Bottom Of The Pile: March 14th, 2018 – Avengers, Despicable Deadpool, New Mutants: Dead Souls, New Super Man & The Justice League, Titans

by Sage Ashford

We need more comic books where Captain America is tricked into punching random citizens, and less where Nightwing gets knocked out by scrubs.

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Avengers #684
“Avengers: No Surrender Part 10”
Writers: Jim Zub, Mark Waid, & Al Ewing
Pencilers: Paco Medina & Joe Bennett

This is how you make an issue feel important–just past the halfway point, Avengers: No Surrender starts moving the plot forward in a big way. Starting off, we finally learn who Valerie Vector really is. Of course she was never going to be an actual Avengers founder–you can’t play with fans’ memories without raising their ire–but they still gave her a pretty cool identity anyway: she’s the Grandmaster’s daughter, and playing as an unseen third force in the game between him and the Challenger. This works because she’s not completely irredeemable (yet), so she can still possibly be a member later, as she’s still a character I’d love to see more of. But, I’m still erring on the side that she’s Marvel’s Tomorrow Woman.

We also got the Hulk finally hitting the board, after what feels like three straight issues of teasing his appearance. There’s some great, old school style poetic narration talking about his return. The miserable “Bill Bixby” Banner is back, but it helps that he’s in some of the best hands possible with Al Ewing. He’s also still at his absurd power levels, as he tears through several Avengers before finally running into Iron Patriot Hulk. The last three words of that sentence are concentrated fanfiction, but I guess comics are at the point where sometimes that’s what’s necessary.

With six chapters left, I’m feeling pretty confident about the pacing of the end of this crossover.  They just have to survive a Hulk being mind controlled by a cosmic being, figure out a way to outsmart the Grandmaster and his daughter, and win the game without the Earth getting destroyed. Should be easy.

Despicable Deadpool #296
“Bucket List Part Five: Steve & Wade & Kicking & Punching”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Ruth Redmond

I haven’t talked about it a lot, but Despicable Deadpool has been one of my favorite comics for the last few months. I know he’s been the darling of the internet for the better part of a decade now, but I’ve always been someone who could take the character in short bursts rather than extended ones. His movie was fine, but a monthly story featuring the character? Eh. He breaks the fourth wall, he’s wacky, there’s a lot of absurd body jokes because he’s basically a Mister Potato Head crossed with a Chia Pet. I get it, he doesn’t need a full book for that.

But it seems like in the aftermath of Secret Empire, Wade’s the only character who’s had to suffer.  Steve took a PR hit but isn’t otherwise in trouble because he “saved the day”. Despite the Marvel Universe having put out a story that should be an big deal, it feels like the after effects aren’t being explored because of the relative unpopularity SE had. Except in Despicable Deadpool, where Wade’s actually forced to confront the consequences of his actions, criticized by everyone from a former girlfriend to the man he admired most and caused all of this to begin with.

It works, because Deadpool’s a great tragic character. He tells jokes in the face of his pain, and it makes him that much more endearing. I also love that they’re not using him to absolve Steve Rogers by just killing Stevil, because Steve doesn’t deserve to just have that problem “go away” while Wade has to live with what he did. Along those same lines, I also appreciated Wade making Steve look like a jerk twice in just a few pages.

New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
“Chapter 1: New Dawn Fades”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Color Artist: Michael Garland

Even though they’re defining this group as the “rejects” of the X-Men, I thought the first issue of this mini-series worked well. For one thing, it’s nice to have a super team that’s mutant focused but isn’t immediately under the auspices of whoever’s running the X-Men at the moment.

At the same time, these are fan favorite characters; a combination of the last few members of X-Factor with the members of the New Mutants that aren’t busy with the Avengers or the main X-Men for a team that’s unique, one we haven’t seen a billion times already. It also speaks to the infinite malleability of the X-Men. They’re characters that are just at home in space as they are with the supernatural, and this line up in particular is very comfortable with the supernatural, as all these characters have had extensive experience with Marvel’s magical world. I’m only bummed that Moonstar isn’t around, but Karma’s enough of a big gun to make this story go. While the major X-Men books still seem to be figuring out who they want to be in Marvel’s “Fresh Start” world, New Mutants: Dead Souls works as a series for new and old fans alike.

Now if Karma can make it through this story without being possessed or turning evil, we’ll have something here.

New Super Man & The Justice League #21
“Seas of Change Part Two”
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Pencils: Brent Peeples
Inks: Matt Santorelli
Colors: HI-FI

Gene Yang has given a pretty heartbreaking portrayal of what it must be like to take a refugee from a dictator-controlled nation and introduce them into a place with considerably more freedom. By the end of this issue, Kwang-Jo’s personality is subsumed in order for the “Dragonson” to be born, and for now it looks as if the Aquaman of China is going to be something of a villain. Hopefully that’s not the permanent state of things, as Brent Peeples has come up with a cool look for the character that’s even more of a stand out than the other members of the Justice League of China, and the team could use the boosted numbers.

Speaking of, I’m glad Yang is continuing to test the morals of the Justice League of China. Unlike America, where heroes tend to do whatever they want according to what they believe is right, China is much more of a political minefield. (Like most countries not the United States.) They have a uniquely friendly relationship with North Korea, and so when the team rescues Kwang Jo from the North Korean army, they’ve placed both themselves and China in a touchy predicament.

Nevertheless, it’s that cowboy mentality that makes us love superheroes to begin with, so whether it brings down massive problems on the League or not, they’re locked into doing the right thing if they’re going to keep comparing favorably to the other Justice League. Still, the more they behave like this the harder it’s going to be for them to remain in China without some major outside backing. The June solicits talk about the League preparing for their “final” mission, so hopefully that means a relaunch with a more international bent and not the team disappearing forever.

Titans #21
“Titans Apart Part Two”
Writer: Dan Abnett
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Andrew Henessy
Colors: Adriano Lucas

On the one hand, this story feels like it’s spinning its wheels until we can start the “new chapter” of the Titans. Unless this story plays into Abnett’s larger run on the characters, perhaps explaining why Roy isn’t going to be apart of the new Titans line-up, this doesn’t feel like a particularly important arc.

….But on the other, overall “relevance” isn’t stopping this from being some of the best Titans stories we’ve gotten in a very long time. For one thing, Paul Pelletier is one of the best artists in the business, so the book feels important just from the caliber of artist working on it. Titans has always been a pretty book in my opinion, but Pelletier is taking it to another level–everything he draws is crisp, clean, and easy to follow…which helps when you’ve got a fight scene involving two of the best fighters on the team kicking the crap out of each other. It’s never easy watching friends fight, but it helps when it looks this pretty.

Roy continues his journey to crack the latest drug ripping communities apart, but unfortunately the team’s trust issues are running so deep that they all seem to think he’s just using instead. So when Wally and Dick manage to track Roy down, they try to bring him in so he can get “cleaned up”, only to both wind up shut down before he rushes off to face his ex Cheshire in battle. And all the while, the Brotherhood of Evil lie in wait, seconds away from turning the Brain into a super genius.

My only concern with this is wondering if the Justice League isn’t being too overbearing. But given how talented a writer Abnett is, I would bet that’s an upcoming plot point. The League and Titans’ relationship always had a slight edge due to the natural distrust the younger generation tends to have with the older, and I can easily see that being the breaking point leading up to whatever happens next after No Justice.

See you in seven.