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Avengers & X-Men: Axis #3

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Leinil Francis Yu (Penciller), Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Matt Milla, Laura Martin, Edgar Delgado (Color Artists), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Jim Cheung, Justin Ponsor (Cover Artists)

The Story: Witness another schism, the result of a civil war between the Avengers versus the X-Men. Next up? A dark reign where villains seem to be heroes. The only original sin here would be lack of novelty. Oh, the inhumanity!

The Review: Okay, first impression– Again with the quips!?? I mean, Deadpool’s humor actually works and comes from a character known for non-sequiturs and hyperbolic randomness with liberal dashes of pop culture. Ditto, to some extent, for Loki. But when nearly every other new character shows up with the same attempt at one-liners, such as the Enchantress remarking about fondue parties, it comes across as bland NOT distinctive. At worse, various characters lose their individuality– no matter how many times Carnage can drop a “yo!” in his dialogue (get it? he’s *redneck* you see), it’s too distracting to see him playing well with others and even joking about “courtesy” with the Absorbing Man.

This lack of distinction highlights the fact that really the choices of the villain-team seem arbitrary to the point of meaninglessness. There’s no reason why Magneto should have sought out Carnage or Hobgoblin or any of them, specifically. Perhaps he did in fact track down, say, the Melter, who is infinitely a better choice than Sabretooth when fighting giant robots, but, you know. Even Mystique, whose face-shifting powers could conceivably confuse a specifically hero-hunting Sentinel, is set against the Red Skull during the fight. Strategize, Magneto. Strategize.

(The exception here seems to be the Enchantress. Despite my quibble with the assumption here that her powers are basically nothing but “love magic,” she actually succeeds in taking down the Red Onslaught, if you think about it. However, her usefulness done, she’s scuttled to the side so the Scarlet Witch can take the stage and cast the “inversion” spell and change the world, as she so often does. Why the heck couldn’t the Enchantress have done that?)

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Loki: Agent of Asgard #7 – Review

By: Al Ewing (story), Jorge Coelho (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: In which Doom doesn’t engage in self-discovery.

The Review: My unfamiliarity with Marvel canon means the films can be as influential on my understanding of the characters as the comics. Freyja, for example, I’m used to thinking of as the ultimate mother, full of unconditional love even for the reprobates in her family. So it’s rather jarring to see her manipulative strong-arming of Loki into a joyless future just to ensure the happiness of everyone else’s. Her rationalization for ensuring Old Loki’s existence is all queen, but little mother:

“He is the Loki we need now. In this time of change, he brings a promise of security. The future he promises is a golden one for us all.”

Even Odin, not exactly known for touchy-feelyness, has second thoughts about the trade-off. “All but him, cursed to ever play the villain, to ever lose… How does the younger Loki take it?”

His wife wavers, but stays on point. “He…he will come to his senses in time.”
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Daredevil #9 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: It’s true that children can really drive you off the wall.

The Review: For those of you who don’t know, I work in the dependency system as minors’ counsel—yes, my actual day job—so I have a soft spot for abused, neglected, or otherwise troubled kids. A lot of people say it’s hard work I’m doing, dealing with such emotionally trying issues from day to day, but in some ways, I find the job easy because unlike many attorneys, I rarely have difficulty feeling sympathy for my clients. It doesn’t take much for a kid to pull your heartstrings.

Fictional children get similar benefits, which sort of makes up for their lack of substance. Not like there aren’t any young characters as complex and memorable as adults (e.g., Huckleberry Finn, Scout Finch), but they just don’t have the same richness of experience. They see things simpler and more intensely than grown-ups, which is exactly the power exerted by the Purple Kids (which is what I’m calling them until Waid tells me otherwise) over the people around them. They have no agenda beyond fulfilling their immediate impulses, and no motivation besides subconsciously inflicting the pain they’ve suffered on others.
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Fantastic Four #11 – Review

By: James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk (Penciller), Karl Kessel (Inker), Jesus Arburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Story: Ben has an encounter in a prison shower, and Wyatt has an encounter in a dark alley. Where have I seen these plotlines before?

The Review: It’s hard to escape the news that the Fantastic Four’s title will soon cease publication. And as such, it’s difficult not to read and review this issue in context of the fact, since any plot development feels less like momentum and more like a foregone conclusion. I mean, on one hand, there’s *always* a foregone conclusion when reading comicbooks (or any heroic journey story)– the heroes win. So the joy of the story should be in finding out *how* the heroes win. But when you know the heroes *aren’t* going to “win” in some sense because it’s fait accompli their “last story,” it’s difficult to *want* to see how that’s accomplished.

How great would it have been to some sense of a “perfect ending” for the Fantastic Four, and then set up some complications to that, and watch them overcome it? Comics are great with origin stories and episodic serials, not so much endings. The FF could have set a new standard of “going out on top,” and capping off themes and ideas 70 years in the making. I admit that it’s certainly possible that’s what we are indeed getting, but it feels like we’re getting something else entirely, something entirely downbeat.

