Bottom Of The Pile: March 21st, 2018 – Avengers, Future Quest Presents, Ninja-K, Summit, WWE

by Sage Ashford

The last two weeks have been a little Big Two heavy, so I decided to off set that just a little this week, with a focus on some of the smaller publishers. We’re still as packed as ever, though!

If you’re new here, welcome to Bottom of the Pile, a weekly column discussing some of the best comic books of the week. If you enjoy this work, please give it a share on Twitter and Facebook.

Avengers #685
“No Surrender Part 11”
Writers: Jim Zub, Mark Waid, & Al Ewing
Penciller: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov

If its not obvious, I’m trying to ride with No Surrender until it reaches it’s conclusion. Whether the run following it winds up in this column or not remains to be seen, but for now enjoy the remaining five weeks of this series.

As we count down the final six issues of this series, the action continues to ramp up. There’s only one point left in the game between the Grandmaster and the Challenger, and it looks like the Hulk is going to help the Challenger claim that for his own.

Much of this issue felt a lot like the most annoying parts of World War Hulk, where Ol Purple Pants single-handedly dismantles anyone that dares to try and fight him. Red Hulk lasts about two pages, Vision about three. If he’s this overpowered, the heroes should go out of their way to coddle so they can drop him on any threat they ever run across. What I do love about this issue though, is Wonder Man’s appearance by the end. Before No Surrender began, Simon was making a huge deal about how fighting was behind him and he wanted desperately to be a pacifist. How great would it be if that’s where his story goes: he’s been the butt of the joke for every Avengers fight, but after the Hulk’s brought down an entire Avengers team, the one thing that works is Simon has a conversation with the “mindless beast” and convinces him to let go of his rage, saving everyone.

Future Quest Presents #8
“First Contact”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Steve Lieber
Colorist: Ryan Hill

I don’t want to discount what’s happening with the DC Ink and DC Zoom lines. They’re a great idea, and hopefully they bring some people from different markets into comics. But I do want to point out that while everyone’s discounting the Big Two for not having child-appropriate books, here’s the team for Future Quest Presents cranking out a monthly comic that’s perfectly suitable for children and featuring a wide range of diverse characters. Not only that, but they’re doing it while also creating a tale that appeals to crowds of all ages. It’s not even a wholly superhero book, as FQP has strong sci-fi and pulp roots to it with characters like Space Ghost and Jonny Quest. I’m saying all that because in so many ways FQP is a marvel and I can’t believe people don’t talk about it more.

This week we get a look at the new Mightor, a young African-American boy working for the same international spy organization as Birdman. Unable to figure out how he got the powers or how to transfer them, they decide to put him to work as an agent in the field. A full year after the Omnikron incident, Earth finds themselves under threat of attack again–this time from the intergalactic Starpoint empire. They assault Earth, shutting down the technology in the area of where they land and demanding to be given control over Earth. This forces young Ty to show up and show them how the Earth handles bullies. (With giant, wooden clubs, apparently.)

Future Quest Presents #8 is everything a comic book needs to be. Steve Lieber’s art is gorgeous to look at. The story’s accessible, giving readers all the information they need to understand the book itself. It’s over in a single issue, meaning you don’t need to spend more than the price of the cover to get the full story. And even though there’s a lot of impactful action and serious moments, it’s never gory or something you’d feel uncomfortable showing to children. Because Jeff Parker just gets how comics aimed at everyone should work, and it’d be great if everyone took lessons.

Ninja-K #5
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Tomas Giorello
Colors: Diego Rodriguez

In the end, the story doesn’t go anywhere near as far as I was hoping it would. As I suspected, they cordoned off the Acclimation Bureau that had been ruining the lives of key members in the NINJA Programme and made it so most of the people responsible were already dead. I’d be more angry about it all if it weren’t for this page. Up to now, for this story, Colin’s been using the Acclimation Bureau as an excuse to hide behind, using them to excuse his ruined mess of a life. But this page establishes that there isn’t some shadowy organization ruining his life–it’s his fault. And that’s a good thing, because it means he can’t excuse his own behavior and has to own up to all the mistakes he’s made over the years.

