Bottom Of The Pile: Sept. 27th, 2017 – Action Comics, Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider, Detective Comics, Hal Jordan, Marvel Legacy, WWE, X-O Manowar

by Sage Ashford

Here we go again, with another Bottom of the Pile!  I’m Sage Ashford and each week, I take a handful of some of the best and/or most interesting comics of the week, and do commentary on them. This can range from my painful attempts at humor, to pointing out ties to other comics for potential theories, all the way up to mini-reviews. However you want to approach it, we’re talking comics.  If you like it, be sure to RT this on Twitter and share it on Facebook, it really helps.   If you want to contact me about this or any other columns I do, feel free to hit me up @SageShinigami on Twitter.

Action Comics #988
“The Oz Effect Part 2”
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Art: Ryan Sook
Color: HI-FI

The longer this story goes on, the greater the possibility that “Mr. Oz” is actually Jor-El instead of the red herring people are starting to claim he might be. And from the looks of things, it seems he exists for the exact reason Bruce got to see Flashpoint Batman back during “The Button”. His bleak outlook on humanity rocks one of the greatest heroes of all to their core, and makes them question everything they believe in. If one of Superman’s Kryptonian parents now believes that Superman’s very landing on Earth was a mistake, then that’s got to rock Clark to his core, making it harder for him to be the endless wellspring of hope he’s been since his creation. Or at least, that’s presumably the plan.

Having said that, it doesn’t explain Oz’s actions since Dr. Manhattan saved him from Krypton’s explosion. I can see how he might have kidnapped Tim Drake because he was a beacon of hope in the Bat-world (more on that later), but not so much Doomsday, or Metallo, or anyone else he’s gotten rid of. Unless Manhattan stopped watching him awhile ago and Jor-El’s been working on his own since then.

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #8
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Will Sliney
Color Artists: Jason Keith & Andrew Crossley

It’s not explained in this issue, but Hornet is a member of The Slingers, probably the coolest attempt to expand 90’s Spider-Man’s world besides…well…Ben Reilly.  In the late 90’s, there was a story called “Spider-Man: Identity Crisis”, where the recently returned Norman Osborn managed to frame the Wall-Crawler for a murder, and he had to figure out a way to clear his name without wearing the Spider-Man costume. Instead, he created four brand-new personas to work with. Each one corresponded to a different monthly comic (yes, in the 90’s Spidey had four ongoings, somehow), and each one emphasized a different set of Spider-Man’s powers.

Ricochet focused on Spider-Man’s quick reflexes and agility over in Amazing Spider-Man, while Dusk used a special costume and Peter’s Spider-Sense to be a more stealth focused character in Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Prodigy took advantage of Peter’s super-strength to be an old-time-y Superman-esque type hero in Spectacular Spider-Man, and finally Hornet was a suit of armor invented by the Prowler that let Spidey fly around in Sensational Spider-Man.

The event lasted all of two months, and by the end he’d shoved all four costumes into a closet somewhere–but eventually the suits were stolen and used by a new group of heroes known as The Slingers. The team was never especially popular, which is why I’m hoping Peter David brings the whole group into this book because it’s not like any of them were doing anything before, and they’re some of the coolest costume designs to come out of 90’s comics.

Detective Comics #965
“A Lonely Place of Living Chapter One”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas

“Everyone thinks that Batman is this solitary hero. But it was barely a year after he came on the scene that he found his first partner. His first Robin. And he’s never truly been alone since.”

I love that everything about Detective is built around the idea that it’s absurd to have a Batman who works entirely by himself, and that’s never been something that DC really went for, either. Tim Drake’s words here aren’t just accurate in-universe, they’re accurate in DC publishing time too: Dick Grayson joined Bruce in the crime-fighting game barely a year after Batman started being published. They’ve been working together all that time, so protecting Gotham has always been the job of a “Bat-Family”.  And who better to point that out than Tim Drake–a boy who literally became Robin because he knew the simple truth: no matter how he tries to push them away, no matter how much people prefer he be the dark loner, Batman needs people.

It’s not even something that’s just a by-product of Tim Drake’s origins. Whenever people talk about how they want Batman to be a loner, or whenever he becomes a loner, he automatically reverts into being this dark avenger, this brutal terrifying person that the people of Gotham are convinced isn’t even human. It’s because no one can take on the kind of life-swallowing mission that Bruce has without being changed by it, unless they’re constantly reminded of their humanity. This is why Bruce as “Bat Dad” is the most interesting and the most growth the character has experienced in years, and why I hope Tim returns as soon as possible.

Sidenote: A thanks from Tim Drake fans to James Tynion for restoring Tim’s origin to its pre-N52 version. The new one was insulting on so many levels.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #29
“Fall of the Gods Conclusion: The Dead Will Rise”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciller: Rafa Sandoval
Inker: Jordi Tarragona
Colorist: Tomev Morey

No one has ever explained to me where the militaristic New Gods came from. The original ones made by Jack Kirby always felt like a bunch of space hippies. Some of their best heroes were the Forever People, and those guys literally dressed and acted like the flower children of the 60’s. It has always felt like that’s why they couldn’t change the tide of the war–Darkseid’s all super-serious and Highfather and the New Gods are basically screwing around. But somehow, between the New 52 and now, we’ve gotten here: where Highfather looks as threatening as Darkseid.

Despite that, during Multiversity we got an appearance from the New Gods that looked far more in line with their 60’s selves. My current theory is that the New Gods have unique avatars of themselves that are projected into each different universe, and they alter their appearances based on how that world seems to be developing.

