Bottom Of The Pile: August 23rd, 2017 – Action Comics, Detective Comics, Daredevil, X-Men Gold, Rom Vs. Transformers, First Strike, WWE

by Sage Ashford

Hello readers and welcome to “Bottom of the Pile”, where I take the week’s comics and do my imitation of commentary–this can range from funny observations all the way up to mini-reviews. I’ve always been a fan of saving the best stuff for last, so when you see “Bottom of the Pile” just know that these are some of the best comics I felt the week had to offer.

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Action Comics #986
Only Human Part 2: The Truth
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Guillem March
Colors: HI-FI

In the last fill-in issue by Rob Williams before Dan Jurgens comes back to the book, we get an appearance from Mr. Oz at the end. First appearing back in Geoff Johns’ run on the Superman ongoing back in 2014, Mr. Oz didn’t begin making regular appearances until after the Rebirth one-shot, where he first explained that Superman wasn’t what he seemed, in what was probably the most awkward line of dialogue of 2016.

The Dr. Manhattan reveal at the end of DCU Rebirth lead people to believe that “Oz” was short for “Ozymandias”, but honestly that always felt like a red herring. It never aligned with why he took such a strong interest in Superman, and with this issue that theory can safely be thrown out entirely. On his Earth, Ozymandias murdered some of his closest friends and destroyed an entire city in order to stave humanity from mutually assured destruction. Someone willing to go to those ends to save humanity wouldn’t take such a dismissive tone of humans as Mr. Oz does here.

But there was another theory that surfaced a few weeks back…a rumor that suggested Mr. Oz was in fact Superman’s father Jor-El, and he’s been working behind the scenes to undo Manhattan’s attempts to weaken his son. That theory can sound a bit shaky, since it doesn’t explain why Mr. Oz has been plucking heroes from the DCU, but take Oz’s seeming disdain for humanity, desire to help Superman, and the fact that most of his appearances have been in Action Comics where his identity is about to be revealed, and maybe we’re onto something?

Detective Comics #963
“Utopia”
Story: James Tynion IV & Christopher Sebela
Pencils & Inks: Carmen Carnero
Colors: Ulises Arreola & Kelly Fitzpatrick

Spoiler joined the Bat-Family at the start of the Rebirth arc, but after the “death” of Tim Drake and the aftermath of “The Victim Syndicate” arc, she left the team because she believed they were doing more harm than good to Gotham. The whole thing was very “chicken or the egg”: do the villains exist because Batman’s there to stop them, or does Batman exist to stop the villains? Of course, since Batman only exists because of the actions of a criminal, that question was answered a long time ago, which is why she failed to convince Bruce or anyone else in the team to stop. Frustrating as it was watching her try though, it was worth it just to get to this one page where she realizes she’s not doing anything Batman and the rest aren’t already doing.

As for the issue as a whole, we get a re-introduction of Anarky to the DC Universe that I hope is as genuine as it looks. When Steph describes Anarky as “smashing the state. No rules. Molotov Cocktails, all that.”, and he responds, “That sounds like a comic book villain’s idea of Anarky”, I felt a small spark of hope. Not everyone has to work with Batman, but it would be nice if there were more heroes to combat all the villains and make Gotham seem less like a metropolitan hellscape. Taking advantage of how Rebirth hasn’t “exactly” restored the old DC Universe, Detective Comics continues to give us the best versions of all our favorite Bat-heroes, and it’ll be a sad day when this run finally comes to an end.

 

Daredevil #25
“Supreme” Conclusion
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alec Morgan
Color Artist: Matt Milla

I can’t help wondering if this is how a lawyer envisions the court room every time they enter. Charles Soule’s latest arc on Daredevil, “Supreme”, has been about Matt challenging the idea that masked superheroes shouldn’t be allowed to testify in court. It’s one of those ideas that’s so casually obvious that you’d think it would’ve been done before, and feels all the more genius because someone finally stumbled onto it. Relying on his background as a lawyer, Soule’s managed to perfectly walk the line of allowing lawyerese to add legitimacy to this story without keeping things from becoming too bogged down for the average idiot like me to understand.

But I’m also a fan of how Soule is well-aware that he’s writing a superhero comic, and that just because you’re not writing about superheroes vs. supervillains…doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a punch-a-thon into your comic. Rather than leave things as a typical courtroom drama that he could’ve gotten away with, Soule re-inteprets the arguments as a literal fight that Murdock has to win, something he’s done before to great effect as well. The ending is a bold choice as well–Daredevil wins the case, but what does that mean for the future? In a way this was a bit of a phantom victory–heroes can testify to stop criminals now, but how big of a change is that when half the threats that appear these days are characters like Thanos or the Beyonder? You can’t jail cosmic beings. There’s a good chance the person who loses out on this the most is Matt, as villains ramp up threats on his life for the trouble he’s made for them.

