“Damn. Why didn’t I respond like that?”

Wednesday this week left me bouncing between the two local shops and spending entirely too long hanging out to get back in time to read or write here. With, unfortunately, encouragement to explore the upcoming/starting event Spider-Verse. Well, I did read when I got back, then immediately passed out. So, here we are!

  • All-New X-Factor #14
  • Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3 (of 3)
  • Daredevil #8
  • The Delinquents #2 (of 4)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #2
  • Elektra #6
  • Superior Spider-Man #33
  • Translucid #6 (of 6)
  • Unity #11

NOTE: Elektra #6 is part of my “I’m not yet caught up” trend. So, I didn’t read it. So, no review.

The Superior Spider-Man #33

Let’s get this out of the way: my known distaste for Humberto Ramos means I’ve not been reading much Spider-Man, despite his being, otherwise, my most-read Marvel character without question or hesitation. It also means that The Superior Spider-Man, in particular, stayed off my radar through some kind of fancy filtering. Yeah, some other folks were in there, like Camuncoli (who penciled this one), but I’m usually disinclined to pick up a series piecemeal.

The one exception I made was for the Stegman-penciled 17-19, which brought back Miguel O’Hara (that is, Spider-Man 2099) into Earth-616 for his solo series, and I figured, for the last two issues of the series “ever” (we’ll see about that, of course), I could deal for both a cross-over idea I like and the fact that I wouldn’t have to cautiously watch it to see about dropping it if Ramos returned (thus losing plot threads and so on)¹.

My affection for, especially, some of the more “off-brand” Spideys (Ben Reilly, Kaine Parker, the aforementioned O’Hara), meant the storyline would be intriguing. This pair of issues (that is, including the preceding #32) are set to introduce why and how all these Spider-People are gathering. Conveniently, the events take place in a temporal pocket that was acknowledged in–hey! Superior #17-19. Nice!

So: #32 got Otto-Peter (Superior) to recognize the threat posed by this hunter Karn, who is pursuing Spider-Folk through the multiverse. He began to gather others in light of this, as they were the only prey in any given reality that Karn was interested in–so if Karn came after him, they would be centralized enough to provide a snowballing threat. #33 takes him up from here and introduces more Spider-Folk, as well as dropping some in who are appearing in other ways (such as via Edge of Spider-Verse, the second issue of which is reviewed below, and the first issue of which introduced Earth-90214’s “Noir” version). In his immeasurable arrogance, Otto assumes he has the means of controlling Karn, and finds that Karn is, as he suspected, but one of many–and that this threat may be one that only he and a few of the other Spider-Folk are willing to treat “appropriately” (ie, with fatal methodologies).

Christos Gage and Dan Slott give us a variety of voices for all of our Spider-___s, though most of them are largely (as would be expected) mild variations on Peter Parker’s voice. Giuseppe Camuncoli is an excellent choice for these stories–his pencils with John Dell’s inks keep a slew of characters who, inevitably, look somewhat similar from being in any way hard to tell apart. Even amassed, it’s pretty simple to distinguish the six-armed Spider-Man’s body parts in a panel from a cyborg whose metal portions are not always on display, or Spider-Monkey, or Spider-Man: India, all of whom have limited visible differences from the waste up, colour-wise. Antonio Fabela’s colours, too, assist in this, acting as only mild variations that keep characters separate without being so glaring as to feel forced.

There’s a back-up feature, also by Gage (this time solo on script) with art by M.A. Sepulveda, with Richard Isanove on colours, that doesn’t do what I’ve often found awful with back-ups–let the first one down. Maintaining the writer helps, but having a good art team really makes a difference. The focus, tone, and style (mostly thanks to Sepulveda and Isanove) shift entirely to Karn and his family of hunters² as they pursue the more outlandish of Spider-Folk–the Master Weaver of Universe-000 (!) and self-described “God” Ai Apaec that helps to explain the in-Victorian-theme-but-otherwise-weird diving helmet of Karn, while also developing something of his character in the process.

Having these two stories together does manage to justify the bumped cover price, I think–so long as you accept the current-standard pricing in general.

Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (of 5): Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman

On Earth-We-Actually-Don’t-Know,-It-Seems, the radioactive spider bit Gwendolyne Stacy, not Peter Parker, and it set off an entirely different, yet strangely familiar story: Peter Parker’s reputation as “pathetic [instead of ‘puny’] Parker” turns him, in absence of accident, to deliberate manipulation of himself, a death that inspires the heroics of Spider-Woman (who also started in entertainment, using her powers for drum-playing gimmicks) also launches JJJ’s crusade against her, and Captain Stacy (!), too, questions this vigilante.

We’ve got a pretty great two-page rundown of most of these events characterized as “Previously in Spider-Woman…” while Gwen is processing them in Spider-Person standard fashion (and her luck is about on par with “The Old Parker Luck”), having a gig with her (well, not her, pretty clearly) band the Maryjanes, the police on her tail after the aforementioned death, her own father unwittingly pursuing her, and the Kingpin sending the Rhino after that same father in a misguided attempt to curry favour with her.

This story actually doesn’t do much at all to tie in to Spider-Verse yet–but that’s fair. Even the first issue, which covered 90214’s “Noir” Spidey had the previous Noir to function as world-building and set-up for that version of Peter, where this Gwen has never even been seen. We get a single panel to remind us, at the very end, of where this is all going, but prior to that–well, we’re getting lots of nudges toward the proposed/hoped for/what have you Spider-Gwen solo book.

Jason Latour manages to work some nice details in on Gwen’s approach to life, motivation, dreams, and superheroics–tying the last to her first love (music!) in a nice way, even. Our new versions of her father (especially) and even Betty, Glory, and Mary-Jane also get some little bits of fleshing out, with a plot that manages to short-hand a lot of the differences in this universe from everything we’re used to.

Robbi Rodriguez, however, suffers from the kind of stylized art that I continue feel utterly inappropriate for superhero book. Or maybe it’s just Big Two books. Or something–I don’t know. Putty faces (which have always bothered me, considering my distastes for Ramos, McFarlane, even JoeMad) are matched with the sketchiness that I think did dis-service to a few issues of Captain Marvel and She-Hulk (is there some idea that this style is suited to female protagonists or something?), especially as Rodriguez’s inks just reinforce that sketchy feeling. Gwen’s own face is wildly inconistent–from the cover to the first page, she looks like an entirely different person. Her father’s face sometimes middle-aged, but by the end looks like it’s melting. Weirdly cartoon-y giant foreheads appear and disappear, without rhyme or reason, sometimes seeming to stem from strange perspective choices, sometimes just “because” (Matt Murdock suffers this pretty strongly).

The negative-space-based design for her costume is really cool, with its inversion of the red-with-webs standard as highlights and liner only, but I think that serves to highlight the thing that redeems most of the art: Rico Renzi’s colours and Clayton Cowles’s barely-controlled lettering. Renzi douses the book in loads of psychedelic colour that resembles the approach Adam Metcalfe took with Translucid’s psychedelic hallucinatory moments, without quite the madness that was appropriate there. The texturing “effect” on Rhino is pretty great, too, with bluish splatters across his otherwise grey skin to imply that texture. Cowles’s lettering is wild and primal, which helps to really sell the feel of the book where it appears–even “Previously in Spider-Woman…” is slapdash paint-strokes! I’m vaguely wary of where to associate some of it, the way that the lyrics to the song we assume is called “Face It Tiger” are incorporated into the art really sells the tone and makes that song and the idea of the band work

While I’m completely down for seeing Gwen’s adventures continue, I cannot let the moment pass without mentioning that a band called Married with Sea Monsters recorded what they thought “Face It Tiger” would sound like, and holy crap, I think they nailed the hell out of it, down to the punk-ish tone I read immediately, “MJ’s” riotgrrl-y vocals and Gwen’s power-thump of drums. License this shit, Marvel. Do it now.

All-New X-Factor #14

One day, I’d like to escape my self-destructive habit of reading stupid reviews, but that hasn’t happened yet, so a brief aside: last issue, we pursued the story of Pietro Maximoff’s reunion with his daughter Luna (and his public admission of his crimes) after it was opened the issue before. Someone said it was treading water, someone else dumped on the book over art and ignored everything else. This is bad. This is very bad. Don’t do these things. If you’re reading a PAD book and you think an issue that’s exploring the character-effects of actions is boring repetition, you’re probably reading the wrong author.

