This week we have a handful of Marvel Comics spanning the variety of the Marvel Universe. There are endings to long-form storylines and the beginnings of new ones as well, a sampling of what is happening in one of the world’s most creative literary and visionary playgrounds. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Avengers: Monsters Unleashed #1, Black Panther #10, Deadpool #25, Doctor Strange #16, and Captain America: Steve Rogers #10.
Avengers vs. Monsters Unleashed
I talked about the opening salvo of this crossover event last week in Monsters Unleashed #1. I really kinda dug the issue, and was looking forward to seeing more of the event. Since then we’ve learned that Monsters Unleashed will be an ongoing series after this crossover featuring the new character Kid Kaiju and some of the new monsters introduced therein. Already, without being late, but just like Civil War II, we kinda know the outcome of the story. This reminds me a bit of the ending of The Wizard of Oz, when you know what’s behind the curtain, it spoils the magic.
The new monsters that fell from the sky in such great numbers now have a name, the Leviathons. Even the combined forces of various superhero teams across the globe are having trouble containing this threat, but even with that going on, the world still turns, and monsters aren’t all that’s afoot. We open on Avenger Peter Parker Spider-Man musing over the new status quo as he’s moved up in the world, leaving street crime to Miles Morales Spider-Man. He’s learned of the Maggia reforming, in Boston, rather than New York (too many superheroes in NYC). Props to writer Jim Zub for these turns in logic. From there however, it gets a bit silly, not throw-the-comic-at-the-wall silly, but fun silly.
Parker, playing the same secret identity game that Tony Stark played for years as Avengers benefactor, convinces the Avengers to take down the new Maggia so he can jet set to Europe, so our heroes are on the clock. The Maggia gathering turns out to be a plot of the Controller, so our heroes go into battle, and once it’s done, the crossover part of this issue kicks in when giant monsters attack. Some scenes repeat from what we saw in Monsters Unleashed #1, but Zub handles these heroes like a pro, making me wish he was writing them more. This was a terrific comic, and I liked it more than other Avengers comics I’ve seen recently.
Things are looking up for the Black Panther, one of my favorite Avengers. Last year he had one of the breakout roles in Captain America: Civil War, next year he features in his own self-titled Marvel film, and this year he is the lead protagonist in not one, not two, but three comic series. That last one is mainly due to the work of Ta-Nahisi Coates, an award-winning journalist with The Atlantic whose home zone is usually culture and politics, until the Black Panther came along. Now T’Challa has always had fantastic creators (among them Reggie Hudlin and Jonathan Maberry) writing and illustrating his tales, but this guy is something different. Coates’ first comics work with marvel’s first black superhero is among the best on the shelves right now. Seriously, if you’re not reading Black Panther, World of Wakanda, and the upcoming revival of The Crew, you should be.
Black Panther #10 continues the storyline “A Nation Under Our Feet,” as Shuri has returned from beyond a changed woman, and finds the wounded Wakanda weak and ripe for attack from forces within and without. Coates has woven a complex tale of war and unrest, of politics and philosophy, and brought life to Wakanda and the Black Panther’s supporting cast as no one has done before. Get this book, and catch up on what is one of the best comics out now.
I’ve talked before about Deadpool, notably here and here, and all things considered, I’m not a fan. So who better to review the latest issue, right? Deadpool #25 takes place in the alternate Marvel future of 2099, a time and place that a couple decades back spawned a line within a line of new comics. We saw Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, the X-Men, and Ravage in those stories, but now Deadpool wants a piece of that continuity pie.
In the 2099 future, the current Deadpool is Warda Wilson, the daughter of our Deadpool and a succubus. Warda is looking for her mom, and dad won’t help. The Deadpools fight, the daughters of Deadpool fight, 2099 Iron Fist guest-stars, and there’s a lot of fighting and death, and bad jokes. Every time I read a Deadpool comic, I feel like a non-Juggalo listening to the Insane Clown Posse (which I am and do) – I like the music, but nothing else makes sense. This may be for some folks out there, but not for me.
All the heroes in this installment of Heroes and Villains have one thing in common, they are all recent stars in the extended Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have never really been a Doctor Strange fan, outside of his leadership and membership in the original Defenders, until I saw the movie. I’ve had a healthy respect for the character and his stories, but have never really been into them.
Doctor Strange #16 is the final chapter of the “Blood in the Aether” storyline. Magic in our world has apparently been shattered, and the Doctor’s powers are at an all time low. After fighting his way out of Hell, Stephen Strange finds himself up for auction, as his enemies argue over the right to kill him. As Strange readies for the battle of his life, the worst of his foes, the dread Dormammu, makes his claim as a contender. I have to say, that while I liked the story, and loved the triumphant ending, neither the words of Jason Aaron nor the imagery of Chris Bachelo strike me as ‘right’ for this. The villains ring true to a point, but never once was I convinced that the protagonist was actually Doctor Strange, or at least the Stephen Strange I knew. At least I can go back and read the older stories. Like Deadpool, I would give this one a pass.
Steve Rogers, Captain America
I won’t beat a dead horse. If you want to know how I feel about Captain America as a villain, you can read here, here, or here, my strong opinions have not waivered. That said, I promise to review Captain America: Steve Rogers #10, the beginning of the Secret Empire crossover event that will spread across the Marvel Comics line this summer, with an open mind.
Writer Nick Spencer tells an intense thriller of a story, reminding me a bit of the Three Days of the Condor vibe of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that can not be denied, and it’s a reason to be reading this series for sure. Cap’s plans to build a defense field around the Earth to defend against a Chitauri invasion, and install his girlfriend as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., are only rivaled by the flashback tale of young Steve Rogers trying to kill the man who made him Captain America in order to please his Hydra masters. I will be honest, yes, I want to know how the story ends, whether I agree with it or not. This one is a buy, believe it or not, folks.