Marvel Legacy #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Esad Ribic with Steve McNiven
Color Artist: Matthew Wilson

Marvel’s been dealing with fans saying they’ve strayed from what makes them great for at least a year now, and it seems Marvel Legacy is their answer. How’d they do? Well, aside from being a blatant rip-off of DC Universe: Rebirth…

Not bad. Not great to be sure, but not bad at all. There’s some really cool stuff here, like the idea of an Avengers B.C. They’ve added a lineage to a number of heroes, but there’s not suddenly an “original” Wolverine out of nowhere because he’s popular, but a Black Panther because that’s a line of kings. Ghost Rider is the Spirit of Vengeance, something that theoretically should’ve been around since the dawn of time, and so forth. They’re characters that we either always knew had legacies spanning centuries, or ones that make sense to have a lineage following them. It’s a neat expansion of Marvel’s existing lore, and hopefully we get a comic doing something with all these new lineages sooner rather than later.

On the flipside, it also feels like too much of a half-step. Ultimately, the benefit to DC Universe: Rebirth is that so much of what came afterwards felt new.  A ton of new ongoings started up, with new and unexpected creative teams. Things felt fresh. But with Marvel Legacy it feels more like a set-up to a bigger thing coming later. Most of the ongoings are keeping their creative teams, there aren’t many new series being started so fortunately there’s no promise of a “Rebirth” because it’d feel more like lip-service, even if I am excited for the possibility of a weekly Avengers comic.

All-in-all, I feel like Marvel Legacy could’ve waited until after they’d gotten their universe a bit more situated. Feels like this is just a set-up for a big shake-up down the line, but then the same thing can be said for DCU Rebirth, so perhaps I’m just showing favoritism?

WWE #9
Written By: Dennis Hopeless
Illustrated By: Serg Acuna
Colored By: Doug Garbark

Ah, the Curious Case of Roman Reigns. Since day one, Dennis Hopeless’ WWE comic has been mostly chronicling the story of WWE’s three most relevant performers to come out of the last half-decade, The Shield. They started with the high-flying character that broke the team up, Seth Rollins.Then briefly, they took a hilarious detour to cover the stubborn brawler, Dean Ambrose. And now here we are, focusing on the most controversial character in the company currently: Roman Reigns. The comic tries to delve into what Roman the character must think when he’s being booed every night, and can’t really get into things from a fan perspective. So allow me.

If you’re not a long time fan, Roman Reigns can feel a little like John Cena. You don’t know why he’s such a jerk until someone explains it to you. At best, apologists try to reduce the complaints about the character to “a Pavlovian response” or “they’re just being contrary”, the latter reasoning they back up with how the fans will also cheer a character like Seth Rollins, who’s ostensibly a villain and someone you’re supposed to cheer. The comic does this too–though you can’t tell them apart because they look so similar when they’re in 2D form.

The truth is…fans (including myself) boo Roman Reigns because they know wrestling is “pre-determined”. Or as screenwriter Max Landis would say, “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling“. Removed from the idea that wrestling is “real”, where the most dominant fighter wins, fans come up with other reasons to cheer and boo characters. We cheer the most talented performers, the wrestlers capable of telling good in-ring stories and pulling off the most impressive moves. We cheer the most talented characters, the ones capable of making their case during a “feud” in their semi-scripted promos most believably. It doesn’t matter who’s the “face” (hero) or who’s the “heel” (villain), we cheer those who are the most entertaining. And we hope that WWE as a company sees that, and propels the most talented performers to great heights.

Roman Reigns, on the other hand, looks like an awesome character. He’s muscular, he exudes this aura of cool–he looks like a guy that should win every fight. But he’s clumsy and never sounds comfortable on the mic, and his matches either have this boring, plodding pace to them or become him overusing his two “moves” until he’s won the match. Even in three years of solo work, he’s barely risen to be above average at talking, and he’s only “good” when he’s wrestling opponents that make him look good.

Despite this, WWE continues to write stories where he wins. Despite having only been with the company five years, he’s amassed a litany of accomplishments that more talented wrestlers have never (and will never) see. So fans boo out of frustration.  Frustration that more interesting characters are passed over. Frustration that more talented wrestlers are ignored. And quite frankly, frustration from being gaslighted.

As WWE constantly lets Roman win important match after important match, it’s as if they’re saying: “Look at this guy, isn’t he great??!” And the fans boo to point out that no, he’s not great. So he wins even more important matches. “Are you sure he’s not amazing?  He wins SO much!” The booing continues. It’s an endless cycle that will likely continue even if Reigns ever makes it to becoming a great performer, because ultimately the booing is signifying one thing the fans are telling the company: “You’re not listening to us.”

X-O Manowar #7
“Emperor”
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clayton Crain

With each new issue, it becomes more and more concerning that we don’t know why Aric stopped using the armor and fights it so strongly. There’s no specific term for it that I know of, but the longer reveals like this are dragged out the more likely it will disappoint. Like discovering what Thor heard to make him feel he was unworthy of holding Mjolnir.   After seemingly learning everything there is to know about the armor in the last volume, it’s hard to imagine what he saw or learned that would make him give up not only on Shanhara but the arm he gained from it.

Particularly when it’s so useful. Just wearing a ring of the armor turns every high-risk encounter into essentially a western RPG with a dialogue wheel; who wouldn’t want that?

See you guys in seven!