Anyway, Peter decides to continue his focused approach from those issues, moving on from Pietro, but not leaving the Lensherr lineage in the process: Wanda Maximoff appears before Lorna Dane, and, after a bit of hissing over her monstrous actions, Wanda admits that she’s just there to attempt to be family to her half-sister, as the two of them have never done so, and Wanda has failed to even do anything non-work with Pietro, either. It’s all an interruption of Danger’s continued forays into segments of the human experience that she is now looking to Lorna for information on–making for the most ready need for exit Lorna could have.

Pop Mhan continues the Di Giandomenico-aping from last issue and does quite well at keeping the art largely clean and restrained to emphasize the character-based storytelling. Lorna gets to be in the interesting position of “most normal person” when Wanda’s limited socializing and Danger’s thoroughly non-human approach to the world collide at…a RenFaire? Well, why not? Lorna wants a way out of all of this (while still giving it a shot), Wanda has no idea bout anything, and Danger is, well, Danger.

Mined for some great exchanges, and Wanda’s first real exposure to alcohol, David works in a quick subplot about some of the acting staff at the RenFaire, and gives our book’s protagonists something to deal with in an action sense alongside everything else–an action they even acknowledge when they take care of the situation and remark upon their rotten “trouble magnet” luck. And then David sucker-punches us, in ways I’m not going to describe other than–oh dear, do I want issue 15 now.

Daredevil #8

Mark Waid dealt pretty quickly (and wonderfully, let me repeat) with the Original Sin tie-ins for Matt, and we’re on to a new story that I’d already forgotten the core of for some reason, and didn’t even manage to recall on seeing the cover.

If you’re not feeling as thick as me–yes! It’s the Purple Man. Always a peculiar villain–he’s purple and has a stupid name, but can be and has been used for some pretty interesting stories in light of his powers, which somehow imbues his stupid name with, instead, a kind of brilliant simplicity–he controls (ahem) much of this issue.

Matt and (legal and romantic) partner Kristen McDuffie take some time to broaden Matt’s sensory base (“What if someday, as Daredevil, you’re overrun by either sea lions or seals? Your life may depend on knowing which is which.”⁴) when a discussion about an out-of-the-blue phone call from her father leads them to a trip to visit him on his boat. Meanwhile the Purple Man is using his powers of persuasive control of others to assemble and purple-ize children who join that self-same recruitment effort, his reasons for which are quickly made clear.

The best thing about the way Waid deals with these characters is the way they are explored without worrying incessantly about “expansion”. Chris Samnee’s illustrations of Matt Murdock’s perceptions (reminiscent of the transformative–*cough*–effects of Unicron upon Megatron and his fellow wounded cronies in Transformers: The Movie) even assist in this feeling. We’ve got another voice looking into Matt’s powers, finding them fascinating–unusual, he notes, for the people in his life–while we also look into what life is like for the Purple Man, neither of which feels like a seismic shift so much as a revelation of what was already there (see also: Peter David). While it is largely a set-up for what will occur with the Purple People (note: Waid, do not use this terminology), the personal-life events for Matt make the issue itself very worthwhile–nevermind the delving into the Purple Man’s motivations and character.

I will say that Matthew Wilson’s initial colouring approach came off really confusing. In light of forgetting that I’d been told (in advance, by some preview or other–maybe even the last issue) that this would deal with the Purple Man, the night-time setting left me completely unaware of the purple skin present. Came off as rather day-for-night–so I got the overall idea of what was happening thanks to everyone else, but I didn’t realize at all it was the Purple Man until later, in different lighting.

Translucid #6 (of 6)

And so, we reach the end of what has been a stellar miniseries.

The Horse has captured The Navigator for his own purposes, to understand, fully, what it is that has caused the Navigator to sag in his heroics. Having walked “with” him through his origin, the Horse feels a greater understanding for who and what the Navigator is, and what he will do with this information.

