Bottom of the Pile: March 7th, 2018 – Avengers, Green Lanterns, Justice League, Jetsons

by Sage Ashford

This week’s a bit light on series, but we’re never light on quality. I am a little ashamed that most of these are cape comics, though…

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, all the series I personally save until the end, because who doesn’t save the best for last? This column can range from discussion 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 #683
“No Surrender” Part 9
Writer: Jim Zub, Mark Waid, & Al Ewing
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Valasco
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov

This week’s Avengers is surprisingly light on plot development. One positive I’ll give it is they do cure Jarvis, but that’s largely been a side plot. Still, I’m happy he’s survived for now. I realize No Surrender is supposed to be this kind of apocalyptic end for this weird era of the Avengers that never really “belonged” to anyone, and had at least a half-dozen shepherds of over a half-dozen titles, but I’m glad they don’t sacrifice Jarvis for this. Like this issue points out, he’s one of the longest-lived characters that’s survived through every era you can think of. Much as I’m loving this book, there’s no story important enough to be worth taking him out.

On the other end of things is Valerie Vector. Just past the half way point, they finally reveal she isn’t really who she claims to be. She’s infiltrated all of the Avengers’ minds, which is where the story was always going because you can’t insert characters into the readers’ mental canon without too much uproar. Still, explaining she was never an Avenger without explaining who she is kind of leads into the big problem I have with this issue: not nearly enough happens here. The entire issue is just developing things that were side plots instead of main focus points. At sixteen issues, at least a couple issues were bound to be superfluous, so I don’t hold anything against this issue. As long as the next issue steps it up, we’re still in the green for this event.

Green Lanterns #42
“Superhuman Trafficking” Part Three
Writer: Tim Seeley
Pencils: V. Ken Marion
Inks: Sanou Florea
Colorist: Dinei Ribeiro

Green Lantern #40 has everything you need from a superhero comic. On top of Marion’s gorgeous art rendering both the beauty of space and the weirdness of alien races perfectly, you get a solid Tim Seeley story. Turns out, the trafficking ring leads back to Order of the Steed, a weird cult that involves priests mind-controlling superheroes in order to generate both protectors for the Order and believers in it. From that, we get a neat discussion between Simon and Jessica where they talk about the differences in their respective religious beliefs. Unsurprisingly, they have opposite opinions because they’re the ultimate odd couple of the Green Lantern world, but they still manage to remain respectful of one another’s beliefs, something there’s not nearly enough of in modern comics. Simon is a devout Muslim that enjoys the community and family that comes with religion, while Jessica resents all of that because her life has made it hard to trust people and reach out.   Logical character motivations requiring neither side to be a raging jerk?  Nice.

There’s also some great shout outs here, as Seeley brings back a mention of the Omega Men, and sneaks in a Durlan for good measure. Lastly, there’s a perfect cliffhanger here leading into the next issue. What more can you ask for?  Aside from begging them not to go through with this Simon/Jessica relationship.

Justice League #40
“Justice Lost” Part Two: Selection
Script: Priest
Art: Pete Woods

Colors: Chris Sotomayor

Ironically, by complaining about comics I become one of the “fans” Priest is poking fun at with this entire storyline. Still. I can’t decide whether or not I like this week’s issue changingThe Fan from a single guy to an entire “Justice League of Fans”. One of them pops up onto the Watchtower just before deciding to make the whole thing crash to the Earth, and suddenly you realize it isn’t just one, but an entire group of people manipulating the League with the excuse of making them “better”. The one problem is before now, we understood who the Fan was and why he was doing what he was doing: he was a person who was saved by the Justice League once, and afterwards felt like he had a personal stake in making them be the best they could possibly be.

But now, presented with the knowledge there’s more than one “Fan”, they become more of an anonymous group.Anyone could be the “fan”, which at the same time is smart and yet makes the villain more generic and less likely to get repeat appearances. A shame, because the Justice League don’t get many recurring villains that don’t come from the 70’s.

Also, there’s a lot going on this issue. Between a discussion on which characters of the Justice League actually “matter” and should survive when presented with a crisis situation, the Justice League being sued by a class action suit, and a dispute between the two teams because of bad optics, I would’ve loved a little more room for this story to breathe. I think No Justice is making Priest cut his story a little short, but hopefully not. Priest’s Justice League run is the best the book’s been since Geoff Johns’ wacky N52-send off Darkseid War.

Jetsons #5
“Take One for the Planet”
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Pier Brito
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

I don’t talk much about the Jetsons, even though I totally should. The Hanna-Barbera revivals we’ve seen over the past three years have largely missed the mark for me. They don’t capture the warm, fuzzy feeling I had as a child when I read these books. They can feel overly dark, and in some cases are almost caustic towards their original versions.

But Jimmy Palmiotti has really nailed the essence of the Jetsons and what made them such enduring characters. The Jet Age cartoon was always a distant second in popularity to their Stone Age cousin, the Flintstones. The original series ran for all of twenty six episodes before coming to an end, while the Flintstones ran for five seasons and over one hundred and fifty episodes.  Though both series would get a revival, the Flintstones would become a staple of animated television for the next two decades–several reincarnations in the 70’s and 80’s, while the Jetsons only got another couple of seasons before they were shut down again.

It’s easy to understand why; people always viewed the Jetsons as a mirror image of the Flintstones, without understanding what separated them. The Flintstones were commentary on fifties/early sixties society through the lens of another era. As important as Wilma and Pebbles were, you saw Barney and Betty just as much. There are way more episodes about how Fred and Barney related with one another than there ever were Fred being a husband and a father, even if that informed a lot of his decision making.

On the flipside, the Jetsons really is about family. Any kind of commentary it makes about what the future is like takes a back seat to George and his relationship with Jane, his children and yes, even his dog Astro. And this Jetsons comic understands that perfectly, even if its showing us how these characters love each other in the face of something as tragic as the world itself ending. Speaking of, that’s my one problem with this issue.

The entire mini-series has been building up to a meteor from outer space slamming into Earth and wiping out life both on Earth and orbiting it. Mr. Spacely, George’s boss, has come up with a rocket capable of saving him and some (but not all) of his family. The story could have taken a very selfish and upsetting turn there, but Palmiotti has gone for optimism over cynicism every issue so far, so instead we see George try something else: his assistant has created a missile that could destroy the meteor headed for Earth. The only problem is, it’s a suicide mission. If they’d left it there, it would’ve been fine.  But instead a ton of dialogue is wasted explaining away every single reason why George couldn’t just send the rocket on auto-pilot or escape in time. At first it works, but eventually they keep bringing up so much stuff you realize it’s kind of contrived; the reason he can’t escape is because the story needed George to sacrifice himself.

…Or maybe not. The end of the issue sees George and his mother (formerly in the body of Rosie the Robot) together in a weird energy, and we end on a cliffhanger. Are they dead, or has something else happened? Anyway, my complaint is a minor one. If you have any affinity for the H-B stuff, please go out and pick up the Jetsons. It’s been one of the best comics of the past six months, and I really hope it eventually gets a sequel book.

See you in seven.