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The Pull List, 12/29/16

Welcome to the Pull List, where I look at the comics I read every month and something new that spoke to me from the racks (or Comixology site).

Here we are: the last Pull List of 2016. Before I get started, I wanted to say, to all my readers: thank you. In a year casting a whole lot of dark shadows, joining the Ace of Geeks team and writing this column has been an unequivocal bright spot. I’m grateful to you for reading, and looking forward to another year of sharing the love of comics with you; I just hope 2017 is as bright a year for sequential art as this one has been.

Spoilers: I try not to spoil the issues themselves, but I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane. This is your spoiler warning.

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 and I’ll fix it.

Ratings: 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 and 0 is something I wish I hadn’t even started reading.

Regular Pulls

The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without

Black Panther #9

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Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Artist: Brian Stelfreeze

Color Artist: Laura Martin

Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Design: Manny Mederos

Logo By: Rian Hughes

Cover By: Brian Stelfreeze & Laura Martin

Variant Covers By: Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera; Elizabeth Torque

Still the deepest and densest of Marvel’s offerings right now. Coates’s willingness to show the flaws in the revolutionary side of the Wakandan conflict, as well as to paint the establishment with some notes of sympathy, are welcome aspects of the “Nation Under Our Feet” storyline; the calling out of the sexism of Tetu’s anti-monarchic movement, and the need for intersectionality in revolution, feels especially poignant and timely. This comic has also achieved the rare feat of making me look forward to a superpowered conflict where one side is explicitly attempting a peaceable, political resolution to the fight rather than a violent one, something that not many comics writers are willing to even attempt as a hook, let alone successfully implement. The writing seems to have taken a step back toward the symbolic and poetic after the clearer language of #8, to the point where there are a couple panels that I had to double-check to determine if they were happening literally or only figuratively, but at least they have also worked out how to visually distinguish between the characters even when they are not in full costume or uniform. This is one of a few series going right now that I want to own in trade format, both so I can share it with others easily and so I can easily power-read them again and again to glean all the meaning, but this is the only one being put out by Marvel and featuring a character who will be a major figure in the MCU, so, good on Marvel for recognizing quality even when it takes such a hard-to-unpack form.

Power Level: 3 of 5

 

Civil War II #8 (of 8)

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Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: David Marquez

Future Artists: Adam Kubert; Leinil Francis Yu; Daniel Acuna; Alan Davis & Mark Farmer; Marco Rudy; Mark Bagley & John Dell; Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Designer: Victor Ochoa

Cover Artist: Marko Djurdjevic

Variant Cover Artists: John Cassaday & Laura Martin; Michael Cho; Phil Noto

I am excited to say that this series is over. Unfortunately, that’s basically all I am excited to say about this series at this point. The first seven issues of this series brimmed with promise, even through the Bendisian forced banter and the blatant MacGuffin that was Ulysses, and always made sure to give depth to both sides of the conflict rather than turn either into a caricature (an easy and forgivable thing to do in a story about, in essence, profiling). But this issue was supposedly rewritten at the eleventh hour, and it really shows. The battle, which was always going to come down to Carol vs. Tony, certainly ends, but very little feels resolved or changed by it except the usual post-event-comic shakeup of team rosters. The way the Ulysses plotline is resolved is vague in a way that only serves to reinforce the idea he existed to facilitate the event, and there are some theoretical hooks there, I will be a little surprised if they are utilized; also, the series of splash panels of different possible futures are cool, and using different artists for them is inspired, but they really came off like padding here. I like that Carol comes out of this as someone who made mistakes out of a desire to do right, but I do not like the exact way that lands; the dichotomy between how heroes feel about Captain Marvel and how civilians feel is a nice touch, and the dig on the American tendency to be a political ostrich if our own life is comfortable is very fitting, but these are rare cherries in a cake full of red-painted stones. I was a big defender of the series, but this is just not a very good ending. At least Carol didn’t go full fascist?

