Bottom of the Pile: January 3rd, 2018 – Green Lanterns, Justice League, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Rogue & Gambit, Transformers Vs. Visionaries

by Sage Ashford

Finally, the first Bottom of the Pile for comics in 2018. If you’re new to things, welcome to Bottom of the Pile, where I talk about some of my favorite comics on a week to week basis, the series that I personally save until the end, because who doesn’t save the best for last?

This column can range from commentary on the state of a given series or comics as a whole, pointing out similarities between issues, to mini-reviews; both because because I love shaking it up and also because I’ve got the attention span of a goldfish crossed with an overactive puppy. So let’s talk comics…

Green Lanterns #38
“A World of Our Own Part 2”
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: German Peralta
Colorist: Ulises Arreola

This is a story that Green Lanterns doesn’t tell nearly enough, most likely because it’s a ton of work going against the core conceit of your book by asking: when does the character I’m writing become useless?  But Tim Seeley takes the question head-on, as he plunges both newbie Lanterns into a bubbling civil war where simply having super powers alone can’t get the job done. This arc just keeps handing us the unexpected twists and turns, as we finally run directly into the major villain of the story and it’s not anyone you would have expected, but it’s still going to force Simon Baz to make some hard choices in the next issue.

It’s a little unfortunate that the book that’s meant to be about the adventures of the Earth Lanterns is spending so much time in space, but if Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is about making Green Lanterns into superheroes again, then it’s great to have Green Lanterns to balance that out by letting them deal with sci-fi police work.

New artist German Peralta does a fantastic job portraying an alien world, balanced with Ulises Arreola’s slightly muted colors that still make things look believable and grounded enough for a story as serious as this.

Guardians of the Galaxy #150
“Don’t Fear the Reaper”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Aaron Kuder & Marcus To, Ive Svorcina (Cover)
Colorist: Ian Herring

Somehow, Gerry Duggan has managed to achieve the impossible. He’s merged the serious, superhero feel that the original 2008 Guardians had with the freewheeling “heist” version of the team that emerged in the wake of the films, and he’s made it appear that it’s done with little to no effort. As the team finishes their mission with the Nova Corps, they head on to bigger and better things, but leave a member who’s decided to walk a different path to guard the Power Stone, a new version of the Infinity Gems that have suddenly re-appeared in continuity again.

This issue’s filled with shoutouts to iconic moments of the past, from the extensive time they’ve spent rooting out corruption in the Nova Corps, to battling against the Fraternity of Raptors, to the frequent appearances of former team member Adam Warlock, to…this page.  The Skrulls, Ultron, and even the mention of Thanos–these are all major villains the group had to deal with in their past, and they appear to be about to resurface again with Gerry Duggan’s upcoming story, Infinity Countdown.

Of course, the first question we should all be asking is “Countdown to what?” but one supposes that’s getting ahead of things. For now, I’m glad Duggan has figured out a way to keep the Guardians from getting put onto the chopping block while also returning them to what made them so enjoyable for the original fans in the first place. Looking forward to what else he’s got planned next month. My only complaint is that we won’t have Marcus To’s beautiful artwork to drool over anymore, but Aaron Kuder’s pretty dope and I don’t want to give him up either, so it’s possible I’m just being greedy.

Justice League #36
“The People vs. the Justice League Part 3”
Story: Priest
Art & Cover: Pete Woods

The breaking of the Batman continues, as the League is forced to deal with several crises all at once, including the appearance of a copycat Batman that murders anyone who gets in the way of the League. There’s a lot happening in this arc, starting with the League dealing with two different perspectives from the people they protect: those who think they act too unilaterally with zero oversight, and those who believe so strongly in what the Justice League does that they would quite literally kill to protect them and their mission. Then there’s the whole discussion of a group of largely American heroes interfering with international disputes, which looks especially suspicious in light of Doomsday Clock’s Supermen Theory, stating most American heroes are all theorized to be WMDs developed by the American government. It’s unlikely Priest will play with that very much, but it’s still pretty cool to think about.

Lastly, there’s Batman’s whole emotional breakdown; since his initial failure three issues ago, we can see the cracks beginning to show in the Dark Knight’s normally cool facade.  He’s starting to doubt himself, which is normally something I’m pretty firmly against.  I’ve always been of the opinion that no matter how human Batman is, he needs to seem inhuman most of the time just to keep up with his teammates, but I’m starting to question that thought process. In Scott Snyder’s Metal mini-series, Bruce is basically being broken down mentally by a being purporting to be the actual origin of evil itself. He’s been given no reprieve, no hope, and confronted with the knowledge that everything he’s ever been has been a farce, just a way to put him on the path to unleashing this evil on the multiverse.

