Bottom of the Pile: Sept. 8th, 2017 – Astro City, Deathstroke, Green Lanterns, Generations: Iron Man And Ironheart, Harbinger: Renegade, Iron Fist, Nightwing

by Sage Ashford

Hey all, and welcome back to Bottom of the Pile–we’re back to normal weeks of releases, so this installment is a little longer than last week’s to make up for the shortness previously.

Astro City #47
“Who’s a Good Dog?”
Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Mike Norton
Cover: Alex Ross
Color Art: Peter Pantazis
Lettering & Design: John Roshell & Sarah Jacobs of Comicraft

I love that in superhero comics, it’s completely practical to talk about all the governments’ black ops experiments, and no matter how wacky and conspiracy theory-ish they sound, people just go with them.

Anyway, Kurt might have just created one of the most likable superheroes of all time. Named “G-Dog”, his real origin is that of young man named Andy, who stole a mystical amulet that once belonged to the hero Stormhawk. When the amulet touched both Andy and his dog at the same time, the two of them fused together, giving Andy…dog…powers?

I’m trying not to think about that too hard, because it’s not important. What is important is getting to see this unique little twist to the talking animal heroes. At the start of this story, most people would say Andy isn’t a very good person. He’s a thief, he can’t hold a decent job–even when he gets superpowers the only thing he can think of is how much more shit he can steal now that he doesn’t leave fingerprints.

But through fusing with his pup Hank, he starts to grow a conscience. This issue is really about how caring for a pet can have a transformative effect on one’s life, and Andy eventually goes from being a two-bit thief to someone worthy of being acknowledged by this universe’s Justice League/Avengers, the Honor Guard, all because he wants to be worthy of this adorable Corgi.  Every month Astro City starts out as a superhero comic, but winds up being so much…more.

Deathstroke #23
Defiance Part 3: “Like Father, Like Daughter”
Story: Priest
Pencils: Diogenes Neves
Inks: Jason Paz
Colors: Jeremy Cox

Deathstroke’s unique non-linear storytelling style proves that Christopher Priest is one of the most creative, innovative minds in the industry, and we should never allow him to leave again.  Just give him a blank check. The way he’s flipped this from a book about Deathstroke into a comic about his entire family–from his estranged wife to his kids and best friend Wintergreen–has me rooting for a villain to succeed, something I’ve never done in twenty years of being a comics fan.

This issue, Priest looks at Deathstroke’s daughter Rose, and how she’s never quite made sense.  She’s never wanted to be her father, though she patterns her costume after him. She’s never truly been the remorseless killer her father is, and yet the sword (a killing tool) is her signature weapon. She’s a walking contradiction, much like her brother Jericho has become, and both of them are that way thanks to Slade Wilson being a manipulative bastard that’s screwed up all of his kids.

There’s also a tease in this book after Deathstroke gets his nice new “impenetrable” gravity sheath costume pierced by a weapon that’s supposedly made up of Inertron. Primarily found in the 30th century, whenever one hears the words “Intertron” they should think Legion of Super-Heroes. And yet, despite a title card literally containing the words “30th Century” on one of the pages, I’m betting that’s a red herring and the answer’s so much more simple.  But then, Deathstroke is currently dressed in all white and running a superhero team after a transformative experience inside the Speed Force, so…what do I know?

Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencilers: Marco Rudy, Szymon Kudranski, Nico Leon

The Generations one-shots are such a weird concept that I feel like there has to be some kind of “inside baseball” reason for their existence. Like how “Convergence” was an event that only happened because DC wanted to publish something during the two months they moved from NYC to Burbank. Why waste time on these one-shots where the Legacy heroes meet up with the originals for a one-shot, when you could just bring back the originals? What’s the point of the teaser trailer when we just want to see the film? I don’t get it.

Having said that, this one-shot focusing on the two Iron People is actually pretty good.  The artists absolutely kill it here, creating a world that looks technologically advanced, but also so magical it’s surreal. Riri becomes the only person in the legacy crew to actually be flung forward, getting to meet a version of Tony that becomes the Sorcerer Supreme and creates world peace alongside his other heroic friends. This feels like Bendis’ version of the Marvel future, as it references the Next Avengers from his earlier run on the Avengers, which is the only thing that saves it from being yet another generic future that we know won’t ever come to pass because of the treadmill nature of comics.

Also. Even in the far future we still can’t see the Fantastic Four??  Not even a version that doesn’t include Reed and/or Sue!  I guess since it’s Marvel, they get to be super-petty.

Green Lanterns #30
Writer: Sam Humphries
Pencils: Carlo Barberi
Inks: Matt Santorelli
Colors: Ulises Arreola

This whole “Original Lantern” storyline has been bugging me, and for awhile I couldn’t put my finger on why, but this issue illuminated things for me. Before we kicked this plot off, Simon Baz’s ring had exploded during a fight with Volthoom in the present, with fragments of it embedding into his arm and basically being useless as he and his partner Jessica were thrown backwards in time.

A few months back, Humphries had brought up the the “original seven Green Lanterns”, the legendary first bearers of the Green Light. It was an excellent chance for world-building, for Humphries to leave his mark on the GL franchise the same way Geoff Johns had several years ago. But with this story, he just kinda torches that. Despite spending the time to introduce all seven characters, and make them matter to long-time DC geeks by their ties to well-known DC races like the Martians and people of Colu, in all of a single issue Volthoom proceeds to brutally murder half of them. For what? So we could get the image of Simon wearing four rings at once?   We did that in the 90’s–we had fun, Hal restarted the sun, became the Spectre, then revived and came back as Hal and that’s how we got here to begin with. 