I don’t know how to talk about this issue, to be honest. It’s a conclusion I’m not sure I expected on any level. I felt my jaw actually drop, because I was legitimately surprised at where it went. Claudio, Chondra, Bayliss, and Metcalfe didn’t do anything to let down the previous five issues, with the wonderfully mysterious and uncomfortably appealing Horse so forcefully taking center stage in the real and present world, with the Navigator left primarily to exist and drive the book in hallucination and flashback as things stand.

If you’ve been sleeping on this, make sure to change that up when it’s collected, if nothing else. This stuff is really good.

Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3 (of 3)

And so, we see the conclusion of another Valiant Armor Hunters mini.

Having defeated the hunter Lilt, Bloodshot is left only to deal with the savage half-hunter/half-armour Malgam, with the recouped forces of Livewire and M.E.R.O. supporting him. Any shifting tides related to this incursion outside this locale are not relevant–this is mano-e-mano in the loosest of terms (since neither of them is even “man” in a nice generalized sense, between the nanites and the X-O).

Despite the cover, GIN-GR is not really involved in any capacity.

Joe Harris did not, I think, quite capture the heights of Swierczynski, Gage, Dysart, or the other writers who’ve helmed Bloodshot as a solo book–the mystery man himself doesn’t really even seem to recognize his existing depths, let alone expand upon them. It’s a pure action book, to be sure, and the events certainly preclude his search for identity, or acting on anything other than the immediate, but it rings pretty hollow as a result of all of this, alas.

Trevor Hairsine’s art is not necessarily a saving grace, but does keep a momentum-based, action-oriented book from faltering too much. Still, the flashbacks continue to seem largely irrelevant, even as we’ve now closed this entire chapter–or, if not irrelevant, certainly unnecessary. In a universe as largely “flawless” (within reason, that is) as modern Valiant’s, this is the first book I might hesitantly call disappointing.

The Delinquents #2 (of 4)

The first chapter of The Delinquents mostly placed the pieces in places: Mondostano as the not-so-subtle villainous corporation which hires Quantum and Woody, and Aram and Archer as crusading (in the Indiana Jones sense) for the same goal.

Asmus still has clear control over the book’s script (again, he and Van Lente plot, but Asmus scripts) as it deals far more in the kind of humour Quantum and Woody deal in, than the kind that Van Lente uses with Archer & Armstrong. This isn’t a complaint, and neither Aram nor Archer suffers for it, to be sure.

The cover, at first, made me a bit sad–where is Goat, after all? But the book resolved this with a number of great “silent” goat-gags, enhanced by the addition of a ridiculous children’s typing toy that lets us in on their father’s identity being trapped in the goat, but with the silly shorthand typing that keeps it nice and ridiculously goat-y.

What really sells this, though, is exactly what the first cover promised: the strange bonding of these two teams as they really and finally meet up. What was surprising was the way that the writers ended up “pairing them off”–it’s not like that first cover. The obvious Woody and Aram pairing was lost to Woody and Archer’s non-invulnerable status leaving them more cautious and thus able to hash a few things out–and lord knows, as much as Woody would love someone as hedonistic, the chance to corrupt the willing brings out the best/worst in him.

Unity #11

A clever cover all around (conveying the size of GIN-GR, while also managing to imply the issue number a second time) is, alas, also not exactly appropriate. Unity has firmly dealt with the hounds, but the felled GIN-GR has released mechanical “spores”. There’s a bit of confusion about Livewire’s concurrent roles in the two books this week (I didn’t stop and try to really break it down, though, it just felt odd), but we’re really dealing most with Ninjak and Gilad this time.

We get a nice insight into what makes Ninjak unique as the operative that he is, with a cool bit of hand-waving “meditation” bollocks that slides right into that “acceptable suspension of disbelief” slot and explains why he’s just such a BAMF.

Kindt gets to give us a nice bit of interplay in the pairing we’ve seen for the last few issues of Ninjak and Gilad, with Ninjak’s very solitary nature running up against the team-based reasons for the book and its name, as well as his own militaristic background as the “Eternal Warrior”.

I always feel like, unless it’s unexpectedly not-great, commenting on the pencils in a modern Valiant book is just silly–Segovia, as with most of their artists, is good at both interesting images and the storytelling aspect necessary in comic book penciling, and I just can’t find myself asking for more than that in this universe.

