Comic Pick of the Week 3/30/2011
The third update of Updatapalooza! Whew, this is a lot of comics to re-read! Not like it’s precisely a burden, though. Which reminds me…it’s time to check the roast! Back in a flash.
Honorable Mentions: J.T. Krul delivers in broad emotional strokes in this month’s Green Arrow #10. For starters, anytime people start wielding actual Arthurian literature in a comic, I sit upright and pay close attention. Krul’s use of Tennyson was inspired, as we finally saw the veil of insanity part for Galahad and he made peace with his past and his inability to save his daughter. The inner strength he showed enabled him to break free of the corrupted forest’s reach and battle Etrigan with our other heroes. You may have seen the birth of a major force of good here. I’m pumped to see where this new Galahad goes next. On the Marvel side of the fence, the Captain America and the Secret Avengers One-Shot was a lot of fun. Witty repartee, ridiculous acronyms, and a lot of buttkickery. What was not to love? Deconnick captured the tense relationship between Sharon and Natasha right away, as well as how their lives are pledged these days to preserving our way of life–and yet they have no real clue how the details of such a mundane life would work. They’re simply so detached from the Western norm due to their positions and history that they’re almost alien in and of themselves. The retro look of Nicieza and Liefield’s ‘Black Widows & Silver Sable’ backup was high class and also really in touch with the fun feel of the main story.
Third Place: Incredible Hulks #625. In a lot of ways, this month’s issue saw the resolution of a lot of the Sakaar-based plots of the book. Miek returns, now as a female (!), with a brood of young who need to feast on the Hulk to survive and guarantee the survival of what was once his doomed species. Skaar witnesses Hulk’s revulsion for the young and comes to see the monster inside his father–and turns away from him for good. The tribes from Sakaar make their piece with their past and lay a foundation for a future in the Savage Land. When Hulk and his entourage finally leave, Skaar stays behind (to set up his mini-series, of course) and thus we spin into a new storyline for the Hulk Family. Let’s not forget that issue #626 has within it the return of Amadeus Cho, who is rumored to be in the book until the end of Grek Pak’s run later this year.
What I find so fascinating about this issue is that Miek properly calls Hulk to task, claiming that in Hulk’s eyes no one can be a monster but himself. Hulk hates Miek and wants to destroy him and his young because Miek killed Hulk’s own family back on Sakaar, but the reverse is not allowed to even be considered. In short, Hulk smashes anyone who behaves in a monstrous manner and thus is seen as one of the good guys. However, he refuses to let anyone use his rage, violent impulses, and monstrous behavior define him as the very villains he fights against. This hypocricy is the heart of Hulk’s existential dilemma, and Miek is startlingly insightful to recognize it and speak truth to power. Alas, there is no easy answer for this question. Given the title of Pak’s last arc on the book, I’m imagining the unraveling of that answer will be Pak’s final word on the Hulk family.
Second Place: Spider-Girl #5. No giant surprise that this book is on the list. Tobin continues to do wonders with this character, and I loved this month’s installment! The entire issue was one large fight sequence between Ana and Anya, picking up right where #4 left off last month. Both girls know how to get their blows in, verbally and physically, and the portion of the fight that takes place on the rooftop is gripping because the advantage seems to shift to each of them several times before Anya figures out her real strategy–use New York City against Ana. So a stop at an office building for unfamiliar weapon attacks, a brief stop on the roof of the Baxter Building, and finally her own home neighborhood. Ana recognizes that Anya is a lot more than she bargained for in this particular outing, and is about to walk away when she mentions she’ll never stop hunting Anya or her family.
Woah. BIG mistake. Anya chases her through the neighborhood, eventually chasing her into busy city traffic–something Anya learned to navigate with as much ease as Ana did the jungles of her youth. In the jungle, however, the trees aren’t going 60 miles an hour and coming from all directions. Between Anya’s attack and the vehicles, Ana is beaten up pretty brutally, and captured by the cops. Seems like the death of her father has given Anya a ruthless edge that didn’t exist before, one that could lead her to a dark place unless she’s very careful. And the secret organization that’s been watching her is just about ready to strike. I can see fireworks in the future. It’s a pity this book is ending in just a few more issues, I really feel like its status quo is just getting established, and it’s a compelling, thrilling, and emotionally satisfying read.
Pick of the Week
Amazing Spider-Man #657. I knew this issue was coming, and I tried to prepare myself. The actual of Johnny Storm didn’t move me that much, though the Fantastic Four issue after was a knockout. I knew, somehow, that Dan Slott was going to make me cry when we got to Peter’s reaction to the news. And boy was I right. The issue is a series of flashbacks from the history of Spidey and the Fantastic Four–especially with Johnny. Ben remembers their adventures in the woods fighting Krakatoom and the practical jokes that became the hallmark of Spidey and Johnny’s relationship–as well as their intent on getting Ben in on the fun. Spidey then cons Sue into confessing to an otherwise unknown adventure where Spidey pantsed Johnny in a search for the Frightful Four…and how that lead to Sue getting arrested for indecent exposure as she then pantsed each member of the Frightful Four as part of their fight when they showed up. The last flashback sequence is of a trip into space with Reed, Spidey, and Johnny…and how Johnny saved them with his plain, simple real world experience when both Spidey and Reed were overthinking their broken stardrive on the edge of a dangerous green star.
All of that was touching and poignant, and really does serve to remind us that there is a real shared history between the solitary wallcrawler and Marvel’s first family. But then there’s the last few pages, which reveal that Johnny left a holographic message for Peter Parker. The family is shocked, thinking they’d seen all of the potential goodbye message he’d left in case he ever passed away. The look on Sue’s face as she realizes it’s the last thing she’ll ever hear him say had me tearing up even before I heard the message. He doesn’t leave Spidey any cool gear, or his little black book, or a million little trinkets of their time together (which another writer could have inflated by including in one of the earlier adventures). No, Johnny Storm says he’s giving him the best thing he ever had–his family, and his spot on the team.
I’m pretty sure I was balling like an infant at that point. I admit, all these family members dying in comic books this year is hitting me pretty hard. I internalize my emotions a lot (ok, that’s an understatement), but stuff like this makes it hard to him from stuff. So let’s just say that each time an author has really gutted me (in a good way!) with powerful, though tragic, work this past year, it’s at least partially because I’m still slowly processing the fact that my dad isn’t around any more, at least physically. It seems impossible that it’s only been a year and a few weeks. This one really got me good, because it was 100% something the character would do and because it changed my entire perspective on what the issue was about. The whole book was NOT designed to show the relationship Spidey had with the Fantastic Four. It was designed to show that Johnny Storm would totally have given his spot on the 4 to Spidey–and that Pete would have no choice but to say yes. It wasn’t at all about loss, but instead about the opposite of loss–the bonds of love of the people that remain. So thanks, Mr. Slott. I’m going to go call my mom now.