X-Men Gold #10
En’Kane Part 1
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciller: Lan Medina
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colorist: Frank Martin

I can’t really decide how I feel about X-Men Gold. On the one hand,  Lan Medina’s art is great and there’s solid character work and storytelling from Marc Guggenheim. On the other…it also feels very much like a nostalgia tour. This is literally the team from Claremont’s 80’s run: Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Magik, Rachel Summers. There’s not a single member on the team that wasn’t around 30 years ago. While I understand the appeal because they’re all beloved fan-favorites from the most popular X-Men run of all time, X-Men has always been about the new. Claremont’s X-Men run in particular often had change as the only constant, with members joining and leaving on a near-monthly basis. Aside from how cool it is to see Kitty embrace the experience she’s gained over the years to be the team leader this time, what’s really new? They’re facing upgraded Sentinels and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Even this issue features the return of Omega Red, a formerly dead villain that we’re reviving because he’s well-known?

Granted, Omega Red is easily one of my favorite X-villains. His design encapsulates everything ridiculous about the 90’s and the anti-Russia sentiment we had coming out of the Cold War–complete with unnecessary shoulder pads and drenched in the color red and communist symbology. It’s cool to have him back, and ultimately it’s hard to be mad about the X-Men finally getting back to doing heroic actions and being one of the most capable super-teams in comics again. If this run could just add a little more “new” to the stuff we missed about the 80’s team, it could be a classic.

ROM vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #2
Writer: John Barber & Christos Gage
Artist: Alex Milne
Colorist: Josh Perez

“Now you’re spiky organics. Got anything else?” As always, Starscream remains one of the best characters in Transformers world. The Dire Wraiths are truly horrifying aliens with the ability to infect and override the consciousness of anyone they interact with. How do the Cybertronians react to such a threat, even after learning they too can be possessed?  Apparently, regarding them as still tiny meatbags beneath notice.

Though the mini-series isn’t quite over yet, it’s obvious by the events in ROM and other comics in the IDW-verse that they don’t actually make any attempts to shut them down.  Let’s see how ignoring them plays out, centuries later…

First Strike #2
Writer: Mairghread Scott & David A. Rodriguez
Artist: Max Dunbar
Colors: Ander Zarate

….Not terribly well, apparently.

With shared universes becoming more and more common, IDW might be one of the only companies to have figured out a way to create one that can have any lasting success. Rather than trying to create yet another world of superheroes, the Hasbro-verse relies on other beloved and long-lived geek franchises to build a unique universe of characters that all have built-in fanbases. What’s better though is that crossovers like this actually add to the dimensions of each franchise rather than subtracting. The Transformers have long moved beyond the stereotypical “Autobots vs. Decepticons” war they’ve been waging since their creation, and now through these crossovers, conflicts can take on a more multi-layered aspect.

Now instead of it being “The Good 80’s Toys” vs. “The Bad 80’s Toys”, there’s more shades of gray to it now  Planet Cybertron is under attack by Cobra and V.E.N.O.M. with the help of Baron Karza and the Dire Wraiths.  Weakened after several eons of conflict, their cavalier behavior towards affecting other planets with their war is now coming back and threatening them with genocide, as everyone there has abandoned the idea of peace and are now determined to wipe out the Cybertronians once and for all. The IDW “Hasbro-verse” can fee any reader’s thirst for a cohesive universe, containing all the scale and fun of seeing characters from different franchises interact without the baggage of decades of continuity.

WWE #8
Writer: Dennis Hopeless & Lan Pitts
Pencillers: Serg Acuna, Tim Lattie, Kelly Williams
Colorist: Doug Garbark & Dee Cunniffe

I seem to recall before “WWE” was published that there were interviews done claiming the book would be fairly true to life and realistic. Boring as those words sounded, they quickly proved me wrong with a well-written story about the rise and fall of Seth Rollins after his injury in 2015.

Since then though, the book’s gone back off the rails. Bray Wyatt is now literally a cult leader with dozens of members, and Dean Ambrose and Sasha Banks spend the majority of this issue trying to escape their clutches in a monster truck race–that also sees Sasha hop out of a truck running at full speed to get into a fight with Charlotte Flair. Most of this issue felt more like an issue of Wacky Races than WWE.

Having said that, the end makes it all worth it, as things tie into last year’s “Money in the Bank” PayPerView, where Dean finally answers a question every long-time wrestling fan has asked at least once: “Why do they take so long to climb the freakin’ ladder?” Writer Dennis Hopeless has a grasp on the drama that makes wrestling work, and he manages to give context to feuds between the wrestlers that even Monday Night RAW often forgets to add.  And all that’s going to be needed since the next issue appears to be covering The Internet’s Least Favorite Wrestler: Roman Reigns.

That’s all for this week!  I hope you enjoyed this, and we’ll be back next week with another installment.