“Don’t Worry…I’ll Let the Others Know You Still Hate Us.”

And so it’s Wednesday Thursday, again!

I think the weeks will all be heavy going forward, but I could be wrong. Last week, this week, next week–all of ’em are, so, I’m not sure I am wrong.

In any case:

  • Archer & Armstrong #24
  • Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3 (of 3)
  • Captain Marvel #7
  • Hawkeye #20
  • Magneto #9
  • New Warriors #9
  • Nightcrawler #6
  • X #17

Magneto currently joins the group known as “Shit, I don’t have issue #3 yet…” so I shan’t comment, as I stopped at issue #2 for now.

Captain Marvel #7

Well, I meandered off to one of the places I pick up reviews and I think I found the perfect encapsulation: “Pick this one up, no question, and prepare for what I can almost guarantee will be a killer issue next month in the follow-up to this story.”

Sounds great, right?

Well, break that down, and you might see the problem. This, like almost all issues of this book so far, is really slight. It mostly serves to set things up. It doesn’t do an awful lot in and of itself (some fun with Rocket and his suspicion of Carol’s cat Chewie, a tiny bit of development with Tic regarding her stowing away) and just looks toward the next issue with a feeling of, “Man, I want to read that story!” Which, I’ve got to be honest, is a really, really bad way to write comic books. Maybe it’s all of those Jim Shooter articles about making sure anyone can pick up a single issue and know what’s happening (which, admittedly, most publishers deal with via text encapsulations of “The Story So Far…”)–I don’t know. I read an interview with Simonson on the way “in” to my new books, and he mentioned the seismic shift in approach from that to “Write a 5-6 issue arc to be collected.” Thing is, this is a lot like serial television–you should still be making the separate units it’s released in functional. I’ll certainly allow a bit of stretch while you set things up in the first place if you’re aiming for heavily serial storytelling, but there has to be some satisfaction within each.

So far, every issue of this volume has felt very light–I’ve no idea why it’s getting so well-reviewed. I still feel like I’m waiting for the story from the first six issues to really kick into gear–and the story is resolutely concluded. I’m inevitably hesitant to drop a book, but if I do, it’s going to be this one. Disappointing.

Marcio Takara’s art isn’t–I always felt he was a weird fit for Incorruptible, just when set next to Irredeemable. Carol’s been through a wide swathe of styles so far, but Takara’s definitely not one of the offensively inappropriate ones, and indeed works pretty well. Just wish he had a more interesting story–next month, perhaps. Sigh.

Hawkeye #20

One issue from the end, and we have the end of Kate Bishop’s “Summer Vacation” away from Hawkguy. Things are a light-hearted noir dead-end right now: Kate’s up against it over Harold’s death (from an arrow remarkably like her own), her friends’ trailer being torched, and continuing to be destitute. And Madam Masque, forever angry after that one time, is very interested in maintaining this dismal status quo for Kate.

While the Hawkguy issues have been strongly oriented around the more experimental story-telling choices (hey, try last issue), Kate’s have been solidly straightforward stories, though not without their quirks (the last page is a pair to the first page here).

Interestingly, this might be the opposite problem from Captain Marvel within the same modern comic framework: good lord, did I not remember everything that was going on. I tried to let sparks of memory light up as I went along, but it was just not working. Names and faces and reactions to them were fresh for characters, but fuzzy bits to me. Of course, at least a chunk of this comes down to the miserable release schedule for this book–bad enough that Kate and Clint are trading off issue-to-issue, worse when it’s not on-time monthly.

Still, once everything fell into place (which unfortunately took a re-read–this did, incidentally, highlight something of the problem with the amusing “The Story So Far…” synopses in this book, that tend to be delightfully snarky instead of useful) this was a pretty solid end to Kate’s trip to L.A., while setting up the next (last!) issue pretty cleanly. Aja puts a wonderful signature on the story, with his scratchy but detailed work fitting perfectly that “light-hearted noir” feel I mentioned–everyone’s especially expressive (not quite in the Maguire-style of disturbingly perfect expressions, but still on it), and that’s certainly important for this story, which has a lot of realization of that noir-esque feel, with Kate realizing just how outside her understanding a lot of this was.

