual. The run begins with the emergence of the new female Thor that lit a thousand trilbies on fire, and while the mystery of her identity is the prime mover for many characters, the story does not skimp on being a superhero story. While Thor is dealing with the people trying to look underneath the mask, she also has to tangle with two iconic Thor antagonists, along with a new threat that is frankly one of the coolest villains in modern comics (no, not the one I hinted at above). The Annual is a collection of short stories, ranging from sad to touching to funny, all of very good quality (and if you ever wanted to read a story written by CM Punk and drawn by Rob Guillory (Chew), this is your chance). This series reminded me how great superhero comics could be, and if you can afford the hardcover price, this is an excellent addition to your collection.
Most Comics Quote of the Week:
“Here goes Janet Van Dyne, the feelings Avenger.”
– Wasp, All-New All-Different Avengers #14