Bottom Of The Pile: Feb. 7th, 2018 – Avengers, Green Lanterns, Adam Warlock, Justice League, Witchblade

by Sage Ashford

Is DC starting to revert to its pre-Flashpoint universe?  It sounds crazy, but maybe there’s something to the idea…

If you’re not familiar, 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 commentary in 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. I like to shake it up. So let’s talk comics…

Avengers #679
“Avengers: No Surrender Part 5”
Writers: Al Ewing, Mark Waid, Jim Zub
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Color Artist: David Curiel

Avengers: No Surrender is what happens when you allow some of the most talented creators in the game to have free reign over the biggest characters in the MU.  Frenetic action scenes that still know when to slow down for the emotional beats. This issue immediately answered my problem with the previous issue: the Avengers have gone from stage hazards to gaining a point in a game they aren’t even playing.

And finally we understand some of what’s actually going on in this game. Grandmaster is back up to his old tricks again, only this time it seems it wasn’t exactly all of his own volition. A forgotten member of the Elders of the Universe, Grandmaster is being challenged by the person whose name he stole in the first place. A being who loved games as much as he did, until one final game saw his opponent banished into the ether for all eternity. He only found his way back from outside when the Beyonce ended existence and Reed recreated it again.

But what’s left unexplained is how he intends to win. He picked a group of perennial losers instead of directly relying on the Avengers? What’s the game plan?

Green Lanterns #40
“Superhuman Trafficking Part 1”
Writer: Tim Seeley
Pencils: Barnaby Bagenda
Inks: Mick Gray
Colorist: Ulises Arreola

This issue feels as if it belongs directly to the pre-Flashpoint era of the DCU. The heroic community that vanished during the New 52 is back in full force, and minor characters which didn’t even exist before are now making guest appearances. I do take issue with a minor continuity error here though, as Power Girl makes an appearance here despite being missing for years and recently revealed to be stuck in some weird space that even super-genius Power Girl couldn’t properly pull her from.

But that’s just me poking fun at an otherwise great issue. I’m also pretty sure Tim Seeley broke/pissed off the internet by hinting Jessica Cruz might be bi when she gets involved with the superhero dating app Caper. Caper turns out to be much more dangerous than we could’ve guessed too, as an alien organization uses it to smuggle small-town heroes away from Earth and into slavery.  eesh, that shouldn’t be what people mean when they say “ghosted”.

The one problem I DO have with this issue is that Jessica winds up getting a major match with Simon, and…ugh. I’m not necessarily the person that bitches about shipping, but can we not? I was in love with the idea of Simon and Jessica being super-buds together, proof that we can have two characters of the opposite sex in the same book without them winding up dating. Or worse, have the book dripping with unresolved sexual tension because the two single characters that totally should date, never do.   They work well as partners, and I sincerely hope they keep it that way instead of wanting to yell “Just kiss already!” at yet another couple in fiction.

Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Michael Allred
Color Artist: Laura Allred

Kang just might be the most ineffective supervillain I’ve ever seen. Here in this beautiful set-up to Infinity Countdown, Gerry Duggan gives us a brief synopsis of who Adam Warlock is and why he’s important. He does his best to spice it up and keep the one-shot from reading like a Marvel Guidebook, while Mike’s gorgeous art and Laura’s vivid colors create a Kirbian landscape that’s a feast for the eyes. If you’re relatively new to comics it’s just enjoyable to look at, but if you’re a hardcore nerd you can pick apart references for hours in this book’s spreads.

But back to Kang. Time-traveling villains are always an issue, as any villain with a time machine should instantly use it to go back and murder their greatest enemies. It kind of hinders them from being as effective as they should be, as a guy like Kang should always beat the Avengers…but he never does. Still, what’s wild lately is that he’s been increasingly useless against people that aren’t the Avengers. During the Heroic Age, despite being able to hop across time at a whim, he got spanked by Ultron. And for this one-shot, Kang reveals that whatever unseen villain is the focus of this latest event has beaten Kang over one hundred times.

Now one would assume that on the one hundred fourteenth try that Kang would get it right but jeez. Isn’t time his thing? How are you losing at the thing you’re supposed to be good at?

Justice League #38
“The People vs. The Justice League Part 3: Entropy”
Script: Priest
Pencils & Inks: Marco Santucci
Colors: Alex Sollazzo

The People vs. The Justice League Part 3, or “The Issue Where Christopher Priest proves he’s much smarter than the rest of us”. From pulling out words like “oinozythestiatoriaon” (a Greek word often referring to wine and hot food), to having Flash issue Flash Facts that sound like legitimate science, I spent every page of this book thinking about how much I’m going to miss Priest’s unique touch on the book.   Hopefully he’s one of the people writing the team after No Justice ends. Sidenote: Pete Woods is gone, but we got Marco Santucci in his place, an artist that’s been working for both Big Two publishers periodically across the last decade. He does strong, expressive faces quite well, and DC should really think about hiring him more if he’s interested.

Anyway, this issue the team finally has Superman talk to Batman about how he’s been taking on too much at once lately. It goes…as well as can be expected, and Batman leaves the team while putting Cyborg in charge. A smart move, made all the funnier by the scene above, where Simon refers to everyone that isn’t Barry or part of the Trinity “faceless stooges”. Wonder if he feels the need to suck up to the new boss now?

But the real reason I chose this page is because that costuming choice is really peculiar. Earlier in the issue, Aquaman appears in his standard gold scale armor and green pants, but here he’s got on the short-lived blue outfit inspired by the old 1986 mini-series. I could be practical and ask logical questions like “When did he have time to change?”, but really I just can’t help thinking between this and Green Lantern that the timeline as we know it is starting to fall apart…

Witchblade #3
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colorist: Bryan Valenza

Just thought we’d check back in with Alex Underwood and the women working on Witchblade. This book’s still firing on all cylinders, as Alex continues to try and refute her destiny as the owner of the Witchblade by refusing to learn how her powers work.  It’s a slightly baffling decision, since you’d think the first thing someone with her backstory would want is to become capable of defending themselves against any threat.

It’s a busy issue, as we flash back to Alex’s time as a reporter overseas, when she and a childhood friend, who joined the military, get captured by terrorists. Alex witnesses her friend get murdered in front of her eyes, only to get rescued herself. Suffering from what I’m guessing is a mean case of survivor’s guilt, she returns to the States to help people involved in the WitSec program.

Because of her job, in this issue she tries to help a young woman believed to have murdered her child. The woman is possessed by some evil that it’s safe to assume is the big bad of the arc, leaving Alex with a reason to master these new powers for the first time: to save a woman who’s done nothing but get caught in the crossfire. Despite Alex’s refusal of the call, she’s still measuring up quite well to super-cop Sara Pezzini–she has the opportunity to live a regular life, but keeps refusing it in order to help people. She’s a hero through and through, whether she wants to admit it or not.

Caitlin Kittredge, Roberta Ingranata, and Bryan Valenza are currently responsible for the best urban fantasy comic on the stands. Whether you’re a fan of the old Witchblade or just looking for something new, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

See you in seven.