Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List! My immune system appears to have fended off the invaders, and now it’s New Comic Book Day. What could be better?
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 of the issue is inevitable.
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.
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Color Artists: Mike del Mundo with Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Alex Ross
So, remember how last month I gushed about how great Issue #4 was? Well, this issue is so good, it makes getting to a foregone conclusion exciting. The final page of #4 told us that Kang is about to face an assault by a mix of Avengers teams from across different time periods, and #5 is the Avengers laying the groundwork for that assault — but far from being just a simple matter of assembly (heh), this is pure four-color fun. del Mundo’s art is gorgeous and expressive, especially his facial expressions; the colors he and D’Alfonso have crafted mesh with it perfectly, creating that same “four-color watercolor” effect that’s been dazzling me since the book dropped the All-New All-Different moniker; this issue is a nice showcase of it, as the story gives us new mixes of characters and shows us bizarre, alien foes and landscapes. On the writing side, Waid’s portrayal of the original Hulk and other founding Avengers alongside his modern team showcases his mastery of character voice; the interaction between classic Thor and modern Thor is a particular bit of fried gold (I do wish a little more emotion were displayed on the topic of the team interacting with Bruce Banner, though…). Far from just being a character piece, this issue manages to end on a cliffhanger; even though we know the Avengers succeed in attacking Kang, Waid crafts plot complications that make the question of how an interesting one that I cannot wait to see answered. Waid and del Mundo make me excited to get Avengers every month.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Humberto Ramos
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colorists: Edgar Delgado with Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
An excellent next step for the series, even if it did send me scrambling to double-check the last issue. The opening pages of this one made me go a little wobble-lipped and wet-eyed, as we’re treated to some lovely panels of ordinary people in Champions swag going around doing good — I love seeing superheroes having a positive impact beyond the reach of their fists/claws/optic blasts. But then we jump over to the team going paintballing, and I stopped and went, wait, didn’t we end on a cliffhanger about a racist sheriff? Re-reading Issue #5, I see now that they considered that story resolved, but it left me kind of confused. Anyway, moving on: the teaser from #5 promised us the Reverse Champions, and it gives us just that, in the form of the Freelancers, the evil super-team that showed up in #1.MU. I have to say, that was a nice bit of comics craft; I assumed that the Freelancers’ role in the Monsters Unleashed tie-in would isolate them outside of Champions continuity the same way the Leviathons (grrr…) are, and being proven wrong renewed that sense that everything is taking place in a big shared continuity. The Freelancers get positioned here as the perfect foils for the Champions — superpowered and solipsistic, only interested in their own self-interest, to the often-deliberate detriment of others. Their behavior is the most petty, sadistic form of evil I have seen Marvel put out in my memory, and it’s all the more disturbing for how real it feels. I love the way this issue ends, and the promise of this storyline; this is still one of the best series going. Thank you, Saint Mark!
Power Level: 5 of 5
Midnighter and Apollo #6
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Fernando Blanco
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr. with John Rauch (pgs 17-22)
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover: Aco & Romulo Fajardo Jr.
I’m sad to see this series go, but what a way to go. This is one of few times I have taken special note of a book’s layout, but this is one of the few times the layout has felt special: the issue uses a lot of two-page spreads and splash panels at first, giving the end to Midnighter and Apollo’s battle in Hell an appropriately epic feel, then moves to a more standard layout (though never the full-on nine-panel grid) for the story’s denouement, making things feel like they are moving toward normal. The end of the actual fighting is well-handled (the use of the duo’s many victims as their final obstacle is a nice twist of narrative lemon), and the dialogue between the two as they move toward whatever qualifies as their everyday world is gorgeous, bantering and crude but also undeniably sweet. The ending is a bit more philosophical than the middle issues were (well, not counting Neron’s speeches), but it nicely encapsulates who Midnighter and Apollo are and why they do what they do (i.e., murder bad guys), and while that s something I have opposed ad nauseam, here it is at least explained in a clear, internally consistent way that makes me like the characters a lot more. This was a lovely miniseries, and I encourage anyone who likes their superheroes a little brutal, or a lot brutal, to give it a look.
Power Level: 4 of 5
New and Shiny
Some first issues that caught my eye this week
Writer: Gabby Rivera
Penciler: Joe Quinones
Inkers: Joe Rivera & Paolo Rivera
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer & Production: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Joe Quinones
I saw America Chavez was getting her own series late last year, and I immediately subscribed; America is one of the best characters in Ultimates, and besides that, I wanted to make sure I supported a solo series starring a queer woman of color that is also written by a queer woman of color. The issue does not disappoint on either count, while also not being what I expected at all. First off, America is explicitly referred to as queer on the credits page, the page most likely to be recycled issue to issue, and her first scenes are about her spending time with her girlfriend (well, and also punching glowing alien energy beings, but that’s America for you), so we are not kidding around with our representation. The story is ostensibly about America going to college, but more than that, this is about giving us America’s inner landscape: her near-mythic sense of loss and isolation, the ways being a multiversal paramedic color and distort her thinking, and, central to this issue, her need to grow and stretch and challenge herself when she is someone who can bench press cars and travel between dimensions. The prose here is unique, sarcastic and prickly but also heartfelt and empathetic — in other words, a perfect encapsulation of America Chavez — and the art goes right along with it, a poppy, zippy, colorful style that also feels like it came directly from the heart of the main character. Now, as far as plot goes, this is more emotion- than action-centric, and frankly not a lot happens in the most material sense; also, the ending is so weird that I’m not sure what to make of it, nor do I have any idea where this could possibly be going from here. But this is really about introducing us to America in an up close and personal way that her place on team books hasn’t allowed, and in that, the book succeeds; and frankly, that last panel is so fun I can’t really fault it. We need this series right now on multiple levels, and I am proud to be a subscriber.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Rat Queens #1
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Artist, Covers A and B: Owen Gieni
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Cover C: Colleen Doran
It may say something that I completely forgot I was getting this until it showed up in my Comixology downloads. I really like Gieni’s art — it reminds me of the best parts of that one douchebag’s art, and it also it meshes with the writing better than Fowler’s art did (much as I do love Fowler). Wiebe’s dialogue feels more vital and exciting than it did during that last fateful arc of the Fowler run, and the world in general feels like it has shifted back toward the stuff that made Rat Queens great during the “Sass and Sorcery” and “Far-Reaching Tentacles of “N’rygoth” days; his joy for the project appears to be coming back. Also, the cover does not lie: Braga is now a full-fledged member of the team, and that makes me so happy both in terms of representation and in terms of how rad I think the character of Braga is. All that said, though, this issue rings a little hollow for me: the plot is really straightforward, the twists aren’t that twisty, and while the dialogue is back to its beautifully profane self, outside of the Queens the characters are cookie-cutter and noticeably sillier than they were before the hiatus. It’s not a bad issue; it’s even a good issue. But it also just feels like another issue of Rat Queens, and I expected a little bit more from a #1. I’ll give this one a chance, but I’m not sure how long it’ll be on my pull.
Power Level: 3 of 5
Quote of the Week:
Thor (Odinson): “Is that…?”
Thor (Jane Foster): “Best not to get into it.”
Thor (Odinson): “It is Mjolnir! My Mjolnir! How didst thou come to hold — ”
Thor (Jane Foster): “Spoilers.”
– Avengers #5
And with that, I am off — short but sweet. Sound off in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!