Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week it’s as much new as old, but all of it actually fantastic. Let’s dig in.
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.
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
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19
Writer: Ryan North; Artist: Erica Henderson; Color Artist: Rico Renzi; Letterer: Travis Lanham; Logo: Michael Allred; Cover Artist: Erica Henderson
A villain monologue as only Squirrel Girl can give us. This issue is, in all sincerity, mostly Melissa Morbeck delivering her “The Reason You Suck” Speech to Doreen, with some back-and-forth quasi-witticism (this is Doreen after all), and actually, it’s wonderful — not only is Morbeck set up as a twist on the classic MCU doppelganger villain, but we also get some history of computer science and some linguistics trivia, because Ryan North, that’s why. Like the other Morbeck issues, this one has that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl whimsy, but also a strong sense of stakes both material and personal, and a feeling of making a serious examination of Squirrel Girl’s radically compassionate approach to heroism. I really enjoyed this one.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Wicked + The Divine #28
Writer: Kieron Gillen; Artist: Jamie McKelvie; Colourist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: Clayton Cowles; Flatter: Dee Cunniffe; Original Designer: Hannah Donovan; Designer: Sergio Serrano
Up, then down, then up again, and nary a nerve was left unshivered. This is the wrap-up to the current arc, though I wouldn’t say it’s a “wrap-up” so much as a “ramp-up.” We begin with a bomb-drop about the human identity of Woden, perpetrated in that snappy, snippy way that only WicDiv can deliver, and then we jump into a sort of lull for the middle part of the story that is, rather than emotionally raw, just creepy as heck; the focus is on Amaterasu and Sakhmet for the most part, both of whom come out looking much worse for the enhanced narrative scrutiny — whether Amaterasu’s appropriative, racism-coated attitude is worse than the constantly threatening, near-homicidal mood of Sakhmet is up for debate, but I think the most disturbing single panel actually goes to the close-up of Baphomet on page 16 — McKelvie captures an expression there that is, frankly, heartbreaking, as well as chilling in its implications. From there we ramp back up a little bit, and end on a visceral, horrifying use of negative space that is more effective than the most detailed drawing could ever have been — Wilson’s colors deserve as much credit as McKelvie’s line-work. And then, if that weren’t enough, we get an ending hook executed with such expertise that its potential to be trite didn’t occur to me until I just wrote this sentence. This book is firing on all cylinders.
Power Level: 4 of 5
New and Shiny
Two first issues that caught my eye this week
Black Panther and the Crew #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates; Penciler: Butch Guice; Inker: Scott Hanna; Colorist: Dan Brown; Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino; Design: Manny Mederos; Cover: John Cassaday & Laura Martin; Variant Covers: Rich Buckler, Tom Palmer & Rachelle Rosenberg; Jim Cheung & Jason Keith; John Tyler Christopher; Damion Scott & John Rauch; Special Thanks: Brian Stelfreeze and Rian Hughes
This had me at the premise of “five black superheroes in a gritty crime drama” and only went up from there. The issue starts not with the titular Crew (Storm, Black Panther, Misty Knight, Luke Cage, and Manifold), but with a historical group of the same name, a nasty little urban fable that gives us some context for the main story and also evokes the noir vibe that echoes through the rest of the book. Our narrator and main character today is Misty Knight, and while the main story is ostensibly a mystery — and there is definitely mystery at work here — it is also a discussion about police brutality and the militarization of American law enforcement, with a superpowered tinge to it that makes the social commentary really pop. This story is thoughtful and unrelenting, in that Between the World and Me way Coates is so good at — Misty Knight’s role as a black cop is never glossed over, and everyone involved feels real, even the dangerous police robots — and the pencils from Guice (“The Death of Superman”) are superb, perfectly balancing the mundane and the weird. Really, my only complaint is that maybe using an “artisanal mayonnaise shop” as their emblem of gentrification is a little too on the nose as metaphors go, but then, being a little too on the nose is one of the things superhero comics do so well when they decide to get woke. I subscribed to this one without a second thought.
Power Level: 4 of 5
X-Men: Blue #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn; Artists: Jorge Molina & Matteo Buffagni; Colorist: Matt Milla; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald; Variant Cover Artists: Neal Adams & Edgar Delgado; Leonard Kirk & Michael Garland; Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Morry Hollowell; Billy Martin; Skottie Young; Jack Kirby 100th Anniversary Variant Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Paul Reinman & Paul Mounts with Joe Frontirre; Hip-Hop Variant Cover Artists: Ramon Villalobos & Tamra Bonvillain
The X-Men are back — in every sense. I grew up as an X-Men reader, but they quickly lost me some time after the Age of Apocalypse, mostly due to the aftereffects of the 90s (and, admittedly, my budget). This issue has nearly brought me back into the fold. X-Men Blue stars the time-displaced versions of the Original Five X-Men, and sees them joining the growing list of Marvel Comics (and to be fair, some DC Comics) that are about superheroes trying to be superheroes again and remind people of the good in the world. That’s the diegetic story; exegetically, Bunn and company are also revisiting the older Kirby and Lee stories, having some comic-book fun and staging some cool mutant fights while also going a little deeper psychologically than the old stuff did (or arguably could). And “fun” is the main word I would use to describe this — even in its serious moments, even in its one disturbing moment, this book always feels like the creative team is having fun with it, and that is a huge selling point for me. I am also really impressed by the subtle character-work here — Bobby being a little too much of a wisecracker, the still-present sexual tension between Jean and Scott, Warren showing off a little hedonism while Hank comes off as, even at this age, possibly a little too pragmatic. My favorite moments actually go to: A. Scott complaining about missing barbershops, because of course he is the one who most overtly misses his own time, when his relationship with Jean was simple and he didn’t have to worry about the disillusioning fate that befell his other self; B. Juggernaut, the issue’s main villain, revealing the reason he’s so angry with Scott; and C. best of all, Jean being firmly, comfortably in charge of the team, complete with a caption about her leadership role that simply (and accurately) reads: “About Damn Time.” All that, plus a resolution to the immediate crisis that is the most X-Men possible resolution, and an ending hook that is both touching and concerning, and I’m honestly hovering over the subscription button, thinking the mutants and I might need to get reacquainted.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“This is how I die…crushed by a giant…with Bobby’s voice ringing in my ears.”
— Cyclops, X-Men Blue #1
And with that, I am off. Sound off in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!