I probably should have re-read the (pre-)preceding issue beforehand, but I’m not entirely sure that’s on me…

Nightcrawler #6

I feel like I’m writing these in some kind of intended order, but I’m really not (they obviously aren’t alphabetical, though I think this may be the order I read them in). Chris Claremont basically takes the problem I had with Hawkeye above and kicks it to the curb in the most emphatic way possible: Page 1 largely replicates the penultimate page of #5, though it sets aside the bits of characterization to instead let the characters present (Nightcrawler and scorpion/insect student Rico) learn what we learned on the last page last time: this run for a new mutant isn’t necessarily going to be a cakewalk.

Of course, it’s not until they arrive that Nightcrawler is left to recognize the specifics of what we learned last time (and this cover tells you): the threat surrounding the mutant they’ve been sent to talk to about attending the Jean Grey School is being pursued by the Crimson Pirates, led by the cover’s Killian (yes, that’s kind of weird for me). We get something more in the vein of Nightcrawler’s initial miniseries¹, as Kurt decides to take on the Pirates without immediately requesting backup from Storm, after asking Rico how he feels about getting involved.

The two of them are left to defend both the mutant, Ziggy Karst, and the scientists caught in the crossfire. We get a good look at the experienced Nightcrawler (completely in his element, as Killian’s peons are space pirates, but still pirates, so the swords they carry are Kurt’s favoured) in contrast to the dry-mouthed, anxious need-to-achieve-and-prove from the rather scared young Rico, who gets a variety of responses from the scientists Kurt sends him to protect.

As I’ve felt about every issue of this book so far, Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg are working hard to try to overpower Claremont’s storytelling. The art is so great and so appropriate that it’s just a joy to read these–and, of course, that wouldn’t work if Claremont was not on-form. Kurt’s got the right balance of Claremont-angst and Cockrum-carefree to really carry the book, and the addition of Rico really gets to not only let this new character come into his own slowly, but to give us another perspective on Kurt–both Rico’s, and our reader’s view of Kurt as teacher and protector of this student.

It would’ve been easy to turn this issue and Rico’s first non-Danger Room fight into something maudlin or twisted in some way, but the direction Claremont goes with it is definitely the most satisfying of conclusions, without feeling contrived or completely telegraphed. Rico’s shaping up really well–his concerns about his appearance and his skill aren’t beaten into whinging so much as very real worries, and he also doesn’t turn around into a blank foil for Nightcrawler to stare at in awe, or fawn over, or need saving by, or anything. Just two characters both in one place. Pretty great story, as a result.

New Warriors #9

All right. First things first: New Warriors is cancelled at issue 12. This is criminal. This must be un-done, and I’m tasking anyone reading this with contributing. Buy all copies of the book you can find, and order more.

Why?

Glad you asked. Having dealt with the after-effects of the Terrigen Mist (particularly affecting the newly-named Haechi, and New Warrior friends), Jake Waffles and Mr. Whiskers transport Wundagore Mountain after Kaine’s request to drop off Hummingbird and be done with everything–but they manage to follow the location directives of Hummingbird herself, instead, and the team finds itself in…Houston?

Yup. Aracely still thinks this is home for Kaine, despite the events that closed out the Scarlet Spider book. Kaine (as always) disagrees, and is pissed off about it. Justice decides to chase him down and convince him not to quit (“You can’t quit something you never joined!” Kaine resounds, with trademark short-tempered hostility and caustic wit). But their “heart-to-turned back swinging away on webs” is interrupted by the appearance of…a giant mascot bear, rampaging through Houston. No, no, seriously.

Convinced that he is a superhero and hearing Kaine is Houston’s supervillain, Clut–er, Choke, who is definitely not the Houston Rockets’ mascot or anything–takes on the two of them, or, well, attempts to.

I’m not gonna lie, Tana Ford has a few weird panels (mostly some trouble with establishing perspective on the most spider-y of Kaine moments early in the book) but finds momentum and does justice (ahem) to the story, managing to convey the way that Yost writes Kaine, which is still delightful. His initial response to Choke’s appearance is perfect, and the choice of an absolutely ridiculous antagonist (which Ford deftly conveys the goofiness of!) just cements what is so awesome about this book. It is completely absurd, but still manages to hold the right drama and stakes for all the characters–an intrusion of stupid into an otherwise troublesome and “normal” superhero world.

This is also why I’m going to cry after issue 12. I hate all of you for letting this happen.

X #17

Duane Swierczynski has created an interesting dilemma with X, as he escalated stakes on the book rapidly–it would’ve been boring to see inevitable success for X after a while, and the last arc, with Archon, escalated the stakes all the way to “X cannot beat him in a million, billion years.” It addressed this appropriately, by removing Archon from the picture of his own volition (as X is not what he was interested in).