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Edge of Spider-Verse #5 – Review

By: Gerard Way (Writer), Jake Wyatt (Artist), Ian Herring (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer & Production)

The Story: Sometimes you don’t choose the SP//dr; it chooses you.

The Review: This is a great example of a “Edge of Spider-Verse” done right. There’s enough familiar spider-elements to make it “Spider” but enough of a twist to really fit the “Edge” part of it, making it one of the more alien “Verses” we’ve visited. And that’s cool.

Peni Parker is the hero here, but she defies a simple characterization. She’s at times described as a “teenage weapon,”  a “Gene-Pop” celebrity, “speed-metal”/”hardcore”, “女性操縦士 (josei sōjūshi)/ Girl Pilot”, and… a vegetarian. It’s our second vaguely Japanese spider-hero (after Dr. Aaron Aikman’s version in issue #3) and this one is much more intriguing, hitting all the right notes to show just enough to be interesting and hiding just enough to keep things intriguing.  She’s also a legacy hero, taking the Sp//dr identity from her father, and those familiar hero/Spider-Man tropes about family and responsibility show up through that.

Interestingly, there’s a second “hero” here, the spider itself, who acts in a kind of symbiotic way (and yes, it’s telling that the word “symbiote” could be used here). While the true nature of the spider, its origin, and its relationship to Peni isn’t explicit, it’s one of the most intriguing of those intriguing elements I’ve mentioned. What’s unfortunate is that the art has to struggle to include the spider in a meaningful way. It can be difficult to display layouts of things, and integrate such layouts together, when there is such a different size relationship. So too often the spider shows up in a postage stamp-size panel disconnected from the serial, or suddenly appears on Peni’s hand. Perhaps this contributes to an eerie, almost sci-fi thriller, aspect of the story, with this strange enigmatic spider on the fringes of the action and coming-of-age story.   

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Avengers & X-Men: Axis #2 – Review

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Adam Kubert (Artist), Laura Martin & Matt Milla (Color Artists), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor (Cover Artist)

It has all the things to like from #1, just more! Of course, it has all the things we didn’t like, too, but let’s focus on what’s cool about comics, right? For example, that last page splash. Now that’s just fun.

The central character here is Iron Man, which is both a strength and a weakness, or an example of one of those “liked/didn’t like” things I mentioned above. We hear much of the narration from his point of view, which includes a lot of self-apologetic hand-wringing. Of course, this only works if you trust in Tony Start in the first place and believe him to be a paragon of heroic virtue. He isn’t (this is Marvel Comics of course, with feet-of-clay heroes), and in fact a lot of the exposition in the beginning gives Stark a lot of backstory better fit for a supervillain. By the same token, you really have to buy into the whole “Tony Stark is a genius” premise in the first place, because we’re told these Sentinels are such a big deal precisely because Tony Stark sort-of-kind-of built them. (See? That was your problem, Bolivar Trask. You just aren’t Tony Stark.)

So, I’m sorry if I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for Iron Man. I’m almost ready to side with Magneto, who displays almost a one-note character whose superpower is cutting banter against Stark and almost becomes a bit too much. There’s a bit of redemption possible for Stark, as he not only is given opportunity to lead a (ultimately doomed) salvo against the Red Onslaught, but also to give a bit of third quarter rallying speech. I love this kind of stuff, as I follow comics precisely because I want to experience what’s like to be a hero, but I was a bit underwhelmed by his speech. So it all all comes down to “just so long as we do it”? That’s… really unsatisfying. I hope Stark hires someone else for motivating personnel at his company.

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Ms. Marvel #9 – Review

By: G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (art), Ian Herring (color art)

The Story: Kamala discovers that she’s an Inhuman while the Inhumans discover that she’s Kamala.

The Review: After a triumphant weekend at New York Comic Con, Kamala Khan is back doing what she does best as the Inventor ups the stakes of their little rivalry.

It would be easy to oversimplify this issue’s story as fairly standard, old-fashioned comics: a little bit of punching, a fancy set piece, some exposition, and a renewed assault on the bad guy’s lair. It’s the basic formula of a modern comic. There’s also not quite as much of the firework energy that defined previous issues. It’s unfortunate, but it kind of needs to be this way, as G. Willow Wilson takes the issue to introduce some fascinating new concepts and gently tug on our heartstrings the way that only Kamala Khan can.

Indeed, this is something of a quiet, subtle issue. That doesn’t always jibe with the bombastic character of this series, but it does still provide a unique and effective tone for the issue. This issue provides a chance for Kamala to slow down and really sit with the consequences of being Ms. Marvel. It’s fun to see Kamala living the dream of being a hero, but we really get the measure of her when things fall apart, when, as Captain America would say, it comes down to you against the world and you have to tell the world, “No, you move.” And Kamala does.
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