It comes down to your throwing away a chance to further develop the lore of the original GLs just to continue to build up Simon and Jessica. These so-called “legends” are cast aside like chaff so that our heroes can do the real work. But when you do that, it doesn’t necessarily make Simon and Jess look any better, it just makes the legacy of the Green Lantern Corps feel like a sham.   But I never judge a book before it’s finished, so perhaps there’s still time to turn this story around.

Harbinger: Renegade #7
Story: Rafer Roberts
Penciler: Darick Robertson
Colors: Diego Rodriguez

I know, I know…I complained last week about the ineffectiveness of some of the Valiant heroes when they gather together, but in the context of what’s going on here…it kind of makes sense.   The Psiot problem has been a storyline dating all the way back to the launch of Valiant Entertainment in 2012.  Essentially Valiant’s version of mutants, they represent the next evolution in humankind, with their powers manifesting in vastly different ways from person to person. A secret American organization known as Project Rising Spirit has been trying to control them since they first discovered their existence, but after their star agent Bloodshot freed himself from their programming, he went on a killing spree that left Rising Spirit in ruins…and a Psiot group known as Generation Zero free.

Another side of this conflict are the Renegades. Peter Stanchek is the most powerful Psiot the world has ever seen, with the ability to unlock any human’s Psiot abilities.  But he’s also a strung out junkie who spent most of his life only looking after himself. After running into Toyo Harada, another massively powerful Psiot, and discovering his “ends justify the means” way of approaching life, Stanchek formed his own group of Psiots–a collection of rejects Harada ignored, and named them the Renegades.

Two months ago, Rising Spirit finally got fed up with actions of Generation Zero and sent their ace team, H.A.R.D. Corps, to deal with them. With the ability to simulate Psiot powers, along with the training and support of an unlimited military budget, H.A.R.D. Corps completely destroyed Generation Zero, leaving only one young girl by the end of it all. It made sense–though the kids had some training, they were outclassed in experience and neutralized by anti-Psiot tech. They never stood a real chance. That brings us here, where Kris–another member of the Renegades brought in by Peter’s reckless actions–has decided to declare war on Rising Spirit.

If I had to guess, that’s going to go about as well. The Renegades should be taken about as seriously as the Great Lakes Avengers. Aside from Faith (and Peter, due to sheer ability), they can barely keep themselves alive, and they’re challenging the most dangerous organization in America? Yeah that makes sense. No wonder we’re heading towards another Harbinger War, and somehow I get the feeling this one’s going to be much more violent than the last.

Iron Fist #7
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Color Artist: Andy Troy

The unofficial “panel of the week”: the two greatest martial artists in the Marvel Universe going hand to hand in one of the most impressively choreographed fights I’ve ever witnessed in a comic book series. Iron Fist is relatively low on plot, but high on action–they push things so far in this comic that I almost feel like it’s an apology for the Netflix series.

I posted this for oogling by all Marvel fans, but also to bring up that next month, Iron Fist will be returning to its “original” numbering. Who asked for this? I can understand landmark #s like 250, 500, whatever…but Iron Fist’s “legacy” numbering is 73? I’m as lost with Marvel Legacy’s renumbering as I was Generations’. Outside of major landmarks, the people this appeals to don’t really care about books like Venom, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, or others because those numbers never got that high. We’re just making things confusing for newer fans.

The closer we get to Legacy, the more I feel like someone took the wrong lessons from Rebirth.  You woo older readers back with characters, not the numbers on the front of the comic.

Nightwing #28
“Spyral” Finale
Writer: Tim Seeley
Pencils: Javier Fernandez & Miguel Mendonca
Inks: Javier Fernandez & Diana Egea
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

I hate shipping. It creates needless rifts between an otherwise solidified fanbase, for one.

….But also because it’s so easy to get invested. I’ve never been so happy and angry at the same time. The sexual tension between Nightwing and Huntress was always part of the appeal of placing her in Spyral during Grayson, but when it ended, I never truly expected a pay-off because she was off having adventures with the Birds while Dick was in Bludhaven, hundreds of miles away.

Seeing it happen so suddenly felt like a bit of a win after Dick failed to really take down Blockbuster (so far), and after fouling up things up with his girlfriend Shawn. It would have been a nice image to close on…if it hadn’t been prefaced by Shawn flying to Dick’s apartment to apologize and try and fix their relationship, and having to see the two of them together through the window. It’s a great moment, because it takes things from a happy ending to being heartbreaking for both Shawn and the readers. Plus, Dick made the wrong decision. Helena’s not going to be the woman he builds a relationship with, and jumping in the sack with another woman only a few days after his break-up means that potential reconciliation is wrecked too.

Y’know, now that I think about it: what is it about superheroes and their penchant for sleeping with everyone? They seem to pass each other around like free samples even in solo books, and don’t get me started on team comics. Is it the adrenaline, or are writers just as obsessed with ships as the rest of us, only they can make theirs canon?

Well, that’s all for now!  I’ll see you guys next week with a new batch of comics.