Another week, another stack of comics to get through. If you’re new to this, welcome to Bottom of the Pile, where I talk about some of my favorite comics throughout the week. It can be anything from small talk to reviews or what a story’s implications mean for characters and storylines in the future. If you like this article, feel free to share it on Facebook and Twitter, and if you have any questions or comments, hit me up @SageShinigami on Twitter!
Creator & Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Leila Leiz
Seven issues in, Alters is probably still wallowing just a little too much in the whole “woe is me” aspect of their trans* character. There’s a point in this issue where she starts flying through a quantum tunnel, looking at the alternate versions of her in parallel universes and there’s a line that’s like, “They’re all females except me. Of course.”
And while I get that there might be a lot of pathos involved in Chalice’s journey, it’s also been seven issues and I think maybe instead of dwelling so much on how much her life sucks, maybe it’d be more empowering if she was doing more with her kick-ass powers. As things go, she’s literally one of the most powerful women on her planet–let her cut loose and have fun with that?
Having said that, they are having her step it up in the responsibility area, with this issue having her trying to recruit for the Gateway Army. What’s notable here is that Alters isn’t giving powers to the people you’d expect–twenty-somethings in perfect shape that just happen to be very physically capable. If its something that’s happening by chance then those powers should definitely go to a wider variety of people–like a older black mother of two children who just recently lost her home, for instance.
That said, I also can’t blame her for reacting the way she did. Even with Matter Man down, anyone that isn’t nigh-untouchable would be insane to join up with the “good guys” if they’ve got children. Being a hero only ever ends with the people you love in danger, and in some cases arguably the most heroic thing to do when you’ve got a family..is to just stay out of it all.
Detective Comics #966
“A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 2”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Okay for one thing–the inks and darker colors of Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas have combined to elevate Eddy Barrows’ work as an artist to an all-new level. Barrows always kind of teetered on the line to me between being excellent and giving all his characters this kind of creepy, psychotic look–but that’s gone here, and the darker shading and colors add a much-needed gravitas to one of the best stories being published in comics right now.
Trapped alongside his Titans of Tomorrow future self, Tim learns exactly what happens when he starts to trust technology more than he trusts his friends and family. This issue’s filled with tons of references and callbacks, but the one that’s most key is the fact that this issue directly brings up Conner Kent, A.K.A. the Metropolis Kid A.K.A. “Superboy”! It was teased during NYCC and this issue gets right to it–the character has disappeared from time itself thanks to the drastic changes to the timeline by the “mysterious influence” trying to alter the world around them.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes–Conner’s disappearance is used more as a way for future Tim to try and absolve himself of the crimes he’s had to commit in the future to save Gotham. There’s still plenty more left to this story, but for now I guess it’s enough that the character’s absence has been brought up–though I’d kill for Tim and Cassie to work together to bring their friends Conner and Bart back from outside of time for a new Young Justice book.
“Take Flight Part 1: Bad Kid, Mad City”
Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
I’ll be honest: I was one of the people who was never a fan of Sam Wilson taking on the Captain America identity. It’s not that I didn’t think he was worthy–on the contrary, I thought he was above it. As it’s mentioned in this issue, he spent years working to prove that he wasn’t just someone in the shadows of Steve’s shield, so to suddenly have it forced on him felt like a regression to all they’d been saying over the years. Still, while Secret Empire’s implications were largely unfortunate for Steve Rogers, the aftermath of that story and the social climate of this era have combined to make this the best chance Sam’s ever had to prove to everyone that he’s always been his own man, just as cool as Captain America ever was.
And this issue of Falcon is a great start–though the end of it points towards the usual supervillain shenanigans, most of the issue is devoted towards Sam working towards being the kind of hero his own people need. There’s a lot in this issue about inspiring people from his own culture, making them know they’re capable of being heroes regardless of their skin color, but much more important than that is Sam’s attempt to bring peace to the black and brown communities.
All too often, we treat criminals in superhero comics like bad guys to be punched–and that’s mostly true, but gang violence is a different kind of problem. It comes from a unique place–you join gangs because you’re disenfranchised, lack a sense of belonging and have no way to provide for yourself in more reasonable ways where you’re from. If superheroes are going to bring hope to people, they have to be capable of doing that for even the most downtrodden, hopeless people–and Falcon takes a good step towards that this issue. OR well, at least he tries…
New Super Man #16
“Equilibirum Part Two”
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Pencils: Brent Peeples
Inks: Richard Friend
Bat Man of China’s Batmobile transforming into a giant robot isn’t even the coolest part of this book. Okay, maybe it is–but there’s plenty other awesome bits to it as well. Fresh out of a battle with the Suicide Squad and the Imperial Army, Super Man just narrowly escapes death–but finds himself transported into the past by his master I-Ching’s alternate half, All-Yang. All-Yang tries to push Kenan into becoming the bloodthirsty emperor he thinks China needs to survive in the modern world, but fortunately after all his training Kenan has started to trust his instincts more and passes his trial without murdering anyone. When that fails, All-Yang tempts Kenan by offering him the opportunity to save his master by retrieving the Red Jade Dragon, a treasure from the era of the Qin Dynasty.
Though his mother disapproves, with the help of the Justice League of China he manages to escape the Ministry of Self-Reliance HQ and make it to the states…though they immediately run into the original Justice League and attack them with their giant robot. What I love about this is that Gene Yang isn’t leaving any stone unturned–though Clark’s already run into Kenan and Avery Ho is actually from the Flash ongoing, the rest of the Justice League haven’t gotten the chance to meet their Chinese counterparts.
It feels like a long time coming, and if they can make it through without beating each other stupid, I’d love to see the superhero community aspect from the pre-Flashpoint era of the DCU come back in a major way here. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for different heroes to reach out to one another for help with a particular case or a villain in order to save the most lives as effectively as possible–that’s an aspect of the DCU that faded with the New 52 and I’d love it if this was one of the first major places it saw a revival.
Uncanny Avengers #28
“Stars & Garters, Part One: A Pint or Two”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Sean Izaakse
Color Artist: Tamra Bonvillain
This was my first time picking up Uncanny Avengers–I thought I’d give it a try in this post-Secret Empire landscape. To my surprise, there’s an argument to be made that this is the most “Avengers”-like Avengers title. Sure, the main Avengers title has the Big Three–but the Avengers aren’t always defined by the presence (or absence) of those characters. No, it’s always been the peripheral members–the characters you can’t find in any other comic. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the winsome Wasp, even Wonder Man and the Beast? It feels like modern version of the 70’s Avengers line-up, with some crucial alterations to keep things from being too similar, even if the upgrade in storytelling style alone would’ve be more than enough.
There’s comedy, there’s relationship drama, and there’s just a few additions to the team that aren’t necessarily common to the Avengers and can enjoy a raised profile being apart of the team–everything you need to formulate a good Avengers book. And while I’m not sure how successful Wonder Man will be as a pacifist superhero, I just can’t discount a guy who’s going to try and save the world through hugging.
See you guys in seven!