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The Pull List, 1/6/17

Happy 2017, everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List! To our new readers: Hello! To our readers following us in from the fires of 2016: Thanks for sticking around! We’ll skip the usual new-year reflections, and go straight to reviewing this week’s comics.

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

Avengers #3

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Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Mike del Mundo

Color Artists: Mike del Mundo with Marco D’Alfonso

Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Cover: Alex Ross

Variant Cover: Julian Totino Tedesco

The Kang War continues with more high-falutin’ four-color action! This one is mostly focused on Wasp and her efforts to flee through the timestream with Baby!Kang, while the rest of the Avengers fight an impossible fight against every version of Kang that Waid and del Mundo could put on the page. del Mundo’s art and D’Alfonso’s colors are on point once again, a nice mix of classical and cartoony that fits the Kirby-esque tone and style of the book; they have an impressive capacity for both detail and simplicity that really helps the book flow from action to introspection and mood to mood. Waid’s writing is not by any means slouching here, either; if anything I think this is one of his strongest issues since Secret Wars. I am absolutely in love with Nadia Pym: her heart, her humanity, her brains, and frankly her courage — she is so obviously terrified here, and she finds her way through. Really, all the Avengers seem extra-heroic in this issue, displaying bravery, empathy, and concern for each other in buckets — a welcome shift after the grimness of Civil War II. The resolution to this issue’s arc does rely more than a bit on a deus ex machina, but it’s so enjoyable that I have trouble criticizing it — at the power level where you’re fighting multiple Kangs, dei ex machinis are more than a little bit likely (Ultimate Nullifier anyone?). This is a heck of an issue, and I’m really glad to be along for the ride with this series.

Power Level: 4 of 5

Champions #4

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Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Victor Olizaba

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Letterer & Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles

So in Champions #3, the team vehicle exploded; in Champions #4, they deal with the vehicle exploding. The resolution and story arc of this issue are not much less straightforward than that — there’s some typical superhero weirdness about it all, but in the end it’s fall into a hole, get out of a hole, issue ends, and that’s kind of unfortunate. This would be a dud, except for the character work, and in that regard, I think a simple superpowered peril was exactly the right call. This issue is really about the Champions continuing to gel as a team, and so Waid chose to give them a problem that was only there to highlight their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can accomplish when they work together. Cyclops and Ms. Marvel shine here, especially Cyke; the decision to write young Cyclops as the core of Scott Summers, without all the emotional damage and (let’s face it) suborning of his character to Wolverine’s, is aces, and more so when you consider that his emotional stunting is still on full display (i.e., he’s not just being made a perfect Gary Stu). The art is unfortunately hard to follow in places, especially during the action sequences, but when it stays on message it’s really quite good. Also, in the page of tweets at the end of the issue, they included one not in English, which is a fantastic bit of inclusivity in a series that is working overtime to be progressive. I’d call this one a stumble, but not even close to a fall; I’m still proud to have this on my pull list.

Power Level: 3 of 5

Midnighter and Apollo #4

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Writer: Steve Orlando

Art: Fernando Blanco

Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Letters: Josh Reed

Cover: Aco & Romulo Fajardo Jr.

So. Badass. We finally get the showdown between Midnighter and the Mawzir, and it’s everything it should be, with over-the-top dialogue, fluid action, and just so much blood. The showdown between Apollo and Neron is equally good, the abstract, psychological battle to the blood and guts of the other one. There are some nice twists in both storylines; I especially love the suggestion that someone with Apollo’s background (both his origin story and his LGBT+ status) would be more inured to the mental tortures visited on him by the King of Hell, and the particular way Midnighter resolves his conflict with the Mawzir. The art is great, more gritty than the previous issue, but that works for something as literally and figuratively violent as this; special shout-out to the page with the spiral panel layout, which fits thematically and also displays remarkable efficiency of storytelling. There is not much of a twist in the ending, but when the story is “Midnighter punches his way through Hell” I’m not sure there really needs to be. I’m looking forward to seeing how this miniseries concludes.

Power Level: 4 of 5

Saga #41

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Art by: Fiona Staples

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

Letters + Design by: Fonografiks

Coordinated by: Eric Stephenson

This one’s all rising action on Phang, with some interludes elsewhere to spice things up. Prince Robot continues his nervous meltdown, while outside the situation with the March gets noticeably worse. This being Vaughan and Staples, even something as basic as “it gets worse” still lives and dies on the back of the character work, and in this case it thrives, with everyone — everyone — getting a chance to showcase their flaws, virtues, and current mental state in the span of 25 pages. Special shoutouts to the March, whose casual racism is a nice reminder that hate is not just for the outright oppressors, and to Lying Cat, who in three panels manages to exceed Marko’s capacity for tugging at our heartstrings. The ending is both satisfying and tragic, continuing the general Phang theme about the ugliness and insidiousness of violence, and while I’ve got no idea where this is going next, I’m pretty excited to find out.

Power Level: 3 of 5

The Wicked + The Divine #25

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Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Jamie McKelvie

Colourist: Matthew Wilson

Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Flatter: Dee Cunniffe

Another fun build-up issue as we move into what appears to be the endgame (or at least the next major arc). This one is mostly downtime (by divine standards), with the payoff of the confrontation between Odin, Persephone, and the Norns, and then some more domestic time with Baal and his pseudo-family. The slower pace and overall quietude  are a nice way of enforcing a sense that we are trying to figure out the next move alongside the gods, and the cerebral conflict with Odin is a nice way of spicing that up so it doesn’t feel entirely like a lull. If I had to craft a complaint, it’s that this is maybe one “slow” issue too many, and that the art for the newest addition to the cast is maybe a bit too on the nose, but I’ve never been disappointed by giving WicDiv some room to breathe and be itself, so I’m not going to dwell on this too much and just enjoy the hook into what promises to be a very weird and possibly very bloody next step.

Power Level: 3 of 5

New and Shiny

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

USAvengers #1

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Writer: Al Ewing

Penciler: Paco Medina

Inker: Juan Vlasco

Colorist: Jesus Aburtov

Letterer: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

The child of New Avengers rises, and I could not be happier. This is an introductory issue, getting us used to the team’s revised roster and the new narrative trappings, and Ewing and company pull it off with aplomb. The highest-of-the-high weirdness of New is alive and well in US, but along with it comes an even deeper heart than the previous series had. The main conflict of the issue, a straightforward fight-with-complications between the USAvengers and the Secret Empire, is interspersed with the members of the team talking about what America and the USAvengers mean to them, and the stories are genuinely touching, while also pointing out a fact that I had not considered about this team: out of the seven team members, two are LGBT, three are people of color, and two are immigrants. Those, especially that last bit, are really important right now, and their talk of inclusivity and fighting against hate resonate strongly with me in these dark times. This is a book where a Hulk with an authority mustache and a squadron of flying squirrels assault a flying volcano base and I also swelled with genuine pride in the diversity of my country, and if that isn’t solid gold, I cannot imagine what is. This series is the kind of superhero comics I adore, and it has gone straight onto my Pull List and it’s staying there for a while.

Power Level: 4 of 5

Quote of the Week:

“…did you just use lightning to make toast?”

“Power corrupts.”

– Persephone and Baal, The Wicked + The Divine #25

That’s all for this week! As always, feel free to sound off in the 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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