Now we’ve got X after Leigh’s brainwashing has started to fade, X after getting his ass completely handed to him, and X after redeeming himself from a much lesser defeat. What does he do now?

Well, Leigh’s instincts, as is often the case, drive him forward–a woman found partly skinned (!!) leads her to request X’s pursuit of those responsible. Which, understandably, he points out is not really his domain–he’s about the violence and the retribution, not the detective work (a good bit of further affirmation and clarity to his role from Swierczynski), which Leigh doesn’t mind–she notes that she can do that part of it all for him.

We’re left with new villains, new strangeness and mystery, and the endearing sight of X bullheadedly rushing in with frothing mouth and very clearly questionable grip on self-preservation and reality, regardless of his opponent (X himself seems unlikely to change significantly, which makes sense for who he is). It is indeed, as that green banner at the top suggests, a good entry point–though its quasi-sci-fi leanings of late are not a good indicator of how this all started, I’d say. Nguyen is still just absolutely the best choice for this book, as the mad dog nature of X is never in question, and the increasing weight of everything on Leigh is readily apparent. And that extra scrub of grit and grime over the whole thing is just the right touch to really keep the book from spiraling out wildly as Duane increases the wilder content.

Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3

After my little minor debacle with acquiring Armor Hunters #3 and having the weird experience of reading AH: Bloodshot and Unity before it came out, I was wary of reading this without knowing what was occurring, but it looks like Valiant’s very much on top of their printing schedule. Generation Zero–who we last left with Renegades Torque and Zephyr–are dealing with the sudden release of a veritable plague of insects that were dropped on earth for total cleansing by the Armor Hunters.

What this means is, well, it doesn’t matter what’s happening in the main story for this one, so ti was a good, solid read all by itself. This was probably the most self-contained tie-in, as it’s psiots dealing with their corner (the devastated and basically obliterated Mexico City) of the event and never really interacting with anyone else.

It’s a satisfying story in-and-of itself, as it lets us really get in with Generation Zero, as I’ve mentioned before. Titan and Cronus and Tellic and Cloud² and the rest have had their appearances (mostly in Harbinger Wars), but we really get to see Cronus come into his own as a leader, with everyone alongside him achieving their own points of glory via their powers. The story’s resolved cleanly, neither abruptly nor with an eye-rolling deus ex machina or other, “Uh oh, this is the last issue…shit!” feeling to it. Dysart manages to work all the characters in, and even do something really clever with Torque to deal with something we’ve not been seeing much of lately. Robert Gill captures all the characters distinctly, and the gross, body-horror of this plague with the right, well, disgustingness. I’ve got to add, it’s nice to finally see a little of the mechanical, driven sheen fall off of Cronus, too, as he thinks Generation Zero can just maybe finally let go of all of their defensive posturing and relax–at least a little.

Archer & Armstrong #24

Ah, one of those semi-dickish “this has little to do with the contents” covers. This could’ve been #0: Mary-Maria, but I don’t know that the book can handle a third #0, so it’s probably best it wasn’t.

Anyway, as that probably indicated, this book is entirely about Mary-Maria–indeed, it’s largely about her origin. Through the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, she receives notice of loan shark “O Polvo” in Brazil, where she actually grew up before being adopted by the Archer clan of conspiracy fundamentalists (that’s a thing, right?). We learn of how she came to be in their care, as well as of what family of hers exists–her mother died when she was very young, giving birth to her twin sisters. It’s clear this loan shark was strongly involved in her childhood in terribly negative ways, and so she accepts this assignment without hesitation.

Unexpectedly, this is the first issue of Archer & Armstrong to not be written by Fred Van Lente, which might only be apparent with regard to the general absence of humour here. Mary-Maria has certainly been used to humourous effect (in much the same way Archer is used), but it’s appropriately-inappropriate here, as the story doesn’t really demand humour to counterbalance it in any way, and it might undercut what is here.

I wondered why the art felt so incredibly right before I realized it was Clayton Henry, who has done loads of covers for the book, but not pencilled it since the first couple of issues. It’s great work all around on this one–enough that I just enjoyed it without even realizing these things had been shifted around!

Today’s title is–surprise!–from New Warriors #9. Because it’s fucking awesome, if you have somehow missed that fact. GO READ IT.

¹Which Dave Cockrum wrote. Fascinating, in its way–Dave wanted a swashbuckler when he created him, Claremont later inserted the aspect of faith that contorted that carefree mentality pretty significantly.

²Honestly didn’t do that pattern on purpose.

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