This week in Heroes and Villains our selection of new Marvel Comics includes far flung space action (not), one of the company’s current big events, a first issue featuring one of New York’s most dastardly villains, and the biggest female star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy #17, Inhumans Vs. X-Men #4, Kingpin #1, and Black Widow #11…
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy #17 actually spins out of Civil War II, something I had thought, and hoped, was long over. However, this issue comes out of it organically. Captain Marvel called on the Guardians to fight for her in the second superhero Civil War, and in that conflict they lost their ship, stranding them on Earth. While here, Gamora overheard that her father, the hated Thanos, was being held prisoner at the Triskelion. We all know what Gamora wants, she wants her daddy, and nobody better get in her way.
For a dozen pages, Gamora and a squad of heroes (Spectrum, Ms. America, Aurora, and Sasquatch) batter each other. Two of them note that this shouldn’t be fun, and it’s not. Writer Brian Michael Bendis brings me back to his initial style on the Avengers comics. There’s an economy of dialogue, with actions speaking louder than words, and what dialogue there is is snarky and not from any title characters. It’s a formula I have grown weary of. And is anyone else sick of the Bendis trope of Captain Marvel giving lectures like she knows what’s best for everyone else? The fine art of Valerio Schiti does help elevate what there is of a story, but then in the second half it gets worse.
When a story doesn’t make sense, it can hurt even good art and terrific characters. The rest of the comic has all the logic of your granddad pulling a quarter from your ear – when you think about it, it just falls apart. There are switches made and characters showing up where they shouldn’t and appearing to believe ruses too well to have not been fooled. Bottom line, we’re left with an imprisoned Gamora, and the Guardians nowhere to be seen. With no explanation. As much as I like the Guardians, this was enough to make me not want to read the comic.
Inhumans Vs. X-Men
Does Marvel still do X-Men? is a question I have been asked several times by folks who read my very Inhuman-centric reviews of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers: Ultron Revolution. Because Fox owns the cinematic rights to the X-Men characters, Marvel has been quick to lowlight them in recent years, and push the Inhumans into their place in their stories in various media. It’s become such an unspoken joke, that this year, Marvel Comics launched an event series called Inhumans Vs. X-Men, or IVX for short. This is its fourth issue.
As far as story logic goes, the two races do have a reason to be in conflict. The Terrigen Mist that transforms some humans into Inhumans is deadly to mutants. With the mutants facing extermination, they of course go to war. Why are all event comics about superheroes fighting each other? Remember back in the old days when heroes would cooperate and team up against super-villains? Hell, does Sesame Street even teach cooperation any more? Maybe in this bi-partisan world in the Trump era, it’s just a fantasy. We all fight each other. Yeah, I’m both getting down off my soapbox and off my own lawn, old man. Sheesh.
Wonderfully illustrated by Javier Garron, IVX #4 has the vibe of illogic however, as if Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire, two writers I like, were simply give the marching orders of ‘make them fight’ and little else. The Inhumans are trapped in Limbo, and there is an entertaining sequence where Mosaic tries to get inside Magneto’s head. Mosaic is a great character, I just wish they’d stop using him like Deadman. Seriously, if Mosaic didn’t do so many Deadman-like things, folks might stop saying he’s a Deadman rip-off.
In the end, like an eighties cartoon selling action figures, we see the real point of this series. They’re pushing the new Inhumans, the Nuhumans recently transformed by the Terrigen Mists, into the spotlight. As the young new heroes take the lead from the older characters I know they will save the day for both races. It seems, from what I have seen of Marvel lately, they are making the young heroes the main protagonists and letting the golden oldies take a back seat (witness Champions). A decent issue for the middle of an event, I might recommend it for the pretty images.
Villains having their own comics is nothing new. Lots of villains have their own comics, Bullseye debuted last week and Harley Quinn is a big seller for DC Comics. Marvel’s been doing it longer than DC though, remember Doctor Doom in Astonishing Tales? That said, I was amused a couple years later when DC put out a Joker comic that due to Comics Code restrictions had to end with the titular villain imprisoned at the end of each issue. It ain’t like that any more, now bad guys can be as bad as they want. And guys like Kingpin can be very, very bad.
I’m more familiar with the Kingpin in his other media appearances so the comics are new adventures for me. Here writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Ben Torres tell a twisted tale of crime noir in the bright lights of the deadly city. Down and out reporter Sarah Dewey is approached to write Wilson Fisk’s biography, something she doesn’t want to do, but as she gets to know the man, her opinion changes. Folks, I definitely agree with fellow Biff Bam Popper JP Fallavollita on this one, this is the best comic I’ve read this week, highly recommended. Kingpin #1 is gritty, human, and compelling, a must buy.
Nowadays when folks think of the Black Widow, she is firmly associated with the Avengers, invariably one of six that people will immediately think of thanks to her Marvel Cinematic Universe exposure. And with the Wasp and Scarlet Witch pushed into the background, Widow probably is next in line. I’m not at all that disagreeable in that.
To tell you the truth, when Natasha finally joined Earth’s mightiest in Avengers #111, I have to admit I thought she already was an Avenger. She was always hanging out with the team, especially Hawkeye, back in the Cap’s Kooky Quartet days, and was around for many of the team’s late sixties adventures. But she was, as they say, just a guest at Avengers Mansion. Glad she’s finally got her due, has her own series (again), and hopefully her own film sooner or later.
As I read Black Widow #11, storytellers Chris Samnee and Mark Waid weave a tale of her origins – the Red Room – a concept that was quite frankly unknown to me until the movies and television came along in the past few years. I was always content with mysterious background as just a Russian spy. A new Red Room, the Dark Room, is training young women to be assassins and under the command of Recluse, they’ve set their sites on destroying an Antarctic nuclear facility.
This is good old fashioned adult spy thriller stuff, not as good as Waid and Samnee’s Daredevil, and not really what I envision the Widow doing in solo adventures either. It is entertaining, and visually exciting, but I wanted a little more. Maybe more superhero and less spy? But that just might be my taste. Definitely worth reading, well executed.