That kind of mental attack would break anyone, even someone as hardy as Batman. And the worst part? Even once he wins, the job. Doesn’t. Stop. Tomorrow Two-Face will have started another crime spree. Two Justice Leagues will be needing his leadership. He’s still managing the Gotham Knights. Eventually something has to slip, and if Bruce were to just let his mistake roll off his back, what would be the point of telling the story? And how would he really be a hero if he cared so little? Watching this slow change in Batman’s character has been glorious, and I look forward to the next issue–and more of Pete Woods’ continuing to prove he’s one of the best artists working in comics today.

Rogue & Gambit #1
“Ring of Fire Part One”
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: Frank D’Armata

I saw a while back that Kelly Thompson admitted she’d read basically every appearance of Rogue & Gambit together. It shows. Rogue & Gambit has the pace and intimate knowledge of characters that can only come from the hardest of hardcore fans, distilled down into something perfectly understandable for newcomers. You can tell these two have a complicated history (and it’s obvious to literally everyone around them), but it never feels so self-referential that you need to have read anything other than this issue itself.

If I had one complaint, it would be that this issue is just a little too convenient, starting out with Gambit walking back into Rogue’s life for seemingly no reason before the two wind up on a case together investigating mutant couples disappearing. But even that is easily written off as something that’s simply not explained yet. In the meantime, it’s nice watching the two try to deal with all the times they’ve hurt one another and how something just keeps pulling them back together. And the absolutely gorgeous Pere Perez artwork backed by Frank D’Armata’s colors that make the whole comic sing. There’s a two page spread near the very start that long-time fans will doubtlessly spend hours pouring over, and it’s a testament to the amount of love the creative team is pouring into this book.

Incidentally, I would absolutely love if Marvel invested in more mini-series like this. Not every character can have an ongoing–it’s not financially feasible for Marvel or their reader base.  But having comics like this to develop characters outside of team titles is and was always a great idea, and they should go back to that.

Transformers Vs. Visionaries #1
Written By: Magdalene Visaggio
Art By: Fico Ossio
Colors By: David Garcia Cruz

Transformers vs. Visionaries #1 is a nearly perfect book. Picking up from the surprise ending of the Hasbroverse “toychest” crossover First Strike, we start with a look at this new society suddenly inhabiting Cybertron. For a mini-series that’s ostensibly about two different toylines playing, there’s a fairly complex story taking place here about immigration and when it crosses the line into a form of occupation. It’s easy to get lost here given we’re introducing an entirely new faction into a world that’s already got more factions than a New Japan pay-per-view, but Visaggio does an excellent job setting up by focusing on only a handful of core characters: Kup, Ironhide, Merklynn, Leoric, and Virulina. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for nuance, with both the folks of New Prysmos and the Cybertronians breaking down into those who want to get along and those who want control, but for a first issue its important to establish where all the major players stand early.

This is also a really lowkey issue, with much of the action being saved for the very last few pages while Visaggio sets up her core conflict, including explaining exactly how the Visionaries are even probable threats to the Cybertronians. It all works excellently, resulting in a tense issue that has a proper climax, reminding you that there’s only five issues to this story. Ossio’s art is perfect too, able to capture the futuristic machine look of the Cybertronians while also nailing the expressive features of the more humanoid Prysmosians.

If I have any one flaw it’s at the very ending.  ***SPOILERS: They killed Kup!  Over the last decade of his development, Kup has grown from a piece of humorous trivia for G1 fans to one of my favorite characters in this entire universe. He’d become something of a bedrock–a character that had seen it all and done it all, and was long-lived enough to even seem wise in the eyes of beings which had lived for millions of years. By the time he was in The Revolutionaries, he’d even become the one member of the Cybertronians that legitimately felt like he treated the humans as equals instead of a nuisance or collateral damage when he made friends with Action Man. This carries over here, where he legitimately tries to avoid war with the people of New Prysmos and rise above the mistakes of Cybertron’s past.

Having him die here is heartbreaking, and I can’t tell if its my feeling as a fan or as a would-be writer that makes me think this wasn’t the best place to kill him off. He’s literally the first target to prove just how powerful the Visionaries can be, though he heroically takes the hit for Ironhide. Even if he had to die, it just seems like he could’ve been saved for the climax of the story instead of going out at the top of things, but ah well. This is still an excellent comic, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

See you in seven.