Today’s title’s from All-New X-Factor. Lorna finds her conversational tact shown-up unexpectedly.

¹If it’s not coming through, even ads for Ramos’s work send me into fits of infuriated rage, I loathe his pencils so very much. I’d rather they not, but they do. It mostly makes me angry because I’d rather be reading Spider-Man, but I hate the art so much it would be distracting (as it has been any time I look at his stuff, covers or interiors) and just gross to look at, but that’s a reminder that it wouldn’t work out, and that I lost the chance to read those stories with at least art I don’t mind. Irrational? Sure. Whatever. It’s a sincere reaction. I really, really don’t like his work and wish he could magically stick to books I don’t read so that he’d still get work and his fans could still pick his stuff up, but it wouldn’t interfere with my reading. Selfish? Obviously. But it’s not like I’m campaigning for it, here. Let me have my silly fantasy world.

²His family includes the otherwise more famous Morlun, who apparently returned after JMS’s run on ASM a decade ago that I read and liked, but most people hated for turning mystical–more fuel for the “there are no bad characters” fire, I guess–that or a bunch of angry readers are out there right now.

³It immediately reminded me of Morbius, the Living Vampire #6, and the band that the Basilisk and Morbius crash in on, which I’ve always liked (even if Len’s lyrics were a bit iffy on the meter-side).

⁴One can only hope this is foreshadowing.

A Dozen Roses in the Car, and I Don’t Know Where You Are

Its been a busy couple of days, so these were all delayed a bit. Still, it is or was a new week, so…!

Before I begin: I’ve just discovered that my favourite new book, New Warriors, is being canceled after issue 12. I told you all to go out and read it. Where have you been? Fix this. Now. This is sad and not-good news.

Sigh.

Onward–

The list:

  • All-New Ghost Rider #6
  • All-New X-Factor #12
  • Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2
  • Armor Hunters: Harbinger #2
  • Daredevil #7
  • Delinquents #1
  • Translucid #5 (of 6)

Armor Hunters #3 has still been denied to my shop, but is in shipping manifests for next week, at least. I’m still iffy on starting All-New X-Factor now, with so much of the previous title in boxes (but not complete). Anyone who stumbles across this and wants to assert whether I should or shouldn’t start reading the title in ignorance of the prior volume is welcome to do so!

 

First off, let’s cover the book that I recommend in person all the time, but haven’t addressed here at all. Translucid is the latest from Claudio Sanchez and his wife Chondra Echert who’ve previously co-written KillAudio and The Key of Zboth for Claudio’s own Evil Ink Comics. An interview I randomly stumbled into had Claudio suggesting that Chondra is most directly and heavily involved in the writing–whether this means a “plotter + scripter” breakdown or something less easily divisible, I don’t know. But there’s plenty of credit to go around here. Translucid is an intentional breakdown of the Batman/Joker-type dynamic, without leaning much at all on those characters or their story.

While Mark Waid covered something of this via inversion in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, his focus was far more on the inversion itself, and the Plutonian, by necessity, resembles Superman in many ways.¹

Certainly, the Navigator is more of a Batman, normal guy with gadgets type hero, but he’s leaning more toward science fantasy in his powers than heavy training and having the money to bankroll batarangs and other “understandable” gadgets. The Horse, however, is nothing of the Joker, beyond being a villain. The Horse is a schemer, a plotter–maybe it’s his snappy dress and cane, but I’d think more like Kingpin, if anyone.

In any case, this is all about the Navigator, and how he lost his luster and his drive while the Horse was in prison, and how the Horse is attempting to understand these changes, while we, too, see where the Navigator came from. By this issue, we’ve got a lot of his origin, a lot of what has built him up, designs and ideas and emotions, but in the current day we have the Horse in complete control, but still confusingly (but not at all unbelievably) devoted to prying apart the gears and motivations of the Navigator.