Expansion of a character’s mythology generally only does positive things for whatever franchise it’s happening in, and this is no exception. As Christos Gage’s first story arc comes to a close, I feel like Ninja-K is in a great place. I find myself wanting more. We’ve only met a handful of the agents in the Ninja programme; where are the rest? What would NINJA-L look like if Colin King ever went rogue? What about a version from the far future? I’m loving what’s happening here, and the only issue going forward is things are about to get dragged down by the Harbinger Wars sequel. Cool as the first one was, I’m not sure there needed to be another one so soon, especially if its going to mess up the momentum and direction of the Valiant books currently being published like this.

Summit #4
“Power of the Sun”
Written By: Amy Chu
Illustrated By: Jan Duursema

I think I’ve figured out the problem I have with most of these Cataylst Prime books: Lorena Payan and the Foresight Corporation. What’s meant to be a unifying storyline instead makes things confusing even for an old fan like me. It feels like there wasn’t much in the way of conversation on how the character is implemented, and outside of her presence in Noble, she almost feels out of place. The story here feels like it grinds to a halt because of a mix of her sudden appearance and the fact that they’re trying to keep these series as brief, contained mini-series. It almost feels like the whole line would be better if it were incorporated into a single weekly comic instead of a series of monthlies.

This week, Val manages to save her young friend from getting murdered by assassins, then gets her back to America by way of the sudden, all too fortunate appearance of Foresight.   Val’s there for a matter of seconds before her dead ghost friends tell her not to trust anyone there, and in listening to them, she manages to raise the ire of her former boss Lorena. But just as the story seems like it’s reaching a fever pitch and exciting escape scene, it just kind of winds down super quickly as Val got her scientist buddies to call the press and release her story. It works, but feels so abrupt. Still, I’m looking forward to the next volume of Summit, and hope that Lion Forge can figure it all out in the months to come.

WWE #15
Writer: Dennis Hopeless, Tini Howard
Illustrated By: Serg Acuna, Hyeonjin Kim
Colored By: Doug Garbark

You can’t improve on perfection. I’ve been loving Dennis Hopeless’ WWE book because he’s been able to provide spins on stories that improve what I watched on RAW and SmackDown.  The added character he gives has enriched characters and situations, giving them the context they so desperately need, but all too often don’t have, in the actual show.

…But these last two issues are different. WWE’s “developmental” NXT brand is written and marketed differently. The context for each situation is never missing, but is actually always crystal clear. They don’t skip B through D just so they can show you F. So instead there’s content placed here that feels kind of weird.

If for whatever reason you’re only reading the comic and not watching wrestling–or you just started watching recently and missed this era–what’s being covered in this current arc Hopeless is doing is one of the best storylines that’s ever happened in wrestling. This month’s issue follows Bayley’s journey during the time her friends in the Four Horsewoman had already moved up to RAW.  Before they left though, Bayley managed to beat two of the other four Horsewomen–leading up to her eventual match against the then-champion, the Boss, Sasha Banks. Their match at NXT Brooklyn winds up being not just the match of the night, but the match of that Summerslam weekend and in some people’s eyes, the best women’s match of all time. The in-ring storytelling those two pulled off was breathtaking, and it cemented them as stars in the eyes of the WWE fanbase forever.

….So seeing this book try to present Bayley as this sad girl who’s struggling with being left down in NXT when she was actually placed on an unstoppable run until winning the title is pretty weird. That said, the art’s as clean as ever and I still get chills just reading Sasha’s “Fairy Tails don’t have happy endings” speech, as its probably the best promo of her career…and also one of the best in modern WWE wrestling.

Bonus points to BOOM!, WWE, and Hopeless for putting this out right as Bayley and Sasha’s friendship is imploding on the main roster again too. It really drives home the point that Sasha, though awesome as a wrestler, is an awful person that you can’t help but love for her talent both in the ring and on the mic.

See you in seven. The upcoming week of releases will include things like the final issue of Metal as well as Doomsday Clock, so expect a slightly larger than usual installment of Bottom of the Pile.

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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