Power Level: 1 of 5

 

Ghost Rider #2

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Writer: Felipe Smith

Artist: Danilo S. Beyruth

Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Designer: Manny Mederos

Cover Artist: Felipe Smith

Variant Cover Artists: Kevin Wada; David Lopez

And another for the What The Hell Guys? files. I was a fan of the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider series that Marvel did back before Secret Wars, and as a constant advocate for diversity in comics and a lover of the Ghost Rider mythos, I wanted to give this series a chance when I realized I’d missed the first issue, but so far, both this issue and its predecessor have been a mess. The book is more heavily focused on Amadeus Cho and Wolverine than it is on Robbie — in this issue I think Robbie might be on fewer than five pages — and it is choppy and unflattering about all three characters, with Wolverine especially coming off as foolish when she repeatedly attempts to attack the monster they are fighting with her claws, even though every time she finds they do not work on it. But for some reason the claws do work on Amadeus Cho, whose powers the monster copied…except Amadeus Cho immediately heals using his healing factor…and then Robbie shows up to fight the heroes and we’re not really clear on why, and also it’s not clear where the heck the monster went before this fight happened…the subplot with the character of Ramon is solid, portraying an ex-con with more nuance than comics tend to provide, but that was really all I liked about this issue. This series is currently on notice for potential removal from my pull list.

Power Level: 1 of 5

The Mighty Thor #14

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Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Steve Epting

Color Artist: Frank Martin

Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino

Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson

This series continues to be an absolute joy, a delicious stew of mythology and mysticism and snark that I am excited to help myself to every month. This one is an interstitial fight, a battle between the League of Worlds and Malekith’s forces that is purely a way to get from one step of the plot to the next, but Aaron and his artist definitely have a ton of fun building that bridge: the dialogue and the art are both note-perfect here, conveying a sense of high-powered action and grim reality at exactly the right moments and with no sense of grinding gears or a drop in interest. Also, Jane’s internal monologue is back, an aspect of her run as Thor that I love and have missed in recent issues. I’m excited to see exactly where this plot is going, because I am anticipating it not being as straightforward as it looks right now, and that is a sensation that few comics can give me reliably. If you aren’t reading The Mighty Thor, I really think you should reconsider that decision.

Power Level: 3 of 5

Uncanny Avengers #18

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Writer: Gerry Duggan

Artist: Kevin Libranda

Color Artist: David Curiel

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover Artists: Steve McNiven & David Curiel

A fun issue, but not a great issue. The Red Skull is back, as this issue suggests, and he chews the scenery about as ravenously as Hugo Weaving did in his shoes, which is delightful. Unfortunately, his plan here is a bit too on the nose at first: he has the brainwashed Quicksilver attack the rest of the Unity Squad, and Quicksilver…attacks the rest of the Unity Squad. Cable’s plan to deal with the speedster is a note of cleverness in the middle of Avengers getting bushwhacked, and feels faithful to Cable’s war-weary, paranoid personality. I also thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between Deadpool and Rogue; their growing friendship is one of the reasons that I keep wavering on whether or not I want to walk away from this book. (Also, I like the shade thrown by Deadpool regarding socialized healthcare.) The ending sequence is a bit muddled, but gets where it’s going in the end. Unfortunately, I’m not sure where it’s going is going to be all that exciting; I want to know what’s happening, but this series’ tendency to hook me with an exciting final panel and then immediately resolve it has me on the fence. If you love Avengers series, this one is worth reading, but right now it’s just not doing a lot for me.

