Bottom Of The Pile: August 31st, 2017 – Black Panther And The Crew, Faith And The Future Force, Justice League Of America, Optimus Prime

by Sage Ashford

Back with another installment of “Bottom of the Pile”.  This week’s installment is going to be pretty short, because there weren’t that many comics on my list this week.

Also remember how I said sometimes these columns would be commentary, and sometimes reviews?  Yeah.  Let’s start with a recently canceled comic…

Black Panther & The Crew #6
We Are The Streets Part 6: “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates & Yona Harvey
Pencillers: Butch Guice & Mack Chater
Inkers: Scott Hanna w/Chater
Colorist: Dan Brown

I don’t think I’ve ever been more pissed at three letters in my life. Just as Luke Cage hit Netflix a year ago. Just as Black Panther is roughly a year away from making, let’s be honest, no less than a half billion dollars at the box office. Somehow, this comic couldn’t run past six issues?!

Conventional wisdom is to blame for Marvel–they didn’t market this comic hard enough.  They didn’t get the name out there like they should have, etc. etc.  And yet at the same time–it’s still Ta-Nehisi Coates at the helm of this book.  Respected author Ta-Nehisi Coates who managed to sell one hundred thousand copies of Black Panther #1 just over a year ago.  The same guy who’s got nearly a million followers on Twitter–just five percent of those numbers would’ve kept this book going for as long as Coates cared to write it.  It’s one thing if a bad comic sells poorly regardless of who’s in it, but you can’t let a good comic like this sell like trash then claim you’re all about diversity.

Understand–Coates isn’t at fault here. Black Panther and the Crew is an awesome story that managed to be both topical while remaining true to the characters within. It discussed gentrification of historic black neighborhoods, the meaning of revolution, and our continuing struggle for civil rights. You could tell he was just getting started too, as just in one arc he was already weaving a new history of black super-powered individuals throughout our past.  It starred five heroes but I have no doubt that eventually far more would have found their way into the series had it been allowed to continue.

At the same time, Marvel doesn’t get off scot-free. Marketing’s certainly an issue, but when it comes down to it there are simply way too many comic books. Not counting double-ships, Marvel outpaces DC in ongoings at nearly 2-to-1 just for their main universe stuff.  (Even when you count everything on both ends Marvel still publishes more.) It’s not Marvel’s diversity that’s causing books to become canceled not long after they get launched either–since Rebirth DC’s had more people of color, women, and queer characters headlining or in the main cast than they’ve had in years, and they’ve gone eighteen months without canceling a single book.

Ultimately, when their comics also ship at a $1 higher, something’s going to fall through the cracks, and it’ll always be stuff like this: an ongoing featuring less-popular heroes, doing stuff that isn’t going to lead to the next major event.  But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Faith and the Future Force #2
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Barry Kitson, Diego Bernard & Juan Castro
Colors: Ulises Arreola

Hey, those aren’t just Doctor Who’s rules!  Back to the Future lived by them, too. Having said that, I’ve never quite known why. It’d be freaky to meet one’s self in the time stream, but unless you made some serious changes to it, all of past, present, and future should be much too elastic to be ruptured just from two specks running into each other.  If it were that rigid, time travel shouldn’t be possible at all.

At any rate, Faith and the Future Force has been pretty interesting so far, but it does feel like we’re half-way through this event and we’re seeing the same events over and over again.  (…Get it?  Because it’s a time-travel story?)  I’m also not really sure what the purpose behind collecting a bunch of heroes is, either. They’ve done it twice before–in The Valiant and in Divinity–and both times their gathering was mostly worthless, and events outside of their control was what changed the ties.  One of the more appealing aspects to the Valiant Universe to some readers is that their heroes can’t solve every problem. Sometimes they simply lose.  Which is fine, but if “sometimes” is going to be “almost always” then eventually the spectacle of seeing them together is going to fade away.

Justice League of America #13
Panic in the Microverse Pt. 2
Writer: Steve Orlando
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Ivan Reis & Julio Ferreira

There was a rumor at the beginning of Rebirth that it would all basically just wind up being one massive, two year crossover that lead to an eventual end-point that we now know to be Doomsday Clock. We all wrote it off as ridiculous, because planning a two-year-long event would be a massive effort that would be nigh-impossible to coordinate. Particularly when New 52 era DC couldn’t even decide whether or not there’d been a Teen Titans team before.

But what if it wasn’t a direct crossover?  What if there’s only repeating themes throughout a bunch of ongoings?  Bryan Hitch’s Justice League has been a series of arcs featuring the World’s Greatest Heroes facing off cosmically powered beings that are all trying to wipe out Earth before something much worse happens to the rest of creation. Over in Superman, Peter Tomasi had the Multiplicity arc, where a being named Prophecy was stealing the powers of Supermen across the multi-verse to try and stop the “coming storm”.  All over the multi-verse, creation is tearing itself apart or at risk of imploding.  Now that sounds like your average week in the DC (or Marvel) universe.  But what if it isn’t?  What if even the microverse is breaking down because of a specific problem with a certain blue superhuman?   If nothing else, it’d be a pretty smart way to weave a crossover together.

(Now watch next month’s issue of JLA immediately prove me wrong.)

Optimus Prime #10
Origin Myths
Writer: John Barber
Art By: Livio Ramondelli & Kei Zama
Colors By: Livio Ramondelli & Josh Burcham

The fact that the Autobots and Decepticons were at war for millions of years isn’t sad enough, so they decided to add an entirely new war. It’s either commentary on the fact that no matter how much things change inside this version of the Transformers universe a reboot or a new film or a new cartoon will always place them back inside of a war…or a subtle reference to the fact that a united Cybertron is just the beginning of their problems. After all, not long after Cybertron was united came the twisted ideas of the Functionists, forcing Cybertronians apart by classifying the usefulness of their transformations.

Optimus Prime continues to follow what I personally consider to be one of the greatest heroes in fiction as he tries to “save” Earth by introducing it to the galactic council of worlds…but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. The story seems to subtly be about where people with “good intentions” usually wind up, and everyone keeps looking at Optimus like he’s a step away from being a dictator.  That’s not too unbelievable either, as everyone named Prime usually wound up letting their power go to their head and changing Cybertron for the worse.  I hope that’s not what happens here but…well.  Reading the IDW crossover First Strike it looks like Optimus’ intent to bring everyone together might just have an explosive, terrible end, so we’ll see.

That’s all for this week!  We’ll see you back in seven for a new installment!