Daniel Bayliss and Adam Metcalfe make for a formidable art team as always.  Keeping the normal normal and the fantastic fantastic, Felipe Smith’s cover [EDIT: Smith’s cover is a variant, not the one I have, which is the one pictured. His cover is here] again references the hallucinogenic images the Horse is leaving the Navigator trapped in–images that can bleed or shift suddenly in the book, shocking and fluid as they appear or take over. Reality warps under their hands with wild but controlled lines and colours that shift from the interestingly limited but very “real” palette into neons and other blinding colours that emphasize this strangeness.

The book is and should be six issues–at least, it looks that way here at the penultimate issue–though it will still be sad to see it go.

Yes! It’s a “ValiantCraft” cover! My shop only got these variants, though only for this book. I’d originally thought I wanted to get all of them, but, I suppose, it would be a bit weird to have Armor Hunters books with that style. Maybe. If nothing else, this is definitely the title least strange to find with it.

Continuing the story of Quantum and Woody after their title ended, by merging it with the still-running Archer & Armstrong, Asmus (Q&W) and Van Lente (A&A) have started the convergence nice and clean. Asmus was left with the final scripting–understandable, as Van Lente still has a book and he doesn’t–and Archer might be a teensy bit off in tone (Archer’s a peculiar character though, with his upbringing, his rejection of it, and the weirdness left in the wake of that), but everyone else is spot on for certain. The issue is nicely balanced between the two teams, while clearly setting up–via the sure-to-be-infamous treasure map from Armstrong’s “hobo days”–the way in which the four will run into each other.

While the standard cover has been used for most advertising, it pulls a pretty standard trick by implying that we’re going to open the book with Woody and Armstrong joyously sharing in their hedonism to the embarrassment and sighs of Quantum and Archer, they’ve not really run into each other yet, so we’re yet to know if that’s accurate (even if it is pretty reasonable). Valiant books remain serious about their long-term story-telling, without leaving individual issues unsatisfying, relying on the action and dialogue to maintain their entertainment value.

Diamond has continued to make things awkward for my shop’s orders, so Armor Hunters #3 still hasn’t made it in, but I’m now 3/4 issues through the tie-ins, so I have a rough idea of what happened in it. But, as I’ve mentioned previously, modern Valiant tie-ins function as their title character’s point-of-view on those events, not as the means to deal with those events–this is Armor Hunters for Bloodshot, not Armor Hunters, and Oh, by the Way, Bloodshot.

We last left our nanite-infused killing machine with (no time for) questions about his identity and origin attempting to protect the mangled, X-O-covered fugitive Malgam, prisoner of M.E.R.O., from the sudden intrusion of Armor Hunter Lilt. Colonel Capshaw is his only distinctive contact with M.E.R.O. (no surprise: she already deals with Aric of Dacia, and Bloodshot’s personality, even if not his skill set, is that of a puppy next to Aric) and she will not brook the intrusion of Lilt or the failure of their latest defensive system (by which I mean Bloodshot). The Armor Hunters are stupendously formidable, as they would have to be to deal regularly with Manowar armour, which has been explicitly shown to be something which no one we’d previously seen could readily contend with–even Malgam was best controlled by, well, Aric.

Unlike Unity or Harbinger, this is the most isolated of Armor Hunters tie-ins, with Bloodshot in a contained facility as he is. Admittedly, I was a bit confused at the outset, having forgotten where things were (I should’ve skimmed the inside cover’s summary to remind myself, so, my bad) but this is very much an action-oriented story right now. There’s no time for anything but dealing with the Armor Hunters and the retention of Malgam.

Armor Hunters: Harbinger has made the interesting choice of following not Harada, not Peter or even the remaining Renegades, but Generation Zero (with, admittedly, some Renegades along for the ride, but only two). Maybe it’s a result of Harbinger: Omegas, or something else, but it allows us our first consistent focus on Cronus, Animalia, Cloud, Titan, Telic and the Zygos Twins. Even the presence of Zephyr and Torque is left more to help address external perceptions of GZ. We’ve seen the hounds, the destructive power of GIN-GR, the lethality of singular operatives like Lilt, but Generation Zero has discovered that what destroyed Mexico City is something else again. Cronus takes a team to explore what was left in the wake of that destruction, and it is not just wreckage–the Hunters left something behind that is unlike the kind of power they’ve previously expressed.