Power Level: 2 of 5

Uncanny Inhumans #17

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Writer: Charles Soule

Penciler: R.B. Silva

Inker: Adriano di Benedetto

Colorists: Java Tartaglia & Andrew Crossley

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal

This was one of my favorite comics this week. The saga of the resurrected-but-not-really Auran continues, with her having stolen Black Bolt’s voice powers, and the way Soule approaches this potentially trite little story of purloined might is absolutely fantastic. Soule uses Black Bolt’s depowering as a chance to tell us who Black Bolt is through a medium not normally available to the character: dialogue. Likewise, Silva uses Auran’s empowering as a chance to tell us about the character entirely through actions and facial expressions, and then really gets cooking with the scenes between Auran and Sterilon, where the art and Cowles’ lettering are used to convey the fragmented, inconsistent nature of the Reader!Auran character in a way that complements the more straightforward dialogue about the situation in previous issues. I found Black Bolt intriguing, but this issue really elevated him in my eyes: when empowered with speech, we get to see in detail how selfless and burdened Black Bolt is, how much effort he puts into protecting the people around him, and how empathetic he can actually be; we also see his political savvy on full display in his interactions with Medusa, in a couple of smart, touching moments that were highlights of this week’s comics reading. The ending of the Auran story arc is touching, though it feels a little bit flat after the emotional heights between the Inhuman royalty, but overall this issue is just stunning, and I am so glad I stuck by this series after a couple of less-enthusing issues.

Power Level: 4 of 5

 

 

New and Shiny

The Issue #1s and #0s that caught my eye this week

Hulk #1

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Writer: Mariko Tamaki

Artist: Nico Leon

Color Artist: Matt Milla

Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Designer: Manny Mederos

Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal

Variant Cover Artists: June Brigman; Pascal Campion; Skottie Young; John Tyler Christopher; Dale Keown with Jason Keith; Pia Guerra; Mike Vosburg with Chris Sotomayor

Hip-Hop Variant Cover: Rahzzah

This issue starts strong and never lets up. As the cover suggests, this one is about Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, and her efforts to recover from the severe beating she took at the hands of Thanos back at the beginning of Civil War II, and honestly, this series is the best use of a crossover comic’s inciting event I have yet seen. The tone is right there from the opening panel caption: snappy, witty, self-effacing, but with a thread of pain running through it. The layout of Jen’s apartment and her silent actions within it speak volumes, telling us how accustomed she is to living as She-Hulk full-time and how difficult it is for her to try to move on to a different paradigm. The art and dialogue continue to be incredible throughout; even the lettering gets in on the act, showing us a Jen who is anxious in crowds and overwhelmed by people, and who is used to being in lighter, mostly comedic stories and is now thrust into something a little bit darker. Jen’s workplace experiences are a great anchor for understanding her new normal, showing us how her co-workers treat her and reminding us that in this world, superpowers are a part of the everyday world; even her first client is either a mutant or an Inhuman, or perhaps something more. The final scenes of the book serve as a pair of hooks, one for Jen’s internal journey and struggles with her fear of her power and her apparent morphing into Gray She-Hulk, and one for the plot running with her first client — and really, “traumatized She-Hulk as lawyer for the disadvantaged superhuman community” sounds like such a perfect hook for a series that I am surprised I hadn’t already read it. This one is getting added to my weekly pull right now.

Power Level: 4 of 5

 

Quote of the Week:

“Did she just punch the hammer?

“She just punched the hammer.

“Nobody does that. I mean, everyone punches my face all the time, but…

No-one punches my Mjolnir!

 

– Thor, The Mighty Thor #14

That’s all for this week — and this year! Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and dreams and favorite comics!

Tyler Dent Hayes
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Tyler is a professional writer of speculative fiction and an enthusiastic lover of comics, tabletop games, pro wrestling, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, literary criticism, ice hockey, and basically every genre of fiction and music, but especially anything about superheroes, mythology, or both. Hailing from the wilds of Mendocino County, Tyler is lucky enough to have attained an advanced degree in talking about writing and to have married his favorite person in the world. He blogs about writing, life with anxiety, and occasionally movies and comics at his website, www.tyler-hayes.com. He'd love to play Sentinels of the Multiverse with you if you're interested.

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