The Zygos twins continue to be fascinating in their sociopathic view of everything–they’re fascinated by the destructive power of the Hunters and the possibilities of their technology, even as Cronus and the rest are attempting to save survivors of the attack–though not without stopping to take some anti-authority digs at the choices of our two Renegades, re-affirming Cronus’s revulsion at anything representing such power after the treatment his team received themselves.

Mark Waid has turned Daredevil’s origin, not on its ear, but certainly on its elbow or something with the previous issue, telling us something about Battlin’ Jack Murdock we never would’ve expected by revealing–thanks to Original Sin–something of Matt’s life with his mother still around.

Maggie the nun has clearly been his mother since Miller introduced her 30 years ago, but we’ve never known what led her to the convent, or away from Matt. And now we do. Matt does as well, but he has no time to deal with this when Maggie is secretly arrested and extradited by the new ruler of Wakanda, T’Challa’s sister (who is not so benevolent as leader of an extremely advanced country).

Matt’s methodology in dealing with this is clever and at least somewhat unexpected, satisfyingly character appropriate all the same–and it gives Waid a chance to pull another rug out from under us. I won’t lie, I actually exclaimed my profanities when this happened, not out of anger, but sheer surprise at the clever move and way it deals with the previous issue. That it was means to address an issue not often touched on (most likely never, or at least rarely, in the Big Two, though I’m not foolish enough to profess to absolute knowledge). A pretty sparkling issue, and probably my pick of the week’s releases.

Felipe Smith–yeah, the guy who did the cover for Translucid up there [EDIT: again, not the one pictured above, but this variant]–has lost Tradd Moore (whose work graces the cover and no more) and instead gained Damian Scott, who, my quick research when this was announced, is known for a very hip-hop/graffiti art stylism. This was good news–Tradd Moore’s rather crazy art was very stylized, too. I’ll miss his wind-blown flames and sharp lines on crazy figures, but Scott more than steps up to the plate to keep Smith’s characters and story where they should be.

And that brings me to the most fascinating thing here: this isn’t Zarathos, nor a replacement for Johnny, Dan, or anyone else. Indeed, so far as we know to this point, this is literallyGhost Rider for the first time. Eli claims to be just that, and speaks openly to Robbie Reyes about his desires–not far, particularly, from Dan’s co-inhabitant in seeking primarily to punish the wicked, and certainly reveling in violence the way Zarathos left Johnny, but Robbie has other ideas.

And that has made the last five issues, the pacing of the book, the seemingly peculiar choices, begin to stack up into an image that makes sense. It’s not that we weren’te shown what Reyes is doing, it’s that it didn’t quite click. When Eli reminds Robbie that he has responsibility now that he has power, Reyes interrupts him. And it’s not to tell him he doesn’t care about responsibility, or that he’s a selfish git who’s responsible to no one, or anything. It was a surprise that makes sense for Reyes, the book, and everything else. Which means, on most levels, it isn’t a surprise at all. It’s exactly what you would expect from him. He uses newfound power to do good in his actual life, rather than attempt a new one–good, ill, or anything. It’s now a much more interesting story, because it’s doing something unusual–for now, as I imagine Smith will force Reyes to recognize the interactions with the rest of the world in some way, or increase the influence of Eli–without making a big fuss about it. It’s just who Robbie is.

And that’s where we are for the week. Or, at least, where I am.

Title this week is from Braid’s “A Dozen Roses”, from their 1998 classic exeunt, Frame and Canvas. They’ve since reformed and recorded and released a few singles, but mostly the fantastic No Coast.

Aha, I discovered this in my lazy writing-avoidance meanderings, and I guess All-New X-Factor is on the table now. Cool.

¹The story is, after all, essentially, a hero goes so far off the deep end of evil that he is, of course, Irredeemable. It would take a lot more set-up for a Batman-type analogue to do this–or most anyone who isn’t absurdly powerful. All the heroes in the world teaming up could take down most heroes. Just not Superman. And while a rampaging Hulk would be neither surprising nor even original, brute force as compared to brute force and laser eyes is something else–plus any other random powers. So, point is: this isn’t a knock against Waid.